The E-M1 and its E-x predecessors

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by dhazeghi, Sep 8, 2013.

  1. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    So the E-M1 should finally be announced on Tuesday (or late Monday, depending where you are in the world). Most of us are coming at the E-M1 from the perspective of current m4/3 users, be it as E-M5, Pen or Lumix G users. But from what we know right now, Olympus is trying to position the E-M1 as the successor to the professional E-series of DSLRs.

    While we can quibble about how much of an upgrade it will be over current m4/3 models, considered in the context of the E-5, E-3 and E-1, I think the E-M1 actually looks quite remarkable, keeping in mind when those camera were released. Particularly vs. the E-5.

    E-M1 vs. E-5 (released in September 2010)
    • Sensor: 16MP Sony NMOS vs. 12MP Panasonic NMOS. Among other things this means major improvements in noise at all ISOs even above and beyond the E-M5. It's more than a stop better than the E-5 in that regard and the dynamic range (as judged by the E-M5) is quite a bit better too, in both the highlights and the shadows. The Sony sensor also does away with banding at ISOs < 6400. Less significant but still nice is the 33% increase in overall resolution and the removal of the anti-alias filter.
    • Body Image stabilization: 5-axis vs. 2-axis . The E-5's stabilization was a bit better than the one found in the Pens. The newer system is at least a stop better.
    • Autofocus: debatable. This is probably the biggest question mark. How well will the E-M1 focus 4/3 lenses. And how well will C-AF work, both with 4/3 lenses and m4/3 ones. Some reviewers peg S-AF performance behind the E-5, others suggest it's as good or better. The same is true for C-AF.
    • Framerate: 10/6.5 fps vs 5 fps. We don't know what the future holds for C-AF, but in terms of frame-rate this will be a huge jump without tracking (10 fps) and a decent increase with (6.5 fps).
    • Viewfinder: 100% 1.48x 2.4MP EVF vs 100% 1.15x OVF. Probably the most hotly debated change by the 4/3 faithful. The EVF is now clearly bigger, and the OVF obviously has no lag.
    • Screen: 3" 1040k tilting touch-sensitive LCD vs. 3" 920k fully-articulating LCD. The E-M1 drops the fully-articulating LCD in favor of the E-M5's tilting one, but adds touch-control.
    • Video: 1080p30/24 AVCHD vs. 720p30 MJPEG. While Olympus is clearly lagging Panasonic on video, this is still a substantial improvement.
    • Size/weight: ~130x94x63mm/500g vs. 143x117x75mm/895g. The E-M1 looks a bit smaller and lighter than the Panasonic GH3, which is to say the same size as Canon and Nikon's smaller DSLRs, the D3200 and Rebel T3. The E-5 on the other hand is slightly smaller and just as heavy as a professional full-frame DSLR (e.g. Nikon's D800 and Canon's 5Dmk3.
    • Lenses: m4/3 + 4/3 vs. 4/3. The E-M1 essentially more than doubles the selection of fully-functional (S-AF/C-AF, auto-diaphragm) lenses available, as compared to the E-5.
    • MSRP: $1700 vs. $1400. $300 drop in list price, although 4/3 users will need an adapter for their existing lenses, which at least for now is free with rebate.

    Compare these changes to what the E-5 offered vs. the E-3 (released in October 2007)
    • Sensor: 12MP Panasonic NMOS vs. 10MP Panasonic NMOS. A lighter AA filter significantly increased detail (more so than the 20% increase in resolution). High ISO noise improved a bit and banding was significantly reduced below ISO 1600. On the downside, low and mid-ISO noise actually increased a fair amount due to Olympus's new approach to DR (underexpose and push in processing).
    • Body Image stabilization: no change. Same 2-axis system, with same claim of 'up to 3-stops' of stabilization.
    • Autofocus: various improvements. Speed improved in low light, accuracy in most situations, C-AF saw some improvements and the addition of AF tune made it possible for E-5 users to compensate for repeatable AF errors on their lenses.
    • Framerate: no change. 5 fps on both. The E-5 had a slightly smaller RAW buffer (20 vs 23 frames).
    • Viewfinder: no change. Same 100% 1.15X OVF.
    • Screen: 920k fully-articulating LCD vs. 230k fully-articulating LCD. Screen resolution on the E-5 was drastically improved over the E-3.
    • Video: 720p30 MJPEG vs. nothing. The E-3 didn't have video.
    • Size/weight: no change. Externally the bodies appeared virtually identical.
    • Lenses: same. The E-5 did have slightly more native lens models available at the time of release due to various Olympus releases, but at the same time Sigma discontinued many of their 4/3 mount lenses.
    • MSRP: $1700 vs $1700. No change.

    Finally, the E-3 vs the E-1 (released in June 2003)
    • Sensor: 10MP Panasonic NMOS vs. 5MP Kodak CCD. The E-3 dramatically increased real resolution. High ISO noise decreased by around a stop, but the Panasonic sensor did exhibit banding starting as low as ISO 400, something the Kodak sensor avoided. Shadow dynamic range improved slightly, whereas highlight dynamic range dropped.
    • Body Image stabilization: 2-axis vs. none. The E-1 did not feature image stabilization.
    • Video: none (no change).
    • Autofocus: faster 11 cross point vs. more reliable 3 point system. In good light, the E-3 was far faster. In poor light, it was sometimes faster and sometimes failed to lock entirely. There were also wide-spread issues with AF accuracy on the E-3, whereas the E-1 had no notable reports of front- or back-focus. The E-3 offered improved C-AF, although it was still far from dependable, even compared to its contemporaries.
    • Framerate: 3 fps vs. 5 fps. Not only was the E-3 faster, but it had a much larger RAW buffer for continuous shooting (23 shots compared to just 12).
    • Viewfinder: 100% 1.0x OVF vs. 100% 1.15x. The E-3's OVF was noticeably larger than the E-1's.
    • Screen: 130k 1.8" fixed LCD vs. 230k fully-articulating LCD. The E-3's articulating LCD was the first in a camera of its class. The E-3's addition of Live View made that addition particularly helpful.
    • Video: no change. None.
    • Size/weight: 141x104x81mm/660g vs. 142x116x75mm/895g. Although size was pretty close, the design of the grip on the E-3 made it seem larger to many folks. It also added 30% in terms of weight.
    • Lenses: same. It's easy to forget that Olympus (and Panasonic and Sigma) built the 4/3 system from scratch in the roughly 4 years between the E-1 and E-3. The E-1 was released alongside 4 lens models. By the time the E-3 came out, there were more than 2 dozen.
    • MSRP: $2200 vs. $1700. Olympus had a hard time selling E-1s early on before they dropped prices, and chose to adjust accordingly for the E-3.
  2. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Good point! We will have to see if the pros out there using 4/3 buy into it. Anybody who has invested in the good glass it makes since plus they can now use al the m4/3 lenses too.
  3. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    I think whoever has some decent 4/3 glass will be all over this. We'll see a small spike in "pro" use from those who have the 35-100 f2 in a closet but who felt forced to Canikony. Some will hate the EVF, no matter what. But the majority will embrace the live histogram and "pre-chimping" that a great EVF allows. A few sports shooter might see the advantages of the EM1 as a remote camera.

    I'd like to see if Olympus can improve the noise pattern at base ISO.

    The weather sealing, look of the camera and build might get a few traveling pros (conflict journos, travel photographers, extreme photographers) to move over. But ultimately Olympus will need to move their marketing program away from the "hipster" photographer to a more serious approach if they want to make even a tiny dent in the Canikon market.

  4. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    It's been said before on this forum. As much as good equipment real pros need a high level of support. I don't see that from Olympus yet. It's the enthusiasts who will use pro level stuff without the support. Of course, enthusiasts are a bigger market anyway.
  5. gotak

    gotak Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 28, 2012
    Actually think the Canikon market has a big hipster following. I have seen many hipsters rocking a rebel with kit lens like a fashion accessory. Always without a bag, just bare camera and lens.

    But you got the general problem cause they only make small systems they have trouble convincing the unwashed masses that the camera is going to give them better pictures. What they need to do is work up the design aspect. Making it look like a copy cat OM works for people like us and hipsters but it's not going to attract the mass market. They need to pull a page from Apple's playbook and start making the PEN line looks like it's worth a million bucks with some bushed aluminium. If you don't want to make the thing bigger you got to make it stand out at the store.
  6. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    As a former 4/3 user who's still using 4/3 glass with m4/3 bodies, I've been largely gravitating to the smallest bodies in the Pen range even though I always stuck with the top-end of the 4/3 lineup. This is the first body which could truly convince me to jump back into the top-end of the lineup. We simply needed a successor, and one which will not make you give up the advantages of either system will be all the better!

    PS, thanks for the great comparative writeup, DH!
  7. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Thanks for taking the time to make the comparison, Dara!

    I have been tempted to get the E-5 at times over the last couple years so that I can put my 4/3 lenses to better use, but luckily for me, the price of the E-5 never came down by much, so I couldn't justify splashing out on a camera with an outdated sensor, and heft that I loathed in the first place. If the PDAF of the E-M1 works as well as it has been suggested in those early tests/rumors, I will most definitely trade my E-M5 in for it!

    I don't know how many 4/3 camera users are still out there, but this new PDAF-enabled sensor will hopefully lure them to adopt m4/3, if they haven't done so already...
  8. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    I agree. They need a stable niche. I think a compact, high-quality weather-sealed camera with an excellent body of lenses is a good entry to the traveling/hiking market. With the E-M5, they had most things, modulo some of the lenses. It seems the E-M1 will up the build quality and significantly increase the lens options.
  9. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Depends on what level of pro you are talking about. Sure the guy working for a major magazine needs the support but not the guy working for the local paper. They are both pros but at very different levels. Plus there is a shift right now from the on staff professional to sourcing images from anybody who can produce them, making pros out of enthusiasts{at least for an image or two}.
  10. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Traditional pros are definitely a shrinking market. That and the support issue make well-heeled amateurs a better bet for growth for smaller players like Olympus.
  11. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    It appears however that Olympus is going to be offering some "pro" suport for this camera and the "pro" lenses. I can't find the link right now but I know in the 30+ articles I read in the past 24 hours that one said they will be offering a higher level of service. If somebody has the link please add it, if you find it before I do that is.
  12. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    I can't find the link, but I did see mention of that somewhere. Also, in Europe, there's a deal that gives you a free HLD-7 grip and MMF-3 adapter with E-M1 purchases. That makes me think they're trying to attractive some of that higher-end market.

    One thing that's impressed me is just how quickly the E-5 has disappeared from sale. I mean, eBay has more E-3s than E-5s at this point. I would not be surprised if E-M1 pre-orders outsell the entire run of E-5s.
  13. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

  14. jeffryscott

    jeffryscott Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 2, 2010
    When the E1 first came out, Olympus had set up a pro service of which I became a member ... Priority repair/replacement, etc ....

    It was the early days of digital at the professional level and I believe Olympus had hoped to lure more pros into the fold because, at that time, the E1 with its weather sealed body and lenses kicked the butt of anything Nikon or Canon had. Neither Nikon or Canon had good weather sealing by comparison on either bodies or lenses. (Yes, I used all three brands during that time and the E1 compared very favorably to Nikon D1. Canon's 1d was slightly better, but much heavier and much more expensive (3-4x the price for just the body).

    Sadly, Olympus being small couldn't keep pace with the Canikon juggernaut and the rapidly improving sensors of the time. The E series didn't completely evaporate, but did grow quite stagnant - along with any pro aspirations Olympus had for the line (a few holdouts, but few and far between I would guess).
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