Olympus OM-D E-M1: Performance

September 30, 2013 by Laura Hicks Reads (10,618)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 9
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Expandability
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 9.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

The OM-D E-M1 is a top of the line mirrorless camera–there’s no doubt about it. It has all of the functionality of a semi-pro to pro DSLR. With a price tag of $1400 it sits at the top price point of a mirrorless camera. It’s also priced just as expensive as many of the top APS-C DSLRs. So, does the E-M1 have what it takes to blow away the DSLR competition? It just depends on what you are wanting.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Shooting Performance
The E-M1 takes about 1 second to power up and can take its first image soon after that–not more than 2 seconds after initial startup. In real use, I saw no issue with its start up speeds. I never found myself in a situation that needed faster times. The E-M1 boasts a newer senor and newer processor that should lead to faster AF acquisition times due to the advanced Contrast and Phase Detect autofocus. In real life we found the E-M1 to be only marginally faster than the E-M5. We doubt we would have been able to tell the difference if we weren’t able to shoot them side-by-side. That being said, the E-M1 is fast to autofocus. We have used a multitude of lenses on this camera. All of them focused quickly.

The E-M1 offers the 5-axis image stabilization system that is second to none. If you haven’t gotten your hands on an Olympus with this type of image stabilization you have no idea what you are missing. I am completely in love with it. My DSLR with a VR/IS lens can’t hold a candle to what the E-M1 offers.

The E-M1 comes with a removable flash head included in the box. This flash is great in small spaces, but if I was using this as a professional camera I would quickly purchase a compatible flash to complete the professional look. While I was at it I would also purchase the additional battery grip (HLD-7). This no longer makes the camera as compact as originally packaged, but it does give the appearance of a professional ensemble. And in the world of professional photography, looks matter.

The camera has one SD card slot that accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. If there was one thing that I would want changed about this camera it would be the addition of another card slot. Jerry Jackson (Site Editor of Notebookreview.com) and I looked over the camera with a fine tooth comb and couldn’t figure out how Olympus could add another slot, but then it hit us. What if Olympus could add another card slot into the battery grip? If the pins in the battery grip could transfer information from the camera to the SD card, the grip would be a perfect place to house an additional card slot. This would make the camera that much more appealing to the professional photographer. One slot could be used for RAW images while the other could be for JPEGs or one could be an overflow so the user would not have to swap out their cards, thus reducing the risk of losing a card before transferring the images to a computer.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

The E-M1 has great battery life just like the E-M5. Olympus has the battery life listed at 350 images, but we were able to get more than that during our testing.

Lens Performance
We used a multitude of lenses with the OMD E-M1. All of our sample images include pictures taken with the 75mm f1.8, the 60mm f2.8 and the 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 lens. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the two new professional lenses: the 12-40mm f2.8 and the 40-150mm f2.8. Once there arrive we will update the image gallery to include pictures taken with these lenses. All of the lenses proved to be great matches with the E-M1. Click on the links to see our reviews of the aforementioned lenses.

Image Quality
Image quality was pretty much on par with the E-M5. Most images were sharp with generally good color. By default, the E-M1 tended to make the images just a bit too warm and vibrant for my tastes. I would prefer my magentas to be less vivid especially when taking indoor shots. At high ISOs the camera would generally fall heavily toward the overly warm tones. High ISOs also tended to produce more grain than other cameras. That being said, the grain produced from the E-M1 is more “film-like” than most other cameras. For me, this was welcomed. I like the feel of a traditional film grain versus a digital grain or pixel smudging any day. If the grain from the high ISOs bothers you, just enable the in-camera noise reduction. Personally, I prefer to get rid of it in post production instead of in-camera.

ISO 200                                                                      ISO 400

ISO 800                                                                      ISO 1600

ISO 3200                                                                      ISO 6400

ISO 12800                                                                     ISO 25600

We loved the overall “look” of our imagery from the E-M1. Although pixel peepers may find things to nitpick when it comes to high ISOs, the camera performed extraordinarily good with our extensive outdoor testing. Only in the dimmest of light did I find myself wanting more from the E-M1. Check out our sample image gallery to see for yourself.

Sample Images

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Sample Image



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