Olympus EM1 Review

Olympus EM1 Review

Olympus OM-D EM1 combines Micro Four Thirds with Four Thirds: two systems combined

For a long time, fans of the E-System had to watch Olympus introduce one Micro-Four-Thirds camera after the other and only proclaim perseverance slogans for the E-System. But now the time-honored E-5 gets a successor with the OM-D E-M1. The fact that the mirrorless OM-D system camera equipped with an EVF replaces the E system may at first sound confusing. But Olympus has developed a phase autofocus integrated on the image sensor that focuses with adapted E-System lenses at least as fast as the E-5. For those switching from the E-System, there is even the necessary adapter free of charge, at least for those who don’t hesitate to buy the OM-D E-M1 for too long.

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Very effective image stabilizer
  • Good autofocus performance, even with Four-Thirds lenses
  • Large, bright and detailed viewfinder
  • Excellent image quality even at high ISO sensitivities
  • Compact and excellently finished housing

Cons

  • Moderate battery life for a professional camera
  • No integrated flash (but a clip-on flash is included)
  • Menu not easy to understand

With the OM-D E-M1 Olympus introduces not the successor of the mirrorless camera E-M5, but the SLR camera E-5. For the fans of the Four-Thirds (FT) SLR system a shock, because they eagerly awaited a housing, which should bring the connection to the technical development for their outstanding FT lenses. However, Olympus consistently lifted the mirrorless Micro-Four-Thirds-System (MFT) to professional level and the result was the OM-D E-M1.

 

Even without the battery handle, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is larger than the OM-D E-M5. Both the more pronounced handle and the greater height should provide better grip. [Photo: Olympus]

Matching the Olympus OM-D E-M1, there is a new high-quality, splash-proof and consistently powerful F2.8 zoom lens from 12-40 millimetres (24-80 mm correspond to 35mm). [Photo: Olympus]

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 features a newly developed 16 megapixel CMOS sensor with integrated phase AF sensors that allow focusing as fast as with the E-5. [Photo: Olympus]

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 not only has a 7.5 centimeter folding screen, but also a 1.44 million pixel electronic viewfinder that is larger than full-format DSLRs. [Photo: Olympus]

Thanks to Micro Four Thirds’ small back focus, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 has an extremely slim housing. [Photo: Olympus]

The distinctive handle of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is clearly visible, making it easy to grip. [Photo: Olympus]

The new splash-proof Olympus 12-40 mm 2.8 serves as a set lens for the OM-D E-M1, where the surcharge is 700 Euro. However, it can also be purchased individually for around 1000 euros. [Photo: Olympus]

The Olympus 40-150 mm 2.8, on the other hand, is currently still under development. It should also have splash water protection. [Photo: Olympus]

The live MOS image sensor in Micro Four Thirds format (17.3 x 13 millimetres, aspect ratio 4:3), specially developed by Olympus and produced by contract manufacturers, resolves 16 megapixels and integrates 37 phase autofocus measurement sensors, which are used in many places instead of the image pixels. The missing pixels are simply interpolated with the help of the pixels arranged around them, similar to mapping out defective pixels on a sensor without looking at the later photos. This phase autofocus, together with adapted E-System lenses, allows focusing at least as fast as with the E-5, claims Olympus and sees the OM-D E-M1 as the official successor of the E-5. Dual Fast AF is what Olympus calls the symbiosis of phase and contrast autofocus, because the latter is still in use with 81 measuring points and is still one of the fastest on the market – Olympus even claims to be the fastest. The camera itself decides which autofocus system to use on the basis of the lens and subject used. She also has everything else that a top-class model needs. The robust aluminium housing is protected against splashing water, compared to the E-M5 the housing has grown in height and the distinctive handle allows the otherwise quite slim system camera to be held securely. The buttons have also been enlarged for better ergonomics. Numerous buttons can be individually programmed, and two dials make it easy to change two parameters simultaneously, such as aperture and shutter speed, ISO sensitivity and exposure compensation.

In addition to the phase autofocus, the integrated electronic viewfinder is another highlight of the E-M1. It resolves 2.36 million pixels and magnifies 1.48 times. Although there are now higher resolution viewfinders from other manufacturers, Olympus still has the best viewfinder image. As if that wasn’t enough, the electronic image is also particularly large and should exceed the current full-format DSLRs. Compared to the Canon EOS-1D X, the viewfinder image is about the same width, but slightly higher due to the 4:3 aspect ratio. In comparison with APS-C DSLRs, the viewfinder image should be approximately 1.3 times larger. In a classic Four Thirds DSLR such a large viewfinder would not have been possible due to its design. The short delay of only 29 milliseconds also speaks for itself. The E-M1 also has a rear screen with a resolution of 1.04 million pixels and a diagonal of 7.5 centimeters. It can be folded up and down and offers an aspect ratio of 3:2.

New in the viewfinder display is an HDR preview function. Highlights and shadows can be adjusted in the viewfinder image directly with the camera’s rotating wheels (tonal value correction). A new color correction is added by controlling the color saturation and hue with the two setting wheels, which allows a multitude of color effects to be achieved directly in the camera. Olympus has also improved the Live Bulb function, which not only displays the gradually brightening photo during a long exposure, but also its histogram, so that the photographer can precisely terminate the exposure. Also on board is the 5-axis image stabilizer, in which the image sensor is shifted to compensate for camera shake, so that any attached lens can be stabilized. This also applies to the recording of Full HD videos. A flash is not integrated, a small attachable one, of course also splash water protected, is however enclosed.

In addition to the new image sensor, the new TruePic VII image processor should also provide the best image quality. Olympus believes the sensor has the highest sensitivity of ISO 25,600. A new technique called “New Fine Detail Technology II” is supposed to make sure that the diffraction blur of small apertures is excluded, so that it is possible to dimm down to aperture F22 without any worries. This should allow the photographer to benefit from the greater depth of field without having to accept the disadvantage of decreasing image resolution. Olympus also scores with an integrated WLAN module. The connection to the smartphone is particularly easy via the QR code displayed on the camera screen, which only needs to be scanned with the Olympus app. This means that a very easy coupling of camera and smartphone does not depend on the NFC module, which not all smartphones offer. When remotely controlling the camera using a smartphone, many settings are possible; the classic modes P, A, S and M, for example, are available. Not only is the live image transmitted, but it is also updated accordingly when the Live Bulb function is used, so that the user can use it conveniently from a smartphone.

In October 2013, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 was launched on the market at a price of just under EUR 1,500. Owners of an E-System camera will receive the Four-Thirds adapter MMF-3 worth 200 EUR free of charge until 23 November 2013 when they purchase an E-M1, and there will also be special offers with the adapter for other buyers. In addition to various pocket models, Olympus also offers an underwater housing and a multi-function portrait battery handle as accessories.

Also new is the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm 1:2.8 zoom lens from Olympus, which finally offers a high-quality and fast zoom lens for micro-four whirds. The small picture equivalent focal length range is 24-80 millimetres, surpassing the Panasonic 12-35mm. Of course the 12-40mm has a splash water protection as well as a fast and quiet autofocus. Seven orifice slats should provide a soft bokeh. The focus ring can be pulled back for manual focusing and thus releases a distance scale. The lens will be available individually from about November 2013 at a price of around EUR 1,000. In the set with the OM-D E-M1 it is already available from October and costs only 700 EUR extra, so the set is about 2.200 EUR. A continuous F2.8 telephoto zoom for sports subjects with a focal length range of 40-150 millimetres (80-300mm according to 35mm) is being developed as an ideal complement to the 12-40mm.

 

With the battery handle, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 looks like an adult camera. [Photo: Olympus]

Ergonomics and workmanship

In terms of appearance, the digital OM is indeed reminiscent of the analogue OM models from Olympus. Only the integrated handle breaks through the traditional design. One could say that the new OM-D looks like a kind of hermaphrodite between retrostyle and modernity. Design may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it has undeniable advantages. The handle gives a very comfortable secure hold and on the back the thumb finds space in a small hollow. The rubber coating of the magnesium housing does the rest for the slip resistance. For big hands the OM-D E-M1 may be a bit undersized, because the little finger can’t find a place on the handle anymore. However, a battery compartment can be screwed under the housing as an accessory, making the E-M1 “paw compatible” again. On the other hand, the small size of this camera is the convincing argument for many photo enthusiasts. Away from the heavy blocks and thick humming, towards the inconspicuous lightness. And if required, the battery compartment can be almost upgraded to the old size. But even without accessories the E-M1 sticks almost as well in the hand as the ergonomically perfect E-5 and even after a short familiarization the advantages of this camera concept outweigh.

Also the upper side awakens memories at a fleeting glance: The mode selector is very similar to the good old ISO switch and on the left side of the case you can even see a rewind crank for the film. Of course you don’t have to wind anything, the “crank” consists of two buttons for different series modes and the focus or exposure control. Somewhat unusually placed here is also the main switch, which is also a reminiscence of the OM cameras. Once you get used to it, the switch is perfect: solid and stable. The mode selector can be locked against inadvertent adjustment at the push of a button, whereby the lock can be switched on or off as required. This is a pretty ingenious solution to the annoying conflict between convenience and security. In addition to program, time and aperture automatic as well as manual setting, there are five other positions with different automatic, scene programs and effect filters. If you do not want to use effect filters or scene programs, you can assign different functions to each of these positions. By the way, in addition to the two function keys, almost every other switch can also be assigned individually.

The special highlight is the switch next to the eyepiece, which quickly assigns two new functions to the two setting wheels. In the delivery state, the aperture or exposure time (rear) and exposure compensation (front) are white balance and ISO sensitivity after switching. You rarely have all the relevant recording parameters under control so quickly – and without having to take the camera off your eye.

Although the OM-D E-M1 has neither a mirror nor a reversing prism, the typical viewfinder hump of a reflex camera rises above the lens. Under it hides an electronic viewfinder of the extra class, which alone is a weighty argument for the E-M1. In comparison to the E-5, the viewfinder image looks huge and thanks to the more than two million pixels it is still rich in detail and sharp. One quickly gets used to the clear, bright picture, so that even followers of the optical viewfinder forget all reservations. The flicker or noise that is otherwise often criticized in electronic viewfinders is only known to the Olympus viewfinder when it is very dark. In an optical viewfinder there would be nothing more to see anyway. This is of course a great advantage if, for example, the motif is to be targeted and focused in a dark pub scene. The viewfinder acts like a night vision device and makes the subject appear almost as bright as day. Of course, the viewfinder and display can also simulate the image result including exposure and color corrections or effects. The exit pupil lies quite far outside, so that also spectacle wearers keep the overview. In addition, a dipotria compensation can be set. Those who still doubt the electronic viewfinder should work with it for a day and then return to the optical viewfinder. Only then do you notice how quickly you get used to the comfort. By the way, the automatic switching between display and viewfinder works very quickly and is automatically deactivated when the display is unfolded. So unintentional switching is a thing of the past!

Those switching from the E-5 will miss the second memory card slot and most of all the side-mounted display. The E-M1’s display, which can only be folded up and down, has clear disadvantages, especially with portrait format photography close to the ground. On the other hand, this construction is more robust and less conspicuous in use, especially when portraits are made with the camera held in front of the belly. The possibility to configure the camera with direct pressure on the display or to determine the focus point and trigger it is a pleasure to take with you and in the picture show you can even wipe through the photos. Unfortunately, zooming in with two fingers is not possible, but you quickly get used to the comfort. There’s nothing to complain about in terms of sharpness, brightness and contrast, the display is among the best of its kind.

The OM-D E-M1 is excellent to operate. Not only can all relevant settings be made directly with the dedicated switches, the quick menu also provides an immediate overview and can even be operated at the touch of a finger. You only have to go to the menu at the beginning of your acquaintance, when all the necessary basic settings have to be made. Unfortunately this is exactly a problem, because the Olympus menus have always been a bit confusing, especially with a camera like the E-M1. Basically, almost everything can be configured on this camera and each switch can be individualized in its function. That this doesn’t work with a simple menu must be clear to anyone who wants this versatility. Therefore, before the first serious use, the handbook – by the way strangely translated in places (as evidenced in the comments by our readers of foreign languages) – must be consulted. The new OM-D requires induction! However, this is unnecessarily complicated by the fact that some menu items have been given different names from the manual (for example, flickering in the viewfinder is translated as “noise”) and others are sitting in the wrong place at practical discretion and are therefore not found in the first place. For example, the display and viewfinder can be configured separately, which is very commendable. But why does the viewfinder menu have to be so far away from the display menu? And why are there settings in the display menu that refer to the viewfinder? Such interdependent entries can also be found in other places, making it difficult to keep track of them. There is a wide field for optimization here.

However, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a pleasure to touch. All switches and buttons are very solid, the flaps for battery and memory card are sealed with rubber seals against splash water and dust, and the rubber covers of the electrical connections are additionally secured by the folding display. A small criticism of a camera of this class: Unfortunately, the tripod thread sits just under a centimeter beside the optical axis, but at least far enough away from the battery compartment, so that you can also reach it with the quick-release plate attached. This also seems to be necessary, because the power supply of the E-M1 is the same as on the E-M5. Of course it has advantages if accessories are compatible, but a larger battery would improve the professionalism of the E-M1. After all, in our test operation with a lot of trial and error, around two hundred recordings were possible, whereby the WiFi function in particular can be regarded as a power guzzler.

Equipment

In terms of programs, the E-M1 has pretty much everything that is possible. Program, aperture and aperture control are of course just as self-evident as manual exposure control. But even a fully automatic system, which would not actually have to be installed in cameras of this class, gives inexperienced photographers security. Simply set iAuto and leave the rest to the camera.

If more influence is desired, 20 scene programs can be selected. Interesting is the “starlight” mode, in which the E-M1 combines a series of 8 images into one low-noise image. This works fine, but cannot be configured. It would be nice to have a little more influence on the image style or the upper limit of the ISO sensitivity and the noise reduction, for example, but all this is fixed. The results look smoother and more noise-free but somewhat softer than would be possible with noise reduction alone. They are also warmer in artificial light. If you want to tickle out the last bit of detail resolution, let it rustle a bit. The classic modes P, A, S and M can be intervened in the most far-reaching way. Six image styles can be used to create images with richer or paler colors, black and white, or with optimized skin tones. Each style can be individually adjusted in sharpness, contrast, saturation and gradation or you can create your own seventh style.

In addition, the now twelve art filters and further options invite you to extensive experiments. Two new functions stand out from the mass of possibilities: Firstly, the “color designer”, with which you can influence saturation and color character with the two dials and evaluate the result in real time on the monitor. We liked the “Bright Light/Shadow Correction” even better, in which the bright or dark areas of the image can also be emphasized or dampened directly in the gradation curve with the wheels. Such extensive tonal value corrections already during the recording are powerful tools in the hands of the experienced photographer. Also useful is the spirit level, which sensitively indicates both horizontal and vertical inclination. Histogram, over- and underexposure warning, different grids, and the currently set focal length is also displayed.

What is lacking in terms of equipment? A built-in flash. However, Olympus comes with a mini flash, which first has to be scribbled onto the camera. Although it is a little weak in my opinion, it is still completely sufficient for many situations. The illumination is halfway okay and the 12-50 mm kit zoom doesn’t cast a shadow, but the powerful FT lenses should be used without a sun visor. The flash has all the usual functions such as brightening up to 1/320 second, long-term synchronization to the first or second shutter curtain and manual control. It also conducts remote-capable system flashes wirelessly. The accessory shoe also takes any other flash and studio photographers will appreciate the FX contact on the camera body.

Olympus has still not managed to integrate a usable panorama mode into the camera. There is still only one frame as an alignment aid. However, the panorama must be mounted on the computer with suitable software. After all, the camera now understands HDR recordings. Two different modes can be selected, one moderate and one slightly stronger. There is no fine-tuning, but the results are quite impressive. The Olympus is much more flexible when it comes to exposure series. Series with EV 0.3, EV 0.7 and a light value difference can consist of two, three, five or seven shots. In addition to exposure bracketing, white balance, ISO and flash can also be varied and for the undecided, there is art bracketing, in which the same subject is captured one after the other with all twelve effects. In series mode, the E-M1 goes really fast to the point. Not only does it record a good 10 frames per second, the buffer memory packs an enormous 43 JPG files or 35 raws before the speed of the memory card limits the action to around 2 frames per second. At this speed, the focus of the first shot is frozen. With focus tracking, the E-M1 produces around 6 frames per second, although depending on the photographer’s situation and experience, not every image is a hit.

The high speed of the serial shot is complemented by its counterpart, the interval shot. With the E-M1, it is possible to automatically record up to 999 shots, and the pause between shots can be set in very wide ranges. On request, the E-M1 calculates a time-lapse video from the image series.

Of course, the OM-D can also handle normal video recordings with the now common 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and 30 frames per second in MPEG-4 format and the H.264 codec or with 1,280 x 720 pixels as motion JPEG. The quality is excellent and the 12-50 mm kit zoom results in an interesting combination: the motor of the zoom lens moves smoothly and almost inaudibly through the entire range for the microphone. The sharpness is adjusted, but not always fast enough, and the autofocus pumps every now and then. The otherwise somewhat noisy image stabilizer behaves much more quietly but just as effectively in video mode. The sound cannot be levelled manually, only three control stages are available for the automatic mode. To improve the sound quality, a microphone can be connected to the E-M1 via a jack socket.

The WLAN capability of Olympus cameras has not been completely new since the E-P5. However, the E-M1 goes a significant step further than her Pen colleague. If it is connected to a smartphone or tablet PC, the Olympus app can be used to take photos not only in iAuto mode, but also in P, A, S and M modes. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance can be set directly on the mobile device. Focusing and triggering is done with a fingertip on the display. The saved photos can be browsed or transferred directly to the smartphone. Conversely, the phone’s geoinformation can be assigned to the image files using the timestamp. This comfortable way of remote control in combination with the “Live-Bulb” function offers special possibilities: While the camera takes night shots outside, the photographer can comfortably follow the exposure on the display of his smartphone from the armchair of the warm living room and stop it when the correct brightness is reached. If this isn’t progress……!

Even the subject of post-processing in the camera is a big issue with the E-M1. Especially on raw files, image size, image style and type filter, white balance, exposure correction, gradation of quarters and three-quarter tones, aspect ratio, noise reduction (translated as “noise filter” in the menu as informed by some of our readers who speak freign languages) and the color space can be applied later for the “development” of a JPEG.

Lens

The Micro-Four-Thirds system is now well equipped with lenses. Not only Olympus supplies a wide range of high-quality lenses, Panasonic also has some interesting lenses on offer. In addition, the lenses that were actually designed for Olympus SLR cameras can be used with adapters. However, these cameras had the disadvantage of working only very slowly with the contrast autofocus of the mirrorless cameras. This is exactly what the new OM-D E-M1 is intended to change. Phase contrast detectors are integrated on their sensor, which should now also drive the Four-Thirds lenses quickly. We tested this extensively with the three Four-Thirds lenses 7-14 mm, 12-60 mm and 50-200 mm SWD, which are popular because of their excellent image quality. So much in advance: Olympus does not make empty promises regarding the support of these optics. Only a few special features have to be taken into account. It helps the autofocus tremendously if the object to be focused on is completely captured by the sensor field and not focused on edges, as is usual with DSLRs. If you take this tip to heart, you will be able to focus perfectly.

Olympus lenses do not have an image stabilizer because it is integrated in the camera body. This has the enormous advantage that without exception all lenses can be stabilized, even those of other manufacturers or even from analog time. The stabiliser built into the E-M1 swivels the sensor to compensate for camera movements so perfectly that even half a second of camera shake could be kept at a wide angle. Of course these values are very individual, but it can be said that the Stabi of the OM-D-E-M1 is one of the best on the market.

The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12-50 mm 1:3,5 -6,3 EZ supplied with our test camera is an old acquaintance. Already on the OM-D E-M5 it was the standard zoom. A little dim, but quite compact and with the motorzoom perfect for the videographer. It also has a macro setting and an additional function key. As a native MFT lens, it supports the contrast AF of the E-M1 and focuses as quickly and silently as ever. Focusing and triggering via the touch screen is also supported and the AF frame can be positioned almost anywhere on the image. A total of 81 focus fields are available. If one of the bulky SLR lenses is connected, the new OM-D detects this and automatically activates the phase detectors, 37 of which are distributed over the sensor. The photographer doesn’t really notice anything about it, only that the viewfinder now displays other focus fields. In our experience, focusing is safest with the small AF fields. At 12-60 mm 2,8-4,0 the following behaviour can be observed: Usually the sharpness sits exactly with the first attempt. Sometimes, especially in poor lighting conditions and unclear structures, the focus jumps back and forth a bit before it has found the right position, and the camera rarely gives up unsuccessfully. That’s half as bad, because further pressure on the trigger starts a new attempt, which then usually leads immediately to the goal. The AF behavior of the telephoto zoom is somewhat slower and somewhat less successful in difficult situations, but in principle the same: The combination of E-M1 and FT lens stutters quickly to the correct sharpness.

The 7-14 mm 1:4.0 looks a bit different. The extreme wide-angle zoom on the E-5 was significantly slower than the other two lenses, and this doesn’t change with the E-M1 either. Only that here more pumps can be observed and due to the slower motor the sharpness is not started but started. The following applies to all lenses: if the focus is seated, the subjective feeling is that it is even more accurate and secure than on the E-5. The probability of a wrong focus is also lower because the sensors are mounted directly in the image plane and no tolerances of auxiliary mirrors play into it. Nevertheless, the menu offers extensive possibilities for adjustment.

With continuous autofocus or even AF with object tracking, the FT lenses struggle with some nagging, but are quite successful. Only the kit zoom solves this task in a really elegant way. At least during moderate movements, the sharpness sticks to the subject quickly and quietly. In video mode, the autofocus only works with MFT lenses, the phase AF is deactivated. With both AF modules, the choice of the measuring point can be left to the camera or you can use the arrow keys to quickly select the measuring point yourself. The face recognition works very reliably with all lenses and will surely also find followers among the professionals. If the face appears large enough, the E-M1 even detects eyes and focuses on the eye closest to the left, right, or camera. A very helpful thing for social photographers. With all focus methods, the photographer can intervene in the focus at any time, and the viewfinder or display can show the focus point at up to 14x magnification if desired. The E-M1 is also capable of focus peaking, highlighting sharp edges either white or black. When it gets very dark, a bright, orange-red auxiliary light can help the autofocus to jump, but this is usually not necessary and at least in the case of photos of people rather disturbs.

Picture quality

 

Actually, the signal processing in the E-M1 depends on the connected lens, so that depending on the state of the optical correction more or less software is used to help. With the M Zuiko Digital 12-50 mm 1:3.5 -6.3 EZ this seems to have a positive effect at least with regard to chromatic aberration. Compared to the E-M5, the size of the color fringes is almost halved. The kit zoom otherwise shows similar results as on the E-M5. The resolution is a good 40 to 45 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) over the entire focal length range in the center of the image, but this is only achieved at aperture 8 at the long end. Despite the software correction, the chromatic aberration reduces this good result, especially at the edge. In extreme cases, the color fringes become visible to critical eyes in wide angle to the edge with more than 2.5 pixels. The distortion there is also too strong for architectural shots, with over two percent tonne distortion. Nevertheless, there is a lot to be said for this lens: It is very compact and light, in practical use the image weaknesses are hardly noticeable and for video filmmakers the motor zoom is ingenious. As a bonus there is the really usable macro mode and all this at an unbeatable price.

If you want to get more out of the OM-D, you need premium lenses. The 50s macro is still considered a reference in the FT world, which it impressively confirms in the laboratory. Consistently high resolution of over 50 lp/mm up to the edge, no significant color fringes or edge darkening, no distortion. At aperture 2.8 the maximum resolution of almost 57 lp/mm is reached, at F11 diffraction limits the high level. The old 14-54 mm II also has a surprisingly good resolution, delivering a record-breaking 65 lp/mm at the short end, at least in the middle of the picture, but breaking down significantly towards the edge. At the long end the resolution reaches almost 40 lp/mm. Edge darkening and distortion are no problem, overall the image quality is at a high level.

When it comes to signal processing, the E-M1 behaves similarly to its little sister. The signal-to-noise ratio starts at well over 40 dB, then decreases linearly with increasing sensitivity to fall below the 35 dB mark at ISO 1.600. Nevertheless, in practice one more sensitivity level can be used without worries, without disturbing influences taking over. The reproduction of the finest details is also good up to ISO 3,200, the brightness noise inconspicuous and color noise no problem. Only the grain size achieves a certain visibility with an average size of 2.5 pixels. In the picture the grain appears slightly cloudy, without sharp edges.

The E-M1 impresses with its enormous input dynamics of 11 f-stops. Only above ISO 6.400 does it lose an aperture with each sensitivity level. The tonal value transmission is very high-contrast up to the “Low” level (corresponds to ISO 100) and well suited for immediate use. With its colour fidelity, the E-M1 is very accurate even at the highest ISO levels, only reds are slightly more saturated than in reality. The white balance is very reliable, as is the exposure. The OM-D shines with the kit lens during the release delay. It never takes more than 0.2 seconds to shoot, including focusing. Only the 14-54 mm zoom optimized for the phase contrast didn’t want to make our test chart really sharp and took a long time of 0.5 to 0.6 seconds.

Bottom line

With the OM-D E-M1, Olympus has designed a worthy successor to the legendary E-5. The viewfinder alone, which is in no way inferior in size to so-called “full-frame cameras”, but shows much more detail in dark subjects, is a force. In addition, the E-M1 delivers a performance that is second to none in terms of both autofocus and continuous shooting speed. The image quality is also on top level, especially in bad lighting conditions the E-5 is topping by lengths. Not even cameras with APS-C sensors show better results here. And for those switching from the Olympus SLR system, it is a value-preserving offer, because the outstanding FT lenses work very well together with the E-M1, even though some familiarization with the working method is necessary. The equipment also leaves little to be desired, perhaps the panorama mode or the more flexible display of the E-5. The somewhat undersized battery is certainly also a concession to the camera’s small dimensions and you shouldn’t compare the E-M1 to a Nikon D4 in this respect. For the weight and money saved on the camera system, you can carry a lot of spare batteries with you.

Manufacturer Olympus
Model 12-40 mm 2.8 ED (EZ-M1240)
Price (UVP) 999,00 EUR
Bayonet Micro Four Thirds
Focal length range 12-40 mm
Luminous intensity (largest aperture) F2.8 (continuous)
Smallest aperture opening F22
Lens system 14 lenses in 9 group incl.
ED and aspherical lenses
KB full format not relevant
Number of orifice plates 7
Closest focusing distance 200 mm
Image stabilizer available no
Autofocus available yes
Water/dust protection yes
Filter threads 62 mm
Dimensions (diameter x length) 70 x 84 mm
Lens weight 382 g

Fact sheet

Fact sheet
Manufacturer Olympus
Model OM-D E-M1
Price approx. 1.700 EUR**
Sensor Resolution 16 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 4.608 x 3.456
(aspect ratio) (4:3)
Lens 12-50 mm 3.5-6.3 ED EZ
Filter threads 52 mm
Viewfinder EVF with 2,360,000 pixels
Field of vision 100 %
Enlargement 1,48-fold
Diopter compensation -4 to +2 dpt.
LCD monitor 3″
Disbandment 1.037.000
rotatable
swivelling yes
as viewfinder yes
Video output AV and HDMI (each PAL/NTSC)
as viewfinder yes
Program automation yes
Aperture priority yes
Aperture priority yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long-term exposure yes
Scene modes
Portrait yes
Children/Babies yes
Countryside yes
Macro yes
Sports/Action yes
more 13 other scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, Centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Guide number 6.2 (measured)
Flash connection System flash shoe
Remote release Cord
Interval shooting yes
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode
Size MOV or AVI
Codec H.264/AVC or Motion JPEG
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
at frame rate 30p
Sensitivity
automatic ISO 100 (Low) – 25.600
(upper and lower limit adjustable)
manually ISO 100 (Low) – 25,600
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Light bulb yes
Other Shadow, flash, underwater, manual color temperature
Manual yes
Autofocus
Number of measuring fields 81 (Contrast AF
)37 (Phase AF)
AF auxiliary light red-orange
Speed < 0,13-0,18 s
Languages Yes
more 33 languages
Switch-on time < 1 s
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Weight
(ready)
510 g (housing only
)720 g (with lens**)
Continuous shooting function*
Number of series images 43 (JPEG
)35 (RAW)
Frequency
(frames/s)
10 (JPEG
)10 (RAW)
Endurance run
(frames/s)
2 (JPEG
)1.5 (RAW)
with flash yes
Zoom
Zoom adjustment at lens
Zoom levels continuously variable
Time WW to Tele 1,7 s
Memory speeds*
JPEG 0,3 s (8,6 MByte)
RAW 0.5 s (15.2 MByte)
Triggering during
.Save as possible.
yes
Battery life approx. 350 pictures (according to CIPA)
– not available”
* with Panasonic 4 GB Class 10 SDHC memory card**
with lens Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12-50 mm 3.5-6.3 ED EZ

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Very effective image stabilizer
  • Good autofocus performance, even with Four-Thirds lenses
  • Large, bright and detailed viewfinder
  • Excellent image quality even at high ISO sensitivities
  • Compact and excellently finished housing

Cons

  • Moderate battery life for a professional camera
  • No integrated flash (but a clip-on flash is included)
  • Menu not easy to understand

Firmware update 4.3 for the Olympus OM-D E-M1: Now hopefully without new bugs

Olympus has released new firmware 4.3 for the OM-D E-M1 mirrorless system camera. This is a corrected version 4.2, which contained a serious bug and was withdrawn again. Compared to version 4.1 there are the following improvements: The new FL-900R and STF-8 flash units are supported, the stability of exposure for video recordings has been improved and focus stacking is now available with four more lenses: 30 mm F3.5 Macro, 7-14 mm F2.8 Pro, 8 mm F1.8 Fisheye Pro, 300 mm F4.0 IS Pro.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 4/3″ 17.3 x 13.0 mm (crop factor 2.0
)16.8 megapixels (physical) and 16.3 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 3.7 µm
Photo resolution
5.184 x 2.920 pixels (16:9)
4.608 x 3.456 pixels (4:3)
4.608 x 3.072 Pixel (3:2)
4.608 x 2.592 pixels (16:9)
3.456 x 3.456 pixels (1:1)
3.216 x 2.144 pixels (3:2)
3.200 x 2.400 pixels (4:3)
2.400 x 2.400 pixels (1:1)
1.296 x 864 pixels (3:2)
1.280 x 960 pixels (4:3)
1.280 x 720 pixels (16:9)
960 x 960 pixels (1:1)
Panorama Stitch Panorama Wizard (for external stitching)
Picture formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.2), DCF standard, IPTC
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 30 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 30 p
Maximum recording time 29 min 59 sec
Video format
MP4 (Codec H.264)
AVI (Codec Motion JPEG)
Audio format (video) WAV

Lens

Lens mount
Micro Four Thirds

Focusing

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 19 cross sensors, autofocus working range from 0 EV to 20 EV, contrast autofocus with 81 measuring fields
Autofocus Functions Single autofocus, continuous autofocus, manual, AFL function, AF Assist Light
Focus control Depth of field check

Viewfinder and Monitor

Monitor 3,0″ TFT LCD monitor with 1.037.000 pixels, inclinable 130° upwards, with touchscreen
Video viewfinder Video viewfinder (100 % field coverage) with 2,360,000 pixels, diopter compensation (-4.0 to 2.0 dpt)

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 324 fields, spot measurement, AF-AE coupling
Exposure times 1/8,000 to 60 sec (Auto
)1/8,000 to 60 sec (Manual)
Bulb with maximum 1,800 sec Exposure Time
Exposure control Fully Automatic, Program Automatic (with Program Shift), Aperture Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual
Bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 7 shots, step size from 1/3 to 3 EV
Exposure compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 200 to ISO 1.600 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 25.600 (manual)
Remote access Remote release, cable release, remote control via Smartphone/Tablet
, remote control from computer: all functions
Scene modes Auto, Documents, Fireworks, Kids, Landscape, Macro, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Portrait, Sunset, Sports, Beach/Snow, 12 more scene modes
Picture effects Fisheye, Pinhole camera, Miniature effect, Blur, Cross process, Dramatic sound and nine other effects, Grainy film, Pop art, 10 other image effects
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sun, White balance bracket, Fine-tune, Shadow, Flash, Underwater, Fluorescent lamp, Incandescent light, From 2,000 to 14,000 K, Manual 7 memory locations
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting Continuous-advance shooting max. 10.0 fps at highest resolution and max. 50 stored photos, 3.5 frames per second with image stabilizer on
Self-timer Self-timer at intervals of 2 s, special features: or 12 s (optional)
Timer Timer/interval recording, start time adjustable
Shooting functions AEL function, AFL function, live histogram

Flashgun

Flash no built-in flash availableFlash shoe
: Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contactAccessory
Port 2
Flash range Flash sync time 1/320 s
Flash number Guide number 10 (ISO 100)
(flash supplied)
Flash functions Auto, Fill-in flash, Flash on, Flash off, High speed sync, Long time sync, Flash on second shutter curtain, Manual flash output, Red eye reduction, Master function (4 channels and 4 groups), Flash exposure compensation from -3.0 EV to +3.0 EV

Equipment

Image stabilizer Sensor shift (optical)
Memory
SD (UHS I, SDXC, SDHC)
GPS function GPS external (Smartphone as GPS-Logger)
Microphone Stereo
Power supply Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Olympus BLN-1 (lithium ions (Li-Ion), 7.2 V, 1,220 mAh
)330 images according to CIPA standard
Playback Functions Red eye retouching, video editing, image cropping, image rotation, image protection, highlight / shadow warning, playback histogram, playback magnifier with 14.0x magnification, image index, zoom out
Voice memo Voice memo (WAV format) with max. 30 s recording time
Face recognition Face recognition
Picture parameters Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation, Noise Reduction
Special functions Electronic spirit level, grid display, pixel mapping, orientation sensor, live view, user profiles with 4 user profiles
Ports Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High SpeedWLAN
: available (type: B, G, N)
AV connectors AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D
)Audio input: yes (3.5 mm stereo microphone jack)
Audio output: yes (3.5 mm stereo microphone jack)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod socket 1/4″ not in optical axis
Case Splash-proof, frost-proof up to -10 °C
Features and Miscellaneous Magnesium Alloy BodyTruPic
VII Image ProcessorUltrasonic Sensor Cleaning SystemEye Sensorfor Switching from Monitor to Viewfinder
ModeFive-Axis
Image Stabilizer
(Maximum 5 EV Manufacturer Specification, Maximum 4 EV according to CIPA Standard)
Digital Shift FunctionFlash Exposure
Series 2, 3 or 5 Images /- 1/3 , 1/2 or 1 LWArt Filter
Exposure SeriesVideo Effect
Echo and Multi-EchoStereo MicrophoneLive BulbFunctionShadow Brightening FunctionRaw Data Processing

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 130 x 94 x 63 mm
Weight 497 g (ready for operation)

Other

included accessories Olympus BC-2 (Housing cover
)Olympus BCN-1 Charger for special batteriesOlympus
BLN-1 Special batteryOlympus
CB-USB6 USB cableCharger
BCM-1Plug-in flash unitUSB connection cableAV cableCarrying strapImage editing softwareOlympus Viewer Software for Windows and for Macintosh
optional accessory Olympus AC-3 power supplyOlympus
BLN-1 special batteryOlympus
FC-WR (radio control unit) flash unit accessoriesOlympus
FL-700WR clip-on flash with swivel reflectorPanasonic
Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25 mm 1.7 (H-X1025) zoom lens power supplySDmemory cards

 

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Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.