Have you ever had a big juicy secret that you were just dying to tell someone? If so then you will know why this first look article is such a relief for me to write!
I am now allowed to present to you the new Olympus OM-D E-M1!!
First Impressions: Ergonomics and Design
It’s an L-Frame camera! I know we are all mirrorless shooters here but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that nothing feels as good as the L-Frame shape of a dSLR in your hand. The Olympus OM-D_E-M1 has been designed with that ergonomic design in mind and has the front grip molded in as part of the camera. The grip is deep, but not so deep as to make it awkward, but deep to where you know you have a comfortable hold on your camera and the confidence to walk around with it held by the grip alone. I normally wrap the neck strap around my wrist and then grab hold of my PEN E-P5 or OM-Ds but I found that all weekend I carried my OM-D_E-M1 one handed no strap wrapping needed. That says a lot to me that I’d be willing to hold one of the few models of this camera in the country so nonchalantly. Button placement seems to be the big problem with little cameras. If you have anything larger than average hands then I know your complaint is that your hands get cramped and you are accidentally bumping buttons and wheels. If I said I didn’t have this problem that wouldn’t be very honest, I have had plenty of moments where I rolled the wrong wheel on my OM-D or pushed the wrong button. This was of course before I got used to the layouts. But the OM-D_E-M1 has a few tricks to help alleviate some of those issues. Let’s have a look shall we? For starters Olympus has added something that I am not accustomed to but I am guessing is an old feature, and that is a lock on your mode selection dial. Again, I am assuming this is not anything “new” but it is to the Olympus E-Series line of cameras. The image below shows the locking pin/button on the mode selection dial as well as the cool new split button on the left.
Let me tell you how the split button (the one that says HDR on it) works. When the front half of it is pressed you are able to scroll using the control wheels through the settings labeled on the button. So you press the button, and at the top of your display you are shown the in camera HDR options as well as the HDR Bracketing options. You use the front control wheel to scroll through the option you wish to use. Meanwhile, on the bottom of your display the other feature shown on the button, the timer and sequential shooting modes, is available to be scrolled through using the rear wheel. Same for the other half of that button. Press it and the metering option are scrollable with the front wheel and autofocus modes with the rear wheel. I have to say that this is huge for me. The ability to get to so many options without having to dig into a menu is a big time saver! And there are more options for doing similar things on this camera!
Like the other Olympus cameras the OM-D_E-M1 has two fucntion buttons that you can customize to perform various, well, functions. And like the PEN E-P5 this camera also features the function toggle switch. This makes your function button able to perform TWO functions each! So now the two function buttons control FOUR functions. Again, the need to dig into menus is reduced. But new to the Olympus OM-D line is the addition of two more customizable buttons that are placed just to the side of the lens mount. So now, we have four function buttons and the need for menus to access the vast majority of regularly needed functions disappears. I love it!!! Below you can see the additional buttons and the deep comfy grip.
First Impressions: Performance
So now that we’ve covered ergonomics and handling some, let’s talk about performance because well, this thing is a BEAST! I just HAD to give the new dual focus site system (both phase detect and contrast detect on the sensor) a run for its money so I spent a few hours with a friend and his E-5 and slew of 4/3 lenses to do a side by side comparison of focusing speeds and hit count. We picked some objects in his back yard to shoot. Things like bird houses, planters, and other stationary objects of varying size,shape, and color. Things that would be both easy and tough to get a focus on. Let me get off subject for one second. The 50-200mm SWD handled wonderfully on this NON-Gripped camera just so you know.
With the OM-D-E-M1 we both noticed (un-scientificaly) that it focused, get this, FASTER than with the E-5!! Again, no stopwatches or tools like that to measure down to the millisecond, but it was something we both felt was a noticeable speed difference. The same with the 4/3 50mm f/2 macro! The 12-60mm SWD seemed to be a draw. But something else to note, there were several times when we got a more accurate focus using the 50-200mm than with the E-5. Slight differences in depth at which focus was hit. Again, we weren’t trying to be DPReview or anything, just two guys who know their Olympus gear. As far as the native µ4/3 lenses go? Blazingly fast of course. I’ve been shooting non-stop with all my Olympus lenses and performance is nothing short of great. I did some evening shooting to test low light focusing and accuracy and am pleased to say again, spot on and fast! I know another HUGE question that many will ask is, “how is focus tracking and continuous autofocus?” I honestly never shoot sports, or birds in flight, but I DID whoever go do a little birding yesterday and gave it a shot on some Eastern Bluebirds. I didn’t have great luck there, but then, Bluebirds are small and I never knew where they were headed when they took off. LOL. So this week I am making it a point to find some local sporting event to give it a test and I will report back my findings.
First Impressions: Image Quality
It’s hard to say what the RAW image quality will be from this camera since it doesn’t have a RAW translator available yet but the jpgs are just a treat. I am NOT a SOOC jpg guy, I am a painter and graphic artist who became a photographer so I like to “play” with my images in post. But not being able to play with the RAW files and only use SOOC jpgs so far has not been a problem for me. There is a decidedly deeper tonal range coming from this camera than there is in the OM-D E-M5. I’ll know more when I start editing RAW files though. But for now I am a jpg guy and figure I should share a couple from an evening walk I took. Again, SOOC jpg.
So there you have it folks….a very brief rundown and first hands on look at the New Olympus OM-D_E-M1 Feel free to ask as many questions as you want. I am always glad to help out by answering everything I possibly can.
Pre-order your Olympus EM1, Grip and 12-40 f/2.8 here