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Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review

16 Megapixels16 MegapixelsElectronic View FinderElectronic View FinderHigh ISO: ISO 6400 or more is available at full-resolution.High ISO: ISO 6400 or more is available at full-resolution.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Level: Measures camera tilt and helps to keep the horizon level.Level: Measures camera tilt and helps to keep the horizon level.Continuous DriveContinuous DriveFull 1080p HD Video: 1920 x 1080 resolution or more but less than 4K.Full 1080p HD Video: 1920 x 1080 resolution or more but less than 4K.Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Hotshoe: Allows external flash units to be attached.Spot MeteringSpot MeteringDepth-Of-Field Preview: Improve perception of DOF before shooting.Depth-Of-Field Preview: Improve perception of DOF before shooting.Weatherproof - Seals protect from dust, humidity and light splashing.Weatherproof - Seals protect from dust, humidity and light splashing.Accepts Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), SDHC and SD memory.Accepts Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), SDHC and SD memory.Neocamera detailed reviewNeocamera detailed reviewDiscontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.

Performance - How well does it take pictures?

Performance starts with image quality, which is the criteria used as the foundation of our digital camera ratings. Ergonomic issues may get in the way, but in the end, image quality counts the most. For an ILC, image quality greatly depends on the lens used. While color, noise, exposure and dynamic-range are properties of a camera, distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are properties of the lens. Sharpness and contrast depend on the weakest link. That is, a camera cannot capture more details than a lens lets through. Conversely, it is quite possible for a lens to transmit more details than a sensor can capture.

Image Noise & Details

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 delivers outstanding image-quality for a Micro Four-Thirds camera, matching the E-M5. Like its predecessor, it even bests a number of current cameras with APS-C sensors. The gap in image-quality between Micro Four-Thirds and other mirrorless systems therefore remains unnoticeable for common print sizes as the latest generation of APS-C sensors have not improved either.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Image noise is extremely low until ISO 800 and barely there at 1600 where it remains usable for relatively large prints. ISO 3200 shows visible noise with has a slight effect on the finest details. At ISO 6400, fine details get eaten by noise and maximum print size is affected. On 12" x 9" prints, ISO 6400 remains extremely usable with fine noise only visible upon close inspection.

ISO 12800 shows significant noise with fine details gone. This makes noisy mid-size prints, yet completely usable 4" x 6" ones. ISO 25600 is surprisingly usable for small prints and even makes mid-size prints with recognizable contents.

There are three levels of noise-reduction available. NR can also be turned off entirely which avoids increased softness at high sensitivities. Best results are obtained with Noise-Reduction turned off and Sharpness at zero. Anything higher shows clear sharpening artifacts on this camera which does not have an anti-alias filter.

Color & White Balance

The OM-D E-M1 improves color accuracy compared to its predecessor. Natural style delivers reasonable colors. Still, the red channel always remains too high. Default Saturation is punchy yet not overdone. Dialing it down to -1 produces more natural results.

Automatic While-Balance is excellent. It deals well with a variety of conditions including typical indoor lighting. There are tons of options for the rare cases when AWB has difficulty or to get consistent colors between shots. Custom WB is easy to use on this camera and renders whites perfectly neutral.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2

Exposure

This digital camera has a respectable multi-segment metering system. Scenes which fall within its dynamic-range are exposed towards the mid-tone which makes them look natural. High contrast-scenes are rendered brightly which causes more highlight clipping than usual. General over-exposure though is quite rare. This is the only area where the E-M5 performs better. It is, however, easy to tune exposure of the OM-D E-M1 and get improved results.

The E-M1 has a superb latitude for scenes of varying dynamic-range. Tone-curves are adjustable separately for shadows and highlights. Changes are even visible on the LCD and EVF, something which the E-M5 cannot do. A preview of HDR capture is even possible with the Expand Live-View Dynamic-Range setting enabled.

Auto Focus

The OM-D E-M1 has a fast Contrast-Detect autofocus system. When mirrorless digital cameras were launched, this is where they lagged the most behind DSLRs and it is great to see that Olympus has truly improved in that area.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 can focus quickly and accurately under typical conditions. Autofocus speed compares to a mid-range DSLR in good light and is just a little slower in low-light. Focus accuracy is extremely high and this digital camera rarely confirms focus incorrectly. Contrast-Detect AF never suffers from front or back focus issues, which is why no calibration is needed.

With most Micro Four-Thirds lenses, focus is done via a fly-by-wire ring around the lens-barrel. The E-M1 keeps up well with no perceptible lag. In DMF mode, a slight turn of the focus-ring shift into manual focus. Because the ring is fly-by-wire, the E-M1 can reverse the direction for focusing except for those few lenses with a mechanical focus-ring.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

New to this Olympus mirrorless is a 37-point Phase-Detect AF system. It is only enabled automatically when the E-M1 detects an attached Four-Thirds lens. No such lens was available for review and hence the performance of this is untested.

Speed

The E-M1 is a rather responsive digital camera. This mirrorless manages a fast 10 FPS continuous drive, just one FPS more than the E-M5. Very few DSLRs can shoot that fast because they need tougher shutter curtains and mirror mechanisms.

In use, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 rarely holds back the photographer. Buttons, dials and the eye-start sensor all respond instantly. The following measurements characterize its performance:

  • Power-On: 1½ second. Average.
  • Power-On to First-Shot: 2 seconds. Average too.
  • Autofocus: ¼s on good to moderate light. Rarely more than ½s, even in low light. Excellent.
  • Shutter-lag: Nearly instant with just over ¼s blackout. Quite good.
  • Shot-to-shot: Just over ½s. Impressive.
  • Playback: ½s to enter, instant to exit. Excellent.
  • Power-Off: Nearly instant second. Very good.
  • Video: Instant to start and stop but clips the last second.

With numbers like this, the Olympus E-M1 is an excellent performer. It does particularly well with the important numbers, including shutter-lag, autofocus and shot-to-shot speed. For video, it starts recording instantly which is fantastic. Just wait an extra second before stopping because that last one gets unfortunately lost.

The 10 FPS continuous drive with focus locked on the first frame works incredibly well. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 keeps shooting at a consistent pace and manages to keep the view of the EVF or LCD close to the action. This makes the Olympus OM-D E-M1 suitable for action photography, a rarity among mirrorless cameras.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is powered by a proprietary Lithium-Ion battery which provides 350-shots per charge with 50% flash using the supplied add-on flash which is powered by the camera. This is below average among mirrorless yet should be enough for a day of shooting. Performance can be extended by not using the supplied flash.

Conclusion

Olympus OM-D E-M1

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is truly one of the most compelling mirrorless cameras yet. Its combination of image-quality and performance matches advanced DSLRs in a more compact yet highly ergonomic form-factor. As the successor of the OM-D E-M5, the E-M1 features an improved ultra-high resolution 2.4 megapixels 0.5" EVF in a freezeproof body which incrementally surpasses the performance of its predecessor.

Image quality is top-notch with low image noise until ISO 1600 and still makes usable images up to 12800 for mid-size prints and 25600 for small ones. Exposure and white-balance are excellent with only color accuracy being somewhat off. This puts the E-M1 close to mirrorless cameras with larger APS-C sensors.

The speed of the E-M1 is class-leading in nearly all aspects. The Contrast-Detect AF system is just as fast as the majority of DSLRs and delivers a solid performance when light is low. The 10 FPS continuous drive is the most usable of any mirrorless camera since the EVF and LCD manage to keep up. There is virtually no shutter-lag and only a short black-out time between frames.

Video performance is almost without issues. Output quality is high and the video starts recording instantly and previews framing correctly. Even continuous autofocus with an MSC lens keeps up well without much back-and-forth jitter. The only glitch is a second cut-off from the end of video clips.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is incredibly customizable. It lets photographers take control and improve the interface considerably from its default setup. This camera is an excellent tool for a wide range of photographic subjects. It rarely gets in the way and delivers outstanding image-quality.

Excellent
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By Neocamera on 2014-05-19

Olympus E-M1 Highlights


Mirrorless digital camera

Sensor-Size: 17 x 13mm

Four-Thirds Sensor

Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI

16 Megapixels MirrorlessISO 100-25600
Micro Four-Thirds Mount
2X FLM
Shutter 1/8000-60s
5-Axis Built-in Stabilization, 4-Stop ImprovementFull manual controls, including Manual Focus
0.50" Built-in EVF 2.4 Megapixels (0.74X)Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning
Automatic Eye-Start sensorSpot-Metering
2 Axis Digital LevelHot-Shoe
Weatherproof down to -10CStereo audio input
Built-in Dust ReductionLithium-Ion Battery
10 FPS Drive, 95 ImagesSecure Digital Extended Capacity
1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording
3" LCD 1 Megapixels
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