Olympus OM-D E-M1 vs OM-D E-M5 Comparison

Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs OM-D E-M1

In this post we’ll talk about the key features of the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 and its differences compared to the OM-D E-M5 camera. The E-M1 is Olympus new Micro Four Thirds flagship camera. According to Olympus, the E-M1 actually replaces the E-5 camera, rather than being a replacement for the E-M5. I guess for many of you it really doesn’t matter, as long as the camera will provide you with the features you are searching when buying a new camera.

We’ll start with an introduction to the E-M5 and then continue to our comparison section, where we compare the E-M1 vs E-M5.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Key Features

The new Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a Micro Four Thirds camera and utilizes a Micro Four Thirds sensor. Having said that, the new E-M1 camera is compatible with both ZUIKO Four Thirds lenses, as well as M.ZUIKO Micro Four Thirds lenses as well. However, you need to use the MMF-3 adapter to use Four Thirds Zuiko lenses — but the camera will provide AF for both.  So this is probably the most important thing that you need to know if you plan to upgrade to this camera from the E-5 or older Four Thirds models. This also means that you can choose from already 89 lenses available from Olympus and third-party vendors to use with the new E-M1 camera. Olympus also introduced a new HLD-7 battery grip  covers the base of the camera – but doesn’t add an additional vertical grip.

The Olympus E-M1 features a Dual fast AF feature which selects the optimal AF method to use depends on the lens used. The camera selects either 37-point AF phase-detect AF or 81-point contrast-detect AF. When using Micro Four Thirds lenses, the camera will switch to contrast-detect AF, when using a Four Thirds lens, the camera will switch to phase-detect AF. Each type of lens is optimized for different AF system and therefore each one will take advantage of a different AF system on the camera. The camera recognizes the lens type and does that switching automatically for you, there is no need to do it manually.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 was designed from the ground up to satisfy the demands of both enthusiasts and pros alike.  It is way ahead of the competition when it comes to design and feature as you’ll soon read. Regarding its design, the E-M1 looks more like a DSLR camera than a Micro Four Thirds camera. It carries quite a similar design as the E-M5 with its metal-body, viewfinder shape, straight-line design – but other than that, everything is different.

The E-M1 features a much larger grip, which provided improved ergonomics when attaching larger and heavier lenses. The E-M5 grip is very small. Those of you who have large hands will certainly appreciate it. The camera comes with many buttons and dials, including a new HDR dial and top Drive mode, one-touch white balance button, exposure compensation wheel dial, two multi-function buttons, metering mode, AEL/AFL button, AF point selection and a movie recording button. The Fn1 custom function button which is also the AF point selection by default — is positioned on a protrusion on the top-right corner, easy reachable with your right-hand thumb.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 and OM-D E-M5 side by side comparison

The E-M1 now has a much larger grip for your right-hand thumb at the back of the camera. The E-1 is completely different by design compare to the E-5. This is how a semi-pro next-generation camera looks like, and it is a beautifully-crafted camera. The OM-D E-M1 also has a splash, dust and freeze proof design. This makes the E-M1 the perfect camera for the outdoor photographer and you can use it in temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius. You can use it in the rain, snow, mud or in a dusty environment without worrying that your camera will malfunctioned.

The new E-M1 now features a newly-developed 16MP Live MOS image sensor. It seems that Olympus continues to stay with the 16MP resolution, as it’s the sweet spot for image details and performance. The new sensor provides native ISO 100 – 25600 with the option to change the ISO in 1/3EV of full 1EV increments. As I mentioned earlier, the new Live MOS sensor also features on-chip phase-detect AF to provide the Dual-Fast AF function that can utilize both technologies for improved AF performance.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 features a new 2.36 million dot, 1.48x magnification, 100% FOC and 29 ms refresh rate Electronic Viewfinder. That’s 0.74x magnification in 35mm terms. Close to the size of viewfinder that of a full frame DSLR, even larger than the Canon EOS-1D X DSLR camera. This viewfinder certainly plays a significant role for enthusiast and professional when buying a new camera.  It enhances the camera’s usability and allow better and more convenient way to compose your shot and change settings, that without taking your eyes of your subject while doing so.

The short 29ms image display lag time will result in real-time viewing experience — well, almost. The problem with many EVFs is that there is a noticeable refresh time lag, which leads to photographers pressing the shutter release button a moment too late and therefore getting different results that the ones that they wanted to. So what you see with your own eyes on the scene is what you see in the EVF.

At the back of the E-1 you can also find a 3.0 inch 1037K-dot high resolution Tiltable (up 80 degrees, down 50 degrees) touchscreen display.  The touchscreen provides various added functionality, including Touch shutter release, Touch enlargement and Touch Live Guide. You can use it to navigate through the camera settings and options, apply filters and when browsing the photo gallery on your camera.

Other features included Olympus well-regarded 5-axis image stabilization, but now features what Olympus calls IS-Auto — which automatic panning detection. A 10 fps continuous shooting, which drops down to 6.5 frames in C-AF. The E-M1 also features built-in Wi-Fi module that provides added functionality, including remote-shooting and being able to directly transfer images and videos to a mobile device, whether it’s a Smartphone, tablet or other Wi-Fi compatible storage device. You can also use the WI-Fi connectivity to acquire GPS information from your Smartphone. Connecting your Smartphone with your E-M1 camera is easy using OI.Share app and by scanning a QR code.

I think that the Olympus OM-D E-M1 was designed to attract enthusiasts and semi-pro photographers using the Micro Four Thirds system. There are many photographers who are shooting with the Four Thirds cameras and Olympus wants to unite them under the same umbrella.  Doing so, it can focus 100% of its efforts on the M4/3 system. This is crucial in times where digital cameras, including ILC, are losing market share for Smartphone cameras.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 features plenty of in-camera settings to experiment with, image filters, two HDR modes, art filters, bracketing (ISO, Exposure, White Balance, Flash, Art Filter) and the Photostroy photo collage feature that tells a story using several images in a single frame.

The E-M1 can record 1080p30 Full HD videos in either .MOV or .AVI video file formats with stereo sound. This isn’t the strongest part of the E-M1, and other Micro Four Thirds cameras like the Panasonic Lumix GH3 provides enthusiast Videographers with much better tools. The E-M5 is focused on providing leading tools for stills photographers.

To sum things up for the new E-M1: The combination of a durable camera, improved ergonomics and handling, large viewfinder, articulated display, lots of buttons for fast access to popular camera settings, 1/8000 Sec shutter speed, optional battery grip, Wi-Fi and sophisticated Dual Fast AF — all should provide advanced photographers all the tools that they need to get the perfect shot, even when shooting under rough weather conditions.

How the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Compares to the E-M5?

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a very impressive photographic equipment for stills photography, no one will question that. However, I know that there are many of you who still want to know the differences between Olympus OM-D E-M5 and this new camera.  The E-M1 doesn’t replace the E-M5 — and we’ll reside alongside the OM-D E-M5 in Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera’s lineup. In the continuously shrinking market of high-end cameras, camera vendors strive to focus on the enthusiast and semi-pro category to maintain its customer base and try to recruit new photographers.

As the market shrinks, the competition will be even tougher for those companies. Olympus certainly has an advantage in the ILC market compare to Nikon and Canon. This why Olympus did the best to come up with a camera that will put itself way ahead of the competition. The only company that can give Olympus a good run for its money is Panasonic, which also has its own Micro Four Thirds camera lineup.

In the next E-M1 vs E-M5 specs/feature comparison table, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between the E-M1 and the E-M5. Both are Olympus Micro Four Thirds flagship cameras. This comparison table will give you a clear understanding of the differences between those two cameras, and help you know which one is the best camera for your specific needs.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1 size comparison

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The Olympus OM-D E-M1 features the following advantages over the E-M5:

  • Improved ergonomics, button layout and larger grip
  • More buttons for faster access to popular used camera settings
  • Freezeproof construction
  • Much larger and higher resolution electronic viewfinder which automatically adjusts the brightness of the screen according to the ambient light
  • Higher resolution rear screen
  • Phase-detect AF alongside contrast-detect AF (aka Dual-fast AF)
  • Newly improved sensor
  • Next-Gen image processor
  • Native ISO 100
  • Faster shutter speed
  • Faster X Sync speed
  • Faster burst
  • More flexible exposure compensation
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Built-in Timelsape / interval shooting option
  • Improved built-in IS system (improved algorithms and new IS-Auto mode)
  • More At filter effects
  • Two variations of HDR shooting
  • New HLD-7 Power Battery Holder which is dustproof and splashproof as well

Both cameras have a mic-jack connector to attach and external stereo microphone to improve video sound quality.


The Olympus OM-D E-M1 will be available starting October 2013 for an estimated street price of $1399.99 (body only). The Olympus E-M5 sells for $900 on Amazon as of the time of writing (body only).  This means that the OM-D E-M1 defines a new category of a professional-grade micro four thirds cameras.

The E-M1 is much more expensive than the E-M5, but provides photographers with a much better improved functionality.  The new viewfinder is certainly one of the most attractive features in this camera.  Finally an EVF that can closely match the experience that you get with full frame DSLR cameras. I think that the long list of advantages that the E-M1 has over the E-M5 are worth the extra money that you pay for it, but it boils to one’s special needs.

I think that it’s great that Olympus made this camera, because it now gives both E-5 and E-M5 owners a new camera upgrade path.  Micro Four Thirds shooters that already bought the E-M5, didn’t have really anything better to upgrade to in the Olympus M43 lineup, but now they have.

I am really impressed with this new camera. I think that advanced snappers will love its new design and improved functionality over the E-M5, but that of course comes at the price of portability.  Theoretically, Micro Four Thirds cameras support to bring the advances of DSLR cameras but in a more  compact camera body. The E-M1 is certainly not a compact camera, but that’s the price that you pay for having more buttons, large EVF and improved ergonomics. People who already shoot with relatively big and heavy M43 or Four Thirds lenses won’t mind that at all. In fact, that relatively large size just helps to stabilize the camera better.

If you are searching for a professional-grade Micro Four Thirds camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is the camera to go for. The E-M5 is still among the most attractive M43 cameras on the market, but many people were disappointed with its AF performance. Now that this is also improved on the E-M1, the E-M1 will be an all-around better Micro Four Thirds camera for still photography. It doesn’t impress with its video functionality — If you are an enthusiast photographer, I would probably be looking at what Panasonic has to offer.

If I had to get a new camera, I would get the Olympus OM-D E-M1 without thinking twice. Such a great camera, and I just love the new EVF. This is the camera that I always dreamed that Olympus will release. Just remember that when you buy this camera, you have the option to mount any Micro Four Thirds lens, including those of Panasonic, Sigma, Tamron and other vendors.  Highly recommended semi-pro micro four thirds camera for the serious photographer, especially for the outdoor photographer.