Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Sturdy, weather-resistant body with lovely retro styling
- Excellent image quality
- Chromatic aberration corrected in-camera making JPEGs more usable
- 2x2 interface puts more controls at your fingers
- Impressive number of customizable controls
- Bright, sharp electronic viewfinder
- Reliable Wi-Fi connectivity for remote control and easy transfer of images to mobile device
- Color Creator introduces more in-camera processing options
- Neat in-camera time lapse creation
- Nearly all of the functionality of a semi-pro DSLR in a compact body
- Convenient in-camera Raw conversion with ability to save settings as presets
Conclusion - Cons
- Interface and controls can be overwhelming initially
- In-camera Raw conversion interface is somewhat unintuitive
- Auto focus with Four Thirds lenses is slow in dim conditions with tricky subjects
- Only one SD card slot
- Inconveniently-placed power switch
- Disappointing video quality
- Multi-screen live view interface looks very dated (e.g. can't combine electronic level and histogram)
The first OM-D model - the E-M5 - was a breakthrough camera, both for Olympus and, arguably, for the industry too. The combination of the best Four Thirds sensor yet in a well worked-out, twin control dial body led us to call it one of the most capable mirrorless cameras we'd then seen. Our end-of-year poll suggested a fair proportion of our readers agreed, with it claiming the title: 'Readers' Camera of the Year.'
This makes life rather harder for the E-M1 - not only does it have to match the E-M5, it aims to surpass it, sitting further up the camera pyramid. On top of that, Olympus has positioned the E-M1 as the successor to its line of semi-pro DSLRs. Despite this tall order, it didn't fail to impress in the weeks we've been using it.
As usual, Olympus has created some new features to add, including the Color Creator tool and in-camera HDR, but it's the more fundamental changes that make all the difference. The larger body gives the E-M1 a little more room to add controls, and the 2x2 control system gives access to almost every key setting while the camera is up to your eye, in a way that you tend to find only on the best DSLRs.
The high resolution viewfinder is also very good - giving a very DSLR-like view of the world. The large size and fast refresh rate make it rather pleasant to use and this, combined with the at-my-fingertips controls meant that we found ourselves using the viewfinder in preference to the rear screen, both for previewing shots and for changing settings.
Our first impressions of the focus performance were pretty positive, and they hold true after weeks of use - continuous AF seems much improved (if not quite at Pro DSLR level), and its handling of Four Thirds lenses should be good enough to save them from collecting dust as relics of the development of DSLR technology. And, of course, single AF acquisition with Micro Four Thirds lenses is still stunningly fast.
The E-M1 provides the excellent image quality that you'd expect from a camera of its semi-pro level. Its Four Thirds sensor is smaller than the APS-C imagers of its Nikon D7100 and Canon EOS 70D peers, but we think the difference it makes in real world shooting is hard to spot. You need to put the E-M1 up against a full frame camera to really see a significant difference in image quality. And thankfully, the image shake issue that has plagued some Olympus cameras does not appear to be a problem in the E-M1 as compared to the E-P5.
The camera offers a number of nice-to-have video recording features included like reliable image stabilization for movies, option for external microphone and some fun video effect modes. However, anyone serious about videography will likely be disappointed by poor detail resolution in video mode. Olympus engineers have clearly paid attention to video features, but haven't managed to provide a high enough quality video mode to satisfy those who would most want to use them.
If you have a stash of Four Thirds lenses, you'll find them perfectly usable with the E-M1 outdoors, and if you're patient, usable in moderate-to-low light as well. The included flash provides some real flexibility with the option to remotely control an off-camera flash. Your photo bag, as an E-M1 user, could be as heavy or light as you like. Add a couple of primes, an adapter, a flashgun, a tripod for your in-camera timelapse movies, and you're set for a day of serious shooting. Micro Four Thirds provides the largest selection of lenses for mirrorless cameras so filling up that bag isn't hard, and those needing more telephoto reach can find it in the form of Four Thirds lenses.
Spending a weekend with the E-M1 and the (heavy) 12-40mm F2.8 along with a few more lenses, I was amazed when I switched them out for the 17mm F1.8. The small prime makes the E-M1 feel like a completely different camera - a trick that a bulkier DSLR doesn't pull off as convincingly.
For a Micro Four Thirds camera there's no question that the E-M1 tips the scale in terms of weight and size, but as compared to a mid-to-high-end DSLR it's still much lighter. There's also a number of good prime lenses designed specifically for this sensor format, something APS-C DSLRs are sadly lacking. As a system camera, the E-M1 offers more than enough to keep an enthusiast or hobbyist happy.
The final word
Without even knowing Olympus' positioning of the camera, you'd imagine just looking at it that the E-M1 is something of a double act. It attempts to be two things - the almost pro-level 'DSLR' and the lightweight, carry-it-all-day camera Micro Four Thirds has been giving us for years. And that's exactly what the it's intended to be - successor to the E-5 and step up from the E-M5.
Putting all of the customizability of a DSLR in a Micro Four Thirds camera could pose a problem for the E-M1. Much of Micro Four Third's appeal comes from offering a lighter, leaner alternative to a DSLR, and adding so many DSLR-style controls could make it too big and throw away its advantages of being small. While we found there were definitely more customizable controls than we needed, ultimately the level of control the camera offers while it's positioned at your eye, makes it slick to use in a way that rivals the best semi-pro DSLRs.
Choosing a Micro Four Thirds camera over an APS-C DSLR usually means sacrificing a bit of low light image quality for a gain in portability. The E-M1's size might be cause for concern to someone considering the camera. In order to get the handling and controls it provides, is it still portable enough to make the trade-off worthwhile? We think it is. We didn't see a drastic drop in image quality in low light as compared to APS-C DSLR and, for all of its additional controls and size, the E-M1 and a couple of lenses are still easily packed into a small bag.
Bottom line: if you want to feel like you're shooting with a DSLR, but still want the size and agility of a mirrorless camera, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better option than the E-M1.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Olympus OM-D E-M1
Category: Semi-professional Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
In most respects the E-M1 does a good job bridging the gap between a traditional DSLR and a Micro Four Thirds camera. Its controls and customizability may overwhelm less hands-on users, but those who don't mind tinkering will love its flexibility. The improved autofocus tracking and performance with original Four Thirds lenses adds to the appeal of a camera with blazingly fast AF acquisition speeds with its native lenses.
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 Review
- Sony NEX-7 Review
- Fujifilm X-Pro1 Review
- Olympus OM-D E-M5 Review
- Mirrorless camera Buying Guide
Apr 27, 2016
Apr 6, 2016
Mar 14, 2016
Mar 21, 2016
|scrum break away by al booth|
from Sport competition
|Parking Deck by Olaf R|
from Your City - Parking Garage
|Communication Tech by alberto_b|
|With & without by OBellini|
from Empty - Full
A recent vacation gave Richard a chance to think about the needs of travel photography – and how our reviews might recognize the perfect travel camera.
Need more evidence that 2017 is the year analog begins its comeback? Well, welcome another new film stock to the world.
The winners of the 10th annual iPhone Photography Awards have been announced, and they're striking.
If you were disappointed by reports that the Sony a9 struggles with adapted Canon glass, you might be able to take some comfort from Metabones' latest update.
Blackmagic Design has dropped the prices of its Video Assist external monitor/recorders for a limited time. Prices of the SD card-based recorders will be reduced in all markets, while supplies last.
Instagram has started testing a new feature called 'favorites' that enables users to share photos with only certain people. Only a small number of users have access to the feature at this time, though it may roll out to everyone in the future.
Lensbaby has announced the Velvet 85 F1.8 for interchangeable lens cameras. The lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Sony E, Sony A, Pentax K, Samsung NX, Fuji X and Micro 4/3 mounts.
It's the end of an era. Parent company Micron has announced that they are discontinuing the Lexar retail brand. This includes 'memory cards, USB flash drives, readers, and storage drives.'
Youthful trainspotter turned adult photographer, John Sanderson has traveled across the United States, documenting the country's railroads. But you won't find any trains in his pictures.
Sony's new CMOS sensor is backside-illuminated and offers an all-pixel global reset function which should drastically reduce rolling shutter effect when panning.
Shoulderpod has converted its offerings into a lego-like modular system by offering all individual parts of existing products separately, allowing users to build exactly the rig they need for a specific project or simply replace a damaged part.
Photographer Felix AAA has spent the past ten years touring the world with a variety of musicians, capturing behind the scenes shots and portraits. He talks about some of his favorite images on the FujiFilm Blog.
A roll of film discovered in an Argus C2 from an Oregon Goodwill turned out to contain some incredible images – and has been re-united with the original owner's family.
Nikon's 28mm F1.4E ED appears to roundly complete the company's updated lineup of fast, professional prime lenses. We've already seen some initial images from a Nikon ambassador, but we've worked through a gallery of our own, with a lens of our own over the past week. Take a look.
Google is holding a competition that could see your Pixel photos gracing millions of screens.
Nikon's 100th birthday party continues worldwide as a distributor in Italy organized a one-of-a-kind feat: assembling the world's largest 'human camera' from over a thousand volunteers.
Ricoh has dropped the price of its Theta SC 360 spherical camera by to $199, a reduction of roughly $50. The camera features two 12MP sensors and can record Full HD video in addition to stills.
Photojournalist Pete Souza served as the presidential photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. In an interview with fellow photographer Marcia Nighswander, he discusses several of his most noteworthy images.
Photographer Michael Wolf has been documenting the crowded conditions of Tokyo's subway trains since the 1990s. The photos have gone viral regularly in the years since he started the project, and he just published the final edition in the series.
The just-launched OnePlus 5 is getting a minor update that should improve camera function.
A Belgian camera shop is showing off an extremely rare, limited 'Rex Edition' Nikon D500. The cosmetic alterations were provided by a customer's German Shepherd Rex, who got ahold of the camera within a day of its purchase.
Adobe says that many of its users have been relying on SkyBox for VR editing and it therefore made sense to make the plug-ins available to all subscribers through Creative Cloud.
The Pictar grip provides a number of customizable physical controls for your iPhone camera, but at its price point we would like to see better materials and build quality.
Peak Design's 'consider every detail' approach shines in the Everyday Backpack. While expensive, it's one of the best options out there for a photographer who needs to pack a lot of stuff in addition to gear.
If you're thinking of using Canon's sports glass on the Sony a9, think again. The ultra-fast camera slows way down when you attach off-brand glass.
The Polish town of Katowice is not famed as an area of beauty, but as all photographers know, that doesn't mean that beauty can't be found if you look in the right places. Mariusz Pietranek used a drone to look down on the colorful sedimentation tanks at an ironworks.
New York Times video journalist Ben Solomon spent a harrowing three weeks accompanying Iraqi Major Sajjad al-Hour as he and his men fought to retake Mosul from I.S. forces.
The 3D VR camera launched through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 goes on sale beginning June 26.
Noctilucent clouds, a crescent moon and Venus were visible in the pre-dawn sky over Budapest yesterday. Photographer György Soponyai captured NASA's astronomy picture of the day.
Squirming pets won't sit still for photos? A Kickstarter campaign is looking to help.