Why I do not consider the rumoured EM-1 a true E5 successor or alternative

Started Aug 19, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Southernphotojourno
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Why I do not consider the rumoured EM-1 a true E5 successor or alternative
Aug 19, 2013

I share herewith my personal view on the - admittedly still rumoured EM-1 - that is soon to be officially announced.

I actually use, and have used since the E-1, E-Series kit to earn a living. The views are mine and based on my working day's requirements. I do not seek to dictate to others, nor do I expect agreement. I merely offer what I hope to be a sober view on why the M43 system bodies are not yet adequate for my requirements and why the EM-1 - on its rumoured specifications - will not be the next camera I buy.

As some may recall, earlier this year I posted how I had directly asked Olympus in Japan to be honest about an E-5 follow up.

Their answer to me mentioned that an "E-5 successor" would be announced "before the end of this year". (Checked at the time for authenticity by the moderators so that part of any potential  discussion is sorted...)

I mentioned in my query to the company that I needed to make some serious decisions on equipment for my business going forward and that their response to me would dictate how I proceeded.

Course #1 will be to remain with the company whose equipment I have used for most of my professional photographic career. (I used OM series from late 1970s to 2004 when I got the E-1) In such a case, having been given what professed to be an honest answer to my question, I will await the announcement of the camera that can use my HG and SHG lenses, offer an OVF and use my existing accessories such as battery grips and wireless flash units. All of these points were specifically raised in my correspondence with the head office. It is upon those issues that I must assume the reply I obtained must have been formulated as I was blunt about needing support for those features.

Course #2, if I have been played for a fool, will be to sell all the equipment and re-equip.

Having seen the - admittedly unconfirmed as official - specifications of the forthcoming EM-1, I will state here why this camera - if the rumoured spec. is close to correct - is not the solution to my professional needs and why I will wait for one further announcement before hitting the eject button and re-equipping with other DSLR kit.

I use the FL50R units extensively and almost daily in studio and location work. This can involve industrial sites where adding light to factory machinery and poorly lit corners of warehouses or in mines is essential as you do not always want to shoot at a high ISO with a wide open aperture.

At weddings too the use of a discretely placed remote unit or two (on different channels) you can activate by switching on the remote function in the menu at the appropriate time is a vital aspect of getting happy bridal couples and the quality I demand in the photographs. Theatre photography with a few remote units is a treat and the ability to do this sort of lighting gets me lots of useful top-up jobs.

I also do medical photography and here too, having a remote flash mounted above the operating table is important to getting the correct colours and shadow-free tutorial images for my clients.

So, my E-3 and E5 equipment has offered me versatility in lighting, the hardiness to withstand the rigours of African conditions (above and below ground) as well as the speed of AF for news, sports and wildlife work plus the battery reserve in the HLD-4 grips to handle long working days without concerns about power. If the many batteries I have do run out, the handy AA tray keeps it going and you can buy those anywhere in Africa - even where no mains power is available to recharge the lithium units.

Key to the power issue is the lack of an EVF which uses power - wheras an OVF does not do so. As shown by my ill-advised foray into using an EM-5, an EVF does not give similar long waiting periods when shooting wildlife or during football matches (which an OVF does.) An OVF does not kill off the batteries. Even the clever proximity switch of the EVF does not fix this issue.

Often, with wildlife, you will want to sit for up to a half hour or more watching a scene before the right moment comes along to take the photograph. The grip equipped EM-5 would often die at just the wrong moment. I am not convinced the EVF offers the same functionality...I really really tried to love the EM-5s and used them for a few weeks to be as fair as I could. Aside from these issues, the slow AF did not add to the ownership and user experience and i had to fall back on the E5 or 3 carried as back-up - especially for fast breaking news and sport work. Similar action AF was simply out of the question on the EM-5 with the 4/3 adaptor.

Furthermoe, when shooting vehicles and air-to air shots, the EVF of the EM-5 gives me a weird stroboscopic effect on propellors and rotor blades that is most annoying and distracting. It also sometimes happened when shooting cars for my mate who reviews motors for a local newspaper. The wheels will be affected at certain speeds. I know it does not affect the shot but it is distracting and annoying...and anything in an office where multiple computer displays are on while you are shooting is quite interesting. Using different refresh rates does not solve the issue.

Thus the EM-1, for my work days, will not be a true "E-5 successor" unless the following are addressed:
A) On evidence to date in the "leaks", there is no obvious built-in flash offering a trigger solution for use of FL50R units - Why should I go backwards and be forced to buy another unit and then have a bloody great flash on the EM-1 simply to be able to do what my E-5 does with its built-in unit? If they have solved this somehow, great - if not - they can keep it.

B) No OVF which is a step backwards not in clarity, but in real world day to day applications for the reasons mentioned. A glass prism works, does not drain the batteries and does not get obsolete as the next one comes along.

C) The use of smaller batteries that, coupled to the use of the EVF, do not promise (on the face of it) similar longevity to the HLD4 equipped units - I am happy to be proven wrong here but I really cannot see how the back-up 6xAA tray will fit into the EM-1 grip so what is the expected life-span of the batteries? Unless it is equal to the E-5 and HLD4 when using the EVF all the time, it is, in my view and experience, a retrograde step. As mentioned before, the EM-5 did not match-up in my use.

D) It does not appear as though the screen can swivel and tilt like the E-3/5 one. If it can - it will be a plus point for me. I have used this so often to get unobtrusive and/or otherwise hard to get views I do not think about it anymore - it is an instinctive tool and if it is not on the EM-1 then that, too, will be a decisive reason for me not to buy it. This was one of the prime reasons my EM-5 brace became a solo effort - I carry one when I am "off" or am working in an area where large obtrusive kit is a liability to life and limb. The lack of a swivel screen was - and is (especially in riot/protest situations) a keenly felt loss.

I hope, therefore, that the rumoured "surprise" that will accompany the official EM-1 announcement will include a nod to the release of an E-series DSLR with the same IQ, IBIS and other goodies of the EM-5. Really that's all I will need.

But I will need to know on that day.

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