Olympus E-M1 - Personal take.

So the worst kept secret on the photographic internet is finally announced. The Olympus m43 / 43 hybrid E-M1 is now official. All the specs. have been comprehensively leaked and its pretty much as expected. Good if you own 43 lenses (though from dPreview - Focus is usually acceptably fast, though anyone coming from an E-3 or E-5 is likely to find themselves disappointed, in comparison.The way to see it is this: if you’re a Four Thirds lens owner and you’re expecting full DSLR performance, you’re going to be disappointed.) and lots of nice features. If you like the OM-D, and you shoot no or very little video, you'll probably love this. Plus it looks great.

However two features that rule it out for me personally. Viewfinder is not OLED, though it is supposed to be amazing quality. However if I can't see it outdoors in bright sunlight with my polarised sunglasses, which I now have to wear, then its no good to me. And secondly, the video.

In terms of the video offering, the question might be, what video?  

1920 x 1080 (30 fps), 1280 x 720 (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30 fps)
H.264 and Motion JPEG

Motion JPEG?? Why on earth did they pick this? Plus only three options. At pretty poor compression rates for these days. I really don't understand this. With the amazing 5-axis stabilisation that I used in the E-M5 this camera would seem to be a natural for hand-held video, but no-one who is serious about video is going to go anywhere near it. A very strange decision. They will certainly not be worrying any GH3 owners.

There are some raw files HERE. I opened them in Rawker, so I presume any dcraw software will work. No surprises here, either good or bad. Pretty standard Olympus m4/3 renditions.

Must admit my feelings seeing all this and reading all the leaks previously is that Olympus have missed a trick here. With their undoubted design capabilities, and I think it really is a great looking camera, with a bit more thought they could have produced the ultimate m4/3 enthusiast / semi-pro and yes pro camera. But instead they seem to have gone for the 'show pony.' Admittedly a very attractive show pony, but the video implementation lets it down badly. Whether you use it or not, the ability to shoot decent video is now an essential part of what a modern camera should offer. For reasons best known to themselves, Olympus have chosen not to give this priority. Strange.

Focus peaking is a welcome addition, particularly with the in-body stabilisation for legacy / non-brand lenses, but that's pretty much the only advantages I see over my GH3. No electronic shutter, same old battery and Olympus are up to their usual trick of making you pay extra for the lens hood for the 12-40mm lens. Plus do these companies who make only horizontally tilting screens forget that you can actually take vertical pictures? I've really never understood this, the Panasonic (and others) fully articulating screen is just so much more useful.

In many ways it look like its making a statement from Olympus. It's obviously intended to put a full-stop to the the 43 system. There are some murmurings about another 43 camera, E-7?, but that's not going to happen. What could the market possibly be for such a camera? Apparently production of 43 lenses is ceasing anyway, if it hasn't already. It will keep the Olympus faithful happy and I'm sure we'll read from them lots of comments about it being a 'GH3 killer' It's not of course, but they probably need that fantasy to justify its price. It is expensive, if you want the body, grip, 12-40mm lens + hood and a few spare batteries, but its around the same price as the equivalent GH3 outfit when it first came out, if I remember correctly.

It is however, very sexy. Black only it seems and it will be nicely weather sealed. I obviously haven't handled one but I imagine the reworked grip will make it feel very nice in the hand. See - 

So lots of points for design, stills operation and for offering some decent compatibility for 43 lens owners, but still not the real deal. If the next Panasonic GH? model includes focus peaking from the G6 and in body stabilisation from the GX7, then we may have the ultimate m4/3 camera so far. The GH3 isn't it and the Olympus E-M1 isn't it either. Combine them and you probably have a serious contender for one of the best digital cameras ever. Buy both? Well that's expensive, but I'm sure some will go that route. 

It does seem to be a very nice camera in lots of ways and I guess you have to work out your priorities to see if its worth upgrading from what you have already. As I indicated, there is little point in me moving sideways from the GH3 as I loose the OLED viewfinder, fully articulated screen and superb video to gain focus peaking and in-body stabilisation. Since the OIS in my 14-140mm lens gives superb hand holding solidity (as do all Panasonic OIS lenses), and I have focus peaking on my G6 those aren't that much of an issue for me. If however you are looking for one 'do-it-all' camera and you aren't that bothered about video, then the E-M1 looks a good (though pricey) buy. And no it isn't the answer to life, the universe and everything but its a welcome addition to m4/3 and also a welcome sign that Olympus are as serious as Panasonic in producing a 'flagship' camera that challenges DSLR's and the whole Canon / Nikon megalopoly in pro-spec cameras, and for that alone its good to see it finally become 'official.'


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