A quick day out with the Olympus E-M1 and the SONY a7

Started Jan 27, 2014 | Discussions thread
Godfrey Forum Pro • Posts: 29,351
Re: A quick day out with the Olympus E-M1 and the SONY a7

Interesting comparison, thank you.

I also have both cameras, although I bought them to use rather differently. I use the E-M1 with FT and mFT lenses, use AF with it most of the time, and take advantage of the automation systems quite a lot. The A7 I bought to use with my Leica R and Nikkor SLR lenses, maybe a couple of M-Mount lenses (the ones that work well with its sensor), and have it set up such that shooting with it is an experience very similar to working with a manual focus film SLR with aperture priority AE and a motor drive.

  • Since I bought only the A7 body and necessary accessories (had the lenses already), and half of my lens kit for the E-M1 I already had, I compare the price of the bodies and accessories only. So far, they're running neck and neck on system expenses ... each just over $2000 when I account for body, lens mount adapters, power accessories, grips, cable remotes, etc.
  • As you noted, shooting with the E-M1 is fast and fluid where shooting with the A7 happens at a slower pace. This is true totally independent of AF as well, I don't own an AF lens for the A7 but find that even using the E-M1 with manual focusing only proves faster and more fluid than using the A7.
  • The control organization and layout on the E-M1 is very ergonomic to my hands, and the menu design very logical and easy to remember, albeit deep with many potential interactions. The A7 controls—buttons and dials—seem rather haphazardly scattered about the camera, not nearly so swift to "fall to hand." The menu system, also pretty deep and with many interactions, is very poorly organized and difficult to remember. The A7 has fewer customization options and controls than the E-M1. All that said, I have been able to set up and customize buttons and dials on both cameras such that I rarely need to dive into the menus to get something done, and the way I have them both setup the controls are easy to use and remember.
  • The biggest thing I miss on the A7 is the E-M1's superb image stabilization system. The five-axis IBIS is truly outstanding. The A7 is also more power hungry (and let's not get into the stupid decision to only supply it with very slow in-camera battery charging ... the purchase of two external chargers and three extra batteries are almost necessary for anyone trying to use this camera for serious picture taking; enough to have a battery in the camera and a spare in the bag while the other two are being recharged.
  • The biggest thing I miss on the E-M1 is the A7's excellent implementation of manual exposure with Auto-ISO. They've got that down just right, with EV Compensation and the wide dynamic range of the larger sensor you have excellent and fine control.

I've been shooting with the E-M1 since October and the A7 since last week, I'm still testing lenses for the latter. So far, the lenses I have for the A7 seem to work very well with its sensor. Image quality for both cameras is outstanding, with nuance differences related to depth of field and dynamic range—ultimately all based on the difference in the sensor size. These nuance differences are rather more subtle than it might seem, I know that if I made a series of photos with both and printed them to 11x17 inch, I would be hard-pressed to tell which camera made which photo other than because of lens/format characteristics. I would not buy either camera expecting a quantum change in image quality.

The E-M1 satisfies 99% of my shooting needs, and it could be 100%. So why did I spend the money for the A7? Because the Leica R lenses are truly wonderful and I found that using them on smaller format sensors did not bring out their best like using them with the original Leicaflex SL film camera did. The A7 does: photos made with the Summicron-R 90mm on film and with the A7 have the same lovely character. There is room for both formats in the visual language..

The E-M1 succeeds best because of its outstanding control ergonomics, wide customization options, superb lens line, fast and responsive handling and operation, and the very very good sensor. The A7 succeeds best because of its format, the outstanding sensor performance, and adaptability to use with many many wonderful older lenses. I'm happy to have and work with both cameras.

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