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Olympus OM-D E-M5 hands-on preview (video)

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We got to test out Olympus' new OM-D E-M5, the first in the company's new line of Micro Four Thirds cameras.

Olympus OM-D E-M5
Olympus OM-D E-M5

Olympus went back to its roots today with the OM-D E-M5, a brand-new Micro Four Thirds camera that you'd probably guess was about 40 years old if it weren't so shiny. The E-M5 is the first in the company's new OM-D line, and even the name harkens back to the cameras of yore: the OM-1 was released in 1972, and was at the time one of the slimmest SLRs on the market. The new camera sits at the top of Olympus' Micro Four Thirds offerings, more expensive than the PEN models — the E-M5 will cost $1,099.99 with a kit lens when it goes on sale in April.

The camera's gotten a bit of an upgrade in specs and performance (it's digital, for one), but it still looks every bit as good as it did 40 years ago. The magnesium alloy body comes in either black or chrome, though whichever option you pick will be wrapped in black synthetic leather. This is a mirrorless camera, with the pentaprism hump in the center now occupied by an electronic viewfinder — an EVF is nice, but we can't help but wonder if form outweighed function in the decision to keep the hump in place. There aren't a lot of physical, but the mode dial and scroll wheels move smoothly and easily. The camera felt a little delicate in my hand, but it's apparently quite the contrary: the magnesium alloy body is also splashproof and dustproof, and Olympus reps assured me it's ready to weather the elements. We also got to test out the new battery grip, which gives the E-M5 a very DSLR-like feel — it adds a vertical shutter button, a larger grip, and a second battery that should at least double the life of the camera.

Inside, the E-M5 is also built to impress. The new TruePic VI processor really shined as we tested the camera: Olympus says that the E-M5 has the fastest autofocus of any camera on the market, and that it can shoot nine frames per second, and after a few minutes of use it's hard to refute those claims. The tilting 3-inch OLED display looks great, as does the EVF, which has an impressive 120fps refresh rate.

Unfortunately we didn't get to keep any of the photos or videos we took with the camera (the unit we saw was a pre-production model), so we'll have to wait to say for sure, but it looks like Olympus did a lot of things right with the E-M5. And at the very least, the Fujifilm X10 has some competition for the best-looking camera on the shelf.