Steve's Conclusion


Steve's SnapShot
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  • 16-Megapixel Live MOS Imaging Sensor
  • 3.0-InchTilting Touch LCD Screen
  • Micro Four-Thirds lens mount system
  • TruePic VII Image Processing Engine
  • Dual AF - Contrast and Phase Detection Auto Focus systems
  • 5-axis Image Stabilization system with IS-Auto
  • 1/8000 mechanical shutter
  • 2.36 Million dot EVF
  • Auto-Switching eye sensor
  • iAuto
  • Full 1080p HD video capture
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Included attachable flash
  • Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
  • iAuto shooting mode is accurate and easy in all situations
  • Dedicated Video Capture Button is always ready to record Full 1080p movies
  • Sealed Body and Magnesium Alloy frame provide a tough, go anywhere camera
  • Excellent overall image quality
  • Great Low-Light performance
  • Manual Mode offers complete control
  • On-body camera controls offer fast and easy operation as well as excellent customization
  • Use of all Micro Four Thirds and Four Thirds lenses with an adapter
  • 5-axis IS allows the camera so shoot and record while on the move and in very low-light situations
  • Built-in WiFi
  • High Res 3.0-inch Tilting Touch LCD
  • Amazing shooting performance
  • Good Battery Life
  • External Audio Input
  • HDMI Output
  • No built-in flash - possible to forget or not bring the included attachable flash unit
  • Highest ISO settings are unacceptable due to image noise
  • Very high price tag for an ILC
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 1.6 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 1/10 to 5/10 of a second depending on available light
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 0.44 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 2.00 seconds
  • Sequential burst Low =  6fps 
  • Sequential burst High = 10fps for approx. 7 seconds before slowing
  • All tests were taken using a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 (95MB/s), 8GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 surpasses everything that we have seen so far from an ILC. Providing amazing performance and image quality that rivals a lower level pro mode dSLR, this much smaller camera is ready to go anywhere and perform in all situations.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a smaller alternative to carrying a dSLR or if you just want the absolute best quality and performance from an ILC.
Olympus has pushed into new territory with their newest micro four-thirds interchangeable lens camera, the OM-D E-M1. This new ILC has been put together and loaded with all of the control, quality and features for a professional photographer. Giving this ILC its power and quality is a new 16-Megapixel Live MOS image sensor and more powerful TruePic VII image processor. These two components combine to greatly increase the image quality and performance over the E-M5. Not only for speed, the processor also helps to control the scene and art filters, lowers image noise and controls the amazing 5-axis optical image stabilization system. Built into the new sensor are phase detection pixels for the new Hybrid AF system, which is much faster and more accurate than the Contrast-only or Phase-only AF systems found on other cameras. All of these features, and many more, have been crammed into a compact camera body that is much smaller than any dSLR you will find. Amazingly this body has also been sealed to protect it from water, dust and extreme temperatures, allowing you to take it just about anywhere with confidence. 

Olympus's 5-axis sensor shift image stabilization system is built right into the camera, allowing it to work with any lens that is put on the camera; micro 4/3 lenses or any others. Having the I.S. built into the camera body also allows Olympus to keep the prices down on any new lenses that release in the future. The I.S. system works to stabilize the camera from vertical, horizontal, rotational movements as well as tilting and turning. While holding the camera, it is able to provide you with up to 4-stops of correction. This is a huge feature for low-light photography, making it much easier to shoot and capture sharp images. This also works great for video capture, allowing you to move around with the camera while keeping your movies steady, even while walking. 

With more experienced photographers in mind for the E-M1, Olympus did not get away from the popularity of WFi, which is very common on ILC cameras, but not as common on higher level dSLRs. This opens up a new set of options for anyone who has never used these features before. The camera can easily be connected to a smartphone or tablet, with Olympus's Image Share App, anywhere via the camera's WiFi capabilities. This allows you to view and copy images between the two devices. This is also a fast and easy way to email and upload images to social media sites if your portable device has available internet. With the E-M1, you not only have the features listed above, but you also have the ability to control the camera, using your portable device as a remote control. Depending on the shooting mode, you will have control over the basic shooting settings; ISO, WB, Shutter, Aperture, etc, as well as Live View. Even GPS features can be used if the portable device is GPS enabled. 

The body of the E-M1 is a bit larger and heavier than most ILC cameras, but unlike most of them, it features a stronger magnesium-alloy frame and has been weather sealed to give you confidence that the camera is capable of going anywhere you want. It has a fantastic shape, featuring a large but comfortable grip on the right side of the camera, plus rubber coatings to assure that you always have a good grip. Olympus made sure that the camera provides as much control as possible on the body as well. Two command dials and two programmable Fn buttons allow for fast and easy customization of the controls. They also included a nifty switch that allows for a second set of settings to be assigned to each control, making it incredibly quick and easy to switch back-and-forth while shooting. A dedicated video recording button is also featured on the body, allowing you to record movies at any time with just the push of a button; no matter what exposure mode you are in.

Whether you like to shoot via LCD or Viewfinder, Olympus has provided you with a fantastic option. First is the new High-Definition Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), featuring 2.36-million dots of resolution. This large viewfinder features a 1.48x magnification and 100% field-of-view coverage. When you look through this EVF for the first time you will be amazed at how clear, sharp and fluid it is. On top of that, you get all of the shooting information that is normally only found on the LCD. The EVF also shows the changes that you make you to exposure settings in real time, so there is no guessing as to how your changes will effect the shot. If you prefer the LCD, you will definitely be pleased with the 3.0-inch, 1037k dot tilting touch LCD screen. Here you  not only get the full 100% field-of-view coverage and real time adjustments to your images, but the LCD screen also offers the ability to tilt the screen so you can shoot with ease in difficult situations. The touch aspect of the screen works very well, but only at certain times or in certain modes, so you do not have to worry about bumping it while you are shooting all the time. It does make it easier at times to access or change settings. 

To complement the release of the E-M1, Olympus also released a M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens to guarantee that the best possible optics are available in the micro 4/3 mount. This is the first in the newly created "M. Zuiko Pro" line, so there will be more to look forward to. The lens was constructed with the same tough, sealed exterior as the E-M1, while the inside uses the best available lens components. The autofocus system is fast and quiet, making it perfect for both still images and capturing video. The zoom range of 12-40mm has a 35mm equivalent of 24-80mm, a 3.3x optical zoom, which is an excellent everyday lens, working well for portraits and landscapes. The f/2.8 continuous aperture and 7-blade shutter provide excellent defocused backgrounds. 

Performance from the E-M1 is truly amazing. On startup it is able to capture its first image in just 1.6 seconds. Its shutter lag is almost non-existent, being far less than 1/10 of a second. When allowing the Hybrid Autofocus to work, it is lighting fast, focusing and capturing an image in approx. 1/10 of a second with decent lighting. When the lighting goes down, the AF time goes up slightly to 4/10-5/10 of a second. With the camera in single shot capture mode, it is still faster than most cameras with a shot-to-shot delay of just 0.44 seconds. This number goes up considerably with the included flash unit, as it takes a while to charge. Our tests had the delay at approx. 2 seconds between shots with the flash. The E-M1 also features two continuous shooting modes, high and low. Both of these modes can be set to capture a set number of images per second. With both modes at the fastest settings, the camera either hit them right on, coming in at 6.48fps in low and 10fps in high mode. All of our tests were completed using a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 SDHC memory card and the camera in Program mode, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults

Our outdoor image samples were taken in both iAuto and Program shooting modes, showing the standard image and an adjusted image based on the intelligent auto's settings.  In both modes the camera captured very sharp, crisp images with excellent exposures. The biggest difference that we saw between the two was the color. iAuto produced a much more vivid, brightly colored image that has a lot more "pop" to it when viewing them. Depending on what you look for in your images and if you plan on any post editing or not, this may help you make your decision on which mode to use. When looking closely we did see a small amount of noise in the shadow areas and deep blue skies even at ISO 200, which was a little bit of a surprise. Other than the noise, there are no other noticeable aberrations or flaws that we can see from looking at the images. 

Looking at our indoor image samples, we get an even better look at the quality and amount of detail that the E-M1 delivers. At the lower ISO settings, ISO 100 (low) through ISO 1600, the image looks outstanding. The amount of detail will shock you within the higher ISO settings in this range. At the higher settings you will also start to see some noise within the image, if you really look for it. It's not until ISO 2000 that the noise really starts to show through. From here to ISO 6400, the noise steadily increases and the amount of detail starts to fade away, but the images remain good for each ISO setting. Once you get over ISO 6400, the images really start to look like they were taken with a high ISO setting from compact digicam, as noise has pretty much taken over the image. At the lower ISO settings, you can see some softness at different places around the edge, due to a slightly shallower depth-of-field than expected at f/8.0. Our Auto flash shots show the shallow depth-of-field even more with a couple f/2.8 shots.

The included flash unit, while not built-in is not much different than a built-in unit. It is not near as powerful as an external unit, nor does it have its own power supply. It is a little more powerful that we are used to seeing from a built-in flash with a range of GN=10 (ISO200・m), making it a little more useful. It also uses the camera's powerful processor and AF system when preparing for the exposure. If you are looking for more from your flash, the E-M1 works with 4 Olympus external flash units for wireless operation. Its wireless capabilities work in up to 4 groups and across 4 channels for even more versatility in a studio setting.

No matter what shooting mode you are in, the E-M1 detects and tracks faces within the frame quickly and easily. Even if you are sitting with the shutter half-pressed waiting for that perfect moment, the camera will show you when a face or faces enter the frame, allowing you to quickly make an adjustment if necessary. The face detection takes care of everything that you would expect it to, assuring the possible exposure, color and focus for the detected faces. This is a fantastic feature that most photographers used to using a dSLR may come to love. Instead of the photographer having to find the subjects face, the camera does it for you, which does take a little getting used to when looking through the EVF. On the other hand, if you are in a public place and not shooting portraits, you will need to turn off the face detection or your will never be able to focus on what you are trying to shoot. 

The power and ease of use of the E-M1 allows for the special and creative shooting modes that have become popular on the more powerful compact and other ILC cameras. Olympus has included "Art" filters for creative shots, a set of framed compositions that allow you to take several images to fill the spots in a pre-set, framed composition and some pre-set HDR shooting modes. Some of these modes, like the HDR modes, will capture several images in a row with just one press of the shutter, then combine them for you in the camera. This saves a ton of time when you get to your computer, since most of the work is already done. We have included several samples from the art filters as well, showing the fantastic quality that these creative modes provide to you just by changing the shooting mode.  

Shooting movies with the E-M1 is an easy and fantastic ability that probably deserves an entire review of its own. The combination of the full 1080p HD video, stereo sound and support of the 5-axis image stabilization allow you to run wild with your creativity. The IS system will allow you to move around with the camera like never before, keeping level smooth movements without any other equipment. Selectable shooting modes give you full creativity and the continuous autofocus and face detection allow you to keep your subject in focus all the time. Olympus has even included a stereo microphone input for higher quality and more versatile sound options. Playing your recorded movies on a HDTV is as easy as plugging in an optional HDMI cable. Once plugged in, your movies and still images are easily displayed and controlled by the camera. The movies can also be played back on the camera's LCD screen and built-in speaker. 

Powering the E-M1 is a 7.6V, 1220mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Olympus claims that this battery can provide up to 350 shots on a single charge, with the Image Stabilization active. While this is only about half of what you would expect form a dSLR, this is a good battery life for an ILC. During our tests, this battery life seemed to be accurate. We used the burst shooting mode quite often so we did capture more than the 350 images on each charge. If you are looking for more of a battery life, Olympus has created a battery grip to double the number of images that the camera can capture. The grip features two command dials and two Fn buttons for total control shooting in portrait orientation. Extra batteries will likely be needed by anyone used to shooting with a dSLR and looking to use this camera for a portable replacement. The included quick charger allows you to keep the batteries charged and ready to go, but if you have several batteries and a grip, you may want an extra charger or two as well. 

Bottom Line - The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is an ILC that has made a huge jump for the more compact style of interchangeable lens cameras. While it may not be enough to get an experienced photographer to empty his bag for this new camera, it may be a welcomed addition. Its compact size and incredible power/performance allow you to use it anywhere and in just about any conditions. Its image quality is very good as well, rivaling most higher end consumer and lower end professional dSLR models, but it's the performance and other features that are not found on these dSLR's that make this camera so amazing. All of our tests were completed with the new M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens, which could also make a big difference in quality if you were to put on a standard Micro 4/3 lens. With a MSRP of US $1399.99 for the body and an additional $999.99 for the new lens, this isn't a camera for just anyone. You will be making an investment with this camera, especially if you do not already have a Micro 4/3 or Four Thirds lens collection to start.

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