If you see the advantages of Micro Four Thirds, if you like compact gear, innovative imaging technology and all of this packed into a state-of-the-art body with cutting edge design and contemporary finishes, then you should give Olympus’ new flagship camera, the OM-D E-M1, a very good look. Not cheap at $1,399 the body and $999 the new fast PRO zoom. But make no mistake, this is absolute high-precision pro gear. The E-M1 is not only a worthy successor to the wildly praised OM-D E-M5. This latest OM-D evolution is actually billed as the E-5‘s successor because it’s the first Micro Four Thirds camera to offer decent autofocus with legacy Four Thirds lenses. So you get a camera for two systems in one plus — hear hear! — on-sensor phase detection elements giving the camera a distinct autofocus advantage. So the E-M1 is equipped with Dual Fast AF that combines both contrast AF and on-chip phase detection AF. Add a new 16.3MP sensor, the better grip, more ergonomic size and improved built-in VF-4 electronic viewfinder with crisp optics providing an image as large as that of full-frame DSLRs with a magnification of up to 1.48x, that’s only a fraction behind the 0.76x viewfinder in Canon’s 1D X and ahead of Nikon’s pro-grade D4 DSLRs. Among the other goodies are Olympus’ applauded, further improved 5-axis image stabilization with automatic panning detection, “buttons for everything” allowing quick direct control, built-in Wi-Fi, focus peaking display, up to 10 fps, etc. etc. For all the specs go to Olympus dedicated OM-D microsite.
Watch the E-M1 concept video:
What do others think of this most innovative and versatile OM-D yet? Read our definitive, continuously updated Olympus OM-D E-M1 Reference File bringing you all the relevant E-M1 hands-on reviews and field reports that matter (latest update on top). BTW, Olympus is so convinced they have a killer product that they don’t even offer a kit…):
Luminous Landscape sings the praise of Olympus’ Zuiko high-grade lenses:
It’s hard to overstate how good these lenses are. Of these fourteen lenses all but three are zooms. The lenses are also relatively expensive. But more to the point only the very best lenses from a handful of camera makers can even come close to the image quality that these lenses offer. Just do a Google search on any of them. You’ll find plenty of reviews on most, and you’ll find as well that almost universally they are very highly regarded. Simply among the best zoom lenses out there.
The reason is, as we related above, that when the Four Thirds system was launched Olympus saw it as their main chance to become a major player in the Pro digital market. This strategy failed at the time because their camera bodies didn’t offer any clear advantage over ASPS-C and Full Frame offerings. But by making the attempt Olympus ended up creating a line of zoom lenses that remains unsurpassed from a single manufacturer. A few L series and gold ring lenses from Canon and Nikon may be comparable, but likely none are better.
Ironically, now that they have a world-class camera in the E-M1, and sensor size is no longer the issue that it was a decade ago, together with their Pro series lenses from a decade ago Olympus has a stealth combination that will appeal to any Pro and advanced amateur who knows that this combo exists.
Now, with the OM-D E-M1 camera there is a state-of-the-art camera that can use all of these fantastic lenses to full advantage. They deserve wider recognition.
Ronn Aldaman works the E-M1 for THEME — his verdict:
Very, very good. Almost impossible to disappoint. Olymous as I said has a long history. Without doubt it also has a long future.
Some refer to this camera as pro, semi-pro. Either way anybody can in theory buy any camera. What makes a camera pro (actually what makes anybody good at photography) is not the camera itself but the person using the camera. This camera, in the right hands, can do even better than a pro camera in the wrong hands; it can create wonderful images not as commodities to sell on the market, but as visually pleasing images to enjoy and share.
E-M1 praise as well by Mashable. Welcome to the “mirrorless perfection for serious photographers”:
- Super fast autofocus
- Large and bright electronic viewfinder
- Highly customizable, accessible buttons
- Touchscreen still lacks multi-touch
- Limited HD video recording mode
- Only comes in black
Whether you’re a pro looking for a second, lighter camera that doesn’t skimp on performance or an amateur looking for a camera that will provide enough custom settings and buttons to grow with over time, the OM-D EM-1 is one of the speediest and most well-rounded mirrorless cameras to date.
Imaging Resource reviews the “rugged” 12-40mm F2.8 that’s “perfect for pros and the rest of us”:
Olympus clearly is trying to capture some of the professional market with its new E-M1 and a corresponding professional series of lenses. The typical 24-70mm F2.8 lenses are a favorite among photojournalists, for instance, and the relatively small size of the Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 lens should be a big draw for these users — as well as other photographers who are constantly on the go, shoot in harsh environments or simply need a rugged, fast zoom lens in a small package. With this glass, Olympus has shown that it can make a lens with the optical quality as well as build quality that such users demand, and professional and enthusiast shooters should take note.
DP Review‘s final review verdict says the E-M1 puts you in “complete control.” The camera’s controls and customizability may overwhelm less hands-on users, but those who don’t mind tinkering will love its flexibility:
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.
Digital Photography School gives the E-M1 five stars:
Quality: truly superb quality with tons of access to image management.
Why you’d buy the Olympus OM-D E-M1: excellent stabiliser for video shooting; arguably the best Micro Four Thirds camera on the market.
Why you wouldn’t: you don’t have the expertise to drive it!
And now a confession: in my rush to get shooting I found myself with a lens that was determinedly manual in operation. No way could I get it onto AF. Then I found a tiny leaflet in the lens box that imparted the secret: slip the focus ring forward and you enter auto focus; reverse it and you’re in manual.
So I ran the E-M1 for a while in manual focus and can’t rave enough about the focus peaking approach which gives a superb confirmation in the viewfinder that you’re on the right spot.
A truly remarkable camera. Want one!
Enthusiastic 12-40mm lens review by Photo Review:
The 12-40mm F2.8 lens is an impressive performer, delivering quality that rivals that of many DSLR plus fast zoom pairings that target serious enthusiast photographers. But its great advantage is being able to do this in a more compact, lighter weight unit. Fast focusing and near silent AF operation also make this lens attractive. So what’s not to like?
The relatively high price tag reflects both the build and optical quality of this lens. Neither comes cheap, but if you’re prepared to pay the price, you’re unlikely to regret it.
Here some beautiful E-M1 video visuals by hybridcams:
Are you one of those photographers who still prints? Then Imaging Resource has good news:
With their latest offering the OM-D E-M1, Olympus has followed in the hallowed footsteps of the E-M5 and taken the quality yet a step further. Prints from the E-M1 are a joy to look at, and can yield sizes ranging from quite large at and near base ISO all the way to a good 4 x 6 at ISO 25,600. A very solid performance from a very respected offering. Again, please note that default JPEG sharpening in the E-M1 is less aggressive than in the E-M5, but the images are quite similar in RAW comparisons, so take that into consideration when doing your own comparisons of the in-camera JPEGs.
DigitalCameraReview‘s praise — not without some reservations:
The camera has all the making of a semi-professional or professional camera. The addition of Olympus professional grade lenses makes the E-M1 a strong contender for professional. But will professionals be ready to take the plunge into a mirrorless system instead of holding strong with their DSLR systems? Sadly, I’m not quite sure we are. I think the E-M1 has some pretty spectacular features that most professional cameras don’t offer like an in-camera image stabilization system, weather proofing and tilting LCD screen. But, the overwhelming majority of DSLR users still have no idea what mirrorless can offer and changing camera systems is a scary notion to most. With a price point that is surpassing the Nikon D7100, Olympus is going to struggle with securing new buyers (…)
It’s important for Olympus to acknowledge a working professional”s need to “look the part.” Although the advancements in mirrorless has allowed cameras to produce outstanding results in a smaller package, most pros still want to maintain the look and feel of a well-built, solid camera. It’s a major conundrum for the mirrorless market — how to attract pros to their cameras while still maintaining a smaller body style.
NBC News asks whether the E-M, leaving “seasoned shooters in awe, is too powerful”:
Last year’s E-M5 was the first camera I really considered switching to from my trusty DSLR, and while the E-M1 adds a bunch of new features, it doesn’t seem as usable and elegant. Then again, it’s aimed at the pros for whom the E-M5 wasn’t enough. On that front, it looks like it succeeds, but I find myself hoping they have another, simpler offering waiting in the wings.
Lively, as always, review by Steve Huff:
The new Olympus E-M1 is a “mirrorless masterpiece,” it does almost everything right and really gets nothing wrong. Olympus wants us to know that this camera is just as capable as a huge DSLR at half the size, and they are correct. The E-M1 does everything that a DSLR can do, but in some cases better and in a some ways not so much.
Will this match the overall IQ of a full-frame DSLR or Leica M? No. Will it match an APS-C DSLR or camera? Yes, and then some.
The reason why I call this a “mirrorless masterpiece” is because it has class leading features, build, feel, AF speed, lenses and usability. No other mirrorless has the 5-axis IS, no other mirrorless has the innovative Live Time feature and no other mirrorless has this many amazing prime and zoom lenses available for their system. No other mirrorless has this kind of EVF attached and built-in.
No other mirrorless can beat the E-M1 for speed either. I had a hard time finding something to not like about the E-M1 and after two days of use and thinking, I really have nothing bad at all to say about it. If you know what Micro Four Thirds can do then you will love this camera. If you are someone who refuses to believe that a Micro Four Thirds can deliver, well it can. Just do not expect full-frame performance.
Street photographer Thomas Leuthard asks whether the E-M1 is that much better than the E-M5 to justify the much steeper price. Nevertheless, he will sell the latter:
Sure, the camera is better than the E-M5 and sure, it would be fun to own it. But would the improvement be worth the money? This body is much more expensive than the E-M5. But since I live my whole life for my photography, I will go for it. I will sell my E-M5 and will buy the new one. There are several reasons, but the main reason is, that I can afford it, not because I think I would miss something with my E-M5.
Check out Olympus’ official OM-D Facebook page with lots of E-M1 goodies, developer and hands-on videos.
Concludes Luminous Landscape its rolling review with a salute to neurotic pixel peepers:
At the end of my week shooting with the E-M1 during my vacation in Paris I can summarize my experience as being almost 100% positive. The camera is small a light enough to be carried anywhere, for hours at a time and with a small / light shoulder bag full of lenses from 14mm – 600mm equivalent. That’s the real benefit of the MFT format — lens size (…)
The Micro Four Thirds advantage used to be smaller cameras and smaller and lighter lenses. Now the body size advantage has been challenged, but the lens size advantage remains, and always will, Micro Four Thirds used to mean some compromises when it came to image quality, but those days are past. Only the most neurotic pixel peeper will find anyhting to kvetch about with files from the Olympus E-M1 and its contemporaries.
Reviewed‘s final word is in — you bet they are excited:
The OM-D E-M1 is bar-none the best stills shooting experience within the Micro Four Thirds system, with image quality good enough for the working photographer. This camera is a loud and clear statement of intent from Olympus — Micro Four Thirds can be for pros, too.
Played myself a bit with the E-M1, here’s a THEME excerpt — and you can also download full resolution JPEG and RAW files:
This slightly more futuristic looking OM-D is just another rock solid OM-D, and a very impressive one for that (…)
The kit lens. This 12-40mm F2.8 might be a reason for many to switch to the Olympus camp. Not only the metallic build quality of these “pro” optics feels excellent. The bokeh is smooth and buttery with only a slight hint of nervousness. It’s no Leica Lux glass, but in a very compact package you get an all-rounder that could well replace a whole DSLR lensarium…
The E-M1 is a true flagship camera.
Don’t know yet if for me.
No, they don’t give me any free lunch. I get loaners, that’s it.
But they always have these huge claims. Fastest, bestest, whatever.
As said, AWB wasn’t very spot on in difficult light.
But in a very compact package you get an overall class leading performance that questions whether sensor equivalence matters any longer.
The E-M5 already was a stellar camera. The E-M1 gives you an improved, already unmatched 5-axis stabilization, an improved 16.3MP sensor (glad they don’t cramp in more pixels), better customization, improved handling, Titanesque viewfinder, etc.
So far the E-M1 excites me very much. But as ergonomics, mojo and overall feel are as least as important as technicalities, I have to put this combo to the test first.
Today nearly every camera is able to offer good performance in capable hands. Whether a camera is “good” or not depends more than ever on individual preferences and needs.
Must admit, I love Olympus. But not to the point to whore for them. Loved the E-1 with it’s CCD Kodak sensor and may have made a mistake by selling it. I’m sure that camera could still perform reasonably well today.
The E-3 was a disappointment.
The E-M1 looks very promising. As said, Olympus is good in making huge marketing promises. Not that the camera is a total breakthrough, but another OM-D engineering marvel that certainly solidifies Olympus’ position and draws more well-deserved attention to maturing Micro Four Thirds.
Excerpt from Luminous Landscape‘s rolling E-M1 field report:
I’ll close today’s entry by mentioning that when I wrote my Panasonic GX7 review a couple of weeks ago I called it “… the best MFT camera yet.” It’s fair to say that this claim to fame only lasted a short while.
Thom Hogan has always something important to say about mirrorless and Olympus. You have to read the whole thing. Says Hogan about the E-M1 — with Olympus “moving upscale” — much of Olympus’ recent product announcements have all been high end:
I don’t mind higher priced products like the E-M1 and 12-40mm, just as long as they deliver. Initial impressions are that they do, so I’m hoping that this is just the start of Olympus getting their Micro Four Thirds lineup more rationalized and fully fleshed out.
Hogan goes on saying he has long held that physical size is a relevant factor he’d pay more for to have less, all else equal. However:
With Olympus now using the same Sony sensor technologies that are propagating in other APS-sensored cameras, the sensor size issue is a real one. In theory, a NEX and an OM-D are using the basically the same sensor tech these days. Thus, I expect to see about a two-thirds to three-quarter of a stop difference in RAW data at base ISO, all else equal. And that’s the interesting problem that Olympus has been trying to engineer its way around. It seems clear that Olympus is using slightly different high ISO strategies (e.g. gain adjustment) than some others are, but there’s nothing stopping others from doing the same thing with an APS sensor.
Against NEX, the OM-D cameras have no physical size advantage (though lenses do), but an image quality disadvantage. Against APS/DX DSLRs, the OM-D cameras have a tangible size advantage, but both an image quality and other performance disadvantage (though one that’s narrowed considerably since Micro Four Thirds first appeared). Worse still, some full-frame cameras are slowly coming down in price, and now live just above where the E-M1 wants to sell (e.g. US$2,000 versus US$1,400). If this trend continues — Micro Four Thirds prices headed up, full-frame headed down — the size versus image quality tradeoff will become seriously obvious.
And Thom Hogan adds an interesting E-M1 vs. E-M5 price comparison:
For that extra US$400 you get:
- A bigger, heavier camera
- Lower battery life
- A better EVF
- Slightly better LCD
- Slightly better build with slightly better sealing
- A built-in grip
- Better Four Thirds lens focusing, better continuous AF with Micro Four Thirds lenses
- 1/8,000th of a second shutter and 1/320 flash sync
I’m a little worried about the price push on the E-M1. Coupled with the yen depreciation, the bump over the E-M5 is considerable, perhaps as much as 45% depending upon how you account for the currency differences over the time period between the two cameras (…)
I look forward to trying the camera myself. Maybe then I can better rationalize its price.
Ming Thein not only likes the straight out of camera beautifully rich, accurate colors (check out Ming’s great sample images):
Honestly, given what this camera can do in JPEG mode, I’m very much looking forward to seeing just how much latitude lies in the RAW files. Bottom line: sensor technology has evolved significantly; the previous generation of 16MP cameras had more than enough image quality for most uses; any improvements on that are of course welcome, but are not game changing (…)
Aside from the inclusion of PDAF on sensor, the other upgrades are evolutionary (but welcome) rather than revolutionary. In many ways, the E-M1 feels like the next logical step in the evolution of the camera: we are now seeing the best of DSLR (PDAF, ergonomics, comprehensive system) and mirrorless (CDAF, excellent and realistic EVF previews, 5-axis stabilizer, smaller physical size) finally coming together into one package.
From Steve Huff‘s first look report:
I said in my E-M5 review that Micro Four Thirds has matured… well now it has blossomed into a full-grown beauty named the OM-D E-M1 (…)
The viewfinder is amazing! This is a huge improvement over the E-M5… when I say the EVF is amazing, believe me, it is the best looking EVF from any camera to date, period. The grip feels nice… just right.
So the bottom line is that the camera feels amazing in the hand, is built to pro specs (except no dual memory card slots), is weather- and freezeproof, is fast as lightning and I predict Olympus will have a huge hit on their hands. The E-M5 has proven itself in big time ways over the past year or so and I believe this one will as well.
From DP Review‘s early first impressions:
There’s a more advanced processor in the E-M1 that conducts a variety of lens corrections, when creating JPEGs, leading the company to proclaim the best image quality offered by one of its cameras. These corrections, enabled by the company’s latest, TruePic VII processor, include correcting for chromatic aberation and correcting sharpness on a per-lens basis.
The biggest difference between the E-M1 and the E-M5, though, is the degree of direct control on offer. We really liked the E-M5’s twin-dial control system, but the E-M1 goes beyond that by providing button-and-dial combinations for quickly changing almost every imaginable setting on the camera, quickly. It’s the kind of approach you don’t usually get until the very top of manufacturers’ lineups — it means you have to get used to where every function is, but can shoot fluidly once you have.
However, this direct control doesn’t come at the expense of the potentially slower but easier to find touch-screen interface. The E-M1 can be operated pretty much however you fancy.
Imaging Review‘s enthusiastic first impressions — even though they have something to say as well about moiré:
We’ve at this point had only a very short time shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M1, but are so far wildly enthusiastic about its design, build quality and performance. If the image quality in the lab is anything like what we’re expecting, we’re confident saying that Olympus has a real winner on its hands. As popular as the OM-D E-M5 has been, we think the E-M1 has if anything even more potential. With its weather sealing and rugged die-cast body, this is a camera built to take a beating in hardcore professional use out in the field. Combine that with the ultra compact nature of both the camera and the Micro Four Thirds lenses (especially the 12-40mm F2.8 announced with it, and the forthcoming 40-150mm F2.8 due next year, and a pro could pack a full professional system into a smallish fanny pack. We think the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is poised to convert a lot of traveling pros to the Micro Four Thirds platform.
Robin Wong has nice product shots, a whole set of sample images and some interesting thoughts. Calling the E-M1 the “best of both worlds”:
Having phase detection AF not only allows the optimized usage with older Zuiko digital lenses when it comes to fast autofocusing, but it also aids greatly in continuous autofocus with tracking capability of the camera, addressing to one of the most commonly pointed out issues of the Micro Four Thirds system. More importantly, a completely new 16MP image sensor was developed, with promised better image quality in comparison to the previous E-M5 and even matching up or surpassing the current offerings of APS-C sensor sized DSLRs. Everything that was on E-M5 has been reworked and enhanced a few steps further.
The Phoblographer is sold:
In our hands, this felt like the most solid feeling mirrorless camera that we’ve ever held. When Olympus’s super high grade Four Thirds lenses were attached, it felt like even more of a beast (…)
Quite impressed with the E-M1 and all the technology that goes into it. Olympus surely is making quite the stride to show the world that they’re not going to just sit back and watch Canon and Nikon take the world over by finding a way to fully embrace their Four Thirds system lenses.
ePHOTOzine‘s early verdict:
Many people were convinced by the handling and design of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, with a weather sealed body, and classic Olympus OM SLR styling, causing many to switch from heavy full-frame Digital SLRs. However, there were still those that thought its body was too small, and others who were not entirely convinced by the image quality offered by the camera. With the new Olympus OM-D E-M1, with a larger body that more closely resembles a digital SLR, and improved image sensor and image quality, as well as an impressive and large electronic viewfinder, there should now be little or no reason to avoid the Micro Four Thirds system. The size and weight advantages alone should give you reason to seriously consider this camera.
From our initial impressions, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 has improved image quality, improved handling, and an excellent and large electronic viewfinder. With the addition of built in Wi-Fi, improved handling and controls, as well as support for Four Thirds, and new PRO Micro Four Thirds lenses coming we think the Olympus OM-D E-M1 could be all the camera you’ll ever need, as well as being a significantly smaller complete package than traditional Digital SLR and lenses.
From Adorama‘s hands-on:
Grasp the Olympus OM-D EM-1 and you’ll immediately notice its substantial grip and build. A heavier camera than the EM-5, the EM-1 has a multitude of buttons and controls. The drive/HDR button, located on the left side of the top plate, provides quick access to burst rates and seven flavors of HDR exposure bracketing, including a setting that shoots up to 7 frames with a 2 EV spread or 5 frames with a 3 EV spread.
The bulk of navigation is done via thumb and forefinger dials atop the camera that are within easy reach. There’s a PASM dial that also includes access to iAuto mode, Art filters (12 total, along with an Art Bracket setting that automatically creates 12 different images with each filter applied) and 24 Scene settings, as well as multi-image montage templates (a feature introduced earlier this year in the Olympus E-P5) and movie mode.
The flip-out LCD monitor offers touch focus (touch the part of the picture you want in focus and it immediately snaps into focus), touch shutter release, etc. I found the LCD monitor to be bright and usable in sunlight. I also give high marks to the eye-level EVF, which projected excellent image quality with barely any “jaggies” when moving the camera (…)
I predict this camera will, like the EM-5, take the world of photography by storm, and will excite those who have been waiting for a new prosumer-level camera from Olympus. It offers ample customization to meet the needs of particular photographers, and lets you adjust image quality before, during, or after exposure. It has a fast enough burst rate to keep sports photographers happy and thanks to Olympus’s growing line of lenses, enough optic choices to meet a wide range of picture-taking needs. It is a premium camera that I believe will deliver outstanding results for demanding photographers.