Marvellous: Olympus OM-D E-M1 reviewed

The second of the bigger mirror-less cameras from Olympus, the E-M1 reinvents the an SLR from the 70s with bits of today, making it a standout camera for tomorrow.


An update to last year’s entry in the OM-D range of cameras, the E-M1 might be the model professional photographers have been looking for, with Olympus looking back at the model and refreshing it in the attempt to perfect the camera.

Some of the specs sound the same as what appeared in last year, but rather than reinvent the wheel, it appears that Olympus is just trying to make it better than ever, with a new sensor, faster autofocus, improved colour processing, better wireless control, and a few other new features to boot.

We’ll start with the specs, and in the E-M1, Olympus has included a rebuilt 16.3 megapixel LiveMOS sensor, not a huge change from the megapixel included in the E-M5, but from what we understand, it’s been improved considerably.

Also improved is the TruePic VII system, which processes your images for colour balance and contrast, effectively striking the right balance for making life-like images.

The system supports ISO rages from 100 to 25600, with images capable of being shot in either RAW, JPEG, or both simultaneously, while video has the choice of MOV and AVI formats.

Two viewfinders are available in this camera, with a 3 inch touchscreen vari-angle LCD on the back, as well as an electronic viewfinder built into the body just like its predecessor, though the viewfinder in this camera does display 2.36 megapixels of information.

Autofocus is controlled by a system that works with both contrast detection and phase difference, effectively resulting in fast autofocus, with a solid amount of shooting modes complimenting this, including your typical selection of manual modes — aperture, shutter, program, and manual — as well as automatic, art, scene, and a framing mode.

There are multiple buttons to customise your experience, all of which have been crafted in metal, which is what the body has been made from.

The memory being used here is an SDHC card, of which the slot sits on the right side, with the battery compartment below under the grip, and ports for USB, HDMI, 3.5mm headset jack compatible with microphones.


Up until recently, Olympus has had a few types of cameras.

There are the compact devices, which range from being cheap and cheerful to tough and durable, and even are big and feature a long range for those on vacation.

Then you had the Pen range, a model of camera which brought the 60s and 70s interchangeable lens camera style back and thrust it into a small digital camera body supporting the Micro Four-Thirds lens mount that both it and Panasonic make use of.

Last year, though, Olympus released a new body that aimed to take the Micro Four-Thirds cameras and make them more professional, essentially bolstering the look and feel of the Pen with the reinvention of another old Olympus camera, the OM.

We remarked on that reinvention last year when we checked out the OM-D E-M5, but in its latest iteration — the E-M1 — the form is better than ever.

While the Pen brand that Olympus keeps reviving does its best to reinvent the Pen camera from the 60s and 70s, the E-M1 pays close attention to the OM series, which was first introduced in 1972 and effectively gave Olympus a camera that could take on the similar style of mechanical art producers being manufactured by the likes of Canon and Nikon.

It’s been over 50 years since Olympus released that first OM body, but here in 2013, the new OM camera looks like a recreation of that first body, except for the fact that there are more buttons and also more functionality.

Ergonomically, the EM-1 is brilliant.

If you know how to hold a camera, this thing will find the groove of your palm comfortably, and provide one of the best handheld experiences to date. It’s sort of like when you first picked up that old single lens reflex when you were younger, and you knew it was your camera because it just fit like a glove: that’s the feeling Olympus has created in the E-M1.

A combination of metal and rubber make up the body, which is precisely what you expect a high quality camera to feel like, and looking at the design, the buttons are pretty much exactly where you need them to be, with two sets of wheels making it easy to stay in manual modes, several customisable function buttons, and just like on the Pen E-P5, a switch to let you jump between designated function modes.

This creates an experience that is not only comfortable, but very professional, and has to be one of the better feeling devices out there.