Olympus OM-D E-M1 review: will this new Olympus compact system camera appeal to both Micro Four Thirds and Four Thirds users? Find out in our review video.
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is the latest addition to the Olympus compact system camera (CSC) line-up and it’s aimed at professional and enthusiast photographers. It doesn’t replace the Olympus OM-D E-M5, but sits above it.
Olympus hopes that the new OM-D E-M1 will address the needs of Four Thirds users as well as enthusiast Micro Four Thirds users, because it has a dual autofocus system that is designed to work well with both types of lens.
In her Olympus OM-D E-M1 review video our head of testing Angela Nicholson takes a look at what this camera has to offer.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review Video Transcript
Hi I’m Angela Nicholson head of testing for Future’s photography portfolio and in this review video I’m going to be looking at the Olympus OM-D E-M1, which sits above the OM-D E-M5 it the Olympus compact system camera line-up.
Olympus sees this camera as the successor to the E-5, its last high-end SLR, and it has a dual autofocus system that is designed to work well with both Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds lenses. Four thirds lenses may be mounted via an adaptor, but Micro Four Thirds lenses are directly compatible.
This Dual Fast AF system combines contrast and phase detection and some of the pixels on the E-M1′s 16MP sensor are actually half-photosites (pixels) with no colour filter. One row has left-half sites while another has right-half receptors. These two halves match up to create a phase detection focusing system which is used when Four Thirds lenses are mounted on the camera.
Like other compact system cameras, the E-M1 has a contrast detection AF system that uses information from the imaging part of the sensor. This is used to focus Micro Four Thirds lenses. The camera automatically detects what type of lens is mounted and uses the appropriate AF system automatically.
When Micro Four Thirds lenses are used in continuous autofocus mode, both focusing methods are used to increase the focusing speed, but in movie mode the camera uses contrast detection whatever lens is mounted.
Another important feature of the E-M1’s 16MP Live MOS sensor is that it has no optical low-pass filter. It’s first time that Olympus has done this and theoretically it should enable it to record more detail than the original Olympus OM-D, the OM-D E-M5, but our tests indicate that it doesn’t make a great deal of difference.
As it’s a compact system camera, the Olympus E-M1 doesn’t have an optical viewfinder, but there’s an electronic one with 2.36-million dots and 1.48x magnification. I think this EVF is excellent, it provides a smooth, clear view with just a hint of texture and there’s plenty of detail visible. Colours also look natural and are a good match for the final image.
I also like Olympus’s new Colour Creator which allows you to make hue and saturation adjustments using a colour wheel and while viewing the impact on-screen or in the viewfinder. The Highlight and Shadow control is also useful for manipulating contrast.
On the back here there’s a 3-inch tilting touchscreen with 1.04-million-dots and it provides a superb view with plenty of detail and good contrast. It’s also very responsive to the touch and doesn’t suffer too badly from reflections.
It’s no surprise that the E-M1 has Wi-Fi connectivity built-in and this enables remote shooting via Olympus’s (upgraded) smartphone app with control over exposure and white balance as well as the shooting and drive modes. It works really well and as the camera is dust, splash and freeze-proof you can put it in fairly harsh environments while you shoot from a warm, dry location.
According to Olympus, the E-M1 is not intended to be the smallest camera available, but to be a good size for serious use. It’s certainly very comfortable to hold and use. Everything is within easy reach and there are direct controls for all the key features.
As on the E-M5, this switch changes the purpose of the front and rear control dials. There are several customization options, but in aperture or shutter priority mode the default (mode 1) setting, position 1 sets the front dial to exposure compensation and the rear dial to aperture or shutter speed respectively. But when the switch is in position 2, the rear dial is used to scroll through the white balance options while the front dial controls the sensitivity setting.
This button gives access to the drive mode and HDR options, while this one is used to access the metering and focusing options.Olympus claims that the E-M1 produces the best image quality from any Olympus digital camera, with less colour saturation loss at high sensitivities.
Our tests reveal that the JPEG images have much better dynamic range than the E-M5 at the higher sensitivity settings, and generally colours look good, but the raw files (after conversion to tiff) are slightly more restricted.
The signal to noise ratio is also slightly worse for both JPEG and tiff files, but Olympus has said that the processor is set to allow a little more noise to be visible to preserve detail.
Our images from the EM1 don’t have a great deal more detail than those from the EM5 but they look a little more natural at 100% on-screen.
On the whole though the images image from the EM1 are very impressive, the metering system performs very well and the colours are natural when you want them to be. I really like Olympus’s Art Filter effects and the fact that you can bracket to apply all of them while still having a clean raw file for later processing is real a bonus.