Olympus OMD EM-1 Review


Have you ever held something, anything and it just felt right? This was what I felt with the Olympus OM-D EM-1.

I had the privilege to use the brand new Olympus camera for a week and to be honest, I do not want to give it back.

Olympus 75mm ƒ1.4 lens , ISO400 ƒ/1.4 1/50sec.

Olympus 75mm ƒ1.8 lens , ISO400 ƒ/1.8 1/50sec.

I am a long time user of Olympus cameras and I like it when the company innovate. With this camera, they not only did that but they also took into account what we the photographers wanted and improved a lot of things. Photography should be a great experience not only to those we photograph but also the photographers.

This review is about how the camera fits into my style of work. There are already a lot of review of the camera to show it’s technical abilities so I will not concentrate on those.

The Olympus OMD measures 130x94x63mm and weighs 496g with battery, the OMD EM1 is larger than the OMD EM5. The biggest difference is the thickness thanks to the considerably chunkier (and very comfortable) grip, although of course the EM5 can become taller and thicker when fitted with its optional grip.

As I mentioned earlier, the first time I held the OMD EM-1 it feels wonderful and I do not want to put a strap to it because I just want to hold it. The size is just right for those of us who are getting tired of carrying around a huge bag full of equipment. Personally, I will shoot exclusively on this but at the moment I don’t want to argue with the “my camera is bigger therefore I will take better picture” mentality.

One of the things I really like with Olympus is they think about how their more avid and professional users will use the camera. Like the previous models, the OMD EM-1 features a magnesium body that is splash proof (as witnessed by some parents in my kids school one rainy day), dust proof and now freeze proof down to -10˚C which I am sure one of my friends will surely appreciate. Olympus also added protection to the lenses but the great thing is all Olympus MF lenses are already freezeproof.

The controls (buttons and dials) are better arranged too. The dials are bigger and there’s enough space so that you do not accidentally press the wrong button. The camera’s user interface is also easy to understand. After initial fiddling, I was able to find what I wanted & set it to how I wanted it.

As you can see, there is no on-camera flash built in the OMD EM-1 but flashguns and smaller flash units are available to mount on the hotshoe. There is also a PC sync port for additional lighting. The screen can be tilted a bit which I do not like much as I really prefer the Olympus E-5’s tiltable screen.

Olympus 75mm ƒ1.4 lens , ISO400 ƒ/1.4 1/50sec.

Olympus 75mm ƒ1.8 lens , ISO200 ƒ/8 1/160sec. in studio

Above is 100% zoom of a portrait I took in my studio. For the first time ever, I did not sharpen a photograph. Not one bit. I just love that it captures the details and the colours. It is perfect.

What I sometimes find specially when photographing fast moving children, is the auto focus. With the older models I learnt to anticipate. The Olympus EM-1 ‘s autofocus and continuous focusing are now better but compared to some cameras, not the best especially when taking videos. As I like to shoot photographs and leave the videoing to those with the space and the love for it I am quite happy with the improvements of the Olympus OMD EM-1.

I really like the creative Art Filters that comes with the Olympus MF cameras. The recent addition to the growing list is the Watercolour Art Filter. It is fun and my kids loved it. To an adult user, it may not be as interesting but for me anything to get a child interested in what I am doing is a good thing. This way, they will do more that I ask them and not a single smile is a fake smile.

Watercolour art filter

Watercolour art filter

Another new thing is the Wifi connectivity. It is good but I think it only works with the App and not yet able to send to laptops nor share to online services. However, a little software upgrade and they will get to that – that is if they want to.

EM1 review
I took the camera to a client shoot, a family gathering/birthday mix. I am happy to say it was well received and  I am happy with the quality of the images I took.

Olympus OMD EM-1 Review

Olympus 75mm ƒ1.8 lens , ISO640 ƒ/2.2 1/160sec.

Olympus 75mm ƒ1.4 lens , ISO1250 ƒ/2.8 1/160sec.

Olympus 75mm ƒ1.8 lens , ISO1250 ƒ/2.8 1/160sec.

Olympus 75mm ƒ1.4 lens , ISO1600 ƒ/3.2 1/80sec.

Olympus 75mm ƒ1.8 lens , ISO1600 ƒ/3.2 1/80sec.

Conclusion: For what I do, this is perfect. It will easily fit my shooting style both at work and for personal photography. The clients seem to accept it as one of the cameras. Olympus did well and I’d recommend you to check this one out before the others and. I am happy with the image quality. I am sure I will be able to print my biggest print size (40×30″) with this one.  It is lighter than the DSLR, better looking too and is definitely another innovative product from Olympus.

They’re shipping this one very soon so not a long time to wait! It’s available in most online camera retailer including Amazon.co.uk

Camera Specifications

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  1. Stephan G October 21, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    Isn’t it f/1.8?

  2. Steve October 24, 2013 at 2:34 am #

    I think you are the only person on the net who thinks the interface is easy.

    • Ghene Snowdon October 24, 2013 at 8:26 am #

      Over the years, every new Olympus camera that comes out have a slightly changed interface but as it is added to what I am familiar with, so it is easier to make sense of it.

  3. RobertWCampbell October 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    When I realized I could not deal with the bulk and weight of my (+/- 40 years!) Nikon kit plus my Leica M6, I searched for and found the EP3 to start with;- with the great 12mm f2 lens…Loved the image product- Went to EM5 with the kit (but also waterresistat) 12-50. Not as fast as I like, but as versatile as needed- Am CERTAINLY headed for the EM1, and maybe the Voigtlander 45mm f.95 or an f 1.4 or 1.8. Expect your and the other reviews to be true…Added 40-150 and will add the 70-300 and be all set again

    • Ghene Snowdon November 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Dear Robert,
      Thank you for your comment.
      The Voigtlander 45mm f.95 looks amazing and with the capabilities of the EM1, I am sure you will love it!

      best regards,

  4. Budd Riker November 7, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    Great review. Just moved from Nikon DSLRs and big glass to this Oly and little (but really good) glass and love it. Image quality and flexibility make it the perfect camera for me. I will be housing it as soon as the Nauticam housing is ready. It is going to be a pleasure to travel internationally with this kit.

    • Ghene Snowdon November 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      Dear Budd,
      Thank you for your comment.
      One of the reasons I like the Olympus CMC’s is it’s size. I can carry two to three cameras to one outing and not worry about the weight.

      best regards,

  5. Serge November 7, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    Thank you, Ghene for your beautiful review.

    I’ve just received my E-M1. No doubt, it’s a wonderful piece of art of engineering. I love it!

    One thing worries me, though. I’ve noticed that the front dial is rotating softer compared to the rear one. It seems like it’s lost its sturdy click-click-click feel. Did your camera have similar front/rear dial tacktile difference? I am struggling to figure out whether it’s camera’s fault, or it’s designed to be this way.


    • Ghene Snowdon November 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

      Dear Serge,
      Thank you for your comment.
      I reviewed a pre-production EM1 and mine hasn’t arrived yet. Anyway, on the camera I reviewed both dials were crisp. I will ask around if what you’ve got is something to be worried about.

      best regards,

      • Serge November 8, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

        Thank you, Ghene for your reply!

        I wish E-M1s were available in local shops. I would then go and test a couple of them myself. In the meantime, I would really appreciate if you “will ask around”. Some people I had enquired about their cameras reported that they had a slight tactile difference between two dials.

        Thank you, Ghene one more time


  6. David Okum December 16, 2013 at 12:34 am #

    Just got back from Ecuador. Used this new OMD EM1 in all kinds of lighting and climates. Was amazed at the results. I now find the interface quite easy and fast to use. I guess I have gotten used to it. Photos are amazing.

  7. Samuel Gauthier June 3, 2014 at 1:38 am #

    Hi Ghene,

    I’ve been shooting with the EM5 for over a year now, I really do enjoy it. However at times I miss the subject Isolation I could get from my D700. I know it’s no full frame, I’ve learnt to cope. Though the subject isolation is something I would like more of. Do you use the EM1 for your wedding photography? I’m diving back into weddings this summer and am debating a D610 or an EM1. Would you have any thoughts on the matter? Also what is the largest size you’ve printed from the EM1?


    Samuel Gauthier

    • Ghene Snowdon June 4, 2014 at 11:04 am #

      Thank you for your comment Samuel. I use all my Olympus gears when shooting weddings and that even includes the Pens. Directly from camera/card, you can safely print up to 16×20″ however if you process it, you should be able to print up to 30×40″.

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