Olympus has at long last announced the replacement for the ageing E-5 DSLR, but it might not be what people were expecting. Richard Sibley tests the micro four thirds OM-D E-M1. Read the Olympus OM-D E-M1 review...
Olympus OM-D E-M1 review – Build and handling
‘Rugged’ is probably the best word to describe the build of the Olympus OM-D E-M1. Its magnesium-alloy body is weather-sealed, and it is splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof down to -14°F – again, perfect for the change in seasons. The quality of its body makes the E-M1 one of the most professional digital CSCs we have seen to date.
The new E-M1 builds upon the existing E-M5, which was released over a year ago, and Olympus has clearly listened to customer feedback. The buttons on the rear of the new camera are smooth and rounded, unlike the functional, clunky buttons of the E-M5. The mode dial now locks into position, which prevents it being accidentally knocked to a different mode, and there have been some new buttons added.
On the rear of the camera is a two-way switch that changes the function of the two dials on the camera’s top-plate. By default these are set to change the aperture/shutter speed and exposure compensation. Flicking the switch to its second position sets the ISO to one dial and white balance to the other, although the function can be tailored to an individual’s needs in the custom menu.
Also on the camera’s top-plate are two buttons with dual purposes – one for AF/metering, and the other for shooting mode/HDR. This set-up means that you can change any of these settings while shooting, with just a quick turn of your thumb or forefinger. The ergonomic button array allows you to easily change the most used exposure and shooting settings, but by combining buttons and giving them multiple functions it maximises the space used on the camera.
Make no mistake, despite being large (as far as compact system cameras go), the E-M1 is still far smaller than a DSLR and equivalent lens, and weighs a lot less too. However, by adding the relatively large grip (originally an accessory for the OM-D E-M5), the camera can be used comfortably with larger lenses – which will be essential for any Olympus E-system DSLR users upgrading to the E-M1.
With so many buttons and controls, it is easy to forget that the E-M1 also has a touchscreen. I rarely used it, though, as it was just as quick to change settings using the buttons and dials. However, for selecting an area of focus, the touchscreen is far faster than using the buttons.
If I have one complaint about the camera’s handling, it is that it can be a bit daunting to set up and use for the first time. There are many different customisation options, particularly when it comes to all the different image styles and options for changing the colour and contrast – but more on this later.