Leaving DSLR - pros and cons of X-E1 vs OM-D EM-5

Started Mar 17, 2013 | Discussions thread
sgoldswo Veteran Member • Posts: 5,718
Re: Some thoughts from an owner of both

I should point out here that I own a ton of cameras - an X-Pro1, X-E1, E-M5 and GH3 amongst others. Personally I would take the X-E1 over the E-M5 but it's a far tougher comparison if you bring the GH3 into the fray (IMO it's a better camera than the E-M5).

pavinder wrote:

Would really appreciate some advice on what is becoming an incredibly frustrating decision.
I currently have an EOS 20D and a ton of lenses, but have hardly used it in years - due mainly to
a) the weight and bulk, and
b) the crop factor.
I considered a 5D or 6D for a long time because of the full frame sensor, but realized that it would make issue b) even worse. I'm therefore absolutely convinced I should sell my Canon gear and am now looking at these mirrorless systems.
I've been deliberating over the choice of the OM-D E-M5 vs. X-E1 for ages. I see strong arguments for and against both cameras/systems on these forums.
Here are what I'm coming up against as my main pros and cons of each:
X-E1 Pros:
. Great image quality, large sensor, the "creamy film-like feel" of the images.
. Low light performance (but given the low-light focussing issues, does this detract?)
X-E1 Cons:
. No environmental sealing,
. The fully "old school" controls (having to manually turn the aperture ring on the lens barrel and the click dial for shutter speed). I find it a little cumbersome.

The old school controls are a lot quicker and more intuitive to use. There is a reason why Leica retained them. This is genuinely a plus and if you don't think so you haven't had enough time with the camera yet.

. No in-body IS, only in some lenses

IS is really overrated. I didn't realise that until I bought my GH3 (and I could compare apples with apples). The situation where its really useful is in social stuff. Otherwise just keep your shutter speed high or use a tripod or other support.

. Very limited video options (no shutter speed setting etc)

Agree on this but I don't think video on the E-M5 is all that either. It's one reason why I spend a lot more time with the GH3 these days.

. Lack of filters and effects (this is less important)

OM-D E-M5 Pros:
. Environmental sealing,
. In-body IS,
. Easy access to dials and other adjustments with one finger while using viewfinder (i.e. good ergonomics)

The E-M5 has really bad ergonomics. It can be a pain to use for long periods and the HLD-6 grip isn't that great if you have even medium sized hands - I found the E-M5 uncomfortable to shoot with the Panny 35-100mm mounted which isn't a huge lens. See my observations above. The GH3 on the other hand has magnificent ergonomics. It may not have dials but it has a button for everything in the style of a FF DSLR.

. Highly customizable including menus/dials,
. Wider range of lenses (although many aren't of high quality)
. Slightly more video options (over the X-E1, although still not really great)

Agreed, the GH3 is far superior in this area.

. "Live Time" function (I do a lot of low light photography and long exposures)
OM-D E-M5 Cons:
. Lower IQ and smaller sensor than X-E1
. More noise in low-light shots
. Video limitations (no 24fps option for example)
With regard to my shooting preferences, I have 2 main areas:
1. A lot of low-light and night photography using long exposures.

As well as urban street scenes (dark alleyways etc.) I often shoot bulb exposures of a few minutes or more in forests or mountains at night, using ambient light only.
The X-E1 seems to have less noise and better low light performance, but I wonder if the IS of the OM-D can balance the equation.

No, you can't hand hold those kind of exposures unless you are carved from something. For those kind of shots you need a tripod. Honestly though, even at base ISO there is a little something extra from the Fuji sensor. It comes down to more natural colour transitions (which look great on skies and skin). Paired with the stunning lenses available for the Fuji the IQ can be very, very impressive.

To be honest I rarely shoot above 400 ISO anyway - I don't need to get sharper shots at 12,800 to freeze motion for example. I'd rather use a longer exposure at lower ISO.
In this regard, the OM-D's Live Time function looks quite brilliant.
2. Shallow DOF shots with soft bokeh. Including night shots.
The X-E1seems far better based on samples I've seen. I've not seen a single sample from the OM-D with very narrow DOF and beautiful bokeh.
But perhaps this could be compensated by the choice of lens on the OM-D?

You are looking at longer and faster lenses for the E-M5 or getting closer to your subject. That said, the Voigtlander 17.5mm F0.95 produces wonderful creamy bokeh (but is very large, heavy and MF).

Any comments from photographers on the above points would be gratefully appreciated.

For stills I would get the X-E1, for video the GH3. I wouldn't get the E_M5 now (but it's handy as a second body).

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