OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1 hands-on review

The camera that gives and gives…but asks a lot from your wallet in return

At a media preview held recently, Stuff spent some time grappling with the OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1 and we found it hard to let go.

Design

Taking cues from the OM series of camera from the 70s, the new OM-D bears some resemblance to that particular series of cameras, but with a distinctively modern twist. The overall look is still recognisably OM, while being far more capable.

It looks and feels like a bigger brother to the previously released OM-D E-M5.

You still get the pseudo ‘mirror-hump’ from the E-M5, but inside you are treated to a better EVF as the pixel count is higher: 2.36 million to 1.44 million in the E-M1. This is also where the 5-axis image stabiliser gyro sits in the camera. The hotshoe sits on-top of this hump, to be used with either the included external flash (yuck) or any other external flash that supports Olympus (yay).

The biggest difference in ergonomics here is the inclusion of a bigger hand-grip. The grip is very substantial here, allowing maximum grip to be achieved while holding onto the camera. This is very useful when the camera is mated with a large lens – such as the new 12-40mm f/2.8 or even a Four Thirds lens. The stability provided by the new grip is a welcomed edition to the camera. 

Controls & Screen

Of course the controls are important as well, and the E-M1 gives you a bucket-load of controls that will fill the needs of professionals and amateurs alike.

The two-dial control from E-P5 makes an appearance here. This allows precise controls over parameters right on your fingertips – your thumb and forefinger to be precise.  There is also the mode selector dial, and a second ‘dial’ that houses the button to select shooting mode and HDR modes. Also, this is where the power toggle is.

At the back, it copies the E-M5. You get the tilting touchscreen, four-way D-pad for function selection, and a two-mode toggle to select user-customisable features to be controlled by the dual-dial.

More after the break...

Performance

How does the E-M1 fare against the E-M5 and the older Four Thirds DSLRs? One word: Better. This camera is the current flagship model for Olympus as it replaces both the E-M5 and the E-5 in the company’s lineup. Thus the question beckons – how is it with the older Four Thirds lenses?

OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1 hands-on review - Performance 2

When we mounted the lens onto this camera, the experience is as close as you can get to the original Four Thirds DSLR. Press down the shutter button, the focusing is fast and snappy, as if we mounted a native M.Zuiko lens on the body. We did try it with an older Olympus body, and the same lens on that camera took about a second or two to achieve focus lock on a subject. E-M1 did it in less than 1/5th of that time. We were duly impressed.

The ISO performance of the sensor is also something that we were captivated with as well. The new sensor allows the images captured to have better data retention even at higher ISOs. The new (yes, Olympus said it is) sensor gives users a ceiling ISO of up to 25600, so even at ISO3200 your photos can safely be blown up until poster size, and the image will not look pixelated nor riddled with image noise. 

Get your wallet ready

The OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 will be available in Malaysia from Q4 with the following pricing:

-          Body Only (RM 4999)

-          Body + 12-40mm f/2.8 M.Zuiko PRO (RM 7999)

-          Body + 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 M.Zuiko (RM 5999)

For preorders, head to Olympus Malaysia.

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