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Has Olympus killed the DSLR with the launch of the Olympus OM-D E-M1?


September 12, 2013

The new Olympus OM-D E-M1 could be the end of the DSLR, at least as far as Olympus is concerned

The new Olympus OM-D E-M1 could be the end of the DSLR, at least as far as Olympus is concerned

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Olympus has revealed its new flagship camera, the OM-D E-M1. While the mirrorless camera builds on the success of the E-M5, it's actually been designed as the successor to the last DSLR the firm produced, the E-5. As such, the camera boasts a chunky grip and manual controls galore. There's also a 16 megapixel sensor with no optical low-pass filter, a speedy autofocus system and built-in Wi-Fi.

The OM-D E-M5 was a big hit for Olympus, which is presumably why it will remain on sale alongside the new camera. It charmed people with its retro good looks, and introduced many people to the potential of mirrorless cameras. Now, a year later, Olympus thinks it's created a truly DSLR-beating camera in the OM-D E-M1, which combines the portability of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras with the manual controls and image quality normally associated with DSLRs. It's hard to imagine the company releasing another mirrored camera after this.

Everything about the Olympus OM-D E-M1 screams high-end. Its 4/3-inch, 16 megapixel Live MOS sensor is anti-aliasing filter free, meaning it should be capable of shooting more detailed images. This is paired with a new TruePic VII image processor enabling an ISO range of 100 - 25,600. Also present is the impressive 5-axis image stabilization from the PEN E-P5, which helps to bag sharp hand-held shots, even at large zoom ratios.

The new shooter is also capable of continuous shooting at a not-too-shabby 10 fps (though this drops to 6.5 fps with continuous AF), and can record up to 50 RAW files at this pace. A new Dual Fast AF system is also said to be the fastest ever seen on an Olympus camera. However, while it combines both phase detection (as seen on DSLRs) and contrast AF (used in mirrorless and compact cameras) it does so differently to hybrid systems like that on the Sony NEX.

When using Micro Four Thirds lenses to shoot stills, the E-M1 uses 81-point contrast detection in Single AF, and a combination of contrast and phase detection to shoot in Continuous AF. However, when using older Four Thirds lenses – which can be mounted with an adapter – it only makes use of its 37 phase detection points. This is good news for Four Thirds DSLR shooters who should be able to get the same sort of speed performance out of their older lenses on the new mirrorless camera as they do their DSLRs. Only contrast detection is used when shooting video with Micro Four Thirds lens (so no Canon 70D-like magic) and it's manual focus only for Four Thirds lens.

The construction of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is another area where it can rival all but the toughest of DSLRs. Featuring a rugged magnesium casing and 60 gasket rings, it is dust, splash and freezeproof down to -10 degrees Celsius (14° F). Thanks to use of a 2x2 Dial Control system (as seen in the PEN E-P5) and addition buttons, there's all the access to manual settings that most photographers are going to need or want.

Sitting at the top of the camera is a new electronic viewfinder which covers 100 percent of the frame, has a 2,360K dot resolution and boasts a 1.48x magnification, meaning it's as big as the optical viewfinders on many Full Frame DSLRs. Unlike slow EVFs of old, it has a lag of just 0.029 seconds, which Olympus says is quick enough that you won't even notice it. There's also a 3-inch tiltable LCD touchscreen on the rear with a 1,037K dot resolution which comes into its own for shooting in awkward positions or video. The OM-D E-M1 can shoot Full HD 1080p video at 30 fps and is the first Olympus camera to feature a standard external microphone input.

Other things worth noting about the new flagship camera include that fact that it has a shutter speed that goes to 1/8000 second, this is important if shooting with fast lenses in bright conditions. The TruePic VII image processor can also help to get the best out of older Olympus lenses by automatically recognizing them and adjusting processing to deliver the best quality images.

Wi-Fi capabilities are also built in, allowing not just the wireless sharing of images, but also remote shooting with the ability to mirror the Live View LCD on your phone’s touch screen and switch between shooting modes and make adjustments to things like aperture and shutter speed.

Measuring 130.4 x 93.5 x 63.1 mm (5.1 x 3.7 x 2.5 in), the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is available to pre-order now, ahead of release in October. It will cost US$1,400 body-only.

New Lenses

Because a camera is only as good as the glass in front of it, it's also nice to see that Olympus has announced a pair of quality Micro Four Thirds zooms. First up is the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12 - 40 mm f2.8 PRO lens (which gives a 35 mm format focal length equivalent of 24 - 80 mm). In addition to the fixed F2.8 maximum aperture, the lens promises dustproof and waterproof performance along with top-notch image quality.

Coming along later next year is the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 40-150 mm F2.8 PRO which would pair nicely with the previous lens as it carries on at the telephoto end to 80 - 300 mm (in 35 mm format equivalent). It will also feature a dustproof and splashproof construction rugged enough for professional use.

The M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12 - 40 mm f2.8 PRO is scheduled for release alongside the OM-D E-M1 in October prices at $1,000, while the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 40 - 150 mm F2.8 PRO will be available in the latter half of 2014, but there's no price on that one yet.

Source: Olympus

About the Author
Simon Crisp Simon is a journalist and photographer who has spent the last ten years working for national UK newspapers - but has never hacked a mobile phone - and specializes in writing about weird products and photography technology. When not writing for Gizmag, Simon is often found playing with LEGO and drinking far too much coffee. All articles by Simon Crisp

Olympus has been irrelevant in the SLR market for a long long time.


slr is dead.

Jonathan Kim

This is a move that others will all eventually follow. Sony is releasing a starter SLR-style mirrorless body and I'm sure they will follow with higher end A-mount bodies in the years to come. This camera is actually a great deal if it performs well. The only problem being the limited choice of glass to go with the mount. But for those who already own lenses this is an interesting camera.

Siegfried Gust

LOL, 16MP ...... Is this a new camera or a 2008 model ? Revolution ? There is really nothing new or groundbreaking here at all. Micro 4/3 sensor ? That's just a bit bigger than a GoPro, but a gopro does 4k Video, this camera tops out at 1080P 30fps ...... I really don't think any SLR manufacturers are worried at all ....


When Olympus initially announced the release of an OM-D I was, along with many others I'm sure, incredibly excited. The prospect of a digital body based on my beloved OM-1 which I could use my zuiko f1.4 lenses on was almost too much to bear, sadly that camera or indeed this does not deserve to have OM anywhere near it. 4/3rds sensor? Digital viewfinder? Come on Olympus! Give us a proper compact slr camera with a full frame sensor an optical viewfinder and a simple light meter and you will send millions! Am I alone here?


Forget the Sony NEX, that was last year. Look at the Sony NX


All the specs don't compare image quality. It would be tough to beat the 6D for a similar price point. Will be hanging out for DPREVIEW to comment on this newby - maybe.

Andrew Cox

Matthew: Actually, quite alot of OM glass performs wonderfully on micro4/3. Not the 50f1,4 though. Too soft. But the 50f1,8 is great, so is the 135's, and of course the superb 90f2 macro, and many more. They all get the best stabiliser in the business, and the evf can magnify up to 14x while stabilising. Don't bash it if you don't know it.

S26t: when ridiculing 16mp of resolution; do you find the mighty nikon d4 a "lol" camera? I have printed 50*70cm with a 6mp d70, looks great. It's all about the glass. And that is where micro4/3 is superior, performance vs price and size. As for revolution: 10 fps for 50 raw-files? That is pro performance at a bargain.

Patrick Kristiansen

These haters are gonna hate, but they clearly havent put their hands on the EM5 or EM1. I shoot weddings professionally. I have done so for the last 4 years and pull between $2k-5k per wedding. So I'm what you would call a "real professional." I bought the OMD EM5 a year ago and have begun to build a strong portfolio of primes. About 6 months ago I decided to do a test with my 5Dii and all of my L lenses against my OMD and its primes.

The results were so amazing that I have now ditched Canon. My images were consistently sharper across the board with the OMD (by a significant margin). The L lenses are a joke in comparison with the Zuikos primes, especially for the huge price tag and the ridiculously heavy weight of the lenses. The difference in high ISO noise was hardly noticeable. Yes, I do get slightly less DOF, but I still get amazing DOF with my 45mm 1.8 and my 75mm 1.8.

I just purchased the EM1 and now I know for sure I made the right decision to dump Canon.

The Olympus system has allowed me to offer something to my clients that I could never do with a Canon. Fusion films. I am one of 2 people in my entire market that offer Fusion Films to my wedding clients. And I can do this with ease.

Perhaps the most revolutionary part of the OMD's is the 5axis stabilization. It is scary good. Like "how does this even exist" good. I am able to hand hold video and make amazing dynamic movements that make it look like I'm using a crane or steady cam. UNBELIEVABLE!

There is nothing Canon could do at this point to make me regret my decision. Anyone who hates on this system has never tried it and is speaking out of total ignorance. Haters are gonna hate...

Jordan Bunch

Jordan Taylor Bunch, totally agree with you. I have the EM 5 and have been surprised at the quality. I have been photographing for almost 14 years professionally and I would compare this camera quality to possibly a Nikon D300 and the noise handling about a Canon 5d Mk 1. However, i was shooting commercially with those cameras for years and they were great and perfect. I love the compactness and the price tag.

One thing i found out about this camera that i love is the use of ND filters with flash. Since it has an electronic viewfinder the camera actually can compensate for the ND filter so it doesn't look like your focusing in pitch black. I do wish that we can see a greater sync speed for these cameras since theres no actual shutter.

Anyways great camera, its only going to get better from now on. Just because the sensor is smaller doesn't mean technology won't catch up. a 250 mb hard drives were the size of a car half a century ago, now a 64 gb hard drive is the size of thumbnail.

Thiep Nguyen

I've been shooting full time (and getting paid for shooting) since 2010. I started as a hobby with a D40 and got my first gig at Seaworlds Discovery Cove shooting the Dolphins with there families AWESOME GIG! There, I shot with a D90 another awesome camera. In 2011 I applied to several cruise line photographer positions and finally got one with Holland America Line. I was pumped and purchased a D7000. Another great choice....I thought about full frame because I mean who wouldn't. But then I realized for me, unless I was shooting billboards, actors or professional sports did I really NEED a full frame. Anyway, I was right. The only people on cruise ships who had full frame were kids with a little money and thought you needed a full frame for a decent picture. Turns out...you don't. On a cruise ship you shoot everything. Weddings, ROVs, ballrooms, parties, gangways, studios, white knights.....and everything in between. And all of them get printed on monster Fuji machines. I'm talking thousands of prints per day. When your printing 8-10 10-13 and 7-10 pictures ANY decent camera with a good lens will look great. I've seen photographers shoot with a D3000 or a D5100 and with the right settings and studio (if you actually know what your doing) pictures look just the same. SO for all those so called professional photographers who claim you need a full frame camera for a great picture. You ABSOLUTELY do not know what your talking about. Now, is a full frame camera a better camera.....ABSOLUTELY! I'm not saying it's not. All I am saying is you do not NEED a full frame camera to get professional photos. Had to get that out there for those PRO photographers who A don't get paid for it and B have never held or shot with a CSC a. Anyway.....I purchased a OMD em5 for a backup camera two years ago, within a year I upgraded to an EM1. Last year I sold every Nikon camera and lens I had. All I shoot with PROFESSIONALLY and getting paid for selling my pictures every day! Is my OMD EM1 and my EM10. Granted, I have spent thousands on lenses but as any REAL photographer knows it's not the body, it's the glass! What I mean by that is in another year, maybe two I will buy a new Olympus OMD body....because it will be better that the one I have BUT I'll still be using the same glass. So I guess the only point I would like to get accross to the nitwits who bad mouth mirror less cameras is before give your input at least shoot with one and know what your talking about..... I love Nikon, I love full frame cameras! But more that that, I have a choice of what I shoot with and for ME the OMD hands down completely blows away any Nikon or Canon SLR. For ME! And I know, I don't think that my picture quality is just as good for what my needs are and what I'm printing.

Steve Smith
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