First Impressions - A brief review of the EM-1

30/10/2013 - 09:11

First Impressions of the Olympus EM-1


This is very much a "First Impressions" article and as such there are no technical specs, detailed analysis of performance etc, just my subjective reactions to using it to achieve some of the shots I found difficult or impossible with my EM-5.

Despite this I hope you may find it of interest and I welcome any comments or queries you may have


When the EM-1 was first announced I thought it was the camera I had been waiting for, even though I enjoyed using my EM-5 and was getting excellent results from it.


Some of the key things that caught my eye were the larger view finder, composite PDAF + CDAF with continuous focus, higher shutter speed and better ISO noise performance


So, having had the camera for only a few very busy days, during which I have shot over 6,000 frames of Motorcycle circuit racing,  Birds of Prey in flight, surfing (pure, wind and kite)  + a wide range of other subjects and conditions, how has it worked out for me and do I regret paying out a premium price for it?


What are the highlights of the EM-1 for me?


- it handles very well (although I still need the battery grip to suit my hands) Buttons, dials and switches all feel much more solidly built and give good feedback. It just feels more professional than the EM-5


-  at last I can use the CAF to consistently track fast moving action on the ground and in the air. I have been able to achieve shots that I struggled with using my Canon 7D (in part this may be because the lower weight of the EM-1 makes it easier for me to physically track the subjects)


- High ISO noise is so well controlled that I have been happily shooting with ISO1600 to get a fast enough shutter speed to capture birds in flight in rather poor light



- the viewfinder is superb, as I have a cataract developing in my right eye I have been finding it difficult to get a clear view through the EVF of the EM-5, it's much easier with this one on the EM-1 (a Nikon shooting friend had a play with it and reckons it really is on a par with his full frame D3 - with the obvious proviso that it is an EVF not an OVF)


- battery life has been remarkable, I reckon that shooting with just the EVF enabled (my usual setting) but with a fair bit of "Chimping" I'm getting 1,000+ shots / battery (its good that it's the same battery as the EM-5 too)


What don't I like so much?


- the LCD, although it's clear and well detailed the colour response changes in different light unlike the OLED LCD of the EM-5. It's not a problem as such, it's  just taking a bit of getting used to


- having to return the camera to Olympus because of system lock-up and loss of IS problems  (something that never happened with the EM-5) is very worrying and I hope Olympus are able to explain what is causing it and a resolve the issue


So to sum all that up, NO I don't regret paying a premium price as an early adopter, this camera (once returned from Olympus) allows me to use the m 4/3rds system to achieve all the images I want to shoot at a weight I can always have with me - what more could an old photographer want?  :D


How have I got CAF to work for me?


Here's how I've done it, it's still "work in progress" for me as its early days yet and I'm sure others will find other, maybe better solutions (which I hope they will share here):


under Gear Wheel menu  A,  CAF lock is set to Normal

under Gear Wheel menu C, Rls Priority C is set On

under Gear Wheel menu C, Release Lag-time is set to Normal

Shooting at 6fps




The Lock-up:


I was shooting birds of prey in flight at the Hawk Conservancy and was experimenting with the Release Time lag set to "Short" when I heard a clunk and noticed the EVF view shifted suddenly to the left. shortly afterward there was another clunk and the system locked up, with the last image showing on the LCD (although I had it switched off). I had to remove the battery to re-set the camera and when I did there was another clunk, as if something had released. (the "Clunk" sounds very like the sound I hear when I switch on the camera with Release Lag-time set to Short)

I have since had further lock-ups and also loss of IS under a variety of settings so the camera has now been returned to Oylmpus for repair or replacment


I am putting this down to it being a random, faulty camera (such as I have had in the past with my Canon cameras). Despite this, I still rate the EM-1 as one of the best (if not the best) cameras I have owned for my style of photography


Update 7/11/2013


I now have a new body to replace the failed one. It came with the following note from UK Olympus support (who have been excellent in resolving this issue for me):

"When you do get the camera back i would advise that you not push the camera quite so hard until we have further information on a possable resoltion to this lock up issue."


which to me indictes that they now accept that there is an issue to be resolved but as yet they don't have the soloution




I have some examples of the shots I have based my comments on in various Galleries on my Website here:



but here are a few examples to be going on with:







The Golden Eagle was shot with ISO 1600


The Peregrine Falcon taking the lure (a continuous sequence of 3 shots) was shot with ISO 800


A Lanner Falcon at speed across the meadow



and finally, a bit of Surfing action, shot using ISO800






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