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Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16MP and 3-Inch LCD (Body Only) (Black)
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- 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 100-25,600
- 1080 30 fps HD video (H.264/Motion JPEG)
- Tiltable 3 inch touchscreen LCD with 1,037,000 dots
- Electronic viewfinder with 2,360,000 dots (1.3x magnification)
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|Sold By||RitzCamera||Cardinal Camera and Video Center||Amazon.com||PhoenixPhoto||RitzCamera||Amazon.com|
|Screen Size||3 in||3 in||3 in||3 in||3 in||3 in|
|Item Dimensions||2.48 x 5.13 x 3.68 in||5.3 x 2.7 x 3.6 in||1.77 x 4.88 x 3.35 in||1.69 x 4.8 x 3.5 in||1.81 x 4.69 x 3.24 in||3.6 x 4.7 x 3.3 in|
|Item Weight||1.1 lbs||1.1 lbs||1.03 lbs||0.94 lb||0.87 lb||1.1 lbs|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||16 megapixels||20.4 megapixels||16 megapixels||16 megapixels||16 megapixels||16 megapixels|
|Photo Sensor Size||Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)||Micro Four Thirds 4/3 - inch||Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)||Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)||Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)||Micro Four Thirds 4/3 - inch|
|Video Capture Resolution||1920 x 1080 (30 fps), 1280 x 720 (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30 fps)||other||1920 x 1080 (60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p), 640 x 480 (30p)||1080p_hd||1080p_hd||1080p|
|Viewfinder||LCD||electronic viewfinder||LCD||LCD||LCD||electronic viewfinder^flexible LCD|
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.
The OM-D E-M1 is the new flagship Micro Four Thirds camera system in the OM line that’s as adventurous, imaginative, creative, fast and revolutionary as you are. So you can take amazing pictures from anywhere, anytime, under any conditions.
Use this comparison chart to compare all of the Olympus OM line.
From the Manufacturer
From the Manufacturer
THE OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1.
RE-IMAGINED. REDESIGNED. REVOLUTIONIZED.
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. 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, all in a portable, lightweight body. Powerful, yet ergonomic and comfortable to hold and carry.
The OM-D E-M1 is the new flagship Micro Four Thirds camera system in the OM line that’s as adventurous, imaginative, creative, fast and revolutionary as you are. So you can take amazing pictures from anywhere, anytime, under any conditions.
STAY ON THE LEADING EDGE OF THE IMAGING TECHNOLOGY CURVE WITH THE INCREDIBLE SPEED OF THE NEW OM-D E-M1.
With the new 16MP Live MOS Image Sensor with DUAL FAST PHASE AND CONTRAST AF Sensor, the OM-D E-M1 automatically switches between Contrast Detection AF or Phase Detection AF to deliver blazing fast autofocus speeds—no matter which Olympus Zuiko lens you use. All of our lenses—from our super-quiet MSC Micro Four-Thirds lenses to our renowned SWD FourThirds lenses work seamlessly and to their full potential when paired with the OM-D E-M1.
The exclusive Olympus FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) AF System focuses at an astonishing speed and offers 37 separate focus areas in on-chip phase detection mode and 81 areas in contrast detection, spread over the image area.
EMBODYING REVOLUTIONARY DESIGN ELEMENTS THAT WILL SEND YOUR IMAGINATION INTO OVERDRIVE.
The new, interactive high-definition EVF features a 2.36 million dot resolution, an impressive 1.48x magnification, 29ms image display time lag, eye sensor for automatic switching between the EVF and monitor and intuitive functionality for real-time viewing of any shooting situation. You can control shooting situations without your eye leaving the viewfinder.
Trouble-free shooting in all environments is assured by our proven seals that protect the camera from sand, dust, rain, ice and water spray. The tough magnesium body makes the OM-D E-M1 ideal for rugged outdoor photography.
POWERFUL VERSATILITY. OM-D E-M1 IS PART OF A COMPLETE; AND COMPLETELY VERSATILE SYSTEM.
There are over 57 fully compatible lenses available for the OM-D E-M1, including 32 Olympus Zuiko Digital and M.Zuiko Digital lenses plus dozens of others from Four Thirds consortium members. Features such as Focus Peaking and Magnified Focus Assist let you use your favorite OM lens with the appropriate adapter for beautiful results.
THE PERFECT COMBINATION OF FEATURES FOR THE PROFESSIONAL IMAGE QUALITY YOU DEMAND.
The OM-D E-M1 is equipped with 5-Axis image stabilization system with IS-Auto. 5-Axis IS compensates for vertical, horizontal, and rotational camera shake that conventional 2-axis systems could not. The new IS-Auto mode detects both vertical and horizontal panning and automatically deactivates image stabilization on the panning axis, so you can take spectacular panning photos of objects such as a speeding car.
BUILT-IN WIRELESS ALLOWING FOR FULL CONTROL OF THE OM-D E-M1, WITHOUT TOUCHING THE CAMERA!
Using the OI. Share app, you can preview your composition, choose the AF point and release the shutter; perfect for tripod or portrait shooting. Connect easy with the QR Code Connection and add geotags to your photos by simply sending the high-precision GPS log data recorded by OI. Share to your camera.
LET THE OM-D E-M1 TAKE YOUR CREATIVITY TO NEW HEIGHTS.
The new Color Creator feature lets you adjust Hue and Chroma right in the EVF and preview the effect "real time". Two types of HDR shooting enable high-quality images that can easily be captured with 12EV wide-range bracketing shooting. Twelve in-camera Art Filters are enhanced by new filter variations, art effects and bracketing. You can use Art Filters in all shooting modes as well as filming 1080 HD movies. Expand your photographic possibilities with Interval shooting and Time Lapse Video.
Top customer reviews
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I ordered the kit that comes with the 12-40 f/2.8 lens and received it on Nov. 9th and I also bought the E-M1 grip. I've been using the camera daily for a couple of weeks now and it has been working flawlessly - no problems. I owned the E-M5 and loved the feel and quality of it, but the E-M1 quality is a several notches above it. I can honestly say this is the highest quality camera I have ever owned (I've owned a Nikon F2, Olympus OM-1, Ricoh Singlex II, Contax AX, Nikon D300, Olympus E-M5 and Fuji X100 and X100S). The build quality is excellent, it is lightweight but has a real quality feel. The ergonomics are excellent, I didn't think I would like the grip built into the camera but it sure is comfortable to hold and control. The button locations are perfect, I can adjust everything I need without having to go into the menu system. The location of the on/off switch is not in a perfect location, but it really doesn't bother me. The image stabilization is unbelievable! I have hand held shots with the 45mm lens for 1.5 seconds and they show no camera shake - of course I'm holding my breath and have my arms close into my body, but no more tripod for me, even when using the 60mm macro lens close up. I use the focus peaking and magnified focus assist extensively because I have several old Russian and Zeiss lenses that I use and it works perfect - spot on! The viewfinder is very nice clear and bright. The shutter sound is the best I have ever heard, it says quality every time I press it. If you can get the 12-40 f/2.8 lens, buy it! It's outstanding!
The original camera I got was disappointing, I had already sold my x100S and E-m5 so I was without a camera. I left the original review below and I hope I don't see that problem again and I hope no one else sees that problem.
Ordered it on Sept. 13, received it on Oct. 25 and it no longer works on Nov, 2! Worked great for 7 days. When I turn the camera on I hear 3 loud clicks and nothing happens. The screen screen does not come on, the EVF does not come on, non of the buttons work. I turn it off remove the battery, turn it back on and again 3 loud clicks... Very disappointing! This is supposed to be their professional camera?? When I take off the lens and look at the camera I can see the shutter curtain is stuck.
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)