Olympus OM-D E-M1: Ready to dump your dSLR?

Olympus OM-D E-M1: Ready to dump your dSLR?

By | Sep 10, 2013

Olympus pulls out all the stops for its latest top-of-the-line Micro Four Thirds camera, the OM-D E-M1. Designed to woo Four Thirds-lens aficianados from its dSLRs — this is the model which for all intents and purposes signs the death warrant on the E series — the M1 incorporates a new antialiasing-filter-free 16-megapixel sensor, a hybrid phase-detection and contrast autofocus system, and reasonably fast continuous shooting in its cold-and-weather-sealed body.

The dual autofocus system, which the company dubs “Dual Fast AF,” is an essential move for Olympus; Four Thirds lenses will, of course, work with Micro Four Thirds cameras, as long as you have a mount adapter, but Olympus’ lenses are phase-detection-optimized like most dSLR lenses. And Olympus, unlike its MFT buddy Panasonic, has a large base of Four Thirds lenses, with some very nice glass. To use them on the E-M1 you need to buy the $180 MMF-3 adapter, which is weather-sealed to match the body.

On the imaging sensor, one out of every 16 pixels — one out of every eight of the green pixels in the Bayer array, to be precise — is replaced with a phase-detection sensor. The missing image value is then interpolated. Like the system in the Canon EOS 70D it’s measuring directly off the focal plane, which helps drive the lens directly toward the correct focus point, the biggest problem when using phase-detection-optimized lenses with contrast-detection-based systems. We’ll have to see how accurately those missing pixels are handled, though.

In the E-P5, Olympus decreased the intensity of the antialiasing filter with good results. Here, the optical low-pass (OLPF) filter is gone entirely and it’s correcting moire in-camera. As with other AA-free models, it will be interesting to see how the video quality is affected, as that’s usually the tradeoff. The company also claims the camera’s performing more intelligent sharpening, using the MTF data from the lens to determine the correct amount of sharpening to apply, plus it theoretically offers better chromatic aberration correction, via the TruePic VII version of its image-processing engine. (That’s one TruePic more than the E-P5.)

The magnesium-alloy body is freeze-resistant down to 14 degrees, an improvement over the E-M5, and it now has a real microphone input rather than a hot-shoe-based connector.

The EVF is the same as the optional model for the E-P5, and it’s really nice. Other welcome features include automatic HDR bracketing for a contrast-effect HDR of up to 7 shots and up to 4 EV, as well as a more subtle version of up to 2EV. Unfortunately, you can’t save the raw bracket files. The camera also adds a time-lapse mode of up to 999 shots at 1-second to 24-hour intervals, from which it can automatically create a 100-second movie.

On the downside for some folks, it can output simultaneous, but not clean HDMI, and it only has a single card slot. The latter is really disappointing for its price class, and especially in a camera designed for use in places where you really don’t want to open doors.

Olympus will also have updated the mobile device apps, providing full remote control over the camera, with live previews.

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