Olympus OM-D E-M1 is the latest mirrorless offering from Olympus. It is not a E-M5 successor but a higher-end model aimed especially at classic 4/3 users with 4/3 lenses. It has a sophisticated AF system with on-sensor phase detection pixels which should provide fast AF with 4/3 lenses. With native micro 4/3 E-M1 will use contrast detection focus which already proved to be very fast and reliable. There is also a range of other improvements over E-M5; 1/8000 shutter speed, 2.3M EVF, 10fps burst mode, bigger grip and a wide range of customization options. I had the privilege to be the first to try the new E-M1 in Croatia (yeah, we get new gear with a delay compared to the USA and most of EU) what came at the price: camera was with me only three days but this was enough to get a general feel of the new E-M1. As soon as I get an opportunity, I will test it in detail.
OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1 GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS
- Announced: 2013.
- Type: Mirrorless
- Dimensions: 130 x 94 x 63 mm
- Weight: 497g (with battery)
- Sensor: 4/3 CMOS, 16 MP (4608 x 3456 pixels)
- ISO range: Native 200 – 3200, Extended 100 – 25,600
- Image stabilization: Yes, 5-axis
- Dust and moisture protection: Yes
- Flashlight: Hot-shoe
- Continuous shooting: 10 fps
- LCD screen: 3″, 1,037,000 dots, tilt-able, touch sensitive
- Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Battery: Li-Ion BLN-1
- Video: 1920 x 1080 @ 30p, 1280 x 720 @ 30p
- Connectors: USB 2.0, miCRO HDMI, 3,5mm mic input
CONSTRUCTION AND HANDLING
There are no surprises regarding construction. E-M1 has proper build quality and feels like a professional camera. It has dust and water seals on all controls and joints and should be able to withstand (with sealed lens) harsh working environments.
The grip is big and well shaped but the camera is not tall enough for my liking; my pinky finger often found itself floating in the air below the camera. For an all-day shoot I would buy vertical grip for maximum grip and ease of use for extended periods.
Olympus E-M1 has plenty of manual controls. There are two control dials and no less than six buttons (!) which can be customized. There is also an unique 2×2 switch which allows you to use dials for normal exposure adjustments in position 1, and ISO and WB in position 2. Sadly, you cannot assign which options will be used in position 2: they are preset. Still, E-M1 is one of the most customizable cameras on the market today.
Electronic viewfinder is without a doubt best I have seen so far. It is detailed as the one found in Sony NEX-6 and NEX-7 cameras, but a bit bigger. It has 2.36M dots and 0.74x magnification. To the right is an eye sensor which activates it as soon as you place the camera near your face. As far as viewfinders go, this is the best one on the market. I guess it is a matter of personal choice, but EVF has some major advantages over optical viewfinders. For me, main assets is being able to check exposure using live histogram in viewfinder before I take the shot. That way, there is no need to chimp photos afterward and reshoot them.
I still do not understand why Olympus didn’t position EVF on the left corner of the camera just like Sony did on NEX-6 and NEX-7. This is far more ergonomical layout and I think there is no need to keep EVF in the center. It is pure design decision and serves no purposes expect to please inexperienced users who think DSLR is ultimate photo-taking machine.
LCD has 3″ diagonal and 1,037,000 dots. Image quality is quite good, but I had regular problems seeing it in daylight. Visibility is even worse when smudged with fingerprints what will be a regular problem since most users will use its touch capability.
OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1 SENSOR
E-M1 uses a sensor similar to the one found in E-M5 and PEN cameras. This particular one has an addition of phase detection pixels and lacks an low-pass filter (images should be sharper).
As far as image quality goes, photographs look more or less the same to me as the ones from E-M5. Without having both cameras at the same time to compare it is hard to draw definite conclusions, but basically they are in the same league IQ wise. Plainly speaking – this is top of the line for 4/3 and APS-C sized sensors. Nikon D7100 still produces more detailed images (due to fantastic 24MP sensor), and NEX-6 has a bit less noise, but E-M1 can compete with both cameras without a problem. In blind test, you would have problems distinguishing images from those three cameras in most cases.