OM-D EM-1 Review

September 01, 2017

Originally posted Jan 27, 2014


Great Camera, but Don’t Buy It Without Ordering the QuickPRO Guide for It.

OlympusReview-wmOlympusReview-wm Folks who know me know that, though I am a confirmed Nikon shooter for “serious” photography, I have been on a multi-year quest for the perfect “walking around” camera…something smaller and lighter than the Nikon D-3s but with quick response and high quality optics. I think I’ve found it.

Pictured on the left is a Nikon D-3s with the Nikon 24-70mm zoom – what I consider to be my “normal” lens for this camera – attached. On the right is my new Olympus OM-D EM-1, with the four-thirds 12-40mm zoom, which on the Olympus has a full frame equivalence of 24-80mm. The Nikon outfit weighs in at eight pounds; the Olympus at two-and-a-half pounds. If you were walking around, say, Boston, where I’m taking our family for a long weekend and a Red Sox game next summer, which would you rather be carrying? And, the Olympus camera+lens combination shown comes at about one-third the price of what I have invested in the equivalent Nikon setup.

YardSquirrel-wmYardSquirrel-wm And the OM-D is a great camera, and I’m very impressed with its features and results. For example, I purchased the 75-300mm micro 4/3 zoom lens for it, which would be the full frame equivalent of a 150-600mm. Add to that, the OM-D has a “digital 2x tele-converter menu feature. So, with that camera, that lens, and the digital tele-converter feature (which is nothing more than an in-camera crop, really) that takes you all the way out to 1200mm, if my math is correct. I’m including here a photo of a backyard squirrel taken at that setting. Granted, it’s not tack sharp, but it’s not bad for just “messing around.”

All of that said, there is one little thing: the OM-D EM-1 menu is anything but intuitive, and the owner’s manual that comes with the camera is somewhere next to useless. The manual’s table of contents and/or index will tell you, for example, that more information on a given function can be found at page 58. But when you turn to page 58, guess what? It’s in French, Spanish, or one of the Pacific Rim languages…apparently, the problem with having one publication serve multiple nationalities. You can –as I did – download all 163 pages of the on-line edition of the owner’s manual. It is complete but still difficult to use and to me, often creates more questions than it answers.

What the owners of the OM-D EM-1 really, really need is for David Busch to hurry and publish one of his excellent guides for this particular camera. (And in case you’re thinking of ordering the Busch guide for the OM-D EM-5 as a substitute, don’t – it’s not that helpful). While we are waiting for Busch to get with it, if you’d like to understand which button does what on the OM-D EM-5, I highly recommend the QuickPRO Guide DVD for this model. I found it very helpful and now actually kind of feel like I know what I’m doing accessing this camera’s menu and/or controls. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t carry the QuickPRO Guide for the OM-D EM-1, but it’s available from the Olympus website and probably elsewhere.

For those who might be thinking, “So Ron, will you be putting your Nikons up for sale?” the answer is not in this lifetime. My main gripe against the mirrorless cameras, and the point-and-shoot models, is the lag between pushing the shutter button and the moment when a photo is actually taken. In this regard, I have dozens of photos of where a dolphin had just surfaced before diving again or an elk very recently had been standing against a forest background. On the OM-D, however, the menu will let you choose either “normal” or “short” for this interval. Even though the “short” option is supposed to use more battery, I chose it, and the lag is virtually non-existent.

That said, in my opinion, the full-frame Nikon still has it over the Olympus if you are shooting for publication, large gallery prints, or photos to be displayed on the internet. If that’s what you are up to, I believe you’ll still want the full-frame Nikon or its Canon equivalent.

All of that said, I do feel confident that I have at last found my “walking around” camera. Thanks, Olympus.

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