The 2013 Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, part two: some comparisons

_8038929 copy

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?

Update: ISO comparison chart mislabelling fixed, and I am checking on the 12 vs 14bit issue. Olympus confirms files are 12 bit.

_8038932 copy

_8038935 copy
E-M1 against older brother E-M5 with grip extension and full vertical grip; the E-M1 seems larger but is in fact just slightly wider, taller with its vertical grip, and actually shorter if you compare it to the E-M5 with the grip extension piece only.

Here’s my rationale behind the comparison: we want to know if the new camera is better than the old one – it is – and more importantly, by how much. But at the same time, the E-M1 really has no direct competition at the moment: the only other camera that comes close spec-wise is the GH3, and that doesn’t have the same level of build quality, PDAF, frame rate, or EVF quality; it’s really built with a different purpose in mind, too. Bottom line: there are no real pro-grade* DX or compact system cameras out there at the moment; the E-M1 is pretty much it. However, that brings us to the relative price point: in Malaysia, street price of an E-M5 body is about RM2,800; the E-M1 is ~RM4,500; the Nikon D7100 RM3,900; the Canon 7D RM4,000, and the Nikon D600 RM5,500. The Canon 6D is a bit more at RM5,900. I don’t have a D7100 or 7D handy; in any case, I don’t think they’re quite the same level of camera – the E-M1 trades a little resolution for a higher frame rate, significantly larger buffer, and much better build quality. In fact, the on-paper spec is much closer to the flagship D4 or 1Dx (16MP, 10fps, 51 shot RAW buffer, full environmental sealing) than the D7100. Bottom line: if you’re going to spend this much on a camera and you’re not committed to a system, you are probably going to be considering most of these options; especially when another RM1,000 (US$300) gets you full frame, and the D600 is the lightest and smallest there is at the moment.

*Built without compromises, or to protect a product higher up in the manufacturer’s line.

Before we get into raw performance, let’s talk a bit about use in the field and system completeness. The Nikon and Canon full frame lens lineups are undoubtedly mature; there is pretty much a lens for everything, including special purpose optics like supertelephotos, tilt-shifts and macros that exceed 1:1 reproduction ratio. There are also several grades of lenses to suit all budgets and durability levels. M4/3 has the most choices out of all of the mirrorless systems, but we’re lacking the tilt shifts, the pro telephotos, and the weather sealed high grade primes – surprisingly, lenses like the 12/2 and 75/1.8 are not sealed, (though I’ve had no problems with operating them in harsh environments). Flash solutions are a wash for both systems; there are wireless TTL/ commander options and heads of different power outputs.

Mirrorless of course has an enormous size advantage; having undertaken plenty of reportage and travel photography with both, I can tell you that there’s absolutely no question or shade of doubt in my mind – if I have to carry it for any length of time, I’m going with M4/3. Image quality is already more than good enough for large prints – and that’s with the previous generation of sensor. The one final element missing from M4/3 was continuous autofocus capability – and we’ve seen that’s just been addressed by the integration of phase detection photosites on the new sensor. So does there remain any solid reason to pick an APS-C or FF DSLR other than absolute resolution or extreme low-light? I opened a can of worms with an earlier article on the demise of the DSLR; now I’m going to pour that can out onto the table and spread it around a bit.

E-M1-Comparison-spec sheet

Here’s how the core feature table looks; I’ve thrown in the D4 for comparison, because I think this is the E-M1’s natural full-frame competition: a tough-as-nails, pro-grade, speed-focused general purpose photographic bludgeon. Green is a decisive win, red is a decisive loss. There’s one thing missing here – that’s the E-M1 and E-M5’s stabilizers, which is a definite advantage. You’ll note that the E-M1 actually seems to have the best balance of compromises, unless you’re a videographer – in which case the Canon (or the GH3) would be a better choice. In fact, what stands out is that the older E-M5 loses on a lot of the categories – yet that was reflected in no real disadvantage in its ability to make great images. More, is of course better. This is of course not a complete spec sheet, but I think it goes to show how difficult a comparison we have on paper. The price is undoubtedly steep – and that’s something I criticised the GH3 for, given that the camera was still lacking PDAF and had a subpar viewfinder even compared to the E-M5; the E-M1 pushes the boundaries higher still. It’s a shame, because I think Olympus must be torn: price it like the tool it is, or go for volume because a lot of consumers are still motivated by size?

I don’t think there’s any doubt that if the core sensor technology is of similar vintage, then the larger sensor will be better on all technical measures; the more pertinent question is just how much better, and more importantly, how far up do you have to climb the diminishing returns tree to see the difference? And that’s what I’m going to try to answer today.

Important testing notes: we do not yet have ACR support for the E-M1, and I’m not familiar enough with the Olympus software to be confident of extracting the most out of the raw files, so testing will be done with JPEGs – I’ll update this portion as soon as an update is released. For all cameras, sharpening will be set to the optimum for the camera – generally about halfway between default neutral and maximum; saturation was reduced slightly, contrast was set to minimum and noise reduction off; basically, I tried to create as good a starting point as possible for processing – in effect a ‘quasi-raw’ JPEG. I’ll use the 85/1.8 G on the Nikon, and the 45/1.8 on the Olympus cameras – stopped down to f8 on the Nikon, and f5.6 on the Olympus to balance off optimal sharpness, depth of field and diffraction. The cameras will be locked down on on a heavy Gitzo 5-series tripod and Arca-Swiss Cube geared head. You can click on any of the relevant links following the images below for 100% crops.

E-M1-Comparison-low ISO
Low ISO comparison – 200-1600 – click here for 100% crops.

Let’s talk about the easy stuff first – low ISO noise. I’d say the most obvious thing that’s apparent from the above swatches is that the D600 has more dynamic range than the M4/3 cameras; unsurprisingly, the ensuing images look flatter and lower contrast (lighting conditions and exposure times were identical for all three cameras). All three cameras are very clean to ISO 800, though it’s also clear that the E-M1 has the weakest (i.e. none) AA filter of the three; the D600’s AA filter is fairly strong – look at the dot pattern in the white CD case. The E-M5’s JPEG and NR engine is noticeably coarser than either the E-M1 or D600; there’s just a hint of splodginess creeping in at ISO 1600. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to use any of these cameras at any of these settings.

E-M1-Comparison-high ISO
High ISO comparison – 3200-25600 – click here for 100% crops.

Higher ISOs are a different story – the E-M5 is looking very ropy by ISO 6400; I try not to exceed 3200 on this camera. The D600 is still pretty smooth and retaining fine detail well (look at the logo in the black CD case) though color is starting to get very flat and chroma noise is dominating the shadows past ISO 6400. This is actually a little surprising as Nikon’s forte has always been keeping noise in the luminance channel. I wouldn’t use this camera past 6400. The E-M1 is actually keeping pace with the D600, and trades chroma noise for a bit more luminance noise; there’s not a lot of difference in resolution to ISO 6400, but above that the D600 pulls away. On an absolute basis, I think the E-M1 has pulled out a stop from the E-M5 – I’d use this camera at 6400, but no higher. What’s really impressive about the E-M1 is that there are no odd colour/hue shifts going on as the sensitivity increases – look at the red swatch, for instance. (Actual color in real life is somewhere between the D600 and E-M1; neither camera gets it right.)


In this scene, we look at dynamic range. Each camera was exposed until the any of the individual channel highlights just clipped; I used the live highlight warning on the M4/3 cameras, and the playback highlights on the D600. It appears that the E-M1 has a slightly brighter highlight rendition than the E-M5 – the same amount of clipping was visible in both at these settings. I suspect it might have something to do with the color rendering: even though all cameras were manually set to the same Kelvin WB, the E-M1 has the most accurate color of the three; the E-M5 is too yellow, and the D600 is too green. On the E-M1, the histograms for each individual color channel are much closer together – resulting in slightly brighter highlights.

Highlights. 100% crops here.

Shadows. 100% crops here.

No question that the D600 has the most dynamic range of the three; that’s to be expected given that it has the larger pixel pitch by some margin. I’d call it half a stop in the highlights and perhaps a stop in the shadows; I suspect it would be a lot closer in RAW however – the E-M1 seems to have very clean shadows, potentially hiding quite a bit of usable latitude. The E-M5 noticeably trails both cameras again – look at the folded cloth, and the hat band. Out of the three, I prefer the E-M1’s rendition of the scene; I think it’s the mixture of getting the color almost spot on, as well as the added punch from the lack of AA filter; though the two M4/3 cameras are quite similar here, note the softness in the D600 image – even at the point of focus (look at the hat).

_ET30476 copy

Next up is a grab from out of the studio window; we will consider real world resolution and dynamic range.

E-M1-Comparison-car highlights
Highlight rolloff – click here for 100% crops.

E-M1-Comparison-car detail
Practical resolution – click here for 100% crops.

Once again, the D600 seems to have the flatter image – shadows aren’t quite as dense as the E-M1, but we really need to see RAW files to figure out how much of this is the in-camera processing and how much of it is the sensor’s native response. What I do notice though is the highlight rolloff of the E-M1 seems to be the best of the three, though it shares the densest shadows with the E-M5; the E-M5’s highlights are a bit dull, and the D600 seems to clip abruptly. Differences in native tonal response? Probably. Though the two M4/3 cameras are pretty close on resolution, I’d give the E-M1 a hair in acuity and microcontrast; it must be a mix of the lack of AA filter and new image processing engine; fine detail just doens’t seem as coarse as the E-M5. The D600 is clearly resolving a little bit more than the other two – look at all of the number plates – but it’s really surprisingly quite close. If the D600 also lacked an AA filter, the difference would be much larger.

Here’s the practical challenge, though: all of these tests were conducted under optimal shooting conditions: heavy tripod, magnified live view to confirm critical focus, base ISO. In the real world, you’re not going to be able to achieve that all of the time under the shooting conditions for which these cameras were intended – handheld travel or reportage-style work – which means that you might well not be able to get the same results. I find that the current crop of 24 and 36MP cameras give up a stop or two in shooting envelope – you have to have a much higher shutter speed to ensure critical sharpness, which effectively degrades both low light capabilities and dynamic range. The OM-D twins, however, have that excellent stabilizer that allows you to stick to the 1/focal length rule or below; effectively buying you a couple of stops. Unless you’re shooting action, where shutter speed is critical to freeze motion, this makes a huge difference in practice! If we couple that with the increase in size of the larger sensored system – for both camera and lenses – then the advantage of the mirrorless contingent becomes even larger.

With PDAF on sensor, that last bastion of the DSLR is eroding, too. Practically, the D600’s AF system still tracks better than the E-M1; I spent some time shooting traffic and found that the E-M1 would perform similar to or slightly better than the D200 generation of cameras in terms of tracking ability; I think with another iteration or judicious firmware update, the gap will, shrink even further. Mirrorless will always outdo an SLR in AF accuracy; simply because the exact focus point is also the exact imaging point.

And here we come full circle: I compare the E-M1 to the D600 because it’s the cheapest entry into full frame (and I didn’t have access to a pro DX camera; in any case, none of the current lineup match it on spec either) – and whilst the D600 still holds a bit of an advantage in image quality, it’s not as much as you might think; less in practical application; far more of the difference will come down to shot discipline and how the images are processed. And that’s assuming pixels are going to be peeped: they’re close enough that even at 100% it takes a reasonably trained eye to spot the difference. Everybody will see the composition first, of course. Even if we’d had DX cameras in the mix, the results would be even closer still – if not an even match. Even as it stands, I haven’t observed that much difference in underlying sensor quality between the GR and OM-D; at stop, at most. Most of the difference is due to the optics. Yet despite its sensor, the D600 lags behind in every other specification; it’s not until you hit the full-fat D4 that you can match frame rates or environmental sealing. Bottom line: there is simply nothing quite like the E-M1 at the moment – a very compact professional system camera.

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.
The E-M5 is available here from B&H and Amazon.
The D600 is available here from B&H and Amazon.


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.


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop and Photoshop Workflow videos and the customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!


Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. hi where you get info say that em1 is 14 bit. olympus never mention it

  2. Your style is very unique in comparison to other folks I’ve read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this web site.

  3. the only thing which bugs me on the em1 is frequent ‘muddy’ looking shadows. de-noising does well with any fine grained noise, but splotches in the colours in a shadow is nearly impossible to fix in post processing. any thoughts ?

  4. Hello Ming. Some say the Olympus cameras render noise similarly to film grain. What do you think? I tried the EM-5 with 25/1.8 and somehow at 100% crop on focus point I don’t find pix as sharp as my Canon 60D w/ Sigma 17-50/2.8. Not that they don’t look good. Certainly as something to do with orf files processing which I’m not as familiar with. But, can it come from the so-callled film grain noise, or smaller sensor? Thank you and kep up the amazing work!

    • Impossible to say without seeing a direct comparison. I don’t find the M4/3 cameras noisy if exposed properly, and definitely not soft.

  5. Giella Lea Fapmu says:

    I am reading this review long after it was written so maybe the comment is a bit out of date but what does it mean that there are no
    pro grade DX cameras? Even when this was written both Fuji and Pentax (and maybe more brands) had sealed body, high quality lenses setups. Pentax is not that popular but I see Fujis in professional’s hands quite often.


    • A ‘professional’ camera is one that a working photographer can make money from. By that logic, that includes my iPhone.

    • The term “pro” is a bit of a misnomer, really (a pro can use any camera of a certain minimal level of quality), but typically a “pro-grade” camera offers:

      – Heavier build quality (to resist the knocks and bumps of serious everyday use)
      – Increased weather and dust resistance
      – A shutter that is tested to a higher number of cycles
      – A suite of lenses to meet almost any need (Nikon, for example, seems to have intentionally hobbled their DX lens lineup)
      – A comprehensive system that surrounds it, capable of tackling most photographic challenges (back in the days of film this last one was a sure signifier of a pro camera)

  6. Hello Ming! Been looking everywhere for info on the OLYMPUS OMD EM1 on the bit depth?
    No body seems to know or wants to talk about it, seems like a huge secret. I would like to officially know
    Is the olympus OMD EM1…….12 bit …….or 14 bit……..what is the truth! Think I’m speaking
    for all the Olympus OMD EM1 owners out there. And by the way very nice write up you have done!
    Thank you all the best! Mike.

  7. Curious D600 owner says:

    Hi. Any update on the E-M1 vs. D600 in RAW? You made mention that you might update this comparison once ACR was available for the E-M1. Very interesting comparison for me, as that’s the EXACT trade I’m considering. D600 to E-M1. Thanks

    • The original review was updated some time back to include raw image assessment.

      • Hi Ming, I’ve been reading your posts lately and I find your blog really filled with great information and knowledge. Congratulaciones for that. One thing that I really can’t find anywhere is whether the responsiveness of the e-M1 is on par with that of the advanced or pro dslrs. I have a D300 and a e-m5 and althought the little om-d is way way battery than older m43 cameras, it still cannot match the responsiveness of the D300. I’ve recently used both in a studio shoot and after the first hour I stopped using the omd because it was killing the rythm of the shoot. I have been wondering (and lusting a bit) of getting an e-m1 to replace the e-m5 but I need to know if the camera is as responsive as the D300, close to it or very far from it. Can you give some feedback on this? I’d really appreciate your input. I understand the AF speed will be less than the phase detection one of the d300 but I am more worried on startup, delay on response from menu, review, sleep recovering, etc…

        best regards and thanks!!


        • I already answered that in the first part of the review. The E-M1 is just as responsive as the pro Nikons/ Canons.

          • Hi Ming,

            Thanks! Sorry I must have skipped this comment.

            Best regards


            • Ming, still can’t decide between the Olympus E-M1 and the Sony A7r for my new go to system. (Have the Ricoh GR as my compact backup which I purchased through your link to support the website!). I mostly shoot the family on vacation as well as at special events
              that sometimes require speed. Also enjoy portrait work as well as landscape shots on my vacation travels, and the ability to make enlargements. The E-M1 seems to do it all so well and with the 5 axis stabilization it looks like almost every shot is a keeper. But also intrigued by the full frame sensor and resolution power of the A7r. Is the focusing of the A7r too slow that I might miss some of those special family moments? If you weren’t invested in the Nikon D800 with the same sensor as the A7r, would you give more thought to the A7r as your primary camera, or would you stay with the E-M1?

              • I wouldn’t buy the A7R because a) native AF lens choice is very poor and Sony has a bad track record on this, and b) it has serious double image problems caused by shutter vibration at 1/150-1/500s. I covered both of these things extensively in the A7R review.

                • Recently purchased the E-M1 with the Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 pro zoom for my everyday lens. Looking for a top quality portrait lens to travel with. I know you haven’t reviewed the Pan-Leica Nocticron 42.5mm 1.2 yet, but assuming it is the same quality (or very slightly better which early reviews have suggested) in sharpness, tonality, and bokeh as the Olympus 75mm 1.8 , what lens would you tend to pick to put in your travel bag as a second lens?
                  If money were no object, would you pick the costlier Leica Nocticron that allows you to stop down twice more in a more useful 85mm ‘classic’ portrait range? Or would the 40mm end range of the 12-40mm 2.8 be good enough to use in most applications (with obvious low light restrictions)?
                  I’m thinking the Olympus 75mm 1.8 for the money would make the more useful 2nd lens to carry, but I’m just worried the 150mm length may be a little bit much to use frequently. Do you find the 150mm length more difficult to work with for family applications, as opposed to street photography?
                  Is it stupid to be considering the Leica for so much money but a useful f1.2, or will I find myself using and adapting to the ‘bargain’ Olympus 75mm more than I think?
                  Appreciate your insight.

                  • Sorry, but I haven’t even handled one. How can I possibly pass a fair judgement in advance on whether it works for me?

                    • Do you think the quality, DOF and speed of the 12-40 pro zoom makes a good enough portrait lens at 40mm, or should I have a second lens for that purpose? In your use of the Olympus 75mm 1.8, would I tend to have a harder time working with the 150mm length for family work as opposed to street photography?

                    • Again. I can’t answer that question because I have no idea how or what you shoot. I can make a portrait at 12mm or 75mm, both of which ‘work’. Either lens has more than sufficient quality, pictorial results depend on how the photographer uses them.

  8. I use the delay often, but I know when I’m using it. Only picture #4 in the test shots has the delay.

    • There’s a setting on the E-M1 that seems to make the ‘bite point’ on the shutter button higher up, so it’s set more on a hair trigger – I find it doesn’t give me enough control, but perhaps it might be useful for you.

      • Thanks again, Ming. I did some more testing with the E-M5, this time using an on-screen stopwatch. It appears that the 240 fps “Fast” frame rate in custom menu J helps significantly after all, and is not much worse than viewing the scene bare-eyed. You’ll also be interested in what I found about the M8: My individual M8 timings varied quite a bit more than the E-M5 timings. The notchy shutter release, perhaps?

        • Quite possibly. That shutter release has too many steps and a very odd break point. A soft release helps to some extent but does not alleviate the problem completely.

  9. Hello, Ming. I currently shoot with both a Leica M8 and an Olympus E-M5. One issue I don’t see discussed in reviews is the significant EVF delay in the E-M5, and whether it the E-M1 has improved this enough to matter. The E-M5 EVF lags about 1/8 second behind real life–enough that it was very difficult to nab a fleeting “decisive moment.” Example: I could not catch the instant of ball meeting the raquet in a very gentle family game of duffer tennis. I have no trouble doing such things with a Leica RF or a DSLR. I also found that if I put an external optical viewfinder in the hot shoe, the problem went away, and results were similar to a Leica RF. So the problem is not *shutter* lag, but the EVF.

    I later confirmed the viewfinder lag by photographing an electronic metronome with the sound turned off. Yes, I know my reaction time is significant, but my results with the Leica M8 and the E-M5 using an external bright-line viewfinder were about the same. The E-M5 with EVF was about 1/8 second longer. I even tried the Custom Menu J option to speed up the viewfinder refresh rate. It didn’t help.

    So my question now is: Has the E-M1 improved on this significantly? This subject is rarefied enough that no reviews I’ve read address it. I’d also like to know how much if any the shutter shock has been mitigated, because this means I must add yet another 1/8 second delay if I want the sharpest pictures.

    Sometimes all this doesn’t matter–often actions and expressions “peak and hold.” But somtimes the E-M5 doesn’t cut it for fast “people photography.” A pity, because it is so very, very good at so much else.

    Thanks for any insights.

    • It doesn’t if you use high speed refresh on the EVF. There might be AF lag, but that’s present on any camera, and frankly, I thought the shutter lag on the Leicas was amongst the worst I’d experienced. Prefocusing on the Olympus will eliminate lag entirely – you should be doing this anyway.

      I suspect the reason why nobody has mentioned lag is because it’s a non-issue in practice with both cameras. I certainly haven’t found it impeding my photojournalism work. Again: I notice more lag on the Ms than the E-M1 or E-M5.

      • Thanks, Ming. Interesting–your experience is different from mine. I do pre-focus. These shots are typical of the results that I got with the metronome. One forward swing of the needle is 1/2 second. From L-R: M8, E-M5 with external optical viewfinder, E-M5 with EVF, and E-M5 with EVF and 1/8 second shutter “anti-shock” delay.

        The M8-9-ME shutter is much louder when recocking than when the shutter opens, which made me think it was lagging until I got used to it. All I can say is that for some reason, I often lose a fleeting instant with the E-M5 and usually don’t with any of my optical viewfinder cameras, including film Ms, and M8, and the several Oly DSLRs I’ve owned. I’ll try the high frame rate again and see how it does.

        • I’m now wondering if you have one of the shutter delay modes/ anti shock settings enabled – that can introduce precisely a 1/8 or 1/4s lag…

  10. Hi Ming,
    What would you say in terms of comparison between the Ricoh GR and the EM1, IQ wise at similar mm with 12-40 2.8?
    I have a Leica M and a Ricoh GR and am finding the Ricoh provides a far superior amount of keepers although would prefer native 35 and 50mm options instead of software crop it provides. I’m therefor intrigued by the EM1 12-40 combo as a one lens system travel camera for when I’m concerned about my Leica Noctilux walk around value (unfortunately happens very frequently and therefor stays home)… Will the M43 sensor allow for high quality A3+ Prints?

    Congrats on your site, I really enjoy your reviews and photography!

    • No, the GR is still better – a matched prime of moderate aperture and larger sensor will always win out over a smaller sensor and zoom. That said, the E-M1 is more forgiving at a wider range of shutter speeds because of the stabilizer; for static subjects handheld in low light, it will overtake the Ricoh because you’ll be a couple of stops lower in the ISO range.

      I have 36×50″ prints in my current exhibition from the E-M5, and they’re good enough to not see pixellation even at 6 inch viewing distance. It depends on the starting quality of your file, which is in turn related to your shot discipline 🙂

      • Thanks Ming, what a camera the GR is huh… I might just have to wait for a GR with a standard 50mm fixed lens, that would be the pair of cameras which might make me forget about my M completely, and all for £1200, less than 1 Leica lens… Pretty please Ricoh?!?!?!?!?!?!?!????

  11. Hi, Ming,

    Thank you for the excellent review.

    I am curious if there is any information about the dynamic range of consumer LCD monitors (such as those on iMac 27″) and what is the latitude of the currently used commercial printers.

    When it comes to the dynamic range, I guess a good camera should have at least equal dynamic range to the one of the monitor or the latitude of the printer. Extra dynamic range might be helpful during the post-processing but could be an overkill as well.

    Basically, by asking about the dynamic range of the LSDs and printer, I am trying to find an answer to the question how much camera dynamic range is enough.

    I appreciate any help with this.

    Thank you.


    • Roughly:
      Camera – 12-14 stops if used carefully
      Screen – 6-8 stops
      Print – anywhere between 6-10 stops, depends on paper and method. Nonlinear.

  12. This is an interesting and informative review. As someone who would like a much lighter/less bulky system camera that is well built, works well and has excellent lenses, I think the EM1 is certainly worth considering. I also think comparing this camera to FF cameras or other professional cameras makes sense. (I currently use a 5DII).

    However, I would very much like to read a review based on RAW images, since I would never use JPEG, and anyway they limit the value of the comparison. I would also like to see some images (as in the D800/Leica MM comparison), which work with people and shallow depth of field, to see exactly how handicapped the EM1 is in this area.

    Obviously I’m biased – I work only in B&W and I generally only photograph people, usually in their environmental context. I like to know the level of control I have over how that context is rendered with regard to depth of field, so those sorts of visual indications would be much more relevant to me than cars. Thanks anyway.

    • Perhaps you should go read one of the other bloggers who only shoot models wide open…that is not what I do. However, I can say that the DOF performance is the same as the E-M5, E-P5 and every other M4/3 camera. If you use the 45/1.8 or 75/1.8 lenses, there’s plenty of DOF control.

  13. thanks for taking the time with this review, very helpful

  14. Ming Thein,

    Awesome review, very helpful. thank you. I was wondering how you feel about the new long exposure issues owners of the E-M1 are having? Does your body have the same issue?

  15. Thank you for an excellent review (as always).

    I received my E-M1 two weeks back (my girlfriend takes the E-M5). In most respects it is a truly excellent camera and with the new EVF there have been a few occasions where I have forgotten that I was looking at a screen. Remarkable progress.

    The one thing that I do not like about it is that they have not fixed Auto-ISO. It is still remarkably bad for such an advanced camera. What I am missing for Auto-ISO are the following things:

    * Exposure compensation in manual mode with Auto-ISO.
    * Ability to adjust the thresholds for the balance between ISO and shutter speed in A and P mode. It seems to not like shutter speeds slower than 1/2*focallength (for example 1/90 on a 45mm lens). On a camera with excellent IS I do not ever want to use ISO3200 for a static subject. Why can there not be a button assignable to change the focal length multiplier with a wheel?

    Since Auto-ISO is essential to my way of working I doubt that Olympus will see any more money from me unless they can fix at least one of these issues in a firmware.

    • With all due respect, it seems to me that your needs are so peculiar that Olympus will never fix them . They will go fine without your money, too…

      • No he’s not and there’s nothing peculiar about it. There are many people who find the ability to set EC while specifying the shutter speed and aperture with auto ISO useful. Nikon has done it since the D3, Sony does it and Leica did it with the M9 (and then broke it with the M 240).

  16. HI Ming, what do you think about the Omd Em1 vs the just announced Sony Alpha 7?

  17. according to Olympus website, em1 has the same 12 bits so 14 bits looks like incorrect information. New processor speeds things up in terms of bursts but doesn’t add any more dynamic range.

  18. Great review Ming. Yesterday, DPReview released their E-P5 in-depth review in which they talk about camera-shake issues. Especially how the 5-axis can not prevent vertical shake when pressing the shutter.

    Here is the link:

    Have you noticed this issues in the E-M1 or the E-P5 and E-M5? I am assuming because the E-M1 is bigger and with a bigger grip, it should prevent some of these issues.

    I have am trying to sell my D7000 and two lenses to get the E-M1, so this might make me rethink my buying strategy.

    • I didn’t notice this issue in either E-M1, E-M5 or E-P5 – I shot all of these with 45, 50, 60 and 75mm lenses and have never had any issues.

  19. Hi Ming !

    Thanks for your excellent reviews. Been following your blog since I got myself an EM5 6 months ago. And I’m still refering to your first videos to improve.

    I have a quick question about the video mode on the EM1. I tested briefly the video mode on the EM5, no big surprise : the IBIS is awesome. The only problem I found is the compression algorythm ; when presented with lots of motion (like, say a first person shot with lots of wanted camera movement), the compression falls apart and it’s just a mess of ugly pixels.

    I also own a video camera, a Panasonic AG HMC151. The optics and sensor can’t really compare, but it’s a video camera, so on that side it’s more suited usually. When confronted to a lot of motion, the image quality barely suffers.

    Now they’re both using AVCHD I believe, but the EM5’s bitrate is lower. Might be the issue.

    I don’t know if you stress-tested the EM1’s video mode on that type of situation yet ? Would be interested to know if it’s better. I have an upcoming shoot and I’d love to make use of the IBIS and my optics… Plus I could call an EM5 friend and shoot dual-camera !


    • Haven’t quantitatively stress tested the E-M1 – and won’t be able to until my own unit arrives, the loaner went back two weeks ago – but the bitrate has increased significantly, and I see far less blocking and tearing than with the E-M5 under similar situations. The raw video output still isn’t as good as the dedicated video cameras, but then again, it was never designed for that.

      • Thanks for the quick feedback. That’s what I expected. One little thing I’d like to know is if, contrary to the EM5, the EM1 can have live view over HDMI… Could allow to record uncompressed 4:2:2 via an Atomos Ninja or similar device. But I guess not…

  20. Many thanks for the review! while I was going for OMD anyway, it did sway me towards the EM1 rather then the EM5.
    just two comments though. I believe the D600 JPEG results are significantly less impressive then an equivalent RAW file. I’m not sure how that affect the comparison (and for me it is not an issue anyway)
    Also, another big aspect is the availability of great lenses at affordable price. the equivalent for the micro 4/3 star lens in the full frame world cost twice and more and that have impact both on picture quality and my bank account 🙂

    • There’s a bigger gap between JPEG and RAW certainly, but dynamic range and noise are still fairly representative. Color, on the other hand…

  21. Hello Ming, do you plan to test the video capabilities of the M1 into more details? Thank you.

  22. Honestly, I don’t see much difference between output of the E-M5 and the E-M1. Nothing significant anyway. The E-M5 seems to have a very weak AA filter and resolves fine detail just fine. the only things I like about the E-M1 is the new viewfinder and the improved ergonomics. It’s not enough to justify an upgrade though. I’ll skip this one and wait for the 24mp successor.

    • We’re long past the point of huge leaps with every product cycle; it’s incremental now. No harm in skipping a generation or two – the old cameras don’t become worse automatically because a new one got released…

    • I agree, perhaps a bit (only a bit) better at higher iso.s , but not more, than you can gain with a good noise reduction program. I do not think I would have upgraded even the price was lower, but certainly not with this price, and I very seldom shoot at higher iso.s because the in-camera stab. is so very good, so I do not need it

      Now I am thinking about buying the VF-4 for my E-.M5

  23. The Heavyweight says:

    You wrote that images taken with a camera with higher DR will look flatter and less contrasty. Indeed, I have always wondered why some highly acclaimed cameras’ pictures (or rather – crops from them) look fairly bland when compared to the Olympus pictures.

    Would you mind explaining why? I’d really like to understand this.

    Also, some say the APS-C or M4/3 cameras due to the higher pixel density will be better for cropping than an FF camera (crops looking sharper and allegedly showing more detail), showing more detail. I always wonder, is this true? Or is it a logical error, and if you use a lens with a higher focal length for the FF camera, the crops will look the same? Or is this also a result of the effect you described above (i.e. there is not more detail due to higher pixel density, but the image simply looks more contrasty and colourful due to this effect) ? I always wonder whether the smaller pixels won’t actually reduce the detail, because they can capture less colour nuances than larger pixels?

    Apologies if this is not the place to ask these questions, I’m just looking for explanations.

    • You have the same amount of output DR regardless of the camera; the screen is the same. So if you have more input dynamic range, you have to allocate that to the same output range; there will be overlaps.

      Cropping: no. More pixels means better detail retention. Regardless of the sensor size. You simply cannot argue that if you chop a 16MP APSC image in half to 8MP it will be better than a D800E image with 36MP chopped into half. Even if you match the same resultant FOV, you’ll land up with more pixels on the D800E (9).

  24. Thank you for the review, it is great. Also look forward to the raw test as the jpg could be a compromise based on manufacturers’ thoughts about consumers’ needs?
    I have em5 and really happy with it. Compared with my d7000, I feel the image quality are close to each other, but it appears that d7000’s raw files have much higher tolerance to post processing – or it could be because I am more familiar with capture nx than other software. Appreciate for your thoughts?

    • Definitely; every JPEG is a compromise because it assumes that the end photographer requires a certain result. We now have preliminary ACR support, so I’ll be going back to update the review soon. The E-M5 files have plenty of latitude too; though to be honest most of the time I don’t need to do much recovery since one tries to get it as close to perfect out of camera to begin with…

    • Samson,
      If I good remember (I had a Nikkon D7000), in the LR, I can modify easier the picture – especially in the darker areas. But may be the highlights processing is better if you work with OM-D files.
      It is interesting question. The D7000 have 14 bit raw files (12 or 14 bit – depends on what do you choose), and the OM-D (even the OM-D E-M1) has 12 bit files, unfortunately. 😦

  25. Hi Ming, Thanks for your review, a good read as always. I have a 7 year old D80 which i typically pair with an 18-50 2.8 Sigma lens and have been looking for a replacement for a while now. My top contenders for the Slot are the Oly OMDs and the Fuji X Series. I thought your comparison on Dynamic Range above was really telling as i have always found the MFT cameras to be fairly muddy in terms of shadow detail. Having said that the sharpness as compared to the FF D600 was great. I was wondering if you could somehow take some similar test shows with a Fuji XE1 with its 18-55 Kit to show the DR. I think that would be really great to see from a comparison perspective as i think a lot of people look at these two cameras / systems together when doing a new buy decision. Thanks. Hoshner.

  26. Stephen Scharf says:

    “there are no real pro-grade* DX or compact system cameras out there at the moment; the E-M1 is pretty much it.”

    That’s not true, the Fuji XF system is a professional grade compact system camera.

    • Nope, it isn’t. It’s not weather sealed and you can’t compare AF performance with Olympus. It’s good enough for me and I’ve owned one for over a year but due to slower AF and lack of any treatment against environment I wouldn’t call it pro-grade.

    • No it isn’t; weather sealing is missing, and frame rates are much lower. More importantly, workflow and file handling are both a disaster. External/physical controls are also limited. I tried one at the initial launch with some excitement but found it seriously wanting. Not so for the OM-Ds.

      • Stephen Scharf says:

        You can’t judge the performance of the X-Pro1 at initial launch with the system as it stands today. The AF is considerably faster with the newest lenses and version 3 of the firmware (if you haven’t used this version, then these comments are presently inaccurate). As far as frame rate, I’ve shot the camera at 6 fps at a recent Indy Car race in the pits, as well as NHRA pro drag racing and obtained excellent results. If you mean by file handling and workflow, the RAW conversion, this too is dramatically better with LR 5 and the current version of Capture One 7. By no means can it be considered a disaster. Most importantly, it’s image quality is superior to the OM-D; I know that for a fact because I have and use both extensively.

        • I have used v3. It just doesn’t work for me. Image quality may be superior if you have the time to work with individual files in silkypix or are comparing jpegs only, but if you have hundreds to deal with – then it’s simply impractical unless you are willing to settle for jpeg, which defeats the point. A professional system is not just about the camera, but workflow, too.

          • Stephen Scharf says:

            For all but the most challenging of image content, I’m getting excellent results with X-trans RAW files with Lightroom 5.1. For “mission critical” images, Capture One works even better and has a workflow quite comparable to Lightroom. We both have different requirements, and that’s fine, but in my case, workflow is definitely not an issue. Just my two cents…

            • The problem is there’s enough of a gap between C1/Silkypix and ACR that the latter is really leaving some image quality behind on the table. My workflow requires PS for local and sequential adjustments; having no (good) ACR support means an intermediate step that adds quite a bit of time – enough that it makes me think twice about whether I want to use the camera or not. It is suited to reportage/ location assignments, which have a high quantity of output and thus requires fast processing; for low-volume/ultimate perfection studio work, then I’d rather use something with even higher image quality like the Hasselblad or D800E. I guess it just doesn’t fit the way I work…

      • Stephen Scharf says:

        Just one more comment, and then I’ll be quiet, I promise! My comments regarding the Fujifilm XF system as a pro level system aside, as an owner of an E-M5, I have to say am very, very impressed with it and the system of Oly and Panny lenses available for it. It’s also just a lot of fun to shoot with, and it’s very high image quality is well-known. Your review of the E-M1 is excellent and provides a lot of very useful content for considering this camera as a potential purchase. I look forward to your continuing field reports with interest.

        • The X system is really a shame: the lens selection for that is actually perfect, and I thought as much when it was first launched. I was contemplating switching over to that system because of that alone…until I used one.

          I do agree though – the M4/3 system has a lot of options, and whilst there’s a lot of uninteresting stuff in there (mostly consumer zooms), and few options on the wide end – there are also some truly outstanding gems like the 60 and 75mm lenses, and surprises like the 14-42X.

  27. Just a small note on lenses. There is a tilt shift lens for m4/3s. It is a 2.8/20mm made by Arsat in Ukraine. I have one. Though it might be discontinued by now. I could post you a picture but don’t know how to do that.

    • That’s news to me – how are the optics?

      • I would say similar to the Samyang/Rokinons with ‘top’ corners a bit soft when fully shifted and with noticeable purple fringing. But in architectural photo of a building the top corners are often sky so not a big deal. In interiors it would matter more, or in shifted panoramas. Also 20mm is of course only 40eq so not that wide but better than adapting a 24 or 28. It has 10-11mm of shift, which is quite a lot on m4/3s so normally one only needs a few mm and then the quality is quite acceptable. Tilt is more of a gimmick in wide angle lenses, especially on small sensors but sure you can get the usual miniature effects and the depth of field that runs left to right with a band of sharpness from front to back. Not so much need to ‘increase’, depth of field which can be done just by stopping down a bit more, I have a Schneider 28 shift for Sony 900 and it is clearly better quality but at that price (and size) it should be. This 2.8/20 Arsat was about USD 425 if I remember right, some two years ago when I bought it.

        • Thanks for that info. Doesn’t sound like that fantastic a lens; perhaps something like the Voigt 20 or Zeiss Distagon 18/21 would work better. Depends on the format though: tilt can be useful to extend DOF if you’re going for very extreme perspectives on larger formats.

  28. Great review and blog. Really enjoy it. Can you comment on the quality of the E-M1 to that of E-P5. You did state in your updated review of the E-P5 that “I still think they’re still a hair better than the OM-D in terms of color and tonality, and possibly the best I’ve straight-from-camera output I’ve seen”. Is the JPEG engine in the EM-1 better than that of the E-P5?

  29. I would say that a much more natural competitor to it would be the Pentax K5IIs, which I find about as curious ommission in your comparison as the inclusion of the D4.

    • I can’t include or make meaningful comments about a camera I haven’t used and am not familiar with.

      • True, but it does make your bottom line statement incorrect all the same.
        There is other compact professional system cameras out there. That you have no experience with them does not make your comment any less incorrect.

        That said, I spend some time reading a bit on your blog. You run a good shop overall I think.

        • I just checked the K5IIs spec – it doesn’t match the E-M1 on frame rates or weather sealing, nor does Pentax have wireless TTL flash. It’s D7100/ 7D class, not D4 class.

          • It does match E-M1 on frame rate with continous AF – the other numbers are meaningless. As for weather sealing, you can find videos where people are taking showers with their Pentax K5. It has a lot more metal in it than a D7100. It was promoted with the same arguments as EM-1 – the thoughest built compact “pro” camera. It also has a program of smaller, but high quality lenses. As far as I can see a Pentax K5 is the most directly competing camera vs an E-M1. Yes, it is not a D4 competitor in a meaningful way – it cant touch it in sensor performance, DOF control, lens program, action shooting capablities – but neither can an EM-1. The K5 is the natural competition for the new Oly.

            • Well, you learn something new every day. I am not familiar with or have access to every single camera; I can only comment on what I’ve used. I’m a photographer not a gear reviewer who happens to also photograph!

  30. Hello just want to mention that you should change the chart in part 2 to show the E-M1 is i2 bit not 14 as that is an important statistic. Great job on the lens review. Rod

  31. very interesting review. what is missing, i think, from the discussion is the pictorial possibilities opened up by the shallower depth of field of the larger sensor. given how good these cameras all are at high ISO, comparing the size of the “midrange f/2.8” zooms isn’t that meaningful when the m4/3 lens is actually making an image that looks like the full frame lens two stops stopped down. nobody makes a full frame 24-70 f/5.6 zoom (for obvious reasons!) but if they did it probably wouldn’t be as heavy and expensive as the f/2.8 version.

    for some uses, more DOF is better. but for some, less is better and m4/3 simply doesn’t give you as many options there. the really great 75 f/1.8 doesn’t sound quite as great if described as “equivalent to a 150 f/3.5”

    • It depends on how you shoot. For most commercial and documentary work, you don’t want too little depth of field anyway. Weddings…another matter.

      • agreed. depends on subject and creative intent… but you can always stop down a larger sensor a bit, given a large range of usable ISO settings. the smaller lens can’t be opened up any further 😉

        • The shallow depth of field is exactly the reason why I switched to the micro 4/3 system. I don’t need shallow depth of field when I use 35mm lens, a 50mm lens and even on a 85mm lens it’s too shallow. I have to close the aperture (and bump up the ISO or lower the shutter speed) to get enough depth of field on a full frame of APSC camera. Now I cann set my Panasonic 20mm at f/2 and seldomly think about DOF. If I do need shallow DOF, I just slap the excellent 45mm f/1.8 on.

          • that is what’s bugging me, too. very often, the envelope of sharpness is too small. then again, in some situations you crave the creamy bokeh of leica glass on FF, i saw too many glorious pictures… steve huff showed a comparison between leica FF 50mm f/1.4 i thing with f/0.95 voigtländers on mFT and it was rendered similarly in a way…

            and by the way, i saw sooo many bad pictures which were blurred far too much, because people often can’t control their bokeh!
            like this petapixel review! where they had one and one focus alone: the camera!!!
            there, in my opinion, they missed almost all shots,

      • “for some uses, more DOF is better. but for some, less is better and m4/3 simply doesn’t give you as many options there.”
        The point he makes above does not depend on how you shoot, it is a statement of fact.

        • The subjective part is better. That is not a fact. You can always compose in such a way that requires (or does not require) shallow DOF. Smaller sensors having less DOF control for a given angle of view is a fact.

    • I’m just a lowly amateur photographer, but I think f/0.95 lenses already give you pretty shallow DOF. If you really need more, you can always use a Speed Booster with a legacy lens. I’m shooting primarily MFT, but just for shallow DOF I’m sometimes carrying my old NEX-3 with me that got a second life through a 150€ lens turbo. This really gives you (almost) the same FOV as a 35mm system, though on MFT it would be more like a 1.45x crop. So yes, you can kind of open up the lens further on crop systems. 😉 Sure it’s kind of a hacky solution, but I like the modularity: You have a small camera and depending on what you want to do you can keep it small or extend it to do almost anything.

  32. While reeling slightly, as ever, at all Ming’s beautiful shots, thorough & detailed evaluations and clear, readable presentation, and at everyone’s rich and thought-provoking responses – thank you all! -, may I pick up a topic that was touched on? It’s Bach – great to see him being cited here. He is an inspiring yet perplexing model. Andre, you suggested that Bach ‘was earnestly pursuing his craft and following both his logic and intuition to make what he made without trying to make a big artistic statement’. Obviously, much about Bach’s personal and professional outlook and motivation must remain uncertain, so patchy are the sources. And it’s tricky to draw comparisons from an age so different technologically, aesthetically, politically, economically and so on. But I believe Bach was very much ‘trying to make a big artistic statement’. That’s precisely what set him apart from most of his contemporaries then and still does. The fact that Bach systematically explored almost every branch of art music then practised (except opera), in almost every style (stile antico, concerto style, galant, French, Italian etc. etc.), and left exemplary works or sets of works in all these genres and styles, honing some over many years and publishing others at his own cost, suggests that he set out explore, map, redraw and extend the limits of the known musical universe in an artistic statement of colossal artistic ambition and daring. Thank goodness he succeeded… and so feeds our hearts and minds every day. In doing so, he created a new ‘logic’ for himself and others to follow. He did, of course, also write utilitarian and occasional music, although most of that was on a terrifyingly exalted plane. But Bach apparently got very cross when, late in life, he was dismissed as a jobbing musician – a ‘mere’ craftsman (I don’t myself consider that a derogatory term) – by a young whippersnapper (and ex-pupil), and through an associate let it be known that, on the contrary, he considered himself a ‘musicus doctus’. In case it sounds as if I’m the world expert on this, I should say that my understanding and enjoyment of Bach were radically changed and enriched by the writings of Christoph Wolff, with whom I have no connection. I can strongly recommend Wolff’s 2000 biography ‘Johann Sebastian Bach The Learned Musician’ to anyone who might like to pursue the subject – and in the process get another 25+ years of enjoyment out of his extraordinary music:

    • Hi Nick, thanks for all of that information. I am certainly more of Bach fan than biographer, so I will defer to others who know his life and writings better. Certainly we don’t know his motivations, but I suppose I interpret his exploration of almost every musical form (and every harmonic key) as the highest form of craftsmanship, and it was through that exploration he made art, so maybe they are two sides of the same coin. For example, I don’t know if he was trying to make an artistic statement with the Crab Canon, but it certainly pushed the boundaries of the art form further than ever before in terms of its technical features. For those who are not familiar with this piece from Musical Offering, it can be played backwards and forwards at the same time, and one becomes the other at the end. Here’s a video where it’s mapped onto a Mobius strip to show its properties:

      It’s sort of like a photographer really exploring every lens they have, perhaps using only one lens with one film or camera for a whole year, and seeing what happens. Often times, tight constraints will spur our creativity to greater heights than total freedom would have.

    • I’ll check it out – thanks for the link!

  33. I enjoyed your article, Ming. You have a way with words and your images sing! Reading the blog above was rewarding as well! Good apples fall from good trees!

    I have the E-M5 and love it! I was wondering, would the E-M5 pass your shower test? It is good to know the limits of weather proof! Did you find that shooting at !SO 100 produced finer images that those shot at 200?

    Thank you!

    • Thanks Kathleen. I don’t think the E-M5 would pass the shower test; I’m also told that whilst it’s environmentally sealed, it isn’t to the same degree as the E-M1 – which in itself is better than the E-5.

  34. Richard Bauer says:

    Thank you for the great review Ming! Since the shown images are all jpeg, I’ll have to take the results with a grain of salt. To my surprise (and relieve), the output of the E-M1 is not much better then the E-M5’s. I like what I see from the E-M5 so far. I don’t have any 4/3 lenses nor will I ever buy them, I don’t need C-AF or the 1/8000s shutter speed, so I see no real reason to upgrade to the E-M1. I am interested in the new Olympus F/2.8 standard zoom though. Let’s see how it stacks up against the very sharp Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8.

    • No problem. There are inherent limits to JPEGs, but I’d look at the glass as being half full instead of half empty: if the JPEGs are this good, then the RAWs should be really quite excellent because the potential is there.

      If you live in the tropics you might well need 1/8k and ISO 100 to use lenses wide open 🙂

  35. You described how 43 AF focus speed compared to 43 lens on an E5. I am wondering how do they compare in low light? Any slowing down or the camera thinking about it? This is on single AF. Thanks.

  36. Christiane Roh (aka rrr_hhh) says:

    Hi Ming Thein : a big thank for your great review !
    I just want to tell you that a guy stole your pictures (high noise comparison) cropped it and put it up on his blog without giving you any credit but adding his logo on it.

    Then it was posted on the MFT forum at DPreview.

    Here is the post linking to my answer at DPreview :

    His blog is named and your image is uploaded here :

  37. Andrew in Australia says:

    Hello, found your site through 43rumors. Thank you for doing such an in depth review. It’s exactly the kind of review I like to use to help choose cameras. The main thing that surprised me is how poor the D600 images looked above. You often say they have more dynamic range. I don’t really see that, but what does stand out is that they look colour inaccurate, flat, boring and plain wrong. The EM5’s images are much better, but the EM1’s are slightly better still. I am a Canon crop user who was waiting to upgrade my trusty old T1i to the new 70D, but while waiting for it discovered the OMD EM5 and have been thinking for a while now about switching to m43 instead. It is a big step. I realise how much I don’t really want the weight of a DSLR, not just the body, but when carrying around the kit. Anyway, I have 4 questions for you. I am leaning towards the EP-5 (I really want the best stabilised body, including for video, so don’t want the GX7, I don’t want the EM5 since the EP5 beats it in some key areas that I like, and the EM1 while very impressive above, is just too expensive, a little too big and heavier, and too… ugly.) Everyone seems to be bashing the EP-5 but it seems the best fit for me. I like the retro look of it too.

    #1: Would you say from your testing that the EP5 would be the same in image quality as the EM5, or would it be somewhere in between the EM5 and the EM1? I’m particularly thinking of colour accuracy and handling of the blacks and highlights, keeping blacks darker and highlights brighter. EM5 is good, but EM1 is better at these things.
    #2: What would be your pick for a lens to put a reach of 400mm on an m43 camera, to get the best image quality for under $750 even if it had to be manual focus? There are several lens options for doing this, as you will know. An m43 lens with a doubler? A 200mm 43 lens with a doubler? An old vivitar or sigma or m42 zeiss or canon FD prime lens? I’m only interested in image quality. Zoom or prime doesn’t matter, only image quality at 400 or more mm.
    #3: Which of the 3 available m43 zoom lenses that go out to 300mm do you think is the best at 300mm?
    #4: Is the best of all the lenses that go from around 40/50mm to 150mm the new Olympus 40-150 R?

    Thanks very much. I am hoping to have a new m43 system by Christmas!

    • Displays have a fixed amount of output dynamic range regardless of input. The more input dynamic range you have, the flatter images will look because things don’t clip to black or white. What this gives you is latitude in how you want to allocate your tonal range afterwards.

      1. It has slightly better acuity and better SOOC JPEGs than the E-M5 because the sensor lacks an AA filter and there’s a newer processing algorithm.

      2. The Panasonic 100-300 is pretty good, and much cheaper. Or you could try a Nikon 180/2.8 ED AIS.

      3. I’ve only used the 100-300, and I was happy with that. Can’t comment on the others as I haven’t shot with them enough to say.

      4. No, it’ll probably be the new 40-150/2.8 PRO.

      • Andrew in Australia says:

        Thanks for the information. Hadn’t seen your review for the 100-300, so I’ll go peruse that now. The new 40-150 looks quite big and heavy, I’m sure it will be the best glass but also expensive. Not including that one, do you know which is the best in that category? I will go and look up Nikon AIS glass to see what it is like. I currently have some Zeiss and Jupiter m42 lenses which I am looking forward to using on the m43 system to get body stabilization for them.

  38. Just visited Olympus spec page and it says 12 bit,could buy weather sealed K-30 with lens and 12 bit for $600 and have APS-C sensor. Don’t know why E-M1 would not be 14 bit like D7100 or K5lls. Sorry for posting twice. Rod

  39. Great articles as usual. Two points, one is E-M5 is easily found for $850 new body only , making a $550 price difference. It will be up to individual if they think the price to upgrade is worth it. PDAF sensors have no cross type, vertical only no horizontal. Don’t know if it is 12 or 14 bit but at this price it had better be 14. I still like APS-C especially Fuji and Pentax.

  40. As always, a great review. But consider this: as you well know, the real pro gear is defined by three attributes: durability, out-of-the-box quality and ergonomics. Consumer-level equipment may have more bells and whistles, but being able to truly count on your camera performing, being able to walk in to a shop and replace stolen, lost or damaged equipment that will perform precisely as well as your old kit, and having it just fit with your work flow and handling preferences makes all the difference.

    Sounds like Oly has hit the ball out of the park, to use a baseball metaphor. Here, however, is my question: how is real-world battery life? I have the battery pack for my E30 and routinely get 1500 exposures out of the two batteries inside, how is it with the EM1 and its battery pack?

    • I’ve been able to have that level of confidence with my E-M5 already; it wouldn’t have a silly number of shutter cycles on it already otherwise.

      North of 500 shots per charge using older, more power-hungry Four Thirds lenses, similar battery life to the E-M5 otherwise – I get 700-800 routinely, anywhere as high as 2000+ on occasion. Three battery packs is more than enough to last me through even the heaviest reportage days.

      • Thanks for that feedback, I’ve got north of 60 000 exposures on my E30 and was contemplating getting a used body with low exposure count as a backup: now I’ve got more options. 🙂

        Reading so many comments here reminds me of the discussions back in the day when 35mm started to take off after WW2 (I’m not that old, but my father never threw out his Photo magazines, so I grew up reading them from the 1940s and 1950s): the image size is too small, the lenses aren’t good enough because they’re not from Zeiss/Schneider Kreuznach, you can’t seriously do professional photography without perspective control, editors hate looking at anything less than 6×6 and will never hire anyone doing 35mm, color fidelity is seriously lacking with the non-Kodachrome films (think of the arguments about how many bits are resolved) because of chromogenic dithering effects, yada yada yada. Far too much depth of field, grain is far too big to take the format seriously, yada yada yada.

        Don’t like m4/3? Fine with me. I don’t like carrying more gear than necessary, and that’s from someone who spent years carrying a Pentax 6×7 with three lenses (45, 105 and 300 with a 2x extender) around the world, literally, in a humongous Domke bag that finally fell apart, literally, inside the B+H store.

        The brilliance of the 4/3 system is that it really is a rebirth of what 35mm was back in the day: smaller, lighter, vastly easier to work with, and Good Enough for that emerging species, the photojournalist, along with his psycho brother, the street photographer. The revulsion that many show here really does remind me of how Barnacke was ridiculed back in the day.

        Professionals use whatever tool is needed for the job. I once bought, for very little money, a Fuji 6×9 rangefinder camera that had been used for corporate photography just once, only around 100 exposures, as the photographer shot at the top of an industrial tower that had little or no room for his usual tool of choice, a 8×10 view camera. He sold it because the customer had paid for it in order to get the shot they wanted and he had no interest whatsoever in having it cluttering up his impeccable large-format workspace.

        Institutional biases live on far past their expiration date.

        Me, I’m looking forward to climbing up to the Gornergrat in about a month, carrying a Gigapan Pro robotic panorama head, my E30 with battery pack, Manfrotto 028b tripod with Bogen #3038 ball head, with a Series 1 600 f8 catadioptric mirror and Leica APO 180 f3.4 lenses, to get very large panorama shots (over 1000 photos per panorama). Weight, all told, around 30lbs with backpack for the equipment, and I train to do it (hey, I’m 56!). Change that to an E800 or D4 with the Nikon lens equivalents (oh…there aren’t any. Well, whatever comes close), and I’m looking at more than 40lbs, and sorry, I’m not a Marine.

        Whatever tool is needed for the job. 🙂

        • I encountered one more good reason for a smaller format today: increasingly militant check in/ carry on weighing. There will come a time when it will be extremely difficult or risky to travel with bigger gear – either check in and risk theft/loss (insurance won’t cover it) or have to compromise anyway because you can’t bring all the lenses. M4/3 has a huge advantage here; especially if you do a lot of work that requires travel.

  41. Hi Ming,
    Thank you for this great review (as always)! I’m very impatient to see RAW results as for now, it is more an evaluation of Olympus’ latest jpeg engine.
    I would like to know how the E-M1 auto ISO implementation works, especially compared to the one in Nikon and Pentax. Let me explain.
    On a Nikon D800 or Pentax K5, one can change “the sensitivity” of the auto ISO implementation. For instance, say your focal length is 50mm and you work in aperture priority mode. By default the camera will select a shutter speed of say 1/100 and adjust the ISO accordingly. On a D800 or K5, you can bias this bias by telling the camera to be more or less sensitive (through 5 different steps on a D800). 0 is the default bias and it gives you 1/100. You can change this threshold (or bias) to -1 which will give you 1/50. Similarily -2 will give you 1/25. A bias of +2 will give you 1/300 and so on.
    I find this extremely useful as it gives you some control over the camera’s auto ISO algorithm. As far as I know, no other manufacturers besides Nikon and Pentax let you do this. The ironic thing is that such a change is very easy to implement in firmware. Any manufacturer could do it easily, yet very few do (as a matter of fact Nikon introduced it fairly recently).
    It’s something I find super useful and important, especially in our digital age where ISO should hardly selected by hand except in specific situations. It is not the film days anymore and it should be seen as a variable in the same way as shutter speed or aperture is.
    Introducing this bias/threshold is great because it lets you maximize the IQ by using lower ISO values than necessary (potentially) if you’re able to handle the camera more steadily than the auto ISO implementation decided on. I’m still puzzled as to why being able to bias the algorithm is not a feature common to more brands…
    Do you know if this feature is implemented in the E-M1?

    • The Nikon implementation is better. You can’t set the minimum shutter threshold on the E-M1 or the ‘sensitivity’; only the ISO range used. It’s a shame as the stabilizer is so good you could easily set 1/0.5x – e.g. 1/50s for 100mm equivalent – and not suffer any camera shake.

      I want to see RAW results too, but I can’t make a meaningful comparison unless I put them through a comparable workflow to my other cameras.

  42. As far as I can see, this is a “pro” camera that compared to the competition lags in virtually every important parameter – IQ, DOF control, AF-C and lens selection. Comparing to a D4 is silly, but maybe to the much cheaper Pentax K5 II or other prosumer APS-C.
    The table you put up have some questionable entries. Dont you think it is better to have 8 fps with excellent AF-C (canon 7D) than 10 fps with fixed focus? As for the EVF – does it not have any lag or stutter or “slide show effect” when you shot at full 6.5 fps while panning the camera? Actually, I read in Olys specs a small note that “very fast subjects may give the impression that they dont move smoothly” (my translation) In that case all the OVFs are better.
    The “24-70 2.8 eqv comparision” – in terms of the rather important DOF control you have a 24-70 5.6 eqv on the Oly.
    I think you maybe generalize what you expect from a pro body, to go for most people. But for me a pro camera among other things is a brilliant action machine, I dont think this is it.

    • By your logic, Hasselblads and D800Es are not pro cameras either. Not everybody shoots action. A pro camera is one that somebody whose living depends on getting the shot can use to well, get the shot. It doesn’t matter if there are fewer lenses if they’re all excellent; the number of lenses I can use without qualification or excessive care around certain apertures/ FLs on the D800E from the current Nikon lineup is a very small handful. I land up using Zeiss or adapting Hasselblad MF lenses most of the time.

      Increase the EVF refresh rate, disable instant image review, and the lag goes away.

      The 24-70/2.8 renders as f5.6 in DOF only, not in FOV or light gathering ability.

      • But which “pro” cameras are the EM-1 targeted at? Its not Hasselblads, but DSLRs – pro DSLRs. So it should be able to compete or best them in their strong areas, like AF-C, action shooting and the versatlity of a huge lens programs, which it fails to do. It does matter if there are fewer lenses – sometimes you might want or need a native fast focusing 300 2.8. The two extra stops of DOF control on the 24-70 2.8 lenses means that the FF standard zoom has the same subject isolation power as a 45 1.8 prime on m43.
        About the EVF – have you actullay tried to do what you suggest – increase refresh rate and disable instant review – and found that you have a perfectly smooth live view even at 6.5 fps? Because that would be something that neither Sony SLTs or Panasonic been able to do. One would expect Olympus to advertise it harder.
        And a comment on what you earlier wrote that the DSLRs does not track properly their high fps. It depends on what you mean with properly.If you set a camera like Canon 7D or Nikon D300 to release priority and shoot at full fps (8 vs 7) they still track extremly well. In a test we did involving moto cross bikes, greyhound racing and indoor sports they got hit rates of 70-90 percent.

        • Well, ‘m getting the images I and my clients want, and no matter how I set up the D300, it never tracked as well as the D3/D4/D700 did; something to do with the AF processor itself being slower – this is well documented.

          I run my EVF at the higher refresh rate all the time; easier to see time peak action. 5fps is plenty for what I do.

  43. Gastronauta says:

    I’ve seen what the EPM2 (“mini”) can do when attached at a Nikon AFS 300 f/4 via a Novoflex, and I’m more than ready to take m4/3 sensors “seriously”, maybe even seriously.
    I regularly carry a D7000 + TC + Nikkor 600 f/4 IF ED (from 1988) in a Lenstrekker while I hang a D300 + TC + AFS 300 f/4 from my neck around a national park here in Spain (that’s twice a week from 7:00 to 13:00) and believe me: my whole birding life has changed from a very active 300mm “By the end of the morning I’ll have walked the sheep outta me” to a much more sedentary “Let birds come to me, please. I REALLY mean these hides were meant to sit and wait, weren’t they?” Since I’m doing manual focus with the 600 anyway…
    True, even with the D7000 I’m bound to pixelpeep and find ISO 800 borderline etc, but I must admit that in DECENT-TO-GOOD light the Oly Mini2 sensor does a temptingly good job. I want to believe my future does not rest with a hypothetical D5’s weight and prices half as much as it might with some MFT project. I’m 41 and I think in the past I’ve described myself as “of an intellectual build” (Thank God it is not just the build, phew!)

    • You should try an OM-D with the 500/4P – that’s one amazing combo. Reach, speed, light gathering ability, and surprisingly light weight for the FL. 🙂

      But yes, the sensor is comparable to APS-C now. And the new E-M1 sensor is even better.

  44. The EP5, although it looks super cool, does not seem like such a good value at $1450 kit or $1k body. Any thoughts on choosing an EP5 over an EM1 or even EM5…? My guess is that they’ll drop in price?

    • At this point? I think the E-M1 is definitely the way to go, especially if you plan to use the VF-4 with the E-P5. Unless size is really a priority, in which case you may want to even consider the E-PM2.

  45. Ming: A very fine review indeed. I just pre-ordered it; is there a better choice than the M. Zuiko 12mm for 24mm equivalent? Thank you.

  46. Hi Ming,

    Firstly, thanks for your excellent blog. I’ve been following it daily for almost two years now and it’s been a great education. I’ve also purchased your Photoshop tutorials through your iPad app, which have been very helpful in my ongoing learning about photography and post processing.

    I currently have an E-M5, and love it. I’m thinking of moving up to the EM-1 though because of the better ergonomics and also the improved C-AF/tracking.

    I’ve got a dog who I like to photograph, and my Wife is expecting a baby in January. I struggle to get decent shots of the dog running about with the EM-5 (probably due to poor technique as much as the camera). How much of an improvement would the EM-1 be? I know you’ve compared it to the D200, but I’ve got no idea how well that functioned in that respect. Will the EM-1 be good enough to capture a constantly moving dog and a toddler?

    I’m also keen to know if the 12-40 lens is an improvement over the Panasonic 12-35? I bought the 12-35 recently, and have been impressed with it so far. However I’m open to upgrading if there’s a reasonable step-up in picture quality. Weather proofing is also very important to me, living in the UK. I know the 12-35 is splash proof, but would it be able to survive your shower test? I appreciate that you are posting about the lens tomorrow, so I’m probably being impatient.

    Thanks again for all of your hard work!

    • Thanks for your support.

      I can’t get decent shots of a car moving at a uniform speed with the E-M5, so I don’t think it’s your technique. Tracking erratic objects like dogs is a challenge for most cameras; the E-M1 is going to be somewhere between the E-M5 and a good DSLR in terms of tracking ability. If I had to approximately quantify it, perhaps 50% hit rate with such subjects? It will also heavily depend on the lens used. Some track better than others.

      Every 12-35 sample I’ve used has had very odd double-image bokeh; the 12-40 does not, is almost at maximum performance wide open, and will focus to 20cm at all distances. I’m not sure the 12-35 would survive the shower test – actually, I think most lenses wouldn’t. 🙂

  47. I really appreciate the reviews and teaching (e.g. blog ‘making of great images’), thanks for sharing, its a lot of work.

    Looking for a travel camera, I’m still not convinced of Olympus, as a system. Yes, there are 60+ lenses. But no equivalent for a 20/21 mm (35mm) wideangle, nor a 180/200 tele lens (I like the Nikon versions with 2,8 aperture, pretty light, unluckily the 2,8 20 is outdated). The 75 mm lens of Olympus is too short, and at more than twice the price of a Nikon 1,8/85, too expensive for what I get.
    Never liked 135 mm lenses.

    And, with the M1, bodies get bulkier, wrong direction – but the sensor may find its way in smaller bodies in the future.
    I expect Sony to come with something new next year, no hurry for me, just have to continue to carry my D800. A mirrorless would be a nice alternative system, nice but not a must.

    • 🙂 Yes it is a lot of work, and it’s not even my main job!

      There’s the Panasonic 7-14, which is excellent and more flexible than just a plain 20/21, or you could pair the E-M1 + 75mm and a Ricoh GR + GW3 (which is what I intend to do for travel, perhaps with a 45/50 in the middle). The 75 and 85/1.8 G are not really comparable; the 75 has much better build and better optics – it doesn’t flare at all!

  48. This is hard. Can you give me a reason to keep the X-E1 rather than go for the E-M1? 🙂

  49. One comment /one question:

    – the UK price includes the optional grip

    – Ming, when is the 12-40 lens review coming? Most interested……. possible to compare it to the wonderful 14-54?



    • Aha! Inclusion of the grip would go some way towards explaining that.

      The 12-40 is subjectively better; I unfortunately don’t have time to do a full A/B comparison. Review is coming tomorrow 🙂

  50. Excellent analysis and writing as usual. I’m not sure where I fit in the eyes of a camera comany’s marketing department, but I suspect a large percentage of DSLR owners today are in my camp – with respect to interchangeable lens system (ILS) cameras we are experiencing what Thom Hogan refers to as the Last Camera Syndrome. I have a D600 with 13 lenses (yes GAS). The IQ is superb, quite frankly it is better than what an amateur like myself who almost never prints or pixel peeps ever needs. I only only carry the camera about 10% of the time and do not mind the weight/size as long as I am not carrying 13 lenses ;). Depending on the situation all other times I carry a fixed lens s95, X20, or FZ200. I do not want to carry an ILS camera with me the other 90% of the time no matter what weight/size is offered. And so unless heaven forbid my present system vanishes I am not attracted to the smaller form ILS cameras which would require different lenses than the ones I use today. I have the Last Camera Syndrome. When quantum leaps are made in technology I may be tempted to ditch one of the fixed lens cameras I presently use in order to improve IQ, but my ILS IQ will be more than sufficient for years to come unless online image viewing media dramatically changes in the next decade. It seems to me if the camera makers are going to cost justify introducing new ILS cameras which use non-legacy DSLR lenses, then the volume projections should be based on attracting customers who are not using ILS today.

    • I think it’s more like the manufacturers trying to fill niches at this point, since most people already have far more than they need; even if you have more X – X being resolution, DR, noise, color accuracy etc – the rest of the imaging chain is simply not able to cope with the extra demands or able to make the most of the improvements; and that includes everything from the photographer to the display medium. We may hit the point where everything should really be tripod based to see the improvements: does this mean people will carry them around? Almost certainly not. Can I see the difference between a handheld D800E image and one shot on Gitzo 5 legs + Arca Cube with flash at 1/250s? Yes, but I’m not sure most people even care…

  51. Thanks Mr. Ming. Although it’s my first comment here, I am following this blog since more than one year and I have to first of all to thank you for it. It’s as resourceful as it gets.
    I want just to chime in about the AA filter (or lack of); it is a pet peeve of me lately… and I just want to share my doubts. I am an electronic-telecommunication engineer, teaching in University, and very used to mark an “E” directly on student’s work laking the AA filtering — math say that there is no way to recover aliasing once it’s done. Especially the subtle one, the one caused by frequencies just above the sampling frequency, with in signal processing are visible as a shift of the base level… and I suppose in images it would be a kind of subtle large scale banding”. Nevertheless, it is evident that something is going on, because images speaks for themselves… so I am not 100% in agreement of calling the AA filter removal totally a “fad” (although has a comment on the E-M1 about this that I feel is quite right).
    So I suppose that the problem is that the optical AA filter are normally not sharp enough — cutting frequencies still in the good zone (below sampling/2) to eliminate completely the bad ones (over sampling/2). I hope that the future evolution is having much better AA filters, sharply cutting frequencies over one half of the sampling frequency. That would give the best of both world; maximal theoretical sharpness without adding any artifact.
    In signal processing the solution is normally to oversample (10x or more) with a bland AA, and then apply a very high order AA filters in digital before sampling down. But probably that would kill low light performance (although I am sure this is what the Nokia 41MP sensors are doing).
    I know you’re an engineer too — I hope I have not bored you too much. Feel free to ignore this rant… and thanks again for the truly amazing blog.

    • Thanks for that explanation – the simple reason why I think we’re seeing AA-less cameras is to combat a) poor technique b) poor lenses c) diffraction becoming visible at larger apertures due to higher pixel density – it’s to maintain the public’s expectations of acuity/ “sharpness”, and improve on them. This is a much easier solution than developing new sensor architecture…as always, the decision is commercial first, and engineering second. Innovation only happens when they can’t sell you any more of the old tech!

  52. HomoSapiensWannaBe says:

    What are your thoughts about shooting with the 4:3 aspect ratio vs. 2:3? I often crop my D600 images to 16:9, 4:5, 1:1 depending on the subject and composition. Interestingly, I seldom crop my D600 images to 4:3, but when I shoot with my Canon S100 compact which is native 4:3, the aspect ratio doesn’t bother me. Does the E-M1 let you shoot RAW in different aspect ratios, displaying them in the EVF? That would be VERY cool.

    Lately, I have been shooting outdoor events like parades, street festivals, athletic competitions, etc.. The lighting is often mid-day and harsh, so I use fill flash. The 1/200 max flash sync on my D600 is bumming me out! This is often not fast enough to stop motion, and I have to use f10-13 with ISO100 to avoid blowing highlights. Therefore, my SB-910 quickly runs out of steam even at -1.7ev setting to fill the shadows. The 1/320 flash sync of the OM-D E-M1 is very appealing as it will gain 2/3 stop in flash power compared to the D600 (using a flash with comparable output.) Also, 1/320 starts to get fast enough to freeze faster moving subjects, too.

    Speaking of event shooting, I am a fairly big and strong buy with a bear claw handshake (so I’ve been told). After shooting 500 plus images at an event for 2-3 hours, constantly changing lenses, zooming back & forth, switching horizontal/vertical, using a shoe mounted flash, etc., my hands are VERY tired to the point of almost freezing up! This is using a gripped D600, shoe mount SB-910, and mid-range lenses (f4), not the 2.8 zooms. The reduced size/weight of the E-M1 is very appealing!

    My first SLR was a chrome OM-1 in 1978, followed quickly by a black OM-2. I have a fondness for those gorgeous Zuiko lenses, the small form factor, and the gestalt of the OM system from that era. The new OM-D system reminds me very much of this.

    Are all lenses available in black now, at no extra charge? I do not like flashy chrome cameras or lenses. The lack of an all-black Fuji X100s is one reason I won’t consider buying it, as much as the 35mm equivalent lens and leaf shutter & fast flash sync otherwise appeals to me.

    The Sigma 35/1.4 is my favorite lens on the D600, followed by the 85/1.8G. Btw, the new Nikon 18-35G is very good, if sometimes not quite wide enough.

    I hope Olympus will come out with some F1.4 lenses.

    Thanks for writing these detailed and informative articles about the OM-D E-M1. I have not seriously considered m4/3 till now, only thinking APS systems were worth considering for my MILC compact shooting solution. I still have not made up my mind, but now Olympus m4/3 joins Sony & Fuji. Cheers!

    • I tend to just compose with whatever the camera’s native aspect ratio is, unless subjects are strongly biased towards something else – e.g. square or 16:9.

      You can shoot RAW in any aspect ratio; it shows it in the finder and saves the full 4:3 area – much like the E-M5.

      • Peter Boender says:

        True, but Lightroom doesn’t respect it, it will show/use the cropped image. How’s that with ACR? The Olympus software is able to process it to some extent, but it’s a quirky and lengthy workaround.

        • Peter I will need to get my other computer out but I have a free piece of software for that which I downloaded which will resave the the Raw file to .dng and show the full image. You can also batch process files as well. If you want to know more ‘post’ back.

          • Peter Boender says:

            Thanks for chipping in Stu, much appreciated! Lightroom simply doesn’t respect the fact that the whole 4:3 RAW file is there, but keeps working with the cropped (changed aspect ratio) file. Apparently there is some data (flag) in the RAW file that Lightroom doesn’t read. I don’t know how ACR approaches it, that’s not my workflow. I know Ming uses ACR, so I was wondering about his experience. In the Olympus software I can remove (or move) the different aspect ratio crop, but then I cannot save that and let the file remain a RAW file (can save to JPG). Or maybe I’m doing something wrong? Which software are you referring to Stu, the Adobe DNG Converter? Maybe you can push me in the right direction….

            • The data is there, but LR/ ACR shows only the tagged crop. I just shoot full-frame and compose with the intention to use a different aspect ratio, then manually apply it afterwards.

  53. Now my D700 looks overweight and outdated… I’m only keeping it cause’ I aspire to shoot products with the D800E and would rather not own 2 systems…

  54. Justin Cooper says:

    I can’t wait to see what you can do with the raw files. Great review. I love my E-M5 and am very seriously considering the E-M1. Please Olympus let Ming take the camera to Europe!!!

  55. Excellent article Ming! Beautifully written.

  56. DSLRs are about speed. The D4 or 1DX are the pure reflection of that: good viewfinders, immediate AF & shutter response. When something else can snap quicker, it will upset the SLR. It looks like these cameras are getting close. (Any SLR that does not perform as quickly as this camera is pointless.)

  57. Ming,
    Excellent review.
    Can you please clarify one point concerning the bit depth of the EM-1. Is it 12 bit or 14 bit?
    Many thanks in advance
    Bob Hamilton

    • I believe it is 14 – but I am confirming with Olympus.

      • Thanks Ming.
        I have the EM-5 and would be seriously interested in upgrading if the bit depth were up with the pack, so to speak, as, in my experience, it does make a fair difference to the push/pullability of RAW files.

        • Yes it does, and color accuracy too. I always thought the Olympuses were 14 given the pliability of the files in post…

          • It’s a difficult one to judge.
            There is definitely less latitude when RAW files from the EM-5 are compared to those from the Leica M240 or Sony RX1R where, with both of which, in my experience, significantly larger amounts of adjustment can be made to shadows and highlights before noticeable degradation occurs. However, I was never sure whether that was because of the larger photosites or a higher bit depth. Perhaps someone with a more technical background than I could answer that one?

            • I’m pretty sure that one is due to larger pixels; the sensors are all roughly of the same generation.

              • I wonder if the 12bit – 14bit issue even matters. If this camera is 12 bit the photos still turned out great.

                • I suppose it does for very extreme situations, but how the ADC and subsequently the person doing the processing (and the processing method, too) handles the data matters far more; but some people must know for sure because the specs affect the picture 🙂

  58. Hello Ming, Thanks a Million ! Professional review as usual ! I have pre-ordered the new E-M1 in a heartbeat.
    One point to clarify, it’s shown in the Olympus official E-M1 webpage that the file format for still photo is “12-bit lossless compression”, it appears to be the same as E-M5 and E-5, so is it 12-bit or 14-bit as you stated in your table of comparison ?

  59. Well done, I think you bring up some good points here (and in yesterday’s review of the camera), but I expect a comment storm 🙂

  60. You missed a very similar camera in comparison – the Pentax k5iis.

  61. Funny thing I thought I’d share here: I watched the Apple keynote yesterday and they were talking about improvements on the iPhone camera (quite interesting things really, like an “auto-gelling” flash that can adjust the light’s color to match wb automatically). They started that point of by showing a picture of various camera gear, saying “so far, you needed this to get better pictures” (I don’t think it’s rendered unnecessary by their new iPhone camera” – and in that picture was, I’m pretty sure, the new E-M1 with the new Olympus zoom lens! How about that 🙂
    One thing I didn’t understand so far: What exactly does an AA filter do, and what does a lack thereof mean?

    • Anti aliasing filter – it prevents color moire by softening the image slightly, but it also lowers acuity.

      • Thank you! And how can they leave it out just like that? Have they found another way to prevent color moire or is it so seldom a problem to be neglected? Do other companies spare their cameras such a filter? Do I ask too many questions?

  62. Ming, the great review, thanks!

    About the RAW support: there’s such a wonderful thing there – RPP. It’s for MacOS. Yesterday I tried it for E-M1 raws and it opens them easily. It’s donationware so anyone can try free the limited version as long as he/she wants. The picture quality is full even for free. There’s now Windows version though and it won’t as authors say.

    RPP main page

    Here’s the E-M1 review with the RAWs downloadable. The language is Russian but the raw files (ORF) are international 🙂

    • That was fast! I will check it out when I find a spare moment…

      • Not so fast 🙂 It simply doesn’t contain the artificial limitation by the camera’s name. I think Olympus haven’t changed the Bayes array and the RAW format and thus RPP can read it. The same thing was with the OM-D E-M5. When only the first samples became available I could open them in RPP.

        I use the latest version – 4.7.1. The interface doesn’t look familar for the Lightroom user but it worth it because the picture quality is great in sense of color rendition, contrast, detalization, noise level etc.

        • That can’t be right. There has to be some extra interpolation going on, because I know that the new sensor sacrifices some photosites for the PDAF system…

          • Hmmm. I think you are completely right. Shame on me, this idea hasn’t come into my brains before you said it. Nevertheless, I can’t see these pixels even now, when you told me. I think they behave just as the dead green pixels. They are probably restored by the in-camera dead pixel masking algorythm and, even it’s not so, for sure they look like the part of the general noise.

            You may look it by yourself and I’m very interesting what you think about it. I’m not sure I can share the raw processing results but I think it’s possible to show the parameters I use to convert. The girl (73344-raw-original.ORF) was taken from the russian site above. The screenshot is Set these values and press CMD-S or Shift-CMD-S

            As for me, I like RPP very much. Unfortunately, It’s not very good for the billions of raws but it’s great, even not the best, for the single shots.

  63. Ming, excellent reviews. I shoot professionally mainly in very remote locations and I had been through the Nikon hierarchy up until a D3. However, for the past year I have been using the e-m5 as well due to it’s portability, tilt screen (beats lying in the mud / snow) stabilisation and the fact that I really like evf’s – I chimp less as what you see is what you get! I saw the e-m5 as a bit of an experiment, but have actually been using it quite happily for paid shoots, with some images being printed up to large promo banners for promo use. Certainly none of my clients have commented on the camera! I really find the camera just easier to carry on a bike or skis all day, quickly whip it out of a belt pouch and use it where as the D3 has to be dug out of it’s rucksack.
    My biggest problem with the system was actually the button size and placement – I back button focus most of the time and hitting that tiny back button – especially with gloves on can be tricky. ISO was acceptable, 3200 was what I used top end on the D3 and that’s the same for the em5, focussing was also fine as most of the time I prefocus anyway (actually the speed of the AF allowed for point *beep* and shoot perfectly acceptably most of the time) improved c-af would be nice and may help when shooting skiers where pre-focussing is almost impossible.
    My only other major gripe was sealed lenses, my 14-24 / 70-200 Nikon glass had been used in horrible conditions and never gave me issues. However, I am still hesitant about using my favourite pany 7-14 and oly 75mm combo in the same weather.
    I had been thinking of selling my fuji x100 and buying the new ep5 with extra evf as a second camera, however I can see me buying the em1 and the zuiko 7-14 as the bad weather combo and mounting the 75mm on the em5. Although I don’t want to start carrying a heavy bulky system again, the new cameras ability to access the excellent 4/3 zuiko lenses is appealing.
    Size wise I permanently have at least the ‘first’ part of the grip mounted so the em1 looks much the same.
    I know that none of my clients can see the difference between my ff and micro 4/3 files especially after I’ve tweaked them, so this endless pursuit of optical perfection isn’t really an issue for me rather the portability, ease of use in harsh conditions and ‘toughness’ are what I need (although I would dearly like pocket wizard to sort out a hyper sync capability for this system)
    Your professional review of the em1 popped up on google when I started looking for feedback on it – so well done again on providing some real world thoughts on this camera.
    I’ll just need to get along to my local camera shop when they become available to see how it feel in my big hands!

    • Sounds like you’re in a similar boat to where I was about a year ago – I moved over happily to the E-M5 for reportage work and haven’t had any regrets. The new camera has much improved ergonomics, and sealing of the PRO lenses is top notch – see the shower shot! I think the 12-40 and forthcoming tele will serve you well…

    • AAhhh, Paul Masson!!??

      Issssaaaaaafrench shhhhhammmpainnn


      • Well, a californian champagne!

        Hope you enjoy the E-M1 when you get one in hand, Paul. I’ll certainly be trying one out, too, and if it clicks, my 4/3 lenses will be VERY happy [and my DMC-L1 very sad].

  64. FPS numbers are misleading. E-M5 andE-M1 can reach those numbers without AF. With AF their real speeds are 5 and 6,5 respectively.
    I think I’ll keep my E-M5 until E-M2 (?).
    By the way, E-PL5 is newer than E-PL1, E-5 is newer than E-1, why is E-M1 the newest? Broken logic on Olympus’ side 🙂

  65. I think you caught 2 persons parking illegally.

  66. Your article yesterday got me thinking of my own comparison with the vulnerable D700. The timing is also opportune as I am just back from holiday and processing my files and so fresh on thinking of my needs.

    These are my conclusions – for travel I don’t like changing lens, so that means a zoom lens is a must. Currently I have an old Nikon lens as its light and works well under good light – but is still lacking when you’re used to Nikon primes. I very rarely use ISO above 1600 when travelling, this is because in the evenings I tend to dump the DSLR and take out the compact (ironic i find). Lastly the weight – I’ve been in Petra and lugging around the D700 in 40 odd degrees was a pain, a weight saving would be a welcome….

    For me it is all about the lenses for m 4/3, especially now the zoom lenses – no doubt we’ll know tomorrow how the new lens is, but it looks as if the perfect for travel. The quality from the lens and the size – basically the same weight as the 28-105 I’ve been using, is a huge advantage (though I guess the donation to Olympus for acquiring such lens won’t be minimal). On top of that i was also contemplating the specifications – the EM-1 has an excellent feature set, outstanding really – price in that context looks reasonable. And lastly, I’m only now getting into using flash (I have a few for the Nikon), and remembering your article a while back, and the whole Nikon flash system is better is also now a real non issue.

    All this makes me think to dump the DSLR now – mainly so I don’t lose too much value and move on with technology, but there is one thing – haptics, I do love shooting with the D700 and the rendition of their primes….are you bringing the EM-1 to the workshops, there is nothing like actually playing with one 😉

    • I think in general, the M4/3 lenses are more consistent than the FX ones. There are some standout exceptional lenses too, like the 60 and 75, and yes, that new zoom too.

      Unfortunately the E-M1 has to go back, so I won’t be bringing it with me to Europe…but if enough people here ask, they might just lend it to me for a bit longer 😉

  67. Shouldn’t you have compared APC or FF compacts along with the em1? I’m tired of lugging my D700/18-200mm around the world and considering a compact..a lot of us are going compact, and that kind of comparison would have been helpful . Although your review has my camera a closer to my garbage can 🙂 great review !

    • Doesn’t really make sense because those cameras lack interchangeable lenses, have generally compromised ergonomics and won’t track moving subjects. I picked the alternative cameras I thought would make sense; the kind of thing I might seriously consider as an alternative.

  68. I wish there was a significant price difference between the E-M1 and the D600 in the UK; looks like they’re going to be the same price here! 😦

  69. LIM KHENG CHON says:

    Hi Ming,

    Thanks for a great review.

    I am getting back into photography after a hiatus of 20 over years or more. I use to shoot with a Nikon FM2 and FE1.

    I have now shortlisted the new OMD-EM1 as my travel camera (which I do extensively now as I am semi retired) and also the Nikon D600. The only thing that stop me pulling the trigger on the D600 is the dust and oil issue on the sensor.

    Since you have the D600 would appreciate if you can let me know whether you are having this issue and how do you deal with it.

    Thanks in advance.

    KC LIM

    • I must be the only person without the oil issue on my D600…it’s never been cleaned and still spotless.

      • Me neither! Bought one of the very first D600 in my local store and have never had any issues. Very little dust, and not more than on previous cameras and I change lenses a lot (and in less than optimal environments).

  70. Hello Ming, thanks for the great review. Could you please say something to video in the next part? I would be in particular interested in the real application of external microphone (there is MIC-IN if I understand it correctly) and of course also in the sound quality of the built-in MIC. Thank you in advance.

    • There’s a mic in port. A external one will always be better simply because it isn’t picking up so much ambient. I don’t have time for a serious video test this time around, back to back with assignments – will make a note of it for future, sorry.

  71. Hey Ming! thanks for the review. As someone who recently purchased EM-5 as a backup/holiday body, and shooting weddings/portraits on D600, how would you say the latitude of EM-1 and D600 compare in practical application? Ie. not in optimum circumstances, mixed light, and heavy pushing on shadows? Olympus seems to have better WB, but I’ve noticed that D600 can handle unbelievable pushing of shadows with no banding whatsoever. It was the reason to switch from camp Canon for me. I know it’s not your kind of photography, but for the heck of it, how many stops of DR do you think you can lift from underexposed images?

    Anyway, thank you for this site. 🙂

    • I’m pretty happy with recoverability, though you really should be exposing properly to begin with 🙂

      Reportage work is probably quite similar to weddings, if not a bit more demanding because you generally don’t use flash; the previous E-M5 was fine, so I can only imagine the new one to be better.

  72. Your site is one of the most rewarding photography sites I have come across. Thanks for the great images being posted regularly; you take a lot of pain and pride in what you do. Keep up the good work.

  73. Ming – I’ve read elsewhere that the image processing is still 12 bit. Where did you get that 14 bit info from?

  74. Ming,

    Wonderful review! Thank You!

    Best Wishes – Eric

  75. Correct!

  76. Hi Ming, thanks for your great thoughts, as always. That said, it seems you made a labelling mistake with your ISO test images; I believe the E-M5 and E-M1 crops are reversed given your description and the fact that the image file names don’t match those of the other ones in this article. Thanks!

  77. Ming Thein, thanks for your wonderful impressions as always. However, I believe you made a labelling mistake in your ISO images. Given your description of the image quality, the E-M1 should be on the *right* and the E-M5 on the left, for as labelled, the E-M5 looks better. Furthermore, looking at the file names, the E-M1 files have a different naming scheme than the other images in the article. If I’m right, perhaps note this in the article somewhere? Thanks!

  78. You said “far more of the difference will come down to shot discipline and how the images are processed.” I couldn’t agree more. While I’m excited by new gear especially this flashy EM1, I’ve found upgrading my own shot discipline and processing skills even more rewarding, something I learned from your workshops and videos.

    • I concur!

    • I couldn’t agree more too! I’m in Ming’s email school, and even agonizing over which images to submit for 1 assignment has arguably made me a better photographer. Ironically the best image (by a large margin) for that assignment came from a 6-year old, 10 Mpixel camera (Canon 40D) as opposed to the E-P5/PanaLeica used for the other 2.

      Related to this, in today’s Apple keynote, Phil Schiller said something that almost made me spew my coffee: “It used to be that to take better pics, you just learned to be a better photographer.” An artist (and she is a serious artist of the highest accomplishment) said recently of her joining of Instagram, almost word for word: “Filters can make a good picture from a bad one.”

      Having said all that, I still have serious GAS for the M1! I just have to decide if it’s that much better than the E-P5 (which I do not own).

      • Thanks Andre. You still need to be a better photographer to shoot better pictures. Better equipment helps, of course, but you need to know what to do with it in the first place.

      • That quote from the Apple guy could be the modern day equivalent of the teacher who told Einstein he would never amount to very much, or the A&R man who didn’t sign the Beatles, as well as being a manifesto for the lazy generation. What a patronizing, pathetic thing to say.

        As for a”serious artist” on Instagram, once my oxymoron alarm stopped screaming, the first name that came to mind was Cindy Sherman – who better to demonstrate that you can shoot garbage and sell it for a fortune?

        • Well, I suppose he does hold a very senior position at Apple, and I’m sure he takes home more than we do, so who’s to say we’re the ones doing anything wrong? :p

          • Holding a senior position, or/and making tons of money do NOT, in any way, equal good morals, or anything other of immaterial value…
            But it MAY, and most often does, indicate being a smart person, though not necessarily a wise and/or good person.

            Thanks for the fine E-M1 Review, anyway! 😉

      • Andre, if you were to go for either, on first principles I’d go for this –> the PDAF opens up a ton of lens possibilities as does the weather sealing [better to have these things and not need than need and not have]. The biggest sell for me is that it’s basically a flagship: you know they’re going to look after this one with firmware updates and accessories and Camera Raw profiles…
        [And an affordable flagship, at that. Relatively.]

        This said, just as I actively go for and covet a general purpose photographic bludgeon [I love this phrase Ming and I’m stealing it. I don’t care, it’s mine now 🙂 ] your taste is your taste, and there’s a hell of a lot to be said for the raw aesthetic pleasure of the thing; or just the thought/knowledge of being an owner of one. I don’t know about you Andre, but this trumps spec sheets ten times out of ten, for me. Though the stress of being behind the curve or whatever doesn’t go away, the stress of having the perfect camera just not perfect for you, is worse. If you’ve ever bought a pair of shoes that were objectively good but you didn’t click with: that. I’m not sure how you feel –> you’re super smart and capable of very rational thought; but I’ve seen your pictures and I know you’re an aesthete ==> which side of the brain wins there? Maybe it’s not like that with this choice: this digital choice you decide on sensible grounds; you’ve the ‘blad for the other times.


        On “It used to be that to take better pics, you just learned to be a better photographer.”

        I don’t understand Mark’s hostility to this. I’m down with this outlook 100%. Patronizing isn’t the word I’d choose; a thumb in the eye? A challenge? A taunt? That’s more like it. As anything of note always is. I don’t like the lazy “good old days” whiff in used to be. But we all slip into that and do it unthinkingly. So yeah, to take better pics? Learn to be a better photographer. I can’t see water leaking from that anywhere.
        [And let it be known: I do believe that better equipment gives you better pictures. But it also gives better photographers than you better pictures, too; probably even better pictures.]

        I have to differ with Mark on Cindy Sherman, too [though Mark, I like people who know what they like and what they don’t, and say so. So don’t take any of this the wrong way]. I like her portraits. I like how much she gets for them even more. Art is religious in nature and she’s successfully created her own, which has very obviously transcended plain fiction: the sums people hand over for a Sherman are quite real. That’s a bona fide artist.

        • Hey Tom.

          It’s possible I misinterpreted that line. I assumed that he was intimating that “(Apple’s) products are now so good that you don’t need any talent to use them to create something amazing, whereas in the bad old days you had to actually, y’know, make some effort”. I didn’t hear the whole address (I don’t like what I’ve seen of their keynote addresses and new product launches. Too close to a combination of Tony Robbins and Jim Jones for my liking, so I don’t watch them). Maybe I missed the background context. What is your interpretation of what he said?

          As for Cindy Sherman, to each their own. I was watching one of Ming’s excellent videos, and he said it himself: photography is art, art is subjective. But…if you look at that “Untitled #96” which sold for however much, and then look at some of the pictures that Ming displays on this site (or Jay Maisel on his)…you would categorically state that the Cindy Sherman is superior? Too much talk of “art as religion” is one way in which people try and avoid having to actually work at it by shifting the focus away from technical and artistic skill and onto how well you can convince people that something is great. I don’t care for that.

          • No you’re right there Mark: there are a couple ways you could read it, and I think I took the out of context route—he probably did mean something like “it used to be a question of skill; not anymore.”

            So there’s the good news—we’re in total agreement that good photographers take good pictures. It’s just what “good” means.

            Mmm. On Cindy Sherman though Mark: no I have to dig my heels in there. If we evaluate on anything technical, etc., we’re just treating someone on the level of “craftsman,” at best. There’s more to Ming — and Cindy — than that. But that there is more is just an article of faith. Crystallized into something meaningful when money (or time if we have no money) is put where mouths are.
            Untitled #96 is one of my favorite photographs. I can’t explain why. And if I could, it would instantly not be one of my favorite photographs. This is the emotional response that MT would be the first to say is the ingredient you simply *must* have for a work of any value [and by any value, I mean any value]

            [honestly asking]

            Cheers Mark

            • No (honestly replying) 🙂

              I don’t consider “craftsman” an insult if by craftsman we mean a person who has studied something to the extent that they have mastered, or at least become very good at, its techniques. That’s one of the things that Ming does so well on this site and on the videos: he teaches and shows the techniques of photography so that we may become better at it. When this becomes something to laugh at (are you familiar with the story of the Peng and the Cicada?), then cynicism and flippancy become the dominant moods of art and we’re really in trouble then.

              I’m not a religious person, so talk of faith has little meaning to me. I relate better to talk of gullibility and herd mentality.

              I looked at “Untitled 96” again. I simply can’t imagine why anyone would pay close on 4 million dollars for it. I don’t think I’d pay four dollars for it. I don’t think it is beautiful, interesting, artistically impressive, or anything else. You clearly do, and that’s great. Let me ask you though – were you aware of its having been sold for 3.9 million when you decided that it was one of your favourite pictures? That’s not a dig, it’s a real question.

              Following from that, what do you think about “Rhein II”? To me, that’s even more of a joke on the public than the Cindy Sherman. It’s the art world’s answer to Finnegan’s Wake in that it has a foolproof escape hatch built in: “you just don’t get it” (with the unspoken intimation of “I do, and subsequently I’m better than you”).

              Anyway. You like it, I don’t, the world keeps turning, and we’re all grateful that Ming devotes so much of his time to promoting the appreciation and art of photography. Everyone wins.

              • I’d consider being called a craftsman a compliment if the person on the other end knew what it meant 🙂

                Craft, creativity and art require mastery and a little something extra – call it imagination – that isn’t easy to acquire. It requires dedication, practice and discipline.

                I was once told something quite profound by somebody involved in the art scene: popular art and value are not decided by the knowledgeable; it’s decided by those with money and personal interest in the game to see a certain artist promoted and popularized so their investment appreciates. I think this goes a very long way to explaining prices, if not value…

              • Hey there Mark,

                I don’t consider craftsman to be an insult. I’m a craftsman, of sorts, as it happens. But craftsmen and artists are not the same thing. Let’s leave craftsman, because I want to touch on what we were talking about before what we weren’t [my fault perhaps!]; and we were talking about artists. It might seem cliche to do this — and I don’t mind that but I do mind appearing didactic, because what do I know? — but here’s what the American Heritage Dictionary says:

                1. One, such as a painter, sculptor, or writer, who is able by virtue of imagination and talent or skill to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts.
                2. A person whose work shows exceptional creative ability or skill: You are an artist in the kitchen.
                3. One, such as an actor or singer, who works in the performing arts.
                4. One who is adept at an activity, especially one involving trickery or deceit: a con artist.

                Lexicographers are very, very careful with definitions; they are and have to be as practical and philosophic as high court judges; and they build or repair what’s gone before: something as simple as a dictionary definition like the above represents centuries of fine tuning and dynamically shifting meanings [those two pull in opposite directions, of course].

                So I take 1, 2, 3, 4 above as canon. You see that (4) incorporates your idea, and (1), (2), (3) mine. So, whichever way you cut it: Cindy Sherman is an artist.
                [I’ll leave whether “serious” is a fitting modifier or not. We have enough trouble tying down basic adjectives like “good.”]

                You noticed I also mentioned getting paid: I’d add a (5) to the modern day definition of “artist”:

                5. One who is paid by the sales of work they promote as being art.

                This is a little meta perhaps, but I’d argue that this performative aspect is now a very big part of being an artist. This also incorporates what MT just mentioned about trends on who makes it and who doesn’t. It introduces again the religious aspect of art [and I’ll get to more on this religious angle in a minute].
                While we’re on money though: no, I didn’t know about the price tag until you just told me. Truly. I’d even forgotten Cindy Sherman’s first name; so I’m not a proper acolyte just yet. I know this image from a couple of months ago [I’ve only been into cameras and photos since the start of the year, so bear with me!] and liked it the instant I saw it. I printed off a crappy office printer copy on A4 office paper and pinned it to the wall next to my desk. I look at it everyday. But my involvement with the identity of who made it or what it might have cost ended that day I found it [but not my involvement with Cindy herself—she, her personality, is also metaphorically (metaphysically?) in the work: that’s why we call it a Sherman, a Dali, a Vermeer, a Rothko, etc., etc].
                I didn’t know Rhein II but it has cropped up below the line here in recent weeks. Todd dropped one of the lines of the century in connection with this work. Or was it Ian. My brain isn’t equipped to remember much past a few days ago, sorry Mark. Where were we?
                [ 🙂 ]

                Whatever my opinion of those works is though, the fact they sold for what they did is a real one, you have to agree Mark.
                [And is it right to hold the artist responsible for what the market wants to pay? I can see sense in both answers.]

                I’m very happy to hear you namedrop Finnegan’s Wake… you praised MT’s site — and I join you wholeheartedly in that! — but you deserve praise too, Mark, for mentioning this kind of thing down here below the line. Not many camera blogs, reviewing the hottest new camera, would get around to James Joyce in the comments 🙂 . But back to the snake oil: at the level of you and me taken as individuals, we decide yes or no to a work. A part of that decision, which you’re aware of when you asked me about knowing the sale price for Untitled #96 [that title itself is a good joke, I think], is what other people think. If you were born in a Christian country, you’re probably going to grow up Christian. You might stick with it, you might not. This is where your individual faith comes in [or doesn’t]; but faith, the religious phenomenon, is at once an individual and group thing—what other people think sways you; and sways your faith. Which then sways other people. Economics, politics, art, you name it: they all have religious aspects [why is a dollar worth a dollar? What’s that value ultimately bound up in? This even works pre-floating currecny with the gold standard—what’s the value of gold tied up in?]. I think most non-Scientists don’t realize how much of science is predicated on faith: there we can methodically corroborate models, or no, but they are still just models and what we have is only quantitative [over qualitative] faith in them. Faith [the religious response] is everywhere. Why is that? Because we are the agents looking at “everywhere,” and humans just seem to be lumped with the religious response. You cannot escape it. Or at least, I haven’t seen an example of anything [man made] that can. Even mathematics — the immaculate and seemingly unimpeachable edifice of mathematics — needs axioms to get its ball rolling. What is an axiom predicated on?

                Finnegan’s Wake is a reader immolating waste of time and money. And a firm member of the canon and a seminal work of art. If you know Joyce and Finnegan’s Wake, you’re probably aware of literary criticism. And if you’re aware of literary criticism, then you might know what the hyper protected cooperative principle is. If you don’t, check it out. You’ll find it’s what we’re talking about. And it’s back to the religious response, again.

                A dynamic feedback loop:

                art/not art because I say it is; art/not art because we say it is

                The interplay of these two. You can’t have one without the other –> really two sides of the same thing. A kind of dualistic monism. And it changes in time. And never ends. It’d be interesting to see what you think of Untitled #96 in twenty years. You might still hate it. I might hate it. You might not. I still might not. And it won’t be in isolation, that’s for sure. Us [including our lives] and culture is like a sponge submerged in water—there’s no such thing as dry.

                Last word on craftsmen:
                What you’re implying — and Ming too perhaps — sounds more to me like “Fine artist” than craftsman. But I won’t digress yet again. A craftsman is a noble and capable man. But he has his wheelhouse and doesn’t leave it. A photographic craftsman might know PS inside out, can manipulate tones excellently, or take well lit and admirably balanced pictures. But his images — in particular their content — wouldn’t drive people into resentment or even anger [as Cindy Sherman’s might do] or generally rock the boat in anyway. The craftsman doesn’t want to do that, either. The craftsman has a skill: perhaps self taught, perhaps learnt as an apprentice—he might have great skill, but realistically knows a few set tricks and that’s it. He does what customers ask to the best he can within his gift, in exchange for a fee; the creative component is outsourced, in effect. Ming’s commercial work is sort of close to this; though as we saw in the metalworks post, not quite. As soon as the craftsmen starts to have his own ideas, and make them, he becomes a kind of artist. As soon as he does this and rocks people’s boats, he threatens to become a real artist. And as soon as someone pays gazillions for something he did, he is then a bona-fide artist.

                I have faith in that definition 🙂

                • I’m going to throw another couple of cents into the pol: a craftsman works for a living foremost, and produces solid, honest product – a good commercial photographer, for instance. An artist works because he wants to, then tries to make a living out of it later 🙂

                  • JS Bach considered himself a craftsman. Good enough for me! 🙂 Many of his letters also complained about how his patrons didn’t pay him enough or how he had to make ends meet.

                    • Perhaps the true definition of an artist – not a popular, flavor-of-the-minute one – is somebody who only becomes famous after they die 😛

                    • I should apologize for this really as the phrase invited straying from the point, which if we remember was about assuming a technical merit was the main or even only merit. I was trying to say when we do that we’re looking at craft alone and hence doing someone worthy of more a disservice. (That leap from whether there is anything more to it is a leap of faith.)

                      But I’d be careful of accepting an individual’s opinion of themself as what they are. I might call myself a Christian, but does that make me a Christian? (actions speak louder than words; this is a hint). I couldn’t arbitrarily call myself a Canadian, I’d need a Canadian passport, for example, to successfully do that.
                      So Bach calling himself a craftsman is a little suspect in my opinion and reminds me of Cincinnatus calling himself a farmer or Bill Clinton being a simple guy from Hope, etc. It strikes me as quite theatric and affected. Though not untrue — Cincinnatus did tend his fields; Clinton is a man, he was from Arkansas; and Bach, and most artists, require craft to do what they do — not untrue, but certainly not the whole story.

                      If it were, I wouldn’t be interested in this site, its audience, its content and synonymously its author.

                      Very happy to see Bach complain about money though! I’ve only met a few artists (what we term artists) and they were all very bothered about that. It certainly flies in the face of “doing it because you must” — which I agree with — but I think there’s something to the money aspect if you approach what they’re saying/doing in more than just economic terms. The money is a shorthand for genuine belief in the work.

                      Can I finish on an auto-back pat: I bought an MT print. Andre did too, didn’t you Andre? This answers Mark’s query about my opinion of MT vs. Sherman, in one way. But in another: CS can get US 4M for a print, MT gets ~US 400 (don’t read this wrongly: Michaelangelos were free before he was Michaelangelo). And in yet another—can or even should you compare works like that? I didn’t answer before because I don’t buy the premise [pun alert!].

                      Anyway, I’ve a busy day on the slate today 😦
                      Wish I could converse more Mark, Andre, Ming, all. Ah well…


                    • $400? I must have underpriced the last round 🙂

                      Just 3.9996 million to go to being an artist! 😀

                    • In fact I have 2 MT prints, and the one I enjoy most is from a little point-and-shoot. 😛

                      Ming, I can understand how your personal and commercial work diverges. There are so many commercial pictures that are just soulless with nothing to say beyond “Buy this!” And don’t get me started on professional wedding photos! Holy cow. Who knew the secret was high-key + bokeh + VSCO?

                      I think art has to present some kind of a deeper idea, and the best ideas should be iconoclastic. In fact (and I am exposing part of my psychosis here), that is the main worry with my photography. Sure, there is a lot of craft to be learned and honed, and I’m pursuing that because that’s necessary, but, after all that effort, what if I have nothing to say? There are so many pictures I see that are beautifully composed and technically perfect, but completely trivial in what they’re saying. I guess that’s kind of the deal you make with an artform: spend a whole lifetime pursuing it, honing your craft, but not knowing if it will add up to anything significant.

                      In that way, I take Bach more at his word than Tom appears to. I think he was earnestly pursuing his craft and following both his logic and intuition to make what he made without trying to make a big artistic statement. Some of his works just have too logical and structured a progression for me to believe otherwise. It’s just that he took his craft to such a high level that he discovered things (ideas) that no one had before.

                    • Who knew the secret was high-key + bokeh + VSCO? I am not even going to go there. But if that’s what people willingly want to pay for, I say good for them – whatever makes the client happy.

                      I guess that’s kind of the deal you make with an artform: spend a whole lifetime pursuing it, honing your craft, but not knowing if it will add up to anything significant. The truth is, we will never know for sure. But we have to believe it, otherwise nobody else will – and you will simply stop working due to self doubt.

                • I’m almost afraid to ask what people here think of Rothko, Pollock, or Kandinsky. Or how about Malevich’s 1915 Black Square, done almost a hundred years ago? (Yes, I’m implying something here. ;))

                  • Andre, I’m glad you DID bring these artists/painters into the discussion –at least that of Malevich (I think also Ad Reinhardt, and not terribly more *detailed* Barnett Newman) with the (seemingly) solid blocks of color. My take on this is why not economize further and just put some (empty) frames up (with labels giving titles, signifying *art*! –“Untitled” is a good start) along a black (say) wall?!

                    Let’s consider one lovely winter-setting photo of a small flock of large birds set among hoar-frosted trees just posted on’s Nikon forum by “TrenchMonkey” (which, btw, refers to a one-time (other) craft of his)
                    [see :: ]
                    : if someone could roughly duplicate this shot (no, not rent & train the same birds, but you get the idea :o), they’d probably get raves for their “capture” (photogs, not painters, do captures) : but if you & I & … go out and paint another black square (or –daring to paint outside the box, so to speak– a blue one (!!)), or put a label & title “Fountain” on the nearest urinal (“readymade” art) or … , would there be ANY acclaim given to us? (no) I think that this says something. (Ya, I’ve read the bit about the VERY subtle –mostly unnoticeable– differences between the component nine black inner squares : forerunner to pixel peeping?!)

                    And, yes, I find the Cindy Sherman pics in general to be a bad joke. Would luv to mix ’em up with any number of other like pics and give some unbiased/disinterested observers the chance to opine on the lot; I seriously doubt any would so distinguish them much and none by the sums exchanged in these auctions –which are based not on love of the image but hope for future $$$ gain.
                    And for Rhein II, too.

                    As for Ming’s musing “… only become famous after they die”, no, that requires one’s appreciation of *art* to know such details. Picasso was rightly celebrated during his life, as well as beyond. (& Joni Mitchell is alive but she’s quite an artist IMO –I mean her music (lyrics, tunes, & playing)–; and merging painting & photography => Richard Estes)

                • Tom

                  All very interesting points for discussion (but we must be straining Ming’s bandwidth a bit by now). Jay Maisel also said something to this effect. He said that you’re either a technician, a craftsman or an artist. The technician is only interested in the technical aspects of something. The craftsman’s trying to do it as well as he can. But the artist has a certain kind of arrogance which says “once you see my work, you’ll never look at the world the same way again”. The danger with the artist is that their force of personality can over-ride the quality of their work. I live in Japan where there’s still a great tradition of craftsmen (maybe “artisans” is the word) who make things like masks for noh theatre, etc. These things are just beautiful, and to me the skill and technique that goes into them can be appreciated without the need for postmodern wordplay. It penetrates straight to the heart: wow, this is fantastic. Not “this is a powerful statement on the ethical duality of modern society” or whatever throws up.

                  Your points on art and value are all worth considering. To me, this level (I read up on hyper protected co-operative principle and it sounded like an academic’s version of “there’s one born every minute”) gets dangerously into “discursive onanism” territory, and we should take a step back and just enjoy the art that we enjoy.

                  Nonetheless, an interesting discussion is always appreciated!

                  • (but we must be straining Ming’s bandwidth a bit by now) No worries. Waaaay past that. Carry on! 🙂

                    Technician: your average forum pundit.
                    Craftsman: the average pro.
                    Artist: the very serious amateur.

                    I’m sure there are some that fall into multiple categories; but it appears that Jay was right…

                  • Hi Mark,

                    Ever so quick [on my tea break]: greta post. I live in Japan, too, so even more in common there; plus, if I remember right, aren’t you a DPM user? I am, I have the 1 and 2, would love the 3, but don’t have the disposable income for it [right now].

                    Anyway, a quick couple of points:

                    I probably sounded to you like a champion of the hyper protected cooperative principle and other related discursive onanism [which gave me a smile because the term itself is a kind of jerk off], but I’m completely neutral on this and other arty spiel. I’m anti hot-air, if anyone was. I only pay attention to things that are matter of fact—the hyper protected cooperative principle was named by someone completely immune to common sense, but it is a cold fact. It doesn’t get any realer than being able to sell a thing, or not. You, whether you want to believe it or not, put more trust in an author that’s on a book shelf in book shop [you assume he must be a bona fide author, because that’s where you find him] than some never-heard-of-him that has uploaded an e-book onto a non-descipt corner of some website [it’d be even worse if that book was free]. This isn’t “one born every minute” though I get what you mean there and agree in many cases; this is the difference between “sale” and “no sale.” I’ve couched that in economic terms, but taken more metaphorically that’s all there is. It’s as true for artworks on a gallery wall as the cameras that took them on a shop shelf.

                    I suppose where we part company is that you’re a bit more dogmatic about the technical aspect. Please don’t take “dogma” the wrong way: I believe in dogma and value it. I’m dogmatic about the “sale/no sale” aspect. It’s not “neither here nor there” to me whether a work took skill or not; though it isn’t high up the priorities list, either. I just subjugate that consideration to what’s really important, in my view, whether people buy it or not [in any sense of the phrase].

                    I mean, you reach for Jay Maisel [and he’s great] but aren’t you demonstrating how seeped in faith your own position is?

                    OK gotta go!

                    • Tom

                      I see what you mean about the hyper etc etc etc. It sounds a little like the idea of social proof (“everyone’s doing it so there must be something to it”), although I find fault with that logic. Being able to manipulate it is clearly part of the business side of art (or music, or whatever) and may explain why someone pays huge dollars for Sherman, Gursky etc. It certainly isn’t for their artistic value as I look at it.

                      I am indeed a DP3 user at present (I tend to chop and change a lot via trade-ins, but currently the DP3 and my film camera are more than satisfactory). There’s a lot of fun in trying to use it for things it’s not designed for (sports, low light, etc), but when you use it in its comfort zone it’s just phenomenal. I spend more time zoomed in than looking at the whole picture 🙂

                      Your points on dogma are right on the money. I prefer to see art (or hear music) where it seems that the person creating it has at least made some effort to become competent in its aspects. I find it irritating when people who’ve been learning Japanese for 6 months and can say how they feel and how the weather is then proceed to describe themselves as “fluent”. Makes me roll my eyes. Similar to someone who just bought an expensive DSLR and is now “a photographer”.

                      My opinion on Jay Maisel has nothing to do with “faith” as I understand the concept. I discovered him via (if I remember correctly) Scott Kelby and soon realised that I really like the pictures he takes, or at least the ones on his website. He has a different way of looking at things than (for instance) Ming does: Ming’s approach strikes me as analytical (and thus very useful for learning from), Maisel’s as more instinctive. Put it this way, if I was in New York and had five thousand dollars lying around, I’d definitely take his workshop. Of the photographers I’ve come across who offer tuition, Jay and Ming are the only two who I have considered learning from. I’ve already taken the plunge with Ming’s videos, and they’re excellent. I’m just in the wrong part of the world for Jay!

                      Anyway. Gotta head out. Hope we can continue this later!

                    • Side note on the DPs: I’d personally get the 1 and 3; the 2 isn’t of that much use, and all of the cameras take the Ricoh GW3 wide adaptor without modification – that would give you 21, 28, 60 and 75mm. 🙂

                    • Mark, Ming, Andre, Dan and all

                      I’d so love to break something off here, some good good good comments to get stuck into, but I’m running around like a madman today—because, I’m out with some work colleagues to see the baseball at 18:00. I know nothing about baseball, but I like beer, and some guy called Valentine or Ballatine is probably going to top the Japanese homerun record today: which has been protected — not broken on purpose — up until now out of reverence for the guy who set it, a Giants player called “Oh.” (王 in Japanese/Chinese script, I’m sure you know that one Mark, fitting name for the guy!)

                      I’m taking my chrome F2 — Cromagnon — to the game, loaded with Kodak 400 Tri-X and I’m going to shoot it like it was 800. This is my first attempt at pushing. Let’s hope this guy hits the record breaking homerun and I catch the crowd going mental in the midst. Though I might be more interested in my beer and the conversation by that point 🙂

                      Anyway, Ming and Andre have done all the heavy lifting for me. I just want to praise Andre’s post. There’s nothing like honesty. The real. And Andre turned it on for us there. Thank you Andre. Anyway, thanks to that post and MT’s response:

                      Andre: I guess that’s kind of the deal you make with an artform: spend a whole lifetime pursuing it, honing your craft, but not knowing if it will add up to anything significant.

                      MT: The truth is, we will never know for sure. But we have to believe it, otherwise nobody else will – and you will simply stop working due to self doubt.

                      Says it all for me. I hope it puts my posts in better context.

                      P/S On the Japanese again. I’m getting ready for taking the JLPT:1 end of this year [no official requirement, I just wanted to do it to test myself]. I can read [and computer type] the necessary 2,000 odd shin-kyoiku kanji, but am still working on being able to write all two thousand odd by hand. I’m perennially stuck on circa one thousand and can’t get motivated to cram more; or cram newer ones and lose older ones. Very frustrating. But I plan to switch from copywriting in English to Japanese. About a third of my work now is Japanese translation and copywriting, but that third actually pays more than the two thirds straight English writing. So I want to flip the balance.

                      And buy wall to wall cameras, computers, gizmos and presents for myself with the proceeds! 😛

                    • I’ve never been able to figure out the Japanese obsession with baseball – is it part of the whole McDonalds and americana thing?

                      For some odd reason, your post has remind me of something: note to self: buy a used 105/2.5 and 200/4 AI next time I’m in Tokyo. Small, light, cheap, optically excellent.

                      Good luck with the JLPT:1!

                    • On my way out the door now, but no, I don’t think it’s the post WWII Americana thing. Football [soccer; and “soccer” was originally a British term, a portmanteau of “association football,” that was having a boom at the time and the Americans faithfully picked up the neologism] is more popular with younger generations now. But the Japanese have been playing baseball for decades longer than that [than post WWII]. It’s actually quite elegant and classy at the high-school level. They have an annual tournament, played in summer, called “koushien” (甲子園) in which the high schools of Japan play each other to decide who is the best. We see future stars and all the drama of being young and your whole world being about just one thing [includes the students supporting their school in the stands]. They play in quite classical uniforms and there’s no gadgetry like the pros and major leaguers. It’s sport as it should be — at least as it used to be — perhaps: just about the competition: no money, no sponsors, only pride and the will to win.

                      If you ever come out in Summer and could make it to Osaka [they play it in Hanshin Tigers’ stadium) it would be an AWESOME documentary project. It needs someone with taste to treat it well and to do it, oh God I’m going to say it, skillfully

                      You getting this Mark? 🙂

                      Cheers fellas

                      [Mark, are you up on this? The baseball, I mean. The two work guys I’m going to the ball game with are Chunichi Dragons fans; that’s Nagoya—your part of the World!]

                    • How could I forget!

                      1) Thanks for the well wishes, Ming!

                      2) When you’re here in Nov., let’s go get some glass! I should be all saved up for something by then too 🙂

                    • 2) Bellamy is a dangerous, dangerous man.

        • Thanks for your thoughts Tom. I think I know what I’m going to do already, but I’m sleeping on it. I wish the 12-40 kit were available in the US, and the lens itself is available sooner than December, because that would make the decision easy.

          Anyway, enough of gearlust. One of the really great things about Ming’s sites is that a review of one of the most hotly anticipated cameras can veer into the philosophy of photography and art. I was thinking the Instagram thing, and reading a few blog entries (Eric Kim’s as well as Andrew Molitor’s undeservedly obscure, very philosophical photo blog, about the subject, and I think there is a divide between casual shooters and serious hobbyists. I think there is a similar divide amongst the pros as well, but I don’t know how to categorize them yet, lest I insult all wedding photographers …

          For most people, the photo is significant because there are extraneous factors that add meaning to the photo: you know the people in it, or the person who took it. For the serious hobbyists, and I mean the kind that take workshops, enter photo competitions, or are otherwise trying to improve their craft, and not the GAS collectors, the photo has to stand by itself and depend on nothing else, except perhaps the title. The photo has to generate its own emotional response instead of depending upon viewer familiarities.

          I think these two groups have a very different idea of what is a good picture, and perhaps that is where the misunderstandings arise. Phil Schiller’s comments may be directed at the mom who wants a picture of her 2-year old son running around the yard because that photo will have powerful sentimental value years later, whereas the Ming crowd will try to apply the 4 qualities of an outstanding image, which are designed to make a good, standalone image.

          (And incidentally, applying the 4 qualities in a shotgun manner is not necessarily a good thing: I do that now habitually for all photos I look at in order to drill the concepts into my head, and it actually makes social media a total misery for me as I have a hard time enjoying my friends’ photos for what they are.)

          And I should emphasize that these are not impermeably delineated domains — there is a messy mix, and I’m sure everyone switches between the two, and even straddles it often. Take a picture of a cute kitten, composed well in beautiful light with clarity of subject and idea, and the cute kitten will still be responsible for the large majority of the viewer’s emotional response. And I don’t mean to imply that pictures taken in one domain are automatically better than the other — most fine art photography is pretty worthless as works of art.

          I think Instagram filters are an attempt to add standalone emotional content to a picture. But I think it’s like adding sugar, salt, and/or fat to a dish: it is initially tasty, but can’t replace a carefully considered and composed dish made from the same ingredients. I am optimistic that things like phone cameras and Instagram filters will make more (but not all!) people take up Serious Photography, as some subset of filter users will start to realize the limitations of what they have and want more. In other words, perhaps Instagram will serve as a bridge for people who take snapshots to become people who make pictures.

          • I actually think the serious amateur is closer to being a true artist than most pros will ever be, simply because they shoot solely because they want to, not because they have to – and what they produce is to make themselves happy only. Pros have to sing for their bread. I’m personally experiencing this to be an increasing divide between my personal and professional work, especially as I attempt to climb the commercial photography value chain and find that the creativity gets increasingly outsourced to agencies or the client, and usually they don’t understand what works best visually, or sometimes is even technically feasible to achieve. Bottom line: what I like to shoot isn’t what sells.

            • “Bottom line: what I like to shoot isn’t what sells”.

              Just like Howard Roark 🙂

            • My photo club has all amateurs but many of them are exceptional photographers. Some go to the ends of the world, rent helicopters and climb mountains all at their own expense and come back with amazing shots. However they can also do well in their local environment for our weekly photo contests.

              Best Wishes – Eric

              • Precisely: most of the time we don’t get to rent helis or climb mountains because the client’s budget won’t allow it, so we vicariously DI it in with photoshop 🙂

            • Jorge Balarin says:

              I had a twin brother that was an artistic photographer. At some moment he started to work professionally for some advertising agencies and fashion magazines. Once he told me that somehow being a “pro” decreased his creativity, and that he considered that he was a better photographer in the past, when he didn’t know all the codes of his practice.

              • I agree – I’m trying very hard to keep work and personal shooting separate, or at least take jobs that give me some degree of creative freedom. It’s one of the reasons for my recent shift to film.

          • Andre Y: “And incidentally, applying the 4 qualities in a shotgun manner is not necessarily a good thing: I do that now habitually for all photos I look at in order to drill the concepts into my head, and it actually makes social media a total misery for me as I have a hard time enjoying my friends’ photos for what they are.)

            And I should emphasize that these are not impermeably delineated domains — there is a messy mix, and I’m sure everyone switches between the two, and even straddles it often. Take a picture of a cute kitten, composed well in beautiful light with clarity of subject and idea, and the cute kitten will still be responsible for the large majority of the viewer’s emotional response. ”

            So very well put Andre…Thomas and I were having this discussion about the nature of popularity of creative endeavors at a general-public level. Trying to deny the truth of it is a sure road to insanity due to the obsessive quest to prove to the world that they are all wrong! I am actually glad of Ming’s influence on my appreciation of photographs on a technical level…I used to think “meh” so often when viewing the vast majority of images on social media, for want of a more coherent and loquacious description of my innate reaction. Now I can actually use words to describe my apathy towards them! Thanks Ming!

      • Steve Jones says:

        I just watched that keynote. Too funny! Next I expected Mr. Schiller to say… You don’t actually need a photographer anymore because the phone decides what to photograph. I guess they are working on that one.

        • Haha, good one!

        • I want a camera that you just release into the world, and then sit at home watching reality TV until it returns loaded with photos of interesting cross-processed sandwiches, young people waving flashlights in the vicinity of nothing in particular, homeless dudes in B&W with all of the contrast and sharpening sliders ramped to 11, nondescript bits of grass at the side of the road with extra warming and saturation applied…etc etc. I guess I could just surf instagram/Tumblr/Flickr explore, but I want them to be MY photos goddamit!

          And before any one considers raising an eye at my seeming scorn for heavy-filter looking images, whilst having a stream of variously filtery-looking images, I spent ALOT of time manually achieving those in Lightroom, without any presets I will have you know!

    • Thanks Ciao. We are now at the point that you need to have very good shot discipline to tell the difference between each generation anyway; the vast majority of people won’t be able to achieve that.

  79. Rain Santiago says:

    Btw Ming great overall review of the OMD E-M1, even though I’ve been shooting only with the GR. I also have to give Sony promps for how well they designed that 16.2 MP sensor seems like that is the sweet spot for most folks.

  80. Hi Ming, excellent read and looks like its going to make a lot of people change systems and sounds like a great system for wedding photography as well. The only thing I never get to read about OMD system and other M43 system is – how about the flash system? How good is it compared to the two of the best in the industry?
    I tend to use my flashes a lot and canon flash system is mature and very consitent in ETTL mode, and second best in my opinion and experince to only Nikon. Everyone knows pentax has terrible PTTL flash. I can swear by eTTL and iTTL because its reliable and when you know what you are doing, you can get really consistent exposure frame after frame and its one of the most important reason why I cannot buy a Pentax k5IIs even though I love its ergonomics,simplicity ,it’s looks and ability to focus down to -3EV ( way better than my 5dmkIII) and weather sealing, Image quality, High ISO performance and price.

    All things being equal and amazing flash sync speed of new OMD , my question is – Can a pro photojournalist or a working wedding photographer be happy with OMD’s flash system? Is it bread and butter material?

    Thank you.

  81. I just dont get this excitment about killing of DSLRS. It all still feels like fad to me. I mean its a good body but the lens selection is limited. And as a professional the camera and lens gear i carry is the lightest part of my load on any job. I bring ladders and stands and strobes and a tripod. I just cant see what the appeal of this is for professional photographers. but you seem so gung ho and so do a few other people. Are the cameras really that heavy? isnt it nice to work with a nice big ergonomic piece of kit when your on a shoot. and am i the only one that wants an SLR viewfinder?

    • also i meant no disrespect but i am honestly baffled by this

      • Have you ever held an EOS 1D camera with a zoom? It feels really cool and macho for a little while – then your wrist, then your shoulder and then your back will hate you…honestly. If big people with big hands prefer them thats great but unless you paid me I would never carry one around. But the biggest issue is, as Ming points out, that the myth of overwhelming image quality superiority is a bit of a pixel peeping paper tiger. If you want compact size for portability and solid weather proof construction (and matching lenses, or the body not worth a damn), then you either go Olympus or Pentax K series. Canon and Nikon definitely shy off when it comes to environmental sealing of bodies and lenses.
        As they say, it’s the camera with you that gets the shot, not the one hiding in a safe box or buried in a backpack.

        • Using one in a studio environment on a tripod etc is fine; but carrying it on assignment for 12-14 hours a day and a week is something else altogether.

          • You mean like generation of photographers had done it before for decades?
            Sorry, I don’t get all this size and weight discussion. First they make the m4/3 standard to make very compact cameras and now the body size is still the same size like a entry level Canon 1100D, simply because smaler bodys are a pain to hold.

            For m4/3 there a still no really long tele lenses available and if they will come available in the future the body will still get bigger, you can bet on it 😉 The human handsize don’t shrink …

          • I went shooting this weekend with my DSLR and Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 and Sigma 50mm F/1.4 lenses. As I carried around that gear for a full day of hiking (9 hours), I recalled how so often on the net people just whinge and whinge and whinge about the weight. At the end of the day I wasnt sore, hurt, injured, or disabled at all.

            I guess I’m not geriatric enough to need to get rid of my gear for weight reasons.

            • Try the same thing with a 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 and a D4…but oh we’ll, perhaps we’re just weaklings.

              • I’ve hiked all over China, Taiwan and Thailand with far more gear than that. In my bag was a Canon DSLR, 85L, 35L, 100 macro, 20mm, flash, and assorted accessories.

                Get a good bag, be in reasonable health, and carrying photo gear is simply not an issue.

                • Sure, most people can carry that much stuff. But why, f you don’t have to? It’s like saying, “I’m going to put a couple of bricks in my backpack just for the hell of it and carry it around for several weeks.”

                  Like yourself, I’ve also travelled all over the world taking photos. This year I will visit my 70th country. I used to shoot Nikon DSLR while travelling. I switched to m43 a couple of years ago and there is no doubt in my mind that it’s the way to go for travel and street photography. There’s simply no need to haul any more stuff than that around with you.

                  I also use m43 for landscape and macro photography, as most of the time it’s hard to see any difference with a DSLR.

                  Instead of knocking it, why don’t you try it? You might find yourself to be pleasantly surprised.

                  If you’re worried about the size of the sensor then try a Sony NEX, which is APS-C and no bigger than an m43 camera. The latest generation of APSC Sony sensors are remarkably good – a match for the last generation of full-frame sensors.


                  • Why? Because I want the maximum image quality possible, without exception. Micro 4/3rds is NOT going to deliver that quality. Not even close.

                    I dont even like APS-C, much less a 4/3rd sensor. Carrying gear is something I dont even think about. It’s just natural and when I travel I want to carry MORE gear, not less. I want the right equipment for the scene that I’m working. All out versatility is what I want and u4/3rds is only better at being light. You get LESS DOF control, MORE noise and slower autofocusing.

                    • Then you should be using only a large format scanning back. Because compared to that, FX is simply a compromise!

                    • Peter Boender says:

                      Ok, you made your opinion perfectly clear. But I’m confused. I you feel as strongly as you do, why do you keep coming back to this blog, and keep commenting in the discussion? Is it some sort of self torture ritual? I mean, you don’t like the fact that DSLRs are getting “bashed” here (And the fact that DSLRs are receiving some critique here is no surprise, as the majority of the people that frequent this blog/forum are firm believers in the various mirrorless standards or at least have a keen interest in them. Which is not to say they know nothing about DSLRs, they probably have used them to quite an extent, or are still using them, and that is exactly why they know the pluses and minuses of each system). But you don’t mind “bashing” the mirrorless standards here? That doesn’t seem fair. It works both ways.
                      Why don’t we keep the emotion out of it (and I know, we’re all pretty anal about our favorite pastime, so it’s bound to get emotional). As long as we have a proper exchange of facts, data, experience, we can all learn from each other, and appreciate each other’s choices (or maybe once in a while, get convinced to make a change).

                    • What part of “versatility” are you not comprehending Ming?

                • Peter Boender says:

                  I’m not agreeing with you on this one… Back in the analog days, I’ve travelled all over Japan with a bag filled with 2 SLRs and an assortment of lenses and accessories. At the time, it was doable (though still felt heavy). Now I travel with a comprehensive m43 kit. Not only my back and shoulders feel grateful, but more importantly I don’t feel hampered by the gear I’m carrying around. I just feel lighter on my feet, feel more free to move about, quicker to respond and be much more unobtrusive. I also noticed (and I’m a big Western guy, so I stick out in a crowd) people simply don’t feel threatened by this gentle little camera. All together it’s a whole new experience, and I’m finding many more photo opportunities (especially with people) than I did with my Nikon SLRs and DSLRs. So for travel, street, people, urban and architecture photography I’ve now totally converted to m43. One suggestion: give it a try once, you may become pleasantly surprised!

                  • steve Jones says:

                    Mirrors my experience exactly Peter. Used to carry a bag of Minolta gear all around Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. It was fairly uncomfortable to say the least. Similar experience with a Nikon outfit.The OMD system is a pleasure to travel with. In my experience I’ve also found the Zuiko lenses to be fairly consistent in quality across the board rather like my M system lenses.
                    It’s going to be nearly impossible for me to resist the EM1 and that 2.8 zoom combo. with close focus ability I could get a high percentage of the shots I need with just that and maybe one other fast lens. Happy days.

                • I’m not sure what point you wish to make here. It’s wonderful for you that you can carry all that kit around; not everyone else can or wants to do that. Are you claiming that their experiences are invalid, or just taking the opportunity for some a little boasting about your gear-lugging prowess? 🙂

              • Sorry, don’t get me wrong – the E-M1 is a excellent camera as a second body or as a spare system in the glovebox of the car, but all this pro talk is – at least for me – a bit ridiculous. I can’t argue to my client: I’m lazy, so I take the smaller and lightweight system. Yes the picture quality will be compromised, but hey it’s a lot easier for me. Is that fine? 😉

                My client pays for the best picture quality and not for my comfort … 😉

                • It’s a little too expensive to leave in your glovebox!

                  Who says anything about compromises? I use the best system for the job. There are jobs where you can’t use a tripod and setup lights, so you need a fast, stabilized handheld platform to work quickly and unobtrusively – corporate reportage, for instance. I don’t use the OM-D for every job, just those that make sense.

      • Give one a serious go and you might change your mind.

      • It’s okay that you’re baffled. For those who aren’t baffled – we’re not going to keep it a secret.
        No one’s trying to kill off FF DSLR’s. I use a FF and a m4/3 camera daily. Just keep shooting and don’t worry about it.

    • Rain Santiago says:

      Because some folks are tired of lugging around heavy equipment the huge weight savings is one of the biggest advantages mirrorless cameras have. DSLR will still retain certain advantages for certain situation but for travel and documentary work the OMD has proven itself.

    • Maybe your type of work doesnt require anything other than you have, I cant say what you do. But for Studio type shots you probably have the best gear you can get.

      Think photo journalism in remote areas hiking for many hours etc. Now your 2KG SLR + heavy lenses starting weigh you down.

      You can answer your own question. Go into a store or borrow or rent one and try it. You may find a use for it. Maybe even a back up camera.

      • I dont ever work in studio its all on location

        • But if you are carrying ladders, stands, strobes and a tripod you must have a car or van with you as well or an assistant or two? It would be impossible to carry that lot yourself. 🙂

          If I am going into London for the day by train, then using the tube train I need to travel as light as possible.

          1. So I can move quickly
          2. That I am not a target for theft
          3. So that I don’t cause myself back problems in the future.
          4. I do not scream pro camera shoot when outside.

          Plus any weight saving means I can carry some more water with me which is never a bad thing on a hot day.

    • Because most of us aren’t professionals and don’t carry ladders etc.

      “Lens selection is limited”. I count more than sixty 43/M43 lenses that are available for the E-M1, plus whatever legacy lens you care to attach with an adapter.

      Very interesting comparison Ming; thanks

      • And this doesn’t also take into account the fact that most of the legacy DSLR lenses aren’t quite up to par on the newest it resolution bodies like the D800e; it you count those that work to spec, you have far, far fewer.

    • On a proper commercial shoot, I agree. For reportage and location work where you go very light and have to be mobile, then I’ve gone over entirely to mirrorless; I wouldn’t have done it if I felt there were compromises.

    • You gotta get religion. Once converted then you can join in and bash DSLR’s.

      • I think a lot of it is sales hype based around small and light. Slightly heavier holds firmer and steadier for me. When I travel I have a good DSLR and a single good lens. Ironically it fits very nicely into the new Think Tank Mirrorless Mover bag which was specifically designed for mirrorless. It doesnt bog me down at all. It weighs say 500g more than the M43 combo. I carry no tripods, flashes or other lenses when I travel. At the risk of being shot down, I never liked the original OM-D and didn’t keep it long. Aside of the fiddly controls and overly complex menus, my biggest thing was the EVF. I like to be absorbed in my photography. I can’t look at an EVF no matter how slick it is, I want to see every nuance, and I don’t want to feel disconnected from the moment by an electronic view. Photography is emotional absorption. The pictures I took with the OMD were sterile, I haven’t a single image worthy of my portfolio. The day there are no more DSLR’s is the day I hang up my hat, my camera bag and read on my patio. (sorry Ming, we are great friends in the real world, I apologise for having the complete opposite view)

        • Haha, no worries Peter. I thought you were falling in love with the OM-D last time we spoke, I guess not, eh?

        • I agree. I’ve never seen an EVF that even remotely allows me to connect to my scene/subject the way an optical viewfinder can. It’s just not even close now. EVF’s are great for filling up a viewfinder with mindless, useless garbage (i turn off every option allowable), but for actually seeing the scene, not even close to acceptable. That’s why my primary mirrorless camera is the Fuji X100. That optical viewfinder makes ALL the difference. Were it EVF only, I’d never have bought it.

          • With an OVF you connect with the real world. With an EVF you connect with a tiny computer monitor. With an OVF you are absorbed into the actual subject (Bliss). With an EVF you can now chimp before the shot! (Groan).

            • I don’t feel any less satisfied with the final image, though. Are cameras about making images, or playing with gear?

              • You are ignoring what is being said. Greg said nothing about the final image. He (and I) are talking about the PROCESS of making the image. WIth the EVF, you get to look at a tiny screen. With an OVF, you get to see reality.

                • No, I’m not. The process affects the way you make the image: think pro DSLR vs 8×10″. Both have optical finders, but you’re not going to use the latter for conflict photography.

                  And you might want to check your facts, too: the EVFs aren’t that small. Equivalent magnification of the E-M1’s ‘tiny little screen’ is the same as the D800E – 0.74x.

                • That’s why I don’t wear my glasses when I look at beautiful scenery. Sure it’s all blurry as hell, but it’s unfiltered reality, man! 😉

                  Yes I’m being facetious, but you must see that it’s amusing when you made a remark earlier about “getting religion” and then start supporting some guy talking about spiritual experiences with viewfinders. 😀

                  The only way to see reality while taking a photo is to have no viewfinder at all – anything else is filtered, whether by mirrors, prisms and lenses or by a computer display. Any distinction about which is more “real” seems a little bit arbitrary. 🙂

                  • Yes, I do admit to “spiritually digging” a FF OVF and having the actual light rays (albeit bent and reflected)
                    hit my eye.

                    Also digging the great “spirited” discussions here! 🙂

                  • There’s a big difference between light going through mirrors and then to your eye and light going through a sensor, then an a/d converter, and then being reproduced on a screen.

                    If you can’t see the difference between that then good for you, and EVF is “good enough”.

                • steve Jones says:

                  My thoughts too Andy,The EVF on the OMD ( EM5 even ) is less tiny than some optical finders I’ve seen on DSLR’s. as you say,
                  you only see reality by using your eyes and not looking through a finder of any sort, and in any case Iskabibble , if you are shooting digital your ‘reality’ becomes ‘processed cheese’ as soon as the light hits the sensor.

        • For small and unassuming I use my Leica M8–fast, nimble and very discreet. But it’s not a light camera by any measure (okay, it is light compared to a D4 behemoth), yet the weight does not bother me. Most importantly since I want something discreet, it does not have a real or fake/wannabe pentaprism, so it’s not considered a “real” camera by most people and less intimidating. So why are so many claiming that their mirrorless quasi-DSLR (EM-5 and presumably EM-1) are less intimidating than than a mirrored DLSR when their profiles are the same (and look the same to the uninitiated eye with the SLR hump that shouts “PRO CAMERA”)? Is it really the camera or is it something in the photographer’s mind and body language that gives people apprehension? Why not use something like the Panasonic GX-7 or Fuji X cameras instead–rather staid and point and shoot looking, yes (a la Leica M)?

          One thing that is clear for me is that since the early 1990’s, 35mm format cameras and lenses grew tremendously in size. While I considered the F3/MD4 combo large (compared to the FM/FE), the F5/D3/D4 dwarf it (almost Hasselblad size/weight, IMO)! What used to comfortably fit inside my Domke F2 (2 bodies, 4-6 lenses) does not fit anymore. I actually like older Nikon lenses because they are much more compact compared to their modern plastic wonders.

          If Nikon’s top bodies were 25% smaller (and possibly modular with removeable battery pack a la F4), I wonder if the Olympus smallness trend (fad?) would have as much resonance here.

        • Same for me concerning EVFs. Call me old fashioned since I prefer a good OVF (not the small dim stuff inside low end Nikon and Olympus E series dslrs)–but then again I don’t use liveview either. OVF has a better “feel” for me–about as difficult to describe as the “Leica” experience though, and from the opposed polar positions espoused by various commentators, possibly yet another one of those holy wars so commonplace among (male) hobbies. Glad were are not talking about whether film or digital is better 😉

          • Honestly: I was not sold on early EVFs. The newer models – the E-M1 being the best of the lot so far, with dynamic brightness – are a HUGE improvement. I like to be able to precisely judge exposure and clipping to the nearest third of a stop before I shoot; I can’t do that with an OVF. Much less the Leica…

            That said, no EVF compares to a Hasselblad (YET!)

    • Steve Jones says:

      ‘Weapons grade’ For those of us that do travel photography where you might have to carry everything all day, jump on boats, climb mountains and go to goodness knows where in all weather and environments, the compactness and capability of this system make COMPLETE sense, in the same way the old OM system did. You have simply looked at your own situation to the exclusion of many others. The OMD kit has made my photographic life much easier with no compromise in quality.I don’t especially love the complexity of the Olympus menu system but in every other respect it is pretty darned good at what it does. Too bad you don’t get it.
      Are the Nikon and Canon Pro cameras that heavy? Are you kidding? Yes they are! I presume you get your ladders and cameras to location by car in which case you’re not carrying anything. I don’t drive and carry everything. Some of the locations I go to are not accessible by car. It also is possible as a city photographer, documentary photographer,( the list goes on ) that you’d be walking a lot.
      Add heat and humidity into the mix and…

    • Right now I use:


      I do not know what is limited about that. There are also wider primes, macros, zooms (wide/standard and teles), and the new PRO line zooms 12-40/2.8 and 40-150/2.8 are also coming out.

    • Jorge Balarin says:

      Perhaps for a pro on assignement zise and weight doesn’t matter so much; but for an advanced amateur doing personal work definetely zise and portability is important.


  1. […] the review includes the OMD-E-M1 sample images and looks to the camera as a standalone device. The second part of the review comes with JPEG comparison between D600 and E-M5 […]

  2. […] said in part two of my Olympus E-M1 review that the camera really competed with the 1DX and D4 class of cameras – I think that’s […]

  3. […] X-E2 vs. Olympus E-M1 vs. Sony A7 Jordan Steele Micro 4/3 vs a Full Frame Legend Mingt Thein Olympus E-M1 vs. Nikon D600 Какво би направила […]

  4. […] матрица (FF) е много малка, както се вижда от теста на Мing Тhein между Olympus E-M1 и Nikon D600. Вие преценете сами дали си […]

  5. […] M4/3 or APS-C sensor cameras to FF sensor cameras (dpreview has such reviews, another one is at The 2013 Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, part two: some comparisons (between the two test images in the 'Important testing notes' section) including the D600, where […]

  6. […] Ming Thein’s Part II includes detailed color-coded spec-sheet comparison, ISO crops comparison and more [HOT!] [MUST […]

  7. […] on 9/12/2013: (image quality comparison against E-M5 and Nikon […]

  8. […] Source: […]

  9. […] AW: Olympus E-M1 leak Schon gesehen? […]

  10. […] be comparable to new full frame dSLRs such as the more expensive and heavier Nikon D600 – see Ming Thein’s blog post where he compares the two – the D600 gives more dynamic range, but the E-M1 gives better […]

  11. […] nowego aparatu cyfrowego Olympus OM-D E-M1 z między innymi lustrzanką Nikon D600, najdziecie pod tym linkiem. D600 jest najlepszy (zwłaszcza pod kątem rozpiętości tonalnej matrycy która jest po prostu […]

  12. […] the review includes the OMD-E-M1 sample images and looks to the camera as a standalone device. The second part of the review comes with JPEG comparison between D600 and E-M5 […]

  13. […] Ming Thein – The 2013 Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, part one: the camera | Part 2 […]

%d bloggers like this: