Olympus Announces New Flagship Professional DSLR: OM-D E-M1

Remember the Olympus E-5? If you don't, I can't say I blame you. It was Olympus's last attempt at a "professional" DSLR that was anything but. Everything about the E-5 felt outdated as soon as it was released. It's been years since the E-5, and Olympus is finally ready with its successor, the micro four thirds OM-D E-M1.

The E-M1 has an unusual design built for advanced photographers. It combines what Olympus is calling a "high-performance tool in a compact system camera package." The E-M1 is "packed with incredible speed and image quality that rivals full-frame DSLRs, in a portable yet lightweight body designed to go anywhere."

Here's what makes it somewhat unusual: The Olympus OM-D E-M1 works with all ZUIKO Digital lenses, in addition to working with M.ZUIKO Digital lenses. If I'm reading that right, it means it accepts every lens Olympus has ever made.

Olympus says this is possible due to "advanced DUAL FAST AF system that combines both Contrast AF and On-Chip Phase Detection AF. DSLR users familiar with an optical viewfinder will marvel at its electronic viewfinder (EVF) that is as large as a full-frame DSLR viewfinder and has added creative control."

Olympus OM_D E-M1_Fstoppers

Ok so let's get to the details Olympus really wants you to know about the new camera:

DSLR Image Quality
With the OM-D E-M1, experience the highest image quality of any Olympus camera through the combination of a new 16.3 megapixel Live MOS sensor, a new TruePic VII image processor, and its best-in-class M.ZUIKO lenses. The TruePic VII image processor reduces noise and color fading at high ISOs for improved image reproduction. New Fine Detail Processing II technology configures the appropriate sharpness processing for each individual lens for natural, high-quality resolution, as well as reducing compression artifacts when recording movies.

Fast and Accurate AF for Complete Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds Lens Compatibility
The newly developed DUAL FAST AF selects the ideal method, depending on lens type and settings: either 37-point On-Chip Phase Detection AF or 81-point Contrast Detection AF to maximize the performance of both ZUIKO and M.ZUIKO lenses. Both systems work together to significantly improve continuous autofocus tracking performance when a Micro Four Thirds lens is attached and C-AF is selected. Users can select Group Target AF for a variety of situations, Small Target AF for pinpoint shooting, or Super Spot AF for capturing even smaller subjects and specifying a small area focus location during macro shooting.

The TruePic VII engine supports 10 frames-per-second shooting with a 41-picture RAW buffer in single autofocus (S-AF) mode and 6.5 frames-per-second shooting with a 50-picture RAW buffer in continuous autofocus (C-AF) mode.

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New Super-Large Interactive Electronic Viewfinder
The E-M1’s advanced, built-in Interactive Electronic Viewfinder features a 1.48x (35mm equivalent of .74x) magnification factor that rivals full-frame DSLR cameras. The extremely high-resolution 2.36 million-dot LCD panel provides a large, clear image that is on a par with optical viewfinders. Tracking moving subjects is completely natural, with a display time lag of only 0.029 seconds. Users can experiment with aspect ratio, magnification, color, and highlight and shadow, and the effects of camera settings on subjects are viewable prior to capturing the finished image. Adaptive Brightness Control raises the brightness when shooting in bright outdoor conditions and lowers the brightness in dark indoor conditions, reducing visual errors from light and dark adaptation of the eye.

Color Creator is a new easy-to-use tool that fine-tunes hue and color saturation using the intuitive GUI and Live View screen, so users can create original images imbued with their own choice of colors. Creative Color was created with a designer's sensitivity in mind, and hue can be adjusted in 30 steps, and color saturation adjusted in eight steps, including the baseline.

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The Most Effective 5-Axis Image Stabilization System
The Olympus E-M1’s built-in 5-Axis Image Stabilization with Multi-Motion IS mechanism reduces the effects of camera motion and image blur from five directions. Whether shooting stills or HD video, even the motion blur caused by walking or running is stabilized. New algorithms make image stabilization more effective at low shutter speeds. When it is employed while panning during still image shooting or movie recording, IS-AUTO mode automatically detects the camera's movements and provides optimal correction regardless of direction or camera orientation – even when panning in a diagonal direction. Users can check the image stabilization effects on the Live View screen as well as the viewfinder to accurately frame and focus, even during telephoto or macro shooting. Multi-Motion IS, used in combination with the 5-Axis Image Stabilization mechanism, produces excellent correction during movie recording.

Rugged Freeze, Splash, Dustproof Durability
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 expands the dustproof and splashproof capabilities of the E-M5 even further with freezeproof capabilities — guaranteed operation down to 14 ºF — for the best environmental resistance of any Olympus interchangeable lens camera. Its durable magnesium alloy body, and weather-resistant seals and gaskets block moisture and dust for use in any environment, without sacrificing image quality. The camera’s Supersonic Wave Filter (SSWF) dust reduction system vibrates at a super-high speed of more than 30,000 times per second to powerfully remove dust particles so users can shoot in dusty environments.

Ultimate Camera Control
Advanced photographers will appreciate the intuitive 2x2 Dial Control system to easily adjust four often-used functions with the camera’s lever or two dials: aperture/shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO speed and white balance. A built-in grip similar to that of the E-M5 makes shooting with Four Thirds lenses more comfortable, and all frequently accessed buttons are logically laid out. Controls are now more functional: the settings reset function is activated by pressing and holding the OK button and there is a toggle option for the My Settings shortcut and a locking mode dial to prevent unintentional movement of the mode dial during shooting or when removing the camera from a case or bag. The dedicated “mic-in” jack supports an external microphone when recording HD movies and a built-in X-Sync socket easily connects to studio strobes.

Built-In Wi-Fi
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 includes built-in Wi-Fi, and the set-up is simple. By quickly scanning the QR code displayed on the camera's LCD with a smart device, it syncs with the Wi-Fi network created by the camera. The free Olympus Image Share 2.0 smartphone app synchronizes a user’s smartphone and E-M1 so the camera’s “Live View” is effectively displayed on the phone, and the camera can be controlled by touching the smartphone display as if it were the camera. This is ideal for taking self-portraits, capturing images of wildlife from a distance and sharing images easily online. The E-M1’s remote shooting function has been improved for use in all main shooting modes (P, A, S, M and iAUTO). Users can now wirelessly adjust various settings, such as the shutter speed, aperture value, ISO and exposure compensation, as well as operate the Live Bulb shooting mode from their Wi-Fi devices. They can also use their smartphone to embed GPS information into their images.

More Creative Features
New Diorama II adds to the popular range of Olympus in-camera Art Filters and offers left and right blur effect in addition to the top and bottom blur effect of Diorama I. The Olympus E-M1 is equipped with two variations of HDR Shooting – HDR1 and HDR2. With a single press of the shutter button, four images with differing exposures are captured and automatically merged in the camera into a single HDR high-contrast image or super-high-contrast image. Photo Story mode enables users to capture a scene from multiple viewpoints and then combine the images into a single image to create unique collages inside the camera. Time Lapse Movie converts the series of pictures taken using interval shooting into a movie inside the camera. The Time Lapse Movie length has been increased to a maximum of 100 seconds. The number of possible shots that can be captured with Interval Shooting has been increased to 999. The E-M1 is also equipped with Focus Peaking, which dramatically improves the usability of older manual focus lenses.

New High-Performance Lenses and Accessories for Every Shooting Challenge
The M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens (24–80mm, 35mm equivalent) is the first model in the new M.ZUIKO PRO category and is scheduled for release at the same time as the Olympus OM-D E-M1. It features dustproof and waterproof performance, toughness and excellent image quality. Its mount employs the same type of sealing as the camera body and is Movie & Still Compatible (MSC) with high-speed, near-silent autofocus during still shooting and high-definition (HD) video capture. It maintains the brightness of a constant f2.8 aperture for high-grade image creation, one of the requirements of professional photographers for a high-performance lens.

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If it was a possible option in a camera, Olympus looks like they've stuffed it in to the OM-D E-M1. It's fast, powerful, adaptive, lightweight and small. All that's left is to test it out and see how it performs with the range of lenses available from Olympus.

I don't know guys, it might be time to take Olympus seriously again. I have to say, I'm really impressed with what this camera is packing. Olympus has made some of the best selling and critically acclaimed small interchangeable lens cameras over the past two years, and if that is any indication of how this camera will perform, we have a lot to be excited about.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 will be available in October 2013 in the following configurations and estimated pricing:

$1399.99 Body only, available in Black
$2199.99 Black body with black M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens

In addition, Olympus announced two new lenses in development, the ZUIKO Digital ED 12–40mm f2.8 PRO lens (24–80mm, 35mm equivalent) and the ZUIKO Digital ED 40–150mm f2.8 PRO (80–300mm, 35mm equivalent). The release date of the 12-40mm will coincide with the release of the camera.The 40-150mm will be out in the latter part of 2014. It will be a telephoto zoom lens with a constant f2.8 aperture and will feature a dust-proof and splash-proof construction "rugged enough for professional use."

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44 Comments

JordanDrake's picture

I've shot with this and already filmed a video review! Check it out here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESOj56fWB8Q

Norshan Nusi's picture

Thanks for the review, Jordan!

Marty Bru's picture

personally, I wouldn't buy it, looks cheap and looks like crap

ajmills's picture

While I would agree that looks would play a small part in my decision in buying a camera, it really should be a fair way down the list of things to consider. Image quality, performance, how it handles, and so on, are far more important than its looks. Is it a tool to take photos, or is it a fashion accessory?

To be honest, I wouldn't say I like how it looks, but I would not dismiss it out of hand. There are times when a camera that doesn't attract too much attention from the "wrong sort" of people could be an advantage.

Mansgame's picture

Well, the insides are ugly too. Micro 4/3s? Even a Rebel has a bigger sensor.

ajmills's picture

Don't get me wrong, I am by no means an Olympus fan-boy - I am happy enough with my 7D for most things.

All I am saying is to not just dismiss it out of hand yet, wait for example images and proper reviews and comparisons to come out. The Olympus does have a different sensor type (Live MOS, if I recall), compared to the CMOS type of sensor used in most DSLRs. This may make a difference in quality compared to other micro 4/3 systems, and may (or may not) bring the quality closer to that produced by larger sensors.

Kyle Sanders's picture

Too bad it fails the only "real" test of a pro camera... it's got Auto & SCN mode on a dial. #overlyserious

Ciclismo's picture

You don't have to use them. And, IMO, that was a smart addition, because they've broadened the potential customer base, giving this camera a fighting chance against the dearth of other models in this price category.

Kyle Sanders's picture

Their placement doesn't look like it would easily get bumped either, so that's good!

Brendan's picture

My 6D has those. Sorta crying right now.

Kyle Sanders's picture

Heh, I do hope you guys know my comment was in jest!

Will Binks's picture

a 'pro' camera with a rinky dink sensor.. NO thanks. Wheres the FF sony with a d800 sensor?? THATS what I want.. :p

Maarten de Boer's picture

Nice buffer size, that's about the only nice thing I could find. Cheap looks, uncomfortable brick design, EVF, built-in HDR and much more. Oh and have you seen the back of the camera and the lack of buttons, I puked. No 'pro' camera at all imo, clearly they're lagging behind on the competition and I have no idea why we should take Olympus serious again, it's a joke.

Deter Pinklage's picture

Looks better designed than Nikon bodies.

Vladimir Byazrov's picture

Why label it professional? Pro photographers will never choose this thing, but amateurs might decide they don't need it yet.

Jason Hite's picture

I'm a pro photographer and I use my Olympus OMD E-5 almost as much as my DSLR. You know what they say about making assumptions!

Jr Miller's picture

Big fan of mirrorless cameras..would be nice to see "a pro" actually use them for real work to give people an idea of how they stack up to standard dslr's..Can only stand so many rocks, pets and signposts as image samples.

louisleblanc's picture

Zack Arias is raving about the fuji x-series on his blog. He's taken some great shots with it and says he doesn't miss the DSLR though he does shoot on medium format on occasion. Trey Ratcliff switched from a Nikon d800 to a Sony nex7 he also talked about it in length on his blog.

That being said, other than in the video world, micro four thirds doesn't have much traction with the pros.

Jr Miller's picture

You can do HDR and landscapes on a point and shoot to your hearts desire and street photography hardly requires a camera north of $1K. All the Zack Arias's out there haven't shown any significant work done with a mirrorless camera. Where are the food shoots, architectural shoots, fashion and beauty work, wedding etc...?

Mansgame's picture

But when push comes to shove, Zack has a Phase One.

Jr Miller's picture

Precisely my point...they are eager to take advantage of getting these new cameras to "try out" all the while claiming they aren't being paid. As if money is the only form of compensation...Then there is always the "but"...great camera but I'll use my DSLR when it comes time for real work.

The excuses vary...my personal fav is that clients will think something is up if they show up with a compact camera system. BS artists, most of them.

Mansgame's picture

Seems like the worst of all worlds. It's almost as big as a DSLR but has a sensor the size of many point and shoots and priced more than many DSLR's with bigger sensors. What's the point? Oh and it's an Olympus.

Morgan Glassco's picture

When I saw it with grip on I was laughing. So spend more than a D7100 for a smaller sensor and probably bigger (at least taller) camera taking away its true niche, size.

Mansgame's picture

Well now, you can't have a "pro" camera without a grip, can you? It's like having a fast car without a spoiler.

Michael Miller's picture

A pro label on a camera means nothing if there is not a pro holding it. I shoot all of my 2012 commercial work with a Fuji x100. that camera is a hobby camera to most.

Here is a person doing great things with the original OMD which was a great success.

http://www.f8photography.com.hk/tag/omd/

https://youtu.be/d7ZnMSt7c_k

Chris D Johnson's picture

As mentioned by a few people already; it looks crap. It reminds me of a D1-H or something, its crude and about a decade behind the times in terms of styling. If they've put this much thought into the styling, does that mean as much thought has gone into the design of the rest of the camera? Whether or not that is the case, I know its put that thought into my mind and probably many others too.

Mansgame's picture

Except a D1H had a bigger sensor!

BDWT's picture

I really dig the body, it's a nice blend between a vintage camera body and something modern and edgy, like a machine.

Sort it out's picture

"New Flagship Professional DSLR"

Does anyone even read this trash from these hack contributors before they go out? Even the most clueless person even remotely interested in photography could tell you this isn't a DSLR.

Goddamn. Fire everyone. Bring back Patrick and Lee and let's get back to the quality content we used to have.

Joe Gunawan's picture

You are a straight idiot. Who cares if it's not a DSLR. It not being a DSLR does not automatically makes it a failure.

Go sit on your lens or something.

Sort it out's picture

Did you even read my comment? Looks like you're the "straight idiot" here.

I didn't make a single allusion to how it performs, and I'm sure it's a great camera.

I'm commenting more on the fact that most articles nowadays are either rushed out copy-paste hack jobs(which is the case here), stupid or idiotic click-bait to appeal to the reddit users, or just plain trash.

I remember when I could come here, and I would read literally every article. Well thought out, intelligently curated and honest and on-point opinions. Now i'm lucky if I even click through to one article in 3 pages.

You're a good photographer. Don't ruin your reputation by name calling and trigger happy commenting. It makes you look childish.

Joe Gunawan's picture

Alright, my comment was a little harsh, and I misread your comment. My apologies.

james mckinnis's picture

I bought 2 "professional Olympus"'s when I was just changing careers because they were promoted as "professional" market cameras--they were 0M-1's, along with lenses, etc. A while later, I was the only individual with a camera aboard a Washington State ferry on which there was a fire and all the crew and passengers were wearing life-jackets preparing for possible evacuation. I was shooting pictures as fast as I could, when my "professional grade" Olympus's back popped open ruining my film! Later I wrote Olympus complaining about the locking mechanism on their camera which was anything but "professional grade"--by this time, I'd ditched all my OM equipment for Canon F-1's taking a substantial loss as I couldn't sell them without letting people know the problem. Olympus replied, "What do you expect us to do?!"--Even in a telephone conversation, they did NOT admit that there was anything fragile in their design--A Nikon or Canon, btw, professional grade, will have a security second step device so that you CANNOT spring the back--the OM-1 didn't, hence the loss of the exclusive images. BTW, the fire was contained and we did not have to ditch in the middle of Puget Sound, but I vowed to reveal Olympus's flawed thinking every time I could. Even 30 years later, getting even is sweet! Thank you Olympus!

Edward Porter's picture

Someone has a little PTSD. 30 years and still holding a grudge?

Edward Porter's picture

I enjoy reading Fstoppers articles, but jesus... this community needs some happy pills.

Mansgame's picture

I can't speak for the other negative people on here but I'm actually a very pleasant guy in real life. Photography is my escape and just as fantasy geeks argue about their players' stats, I like to argue about camera gear and pour it on when there is bad photography being promoted.

Spy Black's picture

I know Olympus has committed itself to 4/3, but I wish they would make an FX digital OM with the same pivoting sensor as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 that would take every Zuiko lens ever made. That would be awesome.

Alexander Luthor's picture

So much negativity from people who hasn't even held/shot with the camera yet.

Mansgame's picture

I've never got my hand caught in a lawnmower either but that doesn't mean I need to try it to find out. The sensor is the most important part of a digital camera and this one has a tiny one. You can't sugar coat that.

John Dee's picture

The most important thing about a digital camera isn't the sensor but the one who is holding it. Knowing your cameras limitations are all part of the game and knowing how to adapt to that allows you to nail it. Above, you mentioned the D1H has a bigger sensor. Comparing technology from 2001 to 2013 is a debate which is a lost one. Technology has certainly evolved since those times and digital cameras are no different. There is no "perfect" camera and there never will be. Some people don't want to lug around gear that weighs more than the average dog, some do. In the end, it's all in how YOU use it.

Scott Foster's picture

Wouldn't the full frame sensor be considered tiny next to a medium format sensor?

Guest's picture

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Rodolfo Arechiga's picture

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I, for one, see this camera as a cool looking camera with a bit of nostalgia for film slr cameras. Seriously would buy it!

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I've been shooting all week with this camera. Sort of a try before you buy from the local photography shop. I need a new camera and I'm very seriously considering this one; it was recommended to me by a respected professional photographer. My biggest resistance to upgrading my current system is that I just don't want MORE weight added, more stuff to lug around, etc. I do a lot of nature and street photography and work events as a journalist, I do not want something that screams "professional photographer" all the time like some systems do *coughcanoncough*, nor do I want something noisy (scares off the wildlife). But I do want something that performs and creates images I can put on a magazine cover.

Some cool things I've noticed... image stabilization is pretty amazing. I was doing long exposures at the beach without a tripod and they came out just fine. I'm using the 14-42mm lens and there isn't a single thing I haven't been able to do so far. Maybe some super macro shots of insects might not work but some decent pictures in a garden is no problem. If I buy, the lenses are very affordable and I'll probably just go with this lens, a pancake, and a telephoto. This camera weighs only as much as my regular telephoto lens by itself. A huge weight off when I'm hiking because I don't feel like a pack mule. It's very quiet, so quiet the models I'm working with don't hear it when the shutter snaps, and I haven't scared off any wildlife. The detail is absolutely incredible in both jpg and raw, but especially raw. I had someone take a photo of me for a staff picture, they stood 6 feet away, didn't zoom in, and you can see that I had something in the corner of my eye and have a stray eyebrow hair that needs to be plucked. In fact, this was the first photo of myself I've ever retouched lol.

Cons... Because I'm not carrying a very conspicuous and obvious pro camera *coughcanoncough*, you'd think I'm just showing up places with a coolpix or an iPhone with the way people have reacted. I don't like the Liveview on the back. You can only angle the screen but not close it. As I am outside a lot, I want to protect the screen when I'm not using it, which is almost all the time when the camera has a view finder.

So I'm still undecided. It's pretty decent for the money and I could buy 2 bodies and a full set of lenses for what it would cost to upgrade my current system. But I haven't done video, tethered it, or tested it with any lighting yet because that just isn't on my schedule this week.