At first glance, you might think that you've seen the new E-M5 from Olympus before, and you'd be right. Kind of. The new Micro Four Thirds camera is based on the classic lines of the OM series film SLR cameras first introduced in 1972, and becomes the first of the company's OM-D Series. Olympus trumpets its arrival as the beginning of a new era in digital imaging and has included a number of breaking technologies to support its claims.

The new Olympus E-M5 is headed for the steady hands of professional photographers and is said to slot in between the company's E-System DSLR models and the compact Olympus PEN range, benefiting from features common to both formats. It features a 1.44 million dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) with a refresh rate of 120 frames per second, that's claimed to offer real-time viewing. Users are given 100 percent field of view, up to 1.15x magnification and, of course, the EVF can also display information about the image at the bottom and overlayed.

There's also a 2-axis level gauge, and it's capable of demonstrating the application of various effects before a shot is taken. Usefully, Olympus has included eye detection technology that automatically switches from the tilting 3-inch, 610,000 dot capacitive touchscreen OLED display when the user's eye approaches the EVF.

The touchscreen display has a new LiveBulb feature that updates the screen image at preset intervals during long exposures, and users can touch the screen for shutter release, autofocus area selection, image enlargement and more.

The E-M5 sports a rugged dustproof and splashproof magnesium alloy body, within which sits the camera's 16.1-megapixel Live MOS Sensor with up to ISO 25600 sensitivity that works with the highly regarded TruePic VI image-processing engine to produce RAW or JPEG images, or 1080i HD movies at 30 frames per second. The camera's body also plays host to the world's first 5-axis image stabilization system, that allows all attached lenses to take advantage of the technology and is active while shooting stills or recording HD video. The system is said to manage the effects of horizontal shift, vertical shift, rotary motion, as well as the yaw and pitch.

Olympus is staking a claim to the world's fastest autofocusing system, too. First introduced on the Olympus PEN-3 camera, the FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) AF system has been improved for the E-M5 - with the Live MOS sensor whipping images off the sensor at 240 frames per second, having twice the continuous autofocus capabilities, and frame rates that have been more than doubled to nine frames per second in Single AF mode. The new tracking autofocus system is said to be capable of following the subject through the X, Y and Z axes.

The E-M5 has body-only dimensions of 4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 inches (121 x 88 x 43 mm) and tips the scales at around 15 ounces (425 g), including the Li-ion battery and media card. It has dual control dials, dedicated function buttons, a stereo microphone and built-in mono speaker, and has been treated to 11 filters, including the new Key Line Art Filter that gives photographs an illustrated effect. Both HDMI and USB 2.0 ports feature, and it's SD/SDHC/SDXC and Eye-Fi media card compatible.

The camera is scheduled for April availability, with a black/silver body-only estimated street price of US$999.99. The E-M5 can also be supplied with an M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50-mm f3.5-6.3 electronic zoom lens, but the cost is bumped up to $1,299.99, or you can opt for a black only body paired with an M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42 mm f3.5-5.6 II R lens for $1,099.99.

The E-M5 is said to be compatible with all Micro Four Thirds-compliant lenses, including two that company will introduce shortly (the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm f1.8 and the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm f2.8 macro), and comes with an FL-LM2 Electronic Flash, which can be attached to the camera via the hot shoe mount.

Product page: Olympus OM-D E-M5