Sony NEX-6 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 Comparison

May 5, 2013

Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Sony NEX-6 compact system cameras

In this article I will be comparing the Sony NEX-6 vs Olympus OM-D E-M5. Both are very popular and among the best compact system cameras on the market. The E-M5 is Olympus Micro Four Thirds flagship camera, the NEX-6 sits beneath the NEX-7 (Sony’s CSC flagship model) and features an APS-C size sensor. If I had to choose an advanced CSC camera, I would probably went with either of the two cameras, and in this comparison I will explain to you why. I will start with a short introduction for each camera and continue to the comparison itself, where you will understand the differences and what are the cons and pros of each one – Let’s begin!

Olympus OM-D E-M5

Olympus OM-D E-M5

Olympus OM-D E-M5

If I had to choose a Micro Four Thirds camera, I would pick up the E-M5 without any hesitations. This is the camera of choice for many enthusiasts and even pro photographers. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 grabbed many awards, including product design award for 2013, EISA Award for best Compact System Camera for 2012-2013 and dpreview Gold Award, Photo Review Editor’s Choice and many others.  The E-M5 is probably the most equipped Micro 4/3 camera on the market. It’s image quality is second to none and it was praised all around the web for its amazing performance, including AF performance, high ISO performance and excellent wide arsenal of useful features.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 features a 16-megapixel LiveMOS High-speed image sensor and TruePic VI image processor. The camera itself continues that design tradition of Olympus OM cameras that were very popular in the 70s. The camera itself has a dust and splashproof design and built with tough magnesium alloy body. This should be the first choice for the outdoors photographer. The design was a bit strange to some because of the bulge that the viewfinder create at the two, and some people find it a bit odd, after all, it’s not a reflex camera.

The OM-D E-M5 features a 1,440K-dot Electronic Viewfinder with eye sensor that switches on when it detected your eye in front of it. The EVF is most probably the most important feature that enthusiasts and professional look in a camera. This is not an optical viewfinder. This means that inside the viewfinder compartment you’ll find a tiny LCD screen that projects an image of the scene as the sensor sees it. There are many advantages of having an EVF over OVF, some of them includes being able to display more data on the screen, view the image as it will appear after you pres the shutter button, this includes white balance, saturation and any other effect that you apply to the image. Furthermore, the image exposure can be digitally enhanced so you can have a better view of the scene, even when shooting in very dim environment and using slow aperture settings.

At the back you’ll find a 3-inh 610K-dots tilting OLED touch screen. Although the resolution is not as high and it’s not fully articulated, the OLED is a joy to view and the touchscreen certainly adds to the overall user experience.

One of the most exciting feature on this camera in my opinion is the 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization. This is the World’s first 5-axis image stabilization that compensate for different types of camera shake: along X and Y axis but also for Yaw, Pitch and rolling movement. This also means that every lens that you attach to the O-MD E-M5 will take advantage of that stabilization. You don’t need to buy expensive image stabilized Micro Four Thirds lenses, you already have an amazing stabilization mechanism built-in the camera that works with every lens. This IS is very effective for both stills and videos as well.

5-axis image stabilization, OM-D E-M5

5-axis vs 2-axis image stabilization

The E-M5 also focuses very fast and boasts 35-point AF with 3D Tracking and according to Olympus, the E-M5 autofocusing system is faster than any other interchangeable lens camera on the market (as for February 2012, test done by Olympus).

This is just the tip of the ice. The Olympus is an amazing all-around performer, featuring innovative technologies, speed, durability and many useful features that will help photographers to express their creativity without limitations. As will all Micro Four Thirds cameras, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is compatible with all Micro Four Thirds lenses, including those from Sigma, Panasonic and Tamron. You can attach Four Thirds lenses using an adapter, but the lens selection is very large so you won’t have to, unless you already have Four thirds lenses at home that you haven’t sold yet and want to use them (available adapters: Panasonic DMW-MA1, Olympus MMF-1, MMF-2 and MMF-3, MMF-3 is dust and splash proof).

As you can see, the E-M5 is an impressive piece of photographic equipment, and now you see why this camera was able to top all other Micro 4/3 cameras and is favorite among reviewers.

So what the Olympus E-M5 lacks? – It lacks a headphone and microphone jack, but you have the option to attach the SEMA-1 Microphone Set and it costs around $55 USD and vastly improved the sound quality. I just wish I could by the mic adapter without the mic for a cheaper price, but $55 is not to much to ask if you are serious in shooting high quality videos. The E-M5 also lacks an internal flash strobe but you you can use the external hot-shoe and external flash unit.

The OM-D E-M5 also lacks the holding stability. It has very think grip, but fortunately you can purchase the HLD-6 Power Battery holder that adds extra grip for both the hand grip and the bottom section of the camera (the two are separate parts but you cannot skip the horizontal grip). This battery grip is dust and splash proof as well. This battery holder doesn’t come cheap, costs around $300 the last time I’ve checked. If you don’t want to spent so much on a grip, you can purchase the Grip base for the OM-D E-M5 made by J.B. Camera Designs  which costs less than $50. The grip just attached to the tripod socket and had a hole from which you can access the battery compartment of the camera. A much cheaper alternative that lacks all the buttons and features of the original, but if you just need a better grip for a low price, this might be your only choice, so check it out.

Take a looks at this very informative video review by WylunCustoms YouTube user

The next video by MirrorlessReviews gives you a closer look at the HLD-6 grip for those who are thinking of buying it.


Sony NEX-6

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is so impressive, so how can the Sony NEX-6 can compete against this Micro Four Thirds flagship gem? – We’ll talk about it in the next section, but as soon find out, the NEX-6 is a very impressive Compact System Camera as well.

The Sony NEX-6 belongs to Sony’s NEX Alpha NEX camera system. It also won various awards and respectable recognition, including CNet editors\ choice for December 2012 and Digital Trends Editors’ choice award. The NEX-6 sits below the NEX-7 flagship model.  Below the NEX-6 we have the NEX-5R. Before the NEX-6 introduced, the NEX-7 was the only NEX camera to offer an electronic viewfinder. This made many people upset. The opted for a NEX camera because they wanted to have a mirrorless camera with a APS-C large sensor, but they just didn’t want to give up the experience of shooting with a viewfinder. The NEX-6 inherits some of the NEX-6 features and also inherits some of the features of the NEX-5R as well.

Sony NEX-6

Sony NEX-6

The Sony NEX-6 will appeal to the enthusiast photographer who is searching for a high quality CSC camera, with great build quality, very high quality pictures, an EVF but cannot afford buying the NEX-7. The NEX-7 is approx $200 more expensive. It might not seem to much, but don’t forget that you’ll also need to purchase a lens separately. Some people prefer investing more on a high quality lens than purchasing a more capable body and compromise on the optical quality or features of a lens that they crave for.

For example, if you want to but the 35mm f/1.8 prime lens and have only the budget for this lens and the NEX-6, your other option is toe buy the NEX-7 and get the 30mm f/3.5 macro lens instead. The f/3.5 lens is approximately $170 less expensive, but you lose the fast aperture that you really need or your type of shooting habits. So the thing is that many photographers prefer buying a body that is less robust, and invest more money on lenses useful and matching their shooting habits.  That’s where the NEX-6 comes into play, You have an excellent camera body, which is cheaper than the NEX-6, so you don’t have to compromise on other complimentary equipment.

The NEX-6 features a 16.1MP APS-C sensor with phase-detection sensors to improve the AF accuracy, This sensor is the same size used in many DSLR cameras, including the Canon EOS 60D, Sony Alpha, A77, Nikon D7000, Canon EOS 7D and many other DSLR cameras.  The Sony NEX-6 has a slim profile but a relatively prominent grip. The NEX-6 body is made of plastic and many people were disappointed to see that the NEX-6 doesn’t employ a meta chassis as its bigger brother, the NEX-7. Still, the camera feels solid in the hand I don’t know Sony used a plastic chassis to reduce the cost or to enable Wi-Fi radio transmission but nevertheless, it’s easy to envy the E-M5 body construction and weather sealing and I will talk about that in more details later on.

One of the great features of the NEX-6 is its Electronic viewfinder. This is a 1.3 cm (0.5 type) 2359K-dots high resolution OLED Electronic viewfinder. This is one of the features that I personally so glad to see on the Alpha NEX-6. The OLED technology reduced the motion blur to minimum and the color reproduction and viewing experience is better than the conventional LCD used in many other EVFs.

At the back you’ll also find a 3-inch 921K-dots tilting (90 degrees up,  45 degrees down) display. You choose to compose your photos from either the LCD or EVF, and both are in very high quality.

The Sony NEX-6 utilizes a Hybrid AF system, using both phase-detection AF and contrast-detection AF for quick and more accurate focusing.. This is the ideal combination for tracking fast moving subjects and ideal for focusing under various lighting conditions.

The NEX-6 also features a Wi-Fi antenna that allows you to easily transfer photos directly to your smartphone, tablet or your home computer. This feature was borrowed from the NEX-5R and I’m sure that many of you will find it very useful.  The Sony NEX-6 is probably among the most fully-featured EVIL cameras on the market. If comes with tons of useful and fun features, including compatability for PlayMemories camera apps, picture effects, a new multi-interface shoe, photo creativity interface, auto portrait framing, sweep panorama, 6-image layering, peaking AF display, Intelligent Auto Focus (pre-focuses as you compose your shot), manual focus assist and much more.

What is  “multi-interface shoe”?
A Multi-interface shoe is a proprietary camera hotshoe that was introduced by Sony on 12 September 2012. It’s a hybrid solution that allows the NEX-6 to be compatible with other Minolta and Sony DSLR accessories but also accepts other accessories that aren’t compatible with previous hotshoe interfaces and need a different connector to be compatible with Sony’s latest accessories. Furthermore, the new multi-interface shoe replaces the cyber-shot hotshoe, Intelligent accessory shoe and Active Interface shoe. It has back compatibility with older accessories but at the same time it was designed to take advantage of the latest accessories and be the standard hot-shoe for Sony future cameras. The first cameras to use this new hot-shoe were Sony A99, Sony RX1 and the two camcorders, the NEX-VG900 and NEX-VG30.

Does the NEX-6 has an official battery grip?
No, but there are some 3rd party solution, including Jim Buchana PalmGrip for the Sony NEX-6 and NEX-7 camera (priced $139 not including shipping) and Ownuser NEX7/NEX6 grip Controller version which is a more robust grip and cost $149 USD.


As you can see, we have two excellent mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras here. The decision won’t be easy I can assure you.  The Olympus OM-D E-M5 costs approx. $950 (body only), the Sony Alpha NEX-6 ccosts approx. $750. So there a $200 USD difference between the two. the Sony NEX-7 (NEX Flagship model) costs approx. $950, same as the E-M5 the last time I’ve checks on B&H Photo store website.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs Sony NEX-6 – Specs Comparison

It’s easy to get confused when you read many reviews about the two cameras. There are plenty of  features and it’s easy to get confused. The most important thing is to understand the differences and try to find out which features you must have and which ones are nice to have.  Many people made their decision by just writing down on paper (or on note pad) the features that they no for sure that they need on their next camera and compare them to list of features of both cameras. For example, some people will pick up the E-M5 for one particular feature, it’s weather sealing capabilities. If you can’t live without this feature, there is not reason to get the NEX-6 isn’t it?

Not every choice is black & white of course, but understanding which features you need will help you make a much smarter and faster buying decision. OK, enough of the intro, let’s take a look at the differences between the two cameras.

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High ISO Performance

If you are like me, you are probably very curious to see how the Olympus OM-D E-M5 micro 4/3 sensor  (17.3 x 13 mm) compares to the Sony NEX-6 APS-c sensor (23.5 x 15.6 mm). Let’s first take a look at a sensor size comparison illustration.

Micro Four Thirds vs APS-C sensor size comparison

Micro Four Thirds vs APS-C sensor size comparison, Olympus is in pink, Sony sensor in blue (via

Quite a big difference there. You might assume that the NEX-6 will outperform the E-M5 considering the fact that both have roughly the same resolution. The thing is that although the sensor size / pixel size have the most affect on the high ISO performance, the image processor is also responsible for keeping the noise levels lows as we bump up the ISO sensitivity.

I used dpreview Studio Scene Comparison (JPEG) to analyze the ISO performance between the two cameras in order to see which one have the better performance. Here are my observation conclusions:

  • ISO 200 – (to be fare as the E-M5 stars at ISO 200) Both images a very clean as expected, The Oly JPEG is tack sharp, among the best out-of-the-box JPEGs that I’ve seen. I mean look at the images at 100% crops and you’ll be amazed how detailed the E-M5 image is. The NEX-6 image looks excellent, but to be honest, the E-M5 details won me over here
  • ISO 400 — Looks great on both, color reproduction looks almost identical, but the NEX-6 seems to be a bit more saturated, a bit less natural in my opinion, but I personally prefer it this way. I like more subtle reds and greens. Overall, excellent performance so far
  • ISO 800 – jumping to ISO 800 we can see noise struggling to get in 🙂 and you start noticing it in the dark areas of the image, but believe me, it’s almost not noticeable – WOW!
  • ISO 1600 – both produce awe-inspiring results, I mean, compare it to the Nikon D7000 and you can see that both outperform the Nikon D7000 (it’s an old camera I know, don’t kill me). I was amazed how smooth and sharp the E-M5 images are at ISO1600, after all, it’s a Micro Four Thirds sensor, noise is in its bare minimum – 2nd WOW!
  • ISO 3200 – something need to change somewhere across the ISO range, so let’s see ISO 3200.  The big difference kicks in at ISO 3200. We can see much more noise here. The E-M5 seems do be doing better in maintaining the details nut we can see that each camera takes a different approach in how it reduces noise. Looking at the face of the woman in the photo, we can see that the NEX-6 is cleaner, but when looking at the watch we can see that the E-M5 image looks cleaner. Overall excellent performance from both cameras. I personally prefer the E-M5 output
  • ISO 6400 – both cameras produce quite noisy image, but this is almost not noticeable in the bright areas of the image (look at the bottle and at the money bill).  In this case I think that the NEX-6 have a slight advantage.
  • ISO 12800 – I like the Sony NEX-6 output more, especially the dotty noise pattern which it’s easier to remove using noise reduction software. The E-M5 using much stronger NR and losing more fine details than the NEX-6. The E-M5 performance is still very impressive!
Olympus has proven to be a gem! – what an amazing performance, who would expect such performance form a Micro Four Thirds sensor, just WOW!. I really love the JPEG at low ISO, image just look tack sharp, excellent contrast and great color reproduction. The E-M5 is the pixel-peeper best friend, you will be so satisfied with its image quality. Both camera did amazingly well and you can see that they are generation ahead compare to the Nikon D7000 for example. This is so great having such an amazing high ISO performance, you don’t need to worry when the scene demands bumping up the ISO to 1660, even at ISO 3200 image looks very good. I usually process my ISO1600+ on NeatImage to remove the noise, and I recommend checking it as well. With today’s sensor technologies, I can understand why many people don’t mind shooting without a flash. Just buy a fast lens and you will be able to shoot in very dim light without compromising on image quality.


I told you that it will be hard choosing between the two.  The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is an amazing camera. It costs approx. $200 more than the NEX-6, but what you get in return is 5-axis image stabilization, amazing JPEG quality at low ISO (best in its class), magnesium alloy chassis, weather sealed body (dust & splash proof), more aspect ratio shooting modes, OLED Touch screen, 60 sec. longer exposure,  faster sync speed,  WB bracketing,  3D stills and this great retro design (you might like it or not, I do). Let’s not forget the large arsenal of Interchangeable lenses that are available for the Micro Four Thirds,  much better selection than the Sony’s.

The Sony NEX-6 has many advantage over the E-M5 as well, in has a hybrid AF, 24p video recording, in-camera HDR, more focus points (99 vs 35), faster startup time, higher dynamic range (checked via DxOMark, 13.1 EV vs 12.3 EV), it’s smaller in size (but lenses are not, so don’t forget that), lighter in weight and has built-in flash.

I think that one of the most important thing that you ought to do is to check whether Sony has the lens that you need.  Sony is expanding its lens selection pretty fast. Many photographers will probably be using 2-4 lenses at most. If you are just starting out, getting the Kit lens is the best way to go. In time you’ll figure out what other lenses you need and buy them later on.

If you want to hear my opinion, I felt in love with the E-M5 since it was announced to be honest. I love the 5-axis image stabilization, I love the look and feel of this camera, love the weather sealing and touch screen. The AF performance is very fast and I love having a large selection of lenses and the fact that I can use lenses from various manufacturers, including Sigma, Tamron and of course, Panasonic.

What is your opinion, which one your prefer? – Have questions? Leave your comments and questions below. Thanks for reading and I hope this article made it easier for you to understand the differences and make a smarter and faster buying decision.

Check latest prices and buy:

Olympus OM-D E-M5: B&H Photo, Adorama
Sony Alpha NEX-6: B&H Photo, Adorama

For a visual comparison visit camera size compact comparison tool. You can also check the camera with lenses (via the camera from the top and attach a lens to it).

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