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. 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…

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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…

  7. 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.

  8. 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 🙂

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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)?

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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?

  19. 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.

  20. 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 ?

  21. 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.

  22. 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

    • Thanks. No plans to review the GX7, I just don’t have the time, interest or access…I’m a full time commercial photographer, not a camera reviewer!

  23. Ron Scubadiver says:

    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.

    • Well, people pay me far less attention, I don’t mind walking because I’m carrying a lot less weight, and you can always use the tilt LCD to shoot from waist level. It’s a lot stealthier, yes. Personally, I’ve preferred using these things over DSLRs since the E-M5.

      • Ron Scubadiver says:

        Less attention seems like the main draw for me. I was impressed with the shower treatment. Are there any other Oly lenses that are so well sealed?

  24. 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.

  25. Ming important question. In your table you say that EM1 has 14bit raw unlike 12bit on a previous EM5, yet Olympus own specs page on their site says 12bit for EM1, which is true?

  26. Ming, do you have anything to say about the feel of the buttons? I attributed the superior feel of the E-P5 I tried out to its lack of weather sealing. Some of the EM-5 buttons just seemed very squishy.

    And one thing I cannot understand about Olympus is their insistence on using a four way controller in the back instead of a clickable wheel. I’d trade one more assignable wheel for a couple of those function buttons.

    • They’re much more positive and less squishy.

      Personally, I prefer the four way controller to the wheel – too easy to knock and change something unintentionally, and not enough space to put in a big, firm, well-detented one. The RX100 is a good example of this – the wheel on the back is far too loose.

  27. Do you find that the E-M1 has a louder shutter than the E-P5? I recently had the chance to use the E-M5 and E-P5 during a church service, and within five minutes I realized that I couldn’t use the E-P5 during quiet moments as its shutter annoyed the audience. I sincerely hope this isn’t the case with the E-M1.
    Thanks for the thorough and well-written review. I look forward to seeing more of your pictures with the camera!

  28. Republicou isso em jennifer laisee comentado:
    o começo para uma vida cheia de fotos precisa disso neh

  29. Another review I’ve enjoyed reading, even if I am not really the target customer for the E-M1. It looks a really good camera, particularly the weatherproofing part, but having had my E-PL5 only 3 months I’m probably better off getting more practice with it. 😛

    You mention the 5-axis IS in particular as being the only in-body solution that works well – what are your thoughts on the simpler 2-axis ones used in the lower-end PEN models (like in the E-PL5/PM2)? Is it still worth enabling the IS and how much could one expect out of it? (If you’ve detailed this in an article somewhere, I’m happy to get a pointer)

    • Thanks. I don’t bother using the IS in the lower end models because it actually seems to produce more double images than sharp ones – it’s as though the sensor is ‘jumping’ to a point. I had an E-PM1 and found my hit rate was much higher with the IS off. The E-P5, E-M5 and E-M1 on the other hand, have the best stabilizers in the business – bar none, and that includes optical lens-based systems.

  30. Frank Murphy says:

    For your comment “the auto-ISO implementation picks a rather high shutter speed by default – and you have no way of overriding this”, DP Review mentioned the same problem with the E-M5 (and I notice is with my E-P3, too). Setting the “Flash Slow Limit” of all things improved this for me. Does it work for the E-M1, too?

    Kind of a workaround (if it works for you!) The Olympus menus really need an external UX review.

  31. So listen, anyone interested in a kidney? Yours for 1400 US!

    • Peter Boender says:

      Didn’t you sell one already? 😛

      • I have a wife and three kids, Peter. Plenty of spare organs going round here!
        I know they’d want me to have the best 😉

        Who needs a full set of teeth or two lungs or binocular vision when you could have an OMD E-M1 instead!
        Gimme gimme gimme 😛

      • I believe you can sell half of one, too. Perhaps that explains the low-ish price 😛

        • 😉

          Well, I’ve been harping for months about a body to compliment two beautiful 4/3 lenses that I own, which themselves compliment a lovely — but most certainly aged — camera: the DMC-L1. At long last, here is the wish pretty much granted.

          I think a bunch of people who bought into 4/3 are all high-fiving each other right now. I really feel this too. At last!
          [And well done to us for keeping the faith and not getting shut of our lenses]

          A couple of spanners in the works:

          i) An E7!? Hold the phone…

          ii) After such a wait, I think we’re all used to the attrition: I wouldn’t mind waiting a little longer if I knew Panasonic, or someone [it is supposed to be an open standard let’s not forget!], would make me a counterpart camera, the DMC-L2. Same sensor and spec as the E-M1. But less all the high-tech snazzy — admittedly very impressive — stuff, and just do an honest to goodness shutter speed dial, with numbers etched on it, etc., bounce flash, I’ll take this back-screen [be good if I could fold it away like the Epson R-D1s], I’ve got aperture rings on the Leica 4/3 lenses, and I want more of that, then all I want is three to four assignable Fn buttons at ergonomic spots around the body, and I can’t live without AF-ON since being spoiled by the D3 [well, I can, but you know what I mean…]. And here’s the big one: yes, I’ll swap an optical finder for what Olympus have done here. And I don’t mind non-compact body sizes. But I do mind cameras that don’t look cool (to me).

          I understand the camera division at Olympus is in dire straits. Iskabibble might drop by to rain on the E-M1 parade and remind us of it—but I have to say, that business unit and its staff are doing the best and only thing they could: putting out great products. I really sense that they are putting their heart and soul into it [listening to users; stressing the small stuff]. Necessity very obviously the mother of invention; on show here, without doubt. I don’t know if they’ll make it, but you have to say—if they do go down, there’s no shame in going down in flames with products like these. This and its predecessor should turn out to be future classics. That E-P5 thing that Andre and Roger are using deserves an honorable mention, too. Pats on the back for Olympus.

          [And for getting this machine to you too MT. As Andre mentioned: maybe a few other makers might take note? And I don’t really mean that just for loaners for reviews—that’s secondary, I mean, if I worked at the press dept. at one of these makers, I’d be having you shoot a brochure for me.]

          • I) I might have misinterpreted that one. What they showed me was a design study that lead to the E-M1, *not* a confirmed E-7.
            II) They have, it’s called the GH3.

            • i) Does’t matter, even the chance/rumor/inkling/hearsay of an E-7 is great!
              [not that I’m Mr E-series, or anything; the sheer fact they’d even consider making another 4/3 camera body is cause for celebration to me and other 4/3 owners—we’re basically kicked out in the cold and forgotten about… but jealously clutching onto our Zuikos and Pana-Leicas!]

              ii) Aha, the GH3? I’ll have to go and look at one this lunch 🙂 Same sensing apparatus you say? But… does it look as handsome as the DMC-L1? A hard act to follow. [Just on that, this E-M1 with the battery grip is right up my street; I really have a thing for that look, probably psychological 😮 don’t mind me 🙂 ]

              • II) I reviewed it some time back. Check the archives…it was somewhat disappointing to the photographer in me, but works well for the target video market.

                • Yes, I remembered it the instant I saw it on the shelf. Just on looks alone [very important to me] that’s a big fat EN-OH. There was a poster for an upcoming thing called the GX7; which, in appearance, looks very similar to a DMC-L1. Hopefully they’ll have spec’d it like the E-M1 — even the E-M5 spec would be a godsend — the main point for us 4/3 owners, the eternal question is:

                  yes, but does the f:::ing thing have PDAF?

                  I think Olympus deserve our money for getting in there first and in Nike style just doing it for us. Looking forward to October and getting a play with one in-store. This said, on the walk to Yodobashi Camera I realized I don’t really have any appetite for shiny camera things anymore. All I really would like, really really pretty please God, in this world is a new computer with a massive great big clean and crisp monitor, and an Intuous or something to go with [the Cintiqs are just too unnerving to me: drawing on something that displays a picture just feels so wrong. Not to mention the Pandora’s box this would open if the kids saw me doing it => I would bet my camera collection on coming home to a Sony Bravia covered in marker pen and glue and stab marks 😮 ]

    • sergeylandesman says:


    • I’d have held out for a lens at least!

  32. Thanks for the review, Ming. I was looking forward a lot for this camera, but the lack of 24p/25p for video was probably a deal breaker. =/

    Probably was not in your test roadmap for the E-M1, but if you could test the situation where the E-M5 video codec breaks apart, it would be very useful: a scene with a lot of moving details, like with a lot of trees with leaves moving. It could be seen in this (otherwise very good) video using the E-M5, around 3:02 :

    The image starts to become very blocky, even in the couple’s image. It’s a known issue with the E-M5 video codec. If you could make this test, even outside the scope of your review, it would be much appreciated.

    For stills, the camera looks awesome. Much better than any other Four Thirds, in the comparometer in the Dpreview site it is the cleanest Micro Four Thirds in ISO 1600, about the same of a Nikon 7100, only loses to the Fuji X-Pro.

    Marcio K

    • I think you can get 25p if you are in a different country; I remember this being an issue with the E-M5, too.

      I know exactly what you mean about the video codec: the E-M5 also breaks apart in areas of gradual color transitions like walls and skies. The E-M1 is much less blocky.

  33. mike_tee_vee says:

    How did you get 2,300 frames on a single battery charge with the E-M5?!? I’m lucky to get 400 with a moderate amount of chimping.

    • I have no idea. It seems some people get numbers like mine, some get low hundreds. I think turning off the camera between shots and using EVF instead of LCD for LV also makes a difference; 600-700 is routine if I’m using a motorized zoom lens, 900-1000 if a normal mechanical one.

  34. Cool stuff! Looks like a significant upgrade, but ridiculous size increase, since the original body was ideal due to it’s compactness.

    RE “No SLR viewfinder shows actual depth of field”, it depends on your focusing screen. From my experience, with a matte screen, the brightness difference from 1.4 to 2.8 will be enormous, and the DOF will analogous from viewfinder to image.

    • Peter Boender says:

      The size increase is not ridiculous at all. The E-M5 with the horizontal part of the HLD-6 grip connected is actually taller than the E-M1. I pinned the following picture from Pekka Potka’s weblog that demonstrates this quite well: I think some fuss is made a bit too much about the slight size increase. Let’s not forget this benefits usability (ergonomics, haptics) to an enormous extent, something that is well pointed out in Ming’s review.

    • “RE “No SLR viewfinder shows actual depth of field”, it depends on your focusing screen. From my experience, with a matte screen, the brightness difference from 1.4 to 2.8 will be enormous, and the DOF will analogous from viewfinder to image.”

      I have the same experience. I use a KatzEye screen on my Nikon D200 and notice a difference between 1.4 to 2.0 to 2.8. The screen goes darker with each step as well as showing an increased depth of field. It is very noticeable within a foot of the subject.

    • Agreed; the new body has increased in size a bit, but if you used the previous camera with just the grip extension, then the increase isn’t that much.

      As for SLR finders: doesn’t make any difference on my D800 or D600. F6 – a bit. F2: very much so. The focusing screen makes the difference; the newer modern ones are for the most part, utterly rubbish.

  35. Thanks for the informed review. Will you be trying the camera with a 150 f/2 lens on moving subjects? Thinking about ditching my Canon 300 f2.8 (and about 6lbs)

    • I’d be interested to hear about that too, and the 90-250 f2.8 and 300 f2.8 – though the big glass is all so expensive I am unlikely to buy, and Nikon has the benefit of being more easily rentable, if I were to put together a wildlife kit that I need to get onto a plane, or hike with, this Olympus is very tempting.

      You could get a 150f2 and an EM-1 for the price of a Nikon 300 f2.8, with cash to spare.

      • In the US, has the 150 available. I”ll try it once I get an EM-1. I’ve still got a very sore elbow from a 2 week shoot with the Canon 300 f2.8. My body is trying to tell me something!

      • I’d actually still go with the Panasonic 100-300/4-5.6 for wildlife unless you really need the light gathering ability.

        • In my experience for wildlife you always need the light gathering ability, especially if you want to freeze any movement, but then I haven’t shot wildlife in a while, and therefore not with the newer high ISO capable cameras, so maybe I’m out of date?

          • True – always good to have the option of more light. I found that the E-M5 and 100-300 was surprisingly good, and very versatile…also handholdable.

            • I’m off to Komodo in a few weeks and am renting the new Nikon 80-400 for the trip (my own lenses stop at 200mm and the more reach the better with those things I reckon!). I’d be very temped to go M4/3 and 100-300 though, on the basis that whilst I want reach on hand for when I am on Komodo, its 3 days in a 14 day trip, and I won’t use the lens much beyond when I am there so a smaller package would provide clear benefits. Packing for a wildlife part of a wider holiday is a nightmare. It’s always a big part of why we go, and I love wildlife photgraphy, but getting the kit in and out is a proper hassle!

              The size advantages for reach have me genuinely excited about mirrorless now, whereas 18 months ago (when I got my D800) the abiltiy to use fast focussing long lenses was a substantial part of why I thought I would always be into a dslr system (that and viewfinders). I guess longer term it just means less and less reason to own the Nikon. If I were one of the many still waiting for a D300s replacement, I’d switch now.

              • How about renting an existing E-M5 and that lens to try out?

                • Maybe – but do you know anywhere in SG where I can (plus glass), because I don’t!

                  But that said, if I am shooting a once in a lifetime place (and I am very unlikely to go back to Komodo) I’d rather be with the kit and camera I know than a new body.

                  • Good point re. uncertainty and making sure you get the shot – no idea about rental in Singapore, sorry! KL is an absolute desert; we have to borrow stuff from our friends…

    • No plans to at this point. I need a) time b) the lens and c) suitable subjects!

  36. How are images looking at 100%? Had an OMD but the images (available light though at sufficient shutter speeds) never really held for me at 100%, meaning issues for larger prints and stock sales. Went with the RX1 which I love, but operationally and for the interchangeable lenses loved the OMD.

    • I never had an issue with the OM-D. The E-M1 is better. I find the JPEGs acceptable; RAW will be a notch above that. If you’re not getting pixel-level crispness, perhaps examine your lenses/ technique/ raw converter…

  37. Sergey Landesman says:

    Hi Ming!
    Excellent review and very interesting shots indeed. I love trees too.
    The only problem I am seeing here is the weight.It’s almost half a kilo,same weight as Leica M9,but still not a full frame camera….
    Are you planning by any chance to review Panasonic GX7?



    • It feels much lighter than the M9 though; and the lenses are certainly lighter. Plus you have an excellent stabilizer to make up for the sensor size; in any case, the E-M1 almost matches the M240 at high ISO, and far exceeds the M9. No plans to review the GX7 at this time, it isn’t of interest to me and the schedule is pretty full…

    • sergeylandesman says:

      Will be waiting for a new set of prints your have mentioned earlier



  38. Daniel Brielmayer says:

    I’m very interested in the C-AF improvements. I’m going on a safari in 2014 and currently have an OMD-E-M5. I plan on taking a second camera body so I don’t have to switch lenses. I’m leaning towards either a Nikon D7100 with the Nikon 100-400 or the E-M1 with the panasonic 100-300. Any thoughts on the C-AF?

    • I think the D7100 may still be slightly better at C-AF, but the E-M1 will be more robust, have a higher frame rate, bigger buffer, and much better stabilizer. Unfortunately, the 100-300 is not anywhere near the same build quality…

      • Ad v.d. Biggelaar says:

        Hi Ming,
        excellent review, thank you.
        I’m a E-M5 user with a Pana 100-300.
        Would the AF speed, its precision and image quality of a E-M1 + Oly 50-200 lens be very much better?

        • Continuous AF tracking is better because the other lens is designed for C-AF. S-AF speeds are about the same. Image quality is obviously better since you’ve got a stop more light to play with, or you can stop down a bit on the larger lens. There is of course the weight/ price/ size/ reach factor to consider, too.

  39. Ming, you’re not the only one impressed with the B&W output of this camera. I’ve been shooting B&W almost exclusively the last few months with my E-M5 – thousands of shots on a Venice trip, all B&W (most with red filter on).

    The B&W is outstanding and I have a hard time emulating it with a Lightroom preset. I have the feeling Olympus’ conversion is dynamic, similar to what LR does in Auto B&W mode. If that’s the case then a simple static LR preset won’t do.
    Most of the time it’s easier to just use the camera’s own B&W instead of wasting time fiddling.

    Just as you I am also very impressed by the color rendition – as I am with the E-M5’s. I feel it’s a pity that Adobe does not provide profiles that emulate this color reproduction, and Adobe’s own Standard profile I never liked.
    Creating your own profiles is only helpful to get “accurate” color IMO, but not pleasing color that’s just like the camera’s own.
    (I had discussions with Adobe’s Eric Chan about this and it looks like we simply do not have the tools they have and use for this task.)

    Hence my plea to Adobe: Give us camera specific profiles for the E-M1!

    • As good as the JPEGs are – they won’t always match what you want 100% of the time, so in the end I’ll still land up using my own profiles or corrections. But I certainly wouldn’t complain about a more accurate starting point.

  40. Great review and pictures Ming! As another commenter stated, each new announcement from Olympus and Panasonic make me feel more confident about my decision to invest in the m4/3 format. As a mere enthusiast who’s happy with his Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic GX-1, I’ll likely wait until my skills continue to improve and the technology continues to iterate before upgrading my camera bodies. I’m hoping that Olympus eventually invests some R&D into the video side of their cameras as their 5-axis IBIS would be a great complement to a more robust and refined video offering.

    I’m looking forward to the remaining parts of your review. Though I’ll get around to commenting on the other blog posts, I also wanted to thank you for sharing your incredible images and stories from the industrial metal working client!

    Lastly, alongside your retailer links you may want to include some information about anticipated incentive offerings for the pre-sale period. Assuming these are verified, two incentives are excerpted from the Pekka Potka blog below.

    “Current registered E-system owners get one MMF-3 adapter for free when they purchase the E-M1 by November this year. All customers who pre-register before the October sales start will receive an HLD-7 vertical grip free of charge when they purchase the E-M1.” from

    • Thanks Hal. Yes, I believe there are some deals to be had if you pre-order, though whether that has to be done through Olympus or not, and what applies in different parts of the world is another question.

  41. Tom Hudgins says:

    Another informative and useful review. Thank you, Ming. If you have the time to answer, I have some specific questions regarding phase detect autofocus on the M1. I use an M5 with the 60 macro at its closest range. Manual focus on a tripod nets superb results but I rarely get in-focus shots using hand-held autofocus which is my preferred technique. I feel that contrast detect autofocus is inadequate at such extreme magnifications, regardless of the subject contrast. I say this only because I get much better hand-held results with my Nikon 105mm VR/ D3 combo. Do you think that the addition of phase detect autofocus on the M1 could improve my hand-held results? And, does phase detect require more/less light than contrast detect to work effectively? Thanks, again.

    • I think the problem is not CDAF but the fact that it’s very difficult to physically maintain the same distance to subject at short distances. If you used C-AF it might certainly help. PDAF has a wider working range than CDAF; CDAF craps out when there isn’t enough contrast, not when there isn’t enough brightness – uniform surfaces either at the bright or dark end of things will result in CDAF failure.

  42. 7th pic (tree base) looks very sale-able….will you print?

  43. Hi Ming,

    Great work. Thanks. I seem to remember that the E-M5 could not place the exposure compensation on the rear dial. Can this be done on the E-M1? …with the front dial controlling Aperture in AE, and Shutter in Tv? Thanks.


  44. Aaaah nice! Good to see how my investing in the m43 system is proving more and more sensible 🙂
    Say, as I too have a Panasonic G5, does the E-M1 offer a master function for its built-in flash (it has one, yes?)? I mean, can you trigger external slave flashes with its built-in flash? That’s something I kind of miss…
    I would really miss the swivel screen and touch af while looking through the EVF from my G5, these two rock well together 🙂 Plus, you can always turn your screen around for it to face the body when not using it, thus having perfect scratch protection. I was hoping for Olympus to go that way too… well… maybe it’s more durable the way they built it, I don’t know.

    • It has an included clip on flash, and yes, that can be used as master. I reviewed the Olympus wireless flash system here.

      I’d certainly think a single axis tilt is more robust than a ball and socket joint…

      • Yeah, it probably is more sturdy that way. Still, I love my G5 “workflow” with the swivel screen, the EVF-sensor switching to the finder automatically when approached by your eye and the touch af – that works very well for me! I feel spoiled now, like I can’t be bothered selecting AF-areas with buttons ever again 😀
        Does the E-M1 have such a sensor too to switch between screen/EVF?

      • Peter Boender says:

        The real downside however (and this bugs me with the E-M5 as well) is that the swivel function is totally useless when shooting verticals. I would’ve welcomed a ball and socket / gymbal solution…

        • True, but then again, I don’t feel like I’m going to break it off, either. Most of the time I use the swivel for low-angle video, and that’s never vertical 🙂

  45. Nice Pictures…
    Interesting review…

  46. Thanks for the great review. Just wondering on the AF points. Can it go smaller on the EM1 and does it remain small and in the same position when changing settings on the camera? Thanks

  47. Just a quick note, 3 of the images are not visible on your flickr account; The drenched camera, the picture of the camera skeletons , and the picture of the tree branches with the text “Note complete lack of CA” underneath it, though the link to the 100% crops works. 🙂

  48. Hi Ming,

    I have a Nikon D600 and the F4 28/120, 85/1.8G and 28/1.8G. My question is how does ths compare to the Olympus E-M1 and associated lenses. Are you saying that DSLRs are becoming obsolete ???

  49. Finally, the camera that guarantees every shot you take will be awesome!
    *checks sample galleries at other websites*
    Aww shit… 😉

    On a more serious note:
    * Very nice JPEGs. Colours very pleasing, to my eye at least
    * Great to see full magnesium construction and a high degree of weather sealing
    * No crappy built-in flash, hurrah! (Although personally I’d rather they also omitted the crappy one that comes with it and knocked $100 or whatever off the price.)
    * No biggie, but base ISO of 100 (instead of 200) would be welcome
    * According to DPReview, PDAF with MFT lenses is only used in AF-C, not AF-S. Why?

    • Base ISO may not be 100, but at lease auto ISO is smart enough to go to 100 if the shutter speed exceeds 8000.

      The supplied flash IS useful for triggering slaves…

      I think they thought CDAF was fast enough in S-AF mode – it is.

    • * Dual SD slots would be good if this is intended to be a pro camera

      • Overall though, looks pretty awesome. Food for thought before I commit to a D600 or D800, for sure…

      • I don’t think they’d physically fit…

        • No indeed. That was just a personal fantasy wishlist anyway–and a pretty short one compared to all the things you do get. Might not be a game changer, but the number of tweaks and small innovations do make it look a bit like Canikon are resting on their laurels, even if their products are more mature.

  50. Thanks for the great review, Ming! I hit up your site first in the slew of E-M1 reviews that came out today and I was not disappointed. This is is shaping up to be a great camera and I am looking forward to the tech in this trickling down to the E-M5 successor. Personally, I am giving this a pass as I am far from a pro, do not own any 4/3rds glass, and my E-M5 is still going strong. The 12-40, however, has got me really, really excited 🙂

  51. Thanks for the review. What is the difference between 4/3s and M4/3 lenses. My plan is to order the camera with the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II Lens. Just want to make sure that won’t be a problem. This is my first foray into 4/3 cameras. Thanks.

    Jack Siegel

    • 4/3 lenses are much larger because they’re designed to clear the mirror on a 4/3 camera. M4/3 lenses are generally smaller. Anything with an M. in front of ZUIKO DIGITAL is M4/3. 4/3 lenses will mount with an adaptor.

  52. Hi Ming, the B&H link to the body seems broken… Thanks a lot for the review, looking forward to parts 2 and 3!

  53. Reblogged this on Trendsetter tech news and commented:
    A great review!

  54. The size is an important factor for the M43 system and here, sadly, the EM-1 has stepped out of line. IMO, the OMD EM-5 is a better bet on the whole for all but the most demanding pros or indefatigable collectors. In any case, it’s the photographer that takes the picture, not the camera, as you’ve demonstrated so ably in the past. To my amateur eyes, even your RX100 photos were at the same level as the ones taken with the EM-1 that you’ve uploaded here. Ounce for ounce, the RX100ii is hard to beat…

  55. Hi Ming. How does the E-M1 with the new zoom at 28mm hold up against the Ricoh GR?

    • Putting me on the spot! I think the GR has a bit more resolving power, but the lenses are really, really close; user shot discipline is going to make more of a difference. If I just need 28mm, then I’d go with the GR because of the size.

  56. stellingsma2010 says:

    i love olympus my last camera was a E-500 good color reproduction…..nice picture,s , sadly i cannot afford one .
    good review

  57. Nice and informative reading as always. I think this will be the first Olympus camera I will preorder. Had the E-M5 but sold it (kept the X-E1) but missed it quite a bit and have been trying to hold out for its succesor.

    One thing that I’m curious about. Why is all camera makers so into Wi-Fi, but not GPS? I really wish they would add GPS in a camera that is perfect for traveling. Wi-Fi might be useful for some, but the problem I have with that is that I have to disable auto-connect to my home network on my Iphone/Ipad when using the Wi-Fi on the camera.

  58. Art filters and photo story is for professionals with guts….

    • But of course. Try submitting that to a client…

      • I submit dynamic black and white Panny film mode shots to clients all the time, maybe try art filters if you think it’s relevant to the client and adds to the composition (you can always shoot RAW and jpeg as fall back), you might be pleasantly surprised 🙂

        • Forget it. There is no way I’d outsource any creative processing decisions to a preset filter! If you need to use a cheesy effect to ‘add to the composition’, then chances are the composition could probably have been improved to begin with…

          • oh Ming, you had me until you said this. I love using art filters, at least some of them. I could work at achieving similar effects in Photoshop but there is that 4-letter word: work. Since I shoot Raw+Jpeg, I can always go back to to the original image.

  59. Looks like a very nice piece of kit with well thought-out improvements and upgrades from the EM-5. The PDAF could be a strong selling point for DSLR users who are on the fence. And I like the absence of the AA filter; I think this is going to become more and more common with time.

    I haven’t had any inclination for a new camera for ages, but I have to admit to thinking about this one. I love my DP3 Merrill to bits and it’s staying with me,but something with more flexibility, better high ISO (not difficult!) and faster AF with the ability to use continuous (again, not difficult!) could complement it very nicely. With no AA filter and paired with decent glass, I might even be able to look at the shots up close without wincing (whenever I engage in this practice with the Merrill and then look at shots taken with other cameras I’ve used in the past, the latter just look…well, soft and fuzzy).

    Will practice restraint for a while until it becomes officially available and then see what happens.

    If my restraint crumbles and I end up buying it and doing bad things to my credit card, I’ll be blaming your writing skills and enthusiasm 🙂

  60. I own an m5 and I very often see a yellow cast over my green tones. Thats what I see here too, most pics have this vintage tough!? Compared to the gx7 the pics are in default darker, see pics at, and these pics are looking a little bit dark too!?

  61. Ming, I’ve been shooting with E-M5 and judging from your review, I don’t think I need a M1 replacement yet, simply my work doesn’t require high speed moving object, but considering M1 is pdaf and targeted toward more professional use, I wonder what’s your Workflow in setting af when you’re in evf mode. The em5 and em1 do not have a joystick like other professional dslr camera, so do you move the focus area by simply pressing the arrow pad, or set the focus point in the center and recompose?

    And sorry for being out of topic, have you managed tethering shot using em5 and possibly em1 *considering em1 for professional studio shot


    • I use the arrow pad. I don’t tether in general, and I already use the E-M5 for pro work when resolution is not critical.

    • Leonarce, once I activate the focus area square with a press of the left arrow, my E-M5 allows me to move the focus area up and down extremely quickly with the control dials. The front dial moves the focus right with clockwise (cw) turns and left with counterclockwise (ccw) turns. At the end of a row the next turn activates the entire set of focus squares and another cw turn then jumps down to the next lower row (while ccw turn jumps up to the next higher row). The rear dial moves the focus down with cw and up with ccw. The same end of row behavior applies but jumps left when turning cw and right when turning ccw.

      Simar control dial behavior applies once you’ve pressed the OK button to activate the super control panel. Specifically the rear dial moves across all of the panel options and the front dial moves through settings within the actively highlighted panel option. Once you get used to these contorls you never really need to actually select a panel option to pull up its full interface…it can all be done in the master super control panel.

      I can only assume the E-M1 does the same (if not more). I am only a photo ethusiast who moved over to m4/3 from Canon, but I have never seen anything like this super control panel and its dial integration on any other system. With practice it makes for very fast changes without having to remove your eye from the viewfinder. I imagine the improved EVF and dial layout on the E-M1 makes this functionality even more user friendly!

      Of course you can also touch to focus and/or shoot via the rear screen as well. I am a proud Olympus owner to say the least 😉

      • The SCP works the same way as that on the EM-5 – you can access pretty much everything including shortcut button assignments from there.

        • Great, thanks Ming! I was excited to see the E-M1 allows you to replace settings on the mode dial with MySet customizations. Do you know if this is also yhe case with the E-M5 (now or anticipated in a future firmware revision)?

          I hope the October workshops go well. I wish I could join you in Prague!

  62. Excellent review, Ming. After the first two paragraphs, I sent an email to my camera pusher, asking him to reserve one. I still have the PanaLeica 14-50mm 2.8-3.5 and will be very exited to see how that lens works on the E-M1. Hopefully, it was worth the wait 🙂

  63. Peter Boender says:

    Ming, excellent review! On the subject of shutter speed setting for the Auto ISO implementation: on the E-M5 you can change this by adjusting the Flash Slow Limit. Can’t you do the same with the E-M1? Another thing: can you elaborate a bit on the MySet implementation on the E-M1? Can they finally be renamed? Or, even better, be assigned to a switch/dial position (like those non-pro labels on the top dial)? BTW, I’m having a serious case of GAS with all this news. I’m certainly getting one, running next to my E-M5. Also that 12-40mm f/2.8 looks very tempting. I wonder how it will,stack up against the Pany 12-35mm f/2.8. Finally, please bring the E-M1 with you on the Europe trip…. 🙂

    • Flash – yes I believe you can, though I always go manual for flash.

      Myset – seems the same as the E-M5 to me. They can be assigned to buttons (at least they can on my FW version).

      12-40 – no ugly double bokeh, very sharp, focuses down to 20cm…

      I’d bring it if it was available – sadly not until late October, I’m told!

      • Peter Boender says:

        I’m not sure whether we understand each other on the Flash Slow Limit. What I’m trying to explain is (and I may not have been perfectly clear), that the shutter speed that is set for the Flash Slow Limit speed (apart from being used for flash purposes) will also set the shutter speed that, when reached at lower exposure values, will cause the Auto ISO to start upping the ISO. So, it’s not exactly 1/focal length (which would’ve been great), but you are able to have some influence…
        Secondly I understand that loaner is not coming to Amsterdam? Bummer… 🙂

        • I’m not sure it does make a difference. My flash slow limit is 1/30, but it starts upping the ISO (without flash) at about 1/125s or so with the 75/1.8. Or are we misunderstanding each other again?

          Unfortunately the loaner won’t be coming to Amsterdam. I’ll be using my E-M5.

          • Peter Boender says:

            Hopefully the following will clear any misunderstanding :-). I was getting intrigued by this issue, and I’ve dug into it in the past, so I’ve checked it again (both on the internet and personally on my E-M5). This is what I found: With regards to ISO Auto, the E-M5 will actually respect a shutter speed of around 1 / 2x focal length as the lower limit for the point when it starts upping the ISO. If the Flash Slow Limit is set at a faster speed than 1 / 2x focal length, it will use the Flash Slow Limit as the lower limit. Once ISO Auto reaches the ISO set as the High Limit, it will allow shutter speeds slower than the current lower limit (either 1 / 2x focal length or Flash Slow Limit, whichever is faster), to be able to still make a correct exposure.
            This is a pretty long winded way of saying that the E-M5 ISO Auto settings are actually pretty nifty and in general respect a 1 / 2x focal length as the lower limit (provided of course the lens is able to talk to the body…).
            Question remains: does the E-M1 works this way as well? I don’t see why it wouldn’t, but you are able to confirm this Ming…
            Thanks in advance for your trouble!

            • It seems to work the same way, but still begs the question: why on earth would you set your lower shutter speed threshold for AUTO ISO at 1/2x – i.e. 1/100s for a 50mm lens – when you’ve got a stabilizer that can manage 1/0.3x or 1/0.5x?

              • Peter Boender says:

                Good question. I’m just bringing this up to remind ourselves to skip ISO Auto in case we want to prevent using (maybe unintentionally) a higher ISO, and use the IBIS to its fullest extent and stick with lower ISOs and lower shutter speeds. With ISO Auto that’s simply not possible as it will always obey the 1 / 2x focal length minimum.

      • Peter Boender says:

        Found an answer on my question on MySets on the DPReview site ( [i]Any of the positions on the mode dial can be over-written with a user-defined ‘Myset’ preset, if you would like quick access to your preferred settings.[/i] So, I think we can safely store that black marker away, and start setting up our MySets properly.

  64. OK Ming, here’s the million dollar (or at least $600 dollar) question. I know you’ve shot the E-M5 extensively. I can pick up an E-M5 body for about US$800. Based on your review, it’s clear the E-M1 is a better and more advanced camera. But is it 75% better to make the extra outlay of cash (as opposed to spending the money on better glass) worthwhile, regardless of whether one can afford the E-M1 price tag? Hope you can answer the question of in the context of the average enthusiastic, rather than from your viewpoint as a professional (having noted you ordered two!) Thanks again!

    • I’d either have stopped buying cameras a long time ago – and concentrate on shooting – if I was an enthusiast, or be buying everything…

      PDAF, the viewfinder and improved ergonomics/ robustness swing it enough for me to get the E-M1.

  65. Wonderful Review Ming! Looking forward to tomorrow as well. 🙂

  66. Can’t wait for the other reviews and when the Adobe RAW support comes out. Amazing and you ordered a pair, wow! I told myself I’m going to stick with the E-M5 but I’m now reconsidering.

  67. Thanks for the timely review Ming. I’m looking forward to the next parts. Any initial thoughts on the new lens?

  68. Great review. I was seriously looking at the E-M5 to purchase by the end of the year. What a pleasant surprise to have such a great upgrade…granted for a few dollars more. This review has pretty much closed the deal for me. I’ll be another pro dumping his DSLR gear for a more rational approach to photography. Thanks again!

  69. I was hoping to be blown away but I’m not. Looks like a lot of noise at 6400. And, at least on flickr, the EM-5 photo look sharper. Is it just me and my macbook pro? Also…to increase the weight of the camera when people are buying it for the lighter weight, is a mistake, imo.

    • Look at the 100% crops, not the Flickr-oversharpened reduced ones. Noise isn’t far behind the D600, and that’s one of the cleanest cameras you can get today.

      • That is interesting to know. A stop or a bit less?

        • I’d call it a stop. I’m posting a comparison today…

          • That will be good to see. So as good as a D700? Taking into account Olympus primes don’t need closing down as well you can claim that stop back as well.

            • And some gains from the stabilizer. I shot the D700 and E-M5 side by side on a job last year; was surprised that the E-M5 was holding its own against the D700 – stop for stop, with a bit more detail to boot. Slightly less DR though.

              • Well that sounds like it might do what I want it to do. 75% headshots, 25% theatre productions. With primes wide open or my 43 zoom wide open I can gain a stop back of noise and DR. Plus with the IS I might get away without having to drag a gitzo set of legs to headshot location shoots.

  70. David Ralph says:

    I am going to guess this is still an embargoed set of information. Too bad. I was just getting interested. Looking forward to when you can re-send. David Ralph

  71. Ming I have several issues. 1) no electronic ‘silent’ shutter like in latest Panasonics (I have G5 and its silent shutter is amazing I can get to any dragonfly and not scare it)? Any quiet shutter feature like on some recent DSLR? 2) the X-sync speed is it 1/250 or did it go up to 1/320. and 3) you say the SOOC Jpegs are the best you’ve seen on a 16MP crop, have you shot with Fuji XE1 or any of their Xtrans sensored camera? If you have, is your statement still holds true even in comparison to the Fuji X jpegs? Oh and 4) did you mix up EM5 and EM1 in your jpeg comparison???? Because EM5 on the right seems to look better than EM1 on the left. Thanks

    • 1. A silent shutter would be nice, but it’s not that loud to begin with – compared to my D800 at least.
      2. 1/320 now.
      3. I prefer the colors and 3/4 tones out of the Olympus; the Fuji handles high key and overexposure transitions better though. Since I shoot mostly low key, the Olympus rendition works better or me.
      4. The only comparison here is the E-M1 and 12-40 at f5.6 and f2.8. No E-M5.

  72. So is that E7 still in the works? Did you just hear that? I hope it is true.

    I’ll be preording this. With grip.

    Great review. Thanks.

    I need to know if the lens buttons on the SHG lenses work now, they don’t on the em5!?!?!?

    • That’s what I was told. The grip is built in (finally) unless you mean the vertical 🙂

      I don’t have a SHG lens handy to test, but the 12-40 does have L-fn button it, so I don’t see why not…

  73. Wow, that review just gave me GAS. This is one of your best reviews yet, with the sample set of images playing no small part in this. I caught myself looking at the images many times and forgetting to read the review!

    I sometimes wonder why more camera manufacturers don’t put cameras into the hands of really good photographers for review so they can demonstrate what the true potential of a camera is. It’s like letting an F1 driver demo your new sports car vs. someone’s grandmother.

    Technical nitpick: did you mean to include the E-P5 in the list of Oly cameras with problematic stabilizers?

    • Haha – simple answer – most good photographers don’t have time to review cameras…or, the opportunity cost for us is too high. Reviews are unpaid and eat into client-billable time…

      The E-P5 has the good stabilizer. I’ll fix that.

      • True … And if they pay the photographer/reviewer then there’ll be accusations of bias. Maybe they should hire a good photographer to shoot the promotional pictures. How many pictures of cars drifting at lurid angles do we have, and how any truly spectacular prepress photos from new cameras are there? I think one industry knows how to sell their product …

        BTW, after going on about how much I liked the sample pictures for their photographic qualities, I have to say that the one picture that makes the whole review is the shower scene. I’ve seen a video of Pentax SLRs being rolled around in the sand and then washed off in a shower, but you took it to another level. Did you ask permission beforehand and were you or they worried about the shower test?

        • Well, I’m shooting a car right now, but not drifting at a lurid angle, alas. I have shot launch samples before, but curiously I’ve not been asked since I’ve had any degree of internet visibility.

          I was actually going to freeze it inside a block of ice, but I didn’t have enough space in my freezer 🙂

          The shower isn’t that bad; I’ve had to shoot in torrential monsoons before on assignment; it’s wetter than that simply because you’re out for hours at a time, and the water comes from everywhere. Rain covers don’t help, they just make water accumulate inside compartments and grooves.

  74. Mark Olwick says:

    Thanks for sharing the images here. They look significantly worse in your review Flickr set.

  75. 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

  76. Quite a few of the images in the review were shot with the 12-60 and 50-200 SWD 🙂

  77. 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.

  78. 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.


  1. […] After using 3:2 aspect ratio cameras and mostly enlarging to 5:4 photo paper, it took a while for the native dimensions of the newest sensors to feel natural. I didn’t start to visualize my photos in 4:3 until recently. Anyone thinking about buying the soon to be released OMD EM1 and ditching their DSLR may want to think about this fundamental difference. There’s a great multi-part review of the new camera on Ming Thein’s blog. […]

  2. inspired silver

    The 2013 Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, part one: the camera – Ming Thein | Photographer

  3. […] So after all the speculation and rumours the Olympus OM-D EM-1 is released into the wild and what a good looking camera it is. I’ve used it’s older sibling with great results for just over a year now and I’m looking forward to getting a first play tomorrow at one of the store events nearby. Since jumping off the Nikon full frame roundabout and moving to micro four thirds format cameras I’ve been very impressed with whats out there, a few niggles about missing controls and buttons and of course the size of the bodies is so different but I’ve coped, learned, adjusted and got where I wanted to be. This new version just goes that extra distance and I’m looking forward to receiving the new one in a few weeks time. Image courtesy of Ming Thein, who does a great write-up of the camera here. […]

  4. […] Lo he visto en Fotoactualidad ; El malvado personaje y su análisis: Ming Thein […]

  5. […] and available together with the new OM-D E-M1 (reviewed here), the 12-40/2.8 M.Zuiko Digital PRO (24-80mm equivalent) is the first in a new line of M.Zuiko […]

  6. […] and now freeze proofing – one reviewer placed his E-M1 under a hot shower for 10 minutes in a pool of 1cm water while it was on with no […]

  7. […] Tomorrow we return to the regular business of reviews with the final instalment of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 trilogy – the 12-40/2.8.  Enjoy! […]

  8. […] Huff and Ming Thein. This time, Ming got his review out first so I’d like to send you to his blog to check out first, then here”s Steve’s, the Phoblographer, and finally, […]

  9. […] In part one yesterday, I looked at the camera as a standalone device with few references to its predecessor or competition; today we’re going to examine some of the technical differences in a bit more detail against two benchmarks: the outgoing OM-D E-M5, and the Nikon D600. Both are 2012 cameras, and cameras that I’m intimately familiar with because I use them heavily in the course of my normal work – the E-M5 as my travel/teaching camera, and the D600 for video and backup to the D800E. The former is a no-brainer; the latter is perhaps a bit more of a stretch: not only is there a significant price difference, but the sensor goes up in size by two whole notches – it’s effectively four times the size of that in the E-M1. Surely this is an unfair fight? […]

  10. […] Thein has posted a two parts of review for the newly announced Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera. The first part of the review includes the OMD-E-M1 sample images and looks to the camera as a standalone device. […]

  11. […] In part one yesterday, I looked at the camera as a standalone device with few references to its predecessor or competition; today we’re going to examine some of the technical differences in a bit more detail against two benchmarks: the outgoing OM-D E-M5, and the Nikon D600. Both are 2012 cameras, and cameras that I’m intimately familiar with because I use them heavily in the course of my normal work – the E-M5 as my travel/teaching camera, and the D600 for video and backup to the D800E. The former is a no-brainer; the latter is perhaps a bit more of a stretch: not only is there a significant price difference, but the sensor goes up in size by two whole notches – it’s effectively four times the size of that in the E-M1. Surely this is an unfair fight? […]

  12. […] reviews. As of now, the verdict is C-AF is significantly improved, and according to Pekka Potka and Ming Thein it focuses the old Olympus FT dSLR lenses faster than the E-5. Also, Steve Huff was also very […]

  13. […] Added on 9/10/2013: […]

  14. […] Olympus agreed with my assessment that bigger picture buffers were needed – the E-M1 offers a buffer depth of 40 RAW images – possibly larger than any current […]

  15. […] in nine page article at Four Thirds User + part #1 of review with lots of real world samples by Ming Thein + preview at Camera Labs + boatloads of camera body pictures at Photography Blog + text-based first […]

  16. […] что качество фотографий на ISO 1600 могло бы быть лучше. Ming Thein протестировал камеру, продержав ее 10 минут под струей горячей воды и […]

  17. […] now on. Does this mean that they won’t develop new FT camera and lenses anymore? Perhaps, but Ming Thein seems to think that an E-7 may still be a […]

  18. […] Thein – The 2013 Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, part one: the camera The link to part two seems to be […]

  19. […] Ming Thein not only likes the straight-out-of-camera beautifully rich, accurate colors (check out Ming’s great image samples): […]

  20. […] this review. The 2013 Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, part one: the camera – Ming Thein | Photographer On the subject of use with legacy 4/3 lenses: I get the impression that the camera was […]

  21. […] Re: E-M1 and 12-40mm f/2.8 Ming Thein's review is already online! The 2013 Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, part one: the camera […]

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