The Olympus E-M1's video spec looks good enough on paper to attract an enthusiast videographer, though it's likely not quite sophisticated enough for serious pro use. Audio levels from the built-in stereo microphone can be adjusted to low, standard and high settings, as can wind noise reduction settings. The E-M1 also provides a built-in microphone socket, where this is only available as an accessory for the E-M5.

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As a flagship model, the E-M1 naturally acquires Olympus' video features like the ability to transition between art filters while recording video, and the 'Echo' modes that're fun to experiment with. With its touch screen, there's an added level of flexibility as you can select your focus point by tapping it on the screen.

However, despite its high-end positioning, the E-M1 still offers only the same rather basic compression options offered by previous Olympus models.

Video quality options

Sizes • MOV (AVC H.264)
1920 x 1080 (30p), Fine, 24 Mb/s
1920 x 1080 (30p), Normal, 16 Mb/s
1280 x 720 (30p), Fine, 12 Mb/s
1280 x 720p (30p), Normal, 8 Mb/s
• Motion JPEG
1280 x 720p30
640 x 480 (30fps)
Audio Stereo sound (Linear PCM)
Format H.264 / MOV
Max file size per clip 4.0 GB (MOV format)
Recordable time Full HD Approx. 29min Normal, 22min Fine

Handling in Video mode

The E-M1's movie mode operates in much the same way as the E-M5's: movie shooting can be initiated from any mode on the camera by pressing the Red record button (or any button you've set to act as 'REC' from the Custom menu). Depending on how you hold the camera, you may find one of the other buttons (or the shutter button) is a more convenient way of starting video, without accidentally inducing a rolling motion at the start of each clip. When initiated from stills shooting modes, movies are always shot in Program mode, with the camera setting aperture, shutter speed and ISO with no user input. Focus is also switched to whichever focus mode was last used when shooting in Movie mode. To take any manual control of the camera's settings you need to be in Movie shooting mode.

By default, the shutter will capture a still image in movie record mode. If you happen to be recording a video when the shutter is pressed, you'll get a still image saved separately, but video recording is stopped momentarily. The result is two video files with a still sandwiched in between.

If you're likely to be shooting video from stills mode, it's worth adding the 16:9 grid overlay to your preview - it's subtle enough to not interfere with stills shooting but useful for showing the extent of the video crop (approximately, depending on IS mode). If you move to movie mode on the mode dial, the preview simply switches to a 16:9 view.

The E-M1's dedicated movie stop/start button is located on the camera's right shoulder next the Fn2 button. Like just about all of the E-M1's buttons, it can be set to a number of other custom functions.

In Movie mode, you gain P, A, S and M control, a choice over focus mode and retention of AEL. Frustratingly, while nominally offering a very good level of control over video, the camera doesn't allow you to change any exposure settings when you're shooting. The P,A and S modes will adjust to match the camera's metered value, with whatever exposure compensation you've applied before recording. You can apply AEL during recording to over-ride these exposure shifts, but you can't manually decide to adjust aperture or exposure compensation, mid-take.

Image stabilization for movies

The E-M1's 5-axis image stabilization can be used while recording movies in an all-or-nothing fashion. The stabilization system works well to correct some of the jittering of handholding and bouncing produced by walking with a camera. The examples below demonstrate the effect with the E-M1 coupled to the 12-40mm F2.8 lens (extended about halfway).

Image Stabilization Off

1920 x 1080 30p, H.264 .MOV file, 7 sec, 23.7 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Image Stabilization On

1920 x 1080 30p, H.264 .MOV file, 7 sec, 23.6 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Video image quality

Video quality from the E-M1 is about the same as what we saw in the E-P5. Shooting our video resolution test chart it falls significantly below the resolution we'd expect from the camera shooting 1080p. Fine detail tends to get a bit mushy - partly as a result of poor compression but also possibly as a result of a poor initial video signal. These results then have fairly aggressive sharpening applied, giving footage that falls rather short of consumer level standards - let alone the expectations of semi-pro videographers.

Outside of that, there's little evidence of a rolling shutter problem, and a highly capable image stabilization system does a terrific job of reducing image shake produced by handholding - making the E-M1 quite handy for grabbing a video here and there.

So, although the E-M1 appears to have the most comprehensive video spec of any Olympus model so far, the reality is that it's not in the same class as Panasonic, Sony or Canon's more video-targeted models. Although the E-M1 does offer focus peaking, it cannot provide the feature while you're capturing footage - meaning it can't be used to guide manual focus as you shoot. Equally, although the E-M1 offers an socket for an external mic but only offers three volume levels, which also can't be changed while shooting.

Sample video 1

In good light at full 1080p, video quality is very good. Detail and color are nicely rendered, and there's very little noise to speak of in this mostly well-lit scene.

1920 x 1080 30p, H.264 .MOV file, 11 sec, 36.3 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 2

The sample below was shot with continuous tracking AF enabled, set on the high-contrast area at the right edge of the streetcar's front. The 12-40mm lens was extended to full telephoto. About 12 seconds into the clip you'll see the lens quickly re-acquire focus on its moving target.

1920 x 1080 30p, H.264 .MOV file, 11 sec, 36.3 MB Click here to download original .MOV file