Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mirrorless Camera with Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens
- Enter your model number to make sure this fits.
- 16.3MP CMOS Four Thirds sensor with 5-axis sensor shift image stabilization
- 10 frames per second continuous shooting
- Contrast detect and phase detect AF
- ISO range 100-25,600
- 1080 30fps HD video (H.264/Motion JPEG
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
|Auto Focus Technology||Dual System|
|Battery Type||Lithium Ion|
|Compatible Mountings||Micro Four Thirds|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||10 fps|
|Display Resolution Maximum||2,360,000|
|External Memory Included||No|
|File Format||RAW, JPEG|
|Flash Memory Installed Size||128|
|Flash Memory Type||SDXC;;;|
|Image Aspect Ratio||4:3|
|Item Dimensions||3.6 x 5 x 6.5 inches|
|Item Weight||5.3 pounds|
|Lithium Battery Energy Content||9.3 Watt Hours|
|Lithium Battery Voltage||7.6 Volts|
|Manufacturer Warranty Description||1 year parts and labor|
|Maximum Aperture Range||2.8|
|Maximum Focal Length||40|
|Minimum Focal Length||12|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||16.3 MP|
|Optical Sensor Technology||CMOS|
|Photo Filter Thread Size||62 mm|
|Photo Sensor Technology||CMOS|
|Sensor Cleaning Method||Built-in|
|Shipping Weight||5.1 pounds|
|Style Name||w/ 12-40mm PRO Lens|
|Supported Battery Types||Olympus BLN-1|
|Video Capture Format||h.264|
|Viewfinder Description||2,360,000 dots|
|Viewfinder Type||electronic viewfinder|
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 unleashed a revolution in photography. The OM-D E-M1 is starting another. Stay on the leading edge of the imaging technology curve with the new OM-D E-M1. It embodies the revolutionary design elements that will send your imagination into overdrive-at warp speed. Full magnesium alloy body construction, an intuitive control layout with customizable direct control buttons, an interactive “best in class” large, easy to view, 1.48X viewfinder, and In-Body 5-Axis Image Stabilization combine to create one extraordinary photographic tool for professionals and serious photo enthusiasts alike.
Top customer reviews
1. Absolutely YES...if you are a dedicated Olympus guy/gal with a serious investment in Zuiko lenses, then this upgrade is an absolute no-brainer. Buy it now and you will finally be able to compete with your Canon and Nikon buddies in low-light and high resolution. They'll be jealous of the small package and amazing array of features in this camera, and you'll finally get the full performance out of the Zuiko HG and SHG lenses that were always overmatched for the Olympus bodies (more on the performance of the camera below).
2. Almost certainly...if you are looking for your first DSL system and prefer a very lightweight and compact camera system over the bulkier full-size DSLRs YET you still want pro-level control and image quality AND a large selection of medium-to-high grade lenses. If that description fits you, then this camera is the best choice today. The micro four thirds standard is the most diverse system in this category, as Nikon and Canon have yet to really compete in the mirrorless segment beyond a few entries and lenses. Sony is another good option, but their mirrorless lens choices are very thin and overpriced IMO...but I digress.
3. Seriously Consider...if you are Canon/Nikon pro who makes money with your photography and you're looking for a smaller rig on occasion. The EM-1 could be a nice second (or third) rig with image quality that will impress you even in low light. The light weight and small size of the lenses (especially the fast primes) will surprise you. You might find yourself in places and situations where the full-size camera is too imposing or distracting, while the EM-1 is barely even noticeable (and the shutter is nearly silent). I think we're going to see the mirrorless systems showing up more often in professional settings, especially as the bodies improve and the lens choices increase. Right now, this is the best of the breed.
4. Maybe...if you have an aging full-size DSLR from Canon or Nikon and it's time for an upgrade. Depending on how much you have invested in your glass, a switch to this system should give you substantially better image performance, much smaller size and probably less cost when compared to buying a new full-size sensor body with several fast lenses. It's a commitment to a new system, but if your current setup is old and can't cut it any longer, then this might be the right time to switch.
5. Probably not...if you are invested heavily in Canon and Nikon glass and accessories. The quality of this camera is very, very good, but not good enough to justify significant expense in new lenses.
I bought this camera because I fit into category 1 above. I am a long-time Olympus digital SLR owner (which has not been an easy road, frankly). I originally bought into the Olympus four-thirds system because their lenses were so much faster (i.e., brighter) than competitors at a similar price point, and their equipment is very well made. I think the price was a bit steep (even more than I paid for my E-5), but the quality to match the price is there, and let's face it...Olympus owners don't really have a choice if we want to continue using our high-end Olympus glass.
Some background on my perspective...skip the nex paragraph if you don't care.
I started with the E-1, moved to the E-620 and then the E-5. I've been using the E-5 exclusively for the past three years. (I also bought a Panasonic mirrorless micro four thirds body to play with, but I never liked the lack of control it offered, so I stuck with the E-5.) I also have many Olympus lenses, including four of their high-end SHG lenses, and if it hadn't been for my (significant) investment in this glass, I would have abandoned the four-thirds standard long ago. I've long been jealous of my Canon and Nikon friends with much better low-light performance and better resolution. On the other hand, they were jealous of my insanely fast Olympus glass, so I waited to see Olympus' next move before deciding whether to stay or jump ship.
The OM-D EM-1 wasn't exactly the body I was expecting, but now that I have shot with it for a week, I'm sold. Finally, I have a camera that competes nicely (not equally, but close) with full frame sensor bodies. The build quality on this camera is top notch, equal to the E-5 and even better in some respects. The controls will be familiar to anyone who has used (and loved) the unique Olympus body control layouts. Everything on this camera is fast, fast, fast. Contrast focus is great with MFT lenses and the phase-detection is even faster than my E-5 (which was no slouch with SWF lenses).
Now, here are answers to questions I had before I bought the EM-1 (that no else seemed to address). I think they will be particularly helpful for existing Olympus camera owners:
1. Is the EM-1 image quality *finally* competitive with the "big boys?"
In a word, yes. Olympus owners can finally take the bag off their heads! No more making excuses for our low light performance, poor focus speed or low resolution. I'm continually surprised (in a good way) by the image quality of the EM-1. It's visibly better than the E-5, and in low light situations the difference between the EM-1 and previous Olympus bodies is...well...night and day. Noise is all but nonexistent at ISO 6400 or below (and even higher ISOs are very usable). This was always Olympus biggest weakness compared to other cameras, but that difference is mostly erased with this camera. Compared to my friend's full frame Canon, the EM-1 colors look a little over saturated (in the typical Olympus way, especially the reds), but I kinda like the pumped look, and you can always desaturate in post if you prefer the flatter, more neutral Canon look. White balance is outstanding. Olympus bodies typically handled white balance well, but this one nails it every time.
2. Is the camera still easy to configure and control in the typical Olympus way of doing things?
Look up the word "configurable" on wikipedia, and you will find a picture of the EM-1. Virtually every button can be remapped to another purpose. Olympus might as well have labeled every button on the camera with a letter (e.g., A, B, C, etc.) instead of a specific function, because you can change every button to do whatever function you prefer. In fact, you can make multiple buttons do the SAME thing. The manual comes on a CD, but it's not that long and you can print it at home with a laser printer for a few pennies. It's worth it because you'll need it to configure the camera properly. After about an hour, I had the EM-1 buttons remapped to match the configuration on my E-5. Yeah...zero retraining required!
3. Do I need the new Olympus M Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 or should I stick with my four-thirds lenses and the adapter?
How rich are you? If you have the money, replace your four thirds lenses with good M4/3, but it will cost you. The 12-40mm is a cool $1,000. After I got my EM-1 I attached a few of my SHG lenses, and they worked perfectly, but they look ridiculous. I initial intended to stick my big Olympus glass to save money, but after one day with the EM-1, I decided to invest in high-end micro four thirds lenses. It completely ruins the point of a svelte micro four thirds body when mated to oversized lenses. I love the quality of SHG glass, and I certainly won't be dumping those lenses anytime soon, but for everyday photography needs (i.e., with the kids at the amusement park, walking around the tourist spots, a casual moment with the family and pets, etc.) you don't want to mate a small, lightweight camera with a ginormous, heavy lens. My first purchase was the 12-40mm (on the wait list now) and I've already bought a few of the M4/3 primes including the Oly 17mm, Pana/Leica 25mm, Oly 45mm and Oly 75mm (my favorite). I'm told Olympus is working to replicate the fast zooms of the SHG four thirds line in M4/3 versions. Let's hope for it.
4. Can I live with an electronic viewfinder instead of optical?
The electronic viewfinder is absolutely stunning. When I first heard Olympus was abandoning their traditional four-third bodies in favor of mirrorless, I was VERY concerned about losing an optical viewfinder like in my E-5. I took one look through the EM-1, and I was sold on electronic viewfinders. It's bigger and brighter than the E-5 - and most other cameras I'm told. My only complaint is that colors are rendered a little cooler and unsaturated in the viewfinder (as compared to the back screen and the actual photo), but you can adjust the tone and brightness of the viewfinder screen in the endless control settings on this camera. There are three different viewfinder modes so you can select the data you prefer to see, and it automatically turns on and off when you bring it to your eye. Very smart. The first time you try to focus your shot at dusk in near total darkness, you'll learn to appreciate the advantages of electronic viewfinders over optical. No regrets here.
5. What accessories should I buy?
Personally, I think the $200 battery extender grip accessory is a must-have for this camera. First, it makes the camera easier to hold, since the EM-1 is quite small in larger hands. Obviously, you can always remove the battery holder when you want the smallest possible camera. More importantly, if you are accustomed to the 600+ shots of the E-5 battery, be aware you aren't going to get that with this camera. You can only get that level of performance with the extended battery pack. The single internal battery in the camera is good for maybe 300 or so. Other than the battery extender grip, there's not much else you need. You can reuse Olympus lenses, flashes, wired remotes, etc.
6. How does it feel and sound?
It feels wonderful. The button actions are noticeably better than the E-5 buttons, which always felt a little "squishy" to me. Every switch action oozes quality, like a finely made device. Except the SC card door...it's nothing special. Sound wise, the EM-5 uses the same "double beep" focus confirmation as the E-5 (with volume settings, of course). More importantly, everyone remarks on how quiet the shutter is. It has a very quiet but satisfying "thunk" sound compared to the more traditional "click" DSLR shutter sound. Sounds like the shutter is under a pillow, but still very reassuring. Sounds like quality, like a German car door closing. It's perfect for taking photos in sensitive surroundings. All in all, the camera feels like the money you paid for it.
7. How will I process RAW images from this thing? No one has a RAW profile for this camera yet.
I have long used Olympus' Studio Pro software to do RAW processing to JPG for my E-series cameras. The software had the unique ability to apply Olympus' lens correction data to the final image to eliminate distortion, aberrations and corner shadows. I tried comparing the output of Studio Pro to ACR and Apple's RAW converters, and Olympus always came up better. But Olympus hasn't updated this software in forever, so I wondered what software Olympus would bundle with the EM-1. I was pleasantly surprised. The software provided is basically an updated version of Studio Pro, though it goes by a different name and lacks some pro features. (Specifically, it lacks the ability to control the camera by wire, but this feature is now available through the smartphone app, so it's a wash.) The update still includes all the RAW processing features I liked in Studio Pro, including applying lens correction data for any Olympus digital lens. But, I also learned that if you prefer to shoot in JPG, the EM-1's in-camera JPG processing also applies the lens correction data automatically. So if you only shot in RAW in the past so you could correct lens errors in software, now you can stick with shooting JPG and still get corrected images. I still shoot in RAW for the extra color control.
Finally, some nit-picky complaints:
- There is no way to completely turn off the backlighting for the main screen like you can in the E-5. You can turn off live view image and the menu so the screen is blank, but even then the screen's backlighting remains on whenever the camera is turned on (so it's still draining the battery). The only time the backlighting goes off is when your eye comes up to the viewfinder (which is nice). With such a small battery, this is a dumb design. I hope Olympus fixes it with a firmware update.
- The shutter release is VERY sensitive. I've occasionally taken two of three photos when I intended to take only one (and yes, the drive setting was set to single exposure). Just hesitating as I release my finger from the shutter release button can trigger one or two additional shots. On the positive side, the camera can reel off a burst of photos as fast as the new iPhone 5S (10/sec) and the super fast focus means they are all sharp.
- On a camera at this price, Olympus should have included GPS in the camera. The smartphone app works, but it requires you keep the app open and running on your phone (albeit in the background) for the entire time you are shooting pictures, so that the app can log your location data during the period you were taking pictures and then pass that logged data to the camera at a later point. Cumbersome to say the least. Look Olympus, if you're gonna charge $1,500 for a compact DSLR body, you can afford to put a freakin' $1 GPS chip in the camera body!
- Olympus includes a compact camera-style flash accessory you can attach on the hotshot. It's designed to be removed from the camera when not in use, so it's a bit of a pain (though they do include a nice velvet carry pouch that velcros to your strap). I haven't used the flash yet. One benefit of the EM-1's high ISO performance is almost never needing a flash anyway. Obviously, there are times with a flash is required (for very low light or to fill shadows, etc.), but this little flash probably isn't going to be the one you want to use on an expensive body like this, so if you need flash, plan on buying one of Olympus' big off-camera flashes. I wish Olympus had made the included flash an accessory and just cut $150 off the EM-1 price.
- The EM-1 screen doesn't articulate outward to the side of the camera (so it can be seen by the subject) or folded back against the body to protect the screen (like the E-5). It's limited to simply angling up or down. Not sure how much I will miss the extra flexibility, but I do hate to see it go. Oh well.
If I were only allowed to own one camera but could choose any camera I wanted in the world, the EM1 would be the camera I would choose (The GX7 would be the next if the EM1 was not available). This camera is an almost faultless camera that is a real joy to hold and use. Oh, it also makes amazing photographs. It is one of the best built cameras around. It feels nice and solid and every switch has the perfect feel to it. There is no better built or nicer feeling camera in any price range. While I am more of a function over form type of person, the jewel like quality of this camera does up the emotional joy of using this camera.
Unfortunately, I need to digress here to address two ridiculous arguments I read all over the web and then hear parroted by people who have no idea what they are talking about. I hate wasting time and if you are not interested then skip down to the asterisk and the review will continue there.
The first bit of misinformation deals with what I call sensor envy. It goes something like this: m43 is a fine stop gap measure until you can afford a so called "full-frame" sensor and thus are able to become a real photographer. This is a pretty complex issue so I have put a great deal of detail in a discussion on the subject at the end of this review. I've also attached a video I made from E-M1 photographs. Also, I have put a challenge at the end of the video. I have included 16 photos taken from a 35mm, a DX, and m43 sensors. There are at least 3 images from each size sensor. Unfortunately because it is so small it is not as spectacular as 1080p on a TV but even so if you like the EM1 photos and can't easilly tell the difference between sensors in the challenge, you might just be amazed and overjoyed with the EM1.
The short version of what you need to know about sensor IQ is it is very much like horsepower in a car. A lot of people want as much horsepower as they can get. However, the fact of the matter is the fastest speed limit in America is 80 mph. Because of this anything over 100 hp is really overkill. You pay for the extra horsepower with a heavier car which costs more and burns more gas. Same thing goes with cameras, the sensor IQ of just about every camera exceeds what most people need, so it is other features that are more important today. But just like car magazines make sales on exciting super cars, camera sites generate sales and enthusiasm trumpeting how everyone should someday own a 35mm sensor to be a real photographer. It is an emotional ploy to sell more cameras. (A much more detailed discussion can be found after the review).
The second issue is a continuation of the sensor envy and goes something to the effect of Olympus is really pushing the bounds of what can be charged for a m43 sensor. In the original version of this review I showed how the EM1 is better than the Nikon D600 in many aspects and yet is cheaper. However, I think that may have given the impression that I don't feel the EM1 is overpriced (I think Olympus is one of the worst for overpricing their cameras). My point was actually that, with the exception of Sony, all the major manufactures overprice their cameras and the web sites should be pointing that out for Nikon and Canon as well as m43 manufactures. With the announcement of the 24 mp 35mm Sony A7 for $1700 and 36mp 35mm Sony A7r, the Canon 6D, 1Ds Mk III, Nikon D600, and Nikon D800 have instantly gone obsolete. I am guessing Sony is selling the cameras below cost to gain market share. I will talk more about the A7 in the buying guide at the end of the review..
* Start Review Here
I have owned or shot extensively tons of cameras so I am pretty familiar with brands and how cameras work.(Canon 1Ds MkII, 30D, Nikon D3, D300, D600, D700, D7000, D800, Panasonic G1, GF1, GH1, GH2, G3, GX7, Olympus E-P1, E-30, E-M5, Leica M8, M9, Fuji X100). M4/3 are great cameras which are, in my opinion, the best choice for probably 95% of households looking for a large sensor camera.
The first thing I want to really point out is the EVF. It is huge and bright. It also has a 1.48x magnification. Most OVF are doing well to offer a .7x magnification. What that means is OVFs are making the image 30% smaller while the EM1 EVF is making the image 48% larger. This helps in focusing and framing. While I won't go as far as saying it is revolutionary, it really does change the game for the better is a joy to use. Many pros sites say they prefer the view from a large FX prism. In most cases I actually prefer EVF. The reason is the EVF is mostly What You See Is What You Get. That means if you set a manual WB and then forgot to change it when you changed settings, you will see that in the EVF as the picture will look either to yellow or blue. I also use the EVF as a very fast method of setting exposure. Move the light sources around in the frame until you see the exposure you want and then lock it in. Recompose and shoot. This is an exceedingly fast way to play with your exposure and you can't do that with an OVF.
The next feature is revolutionary and it is the 5 axis IBIS. This was included in the EM5 which was the real revolution but the 5 axis in the EM1 is even better. To give you an example, I can get about a 70% non-blurry hit rate shooting a 75mm f/1.8 at 1.6 seconds. I got about a 20% hit rate at 2" so I really recommend 1.6" max. If you have bad holding technique or shaky hands this feature is going to help you take better pictures. If you are taking pictures above your head or down at your feet, this will help steady the shot. There are IS systems in lenses and other camera bodies but none of them can touch the 5 axis IBIS in the EM1. For video, it is good enough to eliminate the need for mechanical IS systems. So for home users, even video taken while walking can be nice and smooth.
The handling on this camera is the best in the world. It can be exceedingly simple to use or if you really want to customize your camera it has the ability to do that as well. I have read in another review that this camera is complicated to use even in iAuto mode. I am not sure what that person was referring to. In iAuto the camera does everything for you. It sets shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance and scene mode. There is nothing you need to do except press the shutter button. The camera does everything else for you. I have also read on too many sites that Olympus menus are poor and are overly complicated. First off, most of the people writing these comments have been using Canon's or Nikon's poor and complicated mens for so many years that they have them memorized and can work them. I am not going to say they are great or intuitive to use but then again neither are anyone else's. However, the fact of the matter is after you use 1 or 2 of the menus to set up the camera you don't need to use them. Olympus has a Quick Menu system that you activate by pressing the OK button in the center of the 4 direction controller. Now for some reason on the EM1, it is not switched on as default. So you will need to switch it on in both iAuto and PASM mode. Once you have the Quick Menu up you can change any relevant shooting parameter you need without going into the menus.
Another feature to mention about the EM1 is the Auto White Balance is amazingly good. In every situation I have shot it has been spot on. The only cameras I have shot before with AWB this good are the Fuji X100 and EM5. Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Leica all leave something to be desired when it comes to AWB.
This camera is the upgrade path from the E5. I am not going to go into exhaustive details between the differences. You do need the MMF-3 to shoot 4/3 lenses with the EM1. First, subjectively, the phase auto focus on the EM1 is not as fast as E5 or E30. There are no cross type sensors on the EM1. The difference between the 2 is really not that noticeable in real world shooting. 4/3 lenses, however, are noticeably slower than m4/3 lenses but still fast enough to get the job done. The EM1 only has a tilt screen instead of fully articulated one. Other than that, this camera completely outclasses the E5 in all categories to include IQ. At least a 2 stop increase in dynamic range.
The single shot autofocus on this camera is very fast. Fast enough to keep up with little kids running around in low light situations. With the 25mm f/1.4 it is near instantaneous in good light. However its low light performance is not as good as the GX7. (The GX7 has the fastest low light performance I have ever seen.) With, the 25mm f/1.4 the EM1 auto focus was similar to the GX7 with no hunting. However, with the 70mm f1.8, the camera often had to hunt to find the focus.
M4/3 (including the EM5) have been a little hobbled in the past with a poor 1/160 flash sync and a lame 1/4000 fastest shutter speed. The EM1, however, has a flash sync speed of 1/320 which is I believe faster than any DSLR which top out at 1/250. Not really fast enough to get really excited about but fast enough to be useful. The 1/8000 max shutter speed is also welcome as I like to shoot wide open primes in bright light and don't like toting around ND filters.
It is unfortunate that Olympus did not build this pro-body with 2 card slots. Two cards are really nice for paid events for redundancy in case one card dies on you. With the amazing 12-40mm f2.8 on its way, this camera is an great events camera. However, when your getting paid for your pictures you really want the redundancy of 2 card slots. This camera also, has built in wifi. Following the directions in the manual it was very easy to set up. The Olympus generates a QR code which you take a picture of with your phone and then the app sets everything up. Now with that said, I don't think wifi is going to be that useful for me. If you need to remotely control a camera then this would be ok. I could see a portrait studio having the camera set up on a tripod and using the phone to trigger the camera. The reason I say this is ok is that the focus seemed really slow. Also, it can transfer photos to your phone to upload to the web, so if that is something you have been waiting for then this will be useful for you. However, a really nice feature of the EM1 wifi allows you to geo-tag your photos with your phones GPS coordinates. This is something I might actually use. This is also an intermittently updated function so it doesn't drain your phone and camera battery as much.
M4/3 cameras are so small and light that I use them with a wrist strap instead of a neck strap. The grip on this camera is finally as good as the Panasonic G and GH series camera. To me, grips point in the same direction as the lens so, as far as camera size goes when including the lens, it is essentially free as it doesn't make the system any deeper. However, for camera real estate it provides a nice anchoring point and place to put the shutter release. Bravo. I have read this camera is it is too big. However, when you sit it side-by-side with the GX7, it is about the same height and depth. The extra height comes from the EVF poking out of the top and depth from the grip in the front. Also is it is the size of the system that needs to be considered not the size of the camera. Either of these cameras with a 100-300 is going to be a rather large camera. However, both are going to be pretty small with a 14mm f2.5.
All in all this is a fantastic little camera, that handles beautifully, takes great pictures. If you want the best m43 camera available, this is it. However, the GX7 matches the EM1 in most categories and best it in some (Auto focus speed, 40fps burst mode, silent mode) and is $500 cheaper. The GX7 is going to be the better camera for most people. However, there are a few situations where the E-M1 might be better for you than the GX7. If you have 4/3 lenses, the E-M1 is a no brainer as the auto focus of those lenses are much faster on the EM1. If you don't know what I am talking about you don't have any. If you need the extra battery life of the grip or you take tons of portrait orientation pictures, the E-M1 is the way to go. If you want the best IBIS in any camera system, that will be in the EM1. If you want the most weather sealed m4/3 camera that will also be the EM1.
Revolutionary 5 Axis IBIS
Very Fast Auto Focus
Very fast 4/3 auto focus
World Leading Auto White Balance
World Leading Build Quality
Small and light
World Leading Handling
Only one SD slot
Buying guide recommendation.
Sony A7 or A7r - These are going to be amazing cameras at an amazing price and Olympus has priced the EM1 into where the $1700 A7 may be a consideration for someone looking to spend that much. As I have said in this review, the IQ on these cameras is going to be better than the EM1 so if ultimate image quality is your goal these will be your cameras. While these cameras are very small, the lenses are not. Sony is trying to avoid this issue with the lenses they released. The 35mm f2.8 is the most noticeable. That is a very slow prime and is going to give the same DOF as an 17mm f/1.4 and only slightly more DOF control than the 17mm f/1.8. However, when Sony does release the 35mm f/1.7 or f/1.4 it is going to be a very large lens. Additionally, the 24-70mm f/4 lens is 1 stop slower than the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 and yet is larger and heavier, while having 10mm less zoom than the Olympus. Sony's contrast autofocus is not as fast as Olympus or Panasonic. So given a shallower DOF, the autofocus is going to be noticeably slower than the EM1. Brilliant cameras to be sure but they are not going to be as good all around as the EM1 is. For full disclosure, I have no intention of selling my m43 gear. However, I am very seriously considering selling all of my Nikon gear and buying into this system.
Sony RX10 - A stunning little camera. If you want a high quality camera with a pro-grade 24-200mm f/2.8 zoom, and don't want to buy other lenses, this camera may be for you. It is only a 1" sensor so it is smaller than m43 so it will be even harder to get really shallow DOF. However, it is a back illuminated sensor (something I think m43 should have done a long time ago) so it is very likely this camera will exceed m43 and many APS-C cameras for low light performance. Combine that with a constant 2.8 24-200mm pro-zoom and you have an amazing combination. The only downside I see for this is you are marrying a very expensive lens to a sensor. With interchangeable lenses systems, once you spring for the expensive lens, you can continue to reuse it as you purchase newer camera bodies. If that doesn't bother you, this is going to be a stunning camera.
Panasonic GX7 - Panasonic's best still camera to date - Great construction, 1/320 flash sync, 1/8000 shutter speed, blazing fast focus, WIFI, IBS, focus peeking, great handling, etc. This camera does cost $150 more than the NEX-6, which is similarly specked (Sony must be giving them away). However, m4/3 lenses are always going to be quite a bit smaller and lighter than NEX lenses. Additionally, the m4/3 lens system is the most complete outside of legacy 35mm systems from Nikon and Canon.
Panasonic G6 - Great little camera for a nice price ($650 with lens). IQ not quite as good as the EM1, build quality not as good as GX7, and has slower flash sync and shutter speed. It has a tilt and swivel screen which in my opinion is actually nicer than the tilt only screen on the GX7, EM5, and EM1. If you want to get into the system, this is a good way to start. Save money on the camera and spend it on a nice lens.
Panasonic G5 - Right now if you look for the clearance sales you can get them for $300-400. Not as good as any of the other cameras here but still a great camera which takes nice pictures.
Olympus E-M5 - this camera has now been outclassed by the GX-7 and costs the same. So while this is still a brilliant camera, the GX-7 is better for the same money.
Olympus E-P5 - Has no built in view finder which for me is an absolute no go. Get either the E-M5, GX-7 or E-M1
NEX-6 - Really nice camera - Focus is not as fast a m4/3. Sensor is bigger so for higher ISO it will have better IQ. Price is great. However, this camera does not handle as well as the Panasonic. While the camera is small, the lenses are not so this system is not as small and light as the m4/3. The lens system is nowhere near complete as the m4/3 system. If price is your only consideration, then the NEX-6 is probably the way to go.
Any DSLR - Bigger and heaver - DSLRs are dinosaurs when compared to mirrorless cameras. I really hate going back from shooting my E-M1 to shooting my Nikons. They are big, the focus system is obsolete (not phase focus, but the focus points and how they are arranged). The, live view is terrible, most of the viewfinders are smaller then the newest EVFs, and are lacking some of the features of the mirrorless. Tons of people buy Nikon and Canon because that is what is around, however, my opinion is the vast majority of families would be much better served by a m4/3 system.
* Start thesis on Sensor Size
Is a FX sensor better than a m4/3? Is a m4/3 sensor better than a FX? The answer to both those questions is "It depends." Anyone who tries to give you a one size fits all answer either has no clue what they are talking about or are trying to sell you something. I will attempt to try and explain the relative merits of each so you can make an informed decision. I am really only going to discuss FX (AKA 35mm or mislabeled as full-frame. Whatever that even really means as there are medium format cameras and large format cameras with much larger imaging circles.) as what I say about it will apply to DX to a lessor extent.
The 4 major components of IQ are Resolution, Color Depth, Dynamic Range, and High ISO. You can if you want go to DXOMark and look at all the sensor data. I will give you numbers for the best of breed of each size. D800 36mp, 25.3 bit color depth, 14.4 Stop Dynamic Range and 2853 ISO. For D7100 it is 24mp, 24.2, 13.7 and 1256. For EP5, 16mp, 22.8, 12.4, 895. Higher is "better" and so by numbers the IQ of the FX D800 is best. (I am using the EP5 because there is not DxOMark Score for the EM1. Before, we move on to some other items concerning sensor, let me show you the numbers for the 2006 35mm Canon 1Ds MkII. Before I show them to you, you need to know this was a pro-camera that cost $8000 when it came out and at 16.7mp was the first 35mm digital considered capable of shooting double-truck ads for national magazines. Here are the numbers for this camera 16mp, 23.3, 11.3, 1480. So, based on objective numbers, the m43 sensor of today is about equivalent of the camera used for pro work in 2006 to 2008. It actually has a better dynamic range than the 35mm camera does. (A comment I want to make concerning the ISO numbers. I am not sure how these are computed or relate to each other. I shot with the 1Ds MkII extensively and I can without a doubt say the files from the EM5 look better than the 1Ds Mk II at 6400 ISO. Also, you can go to DPReview and see 100% magnified files shot at various ISOs and various cameras. The files from the D800 look to me about 1 to 1.5 stops better than the EM5. That is the D800 files at 6400 look the same with regard to noise as EM5 shot at 3200.) Just for info purposes here are some of numbers from some other older cameras I shot with. Canon 30D 10mp, 21.5, 10.8, 736 and Nikon D300, 12mp, 22.1, 12, 679. As you can see the EP5 outclasses both of those cameras based on the numbers and yet I got really nice pictures with both those cameras. (Going back to that ISO number again, I shot extensively with both of those cameras and their files at ISO 800 were about the same as the EM5 at 6400. The EM5 is about 3 stops better yet the DxOMark ISO values are about the same. Also, the EM5 6400 JPEGs are sharp and clean. Very nice.) If all you care about is IQ and you need all that IQ, then by all means the D800 is even better than the best medium format except in color depth used for portraits so get the D800.
However, as I showed you with the 1Ds MkII, the IQ of sensors, long ago exceeded what we need for home use. So the fact of the matter is, most people don't need the IQ of the D800 and there are, to me, more relevant reasons why the D800 is not something most people would even like. The first is 36mp files. Shot in 14bit RAW, you are looking at around a 65MB image file. Roughly, 15 of those images make 1GB. Even the JPEGs are huge around 15MB each. That is a pain to store and a pain to process. What do most people do with their images? I would say the number 1 thing people do is is to put them on the web or their phones. The biggest monitors are around 2.5mp. To print a 300dpi 8x10 requires around 7mp. Requires. That means if you view the picture on a 2.5mp monitor you giving up 33.5mp. (This is not entirely accurate as the image is interpolated down and you do clean up noise when you do that.) That is for a full screen image not the little happy snaps you text or put on facebook which are more likely to be around 1mp or less. Do you really think you need 36mp? If so, then m4/3 is not the right format for me. I personally, like the 10-12mp range (and wish they would make a 12mp m43) but 16mp is more than enough for me. I mentioned earlier, that when you downsize an image it is interpolated down and this helps clean up the image. Well that applies to the m4/3 images as well. So even though the D800 is 1 to 1.5 stops better for noise, when you interpolate the images down, you are very unlikely to be able to see that on your screen or even on a print except at ISOs greater than 6400 or maybe 3200. So I think we have established the FX sensor has better IQ than m4/3 but I hope I have established for most people it just doesn't matter because the m4/3 sensors are more than good enough for tasks most people use cameras for.
So what are the downsides of FX sensors. The first and most obvious is price, although with Nikon's D600 fiasco, you can get a FX sensor for around $1500. However, the other costs associated with the FX sensor are the lenses. The best lenses are very expensive. Also, the imaging circle of a FX is roughly 2x the size of the imaging circle of m4/3. That means, the lenses are going to be bigger and heavier and the difference is not trivial. A D800 with a 70-200mm f.28 is going to set you back about $5300 and around 6-7lbs. A EM1 with a 40-150mm f/2.8 will set you back about $2300 and around 3lbs. I can and have carried 4 m4/3 bodies with 2 fast zooms and 2 fast primes in the same bag I can only carry 2 DSLR bodies and lenses. I also carried several extra lenses in that bag. The weight of that bag, bodies, lenses, and iPad was 10lbs. Two FX bodies and fast zooms alone are going to weigh more than that. If you really feel like you want to lug all that around, then by all means get the FX. All that weight also means you will be carrying around a heavier tripod if you use one. Do you think if maybe you had to hike your camera in somewhere that maybe the smaller sensor might be better? If you are traveling somewhere and carrying your camera all day, can you see how the smaller sensor would be better? Something to think about.
Next, the contrast autofocus use by m4/3 is on the sensor and it is exceedingly fast. What this means, is you have focusing points throughout your frame. The phase detect systems used on FX DSLRs only has points clustered around the middle. The corners are excluded. Also, the phase detect systems are separate from the sensor. Therefore, with FX you have back focusing and front focusing issues. The so called live view systems on the DSLRs are really the only accurate way to auto or manual focus and is terribly slow (What you see thought the prism is not what the sensor is seeing it is what the autofocus is seeing.) That means the only way to quickly frame and focus a FX DSLR is through the viewfinder. Forget holding the camera over your head or down at your feet.
The next issue is with dust on the sensor. With all my DX and FX sensors DSLRs, dust has always been an issue (Talk about a way to ruin image quality). It was so bad on the D600 they have had to significantly drop the price on that camera. In almost 5 years shooting m4/3, I have never had 1 single problem with dust on the sensor.
Another "benefit" of FX is the shallower Depth of Field that can be achieved for the same aperture. The reason I put that in quotes is that in a lot of cases the DOF on a FX is too shallow and you need to stop down the lens to f4 or f5.6 to get the DOF you are looking for. In these cases, a m4/3 is clearly superior as you can stay at f2 or f2.8 to get the same DOF. This means you are collecting 4 times the light and, therefore, you can turn your ISO down 2 stops (According to the images on DPReview, a 100% EM5 image at 1600 looks better than a D800 6400 image). Also, for flash or lighting for video filming, a 2 stop ISO difference means 4 times less light power is required for the m4/3 sensor. That means your flash batteries will last longer and your flash will recycle that much quicker.
Another drawback of the FX sensor is it is stuck in the archaic 2:3 ratio which is not as friendly for printing as a 4:3 ration is. To print a 4:5 ration 8x10 from a 2:3 ratio there is quite a bit of cropping to be done and often a picture won't fit.
Finally, the pixel densities on m4/3 are the highest of any large sensor camera. A DX sensor with the same pixel density as a 16mp m4/3 sensor would be roughly 32mp and a FX sensor would be 64mp. This is both good and bad for m4/3 cameras. Currently, there are no DX or FX sensors with pixel densities of the m4/3. So you are currently getting more reach on your m4/3 lenses than any other lenses. What this means is, given the same focal length, you are getting approximately 1.5x the data on a subject for the same area than an FX and 1.25 vs a DX sensor. This is not to be confused with crop factor which based on the sensor size is 2x compared to FX sensor and 1.5x compared to a DX sensor. This does come with a downside to the m4/3 in that it works your lenses harder (exposes optical flaws in the lenses) and you hit diffraction limits on IQ at around F8 vice F11.
Since you have read this far, I am going to talk about the new Sony A7 and A7r which is going to be Sony's new mirroless 35mm interchangeable lens camera systems with 24mp and 36mp. Do these tempt me are make me want to wait. The answer to those questions is not at all. Everything I has said above still holds true for the now Sonys. Even with the Sony in the mix, my first choice for a camera would be an EM1. However, if ultimate image quality is the most important fact to you, I think the A7 systems are going to be stunning and will probably drive Leica out of the camera making business. I think Leica lenses will be incredibly popular on these systems.
Buy 35mm FX if:
- You need the best image quality available to print big. At 200 dpi (good enough for most people) you can print a 16mp image up to 23x17. If you need bigger than that, get a FX.
- You absolutely have to have the shallowest DOF available in a DSLR body. I've owned FX camera bodies and I will admit sometimes I do miss the razor shall DOF images I was occasionally able to capture. With that, however, the DOF was so small I often missed the focus especially on wiggly subjects such as kids. Also, with 2 or more people, DOF at 1.4 was way too shallow so forget about it. With my 75mm 1.8, I don't miss FX as much as my pictures from that lens have a very similar feel as the FX pictures. I liked the D700 a lot but the fact of the matter is, I used my GH1 far more.
- You have to have the biggest sensor to feel good about yourself. (And, really, you will still need MF)
I finally bit the bullet and dropped the cash on the E-M1, along with the Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens to get me started. I've taken about 150 photos over the last month, in conditions ranging from low-light pixel-peeping to real-world indoor/outdoor shots. Thus far, I have been thoroughly impressed with the camera. It has enough physical controls to allow "pro" shooters to quickly adjust settings, its interface is convenient and highly-customizable, its focus speed and accuracy is superb, and the image quality is really excellent. Using the WiFi for live-shooting and instant transfer seems pretty convenient, too, although I haven't really used it except to test it out.
I don't doubt that there will be times when I miss shots that I could have taken with my 5DIII, or I want to get a gallery-worthy shot that I can't quite pull off with MFT, but for the convenience and size of the camera, I'm happy to make that tradeoff.