Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review

November 13, 2013 | Zoltan Arva-Toth |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 9Mb.

During the review, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 produced images of excellent quality. In the Natural picture mode, colours are vibrant without being garish or over-saturated, while dynamic range is very good. From ISO 100 through to ISO 1600, noise is very well controlled, usually not becoming an issue until ISO 3200, which is an excellent result for a Micro Four Thirds camera. ISO 3200 and 6400 are still eminently usable, with only the two fastest settings of 12800 and 25600 really suffering. The image stabilisation system works very well indeed, even when hand-holding the camera at slow shutter speeds or shooting a hand-held movie. The presence of Art Filters may be unusual in such a high-end prosumer camera, but they do produce special effects that would otherwise require you to spend a lot of time in the digital darkroom. The camera is very well suited to infrared photography, with the Live View Boost option enabling you to frame your shots through an R72 filter, and even the auto focus system remaining operational.


There are 9 ISO settings available on the Olympus OM-D E-M1. The base sensitivity is ISO 200/24° but there is an expanded low sensitivity setting equivalent to ISO 100/21°. These crops demonstrate the image quality at each setting.


ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso1600raw.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso6400.jpg iso6400raw.jpg

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

iso12800.jpg iso12800raw.jpg

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

iso25600.jpg iso25600raw.jpg

File Quality

The file quality settings available on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 include Normal, Fine and Superfine for JPEGs, and you can also shoot in Olympus’s proprietary ORF raw file format. Do note that the Superfine setting must first be enabled from the menu in order to appear among the selectable quality options.

16M SuperFine (100% Crop) 16M Fine (100% Crop)
quality_superfine.jpg quality_fine.jpg
16M Normal (100% Crop) 16M RAW (100% Crop)
quality_normal.jpg quality_raw.jpg


The out-of-camera JPEGs are pretty sharp at the default setting but you can of course add some sharpening later in a program like Adobe Photoshop if needed. Here are two pairs of 100% crops – the right-hand images have had some post-capture sharpening applied.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg


The  Olympus OM-D E-M1 offers exposure times as long as 60 second in a metered exposure or up to 30 minutes in bulb mode, which is excellent news for anyone seriously interested in night photography. Live Bulb mode allows you to view the progression of exposure during a bulb exposure in real-time and a live view histogram shows how the exposure is built-up across all points of the image. The following picture was taken at a shutter speed of 10 seconds, aperture of f/6.3 at ISO 200. We have included a 100% crop to show you what the quality is like.


Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Image Stabilisation

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 comes with a five-axis sensor-shift image stabilisation (IS) system, which allows you to take sharp hand-held photos at slower shutter speeds than with cameras that lack this feature. The following 100% crops are taken from images taken with a 100mm equivalent lens at a shutter speed of 1/4th of a second, with and without IS. The image stabilisation system also works during video capture, producing remarkably steady hand-held footage most of the time.

Focal Length / Shutter Speed

Off (100% Crop)

On (100% Crop)

100mm / 1/4th Second antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg

Art Filters

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 offers a dozen so-called ‘art filters’, which allow you to quickly apply an artistic effect to a photo before taking it. Art filters are easily accessible via a dedicated slot on the mode dial.

Pop Art

Soft Focus

art_filters_popArt.jpg art_filters_softFocus.jpg

Pale&Light Color

Light Tone

art_filters_pale+lightColour.jpg art_filters_lightTone.jpg

Grainy Film

Pin Hole

art_filters_grainyFilm.jpg art_filters_pinhole.jpg
Diorama Cross Process
art_filters_diorama.jpg art_filters_crossProcess.jpg
Gentle Sepia Dramatic Tone
art_filters_gentleSepia.jpg art_filters_dramaticTone.jpg
Key Line Watercolor
art_filters_keyLine.jpg art_filters_watercolour.jpg

Multiple Exposure

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 has a Multiple Exposure feature allowing you to combine multiple exposures to create a composite image in-camera.



The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is fairly sensitive to infrared light, allowing you to capture images through an R72 visible-light blocking filter. Turning on Live View Boost from the menu enables you to frame the shot on the rear screen or through the viewfinder, and the auto focus system also remains active. The photo below was taken at a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds, aperture of f/3.5 at ISO 100/21°. We have included a 100% crop to show you what the quality is like.


Infrared (100% Crop)

infrared1.jpg infrared1a.jpg

Gradation and HDR

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 has a number of ‘gradation’ options including Norma, Auto, High-key and Low-key. With Auto gradation enabled the camera lifts the shadows and tries to compress the sensor's full dynamic range into a JPEG file. (The High-key and Low-key options are for special subjects, typically a white subject against a white backdrop and a dark subject against a black background.) In High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode, the camera takes a number of photos  in rapid succession, at different exposure settings, and combines them into a single high-dynamic-range image. There are two options, HDR1 and HDR2. In our experience, HDR1 usually yields a credible image but HDR2 tends to produce flat, unrealistic results.



normalGradation.jpg autoGradation.jpg



hdr1.jpg hdr2.jpg

Time-Lapse Video

The Olympus OM-D E-M1  has a time-lapse photography mode, which allows you to capture up to 999 frames at user-specified intervals.  The E-M1 will save each shot in the format of your choice– and can optionally create a time-lapse video in-camera, which is played back at 10fps. The following video is an example of what you can expect.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Time-Lapse Test Video from photographyblog on Vimeo.