The 2013 Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, part one: the camera

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The late-2013 OM-D E-M1 is the successor and upgrade to the very popular early-2012 OM-D E-M5. It’s now clear why the camera was launched with a mouthful of two names: OM-D is a line of products, E-Mx is the model. In this review, we will refer to them as E-M1 and E-M5 respectively to avoid confusion. As you all probably know, I’m very familiar with the E-M5; this camera has served as my travel and teaching camera for the last year, and has now clocked somewhere north of 40,000 exposures (I also reviewed it here). What’s changed in a year? Quite a lot, it seems: certainly enough to get excited about. There’s also a new confirmed lens – the 12-40/2.8 M.Zuiko PRO, available with the camera, and a matching f2.8 telephoto for next year.

This review will be in three parts for ease of reading (this part is already north of 4,400 words) – the camera itself, today; a relative comparison with two other benchmarks, tomorrow; and a review of one of the two lenses announced with the camera shortly thereafter – the 12-40/2.8 M.Zuiko PRO. A quick note on testing methodology: a range of lenses were used for the review, including the new 12-40, the 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD for 4/3rds, the 12, 45, 60 and 75mm primes, and the Panasonic 14-42X. You won’t find full size images here due to image theft/ IP issues; go by what I say not what you see – there’s an enormous difference between a small web JPEG that’s been attacked and oversharpened by Flickr’s downsizing algorithm and a full sized one or a RAW file in any case, plus of course the monitor matters. There will be 100% crops where noted, however.

A set of images shot with the E-M1 will be here on my flickr page, and continuously updated as I use the camera more.

Review updated 18 September to include comments on RAW file quality, post ACR 8.2 release.

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None of the headline spec is a surprise*: all-new Live-MOS 16MP sensor with phase detection AF on chip, a new image processor (TruePic VII), no AA filter, 10fps in AF-S mode, 6.5fps in AF-C tracking mode in conjunction with the PDAF system – and to make the most of that, the buffer is now 40 RAW frames at 10fps, or 51 at 6.5fps; that’s about as good as it gets at any level of product. Upgraded 5-axis system compared to the E-M5′s unit; similarly upgraded robustness and build quality – the entire camera is now magnesium alloy, instead of just the front and top plate. It’s supposedly more water- and dust-proof, in addition to being freeze-proof down to -10C. You’ll also have noticed the new inbuilt grip, which houses the wifi antenna – the camera acquires the remote abilities of the E-P5 (reviewed here) with extended control capabilities. We have a good old-fashioned PC sync port for use with studio strobes, too.

*I am very against leaks and rumours but I mixed up timezones for auto posting this morning (I’m on a location shoot all day) and accidentally posted an hour early. Mea culpa, and my apologies to Olympus and the other media – this was most certainly NOT intentional.

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I had to test it. You know, waving a red flag at a bull and all that – 10 minutes under a hot shower while powered on, sitting in about 1cm of standing water. All whilst intermittently shooting a frame or two, and no ill effects whatsoever afterwards. Impressive, to say the least.

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Body-in-white – all magnesium front/back/bottom, compared to just the top and front of the E-M5.

The EVF has been significantly upgraded too; it now uses the same panel from the excellent VF-4, which has near-double the resolution of the E-M5 (2.4m dots vs 1.4m) with dynamic brightness adjustment and much higher magnification. The tilting touch-sensitive LCD remains, but is now in a slightly thicker (and presumably more robust) housing than the E-M5. There’s also one neat electronic feature that stuck with me: the slightly confusingly-named color creator tool. On top of that, we have a new video algorithm with higher bitrate – 24mbps vs 18mbps – though still unfortunately 30p/60i not 25p/50i, and a standard 3.5mm mic-in port. On top of all of this, there are even more customisation options and extra function buttons than before.

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Let’s start with the important stuff: we now have phase detection AF capability on the sensor. In real terms, this means both much faster subject acquisition and the ability to track moving objects; in practice, the difference is quite noticeable. The camera is much more positive with acquiring and locking on to moving subjects, and the little ‘CDAF-jitter’ where the lens racks back and forth on the target to adjust for small changes in subject distance is mostly gone. There is a catch, though – the phase detect photosites don’t occupy the entire imaging sensor; instead they’re a diamond-shaped array of 37 points that cover a good portion of it; comparable to the best of the DX cameras, and much better than the full-frame ones. I’m told that the layout of the PDAF photosites was designed to minimize imaging data loss; instead of losing an entire line or or alternate pixel to AF, we have a diagonal grid array somewhat reminiscent of the Fuji SuperCCD which replaces a alternate green pixel on every alternate row. This allows the imaging data from that pixel to be interpolated from quite a number of neighbours. In practice, there is almost no noticeable degradation – you have to be shooting subjects with very high frequency detail at optimal resolving power to even suspect that something might be amiss.

**If you’re wondering about the lack of action photos in this review, it’s because the weather has been pretty bad during the testing period – I tracked some unexciting motorcycles and cars, but didn’t produce anything of visual interest whatsoever. In any case, given the popularity of the trees photoessay, I felt that perhaps a different subject to the usual urban/ street documentary might be welcome for this review; no doubt you’ll be seeing plenty of this style of image from me in future.

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With dedicated M4/3 lenses, the system still uses CDAF most of the time; it’s not until things start moving and you switch over to C-AF that the PDAF system takes over. It also appears that the camera now gets flummoxed far less by very bright point sources (blown = no contrast = no focus) – situations that left the E-M5 hunting will result in a jitter but eventual lock on the E-M1; presumably it’s switching over the the PDAF system here. It’s worth noting that the camera obviously tracks much better if your subjects stay within the PDAF area; outside that, behaviour reverts to conventional CDAF – which is to say, not very useful for continuously moving targets. (That said, it’s still better than a DSLR – once you exit the AF grid, you have no AF ability whatsoever.) However, with legacy 4/3 glass, the camera is always in PDAF mode; you can tell based on which AF grid option you’ve got displayed – the brackets or diamond shape is PDAF.

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There’s also the ability to add AF fine tune compensation for individual lenses, too. I had the opportunity to try an E-5 (itself no slouch at AF speeds) side by side against the E-M5 with the same lenses: I don’t see any difference in focusing speeds or ability to jump quickly and decisively to different subject distances. This is a huge bonus for legacy 4/3 system users: all your glass is now usable at normal speed again, and the new body is both more capable and smaller than the outgoing one. For M4/3 users, there may not be quite so much excitement about use of 4/3 lenses – until you start looking for high grade special purpose glass like the 50-200 SWD, 150/2, or the 90-250/2.8…

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Bottom line: “are we there yet” for mirrorless AF? I’d say nearly. C-AF isn’t as positive or snappy as the current generation (say D3/D4) but it’s certainly usable with care; about on par with the D200 generation, I’d say. We need one more round of iteration (or a judicious firmware update). The E-M5 was already at the cutting edge for single-AF speeds; the E-M1 is slightly faster there, and can now reliably track moving objects, too.

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Let’s talk about ergonomics, haptics and the all-important build-feel. First, bad news: the camera has definitely gotten bigger. Wider by about 1cm or thereabouts; height remains the same. Depth obviously increases because of the grip. Adding the vertical portion of the battery grip increases size significantly; the grip itself is twice the height of the E-M5′s unit. There’s also a new one-piece vertical grip (HLD-7); it’s deeper and taller than the E-M5′s unit, making the whole combination a bit bigger, but the ergonomics better. Having found the most comfortable setup for the E-M5 to be with the grip extension piece only, changing batteries annoyed me because this had to be removed before accessing the compartment in the camera; fortunately we can now shoot the naked E-M1 and change batteries easily without having to do this. I don’t have a D7100 or GH3 handy to compare, but I’d say the size is not far off either of these cameras now (also gripped-up, of course). Ergonomics are excellent either way, but I’m personally lamenting the fact that the camera is not ‘really small’ anymore but just ‘small’ – those of you with bags that fit perfectly may need to rethink your packing solutions.

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The body is now all-magnesium instead of just top and front plates; it’s slightly heavier, but not by much. The increased surface area has made for some welcome changes to ergonomics though – there’s now space for additional buttons, as well as an increase in size of the old ones. We get a dedicated drive mode/ HDR/ bracketing and AF mode/ metering buttons; the same two-position switch to control dial and button function (both positions being customizable, of course) a-la E-P5; the much-maligned top plate play and Fn1 buttons are now relocated and much larger (though I personally liked having those buttons next to each other because it made for easy review-zoom); the mode dial locks, and the power switch has now moved to the top left corner. The exposure mode dial is now on the right, easily accessible with your right thumb and forefinger. It also has a locking button to prevent accidental rotation. What I don’t understand is the choice of ‘auto’, ‘photo story’, ‘art’ and ‘scene’ modes on the dial – this is billed as being a professional camera. Surely Olympus could put all of the hipstagram faff onto one position and given us a couple of quick-access customizable slots? A shame, if you ask me; time for the black marker…

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My conversion from a color version; I’d say the camera’s native interpretation is pretty darn good.

There are two new shortcut buttons in front by the lens mount, too. It’s ergonomically better, but we can’t do single-hand power on-s anymore. In a final minor change, the control dials are angled and further apart – not that there was anything really wrong with the old ones. All in all though, I think the changes are positive: the camera really feels like a solid little brick in your hands, in a good way. This is a piece of equipment that says ‘professional use’- right down to the same spatter-finish magnesium paint as the single digit Nikons and Canons. The strap lugs are still unfortunately the D-ring type: whilst they don’t munch your hands like the OM-D and E-P5′s rings do, they transmit unnecessary amounts of noise to the body when recording video; I’d still prefer to have built in metal loops like the Canons.

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Another SOOC JPEG/ own conversion pair – bit more of a difference this time because I could selectively darken the green foliage…

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I’d always thought the EVF in the E-M5 was one of the better ones; until I used the VF-4 during the E-P5 review period. The E-M1′s EVF goes a step further: taking the same 2.4m dot panel, we now have dynamic brightness control which is supposed to render high contrast, bright and dark scenes with more natural-looking dynamic range. Whatever they’ve done, it seems to work. Whilst an EVF still cannot match a good optical finder on dynamic range, we’re getting ever closer with each iteration. On the colour, tonality and detail front – this is a notch above the previous model. And you can still adjust the color temperature of both EVF and LCD, which is a nice touch.

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SOOC or DIY conversion? If you’d guessed SOOC, you’d be right. I’m impressed.

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My conversion from color.

In a recent article on the future of the DSLR, one of the sticking points was viewfinder technology: I think those arguments are losing weight with every generation of EVF. The E-M1′s panel is now about the same size and magnification as the D800E; something impossible to do with a smaller sensor size simply because of the laws of physics – you’d land up sacrificing brightness or size since you have to make a smaller image area larger. On top of that, we of course have the ability to a) see actual depth of field* all the time, b) have dynamic information overlays, c) judge exposure and d) judge color. There’s a new tool called the Color Creator which takes advantage of this: effectively, it’s a live dynamic white balance and saturation shift; in conjunction with the live tone adjustments – effectively curves – you have an enormous and instantly visible ability to alter color balance to taste on the fly, just using the front and rear dials. It also allows you to apply color filter effects to B&W conversions – e.g. darkening blue skies with a red filter – by reducing saturation to zero and shifting the hue. In fact, with the quality of the new jpeg engine, it’s even one less reason to shoot RAW for most people.

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Screenshot of the color creator; normally there’s a live preview of the effects on the image underneath with the wheel overlaid on top, but it’s easier to see on a black background in a still. This overlay can be programmed onto any one of the OM-D’s many, many shortcut keys.

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*No SLR viewfinder shows actual depth of field; most of the time you’ll preview at around f4, or perhaps f2-2.8 if you’re using a dedicated manual-focus camera. Try it if you don’t believe me: notice how brightness of the finder and what’s in focus does not change much between f1.4 and f2.8 when using DOF preview. Sadly, focusing snap/ precision with fast lenses has been long sacrificed for brightness since the era of slow consumer zooms. There are few really good viewfinders out there now; even the ‘pro grade’ cameras are nowhere near as good as those of the film era.

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One of the key strengths of the E-M5 was its stabilizer – those of you who’ve been reading the site for some time will recall that I was not a big fan of the earlier incarnations in the E-PM1, E-PM2 and E-PL5; those were prone to creating a double image under certain conditions. The E-M5′s 5-axis stabilizer is the only one I think is good enough to match and even surpass lens-based IS systems. The E-M1 is equipped with an upgraded version of this, supposedly good for an additional stop – Olympus internally claims 5 stops vs 4 stops, most of the gains being visible at slower shutter speeds. I found in practice that the E-M1 was a bit better, but it’s tricky to quantify exactly how much better. Suffice to say that I think it’s still the best a) handheld video platform and b) manual focus platform for this reason. (Caveat: I have not used the GX7 and its sensor-stabilizer yet.) It’s therefore a shame that the auto-ISO implementation picks a rather high shutter speed by default – and you have no way of overriding this and setting your own minimum (multiples of 1/FL equivalent would be ideal); this means you land up using a higher ISO than you might otherwise be able to get away with, using the full capabilities of the stabilizer.

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SOOC JPEG – beautifully rich, accurate color.

The shutter unit itself is different: it’s based off the E-P5′s design, now reaches 10fps, has a higher 1/8000s maximum mechanical speed, and unfortunately isn’t as quiet as the E-M5 – the pitch seems to be a bit higher (it’s a ‘click!’ rather than a ‘thut’) probably because the blades have to move quite a bit faster to hit 1/8000s. That said, though overall volume/ vibration levels are about the same.

I’ve been shooting more and more video of late, both in conjunction with the workshop videos and creative direction work for clients; I’ll usually operate the second camera for pickups, run and gun etc. The E-M5 has been my choice for its stabiliser; I know of at least one local production house that’s seriously evaluating these cameras to add to their arsenal. The E-M1 is even better because we now have a dedicated MIC-IN port, higher data rate (24mbps vs 18mbps) and a new algorithm that reduces block noise in areas of gentle gradients/ solid colors, like skies. Unfortunately, we cannot choose frame rates: it’s 1080 30p/60i only; 1080p50 would be nice. Now for some good news: rolling shutter artefacts are almost entirely absent, and even though it shoots 30p/60i, we don’t have any nasty artefacts from artificial light sources – the flicker reduction system is quite effective.

12-40 comparison corner CA flare
Note complete lack of CA. 100% crops are here.

Olympus has implemented a new processing engine in the E-M1 called TruePicVII. Whatever the name, the processor does a few important things: corrects for CA and lens distortion based on profiles generated for individual lenses (unfortunately only Olympus 4/3 and M4/3 lenses at the moment, much like how Panasonic only offers in-body correction for its own lenses) and dynamic sharpening depending on lens’ resolving power to avoid oversharpening haloes. For the most part, it works; though there were a few instances with certain lenses where there was a bit too much CA for the system to remove. The processing algorithms apply only to JPEGs, though they can be retroactively applied to the RAW files too if you choose to use the Olympus raw converter. Sadly, I still firmly believe that none of the camera makers’ software can match the flexibility of the Photoshop suite; they should really just focus on building cameras and leave software to somebody else. Though the new imaging engine only works on SOOC JPEGs, though the effect is really quite noticeable – between this processor and the other hardware improvements on the sensor, images just have a bit more ‘bite’ than the E-M5 – which we shall see in part two tomorrow.

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ISO series – SOOC JPEG, NR off. 100% crops are here.

Good news: this camera produces the best SOOC JPEGs I’ve ever seen; the output is very similar to the E-P5 (which you’ll recall I was very impressed with), but with the added flexibility of the color creator to shift WB and saturation (or apply virtual filters to your B&Ws). Sharpening is sensitive and not overdone; detail is crisp and the microcontrast characteristics of the lens are preserved well. The sensor’s overall tonal response seem quite similar to the E-M5; however there’s about a stop more dynamic range in the shadows, and noise seems better controlled – somewhere between half a stop to a stop. I’d say ISO 3200 still delivers good quality, and ISO 6400 is usable – this with JPEG noise reduction off. More importantly though, there’s little chroma noise and almost no odd hue shifts in the shadows at higher sensitivities caused by amplifying different color channels unequally. Color has always been Olympus’ strong trait; no exception here. Auto white balance is better than ever; it seems to have a slightly wider operating range specifically lower down in the Kelvin scale, making it able to better accommodate incandescent sources. The majority of the JPEGs in this review are straight out of camera; there are a few examples where I’ve processed a color file to compare against a SOOC B&W, and I think you’ll probably agree that the results are actually surprisingly close.

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ISO 6400 SOOC JPEG. A good amount of the red channel info is retained, and there’s remarkably little chroma noise or odd hue shifts.

Bad news, though: given that I was unable to run the raw files through my preferred ACR workflow (there’s obviously no ACR support at the moment), this portion on image quality is therefore based of JPEG output and is preliminary – I will update this later as soon as Adobe releases an update for the E-M1. 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.

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Updated 18 September: Now that ACR 8.2 has support for the E-M1′s raw files, I’ve gone back through the archive, reprocessed a few and had another look at the overall file quality. Fundamentally, the good news is that none of the observations really change: underlying sensor quality remains excellent, and a small but distinct step up on the E-M5′s sensor. There is a definite gain in edge acuity and ability to resolve fine detail; the high ISO noise improvement is not as pronounced as with the JPEGs, but the red channel especially shows clear signs of improvement in luminance noise, color accuracy and tonal separation. I would estimate the advantage of the newer sensor to be about half a stop up to ISO 1600, and XX beyond that. At lower ISOs, the reality is that the photographer’s exposure accuracy and shot discipline will make more of a tangible difference in image quality for most users. At higher ISOs, the E-M1 shows noticeable reduction in blue channel noise over the older sensor, though I think the overall difference still remains about half a stop; perhaps a little more if you also take into consideration the file’s increased ability to handle noise reduction and still deliver the same output acuity due to the lack of an AA filter.

I also looked hard for evidence of missing pixel interpolation (due to loss of some image-making photosites to the PDAF array) but wasn’t able to see it; perhaps it might be more visible with certain high-frequency repeating patterns, but unfortunately the camera has now gone back to Olympus, so further testing will have to wait until my own cameras arrive. However, we can safely conclude with a few observations: firstly, the new sensor is an improvement. Secondly, there’s a lot more latitude to work with in than with the JPEGs (as good as they are) at the extreme ends of the tonal range; the additional acuity from the removal of the AA filter is noticeable, and finally, the Olympus RAW files are an excellent starting point for B&W conversions – as was the case with the E-M5.

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A quick note on battery life: the E-M1 uses the same batteries as the E-M5 (good news, you won’t have to buy new spares). I averaged about 500 frames per charge, which is about 20-25% less than the E-M5, though it’s worth noting that I was always using a mix of 4/3 and M4/3 glass; I suspect the 4/3 glass is significantly more power hungry as there are larger motors moving heavier elements around. You’d probably get better battery life using native M4/3 glass exclusively – I’ve recorded up to 2,300 images on one battery (!) with the E-M5 in the past – shooting normally, long exposures, a decent amount of chimping etc.

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On the subject of use with legacy 4/3 lenses: I get the impression that the camera was developed with these users in mind; it’s been a long, long time since the last proper update to the proper 4/3rds line (I’ve been assured this isn’t dead, and an E-7 is in the works – update: my misunderstanding of the material presented. There was an E-7 design study, which may or may not happen.). The camera itself is physically a bit larger; larger than it needs to be to fit all of the (enlarged) buttons in, but at the same time quite similar in size to the earlier E-420 and E-520 cameras. The obvious question of whether legacy glass makes sense: for existing 4/3 system owners looking for an upgrade, there’s no question that the E-M1 is quite a few notches ahead of the E-5. For M4/3 owners, there are certain special purpose lenses that are available for 4/3 (and M4/3 with the adaptor) that might be of interest – specifically the pro telephotos – 55-200/2.8-3.5 SWD, the 150/2, the 90-250/2.8 and 300/2.8 – that aren’t available for M4/3. Performance of these lenses remains excellent on M4/3; this review was shot with a mixture of native M4/3 and 4/3 glass. Using the normal range zooms with an adaptor doesn’t make a lot of sense – native mount options are available and physically smaller.

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Time to wrap up. The OM-D has matured. It’s no longer a ‘cute’ but serious camera; it’s now matured and grown into a even more of a workhorse. It’s no longer small; in fact, it’s similarly sized to my F2 Titan (which is of course full frame). The upshot is that the camera balances much better with the larger 4/3 lenses, especially with the vertical grip attached; but it’s also ergonomically a bit more comfortable especially for people with larger hands – a kind of Goldilocks. This is a complex camera; one that will take time to master and even just to work out the optimum configuration for – and I plan to post an update in due course after a bit of time shooting with it properly, and once ACR supports its raw files.

One note on price – at $1399 for the body, it’s a lot higher than the E-M5 was, dangerously into high-end APSC territory. No question: I think it’ll be the biggest stumbling block to this camera’s success. The inclusion of amateur modes on the mode dial makes me question the target audience somewhat – I think the camera should have been a no-compromises tool either way, and for the most part, they’ve succeeded. Price is one of the things I hit the GH3 for; it had pro aspirations and pro pricing, but fell a bit short in several areas like size and viewfinder quality – though it makes for an very good specialized video tool. As we’ll see tomorrow in part two, there’s no real direct competition – it’s tough to figure out what the relative value/ pricing should be. At least a bit of the grip you had to previously buy with the E-M5 is now included…

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If you’ve come away from this review thinking I’m feeling pretty positive, that’s because I am; 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 stabiliser, smaller physical size) finally coming together into one package. Perhaps the whole review is best summed up as this: you’ll know that I simply don’t have the time to review things that aren’t interesting or relevant for my personal or commercial work; however, on the basis of my evaluation over the last week, I’ve ordered a pair of E-M1s – one for set up for stills, and one for video work. MT

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is available for preorder here from B&H and Amazon.
The Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO is available for preorder here from B&H and Amazon.

Finally, a big thank you to Olympus Malaysia for the loan and advance preview of the camera. They are also running a touch and try launch event for users on 21/22 September – I will be in Europe unfortunately – but you can register here. The camera itself is available for preorder directly here; I’m told that worldwide public availability is set for end of October.


Enter the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards here – there’s US$35,000 worth of prizes up for grabs, it’s open to all ASEAN residents, and I’m the head judge! Entries close 31 October 2013.


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  1. Wow! Amazing and very detailed review! I can’t wait for Part 2! On a side note, I think the EM-1 is more like the successor for the E-5, not the EM-5. I am led to believe that Olympus will be upgrading the EM-5 to an EM-6 next year and keeping that class apart from the “PRO EM-1″ series.

  2. Ming, How would you compare the shooting experience with a camera like this as compared to an FX DSLR? I realize the DSLR has less DOF, and other measurable attributes. What I am really asking about is the subjective side. Does it change the way you do things or how subjects react during street photography? This camera looks pretty nice, but so does the Fuji X series, especially now with a 23mm f/1.4 lens.

  3. Great review Ming, looking foward for the other parts.
    i would love to see you doing a review for the GX7, Panasonic should handed over one to you.
    Cheers from Chile

  4. Hi Ming. I have been following developments in mirror-less for some time now. I shoot birds-in-flight a lot. I would value, as i’m sure many others would, your views on the fast AF and would this enable the 100-300 lens be more effective. Are we challenging APS yet for birds in flight photography? Many thanks for your review.

    • Honestly, I can’t say as I haven’t had the chance to test it. Gut feel based on its response to other moving subjects says ‘better than E-M5, but not as good as D7100′ for now. Part of this I suspect is the lens, though, which in itself isn’t that fast a focuser.

  5. Jorge Balarin says:

    Well, I’m seriously thinking about jumping in the M4/3 wagon.
    Being almost a complete ignorant of that system, and now that new “Legacy 4/3″ glass is in the game, I would like to have a list of the better lenses to use with the OM-DE-M1, comparing them with what Nikon offers for the same focal lenghts (the equivalent focal lenght). Wich are better ?

  6. Ming, great review and thanks for the time put into it. Did you by chance find any fast mving objects or sports to shoot with that new lens or any of the MF3 lenses? Also, is that HDR button for in camera HDR or will it do multi exposures so they can handled later in post?

    • Some test shots with cars/ motorbikes, nothing of artistic merit. I noted that in the review. It tracks uniformly moving subjects fine; erratic ones like sportsmen – no idea, I don’t shoot sport (and wouldn’t be the best person to comment on that anyway as it’s the one thing I’ve never really shot properly).

      HDR button is for in-camera HDR.

  7. Ming, don’t feel obliged to answer this one, as it’s less a question and more an observation (and you’re a busy guy!). I’ve read this review through a few times now. I was watching a video review of the new Canon 70D and it struck me that DSLR manufacturers don’t seem to be trying to push the envelope like the mirrorless and 4/3rds manufacturers are. The DSLR approach seems, by and large, to be just to improve on what’s already there, and just enough to merit the difference in price for the new model. Apart from taking the AA filter out of the 800E, I can’t think of the last time a DSLR had a really interesting new development. The mirrorless and 4/3 markets seem to be really trying to innovate: things like Fuji’s dual viewfinder, Olympus’ insanely good stabiliser, the combination of contrast and phase detect AF options, focus peaking, the continual improvement in EVFs, customisability, and so on. For sure DSLRs are older and more “mature”, and a lot of these improvements can’t be applied to them as they don’t have EVFs, but in comparison it looks like they’re treading water to an extent.

    Just thinking out loud, be interested to hear from any of the blog readers.

    • Absolutely agreed: the reasons is that for the moment, there’s no commercial incentive to do so. DSLRs are still selling well on their own. There was a lot of discussion in is topic on the ‘Denise of the DSLR’ article about a week or so ago – might be worth reading if you haven’t already seen it.

    • I get exactly the same vibes, Mark.

      There’s no reason that SLRs should lose to mirrorless, from a position of market dominance, other than maker hubris and complacency. I can see how it’s difficult for them though –> the SLR is an entrenched standard now, change it too much [under the same name and concept] and you just annoy people. Be careful of making “the flying car!”
      Better to start fresh in a new category with a new product. Canon and Nikon, both offer mirrorless cameras, I think their [longterm] mistake is putting the brandnames “Canon” and “Nikon” on them. It’s what Microsoft always do: buy some successful business or product, slap their name on it in massive letters thinking this will boost sales; then their smiles sag as they watch sales plummet. Another word for it is “believing your own legend.” As soon as you think your name is all it takes [all it really takes], you’re toast.

      Think Toyota and Lexus, etc., that’s perhaps what the makers most associated with “DSLR” should’ve done. But I agree, sales figures aside and just on outward appearances: the mirrorless makers seem to be trying much, much harder for our dollar than DSLR makers do.

      • Simple economics again: one set of companies has no choice but to sell and survive, the others have a fallback and are sitting pretty. Wy cannibalize your own sales, or worse still, educate and convince consumers that mirrorless is better – and have them go to a competitor because your product is inferior?

  8. Another questions in regard to the flash sync speed. With the E5 you can only sync at 1/250 with the tiny flash that comes with the camera. 1/200 with the fl600r and 1/160 with the fl50r. Can you advise how this has changed with the E1. Much appreciated.

  9. Richard Wong says:

    Hi Ming Thein, great review. Always enjoy them and your great pictures. Did you notice whether one can adjust aperture, shutter speed and iso while videoing? I believe the touchscreen can be use to change focus point which is one up on the EM5. Thanks!

  10. Gary Morris says:

    Can you briefly explain why you pick a 4/3 camera system over a full-frame system.

    I noted that you’ve ordered two of this new camera.


    • Size, weight, sufficient image quality, robustness, speed, the stabiliser. I think I covered all of this in the review.

      • Gary Morris says:

        I think part 2 of this review went a long way to answering my question. Size, weight, etc. advantage are a given when comparing say a 5DM2 and 400mm lens vs the new M1 and a 200mm lens (with 400mm equivalent). I was more interested in the quality of the image from a FF sensor vs. a sensor that’s half the size. Part 2 of your review went a long way via your comparisons towards increasing my comfort level that the sensor in the M1 is up to the task of recording good imagery (vs. a FF sensor).

        Suggestions for lenses in the 200mm-400mm size for the M1 (I guess in the 4/3 world this would be 100mm-200mm)?

  11. Thank you for an excellent review. Have you sharpened the images in this post? There seems to be a very grainy (not film type grain) texture to most of them, as if they had been over sharpened. If this is just a post production effect then it is of no concern, but if results from processing internal to the camera, this could be a problem. Thanks again for the review.

  12. I also thought that the inclusion of ‘fluff’ modes on the dial was a mistake for a ‘pro’ camera. However, it seems that you can assign mysets to these extra modes – if that’s true then they’ll be useful after all.

  13. Thomas Henry Halifax says:

    I work for a major retailer and I can tell you that the EM-5 was not “very popular”. It has not sold well at all because it is priced too high for its small sensor. This problem with sales has contributed to the massive Olympus losses in their camera and imaging division. Sales have been very poor despite good ratings and articles. It’s the price that is the problem.

  14. Of the immediate “post-NDA” reviews, you write up was by far the most thorough and well thought out. Thank you for using part 2 to put the E-M1 in context of not just the mirrorless world, but today’s SLRs as well. I would like to pre-order one at BH and give you the affiliate credit, but I cannot find the camera+12-40 lens combo on B&H yet. Please post it to your blog when it becomes available. Thanks!

    • Thanks – I take my reviews seriously. As for the referral link – if you click through any of the places that say ‘B&H’, then I’ll automatically have the referral credited from anything you buy directly after that. Thanks for your support!

      • The sense of context you bring from film cameras of yore and digital cameras of today is what separates your blog from the rest. Which is all the more impressive since you are younger than 40, ostensibly too young to “remember” the Nikon Titan, among others.

        It appears that B&H is selling the E-M1 camera and the 12-40 lens separately, but not together. It’s strange to me, because the combo was so heavily emphasized during the E-M5 and and E-P5 launches.

        • Thank you. I don’t remember the Titan, but since I learned a good portion of the craft on a plain F2A, I certainly feel the emotional nostalgia towards it :)

          At the end of the day: it’s the image that counts, and that doesn’t change. Gear is merely the tool; pick the tool that makes your job easier and go do the job, I say.

  15. Thank you for this comprehensive review. I have been waiting for an E-7, as I have a full complement of 4/3s lenses. I am very interested in this new camera, my question is this: does using the MMF-3 adapter affect the focal length or native F-stop of an attached 4/3s legacy lens?

    • No, it doesn’t. And the E-7 was a design study, not a development model – my mistake in interpreting the material given.

      • Ming Thein, are you confirming that a 4/3 “E-7″ is no longer in the works? I had read earlier on you mentioned that Olympus assured you that it was in the development. So, this is no longer true? Thanks!

        • Miscommunication in the presentation I was shown. There was a design study but they decided for now that the E-M1 serves both markets – and I agree…having an additional DSLR would be rather pointless.

          • Agree, unless Olympus indeed have a secret plan to release the 4/3 top dog the next 2-3 month with a 20 megapixel or more model. Strategically that’s the only way it can be done, otherwise farewell 4/3, E-5 is the last of its breed.

  16. Great extensive review, this product could be great, especially with sigma lenses.

  17. Trackback:
    Reinhard Wagner opens Bitchfight.
    “MingThein allowed to take the camera for more than half an hour in hand. He writes in English. And you do not touch: he complains that the camera is an inch larger than the E-M5. Hey – the camera include the large bags! Compared to the E-5 she is still slim. And – oh, oh dear – at the same time he complains, “That’s a pro camera, what is the art filters have to look at the mode dial?”. Ming: a) work with it, then you’ll know it. and b) you can of course put on a MyMode, if you’re funny.
    But what has really shocked me: he sees FT-glass needs of only 50-200, 150s, 90-250 and 300. Otherwise, there are lighter and smaller in MFT. Oh dear. Where there is a 12-60 for MFT? A 11-22? A 7-14 in this quality? A 35-100? Not even a 14-54 I see somewhere ….”

    • I’m not even going to bother replying that one. Somebody who ‘reviews’ a camera who can’t even be bothered to take a halfway decent product photograph is a waste of my time. Besides, Wolfgang replied for me :)

  18. Hi Ming..great review and awesome that you are answering questions here knowing that your a busy bloke…one question..Im a hobbiest and have a Nikon d800 with a 24-70 and 70-200 plus 50mm 1.8g…am I mad to be considering selling all this and buying a EM1..?…big question I know LOL …I do like the crop ability of the d800 and image quality but hate the weight and size of it all…cheers mate ..Steve

    • Not really. How often do you print over 24″ wide? You have to make quit enormous prints to tell the difference between the cameras. And that assumes you’re extracting the most out of both, and have good shot discipline etc. It’s easier to be pixel-sharp with the E-M1 because of the sensor and lower number of pixels per degree FOV.

  19. Ming you may wish to see this. Has he manipulated these image samples? Swapped them.

    • Yes, I made a mistake originally so I replaced the images last night. The filenames show that. _5 is the E-M5, _ET is the E-M1. If people want to hack at my images and do silly things, not much I can do about it…

  20. Of course the elephant in the room is still the sensor size. Spending that kind of money on a small sensor might be okay for special purpose photography like making photos of watches all day. But ultimately m4/3 will never bring about the demise of DSLRs. Even the Fuji X line (which actually seems much more promising going ahead than this is) with its gorgeous colours [You think Olympus colours are better? Really? Try photographing people.;)] won’t do that.
    As long as mirrorless is way more expensive than entry- and mid-level DSLR’s I just don’t see the appeal. Oh, right… size…

    • Actually, to the contrary: I need tilt-shift lenses and high resolution for commercial product photography, which is why I use the D800E.

      And yes, I do photograph people.

    • Indeed the Olympus colors are natural and stunning and coupled with its lenses not only are they sharp, but offer extremely fast and accurate focusing. No, this is not about watch photography, but street photography. Think again, what system out there can offer such a camera system at such a price point and is impervious in a monsoon storm.

    • Working tracking focus, pro build quality, huge viewfinder are all great pluses. It’s good enough to be a pro camera–I would take my E-M5 on almost any project I’ve done in the last two years) Sadly, Olympus is doomed to be a niche player:

      1) Sensor size prejudice – enthusiast and pro are convinced that full frame 35mm is the only legitimate size.
      1b) Current short DOF trend – Cinematic, wafer thin DOF is in vogue right now. “f/8 and be there” is an anathema to the young photographer. You have to get faster than f/2 or longer than 40mm on mft to pull off a fashionably short DOF.

      2) OVF prejudice/preference – no matter how fast the refresh rate, how big the magnification, or how much additional information you can overlay, many American photographers seem instantly repulsed by an EVF. I love them, but you have to admit it’s an acquired taste for most. Every SLR owner who tries out my OM-D is shooting granny style within two minutes…they just don’t like EVF’s.

      3) Lens Legacy Inertia – most of the serious photographers already own good bodies and glass from Canon or Nikon–they have 80% market share collectively. Staying within brand is not only more comfortable, it’s less expensive. Heck, I love mirrorless, but I held onto my Canon gear because no system is perfect for everything.

      4) Retail distribution – Olympus has a hard time competing for shelf space with Canon, Nikon and Sony. (Though Panasonic has it even worse)

      • 1) Ultimately for pros, results matter, because that’s what the clients pay for. Most enthusiasts frankly have far more camera than skill.
        1b) For weddings, maybe. Even in real cinema it’s mostly about lighting than super-shallow DOF; too little DOF means no context and zero storytelling ability. I know, because I’ve spent a lot of time exploring this style.

        2) Personal preference. The new EVF frankly makes the E-M5 look a little coarse, though I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it personally until I spent a lot of time with the E-M1…

        3) True; don’t confuse that with lens quality/ suitability. I had to completely change almost all of my lenses post-D800/D800E; a lot of them simply weren’t up to the task.

        4) Also true.

  21. Reblogged this on stuartpics and commented:
    Just what I’ve been waiting for

  22. Hi, Would it be worth selling of the OMD EM 5 with 12-35 and buy the EM 1 with 12-40?

    • Can’t answer that as I have no idea what you intend to use it for, how you shoot, or what your current limitations are. In general though: if your current equipment isn’t holding you back, then there’s no need to.

  23. Hi, and thank you for the great review(s) and articles in general. ON the EM1 is there an improvement in the menu system to go along with all of those extra function buttons? That’s one of the things that I never liked about the OMD. Too much menu work. Thanks!

  24. Kevin Sutton says:

    Hi, I really enjoyed reading your review of the E-M1.
    Did you get a chance to evaluate the HDR modes at all? Page 59 of the manual shows that the camera can now capture 5 frames in 3EV steps but it is not clear if they can be stored as RAW files for processing in third-party programs like Photomatix. If you could check that out, I would really appreciate it.

    • Bracketing and HDR options are separate. Bracketing will save a raw, HDR will combine them for you.

      • Timur Born says:

        And HDR automatically switches to Sequential L, while bracketing can be used with any drive mode. Unfortunately bracketing still seems to be hidden within the menu system, if I didn’t miss something while evaluating this at an Olympus event.

        • You can put bracketing on one of the top left buttons, or on any of the Fn buttons. Ditto HDR.

          • Timur Born says:

            Thanks for the hint! :) Which again goes to show that the externally hired “Olympus” employees at the events sometimes know less about the cameras than the users. I specifically looked into these things with one of the “Olympus” guys looking over my shoulder, but we both missed to take a look at the button customization for that specific function. And he generally seemed to be quite at a loss as to what I was looking for anyway (HDR vs. bracketing).

            It’s not an Olympus specific phenomena, though. I know that at last Photokina the “Fujifilm” folks at the presentation tables were externally hired, too. On the other hand the service guys at the Olympus booth were genuine Olympus support employees, while Fujifilm did not even offer any kind of service point. One more reason why I did not invest (more) money into a Fujifilm system, but did so with Olympus.

            • As with all of these things, it really depends on who you’re dealing with. I’m pretty sure part of the reason we land up with the systems we do is influence of friends and points of contact, as much as inertia afterwards…

  25. Pericles Petalas says:

    Congratulations for your great reviews. I would like to ask you, all other considerations aside, which lens is of superior optical quality: the 12-40mm or the 12-60mm. Thank you in advance, Paul

    • Thanks. The 12-40, definitely.

      • Christiane (aka rrr_hhh) says:

        Good news ! I don’t want the bulk and weight of the 12-60mm.

        • Timur Born says:

          The 12-40/2.8 natively shows some considerate barrel distortion at its wide end, though. So some resolution is lost due to software correction. On the other hand it seems to make up with lots of resolution to begin with and seems to be more of a native 11 mm lens than 12 mm, so one can abuse that fact in some situations. ;)

  26. Peter Boender says:

    My Nikon DSLR bodies are set up with the AF decoupled from the shutter button (with the D300 I use the dedicated AF-ON button for this). When used at first, it takes a little bit of getting used to, but after that I got used to the advantages and it became my preferred way of shooting. When I got my E-M5, I initially tried to set it up in that same manner, and although it is technically feasible, I found the fiddling with the small buttons on the back of the E-M5 a disaster. Also, bad dexterity, my thumb had to move in awkward positions. So, I put AF back on the shutter release again and started using spotmetering, like you taught me in New York :-) Now, with the advent of the E-M1, the button layout has changed, as well as the size of the buttons and the body itself. Did you try to use the E-M1 with a decoupled AF setup? The Fn1 button seems an obvious choice for this at that top right corner of the body… I’m curious…

    • Actually, the E-M1 has the same setup limitations as the E-M5; the L-Fn button works as AF-Stop though. In any case, I just set it up like the E-M5 and shot away happily…

      • Maybe I am missing something here, but I have setup my E-M5 to do the following:
        shutter release does not do AF, pressing the FN1 button does AF whenever I press it, for as long as I press it. If I focus manually the image gets magnified for a moment, then goes back to full frame. I find this perfect (but my fingers did take a few days to learn to find that small button quickly).

        I’ve described the menu setting for this behavior at (look for “The Perfect Auto-Focus Setting”).

        • Peter Boender says:

          Hey Bojidar. IMHO you don’t miss anything here… ;-) I had my E-M5 set up exactly like you are describing. However, I couldn’t get used to the small buttons and the strange moves my thumb had to make, so it didn’t work out for me. Also, I’m using the HLD-6 grip, as I tend to shoot quote a bit of verticals. For obvious reasons, I wanted the same button setup for the grip. This can be done, but the buttons are in a different relative position (as compared to the camera body), so it pretty hard to get some muscle memory. I reverted to AF on the shutter release, together with spot metering. Now I point, focus and meter, hold the half press shutter release and then recompose and shoot. Works for me. I was wondering about the E-M1 from a handling (dexterity) standpoint. I’ll find out when I get mine… :-)

          • Christiane (aka rrr_hhh) says:

            This is the way I used to shoot with my Canon bodies as well and I’m using decoupled AF on the E-M5 too (and E-P3 before that). The E-P3 had a better ergonomic for me. Nevertheless, AF isn’t the main problem I have on the E-M5 since I have set AF on the Rec button. Now with the magnifier/multifunction on Fn2 and the AF on rec the E-M5 works perfectly for AF just moving my index finger between the Fn2 and Rec button (that is without the grip, the grip change the buttons accessibility). What I resent is the position of the main wheel in the back : unlike on the E-P3, I have to change the position of my right hand to rotate it and it slows me down.

            • Christiane, on the E-M5 you can switch the functions of the main and secondary dials. Maybe that will help you with the ergonomics a bit?

              • Thank you, I know that, but I use both the Aperture and Exp. comp. wheels frequently, so one or the other has to remain uncomfortable. The problem is that I have relatively short fingers and I can’t reach the second wheel with my thumb without moving the palm. I wonder if those wheels are easier to access on the E-M1 than on the E-M5 ? I bought the grip for the E-M5, but in the end don’t use it because I find that : 1) it makes the camera much heavier, even with only the horizontal part. 2) the Fn and Rec buttons then are positionned too far back for me. The Fn1 button then becomes more accessible, but still not as accessible for me as the Rec button without grip.
                But I like the E-M5 a lot nevertheless :-) . It is just that I found the ergonomic of the E-P3 more suited to my hands.

  27. The new image “Hotel emp” is truly stunning!

  28. Could you explain why one would need the AF fine tune compensation for individual lenses if the PDAF is on the sensor? I thought having PDAF on the sensor obviates the need to adjust each lens. Thank you

  29. On the EM-1, can you have your eye to the EVF and press the playback button and see your images IN the EVF rather than having them always on the LCD such as with the EM-5?

  30. Thanks for the review Ming! Do you think you will be keeping your E-M5s when your E-M1s arrive or is it still to early to decide? I think I am going to get an E-M1 with the 12-40 in December when the 12-40 is available (I will order through your referral link). I am considering getting a 17 1.8 too because I like that focal length, but I am wondering if the E-M1′s size kind of defeats the point of having such a small lens. For that lens, I was thinking the E-M5 may be better suited. I appreciate your insight and opinion and hope you are doing well.

  31. GREGORIO Donikian says:

    I love my d800 and The Nikon system, i Also deep in love with The fuji x100. I Also have 5 miCro 4/3lenses since The gf1 i Just dont want to growi another system that is more and more expensive everyday and at The end of The day The filmes are not a nice as The d800


  32. “The body is now all-magnesium ”

    If the body was all magnesium, it would explode. It’s made from an allow that’s mostly aluminum, but calling it “aluminum” doesn’t as fancy as calling it “magnesium alloy.” Soda cans are made from a magnesium alloy also, so I’m not impressed.

    • Huh? No, it wouldn’t. There were magnesium F1 engine blocks that didn’t explode because they were properly cooled. I have some experience with materials, have personally seen and handled the raw body shells, and they’re definitely magnesium.

  33. Hi Ming! I know you said as a busy commercial photographer you don’t have time to be bothered with looking at the Lumix GX7. However, you did previously review the Panasonic LX7, and were actually quite complimentary, relatively speaking. I think a lot of people are curious to know how the GX7 stacks yo against the E-M1, and there is probably nobody who could provide that assessment better than you. Might you reconsider? Thanks!

  34. Thank you for your insightful reviews and the unique perspective you project.I have an EM-5 and will add an EM-1 to be able to use the 50-200 4/3 lens.I am going on a safari next September and hope that lens will serve me well.I have used a Panny 100-300 and have on Oly 75-300 4.8 lens and were not happy with the results.Hopefully the 50-200 will focus ok and yield the IQ i felt was missing on the other 2 zooms(the added aperture speed will be welcome).Any thoughts on whether the 12-40 Oly is superior enough to the Panny 12-35 for me to switch?Thanks for your time.

  35. Ad v.d. Biggelaar says:

    Hi Ming,

    I loved to read your reviews about the E-M1 and lenses.
    But now I have a question about the number of pics you can make with one battery charge.
    You wrote you make about 500 per charge average, with a top of 2300 (!!).
    Do you do that with the original battery?
    Is your set up the same as factory set up or have you made special set ups to come to these numbers?
    In the beginning with my E-M5 I reached to about 250 pictures.
    Now, a bit more than a year later, the max is 180.
    Am I doing something wrong? (I have two original batteries and two other)
    Please, explain me your way and let me learn.

  36. Sorry, I am coming relatively late to this, but I have a question you might be able to answer, Ming. The camera looks very attractive and might even be good enough for me to decide to leave my DSLR at home most of the time – and because of the reduced weight of the whole system that’s very attractive (not to mention IBIS etc.). However, I thought the same about the E-M5 and in the end it did not quite happen, and that was partly because of the eye sensor of the EVF. I do a lot of walk-around photography, sometimes all day from morning until night, and for that I need the camera in a position where I can very quickly grab it and shoot (street photography) but carrying it in my hand all day is not an option either. So I have the camera around my neck. The problem with the E-M5 was that this places the EVF against my side or belly and no matter what I tried it constantly activated the EVF (and therefore also IBIS etc.), draining the battery quickly. As a result I barely managed to get to 200 shots on one battery maximum, with all power saving features set to the extreme (and that was just after a few hours of shooting). I take it you haven’t encountered any such issues with the E-M1 or any advice what I could do, as it seems you never had these issues with the E-M5 either? I am considering to get the GX7 because I could flip up the EFV which hopefully would not trigger the sensor all the time, despite the GX7 not supporting Auto-ISO in manual mode, which I use a lot for street shooting at night. Switching the camera or the EVF on and off all the time is not an option as that risks missing the decisive moment and it is also not much fun.
    Sorry for the rambling question, but I value your hand-so approach to camera reviews.

    • Turn the camera off between shots. The eye sensor on the E-M1 is a lot better than the E-M5 and doesn’t seem to switch so frequently. Or, you can leave it permanently set to one or the other display – hold down the switching button.

      • Thanks for getting back to me so quickly, Ming. Setting the camera permanently to EVF is what I would do anyway (for most occasions that is) but as longs as the eye sensor thinks my shirt is my eye the camera will just be constantly on – it would be great of the eye sensor would not just sense that there is something close to the EVF but would actually be able to tell it is an eye, as the name eye sensor implies. Good to hear that the sensor is better now. So far every EVF I have tried failed because it kept the camera awake all the time when hanging from my neck against my shirt.

  37. David RAYBIN says:

    Quick question. I have heard of full frame sensor that equates to a film 35 mm camera. Is this camera full frame or some reduced size. Thanks Great review by the way

  38. Hi Ming,

    Thanks once again for a fantastic review.
    I was interested in the EM-5 but found it was too ‘dinky’ for me.
    Thinking back (so many years now) the OM 1N that I had was ‘just right’.
    Any ideas how the EM-1 stacks up against the OM 1 IRO ‘handling’ (size, mass, ergonomics)?

  39. Does the EM-1 have anything over and above something like a Nikon D7100, aside from the fact that it’s smaller? I keep balking at the price, which is on-par with the 7100 – a camera that seems better in every respect. Whats the story there?

    • It’s not better in every respect. In fact, it’s better in very few. I compared the E-M1 to the D600, which is arguably better than the D7100. Even that choice is not clear. I suggest you read the article.

  40. Ming, I got my E-M1 yesterday, love it so far, but for one detail.

    It’s impossible to turn the LCD/EVF completely OFF.

    When I turn the LCD off, it remains “illuminated” (very dark grey, but lit; not completely “off”) until I bring the camera to my eye; then the EVF comes on and the LCD goes “off.”

    Olympus Tech Support directed me to the “J. Built-In EVF” menu and instructed me to turn “EVF Auto Switch to “OFF.” That turns off the LCD when it’s not in use, but it turns the EVF on permanently (unlike E-M5 – in that model, when LCD is “off”, EVF only comes on when camera is at my eye).

    The one drawback to this camera that I noticed using it last night is that it drains the battery pretty quickly – an issue in part because they haven’t shipped my battery grip yet. So I’m looking for the setting that turns all the viewfinders/LCDs OFF when I’m not using the camera to conserve battery power.

    The guy at Olympus Tech Support told me it was “designed that way,” which strikes me as pretty dumb.

    Is this the way your E-M1 works? Is there a setting that will make the interchange between LCD and EVF work the way it does in the E-M5?

    • Lucky you – Malaysia isn’t getting any until November, I’m told.

      I was able to set up the E-M1 exactly like my E-M5, but that has the panel on all the time until you put it up to your eye (or have it set to EVF only – hold down the display button for the menu). I just turn the camera off between shots; you can easily get 600+ shots per charge, again, like the E-M5.

  41. Ming, do you know if there is a way to set the lever control on the back of the E-M1 to choose between S-AF and C-AF? Lever selection “Mode 5″ switches the AF mode between customized AF settings L1 and L2, and some how I got that set so that L1 is S-AF and L2 is Manual. Now I want to change that so that L2 is C-AF, but I can’t figure out how to set the “customized AF settings” – and I can’t find it in the AF/MF menus, either. Being able to switch quickly btw S and C AF would very handy – if it can be done… ??

    • You just set up the AF how you want, move the lever, set it up again – now switching it back and forth will switch between the last two settings for each position.

  42. I currently own an old Canon APSC Rebel and find myself torn between moving up to a FF 5DM3 or 6D, or moving to M43. The 5DM3 makes the EM1 look like a bargain, especially when you consider lenses. Size matters to me, but so does low light performance (for shooting concerts, weddings, casual family events) thinking both of focus speed and noise at higher ISO. But I also value size, weight, and ongoing cost of lenses. My Canon glass collection is modest: a very old 70-200 2.8 (pre-white color), 1.8 non L in 28, 50 and 85mm, a Rokinon fisheye, and a bunch of crap zooms that I no longer like. The cost of a 5DM3 and a 24-70 2.8 would probably come out to about the same as an EM1 and a whole lot of new glass, or a little glass and a second body. Any advice?

    • Raw sensor quality is much better on the E-M1 than even APS-C from just a few years ago. Add some f1.8 primes, take into account effectiveness of the stabilization, and you’ve probably got a similar shooting envelope to a 5DIII and f2.8 zoom.

  43. Olymp Hemden says:

    Great pictures! Fantastic!

    Bene from Olymp Level 5

  44. Hi, what do you think about this NR Off + Long exposure issue with E-M1?
    see cablefreak post at

    In short it says that e-m1 behaves different (produces distracting noisy images) compared to e-m5 (or other m4/3 cameras usingthat sensor) when using long exposure + noise reduction is turned off.

    • If you’re shooting jpeg it means post-capture digital NR is truly off. If you’re disabling the dark frame subtraction, than that’s just silly. All cameras need this for really clean images, and it’s not something that can be done in software. I’ve done exposures up to 60s without issue or any perceived degradation in image quality.

  45. Hi Ming: I am curious about your thoughts on the Panasonic GX7. While missing some of the great features of the EM1, like weather sealing, top burst rate, it does have very good specs, a seemingly (from my limited use) menu system, a fair amount of direct access button controls, a nice rangefinder styling (making it look smaller than the EM1) and a pretty big price advantage. Will you review this camera? Given your previous takes on Fuji, Sony and Oly, I trust your reviews to be unbiased and a perfect mix of Analytics and personal taste. Thanks!

  46. Hi, Ming.

    I don’t have a very sophisticated eye when it comes to photographs. I don’t see a lot of the differences between pictures that many people talk about (dynamic range, chromatic aberration, etc). But what convinced me to buy an Olympus OM-D EM-5 to replace my Nikon D7000 was the sharpness of the images. Pictures I took with my Nikon D7000 just seemed fuzzy and blurry to me. Pictures from the OM-D EM-5 were razor sharp and showed much more detail. That seemed strange to me considering the EM-5 had a much smaller sensor, but the evidence was right there in front of my eyes. I remember a website that put identical pictures from different cameras side-by-side, and the pictures from the OM-D EM-5 were sharper than all of them – even those taken with monster pro full-frame sensor cameras. I see the exact same pattern in the pictures in Part 2 of this review where you compare the EM-1 to the Nikon D600. You say that the Nikon D600 produces better dynamic range. That could be true, but even those images seem kind of soft to me while the images from the EM-1 seem much sharper with more detail. This seems to be true, but this fact doesn’t ever seem to come up when people discuss these cameras from Olympus. So, am I crazy, or do the EM-5 and the EM-1 really take sharper images than even the full-frame monsters? If so, why? Is it because of the 5-axis stabilization system? And is this softness that I see in many pictures from other cameras actually a quality that people like? I find sharpness in an image more pleasing than anything else.

    An unrelated question: Does Olympus Malaysia do repairs? I’m currently on a bike tour with my Olympus OM-D EM-5, and I got caught in the middle of typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. I fell while walking around and taking pictures in Tacloban after the typhoon, and my camera went flying and smashed hard onto solid cement. The lens was totally shattered and in pieces. The camera body still seemed to work, but ever since then, the pictures don’t seem quite as clear and crisp. I think I damaged something inside the camera – probably the sensor-stabilization system. Kuala Lumpur might be the next stop on my tour. Would Kuala Lumpur be a good place to get the camera checked out? I’m also considering just upgrading to the EM-1. That camera seems to improve on the few things about the EM-5 that I found lacking a bit.

    Great review and great pictures!

    Cheers, Doug.

    • It’s probably down to a few things – mainly to do with AF accuracy and camera shake/ stabilization. You cannot make a meaningful evaluation from a few web jpegs. Flat images have more dynamic range than contrasty ones for a give situation/ input light quality since the output medium is the same.

      Olympus Malaysia has a repair department so they can probably sort you out. No idea how long it’ll take though, that depends on the problem and the queue I’d imagine.

  47. Ming, if I own both a Nikon D4 and an Olympus OM-D EM-1, and wanted to buy a wide angle zoom, should I first get the 7-14mm Panasonic for the Olympus or the 16-35 Nikon? I understand the size/weight factor between both cameras, so let’s say that it’s primarily for landscape work and secondarily for travel, assuming I don’t mind traveling with the D4 in a backpack with a couple of lenses and a tripod.

    • Resolving power is going to be about the same for both, interestingly enough. Possibly higher for the E-M1 because it has no AA filter. I’m inclined to say the 7-14 because you’ve got greater depth of field for a given aperture, but not knowing what you shoot exactly, it’s impossible to say.

  48. Hi Ming,

    I’m upgrading from a Nokia Lumia 920 and have been in-store playing with a range of cameras for a total of ten or twelve hours since arriving in Bangkok two weeks ago. I’ve just spent six months in India and will spend probably the same in Thailand before returning to India for another six months. My primary requirement is to have a camera on me as much as my smartphone.

    The secondary and perhaps equally as important requirement is to have as good image quality as possible to provide plenty of scope for growth as I learn and explore. This camera will be my only camera (and lens system) for the next few years and I can’t just pick up a second, less portable system, like a D610, when I wan’t to explore techniques for top image quality in a range of categories, such as architecture, landscape, low-light street and fast moving street.

    Therefore, my research has led me from considering advanced pocket-able cameras, like the Sony RX100 MkII and Fuji X20, to the bigger cameras like the Fuji X-T1, Olympus E-M1, and Sony A7 – including the D7100 and D610 with as good a glass as possible (24-70 f2.8 for the D610 with some second-hand primes). However, size has pretty much ruled the Nikons out. Unfortunately, as they handle very nicely. I guess I could do a Steve McCurry and carry the big kit and suffer through it, but I’m not there yet (I think).

    The lack of glass and conflict of opinion of the Sony A7 has led me to leave that camera aside. However, I don’t mind the handling and do love that viewfinder – for me it is much better than the EVFs in the other two, the X-T1 and E-M1.

    So, here we are left with the X-T1 and E-M1. Each camera seems to promote very different styles of handling. The X-T1 feels very rangefinder like and snappable, similar to how Garry Winogrand’s snappy fluid style on the street. Whereas the E-M1′s DSLR grip promotes a far more deliberate shooting style. I like both. But it’s the E-M1′s exceptional build, handling and control implementation that attracts me the most. So well thought out and fluid in use, in sync with my intuitive feel. But…

    As a single camera solution that needs to deliver scope for exploring great image quality to the best of my glass and ability I need some convincing that the E-M1, with the 12-40 f8 PRO and best follow-up glass that I can buy, will be enough. Particularly, as I will be shooting JPEG most of the time and doing no post processing on the majority of my images – except for those times when I want better IQ.

    I’ll be going back to the store in the next day or so to shoot both cameras from a tripod to explore JPEG quality again. My previous attempt with all NR and sharpening turned off (including long exposure NR) showed the X-T1 as very noticeably better. Although, that was with version 1.0 firmware on the E-M1, so I’ll be sure to have the shop update this for the next time, just in case.

    I’m also hesitant to dive into the m43 lens system if I’ll just need to add or change to something like a D610 with expensive FF glass down the track.

    If you had to choose a single camera system for the next few years would you be happy with the E-M1 to cover the range of subjects you typically like to capture (work requirements aside)? Thanks, Ming.


    • Short answer, no. My output objectives now – i.e. Ultraprints – for my personal work require more resolution; 36MP is the minimum for a decent 10×15″.

      • I’m getting that choice less feeling. The E-M1 has so many positives I shouldn’t be splitting hairs over differences in IQ. Cheers, Ming.

  49. Mr Thein,

    You are the best person in the internet world who always give very well balanced answers all the time, seriously, I am not kidding. :)

    So, I have a dilemma here, Oly M1 with 12-40mm Pro lens and later 75mm lens or 12mm or 17mm, 45mm and 75mm later. I know 12-40mm is brilliant lens, matched with the camera, like water sealed and etc. very fast, great built quality but I am more prime lens guy, do i loose much if not choose 12 or 17mm and 45 instead 12-40mm?


  50. Thank you Ming for your thorough reviews. After an Olympus E-520, I made a detour to Canon (that you never review) with a 60D, but I am now one or two clicks away to order an EM-1 – using your links of course ;-). If I understood correctly the shutter shock problem happens at only 1/180 s, and not on all cameras, right? Also you prefer the 12-40/2.8 over the equivalent primes despitethe slower stop?

    • The electronic front curtain (0s antishock) option fixes the problem on all cameras, but does not allow for burst modes at the same time. And yes I prefer the 12-40 over the primes.

  51. Ming,

    Thanks for this review, as a zd lens shooter, are you considered for the special shooting test em1 with tons of zd lens let say the hg&shg line up lenses? Looking forward for it

  52. Quite a few of the images in the review were shot with the 12-60 and 50-200 SWD :)

  53. Nemo Bergnehr says:

    Nice presentation of the EM-1. But why did you order one EM-1 for video? It is clearly twoor or three years behind in
    Terms of bitrate framerate mm the GH2 have better spec. I m realy dissapointed, would have ordered the EM-1 if the videospec had been up to date. Olympus has clearly not understand the point with a hybrid camera. Do you think it is possible or better likely that they will make the videospec betterin a firmware update?

  54. The stabilizer and out of camera color. GH3 has nothing even close.

  55. Does the stabilizer work well for video? The videos I have seen from the E-P5 with stabilizer is not overly impressive. As for colour, if you want to use it seriously for video you want to reduce it and contrast to do post grading. But if the main usage is straight out of the camera video, I guess the E-M1 would be good enough.

  56. It works very well for video, but of course it also depends on the operator. Agreed on color.

  57. Ming, thank for such comprehensive review. My one niggly doubt is the quality of resolution and dof of m4/3 vs 1.6 crop and FF. Please if you have a moment to address this.

  58. See this article. I use M4/3 for reportage work now after having shot the E-M5 and D700 side by side some time ago; the E-M5 surprised me by having comparable – if not superior under some situations – files.


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