Some of you may recall that when the original Olympus E-M1 was released 3 years ago, quite a controversy was stirred up by its handling of long exposures. Basically, the noise level for the E-M1 was much higher than that for it’s much cheaper predecessor, the E-M5. At the time, I was able to compare an E-M1 and E-M5 side-by-side, and wrote up the results for public scrutiny.
So, now that the E-M1II is available (if only in limited quantities so far), I thought it’d be interesting to compare my copy of it to my E-M1 that helped make such a stir (while I still own it). I’ve also got an E-M5II on hand, so thought I should throw it into the mix as well.
This weekend, the local honeybees were giving some echinacea blooms in our yard a good workover, so I thought I was overdue in documenting their work.
Normally, the bees seem to prefer working solo. But even though we’ve got a swath of echinacea for them to work on, sometimes they need to “double up” in order to keep working. I used an Olympus E-M1 and 60mm macro for this shot, BTW.
For a brief period of time, I owned three wide zooms that worked well on my OlympusE-M1 body — so I thought I should take the opportunity to compare their performance on a quick walk around a neighborhood park. Actually writing up this review took a bit of time, and was prompted by an excellent comparison of two of these lenses over on Small Camera Big Picture.
A warning to pixel peepers: what follows is a real-life experiential comparison.
I stumbled across something interesting on micro-4/3 camera forums, and thought it worth pursuing. It’s been said (here, and here, and here) that the Olympus E-M1 has a problem with long exposures. I’d noticed what looked like grain in my E-M1 images, so thought maybe it had a similar cause.
Since I’ve got an E-M1 and an E-M5 camera, and a bit of history with debugging, I thought I was well-placed to do some characterization testing. To get a fair comparison, I first ran pixel mapping on my E-M5 and E-M1 bodies (to take care of any obviously “hot” pixels on the sensors), then took dark images (with the lens cap on) under the same conditions with both bodies:
60 second exposure
Noise Filter set to Standard
I did this twice for each camera body — once with Noise Reduction off, and once with it on. I took all 4 RAW images, converted them to JPG using Olympus Viewer 3, then grabbed a 400×400 pixel crop out of the center of each.
If you follow the camera gear press at all, you’ve likely heard that OlympusÂ has announced their new flagship digital camera: the OMD E-M1. Â If you’re a dedicated Canon or Nikon or Sony or Pentax (etc.) shooter, this likely won’t matter much to you.
But for those of us that have been users of the 4/3 system cameras, or of the newer micro-4/3 system gear — it’s a very big deal.
It’s basically been a foregone conclusion of late that OlympusÂ had decided to abandon the now 10-year-old 4/3 system. Â There wasn’t any official announcement to that effect, but the last 4/3 camera (the E-5) was released late in 2010, and available 4/3 lenses are solid performers but not exactly spring chickens either.
So OlympusÂ has now officially stated that the E-M1 will sit at the top of their line-up, replacing the 4/3 system E-5. Â The E-M5 carries on one rung below the E-M1 (hopefully the now-confusing numbering will get cleaned up with the next release cycles), and the Pen series digital cameras hanging on below that.
All well and good, but what’s the new camera got to offer? Â The E-M1 is in many ways an improved E-M5, so on a pure specification basis, here are the big differences I see:
Better ergonomics (check out the grip, much like what the E-M5 only offers with an accessory purchase)
Improved sensor and image processor — anti-aliasing moves from a filter on the sensor to software in the processor, better overall low-light response, built-in phase detection pixels on the sensor (giving it good handling of 4/3 lenses), smaller autofocus target points
Improved viewfinder (essentially the same as what’s in the VF-4 accessory unit released with the E-P5)
WiFi and remote operation
Focus peaking (a godsend for manual focusing of lenses from the pre-digital days)
Improved weather sealing, more-rugged body frame
I’d love to be able to give you a first-person report of this unit’s handling, and show you pictures I’ve taken with it — but unfortunately I’m not one of the lucky few that received a review unit before the release. Â I’m waiting along with everybody else that placed a pre-order, and is now waiting for their prize to arrive in the mail (hopefully in October).
But for now, I’ll do what I can do — and that’s compare the E-M1 user manual to the E-M5 user manual to sort out some less-publicized differences and commonalities between the two cameras.