Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review
The E-M1 includes all the features added on recent Olympus cameras, including time lapse, multiple exposure, 'Live Bulb' (that allows you to check on the state of your exposure while the shutter is still open), along with a whole host of others. The most significant additions are highlighted below.
In-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR)
Alongside the HDR bracketing modes that recent Olympus cameras have included, the E-M1 becomes the first model able to combine multiple exposures into a single final image. There are two options for this: Mode 1 shoots three exposures and attempts to incorporate the tones in a subtle and realistic manner. Mode 2 takes four exposures and results in a much more extreme version.
Both modes shoot at 'Continuous Hi' speed (10 fps) and make some attempt to auto-align and correct for subject movement, so work pretty well for hand-held HDR shots. In the composite modes the camera will save a single Raw file alongside the combined JPEG, but this only represents the neutral exposure shot. The full HDR bracketing options still exist if you'd prefer to combine the images later on your computer - this will result in better quality overall.
Uniquely, the E-M1 can preview the likely results in the viewfinder, by brightening the shadow areas and balancing the overall tonality. The HDR Modes lock the ISO to 200 and disable exposure compensation, and we've found it's best to meter so that highlights don't look blown in the viewfinder, then let the camera take care of the rest.
|HDR Mode 1||HDR Mode 2|
|100% Crop||100% Crop|
As you might expect, the four-shot, Mode 2 image has a broader range of tones but ends up looking 'flatter,' with lower contrast as a result. The image is also less sharp, in part because of the very long exposures required for this low-light example. Note the awkward hard-edged transition between the mountains and the sky in both images. Still, both are impressive results for an effortless, hand-held capture.
The example below shows how an in-camera HDR image, this time taken in low light, compares to the base-exposure RAW file converted in-camera after the event. The HDR version retains more detail in both the highlights and shadows, but without making the latter look excessively noisy. Again if you look closely there's some blurring of fine detail due to the use of a long shutter speed, but the HDR version looks more balanced as a whole.
|HDR version||Base exposure RAW, converted in camera|
100% crops, highlights
100% crops, shadows
The E-M1 becomes the first Olympus camera to conduct lens-specific corrections (beyond the designed-in correction of distortion in some lenses). Olympus says the E-M1 will attempt to tune its sharpening to suit the attached lens, as well as correcting lateral chromatic aberrations - something Panasonic has always done if its lenses were used on its cameras.
|Olympus E-M1 with M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8||Olympus E-P5 with M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8|
|100% crop||100% crop|
Here you can see a comparison between the OM-D E-M1 and the PEN E-P5, both using the M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens. It's a lens that's rather prone to lateral chromatic aberration and the E-P5's inability to correct this is something we've highlighted in that camera's review. The E-M1's image is essentially indistinguishable from the PEN's, except for its complete removal of the otherwise distracting CA from the edges.
The E-M1 also appears to be fully capable of correcting lateral CA with Panasonic lenses - something Olympus has been a little vague about. The comparison below shows this, using the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 ASPH OIS on both the E-M1 and E-M5. Again, the E-M1's removal of fringing results in a visibly cleaner image.
|Olympus E-M1 + Panasonic 12-35mm F2.8||Olympus E-M5 + Panasonic 12-35mm F2.8|
|100% crop||100% crop|
For the record, here's the same scene with the hugely impressive new Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm 1:2.8 PRO. In this quick comparison the Olympus lens has visibly less chromatic aberration than its Panasonic equivalent when used on the E-M5 (and therefore without any corrections), and shows visibly more detail in this crop from the top left corner.
|Olympus E-M1 + Olympus 12-40mm F2.8||Olympus E-M5 + Olympus 12-40mm F2.8|
|100% crop||100% crop|
Time Lapse Movie
The E-M1, like the E-P5, includes an intervalometer function, with the option to let the camera automatically create a time lapse video too. With time lapse movie enabled, a separate 1280x720p movie file is saved alongside recorded images, and Raw or Raw+JPEG capture modes may be used. Intervals may be as short as a second or up to 24 hours, and up to 999 frames can be shot in one go.
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