In 2021 my main Olympus camera for landscape photography is the E-M1 Mark II. I have three bodies and they have been all around the world with me shooting landscapes in diverse & challenging locations such as Greenland, Antarctica, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. They are wonderful cameras and in spite of being worked hard they have never let me down. But I have always had a fondness for the E-M5 range.
My first OM-D was the original E-M5 back in 2012 (I cannot believe it was 9 years ago when I initially fell in love with the OM-Ds) and I have subsequently owned all upgrades, currently shooting with an E-M5 Mark III. All models have stayed true to the small size/light weight ethos that drew me to the first E-M5 all that time ago.
But the current model is a significant improvement over the original (e.g. in terms of ergonomics, build quality and sensor performance) and is a regular choice when I am working closer to home. Smaller & lighter than my E-M1s, the E-M5 still offers features that are important to me – a 20MP sensor, phase & contrast detect AF, excellent image stabilisation (5.5 stops), weather sealing and a flip & rotate screen (ideal for photos shot at low level or above head height). I have read some reviewers criticising the more ‘plasticky’ feel of the body compared to its predecessor, but I can’t say that has been an issue for me in practice. The camera has been used extensively in challenging (some might say hostile) conditions and has never missed a beat.
My E-M5 Mark III has an M.Zuiko 14-150mm II lens permanently attached to it, as I find they are the perfect combination. Now I have to admit, I had (note past tense) an aversion to so-called ‘Super Zooms’ – my experience of using them in the past was far from positive. Poor build quality, clumsy ergonomics and far from stellar optical performance seemed to be the norm. When I was first asked by Olympus to try out the Mark II version of their 14-150mm lens I must admit that I did so with some degree of reluctance and a healthy dose of scepticism.
However, as soon as I used it and saw the results on my computer screen, I was a convert. The optical quality is superb – not up to the PRO lens level but it is cheaper (half the price of the 12–100mm lens for example), lighter and smaller. And there are times when those factors are more important to me than having the sharpest lens available. Particularly when I look at A2 sized prints from the 14-150mm lens and realise that most photographers (me included) would be very happy with the output quality.
This solidly made (but not heavy) lens sits nicely balanced on the E-M5 Mark III body, even when the lens is physically extended to its maximum focal length. Like the camera, it is weather sealed making them an ideal combination – particularly for this landscape photographer who loves to shoot in inclement weather. It also comes supplied with a lens hood that I can testify is ideal for keeping rain and snow off the front of the lens!
The E-M5 Mark III and the 14-150mm II lens are my ‘go to’ combination when I am looking to travel as light as possible but do not want to sacrifice on shooting flexibility. So, for example, when I am walking my dog or with family & friends and photography is not the prime reason for being out in the landscape, I will put the camera & lens into my rucksack knowing that I can produce a high-quality image should I see some magical light or encounter interesting weather conditions. The comprehensive zoom range (from wide angle to telephoto) means that I can photograph a scene with an interesting foreground close to the camera one minute and then zoom into a distant detail the next without having the trouble of changing lenses. In my experience nothing annoys fellow (non-photographer) walkers more than constantly asking them to wait while you swap optics for the umpteenth time. And the same is true of impatient dogs too!
Now, I can hear the cynics among you saying, ‘this is too good to be true – what’s the catch?’. A reasonable question, for in the world of photography we know that camera & lens designers giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other. In this case the answer is maximum aperture – the 14-150mm is an F4-F5.5 lens, so not the fastest in the world. But if it were an F2.8 optic it would be much larger and heavier (and considerably more expensive). I have never found the smaller maximum aperture to be a major problem – the IS system and the higher ISO performance of the E-M5 Mark III allows me to get around this problem in other ways. And if I really wanted, I could take a tripod with me but that defeats the object when I want to work with the smallest and lightest gear possible without sacrificing image quality.
Would I swap my E-M1s and PRO zooms for the E-M5 Mark III and the 14-150mm II lens? No. Would I give up the latter combination though? Never! It is horses for courses and there are many times when they are the best option for me. They have enabled me to get some amazing images that I am incredibly pleased with and at times when I would never have taken my other gear out of my office.
Would I recommend the latter to fellow landscapers looking for a one lens/one camera outfit? Absolutely. The image quality will not disappoint and your shoulders & back will undoubtedly appreciate the weight saving.
About the Photographs
All the images seen here were shot with the E-M5 Mark III and the 14-150mm II lens. They were taken in late 2020/early 2021 as part of a project to record my first winter living in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire.