Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review
The E-M1 is the second Olympus to offer built-in Wi-Fi for connection to a tablet or smartphone, and expands on the E-P5's offering by adding more sophisticated camera remote control, alongside image sharing and geo-tagging. It's a pretty straightforward implementation, which means it avoids the complexity of Panasonic's labyrinthine, multi-function Wi-Fi that we struggled to fully utilize with the GH3. It's worth noting though that the E-M1 isn't designed with connection to a laptop in mind, instead its focus is exclusively on engaging with the smartphone you're likely to have in your pocket.
Olympus has provided two connection modes for the E-M1 that help to give a pretty clear insight into the way it expects the camera to be used. The first is a 'Private' mode designed for the camera's owner, which in concert with the Olympus Image Share app allows camera remote control, transfer of images to your smartphone, and geo-tagging of your images (using your phone to record a GPS track). The other is a one-time connection, to make it easy to share your images with other people's devices without them necessarily having to install the app.
The One-Time Connection mode is the simpler of the two modes. It does not allow the smartphone user to control the camera, it only gives them access to images that the camera owner has marked for sharing, and it generates an http: server so that your friends don't have to download the OI.Share app just to download some photos from you.
Tapping the Wi-Fi button at the top left of the camera's screen starts up its Wi-Fi. Before you enter 'One-Time Connection' mode, you may be offered the choice of whether you want to change the password (our US-sourced samples do this, but UK ones do not). Once you've decided on this, the camera displays a connection screen, with its network ID and password. Your friend then can either manually connect to the camera's Wi-Fi and type in the password, or use the 'Easy Setup' system (described below) if they have the OI.Share app.
|The One-Time Connection screen shows the ID and password of the network the camera is going to create.
Below this is the URL from which you can then view and download whichever images have been marked for sharing.
The QR code makes this process faster if you're running the OI.Share app.
Once connected to the camera's Wi-Fi, if your friend doesn't have OI.Share installed they can still access an html page generated by the camera, from which they can browse and download any images that have been selected and added to the 'Share Order' by the owner.
|Here we can see a smartphone browsing the web page that the camera creates, to allow images to be viewed and downloaded.||Tapping on a thumbnail downloads the full-size version, which can then be saved to your phone's camera roll.|
The Private connection provides the most options and assumes that you've downloaded the OI.Share app for iOS or Android. Engaging 'Private' mode prompts you to open the app on your phone, then displays a page with the Wi-Fi connection details and a QR code. Selecting 'Easy Setup' from the app allows you to import the connection details simply by pointing your phone's camera at the QR code.
|This screen then allows you to set up the connection to your phone either manually, or by reading the QR code from the OI.Share app.
The password is an 8-digit number. You can tell the camera to generate a new random password, but you can't set your own.
Depending on your phone's operating system, you may find you have to go through a couple of confirmation steps before the Wi-Fi details are accepted, but it's a lot easier than having to manually type in the connection details. Once this connection has been established then the app will be able to re-connect to the camera, next time you open it (unless your device is already connected to another Wi-Fi network - in which case you may need to manually change this connection across to the camera).
Private access to the camera provides mode options - you can use the remote control feature in the app and browse all the images on the camera, rather than just ones marked for sharing. In fact you can also share images shot on other cameras, so long as they've been saved in the standard digital camera file structure.
|This is the opening screen for the Olympus Image Share (OI.Share) app. It's simply and clearly laid out, with four main options:
• Remote Control - operate the camera from your phone or tablet. Works in iAuto and PASM modes, and allows key exposure parameters to be changed remotely.
• Import Photos - copy images from the camera to your device.
• Edit Photo - Apply an Art Filter, or add your signature to a picture by drawing it on the phone's screen.
• Add Geotag - when this is switched on the app records a location log using your phone's GPS. The app can then sync this data across to your images when the camera is connected over Wi-Fi.
You can also turn the camera's Wi-Fi off from your phone.
Rather annoyingly, though, gaining access to the full contents of the camera's memory card appears to require you to wipe any established 'share order' list of files for sharing. This means you'll need to make sure you've shared all the images you want to, before you try to browse the rest of your images, or you'll have to go back and re-select the images individually. There's also no way of selecting images for sharing from the app - something that would be pretty handy.
This frustration aside, the app is pretty good - you can get it to downsize the images when it saves them onto your smart device. You can also edit images within the app, but this is limited to applying Art Filters or overlaying various images and pieces of text. Edited images are limited to 2048x1536 pixels. The experience is very similar, regardless of the platform the app is run on.
Overall, though, it's a fairly simple and well thought-out system. It's not the most fully-featured Wi-Fi system, but we found its ability to pull images off the camera or share them with other people to be immensely useful when out-and-about with the E-M1.
Wi-Fi remote control shooting
Beyond sharing, the E-M1's Wi-Fi capabilities are more comprehensive than they are on the E-P5. The E-M1 allows tethered shooting over Wi-Fi, with the ability to shoot in program, aperture, shutter-priority, and manual exposure modes, whereas the E-P5 was limited to iAuto. You can also set exposure compensation, ISO, white balance, specify the focus point and release the shutter.
|Exposure parameters available within the app are limited, but the basics are covered. Modes include iAuto and P/A/S/M, as well as access to exposure compensation, ISO and white balance.|
|Touch focus can be enabled and used with your mobile device’s touch screen, as can touch shutter. The live view preview image is somewhat pixelated, though the image displayed in review looks much nicer.|
|What you see on the screen reflects any changes made to exposure – appropriately, dialing in a negative exposure compensation shows a darker image.|
|In the semi-manual and full manual exposure modes, touching the setting that you'd like to change brings up a screen like this.|
|Once an image is captured, you’re met with the option to share it or save it to your phone. Within the app, you're also able to review images on the camera's memory card.|
There’s a noticeable lag in the app live view image, and it appears to be heavily compressed. Though remote shooting works well overall, and offers access to crucial settings, it likely won’t keep up with moving subjects.
Geotagging via Wi-Fi sync
Another feature offered by the E-M5 in concert with the OI.Share app is geotagging of your images by syncing with your smartphone's GPS system. When it's turned on, the app records a GPS log of where you've been during the day, and can then append location data to your images based on the time they were shot when you connect to the camera over Wi-Fi. This is by no means unique to Olympus, but it's still nice to have.
|OI.Share can store multiple logs of your movements. Those which have been synced to the camera are indicated by a blue icon.||Once a log is synced with the camera over Wi-Fi, OI.Share can display a map showing where you've taken pictures. This was recorded for the E-P5, but the E-M1 works in exactly the same way.|
We've found Olympus's implementation to be pretty seamless, requiring minimal user interaction. Images which have been geotagged gain a little satellite icon in both the phone's and camera's playback display. The camera itself can't do anything with this information, but OI.Share can display a map showing where you've been, and where you've taken pictures along the way. Tapping on a location then displays the images taken there. There's nothing ground-breaking here, but it's all neatly-implemented.
There is, however, one very important point for iOS7 users - you have to explicitly give OI.Share permission to access Location Services while it's running in the background. This is enabled in the phone's settings menu (General - Background App Refresh). If you don't do this the app can't record a track, so Geotagging won't work. Android users simply have to give the app permission to use the GPS the first time it asks.
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