Behold! The mighty Olympus OM-D E-M1 is now a thing, and steps into the light as the new gold standard for pro-ready m4/3 bodies. The retro-meets-moden body style I feel is actually quite nice. It’s still got the small body and stylish flair, but it’s got the chunkier grip with the sloped-shoulder ergonomics of a modern DSLR (and an optional matched battery grip) that should go over well with the pro set.
So, let’s get down to brass tacks. The marketing copy I has here feels the important points are “Incredible Speed,” “Revolutionary Design,” “Powerful Versatility,” “Professional Image Quality,” “Built-In Wireless,” and “In-Camera Creativity.” But, because those are basically the same empty-calorie points everyone gives me for every camera, what say we ignore them in favor of that’s actually cool here? Agreed? Cool.
First off, this is a new body slotting in above the existing OM-D E-M5. Which itself was no slouch and sorta rocked the m4/3 world. So, a lot of stuff inside the E-M1 is going to sound familiar. Like, the 5-axis in-body image stabilization, a 3″ tilting touch screen,1/8000 second top shutter speed, a magnesium body with weather-sealing, integral high-rez high-speed optical viewfinder, etc. There are also some upgrades. The resolution gets a bump to 16 megapixels, and it’s tied to a new TruePic VII processor that’ll let you chug along at 10fps. They added freezeproofing to the body build, as well as a PC port and a lock for the mode dial. There are function buttons by the lens now, a la Nikon. It has the 1/320 flash sync speed of it’s other little brother, the E-P5.
Digging deeper, it has a much improved dual-mode AF that combine phase and contrast detection to notably improve performance for all lenses, but where you’ll really see it shine the brightest is using the mount adapter and using older 4/3 SWD lenses, which will now work pretty much like native m4/3 lenses finally. So, if you’ve been holding on to that old 50-200mm SWD because it was one honey of a lens, this is finally going to be the m4/3 body for you.
A new “Color Creator” feature lets you try adjusting the hue and chroma of a scene and see it live before you take the shot, to see how different effects processing will look. This’ll probably be even nicer for JPG shooters (are there still many JPG shooters?)
Another neat feature they buried in the copy here is that it has a live bulb mode. Anyone who’s ever had to calculate times for bulb exposures with that touchy-feely “and a little more just in case” time calculation will be excited to now that the E-M1 will show you live your bulb exposure as it builds. So, when you see it look right on either the rear monitor or (to prevent light contamination), the EVF, you can just stop bulbing. Now that’s freaking neat.
It’s also got built-in wi-fi with a simple QR scan-code pairing system for use with its apps (if you happen to be on iOS and Android, still no WP love from any camera group yet. You’d think Olympus would have more love for the underdogs here, but alas, no.)
And all that for just $1,499.99 body only. Other than the smaller 4/3 sensor this has pretty every feature you’d find on anyone else’s compact pro model, and for half the price.
And, for those of you thinking that a pro m4/3 body is still useless without a proper pro standard zoom, well, Olympus thought of that too.
Bam! an M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO. For those of you not familiar with Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds conventions, there’s a 2x crop factor that makes this a 24-80mm f2.8 equivalent (though the DOF will still be different, as will compression. That’s an argument for another time, but I know whenever you talk Oly gear someone brings that up, so, let’s just get it out in the clear right now. As far as apparent focal length and light-gathering abilities go though, this’ll be a perfectly dandy 24-80mm f2.8 lens).
Its got 14 elements in 9 groups, with a veritable alphabet soup of exotics in the mix: one aspherical ED, two regular aspherical, one DSA, two ED, one HD, and 2 HR lens elements. Wowza. It’s rounded out with Oly’s newer, faster video-ready MSC focus drive, a 7-blade rounded diaphragm (f2.8-22), a 62mm filter diameter, and metal body with weather-sealing for use in wet conditions.
And, while that many exotic elements don’t come cheap (retail for the 12-40mm is $1,099.99), the m4/3 advantage of smaller lenses needing smaller (and thus cheaper) elements triumphs again, and $1100 looks pretty cheap next to Canon or Nikon’s pro 24-70mm zooms. And they won’t speak nearly as confidently about their splash-proofing as Oly will.