Test Review: Olympus OM-D E-M1

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November 7, 2013 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in News & Events, Review by  •  0 Comments

The OM-D E-M1

The OM-D E-M1

The OM-D E-M1 is the newest MFT flagship of the Olympus compact-system cameras. With its retro design with many function buttons and set-up dials, it offers very intuitive handling. The camera uses an image sensor with 16-MP resolution, plus it has a built-in image stabilizer, an electronic viewfinder with extremely high resolution, and a lot of handy features.

Comments on Image Quality

The standard test box shot shows a slightly underexposed look. The colours are reproduced very clearly and precisely; the details look crisp and clear.

The standard test box shot shows a slightly underexposed look. The colours are reproduced very clearly and precisely; the details look crisp and clear.

Colour: The OM-D E-M1 creates images with very precise, but slightly undersaturated colours—just like nearly all Olympus system cameras. The colour level is very good, but may be a little low for standard viewing habits. The low saturation is one reason for the excellent colour differentiation of full and rich colours like the red in the spools which are full of details and clearly noticeable. The automatic white balance system tends toward cooler colours. The skin tones are nearly perfect, but the portrait shot is also a little under exposed.

Sharpness: The camera delivers very crisp and clean images (see also “Noise”). It achieves a maximum of 3107 lines per picture height, which is very good for a camera with a nominal resolution of 3456 lines per picture height. When taking JPEG images, the sharpness filtering of the new TruePic VII image processor is decent and doesn’t show exaggerated or artificial sharpness results. The portrait shot and the standard test box shot even have a slightly softer character than images taken with previous Olympus cameras. Nevertheless the image quality and the reproduction of details is very good.

Noise: The new Olympus showed an excellent performance in our noise tests. The luminance noise level starts on a slightly higher level than in images taken with cameras with APS-C-sized image sensor, but the noise level increases very slowly. It starts with an y-factor of 0.71 percent in ISO 200 mode and doesn’t cross the 1.0 percent “frontier” until ISO 6.400. Even the highest ISO mode of 25600 shows lower luminance noise (1.8 percent) than many APS-C-sized cameras. The OM-D E-M1 uses an intense anti-noise filtering to reduce colour noise, but it works very well. The typical “anti noise filtering artefacts” and noticeable reduction of image details don’t start to become visible before ISO 6400 mode. However, it gets really annoying in ISO 25600 mode. The noise spectrum is becomes visible, but more important is the impressionist filter look in this ISO mode (ISO 12800 is acceptable, ISO 6400 is good).

The Olympus also performed well in the dynamic range tests. It achieves a maximum of 11.5 f-stops and keeps a high level of more than 10 f-stops even in ISO 6400 mode. In higher ISO speed settings, the dynamic range result drops drastically.

Comments on Handling

The handling of the camera is very easy due to its many function buttons (like the multi function switch on the left for image series mode and AF mode, for example, or user-defined function buttons like the FN 2 button on the right-hand side.

The handling of the camera is very easy due to its many function buttons (like the multi-function switch on the left for image series mode and AF mode, for example, or user-defined function buttons like the FN 2 button on the right-hand side.

The new Olympus OM-D E-M1 is the follower of the first OM-D whose full name was “OM-D E-M5.” The E-M1 assumes a lot of the advantages of the E-M5, including the famous 5-axis image stabilizer. This image stabilizer is based on sensor-shift technology and allows for shooting a stabilized image with any lens system mounted to the camera.

The retro design of the OM-D E-M1 is based on the classic (analogue) OM SLR system. The massive body looks very robust, but still handles well because it is noticeably smaller than full-frame flagship cameras made by Nikon and Canon and even smaller than the Olympus Four Thirds system E-5. The OM-D E-M1 is also designed as a follower of this camera, because Olympus will not introduce any more new Four Thirds models. This may also the reason why Olympus emphasizes the fact that the OM-D E-M1 is able to use all Four Thirds lens systems with the use of the optional MMF-3 adapter.

The camera has an angular design with an viewfinder that looks like a classic mirror reflex finder with a pentaprism, but offers an electronic viewfinder with an extremely high resolution of 2.36 million RGB dots. This viewfinder is really superb and allows for focus manually with ease.

Two set-up dials (one on the top, one on the back) and the 4-way control field allow a fast set-up of all parameters. The LCD screen offers 1040000 RGB dots and can be flipped up- and downward.

Two set-up dials (one on the top, one on the back) and the 4-way control field allow a fast set-up of all parameters. The LCD screen offers 1040000 RGB dots and can be flipped up- and downward.

In addition the camera has a large 3-inch LCD on the back that is a high resolution screen with 1037000 RGB dots. The monitor can be flipped up- and downward, but can’t be rotated to the side or to the front.

One of the most important differences between the old and the new OM-D is the combination of the a phase-detection AF with a contrast AF system in the new E-M1. This new AF system is called “Dual Fast AF” and was extremely fast in our tests and one of the reasons for the extremely short shutter-delay results, for example.

The swivel LCD on the back can be flipped upward by 90 degrees and about 45 degrees downward.

The swivel LCD on the back can be flipped upward by 90 degrees and about 45 degrees downward.

The camera handles extremely well. Two dials allow the user to change image parameters very quickly and efficiently. They are supported by a 4-way control field on the back and a lot of function buttons on the back and top of the camera.

There are a lot of features that are a little unusual, but very handy. The Live Bulb mode, for example, allows one to check the image on the preview screen even while still shooting in Bulb mode. The photographer can choose the display interval during this shooting. Images on night scenes or “light painting photos” are very easy to shoot with the new Olympus.

On the top, you will find a special function button that shows a gradation/tone curve on the screen. Just like in Adobe Photoshop, you can change this curve and therefore change the image behaviour of the camera and respectively the highlight and shadow reproduction before shooting. This button is also called the FN 2 button, and the user can define a different function for it by using the screen menu.

The camera is able to record Full HD video.

Pros
+ massive body, classic/retro design SLR
+ very crisp images with high resolution
+ very fast AF system; high speed Burst mode with up to 10 frames per second in full resolution
+ integrated and very powerful image stabilizer works with every lens system which is mounted on the camera
+ EVF with extremely high resolution; handy swivel LCD
+ WiFi and BlueTooth modules

Cons
– swivel monitor not fully articulated
– missing built-in flash system, but very compact (which could be helpful in backlight or similar situations) supplied

This review is based on precise lab tests conducted by BetterNet GmbH and provided by the Technical Imaging Press Association (TIPA). TIPA is the largest family of independent photo and imaging magazines worldwide. Photo Life is an active member of TIPA.

SPEC SHEET: Olympus OM-D E-M1
BASIC TECHNICAL DATA:
Resolution 4608 x 3456
Resolution sensor 16.3
Color depth (in bits) 36
Size of sensor (in Inches) 0/0.00
Size of sensor (in mm) 17.3 x 13.0
LENSES:
Focal length (wide angle; 35 mm equivalent; in mm) 24
Focal length (tele; 35 mm equivalent; KB in mm) 100
Focal length (wide angle; real; in mm) 12.0
Focal length (tele; real; KB in mm) 50.0
Speed 3.5 – 6.3
Macro 20 – 100
Manual focus, controlled by function elements no
Manual focus, controlled with lens ring yes
TAKING PICTURES:
Startup time (in sec) 0.20
Shutter delay (in sec) without pre-focusing 0.07
Shutter delay (in sec) with pre-focusing 0.01
Continuous shooting speed (frames per second) 10.0
Max. burst during continuous shooting speed 999.0
Fastest shutter speed (in sec) 1/8000
Long time exposure/shutter speed (in sec) 60
Self timer yes
Exposure Settings:
Aperture pre-setting, shutter speed pre-setting, manual exposure settings
Automatic bracketing
Exposure programs 24
White balance:
Auto yes
White balance settings 7
Individual white balance yes
ISO:
ISO min 200
ISO max 25600
ISO steps 22
Manual ISO control yes
FLASH:
Integrated flash yes
Flash mode:
On, off, automatic flash, slow sync, anti-red-eye, rear curtain sync
External Flash:
X-Sync no
Accessory shoe: yes
FILE FORMATS:
Standard file formats JPEG, RAW, DCF
JPEG Compression grades 3
LCD AND PREVIEW:
Size (in inches) 3.0
Resolution of LCD (in pixels) 1037
Zoom mode during preview yes
Index during preview yes
Slideshow during preview yes
VIDEO:
Video available yes
Max. width 1920
Max. height 1080
Picture frequency 30
POWER SOURCE:
Rechargeable battery no
Battery type
Battery charger included yes
Power connector no
Power supply unit no
STORAGE SYSTEM:
Supported memory cards SD card, SDHC card, SDXC card
PC CONNECTION:
PC connection USB, Bluetooth, HDMI, WLAN
TV out PAL/NTSC + HDMI
DIMENSIONS:
Dimensions (width x height x depth; in mm) 130 x 93 x 63
Weight (body without battery and memory card; in g) 497
ACCESSORIES:
Docking station no
Printed manual yes
Manual on CD yes
Bag no
Remote control no


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