I have now had my Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera for just over 1 month (purchased on 5th November) although it seems much longer for two reasons. The first is that I had decided to go for the E-M1 over a month before I purchased it at the LCE Photo and Optics show; there were a myriad of reasons for waiting and the results was that I got a much better deal by wating too.
The second reason is the sheer amount of images that I have taken and the fact that I have used the camera in two Olympus organised events starting with a 2 day course with Damian McGillicuddy in East Bridgford and a 1 day course this week with Rob Pugh in Reading. I now know one of the Olympus employees quite well as I have seen him at each event as well as the LCE Photo and Optics show – Aiden is a great guy and is so helpful.
I have already posted my thoughts about Olympus in general here but this post is about the actual camera and system that I have built up since acquiring the camera.
At first all I had was the E-M1 with the excellent 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens, this was added to some existing gear, a few Cactus Speed Lights and a Panasonic Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4 lens. I also purchased the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens and 1.4x Tele-converter kit. Although I now have the 40-150mm f2.8 lens there is no sign of the 1.4x tele-converter and the LCE store that I use do not know (nor do Olympus UK its seems) when they will have them in stock. Some time ago WEX Photographic had a few in stock but they sold out quickly; this wouldn’t have helped me anyway as I have to get the converter from LCE. After all LCE will honour the kit price for the 2 separate items which has allowed me to get the lens before the kit is generally available which is Jan/Feb next year.
I had already played with an OM-D E-M1 a little but before I owned the camera and to help I also downloaded a PDF copy of the user manual too, so it wasn’t my first time handling the body. At first many of the controls seemed alien to me and I really hated the menu system as well as the font on the rear screen when the Super Control Panel (SCP) was displayed. That said the I personally felt that the EVF, control dials, shutter button, grip and overall feel of the camera were (and still are) excellent.
The implementation of the WiFi is the best one I have found and worked first time, I remember trying with the Fujifilm X-T1 and this never worked reliably. Having a WiFi icon on the display is great and means that we don’t waste a button. Having a control lever on the rear of the camera to enable the control dials to perform two separate functions was a touch of genius and I don’t know why more cameras don’t do this.
Thanks to the two courses I have attended and the excellent Gary Friedmann book I am a lot more proficient in setting the camera up and how to use the Super Control Panel and the menus to enable the feature that I am after. There is still some way to go before I am truly au fait but I am pleased with my progress and now like the menus and SCP – the true key to controlling the camera is to fully utilise the SCP as there are some items in there that cannot be found anywhere else.
On my last course (with Rob Pugh) I learnt for the first time how to set a custom white balance using nothing more than a white cloth. This is something that I have never done before on a Canon or Nikon and was so easy to do, I also like the way that once you have taken the white balance reading you are given the option of assigning this to one of four white balance pre-sets. Rob also when through his “Hollywood” black and white settings and how to assign this to a pre-set. By the end of the day I was quite confident in what I was trying to achieve with the camera. I also had one of those total clarity moments; with a DSLR you take a picture, check the shot, adjust, take a picture – repeat. With a mirror-less camera you frame the picture, adjust and then take the picture and then move onto the next shot – it seems obvious but it has taken a lot of work to move away from the DSLR way of doing things and making better use of the advantages that a mirror -less camera provides.
So all in all I am pleased with my decision to move to the Olympus MFT system, the E-M1 is an excellent camera and most if not all of the Olympus glass is excellent too. There are not many gaps left in the system and the gaps that are there are mostly filled with lenses from Panasonic, Sigma, Samyang/Rokinon and many others. Olympus themselves are releasing two additional PRO lenses (to accompany the 12-40mm f.8 and 40-150mm f2.8) next year; these are the 7-14mm 2.8 and the 300mm f4. These two allow Olympus to have their own “Holy Trinity” of f2.8 zooms and for the first time we also have a true fast Telephoto lens that will be great for the Wildlife shots that I enjoy taking, the 300mm can also be used with the 1.4x tele-converter which gives a 420mm f5.6 lens which is truly astounding*.
*NOTE: I have decided to stop reporting what the 35mm “full-frame” field of view equivalents are as I exclusively use MFT and I know what wide, normal and telephoto focal lengths are. For those who need to convert simply double the focal lengths to obtain what the equivalent 35mm field of view equivalents. This is similar to when you learn a language, at first you have to convert everything to your native language to understand. However, after a time you simply understand the foreign language’s words directly and no conversion is necessary.
So I am enjoying the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the lenses that I now own. I see a long future with the camera system – I know that I have said this about the other systems I have tried over the last few years. The initial proof will be shown over the next few months and then if I am still evangelising in a year’s time we’ll know if it’s true.
There are only a few small items that I don’t like, the list is much smaller than before as I have now used the camera. The battery life and the reporting of battery life are not great, this isn’t a fault that only affects Olympus as it affects all of the mirror-less cameras out there today. This is not the worst of the bunch, the Sony A7 series cameras for example are probably the worst – that big 35mm full-frame sensor just eats the battery. At both events I have been caught out by the battery simply dying on me. Although I do have a spare, I see that I will need at least a couple more batteries to combat this – at £60 each they aint cheap. I also need to start using the battery grip too, this allows the use of two batteries and improves the handling of the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens too.
Unfortunately, I cannot fit the gripped EM-1 into my Lowepro Event Messenger 150 bag, I need one that is bit bigger (wider). The additional problem is that the 40-150mm lens doesn’t fit in there well either, you can get it in the bag at a push – I knew that I should have kept my Hadley Billingham bag :(
For now I have had to use my much larger Nova 200 AW bag instead which whilst it holds nearly all of my gear is simply too big to take to work every day. It’s OK for dedicated photo shoots though and with a bit of careful re-arrangement I reckon I can get all of my photo gear in there. WEX Photographic have 10% off all of their bags until the end of the year so I will have to see if I can get the right bag – there is no such thing as the perfect bag though.