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Olympus OM-D E-M1: Image Quality and Verdict

By Phil Hall



  • Recommended by TR
Olympus OM-D E-M1 33


Our Score:


Olympus OM-D E-M1: Image Quality

The Olympus E-M1 employs the same 324-zone metering system seen on a host of other PEN models, as well as the E-M5. The result is the same impressive level of performance as seen on those other cameras when it comes to exposure, especially when shooting in the E-M1’s ESP metering mode.

Click on individual photos to access the full gallery and full-res shots

Olympus OM-D E-M1

1/50 sec @ f/2, ISO 500, Custom white balance; Olympus M.45mm F1.8

The ability to judge exposure through the excellent EVF, as well as account for any discrepancies from the exposure compensation controls located around the camera body, mean you should rarely ever miss an exposure.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

1/1600 sec @ f/4, ISO 800, Custom white balance; Olympus M.12-40mm F2.8 @ 24mm

If you are struggling with shadows and highlights, then the presence of a pair of HDR modes – one more subtle with the other more extreme – will aid detail retention.

The E-M1’s Auto White Balance is another pleasingly reliable facet of the model’s image quality performance, producing an even colour palette in a variety of conditions.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

1/80 sec @ f/11, ISO 200, Daylight white balance; Olympus M.12mm F2.0

The E-M1 also delivers pleasing colours straight out of the camera, with a range of custom colour settings should you require a different look and feel to your images.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

In terms of handling image noise at higher ISO settings, it must be said that the E-M1 delivers the goods here as well. There’s very little noticeable noise through the lower ISO settings, right up to ISO 1600, at which point noise impinges on detail in the darker areas of the images.

Performance remains impressive through the ISO settings up to ISO 6400, at which point luminance noise does become more pronounced although not to such a point when fine detail really suffers. Above this point, however, noise does become problematic.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 7

Should I buy the Olympus OM-D E-M1?

Although the E-M1 certainly isn’t a cheap camera, currently coming in at over £1,200 body only, the specification alone does a lot to justify that high price tag.

It’s launched to compete with the E-5 at the top of Olympus’s camera line-up and it certainly does that, with its weather-sealing and robust body, adding to the premium feel of the camera.

Throw in a class-leading EVF, image quality that’s a match for some high-resolution APS-C sensors and AF performance as good as any CSC on the market and you have to say that the Olympus E-M1 will be at the top of many a shopping list


The Olympus E-M1 delivers the goods across the board, with an impressive specification, fantastic build quality and a level of performance to match or better almost any CSC on the market. All of which combines to make to E-M1 not only one of the best CSCs currently available, but one of the best cameras of any type on the market today.

Next, read our 10 Best Cameras round-up

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Image Quality 8
  • Performance 9
  • Value 8


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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