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Customer Review

129 of 134 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Mirrorless Camera, 13 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Compact System Camera Body Only (Camera)
Have used this for about a month now and have to say it has exceeded expectations, despite having previously read every review going. Upgraded from an E-M5, which I'm guessing a few will be considering. Points to consider vs. the E-M5 and generally are :-

i) yes it's larger, but I absolutely had to use the additional landscape grip on the E-M5 or it was ergonomically unusable in my hands. With the grip on the size difference is not significant and the E-M1 doesn't have the inconvenience of having to remove the grip to replace the battery. Also the controls are MUCH better placed (and spaced) on the E-M1, even with the grip added to the E-M5. The 2x2 control layout (the front and back dials have their function changed by flicking the switch next to the viewfinder) means you can easily change most major settings quickly with your right hand - with your eye fixed to the viewfinder. Speaking of which...

ii) the viewfinder is terrific. Large and very detailed. This, combined with the ergonomic control placement, make the camera a joy to use. I used to rely on the rear screen on the E-M5 for quite a few control changes and for reviewing shots, but the EM-1 viewfinder is so good and the control layout so intuitive that I hardly ever use the rear screen. Photos can now be reviewed through the viewfinder, which I prefer and which is not possible on the E-M5. It's a much improved experience. Anyone concerned about transitioning from an optical viewfinder really should go to a camera shop and try this camera before dismissing EVFs.

iii) 1/8000 shutter speed and ISO 100 combine to really help shooting wide open for shallow depth of field in bright conditions. The E-M5 was always maxing out at 1/4000 ISO 200 when using e.g. the Panaleica 25mm f1.4 or Olympus 75mm f1.8 wide open.

iv) depth of field preview button and focus peaking are useful additions.

v) in camera HDR is a little gimmicky for me (and frankly doesn't seem to work that well from the attempts I've made). You'll get much better results bracketing and creating the HDR composite on your computer. The inclusion of art filters and an iAuto mode on a camera aimed at enthusiasts/professionals is also questionable. I suppose if you wanted a friend to take a photo with your camera the iAuto would be useful...

vi) Wi-Fi implementation works well. The remote control function works very well (though it does gives a rather compressed and pixelated feed from the sensor) with the ability to change major settings (aperture, shutter, exposure comp, white balance, ISO, AF type, burst mode and switch between iAuto,P,A,S,M) and take shots by tapping on your chosen focus point on the screen. I initially thought this was a bit gimmicky but then I had a shoot where I needed a high vantage point. I strapped the camera to a beam 20ft up in the ceiling and was able to direct proceedings from ground level and take shots remotely using an iPad. Perhaps not so gimmicky after all. Download of photos from the camera to your phone/tablet is intuitive and once the connection is established first time, it's easy to reconnect, though the quality of the jpegs downloaded this way do not appear to be as good as the standard out of camera JPEGs (presumably to minimise download times). If you are shooting RAW only then you cannot download photos via WiFi.

vii) time lapse function is good to have, though I'm not sure how often I'll use it. The live bulb feature on the other hand, I can see being very useful indeed. It updates the image in real time on long exposures, so you can see exactly where you are up to. No more waiting five minutes only to find out you have over exposed the shot.

viii) general construction and design - fantastic. It feels great in the hand and having used an E-M5 for the previous year, when I now pick up the E-M5 it's really not in the same league. You can run this thing under a tap (as long as the lens is also sealed!) and it will just carry on working. You will definitely not be disappointed with the build quality. Another review suggests that the screen 'scratches incredibly easily' - either the guy has fingers covered in diamond encrusted rings, is incredibly clumsy or he's working for a screen protector manufacturer - I haven't got a single scratch after a months intensive use (though I'm fairly careful), and didn't have a single scratch on the E-M5 screen after a years use.

ix) picture quality. OK I'll have to admit here that any improvements in image quality over the E-M5 are incremental and not revolutionary. You'd be hard pressed to tell the difference in shots taken with both cameras using the same lens. If you only want to upgrade from the E-M5 to the E-M1 for improved image quality then I wouldn't bother. High ISO performance is maybe one stop better. I've done some quick tests and I wouldn't personally recommend going above ISO 1600, though 3200 and even 6400 can yield useable photos, particularly if you convert to B&W where the noise is much less offensive, or if you carefully apply noise reduction and are not printing beyond 5x7. With a fast lens like the 25mm f1.4 shot wide open you'll rarely need to go higher than 1600 anyway.

x) focussing - focus tracking is much improved and the phase detect pixels let me use some legacy 4/3 glass that I have. The 35-100 f2 is an absolute beast of a lens and it works a treat on this body, though you really need the optional vertical grip for the larger 4/3 glass.

xi) IBIS - this implementation of Olympus's five axis sensor shift image stabilising is slightly improved over the E-M5, which means that it is absolutely the best in the business. Great that you can use non stabilised fast lenses like the Panasonic 25mm f1.4 and Voightlanders and take stabilised shots. With good technique I can hand hold at 1/4 - 1/2 second. This, combined with any of the fast primes available, means available light photography is significantly enhanced. This really helps bridge the gap in high ISO performance between 4/3 and full frame sensors - just lower the ISO and let the IBIS do it's thing (as long as you are not photographing moving subjects!)

xii) shutter sound - this is bit subjective but to me it sounds very crisp. It sounds like it means business.

xiii) the tripod mount is off the lens centre, which is not ideal, but hardly a deal breaker. Adding the optional vertical grip sets this straight, as it did with the E-M5.

xiv) should you upgrade if you have an E-M5? If you are using the E-M5 without the landscape grip and small size is important to you, then no. Otherwise if the funds are available I'd say a resounding yes. If money is tight I'd recommend giving this camera a wide berth, because as soon as you hold one and look through the viewfinder, you'll have a hard time going back to the E-M5.

In more generalised terms, the picture quality is comparable to a DSLR for 95% of situations in which I use it. In my view it matches APS-C equipped DSLRs in all aspects of image quality. However if you are shooting a lot in low light then of course a full frame sensor will beat this hands down in high ISO performance. If you are predominantly shooting fast moving sport, then you should also probably go down the DSLR route. If you need really shallow DOF then there is some fantastic fast 4/3 and micro 4/3 glass that will get you great results - again not a match for a full frame, but do you really need to have just one eyelash in focus... As said before, in 95% of situations I find myself using a camera, this thing is just perfect, and the other 5% I can live without as a trade off - I'm far more likely to actually take this camera with me in the first place than I would a huge full frame DSLR with equally massive lenses.

All in all VERY highly recommended.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Nov 2013 20:28:28 GMT
Fantastically-written review - thanks so much for taking the trouble (from an E-M5 user.)

Posted on 4 Dec 2013 07:28:33 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Dec 2013 07:29:05 GMT
Nice review Graeme, Just out of interest can you give any further info on the 35 -100 f2 lens you referred to. I am considering this camera but I am out of the habit of changing Lenses so coming from a Canon G10 I would prefer a reasonably quick bright zoom and one decent prime maybe the 45mm.

regards

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Dec 2013 22:46:05 GMT
Graeme Watt says:
The Olympus zuiko 35-100 f2 is a four thirds lens, which needs the mmf-3 adapter to use on the EM-1. Beware - the lens is very large, very heavy and very expensive (around £2000), but is extraordinary optically. You'd probably be better waiting for the upcoming MFT Olympus 40-150 f2.8 Pro if you need a fast telephoto zoom, as it will be much smaller. On the prime front I'm personally looking forward to the upcoming panasonic Leica 42.5mm f1.2, which I'm guessing will be absolutely stellar. I have the panaleica 25mm f1.4 and the Olympus 75mm f1.8 and can highly recommend these also.

Posted on 5 Dec 2013 12:12:29 GMT
Dimitris says:
Can you please clarify why in the section describing the IBIS stabilization you said "(as long as you are not photographing moving subjects!)"?
Isn't IBIS working well in this case for some reason? Or you meant that you lower the ISO too much so you are shooting at the edge by exploiting the IBIS at its limits...so you use it only for still objects?

You also said "If you are predominantly shooting fast moving sport, then you should also probably go down the DSLR route."
Why is that? Since you have in-body stabilization (IBIS) and very fast lenses...what is the problem?

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Dec 2013 12:39:35 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Dec 2013 12:47:01 GMT
Graeme Watt says:
Yes - at the limits of the IBIS performance in low light - If you are capitalising on the IBIS to allow you to shoot lower ISO in darker conditions, then this obviously lowers your shutter speed. This is no problem for shooting non moving scenes, but if you have e.g. people moving around in the scene then they will exhibit motion blur at lower shutter speeds. In other words IBIS stabilises the sensor relative the scene, but doesn't stabilise the people relative to the scene... Thus the IBIS brings the camera back on terms with a full frame camera in resultant image noise when photographing a landscape or cityscape for example, but the IBIS won't help you when photographing people in dark conditions (unless they pose) - here a full frame definitely has the advantage (assuming both cameras are equipped with similarly fast lenses).
With fast moving sport - again the IBIS isn't freezing the action, so the Olympus will have to use the same higher shutter speed as the full frame (again assuming similarly fast lenses) to freeze the action and get sharp results - so the full frame DSLR will again have the advantage in noise in darker conditions. Sports wise the main point was pro grade full frame DSLRs have better focus tracking than the Olympus, which is obviously important for sports...

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Dec 2013 13:54:00 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Dec 2013 13:54:44 GMT
Dimitris says:
OK. Thank you very much for the fast reply!
Regarding fast moving sports you are correct.

I was however having in mind another issue and I was comparing (back into my mind) with another great mirrorless system (Panasonic GH3) and not with the other formats of DSLRs.
Since usually you use tele-lens for shooting sports (300mm x crop factor), then a good stabilization is necessary.
I have this issue with Panasonic GH3 where you need the stabilization to be on the lens.
With legacy glass on the GH3 for sports you have to depend on a heavy expensive tripod, to not touch the camera heavily, and make sure there is no wind & vibration shaking your system.

So, I believe that maybe this Olympus is much better to compensate for vibrations coming from the shooter and the wind.
But yes, comparing with the Full Frame DSLR you are correct. However I am not fun of Full Frame at all and never think about them.
With mirroless I can use the big legacy glass for sports (the crop factor helps me save some money) and at the same time have this with a small pancake lens for gorilla shooting in the city without be much afraid of getting robbed.

Anyway, thank you for the great insight. :-)

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Dec 2013 19:30:37 GMT
TF says:
Hi GW

I would like to add my compliments regarding the quality of your review.

One thing I've been trying to understand is the effect on quoted focal lengths of using standard four-thirds lenses with MMF3 adapter on the OM-D E-M1. In my case I have an excellent standard four-thirds 14-50mm f/3.8-5.6 ASPH Leica D VARIO-ELMAR lens on my Panasonic Lumix DMC L10. This equates to 28-100mm equivalent on 35mm format cameras but I would like to know if it will be somewhere in between on the OM-D?

Appreciating your help.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Dec 2013 21:02:13 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Dec 2013 21:17:52 GMT
Graeme Watt says:
All four thirds lenses have the same focal length when used with the MMF3 adapter on a micro four thirds camera. So it will be a 14-50mm on the E-M1 (so still a 28-100 35mm equivalent). The sensor size is the same for micro 4/3 and 4/3, the only difference is that the 4/3 camera has a greater flange focal distance to acommodate the mirror. The MMF3 adapter is the same length as the depth required for the mirror on a 4/3 camera, so it maintains the exact same focal length in both systems. This is why micro 4/3 lenses cannot be used on 4/3 bodies - they would have to be mounted inbound of the 4/3 bayonet to be as close to the sensor as they need to be.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Dec 2013 21:27:31 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Dec 2013 21:28:18 GMT
TF says:
Thanks for responding - actually it was the sensor size that was causing me confusion. In fact the Olympus 16.2 Megapixel sensor is the same size as my Lumix 10 Megapixel sensor at 17.3x13mm so you are right to say that my 14-50 Leica will produce similar results. I can see myself splashing out for this great sounding OM-D E-M1.

Posted on 27 Mar 2014 08:52:02 GMT
Chris says:
Very good knowledgable, pragmatic review. (currently using E510 and XZ-10, and steadily saving for EM-1)
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