The highly anticipated successor to the EM5, the EM1, comes with many upgrades that users asked for as well as some nice surprises. My review of the EM1 is written from the perspective of someone who has spent some extensive time with it and put it through a series of real world tests (long exposure, panning, difficult lighting, etc.). I will focus on the two most important factors I consider when buying a camera, build quality and image quality. By no means is this review scientific but it should give you a good idea of whether or not this camera can meet your needs.
Check out the EM1 User Guide Here
The Best Lenses For The OMD And M4/3 Cameras Can Be Seen Here
The camera used is obviously the OMD EM1 and I used the Panasonic 35-100mm Lens (review) for the shots below (The Panasonic LUMIX G X VARIO 12-35mm/F2.8 Lens is another great lens that I tested on the EM5 and reviewed here).
The image quality has seen a small boost over its older brother the EM5, this was achieved by removing the low-pass filter on its new 16 megapixel Live MOS sensor (as well as the new TruePic VII processor) however the vast majority of us won’t really notice much of an image quality difference from the EM5. With that being said, the EM5 was no slouch in this department so the camera will produce professional quality images of your cat BoJangles at the press of the shutter.
Note that your image quality will vary depending on the lens you choose to put in front of your cameras sensor, as it would with any camera. The higher the quality of lens you use the more likely you are to realize the full potential of the EM1 (or the EM5 for that matter). The shots here were taken with the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Lens (review).
Crop of top photo, notice the detail and the tiny spider web coming from the left of the flower. Very sharp.
Unfortunately the JPEG, as well as the RAW, files processed using Lightroom 5 over saturate the reds much the same as the EM5 (the RAW file above was desaturated -21 on the saturation bar slider). If you plan on shooting colorful images it’s a good idea to either underexpose or shoot in RAW so you can retain detail if you need to reduce saturation. The good news is this could very well be addressed when the final support update for the EM1 in Lightroom 5 is released, as of typing this Lightroom’s support of the EM1 is not the final version.
* To adjust the cameras saturation and sharpness adjustments check out my EM1 Guide here.
The JPEGs that come out of the EM1 are pretty close to what I’d be comfortable with publishing without much editing, except for the previous mentioned over-saturation that can occur from time to time. There are two cameras that I’ve felt this comfortable with their JPEGs, the EM5 and the Fuji x100s.
That’s really my only complaint with the EM1’s image quality and something that can easily be addressed in post processing. The images come out very sharp and the colors are generally pretty accurate. Be aware that the EM1 will have inherent IQ limitations due to the size of the sensor, things like dynamic range as well as high ISO quality will fall short of your expectations if you are coming from a full frame camera like the D600 or D800 (though the EM1 is not positioned as being better than full frame cameras but rather an alternative to the size and weight of these monsters without settling for mediocre image quality). I feel the trade-off is worth it.
The camera may be the most comfortable camera I’ve every used. And by “may” I mean it is. The EM5 had a clumsy little nub for your thumb unless you shelled out an additional two or three hundred dollars for the optional battery grip and if you read my review you’ll remember even then it was a clumsy camera that was unbalanced with all but one lens (ironically that lens was the Panasonic 12-35mm lens, it’s ironic because it’s not made by Olympus… get it?). The EM1 on the other hand has a great grip for your fingers built right into the magnesium alloy body which will have you wondering why you even need a strap (my strap is still in its packaging and will never see the light of day).
The buttons are laid out in such a way that I’ve yet to have to dive into the menu while shooting on a long afternoon. The buttons are not mushy like on the EM5 and the camera feels like a work-horse in your hand. The EM5 was supposedly drop resistant or proof or something but it felt like it would shatter if I dropped it while the EM1 feels like it could handle a tumble into the stream.
In addition to the upgrade to the buttons and dials there was a nice feature added to the mode dial, you can now depress a button in the middle that will lock said dial in place so you don’t accidentally hop into art mode and end up with 20 Sepia shots of your pet hamster Corn Fluff.
The rubber-like material Olympus used around the camera has a nice tacky feel that makes you confident the camera won’t slide out of your fingers on a hot day. The weather sealant coating is evident by the wet looking texture on everything that isn’t covered with the rubber like material and looks just like the Nikon D600’s coating (just an observation).
If I had one complaint (and I’m reaching here) it would be that the camera seems just a smidgen too short, so that your pinky hangs off the bottom of it while hand holding it while walking around (I’ve got small hands… small masculine hands). If you’re the type that walks around with your trigger finger on the shutter button (I don’t) then you don’t have to worry, you should have plenty of room. Those of you with big bear claw hands will need to invest in the battery grip which should be available towards the end of the year.
The battery is the same as the one used in the EM5 so if you are selling your old OMD EM1 to purchase the EM1 you should hang onto your spare batteries. I have not had any of the issues the EM5 had early on where the battery would be full, full, full, full, DEAD. I feel like the battery meter gives me fair warning so I can switch it out without missing a great shot.
HDR – The EM1 has seen the addition of a bunch of new buttons as well as new placement but one of them that stood out was the HDR button. I don’t do HDR myself but I’m sure it is a welcome surprise for those of you out there that are heavy HDR shooters. The button is on the left top of the camera and very easy to reach with the camera pressed against your peeper (that’s your eye you perv).
Time lapse – The time-lapse feature is one of those things you will probably seldom use but when you do you’ll think you’ve stumbled onto something new and magnificent. It’s really a remarkable feature and if you’ve never used it you should Google time-lapse and watch some videos to get a little inspiration.
The big difference here is that you can now shoot 999 shots rather than 99 shots as was the limit on the EM5. On top of that the EM1 will compile said photos into a time-lapse video right inside your camera… like magic. That’s all well and good if you don’t feel the need to edit the photos. If, on the other hand, you like to have creative control you will have to upload all 999 shots of your time-lapse to your post processing program of choice.
If you’ve got your mitts on an EM1 and want to know exactly how to set up the time-lapse function then head over to the EM1 Guide I put together here.
“the EM1 feels like the iPhone of cameras… everything is where it needs to be and the camera is easy to use for all levels of photographer.”
My overall opinion of this camera is it’s a very capable work horse that will appease pros with high expectations as well as budding photographers that want a camera on the cutting edge of technology. It’s easy to get intimidated by all the dials, buttons, and settings on a sophisticated camera but the EM1 feels like the iPhone of cameras… everything is where it needs to be and the camera is easy to use for all levels of photographer.
As far as image quality is concerned I gave up the D600 for the EM5 and never looked back and I feel the EM1 has slightly better image quality than the EM5. With the EM5 I was able to blow images up for print to 24×36″ and they looked amazing. If you need to print images bigger than this then you’ll need to look into full frame camera options like the D800.
I give this camera my highest recommendation… for what it’s worth.