om-d-e-m1After one and a half years of EM-5 dominance, Olympus decided to introduce another entry in the OMD series of high-end cameras. The Olympus OMD E-M1 is only the second camera in the series and comes with a list of new features as well as other properties borrowed from its predecessor.

When I first heard of the E-M1, I thought Olympus was looking to replace the much praised E-M5. Contrary to my original thoughts, these cameras are expected to sell alongside each other. The E-M1 will however require buyers to dig deeper into their wallets. This will depend on whether they find the new set of features and capabilities worth a price increase.

Some have already branded the E-M1 as the best mirror-less camera available within its price range. Nonetheless, it is wise to personally go through the features, added benefits and underlying concerns, which is what I always do before buying any electronics, especially cameras.

Features and specifications

The E-M1 has various features adopted from its predecessors. It has also gained new enhancement features to improve the photographing experience and overall shooting quality. Some of the features you will find in this camera include:

  • A 16 MP Live MOS 4-thirds sensor that does not feature low-pass filtering
  • ON-sensor phase detectors and twin control dials that allow for a dual mode 2×2 option
  • Automatic panning detectors and 5-axis image stabilizers
  • Electronic viewfinder and eye sensor
  • Dust splash design and up to -10ºC freeze proof

These features were already available in the E-M5 camera. The interesting additions and enhancements include the following;

  • Built-in Wi-Fi and microphone socket
  • TruePic VII processor that features lens correction
  • In-camera/in-built HDR blending with two modes that can be previewed in the viewfinder
  • X-sync flash sockets
  • 1/8000 seconds shutter speed and 1/320 seconds flash synchronization
  • 10 frames/sec continuous shooting rate
  • Improved EVF and LCD display

These features are housed in a professionally built compact design that is very portable and lightweight. The camera’s dimensions are 5.13×3.68×2.48 inches and it weighs 1.1 lbs. The magnesium alloy body makes the E-M1 Dust, Splash and Freeze proof. It’s truly one tough contender and its SLR-style mirrorless design makes it small and compact. It is simply convenient and one the best camera to travel with.

The smaller design does not exempt any of its essential features and their accessibility is equally undisturbed. The placement of a few buttons has however been changed to more convenient positions. One of the enhancements that I love about E-M1 is the improved grip and controls. When I purchased E-M5, my major disappointment was its poor grip.

The E-M1 is however ergonomically designed and the additional grip is no longer needed. There are various controls and buttons both at the front and rear of the camera, including shutter release, exposure dial, function button lock mode, lens release and depth-of-the-field preview. While these controls are easily accessible, the menu and functioning is quite cumbersome. Certain simple functions are hidden under a number of tabs which is why you will need the user manual beside you for the first few days. The menu is accessible by pressing a menu button.

One thing I really like is the 1,037,000 pixel resolution, 3-inch LCD display screen. It is easy to use and works well in any weather including sunny conditions. This combined with the 2,360,000 pixel viewfinder results in unmatched crispness and image clarity within the category. The viewfinder has 100% coverage. Its four-thirds lens ensures high quality shootings and images.

The 5 point Image Stabilization on camera body is great, especially for travel! I’ve always been a fan of IS as I don’t have the most steady hands. On my Canon 60D the IS only reached to my lenses that had IS built into them. Because the E-M1 has image stabilization built into the body of the camera you will have it with every lens you put on the camera.

This just makes sense and I hope this is the new way of things. I know as a traveler I always find myself out at dusk without a tripod. The suns going down, the streets are alive. Image stabilization gives me a little extra freedom to cheat some of my settings and get the shot I want without dragging my shutter too much.

Finally, the E-M1 has remarkable battery life and also includes a GPS tracker. No camera is a good travel camera if the battery is always dead.

The Olympus E-M1 may have enough benefits to deserve consideration as the best camera for traveling. Then again, it has a few concerns that will hopefully be solved in future releases.  Overall, the Olympus OMD E-M1 is a perfect mirror-less camera that combines the effective control features and options of a DSLR in a smaller more compact design.

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Published in Travel Photography, Travel Photography Gear Reviews

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