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Olympus OM-D E-M1 mirrorless camera: review and testing

A few years ago the Olympus completely refused the use of the classic mirror digital cameras. Such a step did some other manufacturers (including Panasonic, Samsung and Fujifilm). Having chosen the format Micro Four Thirds (MFT), the Japanese managed to compete to affordable mirror solutions. This is evidenced by the success of the model Olympus OM-D E-M5, which received several positive reviews from reviewers and from professional photographers. The next evolutionary step was the appearance of top-end camera Olympus OM-D E-M1, which absorbed the leading experience and corporate developments. It is designed to meet the needs of the most demanding user.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

This model has a classic appearance, the Live MOS sensor with 16.3 megapixel, fast hybrid autofocus, 5-axis optical image stabilization system, new brand processor TruePic VII and several other interesting features that will be described latter. Let’s start from the characteristics of Olympus OM-D E-M1:




OM-D E-M1 (V207015BE000)

Type, class

Digital camera, mirrorless

Light element

Matrix Live MOS 4:3 (17,3 × 13 mm); effective pixels quantity – 16,3 Mp


TruePic VII

Image format




MOV (MPEG-4AVC/H.264), AVI (Motion JPEG)

Bayonet joint

Micro Four Thirds



4608x3456, 4608x3456, 2560x1920, 1024x768


1920x1080, 1280x720, 640x480 up to 30 fps

Photosensitivity ISO

200 – 25 600

Exposure range

1/8000 – 60 s


TTL (via lens) in 324 measuring zones

Exponometer mode

ESP, , point, light zone, shadow

Exposure compensation

+/- 5.0EV (with step 1, 1/2 , 1/3 EV for choice)


DUAL FAST AF: 37 zones (AF with phase identification), 81 zones (AF with contrast identification), 800 zones (ручний manual choice in mode «Zoom view»)


Mechanical; in focal plane via PC control

Uninterrupted shoot

10 fps (with exposure fixation)

Picture stabilization

5-axis optical based on matrix shift


Rotary, 3’’, resolution 1 037 000 p, aspect ratio 3:2


Electronic , color, IPS-matrix, proximity sensir 1,48x, resolution 2 360 000 p, aspect ratio 4:3



Built-in stereo microphone


Built-in, mono


Removable flash (leading number 10 (ISO 200))


Data storage

Memory cards SD, SDHC, SDXC


Multi Interface Shoe, micro-HDMI (Type D), USB/AV-output mini-jack 3,5 mm


Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth


lithium-ion cell, removable, Olympus BLN-1 (1220 mАh)


Input: 100~240 V AC at 50/60 Hz

Output: 8,7 V DC, 0,6 А


M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12–50 mm F3.5-6.3 EZ


Dust and splash protection


130,4 x 93,5 x 63,1 mm


443 g (only case) / 497 g (including battery and data carrier)


Black / silver-black


12 moths

Producer website


Package and content 

Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1

Camera Olympus OM-D E-M1 comes to a large cardboard box, supplemented by a wrapper. It has a minimalist design with a predominance of dark shades. The front side of the package contains logos Olympus and Micro Four Thirds, the model and lineup name, as well as the image of the camera with a complete lens. The reverse side has the information about the manufacturer, the system requirements for proprietary software and a few icons that tell about the key features of the new item: sensor Live MOS with 16.3 megapixel resolution, 5-axis optical image stabilization system, ISO up to 25600, the processor TruePic VII, swivel touch display, electronic viewfinder with zoom 1,48x, 81 area of contrast AF, housing with protection against dust and splashing and several others. This style of packaging suggests that this is a premium device. 

Olympus OM-D E-M1

The set contains everything you need to complete the work with the camera:

  • User's Guide
  • warranty card;
  • CD with proprietary software;
  • lens M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50 mm F3.5-6.3 EZ;
  • removable flash;
  • charger (5.2 W: 8.7 V at 0.6 A) with a power cord;
  • cable USB;
  • battery Olympus BLN-1;
  • strap.

Also there is an additional number of accessories that can be purchased separately. The full list of them can be found on the manufacturer's website.

Design, elements layout

Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1

The lineup of cameras Olympus OM-D is a digital reincarnation of the cult series film mirror cameras Olympus OM, which were produced in 1972. The abbreviation «OM» is formed from the first letters of the company names and the names of the chief designer Yoshihisa Maytani (Yoshihisa Maitani). Camera Olympus OM-D E-M1 is the successor of Olympus OM-D E-M5 with significant modifications in all respects.

Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1

New product retaining the classic design, which is highlighted in silver-black version, while all black option looks more strictly. Chassis of the device is made of a strong magnesium alloy, which is lined with plastic and rubber, stylized under the skin. The material is enough practical (non-staining), provides a pleasant tactile feel and has strong grip. The camera has slightly larger dimensions than its predecessor (130,4 x 93,5 x 63,1 mm against 121 x 89.6 x 41.9 mm) and weight (497 g vs. 425 g), which is still a bit more than the classical mirrorless cameras, but significantly lower than the middle segment mirror models. That is, it fits easily in a compact purse or a jacket pocket or a coat (but without lens). 

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1

The front panel has: MFT bayonet joint with lens button, the button for manually set the white balance and the preview (both are programmable), AF illumination lamp, port to synchronize with an external flash (covered with a plug), and company logos. The handle has received considerable size, textured finish and ergonomic recess for the middle finger.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Most of the back side takes folding screen. Above it is the viewfinder with diopter adjustment and a proximity sensor. To the left there is a button to switch between the display and the viewfinder and on the right side - lock button AEL/AFL, combined with the mode selector switch. It should be noted that this solution makes it possible to quickly switch between the control parameters with the possibility of adjustment for each mode. By default, the first position of the switch drives are responsible for the aperture and exposure, and the second - for the ISO settings and white balance. The right part of the screen contains buttons to change the displayed information (INFO), the menu, enter playback mode and delete files. Also here there is a system speaker, four-position disc selector with input button (or «OK») in the middle. At the junction of the back and the side face (sloping ground) you can find a programmable button «Fn1». There is also a convenient platform for the thumb.

Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1

Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1

On the side faces of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 contain strap hole. In addition, the left (under the front flap) contains interface connectors: micro-HDMI, USB/AV and mini-jack 3,5 mm for connecting an external microphone, and the right side has a compartment for memory cards. To open access to the interface connector, you must first tilt the display. This solution prevents accidental opening. In addition, do note a convenient location of memory card, which in many mirrorless cameras is on the bottom with the battery and thereby complicates access to it during operation.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1

The top end is filled with a large number of functional elements. On the left side you can see unusual rounded control unit on/off, and two buttons, one of which is responsible for focus mode, and another - for the drawing mode, HDR and timer. Near there is an inscription «E-M1», informing the camera model. The central part has pseudo-prismatic ledge with support for Multi Interface Shoe and two stereo microphones spaced on both sides. On the right side you can find the mode selection with a lock button (prevents unwanted tripping) and one of the two command modes. Closer to the edge of the handle is the shutter button, programmable button «Fn2» and button to activate video recording (with a red spot in the center). By default button «Fn2» activates the tone curve, which allows you to change the gradation of light and shadows. 

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1

On the bottom you can find: battery compartment (covered with a lid with a latch spring), thread for stand mount (offset relative to the optical axis), as well as a sticker with service information. In addition, you can see the pad (covered with a plug) to connect the battery handle, for example, Olympus HLD-7, which not only increases battery life, but also adds convenience when photographing.

Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1

Build quality of Olympus OM-D E-M1 is at its highest level: there are no gaps or clearances. The camera body does not bend or change its geometry under torsion; there are no other sounds. The display unit is secured in place. In addition, the camera body has protection against dust and splashing. Additionally there is the preservation of full operation during the cold season (up to -10C). Just remember that in case of careless use you can damage the paint on the body.

Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1

Ergonomics is good enough, although in the early days of dating you have to get used to a large number of controls that can be easily programmed to the needs and habits of the owner. The buttons have a comfortable size and clear pressing. Control items are characterized by moderately tight and smooth running, and easily found. The grip is quite comfortable thanks to considerable comfortable handle with a tenacious coating. The distance between the handle and complete lens is sufficient for most people.

In general, the camera Olympus OM-D E-M1 has a classic look that attracts admiring glances. Body looks expensive and stylish. The camera is pleasant thanks to the ergonomics combined with a relatively low weight and good location of controls.

Display, viewfinder 

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Camera Olympus OM-D E-M1 is equipped with 3 inch (7.6 cm) LCD screen with a conventional aspect ratio of 3: 2, but due to the fact that it takes photos with a ratio of 4: 3, then the edges have black strips. Its resolution is 1,037,000 points (ie 720 x 480 pixels). This is enough to obtain a sufficiently detailed image. Individual pixels can be considered in the settings menu. In general, the screen is characterized by wide viewing angles, natural-colors and sufficient contrast level. The level of brightness is pretty good, which allows to learn the information even in bright sunny day. There is the ability to adjust the brightness level (+/- 7 units), color balance (+/- 3 units) and the saturation level (default "Natural").

Olympus OM-D E-M1Olympus OM-D E-M1

The main feature of the display unit is its folding design, however, only in the vertical plane (approximately 80° up and 45° down), which allows to shoot from the top and bottom positions. It should also be noted that it is touch. This allows you to conveniently move through the menu of quick settings, browse photos, focus and carry pictures with one touch. However, those are not all capabilities of touch-sensitive controls. Therefore, we would like to have the opportunity to change all the settings to scale the image or gestures.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

The digital viewfinder (the manufacturer does not indicate the size) with enlargement of 1,48x (much higher than for mirror camera) is based on IPS- matrix with a resolution of 2360000 pixels (i.e., 1024 x 768 pixels) with a traditional ratio of 4: 3. The image quality is quite nice, balanced color palette, and the contrast is sufficient to obtain a natural image. The only drawback is that the interface is not sufficiently adapted to the resolution, so some elements have increase artifacts. Viewing angles are wide, without noticeable deviations. There are two modes of the display mode: "Normal" and "Speed". Last helps to reduce eye strain during prolonged sight through the viewfinder. Other settings include: diopter adjustment (-4.0 / +2.0 units), brightness and color temperature (+/- 7 units). Switching between the screen and the viewfinder can be done manually (via the button on the body), or use the automatic (there is a proximity sensor).

Interface, adjustability

Camera Olympus OM-D E-M1 has fairly simple and beautiful interface with a predominance of dark colors in the design. Setup Menu is in the form a column of icons which are located on the left side. When you move via sections the right side displays the options with tips. The sections of five: "Shooting Menu 1" (preliminary and main settings), "Shooting Menu 2" (advanced settings), "Playback Menu" (viewing and processing), "User Menu" (detailed settings) and the "Settings Menu" (setting the basic functions). The total number of functions and parameters is very large, which gives access to all features of the camera. It should be noted that the first acquaintance with the camera is necessary for some time to deal with lots of settings to find in the desired item. Due to two control units (in the front and back of the case) in combination with an operating mode switch, you can change the basic settings (shutter speed, aperture, exposure, ISO and white balance) without the need to use the menu. In addition, there ia ability to change the available control schemes for disk management and reprogramming almost all buttons, allowing maximum flexibility to adjust the camera to suit your needs. Moreover you can add another tab to frequently used functions and settings, which is an added advantage. Also do note the rounded block of buttons (the left edge of the upper end), which opens fast access to the focus mode, drawing, HDR and timer. Furthermore, the above button «Fn2» activates the tone curve, which allows you to change the gradation of light and shadows. 

In the mode «Live View» (frame display using all settings before pressing the shutter) the quick settings menu is presented in a vertical list on the right side of the display (activated by «OK» button). Carrying sight through the viewfinder, the display can display matrix with fast setup by pressing switch between the display and viewfinder. It is impossible to change the location or number of parameters. To change the type of information displayed on main screen, use the button «INFO». In the mode «Live View» you can display: shooting parameters, grid, histogram and virtual horizon.

It should be noted that the camera and lens were tested with the firmware 1.0 and 1.3 respectively. To update the software you need to install Olympus Digital Camera Updater that offers a simple and intuitive interface.

In general, the speed and smoothness of the interface does not cause any complaints. To learn more about the features and camera operation you can use our video below.

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