Revisiting the Olympus MFT System – Part 2

In my previous post (part 1) which you can read here I talked mostly about why I didn’t move (back) to Fuji, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Nikon or Canon. I am not a fan of reasoning based on what I don’t like about other stuff but I think it is the easiest way to illustrate why those systems weren’t considered.

My thoughts on Olympus:
So I looked at Olympus mainly out of desperation; I had never never really looked at them seriously before and I remember how much I liked the handling of the OM-D E-M1 last year at the LCE show – you can read about this here.

I started by looking at what they did at Photokina and they are finally going to release their 40-150mm f2.8 M.Zukio telephoto lens: this has a better telephoto end over the equivalent Panasonic f2.8 telephoto lens in that it goes up to 150mm. That’s 300mm in 35mm terms; yes I know that the depth of field here will be equivalent to f5.6 but who cares?

EZ M4015

They also released a massive firmware update (v2) to the OM-D E-M1, a silver bodied E-M1, an updated lens roadmap of the next PRO lenses (a 7-14mm f2.8 and an f4 300mm) with full sized mock-ups under glass, a new tethered shooting software and a few other things too. They are also releasing a 1.4x tele-converter this year too that will work with the 40-150mm and 300mm lenses. Phew!


So they are looking forward and I see a much better future here (as opposed to Panasonic anyway). One thing to note is that whilst Panasonic seem to be concentrating on Video, Olympus seems to be more interested in stills based Photography. If you shoot video primarily I still recommend Panasonic particularly if you want to shoot 4K.

So after looking at what was coming up I visited the web site and had another look at the OM-D E-M1 and after looking here and then spending quite a bit of time at Damian McGillicuddy’s site I was quite excited. I’m not sure why I have kept discounting them, actually I do know – Cost! – however, the recent price reduction in the cost of the OM-D E-M1 + 12-40mm f2.8 kit now makes this a viable option. It was stuck at £1950 for ages and is now £1699 for the black body. If you want the new silver body you have to pony up an extra £100 more for some reason, fortunately for me I prefer black camera bodies anyway.

OM-D E-M1 Silver Front

The next thing I had to do was see if any of the two London Camera Exchange stores in Lincoln stock the camera so that I could give it a go. I lucked out at the first store I visited (on the High Street) as they don’t stock it anymore apparently they only ever sold one – I think that the price put a lot of people off. So I went to the nearer Silver Street store and lo and behold they had one and a number of lenses to try. Lee opened the cabinet and handed me the E-M1 with the 12-40mm f2.8 lens and I cradled it in my hands.

OM-D E-M1 Top2

I was suddenly taken back to the same feeling I had when I first tried the camera back at the 2013 LCE Photo and Optics in November last year. I remember not liking the E-M5 as it was too small even for my girly small hands but the E-M1 was a different matter entirely and with its battery grip attached it was even better. I remember having quite a lengthy chat with the Olympus rep about things such as the 40 shot + RAW buffer and the fast fps burst rate. There were a number of other things I liked but I did have to put the camera down and walk away (step away from the camera!!) because I was really close to getting one. I am not entirely sure what system I had invested in at that time (which in itself is not good) but it wasn’t MFT. 🙂

Back to the present: So I played with camera and noted that I still liked a lot of its controls such as the 1-2 position lever on the back for quickly changing the function of the two dials on the camera. I tried the view finder and WOW is all I can say the thing is huge; it’s probably inferior to the Fujifilm XT-1’s viewfinder but that never seemed to live up to the hype anyway! The screen on the back whilst not fully articulated does tilt upwards and downwards and it is a touch screen too. I think that Sony is wrong about not putting touch screens on all of their mirror-less cameras; add the functionality and then have an option to disable it, everyone wins and the cost these days must be negligible.

ID: 15405

I started off with the 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens and this is gorgeous all of the controls were nice and the zoom had just the right “Goldilocks” resistance not too loose and not too tight (unlike the molasses like zoom of Fuji’s 55-200mm zoom lens). The manual focus control clutch mechanism is even better than the one on the Fuji 14mm & 23mm lenses. This is a fantastic lens.

Olympus 60mm f2.8 Macro M.ZUIKO Digital ED lens

I also tried out the 45mm f1.8 and 60mm f2.8 Macro lenses as well as the 75-300 MkII f5-6.3 zoom lens and all were excellent. I cannot get over how cute the 25mm, 45mm and 60mm lenses were, they were really teeny-tiny. 🙂

So there was a lot to like about the camera but there are a few things that I don’t like although some of these I could probably get used to over time:

  1. The menu – this is a horrible thing to look at – I have to say that it’s the worst I have ever seen and there are so many options how on earth will I work out where everything is? It also seems that some of the wording is ambiguous too. I will definitely need to read and re-read the manual many times and I think that a book might help too.
  2. The display of the settings on the rear of the camera, I think that the font is a bit too small for my liking.
  3. Some of the controls are far from intuitive so it will take longer to work out how to use the camera.
  4. Unless you limit yourself to the PRO range of lenses (7-14,12-40,50-150 & 300) you don’t get a lens hood when you buy Olympus M.Zuikio lenses which is a bit stingy. However Canon only provides them with their L range of glass. I just don’t understand why the hoods are expensive. That said, a lot of them are metal – it’s not all bad!

So it’s not all a bed of roses; over time issues 1 to 3 could fade with more use of the camera and 4 will only bug me when I buy a lens – I only see a few of these in my future.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a memory card with me when I looked at the E-M1 so I didn’t take any test shots. The plan was to go back at the weekend (last weekend) and then get the test shots. However the results are still pending and that is part of my next post which won’t be up until Friday for reasons that will become clearer when I get the post up.

I do have an ancillary MFT-based post for tomorrow though.