Olympus OMD EM1 Pro Camera Review

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We’d been thinking about a new camera for a while.  Our existing camera was really showing its age.  We started having connectivity issues with one of our primary lenses, the shutter seemed sluggish, and picture quality was suffering because of a blemish in the lens.

After lugging around a Canon 40D for nearly a decade,  it was time for an upgrade in technology as well as a downgrade in weight. We initially thought to go with a more professional, full frame body.

Then we found the best of both worlds with the Olympus OM-D EM1.

side by side comparison of Canon 40D and Olympus OM-D EM1
side by side comparison of Canon 40D and Olympus OM-D EM1

At 497g, the body with battery weighs about 30% less than our old model with the added benefit of modern software and engineering.

The main features offered by the camera include a weather sealed body, in-body 5-axis Image Stabilisation System, advanced Electronic viewfinder (EVF), Dual FAST AF, Wi-Wi built with Syncing App (OI. Share), and a Tilting LCD monitor.

credit Olympus

If you aren’t a photographer, you’ve probably glossed over and are about ready to move on to something else right about now, right?  But let me explain because even if you aren’t a photographer, but looking for a camera that provides great quality, is easy to use and is light to travel with, this camera is worth the consideration.  We believe it’s the camera anyone can use.

Here’s why:

The camera looks and feels solid.  The weather sealed magnesium alloy body is dust-proof, slash-proof, and can withstand cold down to -10 degrees Celsius.  The large handgrip and light weight makes the camera comfortable to hold, and less prone to dropping. The smaller foot print also makes it easy to pack away and carry in almost any backpack or tote bag.

These were all immensely important, especially to us.  Travelling during the offseason, as we tend to do, often finds you traipsing around the rain.  Add in the fact that we tend to be trip over our own feet, let alone uneven footpaths, the size of the handgrip is important.  Then of course, we’re carry-on type travellers, so being able to pack this in a handbag or a backpack without lugging around all that extra weight or use a specialised camera bag, was a feature Tara’s been raving about since we purchased it.

credit Olympus
credit Olympus

Controls

For advanced shooters, the customisation options are virtually unlimited.  Even some experienced reviewers said the number of options was somewhat overwhelming at first.  Fear not, however, Olympus has made it easy for everyone.  In automatic mode, you can easily pull up some advanced shooting techniques.  Blurring effects, such as moving objects (water) or background (bokeh) is easy as pie with the live view feature.  Depending on what you’re shooting, the touch screen (which is like using a smartphone but with MUCH better quality) or the dial controls allow easy changes on the fly.  (The dials on top of the camera are easy to reach as well.)

Hitting the info button on the back panel brings up a few useful measurements:  the control panel (all your basic exposure settings), a level gauge (it lights up green when you’re centred), and a histogram (showing the distribution of brightness in the image).  Yeah, the techy stuff.

When shooting with any manual settings (Shutter, Aperture, Manual) the number display will blink, warning that the setting needs to be adjusted to create the optimal image.

credit Olympus
credit Olympus

You can precisely control the focus area with the Zoom frame…an electric grid that lets the shooter zoom to a precise focal point.  Again, you can use either the touch screen or buttons, but I find the touch screen to be much faster and precise.  Once you’ve arrived at your focal point, you can snap the shutter while you’re there.  How cool is that!!!

Overall, navigation is intuitive.  With the built in settings, even the most inexperienced of photographers will benefit from the pre-set options.  There’s an option for art shots that take the basic photo and make it amazing.  I used this type of feature when we were in Seattle and it make the photos completely pop.

The speed performance of the camera is impressive.  The shutter tops out at 1/8000 sec. and continuous shooting up to 10 fps.  The sensor includes what Olympus bills as Dual FAST AF technology which utilises dual-contrast and on-chip phase detection focusing methods to obtain focus with speed and precision.   What does that mean?  It means that you can capture moments before they get away from you and exactly what you see is what you will get.  It’s great for sports shots particularly.

The touch-screen is super bright and large enough to make it easy to read—an added bonus for our aging eyes.  With the ability to tilt the screen down, it makes it a cinch to compose shots from overhead, or upwards for waist-level or table-top snaps.  Tara likes to get down to ground level with some shots and this feature has helped the old bones to get the perfect shot because she can see the shot without getting down on her knees… or belly!

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Now the drawback is that selecting a mirrorless camera does means sacrificing some battery life.  We could easily get nearly 1000 pictures per charge on the old camera.  With standard use, we get about 330-350 shots.  We opted to buy an extra battery to swap when we won’t have access to recharge, and that has worked out well for us so far.  There is the option of buying a battery grip, but we found the accessory defeated the purpose of the compact system design. The good thing is, with the included charger, it takes about 3 hours to fully charge from a completely depleted battery. The old camera used to take a lot longer than that.

General Specs

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WIFI

Oh my god!  How did we live without this for so long???  With the free OI share app, (iOS or Android), the device can be used to set a self-timer, release the shutter (great for long exposure shots), and for geo-tagging metadata.  It’s surprising that GPS is not included in a system at this price point, but wirelessly transferring photos directly to the phone for Instagram or Facebook shares is worth a little inconvenience.  Many times now, while in transit, we can transfer photos from the camera to the Smartphone and have them on social media before arriving at the next destination.  As a travel blogger, that’s been a godsend!

Talk about being in the moment! In the past, we would have to download photos on to the computer then upload them at the end of day.

The Olympus OMD EM1 offers great overall performance with a very pleasing design. It’s easy to use, easy to carry, and takes excellent images.  For us, I don’t think we could have made a better choice.

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3 Comments

  1. July 24, 2017 / 11:55 pm

    I think everyone always gets a Nikon or Canon DSLR when they go for an expensive camera first only to realize later that the size and weight also matters a lot especially for regular travelers. Olympus did lose it spotlight a while back, but I am glad they still make excellent cameras and the E-M1 Pro is a pretty great one. I love the WiFi aspect which as you mentioned is something that should have become a norm a long time ago. Thanks for a great review.

  2. December 14, 2016 / 10:31 am

    Glad to hear you’re loving the blog. I’ll try and keep up the momentum! We looked a the EM-10, but wanted something a little more. I wouldn’t trade my EM-1 for anything.

  3. December 10, 2016 / 9:53 am

    I’m starting to really love your entire blog. I have an OM-D EM-10 and love it. I want the 17mm f1.8 lens for it though, but don’t quite have the money yet. Thanks for this post on the EM-1 though. Awesome work!

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