Nauticam OM-D E-M5 underwater housing
Using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 - find out if this combination will be right for you
By Scott Gietler
Nauticam has announced their housing for the new Olympus OM-D E-M5, coming out in early July for $1,350 in the USA. This camera represents a new standard for micro-four thirds cameras, and the housing is an exciting offering from Nauticam for a number of reasons. Interestingly, Nauticam is beating Olympus to market with this housing. Let's delve into the details of both.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera
This camera is a huge leap up from a compact camera. It focuses very fast, has a great lens selection, and nice controls. It is designed for more advanced shooters than the E-PM1 or E-PL3 is. It is not the same as using a Nikon D7000 or Canon 7D, but it is also smaller, and the housings are less expensive. Coupling this camera with the Panasonic 8mm fisheye and the (hopefully) soon to be released Olympus 60mm macro lens will be a winning combination.
Olympus has upped the sync speed to 1/250th, although you still can only do ISO 200, not ISO 100, which would have been useful for sunburst photos. The camera has dual control dials, extensive weather-proofing, and has some cool new in-body image stabilization, called IBIS, which works with most lenses.
Nauticam E-M5 housing
What do we love about this housing? Great port selection, very nice price point - higher than the $1,200 GX1 housing, but less than the $1,650 Sony NEX-5N housing, and the optional bulkhead for sync cords. Using an electrical sync cord will allow for faster shooting using strobes for action / behavior shots.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Competitors
Both the OM-D and the GX1 have fast focusing, take the same lenses, and have a 16 megapixel sensor, and a small well-built Nauticam housing as an option. The GX1 camera + Nauticam housing option is definitely less expensive, and smaller, but the OM-D has the edge in body, controls and shooting speed. Read our Panasonic GX1 review.
The Sony NEX-7 most likely has the edge in wide-angle shooting and video with its larger sensor, but the Olympus OM-D has a price advantage with the camera and the Nauticam housing, and also has superior lens selection, especially with the Olympus 60mm macro lens coming out this fall.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 housing
Olympus is also coming out with a housing for the OM-D. While it will be less expensive, the exact price difference remains to be seen, as it will be smaller as it has been in the past. Once ports and zoom rings are figured in, it still may be a good choice for budget-concience underwater photographers who can wait a couple more months for their OM-D housing.
Other housing manufacturers
It will be interesting to see if other housing manufacturers decide to go for this housing. Ikelite has so far not produced housings for mirrorless cameras, and Recsea, 10-bar and Aquatica have been picking and choosing the housings carefully. My guess is that it will just be Olympus and Nauticam at the table, and possibly 10-bar with a budget housing.
Excerpts from the official Nauticam OM-D Press Release
Nauticam NA-EM5 for Olympus OM-D EM-5
Nauticam is excited to announce the NA-EM5 for Olympus’ flagship Micro Four Thirds (m4/3) format camera, the OM-D E-M5. The NA-EM5 should prove to be one of the most potent underwater imaging tools ever developed for this segment, proving once again that great things can come in small packages.
Nauticam USA discusses the Olympus OM-D E-M5
With the OM-D E-M5, Olympus has clearly taken the m4/3 format to another level with performance solidly in DSLR territory. Everything about the camera body exudes quality from its solid magnesium construction and extensive weather sealing to its classy retro styling. The new 16 MP MOS Four Thirds format sensor provides excellent image quality, and surprisingly good high ISO performance up to a maximum of 25,600. Excellent dynamic range, improved color accuracy and a significant jump in resolution are just some of what can be expected from the E-M5. The new 3” OLED touch sensitive display provides brilliant viewing, while the 1.44M dot electronic viewfinder brings a welcome alternative for image composing.
Shutter lag is nonexistent and 9 FPS can be achieved while manually focusing, 4.2 FPS while utilizing the improved continuous AF. Lots of new features like a quick zoom focus check (up to 5X magnification) on the display make fine tuning focus much easier. The Shadow & Highlight screen setting acts as a “false color” mode to help with exposure by painting clipped highlights red and underexposed shadows blue. This method can dramatically increase the ease of exposure adjustments in difficult circumstances. The amount of tools available on the E-M5 definitely justifies spending some time with the PDF manual.
Olympus is targeting a more advanced shooter with the E-M5 and the controls on the camera reflect that. Most useful are the Main and Sub dials that allow instant aperture and shutter speed adjustment as well as other menu selected adjustments. Like most controls on the camera, these dials can be programmed independently for each mode setting on the camera. Two programmable function buttons and an additional programmable video record button allow extensive customization for each photographer’s particular needs. Dedicated navigation buttons default to controlling focus point selection over a broad section of the lens coverage. Another feature unique to this Olympus is built-in 5 Axis Image Stabilization that works in concert with any m4/3 lens. This sophisticated system offers distinct potential benefits in ambient light underwater photography or anytime a slower shutter speed is deemed desirable.
One of the hallmarks of the micro four-thirds format is an extensive selection of quality lenses - many well suited for use in an underwater housing. A new series of moisture shielded Olympus lenses are debuting including the nicely finished Olympus 12mm-50mm power zoom kit lens. This is an attractive option for underwater use covering a useful range for fish portraiture and 1:2 macro with the barrel activated macro switch engaged. Serious macro shooters will also appreciate the soon-to-be released Olympus 60mm macro lens joining the current highly regarded Panasonic Lumix 45mm macro lens.
Nauticam NA-EM5 Housing for the Olympus OM-D E-M5
All Nauticam housings are designed for ease of use and maintenance and the NA-EM5 builds on this solid foundation. The groundbreaking features of previous housings are present such as the effortless (but secure) single rotating housing latch, rugged machined aluminum case, 100 meter depth rating and the patented port latching system. A new rear mounted housing o-ring makes maintenance easier than ever, while a threaded bulkhead port allows for an HDMI or electrical strobe synch bulkhead installation – advanced features often omitted by mirrorless housing manufacturers. Of course dual fiber optic synch ports are standard and take advantage of the supplied Olympus accessory flash. To make the most of the E-M5’s excellent EVF, Nauticam has crafted an optional rear acrylic display window that encompasses a mount for installation of Nauticam’s acclaimed 45º and 180º magnified view finders for the ultimate in composition and focus ability.
All controls on the NA-EM5 are engineered for optimal ergonomics. The Olympus Main and Sub dials are easily reached by thumb or forefinger with no need to release grip on the housing while adjusting aperture and shutter speed. The important Fn1 and Fn2 buttons are just as easy to reach and can be programmed for a multitude of functions. A few of the useful settings are AF Lock, One-touch White Balance, Manual Focus, ISO and Exposure Compensation. Switching between LV and the EVF is a snap and a quick press of the Info button can show or hide Olympus’ new LV super control panel on the OLED screen for quick access to many critical settings. The mode dial can easily be turned through the typical P, A, S, M, Movie mode and some “easy shooting modes”.Controls need to offer a proper “feel” and Nauticam’s patented two-stage lever shutter release allows for natural, precise focus and shutter release activation.
Nauticam Port Selection
A big part of the Micro Four Thirds format’s popularity is a great lens selection for both topside and underwater. Nauticam manufactures an extensive line of compact ports to accommodate many of the best lenses for m4/3. Lenses that are particularly well suited for underwater use include the Panasonic 8mm fisheye, Panasonic 7-14mm, Olympus 9-18mm, Panasonic 14mm, Olympus 14-42, Panasonic 14-42mm, Panasonic 45mm macro, 60mm macro (upcoming), new Olympus 12-50 w/ macro (Supported by a special new Nauticam port for power zoom and macro switch).
Nauticam Build Quality
The housing body is machined from solid aircraft grade aluminum, then hard anodized making it impervious to salt water and providing an impressive 100 meter depth rating. The large acrylic LCD window is treated with an anti-reflective, scratch resistant coating.
Optional Electronic Sync Cables
Electronic sync cables will also supported via an optional bulkhead for Nikonos style connectors.
Strobes can be attached to the housing via optional strobe mounting balls on the handles or a single strobe mounting ball point on the housing. The housing also features a cold-shoe mount for even more mounting options.
More information can be found at the Nauticam OM-D E-M5 housing page on our sister website, Bluewater Photo.