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

Started Jan 27, 2014 | Discussions thread
William Porter
William Porter Senior Member • Posts: 1,730
aperture equivalence and the E-M1's power switch

Daniel Wee wrote:

As I only have the Carl Zeiss 35mm F2.8 on hand, I decided to use the Olympus 17mm F1.8 as a way to bring the match closer. I am aware that as far as depth of field is concerned, the Olympus translates to F3.6 in 35mm terms. Be that as it may, that was the fastest 17mm lens we can readily get so that's what I tested.

Reasonable. I've done much the same thing in my own comparison between the E-M1 and the Sony A850.

Small quibble. Aperture "equivalence" is not a useful concept. The aperture of the Olympus 17 f1.8 doesn't "translate" to anything. With respect to the aperture's most important job — controlling the amount of light that gets to the sensor — f1.7 = f1.7, plain and simple, and it doesn't matter what system the lens was built for.

Now, due to the difference in the sensors, an E-M1 shooting with a 17mm lens at any given aperture has more depth of field than a full-frame (or APS-C) camera using the same aperture and a lens of equivalent field of view. But the lack of equivalence is in the sensors, not the lenses. It's a small point but one worth keeping in mind especially as the tern "aperture equivalence" seems to be used exclusively and unfairly to disparage micro four thirds cameras and almost never to complain about the problems that larger-sensor bodies have getting both enough light and enough depth of field at given apertures.


I've already mentioned that the E-M1 power switch was placed on the wrong side...

People complain about this a lot in this forum. This may be largely a matter of (a) what one is used to and/or (b) taste, but personally I think the left side of the camera is exactly the right place to put the power switch.

You use the power switch exactly once per shooting session. (You use it again to turn the camera off but at that point you're done shooting and it wouldn't matter if the switch were underneath the camera.) So putting the power switch over on the left and out of the way seems to me to make excellent sense. Of all the cameras I've used, the Sony A850 has just about the best ergonomics, and its power button is on the left — along with the buttons for review, trash and menu. This leaves the right side of the camera less cluttered and makes it easier for me to find the buttons I want without moving my eye from the EVF.

Yes, I hear this complaint from quick draw artists that they can't unlock their pistol with their right hand as they're pulling it from the holster. I'm stunned at the number of people who think that a fraction of a second delay before they can take their first photo is hurting their photography. My own possibly dyspeptic view is that the world would be a better place for photographers if all cameras had a 30 minute warm-up delay.

The E-M1 powers up just a bit faster than the a7 but in all honesty, you'd have to be splitting hairs if that little difference would influence your preference one way or another.

I'm curious why you think the A7's slight delay powering up (which favors the E-M1) is trivial, while the equally slight delay getting the E-M1's power switch moved with your left hand (which favors the A7) is significant.

On the other hand, the a7 wakes up from sleep more quickly. With the E-M1, I found that I had to give the release a half-press and wait a bit before the image comes back into the viewfinder. Speaking of viewfinders, both EVFs look great. I did like SONY's use of more colours and their nice level indicator. The E-M1's EVF display seems less cluttered though, whereas the a7's EVF display is littered with all kinds of indications. On the other hand, I didn't really find that it got in the way of my shooting.

Never used an A7 but did work with an A99 for a year. It's possible with the A99 to control just about every item that is displayed in the EVF. You can't do this with the A7? Might be buried in the menus.

Notwithstanding these little disagreements, I thank you for the informative comparison!


 William Porter's gear list:William Porter's gear list
Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Olympus PEN-F Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8 +10 more
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