For the E-M1’s travel test, we headed off to where all Cubans go to experience snow: Gatlinburg , TN. I was asked by some friends of our who own a cabin to take some nice photos of the property to update their rental website. More on that later.
5 shot panoramic shot with the panoramic assist function.
The E-M1, like the X-E1, is small and easy to carry. Unlike the X-E1, the E-M1 sports more robust construction including dust and weather sealing. Please note that not all of Olympus’ M.Zuiko lenses are weather sealed. Neither camera caused me any neck or shoulder pain during the trip. As I previously noted, the E-M1 is almost 19mm taller than the X-E1, mostly due to the E-M1’s OM SLR heritage.
Recently, Fuji Introduced a new camera in the X line: the X-T1 which sports the Retro SLR look as well (it looks like a mini Contax RTS to me) and here is a size comparison:
As you can see, they are practically the same size. Looks like someone started a trend. Expect my X-T1 review in March (I am not Phil nor Steve so I don’t get early access – yet).
The E-M1’s ergonomics are very well designed. A generous grip provides easy hand holding without resorting to add-on grips. If you are planning to use large legacy 4/3 lenses, you may want to spring for the optional HLD-7 battery grip which also sports a complete set of controls for easy portrait shooting. Olympus included their best-in-class 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and improved it by allowing it to work with all lenses including legacy glass from film lenses mounted via an adapter. Fuji uses optically stabilized lenses (of which there are currently three with two more on the way).
In the Field
The OM-D E-M1’s sensor is a Micro Four-Thirds 16 Mp affair similar to it’s older sibling, the E-M5 (don’t ask about the numbering scheme, no one is quite sure). However, the similarities stop there. The E-M1’s sensor does not have an anti-aliasing filter, leading to increased image sharpness. The E-M1’s sensor is usable to ISO 3200 (with post processing) whereas the E-M5 was usable up to ISO 1600. The E-M5 sensor has phase detection AF (PDAF) sensors built-in, while the E-M5 had only contrast detection AF (CDAF). While the E-M5’s autofocus speed rocked in single shot, the E-M1’s AF rocks even harder and the addition of PDAF sensors has fixed that pesky AF tracking issue.
OK, so how does this compare to X-E1 (the point of this story)?
The E-M1’s AF crushes the X-E1 to powder. It is not in the same league. The X-E2 and X-T1 are equipped with much better AF systems (including PDAF), but how it compares to the E-M1 remains to be seen (by me). Both the E-M1 and X-E1 lack anti-aliasing filters, so good glass will be stressed to the fullest (along with your photographic technique). High ISO on the X-E1 is clean all the way up to ISO 3200, whereas I am willing go up to ISO 2500 on the E-M1 with a little post-processing. YMMV. Still, the E-M1’s combo of IBIS and fast glass rendered most high-ISO situations pretty moot as it compensated nicely and helped keep the ISO values down.
Here are some night shots (all handheld):
As I mentioned, the tracking AF on the E-M1 is much improved over its predecessor, the E-M5. Is it perfect? No, but it’s pretty close. We took the kids tubing up at the Ober Gatlinburg ski resort and gave the low budget 40-150mm f/3.5-5.6 R II lens a workout. Here’s what I found: the E-M1’s abundance of AF points (which pretty much cover the screen) can also get squirrelly and start locking on to objects that pass in front of your subject! How to combat this? Reduce the AF area to allow the camera to better track the subject. This will require a bit of skill on your part to keep the subject with the receded AF array. The 10 fps burst rate helps but actually using the 6 fps setting got better results.
Well, that’s about it for now. I will be wrapping up this series with the next installment. Take care and please leave comments. Also, if you want to help out the site, please donate (we accept Bitcoin now) or click on the ads from our fine sponsors. Take care and keep shooting!