As my newest Samsung camera, the NX300M, had to undergo a service journey right away, I loaned an Olympus OM-D EM1 for the weekend. We went to Kiel as some friends got married on saturday. I had the OM-D EM1 with the Olympus 12-40 f2.8 Pro and 75mm f1.8 lenses on loan. The 75 stayed inside my back the whole event. I used it Sunday on a walk in a forest and I've already used it on a photowalk last year with the OM-D EM5.
OM-D EM5 a year ago left me with the memory of spongy buttons and too little to get a grip on. So it was welcome to feel the buttons on the EM1 being much better on first impression. That impression stayed true for all the buttons except the shutter release. Sadly it has no distinct stop at half press. That's a real pity, as the dual control wheels and direct buttons feel great.
Another thing that I didn't like with the original OM-D was the absence of a grip on the camera. At that time, I owned the NX11 myself and even its small grip made a huge difference in handling compared to the EM5. Therefor, I had high hopes for the much bigger grip on the EM1. This thing is the most uncomfortable design I've felt so far. I have big hands and the grip is much to narrow. I have to pinch my fingers into the body between grip and lens to get some sort of grip on the camera. That way, my fingers started hurting 10 minutes after picking up the EM1. In the end, I ended up carrying the camera with the left hand on the lens and just using my right hand to operate it, without really holding it. I think that I would go with a Panasonic GH4 instead of the OM-D when plunging down that amount of cash for a Micro Fourthirds camera, just because of the grip.
Bad think number three is the menu system. I can remember my old Olympus e600 had an overwhelming feature set, menu wise but the OM-Ds trump that by far. While using the EM5 a year ago, I shot it in A and fixed ISO, with standard settings, as I was tired searching for the menu item I looked for, after 5 minutes. With the EM1, its no different story. You can change as good as everything but you also search blody ages for everything as well... I ended up googling the postition of the settings I wanted to change. I do appreciate the possibilty to tinker with a gadget and I like geeky stuff, like the possibility of customizing every little think on a device. In the end, that's one reason I'm using android instead of iOS. It gets problematic, if you want to change the size of the focus point, which is damm hard to see by the way, and can't find it.
Well, there have also been thinks, I really like about the interface and handling. The possibility to show blown highlights in the viewfinder will taking a shot is really cool. The viewfinder itself is big and gorgeous, in contrast to the rear screen sadly. It is much bigger than the finder on the NX11/20/30 and on par with the Galaxy NX, which I really enjoyed. It is higher resolution than the Galaxys viewfinder but the eye point is similarly welcome.
While the focus point is to small for every usage, it is really easy to alter its position with the four-way rocker.
The biggest plus by far for me is, how nice, quiet and smooth the shutter operates. No big rumble as with the Sony A7/7r, no electronical squeeky noise as with the NX20, just smooth and clean and quiet. I really love that sound!
Image quality. Thats a double-edged sword. On the one side, it is impressive what Olympus and Panasonic achieved in terms of high ISO with the new sensors. The 16MP 4/3rds sensor compares favorably to the 20MP APS-C sensor in my NX cameras. At ISO 800-1600 it sometime even seems to have the edge. On the other side, the base ISO is much to noisy for my taste. At ISO 200 I get a lot more noise than I'm used to with my NX and ISO 100 (low) seems to not be any better. This is a real shame, as I can cope with high ISO noise in post but I would rather like, not to have to cope with it on lower ISO to get really clean and sharp results.
What struck me about image quality as well, is that the raw images from the OM-D are really flat. I had to invest much more post processing time than with my usual workflow and wasn't really able to get rid of the flatness completely. Thats a shame as I didin't have the same feeling with the old 12MP 4/3rds sensor as used in the e600.
Bottomline. Nice sounding, tank of a camera with questionable image quality for me and a mediocre handling.