Upwards into the Semi-pro Market!

Started Dec 27, 2013 | User reviews thread
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pannyics Regular Member • Posts: 181
Upwards into the Semi-pro Market!

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 has truly pushed Olympus and the m43 system into the semi-pro market. Now not only the feel, ergonomic, IQ, and performance is more or less on-the-par with the semi-pro level DSLRs like the Canon 7D/70D or the Nikon D7100/D300s, with less weight and bulk, but with the on-chip phase detection, Olympus has introduced the amazing performance of the Zuiko 4/3 lenses to the powerhouse flagship m43 camera like the E-M1, and it has opened up a new level to the system.

*If this review seems too long for you, just go down to the conclusion*

Ergonomics and Handling

The ergonomics, while not as good as DSLRs, is decent (the m43 camera with the best ergonomics would still be the GH3, but it is quite a bit bigger and heavier than the E-M1). I found the grip a tiny bit too slim and quite a bit too short (who buys a m43 camera for its ergonomics anyway?). It is much easier to grip than most mirrorless cameras, though compared to cameras like the D7100, the grip will not fill your hand like it does on the D7100.

The tiny sacrifice in the ergonomics has resulted in a BIG loss of weight and size. While it is nowhere near pocketable, this camera, with a decent light prime can go anywhere with you in a small hip bag or hanging from your neck, and it doesn't give the intrusive appearance DSLRs give (though you'd have to replace the strap, which is humongous for a camera this size, and is the exact opposite of unintrusive appearance). This is especially nice when shooting street photography.

Most of the buttons on this camera is very well laid out (Except for the power switch. It's much nicer where they put it on the E-P5). You get a total of 17 shortcut buttons and dials (8 which are customisable; most of them there are 25 functions you can assign to the button):

  1. Up button on the four way controller: AF point selector by default, (customisable)
  2. Right button on the four way controller: AF point select by default (customisable)
  3. Left and down button on the four way controller: AF point select
  4. AEL/AFL button (customisable)
  5. Fn1 button (customisable)
  6. Fn2 button (customisable)
  7. Rec button (customisable)
  8. Front dial: Exposure comp, or shutter speed/aperture (depending on which mode you are in)
  9. Rear dial: Exposure comp, or shutter speed/aperture (depending on which mode you are in)
  10. Front dial when switched the 2x2 switch: WB or ISO
  11. Rear dial when switched the 2x2 switch: WB or ISO
  12. Upper button beside the lens (customisable)
  13. Lower *_button beside the lens_* (customisable)
  14. HDR and Drive Mode button
  15. AF and Metering button
  16. HDR and Drive Mode *_when switched the 2x2 switch:_* Bracketing menus
  17. AF and Metering *_when switched the 2x2 switch:_* Flash menu

With all the shortcuts and customisable buttons, you should be able to access all the functions you need with one touch of you finger without needing to go into the menu, or even the quick menu Olympus provides, which is also very good with changing settings that you don't already have assigned to a button. Since I've bought this camera, there weren't many times I even had to use the quick menu, let alone the main menu. It has just been very nice having all the settings you need at the tips of your fingers, and quickly adjusting it. It really reminds me of using the old film cameras like the Leica R6 or the Nikon FM2 (both of them that I own, and played a huge role in my early learning stages in my photography hobby career), with all the things you ever need to change on the dials (that's because there's barely any) and you rarely have to look away from the viewfinder. The only downside the the button layouts, to me, are the HDR and AF button, and the power switch. The 2 buttons aren't accessible by the right hand in shooting position, and it always annoy me to have to feel my way to those buttons. But that said, I guess it is a small camera, and you can't fit every thing on the right side. As for the power button, as I've mentioned earlier, is in an awkward position in my opinion. It was much nicer on the E-P5. I would even prefer the one on the E-M5. I could never understand why people complain a lot about the power switch on the E-M5, and not the E-M1.

I should also mention that the EVF is superb. The picture is very crisp, sharp, and clear; very nice for an EVF (though still not as good as the screen, but really helps when using longer lenses, and shooting in the sun), and it is very easy to manual focus, even without focus peaking. With the focus peaking, manual focusing is really a joy on the E-M1 (though it is important to mention that the frame rate drops a tiny bit). If you're a person who like to shoot with legacy lenses, you'll be very happy with the EVF and peaking.

Autofocus Performance

Autofocus on the E-M1 is amazing. AF is very fast and snappy and goes straight to the subject with very little "going back and fourth." I've found it to be just as fast as the D7100 and 70D; even faster and more accurate in some situation. The spot focus option brings accurate focusing to the E-M1, and I found it much more accurate than the large focusing box in the D7100 (which is the same size as the default focus box on the E-M1) The touch shutter is near instantaneous in faster lenses and is a treat to use. I've found the touch shutter to be very useful (especially in street photography, which is what I do most of the time). Street shooters will love this feature. You can just walk and shoot at hip level or stand there and pretend to play with you screen, and no one will know that you are taking a picture of them!

AF with 4/3 lenses work pretty well. I've found that SWD lenses work best with this camera; the non SWD lenses tend to hunt more, especially when switching from far away subjects to very close subjects. In normal circumstances with good light, the AF performs quite well; I'd even say it is as good as the E-3 and E-5, though non-SWD lenses seem to do a bit worse on the E-M1 than on the E-3/E-5. In low light situation, though the speed drops significantly and the focus hunts a lot more. Focus from far to near subject seems almost impossible at times, especially on longer lenses (I find the 50mm f2 especially annoying when switching from far to near).

The AF-C is much improved from the previous models. You could even customise how much your subject moves. With the information from the PDAF sensor, the AF-C is much faster and more accurate. This being said, it is still not as good as DSLRs in this respect. It really is a shame AF-C doesn't work with 4/3 lenses.

The AF-C in movie mode, while it is still not as good as the 70D's Dual Pixel Technology, is decent. Olympus drops the focusing speed in movie mode, giving a much smoother focus, but as it is still CDAF, it still hunts a little bit, and focus pulling is not as smooth as the Canon's Dual Pixel Tech. The touch screen focusing works very well in video mode, as it has always does on any camera with touch screen.

5-Axis Image Stabiliser

It's so good that I'm going to give it its own section in my review! Despite some sources saying it has no improvement from the IS system in the E-3/E-5, it is nowhere near the truth (More info at http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52765153). The 5-Axis IS can compensate movements on 5 axises, hence the name. This means that it can correct pitch, yaw, translational motions, and camera rolling.

This helps compensate almost all of the movements created by our hands, which is why it is much better than the previous technologies, which still leaves rolling and translation motions, and is also a big part of camera shake, therefore the 5-axis IS is much more effective than the older IS tech. In real world use, it has worked a treat to me. I've been able to shoot at 1/5 shutter speed like I'm shooting at 1/80 shutter speed. (see it on youtube:http://youtu.be/86ND5X8SjSQ?t=2m21s)

The IS in video mode is no less awesome than in stills mode. It gives a fluid, smooth motion to the video, and eliminates almost all shakes. It can even smooth out the video when walking; now you can shoot video and walk without worrying a little bit. (see it on youtube:http://youtu.be/86ND5X8SjSQ?t=5m1s)

Image Quality and Noise Performance

Personally, I'm not the type of person to pixel peep. For me, I think the IQ is as good as any semi-pro camera out there. The noise performance is quite good, though still not quite as good as its APS-C peers. ISO is usable up to around 6400, in my opinion, but if you're printing, I'd say 3200 is a good limit. Here's a link to a video with a noise performance test.

Here are some sample images I took with the E-M1

Waiting for the BTS train

Waiting for the BTS train

Passing By

Are We There Yet? (notice how I'd taken this shot shake free at 1/4 of a second shutter speed even when the BTS train is moving)

I'm Watching You

Shining Through

On the Watch

On Duty

The Train has Arrived!

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

Pay Attention!

Joyful Child

I'm Bored!

Erawan Shrine

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 pannyics's gear list:pannyics's gear list
Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm 1:2 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm F1.8 +8 more
Olympus OM-D E-M1
16 megapixels • 3 screen • Four Thirds sensor
Announced: Sep 10, 2013
pannyics's score
Average community score
bad for good for
Kids / pets
Action / sports
Landscapes / scenery
Low light (without flash)
Flash photography (social)
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Canon EOS 70D Canon EOS 7D Nikon D7100 Olympus E-3 Olympus E-5 Olympus E-M1 Olympus PEN E-P5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3
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