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Olympus EM-5 Ergonomic Review

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by AndrewS, Oct 17, 2012.

  1. AndrewS

    AndrewS Mu-43 Regular

    May 12, 2012
    My ergonomic review of the Olympus OMD-EM-5 is now up at Camera Ergonomics As you might expect from the blog title, this review discusses ergonomic issues more fully than would be found in most reviews.
    Happy reading.
    • Like Like x 3
  2. arad85

    arad85 Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 16, 2012
    I have been subscribed to your blog for a month or so now Andrew. Makes a very good read. Thanks for doing this - camera ergonomics is why I have a G5 and not an OM-D...
  3. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I'm not certain that I would regard your review as a true ergonomic review. I say that with a history of working in occupational health and safety for a decade prior to my retirement in 2001. During that time ergonomics in relation to office work was one of my main areas of interest and I have read some of the technical texts related to hand ergonomics.

    My big problem is simply the perspective of many of your comments. This is probably best exemplified for me by your statement at one point "…for my average sized adult hands…".

    A major area of ergonomics has to do with the study of anthropometrics, basically the size of the human body. There are tables which define the median, average, and extreme ranges in size for various parts of the human body so it would seem that it would be quite easy to characterise just what the "average sized adult hand" would be. Unfortunately that is not the case. Not only are there separate tables for men and for women, but there are also separate tables for different countries due to the significant differences in sizes of people of different races, and that size can also vary from country to country for people of similar racial origin due to differences in diet and other environmental factors.

    The reason I raise that is that the E-M5 is designed in Japan by Japanese designers and arguably the largest part of its market is in Asia rather than in western countries from the sales data I have occasionally seen. I suspect that the size of Japanese and other Asian hands was a major factor in its design and they tend to be smaller than the hands of caucasians of European background. I think that may well have been part of the reason that Olympus decided to offer an accessory grip which certainly makes the camera handle better for many people.

    I don't have access to anthropometric data for hand size for European and Japanese hands but I do have some limited data for British males and females which includes hands, and I can compare anthropometric data for height, as a general indication of size, for males and females from the US, Britain, and Japan. That order describes the order of their average heights from highest (US) to shortest (Japan). What that data indicates to me is that hand breadth, which we can compare to camera body height as one dimensional indication of grip comfort, is a centimetre less for British females than British males, and the height data I have indicates that Japanese males probably have hand sizes comparable to British females and of course Japanese females will have smaller hand sizes than Japanese males.

    Given the large take up of the camera in Asia, and by Asians in the west, and allowing for a reasonable proportion of female users, I would expect that the average hand size of all E-M5 users is actually noticeably smaller than your own hand size, and of mine for that matter. I'll add that I'm on record here in other threads making comments about the size of the E-M5 and how I find the grip makes it much more comfortable for me, and I'd regard myself as also having an "average adult hand size", at least for Australian males of caucasian background.

    I think Olympus actually did reasonably well with the size of the camera. I think they designed it primarily for the Asian market but gave consideration to how those with larger hands would find the body. I think the size is a compromise but overall I think it's a reasonable compromise. It certainly could be made better for caucasian hands, but probably only at the cost of making it worse for Asian hands so I can't see a win/win solution other than the one they opted for, a smallish camera body which is not unmanageable for larger hands together with an optional grip that suits larger hands quite well. It's relatively easy to make a small camera bigger to suit large hands with an add-on grip but it is impossible to make a large camera smaller.

    As I said above, I don't doubt the accuracy of your observations about your own experience which mirror my own experience in some ways. I just want to try to put them in a broader context given your characterisation of your review as "ergonomic". While your experience of the physical aspects of using the camera match my own to some degree, I suspect that both your and my experience may well not be the case for at least half of its users around the world.
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  4. dbrantley13

    dbrantley13 Mu-43 Regular

    May 17, 2012
    Very well written response there. I never would have thought about it that way but your explanation for the size of the PEN and OM-D lines really helps to put things in perspective.
  5. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Very interesting indeed..... I have "Asian" hands I can see how the camera "seems" to be designed with that in mind. Same goes for cars: Japanese auto manufacturers have specific models intended for the North American market which tend to be larger. I have friends who can't even get into my Mazda Miata. Fits me like a glove.
  6. String

    String Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 9, 2012
    It's kinda funny... I'm about 6'2 and I assume I have big hands (I wear XL gloves). I've been shooting Nikon pro bodies for years and when I first got my OM-D, it felt small and a little cramped. I added the grip and as I used the camera more and more, I got very comfortable with it. Same with the menu system; at first it was awfully convaluted and confusing but again, as I used it more it started to become logical.

    When I stopped by my local shop to pick up the 75 1.8, they had the new Nikon D600 in stock and some D800's. I was holding a D800 with the 24-70 and it felt like a brick! The first thing that went through my mind was "how the h&*^^ did I manage to carry this around for days at a time?".

    I must say that even though the OM-D may have small buttons and some consession made for size/weight, all around, its the best camera I've held in my hands for years. It never impedes the way I work and I've never wished it was "bigger".
  7. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    I tend to agree with the reviewer.

    There are two issues in my mind - the size of the body and the size of the controls. Yes, you can make the body bigger. What you can't do is make the tiny buttons larger and easier to access. It's a little bizarre that a camera that claims to be built for outdoor use is basically inoperable with gloves on. And I say that as somebody with small hands...
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Bhupinder2002

    Bhupinder2002 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    I agree Dara and thats my main concern as well. I like the results and so many other things but honestly speaking it doesnt look as sturdy as E5 or K5 and even newer Pentax K30 are. It looks quite delicate looking camera .On the other hand EP3 looks more chunky and controls are more sensible .
  9. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    You're right, body size and button size are different issues. Problem is, make a small body and want to put x controls on it, you've got less space to work in with a small body so the controls get smaller. BUT, people with bigger hands also tend to have bigger fingers so we get what is essentially the same problem again but while you can add a grip to make the body bigger, it's harder to make the buttons bigger.

    I'm not denying the problem, and I'm glad I've never had to wear gloves when using a camera, but I did want to make the point that any decision on size, whether it's for the body or for the buttons, is a compromise and it will impact differently on different people. It's also not the sort of thing I ever thought about before I had to study a little bit about ergonomics and saw a set of anthropometric tables for the first time. There is a surprising amount of variation in physical size both around the world and between males and females, much more than most people tend to assume if they've never been introduced to the data. It certainly surprised me.

    It is possible to make some things bigger with add ons like the grip, it isn't possible to make them smaller. If you want some degree of adaptability, and Olympus went with that, you make a smallish body and then provide accessories to make at least the grip larger. I think they did a good job but there's no way to make it perfect for everyone.
  10. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia

    I have an E-P3 as well. The only control on the E-P3 which I think is more sensible than on the E-M5 is the on/off switch due to its location.

    I find the scroll wheel for adjusting aperture/shutter speed falls right under my thumb and keeps getting accidentally changed, and EV compensation requires taking the camera away from my eye to adjust if I'm using the VF-2 which I usually am. Those are 2 big issues for me with the E-P3 and I do like the E-P3 as a camera. I kept mine when I got the E-M5 and use it as a second body.

    It's a different set of compromises to the E-M5 but not as good a set from my perspective.
  11. AndrewS

    AndrewS Mu-43 Regular

    May 12, 2012
    Handles, holding and operating

    This is a response to David A's thoughtful comments. I am in fact very aware of the issues which David raises and have discussed them at length in several articles on my Camera Ergonomics blog. When developing mockups like the one illustrated in the EM5 review, I have designed the handle and thumbrest so the camera can be held comfortably by people with small hands (my grand children aged 8-11) meduium sized (mostly caucasian women) or large hands (caucasian men). Those with small hands move the hand upwards to find their fingers in the right place to operate the controls. Large hands move downwards to locate the fingers in the same place.
  12. Phoque

    Phoque Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 18, 2011
    Ontario, Canada
    Outdoor doesn't necessarily means conditions which require gloves.
  13. Laurentiu Cristofor

    Laurentiu Cristofor Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 9, 2012
    I think that the size of hands had little to do with it. I think that the priority was simply to make a small camera. Fuji is Japanese too and they are putting out cameras that are also retro looking but larger. In both situations, the handholding is secondary to other style considerations. People with small hands may prefer the E-M5 and people with large hands will like the XPro1, but this doesn't mean that Olympus and Fuji really wanted to divide the market between people with small hands and those with large hands.

    I think ergonomics is overrated and psychology is more important. We get a device and if it does the job well, we like it, we enjoy using it and we get used to it. Unless designed to produce a joint disease, small ergonomics issues will just fade away in our minds, with continuous use.

    A lot of people recommend choosing a camera by going to a store and trying different models to get a feel for how they handle. I purchased all my digital cameras online without holding them in my hands. I just decide if I like them and I check if their performance is good and then I know I'll get used to them even if initially they might feel weird.

    Re: E-M5. I found it small initially, but I am getting used to it now, and soon I'll start arguing that it's the most ergonomic camera ever because I can handhold it with three fingers. :) 
  14. peterpix

    peterpix Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 8, 2010
    So. Maine
    Peter Randal
    didn't read the review but when i first held the EM5 is didn't feel right, not as comfortable as my EP-3, but I eventually for the new one and as i use it it feels better and the controls. So goodbye EP-e and hello EM5
  15. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    That's one way of approaching it, but not the only one. The small body and add-on grip is another. There are points in favour of each, and different designers will have different approaches.

    I don't think Olympus ignored these issues when designing the camera. Not everyone agrees with their decisions but that doesn't mean the issues weren't considered.
  16. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Totally agree with you on this! I also found the E-M5 to be small initially, with odd button/dial locations, but I liked how the camera perform so much that I was willing to put up with these compromises in the beginning. Now, after several months of use, reaching the buttons and dials become second nature. When I go back to my E-P3 these days, I found myself searching for the on/off button and other controls!
  17. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    That was my response initially too when I started using the E-P3 again. I've got better at going back but I much prefer the E-M5 control layout to the E-P3's, with the exception of the on/off switch.
  18. Mikefellh

    Mikefellh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 7, 2012
    Toronto, Canada
    The E-M5 is NOT a small camera!

    The E-M5 is a NORMAL SIZED camera!

    Here is the E-M5 sized up against some other cameras of the past (someone raised these models in another forum saying they were all much larger than the E-M5, and I had the numbers still handy from my reply to them, all measurements in mm):

    146-95-54 Nikormat FT2
    144-93-43 Canon Ftb
    136-86-51 Minolta SRT-101
    143-92-88 Pentax Spotmatic
    133-85-50 my Exakta I used for 20 years
    122-89-43 Olympus E-M5i

    Srt101 is shorter, and FTB is the same thickness! As for width, E-M5 is not as long since it doesn't have to accomodate the roll of film, so it's only 2.4cm or almost 1inch less long than the LONGEST camera on this person's list!

    The E-M5 is only small compared to the big, bulky, oversized cameras that we have been forced to use because they couldn't fit dSLR electronics into a NORMAL sized body!

    I admit at first the size of the E-M5 shocked me when I first held it at a pre-release Olympus event (my last camera was an E-3), but when I went home I dug out my Exakta that I mentioned above I remembered what it felt like to hold a normal sized camera again!
    • Like Like x 1
  19. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    First I want to preface my thoughts here in saying that this is on the assumption of holding and shooting the camera with one hand.

    I really like the ergonomic review in many ways. It really describes the issues I generally have with smaller cameras. I have larger hands(wear a large glove, for example, in America). For small light camers, such as the XZ-1, my index finger on the shutter is really in a cramped position, but since the camera is so light, there really isn't much issue of holding it that way and my hand never feels sore after use.

    Now, looking at the E-M5, or really any of the smaller form factor mFT cameras, they have have significantly more weight, even with a kit or pancake lens. Looking at the article, the image subtitled "EM5 No handle hold" is similarly how I hold my e-p1 or e-pl2, but even worse. My second knuckle of the index finger is actually much higher than the picture. I have no leverage of pushing the body of the camera back towards my thumb and palm to hold the camera to shoot. Ultimately this requires two handed shooting at least for me if I don't want my index finger sore or cramping after long use.

    For me, this was the biggest learning curve since I was so used to one handed shooting. Honestly, I felt the Panasonic G1 had a much better ergonomic feel than the E-P1 when I dove in 3 years ago. The big advantage for the E-P1 was the verticle thumbwheel which made life easier for me, even if my grip was compromised.

    Move forward to last year when I picked up the E-PL2. The larger grip and lighter body made things slightly easier for extended periods of time with the camera, but I lost the verticle thumb wheel. The biggest issue for me, on both cameras, is that the shutter button is too close to the edge of the camera. I feel the shutter button on cameras that don't have much grip needs to be closer to the lens.

    What I end up doing in some cases is actually positioning the camera lower and using my thumb for the shutter button. The only issue with that is that I no longer have access to the controls easily. The tilt/touch screens help with that sort of positioning.

    I have yet to hold an E-M5. This is the first review I've seen with pictures of how to hold the camera and where the fingers actually sit on the controls. For me, the second control wheel closer to the middle of the camera would be useless for one handed operation. A verticle thum dial would be more useful for me. Olympus has spoiled me in that regards, and I'm sure the next E-PX camera will satisfy.
  20. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA

    I really disagree. I think this issue is entirely up to the individual. I can get by with light small cameras and bad ergonomics all day long. Heavier cameras with bad ergonomics can make my hand cramp or sore after just an hour of use. Regardless of how good the pictures are, I'm going to avoid using a camera that makes my hands cramp and sore. I end up not wanting to take pictures because of it.
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