Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review – Ditch the E-M5?

Now that I’be been using the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 together with the OM-D E-M5 for a few days, it’s time to give the nitty-gritty on the differences between the two. I will only focus on the items that matter to me and that I’ve encountered, not on spec sheets or features I normally don’t use. Note that I haven’t used video on either camera.

Build

The E-M1 is tougher, but also larger. For those who use (part of) the accessory grip with the E-M5 (corrected), the size difference is negligible. For those who prefer the smaller size of the E-M5 itself, the E-M1 might be too large.

Speed

The E-M1 is noticeably faster than the E-M5 in all regards. The viewfinder pops the image right up, while the one in the E-M5 takes a second or so to be usable. The focus is quicker in all modes. The drive can reach up to 10 frames a second. It’s a little monster.

The EVF

This is a big one: the EVF of the E-M5 pales – literally – in comparison with the EVF on the new Olympus. It’s as if you’re looking at different realities when switching between the two. The older EVF looks muted and not as sharp compared to the new one. There’s also less smearing when panning.

Image Quality

To be quite honest, I know that the E-M1 is supposed to have better image quality, but I don’t see it on my monitor. To me, similar images with similar lenses under similar circumstances look the same. Only at higher ISOs does the E-M1 a little better.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 Fishing Bobbers & Shades of Blue: the top image is from the EM-5, the bottom from the EM-1 (same lens was used)

The difference I do notice, as I already noted in my original review, is that the colors from the two cameras differ in Lightroom and other software programs. It’s not always visible, but apart from different shades of red in my Chinatown images, the sky also shows different hues of blue in landscapes I shot yesterday. I’m not making a value statement here. It’s just different, not necessarily better or worse. Of course, this can easily be manipulated on the computer.

Layout

The E-M1 is more intuitive and easier to manipulate than the E-M5. The buttons are larger. The combination of levers and buttons can be highly customized. Unlike with the E-M5, on which I sometimes still have to figure out how to change a setting, the E-M1 is more intuitive to me.

Upgrade?

That depends on whether one or more of the above differences are important enough for you to pay the difference between the two cameras. The E-M1 is quite a bit more expensive, but currently comes with a free flash or the Four-Thirds to MFT adapter. If you think the E-M5 is too small, you want the grip, which adds to the overall price of that camera.

Key is that if you upgrade, you don’t get better images. You just get a more pleasant experience when out shooting and you have less of a chance to miss shots. Whether that matters enough to you, I can’t tell.

It does to me, though. I’ve never sat in front of me computer swearing that the quality of the image on my screen isn’t good enough, but there have been plenty of occasions when I could have smashed some camera because it failed to focus or couldn’t keep up with the action.

In the meantime…

I’m still shooting the E-M1 side by side with the Canon 5D Mark III. I’d hoped to be ready to post the results of my comparison, but I still have to try a few more things. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Equipment discussed in this article (affiliate links):

Olympus OM-D E-M1 (Amazon, B&H)

Olympus OM-D E-M5 (AmazonB&H)

 

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for all the reviews! Keep me coming!

  2. SO envious you have yours….. Still waiting shipping notice from B&H :-(

  3. Thanks for this real world comparison. As my EM5 does everything I wish for, the M1 is a temptation I can rest for the time being. You pretty much confirmed what I speculated in terms of the differences between these two excellent cameras from Olympus.

    Enjoy the OMD M-1 and may the ” force ” be with you.

    Sincerely
    Henry L

  4. John: Have you have noticed an improvement with viewfinder lag? The E-M5’s EVF shows what happened a fraction of a second ago. It’s sufficiently behind the action that it’s not as usable for catching a quick expression or hand gesture the way a Leica rangefinder or a fast DSLR is. I sometimes use a bright-line optical finder to get around this. Or I can look at the scene with my left eye and only frame with the EVF. Either is a pain. Is the E-M1 EVF better in this respect?

    This is about the *only* thing I don’t like about the E-M5 after nearly a year’s shooting, by the way–stellar camera otherwise.

    Best,
    –Peter Klein

    • The finder is faster, but if it’s as fast as seeing the actual thing through an optical finder, I’m honestly not sure.

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