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Olympus OM-D E-M1: Design and Peformance

By Phil Hall



  • Recommended by TR
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Our Score:


Olympus OM-D E-M1: Design

As mentioned previously, the E-M1 is designed to sit above the E-M5 in Olympus’s range of CSCs, and as such is positioned as a more high-end model. Although the design is ostensibly similar, closer inspection reveals this to be the case.

One of the major differences is the model’s control layout, with some serious changes taking place. The mode dial has been moved to the other side of the viewfinder, with dedicated drive and HDR buttons taking its place on the left of the top plate.

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Other dedicated buttons are located around the E-M1’s body, which go some way towards giving the camera a professional feel, with AF and metering buttons joining the drive and HDR controls on the camera’s top plate.

Completing this substantial catalogue of control buttons based around the camera’s body is a pair of programmable function buttons on the front of the camera, along with another located on the rear.

The good news in that the welcome dual control dials remain, and thanks to the body of the E-M1 being somewhat wider than the E-M5 they’re now better spaced out.

The wider body also allows for a larger grip than seen on the E-M5, and as such it allows for a much firmer grip of the camera in comparison to the E-M1. Despite this larger grip and wider body, however, the E-M1 is still a lot smaller than most DSLRs with which it will ably compete.

Finishing up the professional feel and performance of the camera is the body’s construction. It’s comprised of a light magnesium chassis that is both weather-sealed and freeze proof down to a temperature of -10 Celsius.

SEE ALSO: 10 Best Digital SLRs

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Olympus OM-D E-M1: Performance

One of the welcome new features on the E-M1 is the camera’s improved LCD screen. Not only has the screen seen a jump in its resolution, but it also features touchscreen capabilities.

The touchscreen itself is a responsive unit, with the capacitive technology giving performance akin to the best smartphones on the market. It’s also welcome that the model supports both touch focus and touch shutter, should you prefer that method of operation.

Another pleasing area of improvement is the model’s enhanced EVF. While that on the E-M5 was by no means a disappointment, the almost doubling in the resolution means that on the E-M1 is one of the best we’ve seen to date.

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The EVF also benefits from a refresh rate of 120fps, along with impressive optics and adaptive brightness control, meaning the level of smoothness and sharpness is currently almost against equal.

The benefit of the plethora of body-mounted controls is most keenly felt when operating the camera. The combination of the two control dials and variety of customisable function buttons mean that the E-M1 is a breeze to operate and simple to switch between a host of shooting modes.

In terms of the biggest improvements in the camera’s performance, you have to look towards the all new DUAL FAST AF system.

Continuous focusing has long been something of an issue for CSCs, as the less powerful focusing systems often struggle with moving subjects. Thanks to the now on-sensor phase-detect pixels that the DUAL FAST AF system employs, focus tracking is no longer a flaw.

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Although it’s certainly not perfect, and in some instances it does struggle to keep up, on the whole it’s a vast improvement.

The general focus performance is also pretty impressive. Although it’s not really a match for more advanced DSLRs, the 37-point AF layout will no doubt appease those who are making the move from, say, the Olympus E-5.


October 28, 2013, 1:20 pm

So good - it gets 1 out of 10!


October 28, 2013, 5:07 pm

1 out of 10. Not bad for such a great camera


October 28, 2013, 5:46 pm

Ooops that should be a 9 recommended. Gremlins in the system. Should be fixed now. Thanks


October 29, 2013, 10:08 am

I am surprised that the reviewer did not touch on the video capabilities.

Video quality is usually a factor when rating a camera these days and on the E-M1 it is very poor. Also, it also has only 30 P, which is not PAL compliant and creates terrible flicker is artificial light and makes its video clips difficult to edit with other 25/50 P cameras.

Second, TR usually is more harsh on the price/value of a camera in its ratings.
This is not only of the most expensive m4/3 and in fact the most expensive mirrorless cameras.

I have no doubt it is a great camera with terrific IQ with an excellent available lenses and the rating assigned is justified. But its weakness should also be highlighted.

Dieter Martin

October 31, 2013, 11:13 am

For sure the EM-1 is a great camera. However, for those who consider getting one to use with the gorgeous FT lenses, it is probably better to stick with the E-5. I truly believe that FT lenses cannot be used on MFT bodies without serious IQ loss until a better adapter than the current MMF2/3 is available. The material/build-quality of the MMF3 will for sure cause misalignment, flex and movement. Have a look at Roger Cicala's findings and the discussion here: http://www.dpreview.com/for...


October 31, 2013, 12:54 pm

This is a very lightweight reveiew. There should have been a lot more details


October 31, 2013, 3:29 pm

You are a troll. You posted the same comment at DP Review. And read the responses to Cicala - clearly his findings are IRRELEVANT and THEORETICAL at best.


October 31, 2013, 7:07 pm

To be fair, if you want great video, buy an E-M1, and take your collected m4/3 lenses and put them on a Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera (with m4/3ds mount) for truly pro video. Try THAT with your Sony or Pentax or Canikon... And that is precisely what I have decided to do myself. NO DSLR can compete with the Black Magic video cameras...and the Pocket Cinema is rather cheap for what you get. And you will have real broadcast quality video if you know what you are doing...and leverage the outstanding m/4/3ds lenses.


October 31, 2013, 7:13 pm

I don't know what your technique is like, but my normal hold is to have my left hand supporting the lens (and working the MF if need be) while my right holds the body and pushes the shutter, at least for critical exposures. I shoot a lot with the heavy 50-200 4/3ds, and you just get used to that technique, even on an E-5 or E-3, because of the weight. I imagine I will just continue that same technique, and not worry too much about theoretical flex caused by bad camera handling.

Dieter Martin

October 31, 2013, 7:57 pm

How do you know These findings are irrelevant??? Have you done tests? Have you ever had a MMF3 Adapter in your hand and seen how flimsy it is? Of course this will cause flex and misalignment with the heavier lenses (such as the 2.0 14-35).

Dieter Martin

October 31, 2013, 8:00 pm

Well, while your suggested technique may help. I just wish Olympus would provide a better Quality (metal) Adapter than the current MMF3.


October 31, 2013, 10:54 pm

Sure. But this was not a review of Black magic cameras.
It is very usual not to discuss the video options when reviewing cameras today. In fact it is a major weakness of this camera and it was not mentioned.

Nor was there any discussion of its price which was very unusual.


November 1, 2013, 3:14 am

Just another troll. How about some real tests that show an adapter with plastic is inferior to one of all metal? You are just another troll spreading FUD. If anything plastic might be superior. Metal is more likely to bend slightly under heavy use than high quality plastics.

Dieter Martin

November 1, 2013, 12:45 pm

Do you own a MMF2/3 adapter? If so, compare it to older Olympus gear like the ET-25, Which one Looks/feels more stable, better made and more solid?

Neville van Eerten

November 5, 2013, 2:47 am

I have used the E-M5 with the MMF3, or whatever the water resistant one was ( I have sold it) and in conjunction with the 50-200 and 12-60 there was no evidence of stress on the MMF3, or loss of IQ. I found the adapter to be of excellent quality


November 18, 2013, 5:16 am

I have an E-P3 which broke, the mode dial fell off, two days within warranty. Customer (Dis)service at Oly is pathetic. I'm afraid that I'll get a Refurb and I'm not willing to inherit someone else's problems. I called Amazon, where I purchased the E-P3, and their Customer Service is amazing! I was told to try calling Oly 1st, but if for any reason I was not pleased (and I wasn’t), Amazon would do whatever it takes to resolve the issue to my satisfaction. Now that’s real service.

Since I have Oly prime lenses & other accessories, I would stay with Oly. Three more professional type Oly cameras have since come on the market, and my intent is to use Amazon’s offer to upgrade to one of them. I am only interested in the camera body. I am considering the OMD-E-M1; OMD-E-M5 and the E-P5 . I’ve been a serious photographer since the 1960’s and prefer to have as many dedicated knobs and switches as possible, I am not into having to drill through menus to adjust aperture, for example. I also shoot mostly in manual mode for exposure and focus. My lenses are all prime fixed focal lengths (non-zoom). I love the retro look of the above three cameras and better sensors than the E-P3.

Any comments about the above three cameras, would be greatly appreciated. I’ve read DP Review and there are definite areas where the Olys fall flat; like video. I would love to hear from anyone with hands on experience. Please keep in mind that I am trying to get as close as possible to the feel of my SLRs, I prefer dedicated controls and shoot 90% manual exposure and focus.

Thanks to all,

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