Ten years ago the Olympus E-1 and Four Thirds system was launched, with the last Four Thirds camera released three years ago, the Olympus E-5.
During the design study of the next professional grade camera to replace the Olympus E-5, it was decided that the Micro Four Thirds system was the best way to go, with the benefits of a smaller size, as well as the ability to use both Micro Four Thirds, and Four Thirds lenses.
Olympus were also performing a design study on the Olympus E-7 digital SLR, however, by using an electronic viewfinder (EVF) in the new Olympus OM-D E-M1, they are able to provide a much larger view, compared to an optical viewfinder - the optical prism would need to be significantly larger to match the EVF.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Features
With compatibility with Micro Four Thirds, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 has access to 16 Olympus Micro Four Thirds lenses, and 26 lenses from other manufacturers. There is also access to 23 Four Thirds lenses using the MMF-3 adapter, which provides auto focus for the lenses, bringing the total number of lenses available to 65.
The camera is designed to have a comfortable handgrip that will suit the use of both Micro Four Thirds and Four Thirds lenses, and the new OM-D E-M1 is designed to merge the best of Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds, with Olympus officially saying there will not be another Four Thirds Digital SLR. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 will remain on the market.
16 megapixel Live MOS sensor - new
Phase detection AF on sensor
Dual Fast AF: Phase Detection / Contrast Detection Focus
2.36million dot LCD EVF with 0.74x magnification
No AA / Optical Low Pass Filter on the sensor
New TruPic VII image processor
ISO100 (Low) to ISO25600
1/8000s shutter speed
Full HD video with stereo sound, Mic socket
5-axis in body image stabilisation
10fps continuous shooting (upto 41 RAW shots)
6.5fps continuous AF (upto 50 RAW shots)
Wi-Fi and remote operation
Dust / Splash / Freeze proof (to -10C)
The new TruPic VII image processor combined with the new sensor is designed to give better noise at ISO25600, compared to the E-M5, and as well as better noise performance it does not lose as much colour saturation. The new image processor also provides chromatic aberration correction (a first for Olympus Micro / Four Thirds cameras), sharpness optimisation based on lens attached (when using Olympus 43 or M43 lenses), this also works to correct for diffraction due to a small aperture, and it also provides low-pass filter-less moiré removal.
Improved remote operation - the new E-M1 comes with an updated remote shooting app, giving access to P/A/S/M shooting modes, shutter / aperture settings, as well as WB, exposure compensation, and ISO settings. The new remote control app also supports the Olympus Live Bulb / Live Time feature so you can see the photo exposure on the smartphone.
Interval shooting has been improved with the camera now allowing up to 999 shots to be taken, and the camera will automatically create a 100 second video inside the camera.
The EVF uses the same LCD at the VF-4, but has been improved to give a more natural feeling view, with adaptive brightness technology that automatically adjusts the brightness level depending on the lighting conditions. EVF preview options include: Aspect control, Magnified view, Tone (Highlight / Shadow Tone control), and Colour Creator, and to switch between these you simply hold the Fn2 button and scroll the rear control dial.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Colour Creator
Colour creator is a new feature that easily lets you alter the hue and colour saturation using the front and rear dials. It can be adjusted in real time in the viewfinder with the front and rear control dials, and you can save up to 4 settings for your own photo styles.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Sensor Phase Detection Area
Focus: Phase detection is used for Four Thirds lenses and covers a smaller area of the sensor, as can be seen above, with the faint lines visible on the sensor. Contrast Detection is used for Micro Four Thirds lenses, and covers nearly the entirety of the frame, with the Micro Four Thirds lenses optimised to work well with contrast detection focus. Phase detection AF uses spaced out pixels to avoid image quality degradation. Focus peaking is available, although unfortunately this is not available in video mode.
New Art Filters including a vertical diorama mode, as well as a portrait diorama mode for smooth out of focus areas. Photo story has been improved to include a new speed frame mode, where you simply swipe your finger across the screen to follow the action of your subject.
In camera HDR processing has also been added, with the camera showing a preview of HDR before taking the photo, as well as giving the option of natural or artistic HDR styles.
The weather sealed magnesium body is dust, splash and freeze proof up to -10C. Olympus also says that all Olympus lenses are freeze proof.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Handling
The camera is not designed to be the smallest, with other Micro Four Thirds cameras providing that solution, however the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is designed to be the right size and weight for photographers. With the MMF-3 adapter, you are able to use AF with Olympus Zuiko lenses such as the 14-35mm f/2.0 and 35-100mm f/2.0 lenses, unique in the DSLR market, although if recording video, this will be manual focus only.
The Olympus menus have not been noticeably updated or redesigned, however they do provide a massive amount of options and settings, which we go through in the video below. You can also customise the function buttons, or use the super control panel to get quicker access to your most used settings.
The 5-axis image stabilisation system is entirely mechanical, rather than electronic on some competitors, and has been improved when using a slow shutter speed. Using the new CIPA test standards, the system is said to give 4-stops IS performance, although under Olympus testing it gives 5-stops, as does the E-M5.
37-area multiple AF (Phase-difference detection AF)
Continuous AF with Micro Four Thirds lenses uses both contrast and phase detection AF for improved speed. The OM-D E-M1 is said to use the same shutter unit as the Olympus PEN E-P5 but with an improved housing for a quiet shutter sound.
The OM-D E-M1 features a locking mode dial, which has a central button that you press once to release, and another press will lock the mode dial, this means you don't have to press and hold the button to turn the mode dial like you do on other cameras. It also takes the dual-dial 2x2 control system from the E-P5, so that you can quickly and easily change what the front and rear dials do.
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 feels extremely well built, with the new rubberised handgrip giving a good area to hold on to and a large area of rubber on the rear. The rear also features an updated button design compared to the E-M5, with larger buttons, as well as a better layout making them easier to use. There are also two buttons at the front of the camera next to the lens giving the camera the same or similar level of control as professional Digital SLRs. The top left of the camera is where you will find the on/off switch, as well as drive and focus buttons.
The E-M1 uses the same battery as the OM-D E-M5 and PEN E-P5, and weighs 442g body only, or 496g with battery and memory card.
Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot without Flash
Shot to Shot with Flash
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
10fps (52 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash
Continuous Shooting - RAW
10fps (42 shots)
Tested with the 12-50mm lens, focus and shutter response is very quick. After shooting 52 shots in JPEG Fine, it takes roughly 13 seconds while the photos are written to the card before you can get into play mode. After shooting 42 raw shots, it takes roughly 22 seconds before you can get into play mode.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Performance
Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Sample Photos
Sample Photos - Focus is very quick and face detection works really well, with the camera giving priority to focusing on faces, including the nearest eye, the right eye or the left eye depending on what your preference is. The camera delivers bright colourful photos with excellent JPEG results straight from the camera, and the focus assist lamp helps to focus in low light.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Lens test images
Lens Performance - Dynamic range is very good and the lens is quite resistant to flare. Exposure is good with bright saturated colours. The 12-50mm kit lens is capable of taking an excellent macro photo at the telephoto end of the lens, with the macro button. The lens features a useful zoom range, and performs quite well for a kit lens producing sharp photos into the corners whether using the lens at the wide-angle end or the telephoto end. It is also splash proof so suits the camera body well, although for best results there are a number of prime lenses available. Chromatic aberration is noticeably lower than previous Olympus cameras, thanks to built in image correction with Olympus lenses.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - The ISO range is expanded with a new Low ISO100 option compared to the E-M5 - ISO100 shows extremely low noise, although with slightly less dynamic range, and some over-exposure / highlight clipping. Noise is low at ISO200, with good levels of detail, and the same can be said about ISO400. Low noise and good detail continues until ISO1600, where there is a slight drop in levels of detail, although noise is low at this setting, and at ISO3200. At ISO6400 noise increases, although results are still quite impressive, and the E-M1 retains more detail than the E-M5 at this setting, and at ISO12800, with better colour. At ISO25600, noise becomes more noticeable as it reduces levels of detail and colour is lost, although again results are better than the E-M5, and also slightly better than the Panasonic Lumix GX7.
Keep warm colour was switched ON. Noise reduction Auto. Noise filter standard. The camera has a number of noise reduction options: Off, On, Auto, with the noise filter options of: Off, Low, Standard, High.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under tungsten and fluorescent lighting, often producing better results than using the respective presets. The camera has an option to "Keep warm colour" when using auto white balance under tungsten lighting, which can be useful for capturing the mood of a scene - examples can be seen above.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Outdoor images
A new HDR Mode can be used handheld although a tripod is recommended, and there are two modes, one more natural, the other more vivid.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Digital filters
Digital Filters - There are a large amount of art filters, with each having a number of options and additional effects that can be applied such as a vignette frame. A new feature is the story mode - there is the choice of 1:1, or 4:3 aspect with 4 different styles of story boards, as well as frame options, and layout options. There are also three different styles of "Fun Frames", and a speed setting that takes a continuous set of photos, great for action shots or other creative styles. There is an excellent range of black and white filter options, although unfortunately there is no automatic panoramic stitching mode. The camera also saves all the original raw files, which is great if you want to go back later and tweak the image.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Other sample images
Video quality is said to be improved due to the new image processor, although the functionality of the video mode remains largely unchanged with the same functionality as the Olympus PEN E-P5. Focus peaking isn't available in video mode, and the highest ISO setting manually selectable is ISO3200, so a bright lens will be needed for low light. There is now a microphone socket on the body, and the different sound input levels can be adjusted. The 5-axis image stabilisation system is excellent and helps record smooth videos even handheld, although unfortunately there is only one frame rate available, at 25fps, with 30 and 24fps unavailable. Additional videos can be found on the ePHOTOzine YouTube channel, as well as low light videoexamples.
Value for Money
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is available for £1299 ERP (€1499 Euros) body only, £1499 ERP with 12-50mm kit lens, or £1949 ERP with the new 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens. This makes it one of the most expensive Micro Four Thirds cameras available, although it is also one of the most advanced.
Alternative Digital SLRs to consider, although note that the body and lens size and weight increase is noticeable, compared to the OM-D E-M1: Canon EOS 70D, 20mp, 7fps, Weather sealed Nikon D7100, 24mp, no AA, 6fps, Weather sealed Pentax K-3, 24mp, no AA, 8.3fps, Weather sealed
The MMF-3 adapter will be provided free to purchasers of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 if they own an Olympus Four Thirds Digital SLR, if ordered before November 2013. The grip will also be provided free to those people who pre-order the camera.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Verdict
As the first Micro Four Thirds camera with no Anti-Aliasing filter, this means this camera should be, and thankfully is capable of the highest quality photos of any Micro Four Thirds camera, and when used with high quality prime lenses, the difference can be seen, although is quite subtle at times, with the previous model, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 already providing very sharp and detailed photos with prime lenses. The addition of distortion correction, as well as chromatic aberration correction for Olympus lenses is welcome, as this has been available on Panasonic cameras (with Panasonic lenses) for a long time.
Many people were convinced by the handling and design of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, with a weather sealed body, and classic Olympus OM SLR styling, causing many to switch from heavy full frame Digital SLRs. However, there were still those that thought its body was too small, and others who were not entirely convinced by the image quality offered by the camera. With the new Olympus OM-D E-M1, with a larger body that more closely resembles a Digital SLR, and improved image sensor and image quality, as well as an impressive and large electronic viewfinder, there should now be little or no reason to avoid the Micro Four Thirds system. The size and weight advantages alone should give you reason to seriously consider this camera.
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 has improved image quality, and with improved handling, as well as an excellent and large electronic viewfinder this should be much more appealing to the professional user. With the addition of built in Wi-Fi, improved handling and controls, as well as support for Four Thirds, and new PRO Micro Four Thirds lenses coming we think the Olympus OM-D E-M1 could be all the camera you'll ever need, as well as being a significantly smaller complete package than traditional Digital SLR and lenses.
The biggest issue may be the price, with a number of alternatives available, such as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic Lumix GX7, available for quite a lot less. However, for those that want the best available Micro Four Thirds camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is certainly it! Highly Recommended!
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 delivers an excellent package with all the features you could want and more.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Pros
Best ever image quality from Micro Four Thirds
Support for both Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds lenses
In camera HDR preview and creation
Wi-Fi remote shooting improved
Improved handling and DSLR styling
10fps continuous shooting, with good number before slowing down
Impressive 5-axis image stabilisation
Stunning high resolution electronic viewfinder
Colour creator feature
Clever locking mode dial button
New PRO lens
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Cons
Focus peaking not available in video mode
Video options better on other cameras (GH3)
High price when bought with kit lenses
Lacks automatic panoramic creation mode