Olympus OM-D E-M1 vs Panasonic Lumix GX7 Comparison

October 6, 2013

Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Panasonic Lumix GX7 side by side

In this article I will compare the Olympus OM-D E-M1 versus Panasonic Lumix GX7.  These two cameras are at the third and second on Amazon’s Compact System Cameras best seller’s list, respectively – as of the time of writing. The E-M1 is approximately $400 more expensive than the GX7, and it positions the E-M1 at the semi-pro category, as the GX7 was designed to appeal to enthusiasts and advanced newcomers alike. Having said that, I’m sure that some of you might afford the E-M1, but still have doubts whether or not to spend that extra money and get the E-M1 instead of the GX7.

In this comparison article I will enlighten you with the important information you need to know about the two cameras, with emphasize on the differences between the two cameras. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll have a better idea which camera is the right camera for your specific needs, and whether or not you should pay the extra $400 and get the E-M1 instead of the GX7.

Camera Design

In the first section we’ll talk about the differences in camera design.  Let’s start with mentioning that both cameras are Micro Four thirds Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens cameras. This means that both are compatible with the same range of Micro 4/3 lenses, no matter from which company.

So for example, you can buy the DMC-Gx7 and mount Olympus, Leica or Sigma Micro 4/3 lenses on it and vice versa regarding the E-M1.

No doubt that there are plenty of differences between the two when it comes to the camera’s external design. The E-M1 is much taller and also wider and thicker than the GX7. The E-M1 more resembles a traditional DSLR design and follows the design scheme of Olympus retro OM camera models. The GX7 on the other hand has a flat top, carrying less dials, buttons and switches.

Indeed, compact system cameras were designed to be smaller than a DSLR camera due to the lack of the reflex mirror. So the lens and camera bodies of the Micro 4/3 cameras are indeed smaller comparable to DSLR cameras, but either way you’ll need to carry those cameras in a camera bag — so I wouldn’t worry about the E-M1 being larger than the GX7, rather I would look at other aspects that might make a specific camera to appeal better for my specific needs.

The E-M1 has the advantage when it comes to ergonomics doe to its deeper/larger grip design, which many photographers can find it more comfortable and easier to handle the camera when mounting large and heavy lenses, as well as when using an external flash. The size and extra weight (E-M1 weights 95g more) will helps to better stabilize the camera and compensate for the weight of heavy telephoto lenses. Also if you have large hands, I think that you will better appreciate the E-M1 design.

Panasonic GX1 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 - Top View

Panasonic GX1 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 - Top View

If that’s still not enough for you, there is also an official Olympus HLD-7 battery grip for the Olympus E-M1. As of the time of writing, the HLD-7 grip costs $199.00 on Amazon and comes with an additional shutter release button, lock switch, two B-Fn1/B-Fn2 function buttons which you can customize, two dials and a place for an additional battery to prolong your shooting. The HLD-7 is also enjoying the same weather sealing protection as the E-M1, and I’ll talk about that weather-sealing protection in a moment.

Unlike the Panasonic GH3 which has the Panasonic DMW-BGGH3 battery grip, the  GX7 doesn’t have a compatible vertical battery grip, at least not an official one and not one that I am aware of. This gives the E-M1 an advantage for photographers who needs and prefer using a battery grip when shooting vertical shots and being able to shoot longer without the need to change batteries.

HLD-7 battery grip attached to Olympus E-M1

Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera with HLD-7 battery grip

Having said all that, some of you — especially the target audience that the GX7 is aimed for (enthusiasts) might prefer the smaller size, look and feel of the Gx7 instead.

What I like about the E-M1 has dedicated buttons for HDR auto composite, one-touch white balance button at the front of the camera above the DOF preview button as well as the two function button at the top and back of the camera. However, both cameras have lots of buttons that will give you easier and faster access to popular used camera settings, as well as the ability to customize the function buttons to adjust the settings for those specific Fn buttons to match your shooting style.

I also love the addition of two separate dials on the front and rear side of the GX7, which allows easier control when changing the aperture, shutter speed or exposure values. You’ll spend less time on the menu system, and it will give you more time to focus on your subject to get that perfect shot.

Weather Sealing

One of the biggest advantages that the E-M1 has over the GX7 (at least for the outdoor photographer) is that it has a weather sealed constructiondust, water splashes and freezeproof, as well as full magnesium alloy body construction. You can use the camera in -10℃ or in the rain without worrying about your camera getting damaged by the low temperature or water penetrating the camera body. As I mentioned earlier, the E-M1’s battery grip has the same weather-sealing protection, but you’ll also need a weather-sealed lens to complete this all-around protection (e.g. Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100 mm f/2.8, and Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm, 12-40mm f/2.8 pro and 60mm f/2.8 Macro.

So in short, make sure that you ARE using a weather-sealed lens with the OM-D E-M1 before rushing out in a rainy day to take some shots with this camera.

The Panasonic GX7 doesn’t enjoy any weather-sealing protection as the E-M1 or the GH3, but does employ a magnesium alloy body construction. If you are a passionate outdoor photographer that shoots a lot of photos in harsh weather environments, the E-M1 will appeal much better for your specific needs.

Electronic Viewfinder

The great news is that both cameras employ and electronic viewfinder. The Gx7 has the EVF on the left size, the E-M1 has it on the center.  I personally like the GX7 viewfinder placement better, because it doesn’t take more space at the top — but that’s of course only my personal preference.

Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 viewfinders

Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 -- both employ an electronic viewfinder

The E-M1 uses a 2.36M-dot eye-level EVF with 3 selectable finder view types, including 2-axis level gauge and 5 display grid types, 100% coverage and 100% coverage and 1.48x magnification (0.74x 35mm equivalent). The E-M1 EVF also has an eye-sensor for automatic switching between the VF and the Monitor.

The GX7 uses a 2.76M-dot eye-level EVF (2,764,800 dots to be exact) with level gauge, has 100% coverage and 1.39x (0.7x 35mm equivalent) magnification. The GX7 viewfinder also has an eye-sensor as well.

One of the advantages that the Gx7 has over the E-M1 is that it features a World’s first 90-degrees tiltable EVF. This is an adjustment mechanism that allows you to tilt the EVF 90-degrees up. This is a great advantage for those who prefer shooting with the EVF and therefore allows them to capture low-angle shots without the need to change to the tiltable rear monitor. All you have to do is to flip up the EVF and rotate it upwards.

Some people get worried about those rotating mechanism that might wear off quickly when in heavy use. I personally think that it’s a very nice feature that will help you get those hard low-angle shots a bit easier. Furthermore, you can flip the EVF up when you mount the GX 7 on a tripod for macro shots, and it might make it easier for you to compose your shot while still comfortably composing your shot using the EVF.

So to sum things up, the E-M1 has a larger EVF with 2x one touch tele-converter, automatic backlight adjustment for natural brightness, hi light and shadow control, color creator feature (control hue and color saturation) — but the GX7 has its EVF embedded in the same horizontal line without adding a top bulge to the camera, as well as a higher resolution and a tiltable mechanism.

Rear Monitor

Most ILC cameras today come with a high resolution tiltable display, and it seems like it becomes a standard in most CSC that were announced last year —  The E-M1 and GX7 are not different, especially when you pay a premium price for a higher-end model.

E-M1 — 3.0-inch / 1037K dots / Touch screen / Tiltable (80 degrees upward, 50 degrees downward)
GX7   — 3.0-inch / 1040K dots / Touch screen / Tiltable (80 degrees upward, 45 degrees downward)

Having a viewfinder is certainly a big advantage for those who prefer not composing their shots via the rear LCD. The EVF allows you to get more connected to the subject without the distracting subjects surrounding your subject, as well as providing better visibility when shooting in bright daylight.

To put things in better perspective:

Olympus E-P5 — 3.0-inch/ 1036K-dots / Titlable touchscreen
Olympus E-M5 — 3.0-inch / 610K-dots / Tiltable touchscreen / OLED monitor
Panasonic GH3 — 3.0-inch / 614K-dots / fully articulated touchscreen / OLED monitor
Panasonic GX1 — 3.0-inch / 460K-dots / Fixed touchscreen
Panasonic GF6 — 3.0-inch / 1040K-dots / Tiltable touchscreen

The Panasonic GH3 unlike the E-M1 and the GX7 has a fully articulated display. This means that it has a flexible arm that allows photographers to rotate the screen to fully face the front of the camera, allowing easier self-portrait and group shots. This is something that you don’t get with neither the E-M1 and the GX7 which both use a tiltable display.

Tilting vs fully articulated display

Tilting vs fully articulated display: E-M1 (tilting) vs GH3 (fully articulated)

The Panasonic GH3 is more movie-oriented camera, and therefore its very flexible LCD unit certainly plays a significant role for those who buy this camera.

So to sum things up, the E-M1 has several advantages over the GX7, among those are a weather-sealed body construction, better ergonomics for people with large hands and those who intend to shoot with larger and heavier lenses, more buttons for faster access to frequently-used camera settings (e.g. One-touch WB, HDR), official optional vertical battery grip (sold separately) and larger viewfinder.

On the other hand, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 doesn’t have a built-in pop-up flash but is supplied with a small accessory flash (FL-LM2) that can be mounted on the hot shoe and offers a tiltable mechanism (I personally prefer that over a built-in flash), it’s larger and heavier than the GX7, has a slightly lower resolution EVF and its EVF is not tiltable as the GX7’s.

The E-M1 is designed for and has the look and feel of a semi-pro interchangeable lens camera and also costs as such.  Having said that, some of you might prefer the economic size of the GX7, and appreciate having a relatively compact ILC with premium flat body and a viewfinder.

If I had to pick one to match my specific needs, I would probably have gotten the E-M1 due to its more sturdy and durable build, larger size and bigger viewfinder. Of course we only scratched the tip of the ice in this section, and there is much more to reveal when we lift up the case and see the innovative features that wait for us inside.


Both cameras are equipped with the latest technology innovation. As the low-end camera’s market shrink in favor of mobile phone cameras, more effort is applied to the higher-end digital camera’s market. This can’t be more true when we talk about Panasonic and Olympus — the two leading vendors in the ILC market, and those two companies that focus their efforts on ILC cameras rather than DSLR cameras.

There is plenty to talk about, so let’s just dive in.

Sensor, AF & Image Stabilization

As I mentioned earlier, both the Gx7 and the E-M1 are micro 4/3 cameras, which means that both utilize the same sensor size (17.3 x 13 mm) and both are compatible with all micro four thirds lenses.

The Gx7 and E-M1 feature the same 16MP effective sensor resolution and both use the latest image processing engine (Venus Engine and TruePic VII).

Let’s take a look at the specs:

E-M1 — 16.3MP / Switch between Contrast Detection AF and Phase Detection AF / 5-axis image stabilization / ISO 100 – 25600

GX7  — 16.00MP / Contrast-detect AF system / in-body Image stabilizer (effective as MEGA O.I.S.) / ISO 125 (extended, native ISO starts at 200) – 25600

The GX7 features a newly developed Live MOS sensor which boast high sensitivity image recording and utilizes advanced semiconductor technologies to improve the image color and noise performance. This results in 25% better S/N ratio and 10% improvement in detail reproduction compared to the Panasonic Lumix DMC- GX1.

Furthermore, the GX7 enjoy fast and accurate AF speed by exchanging digital signal between the camera and the lens at maximum rate of 240 fps

The E-M1 is considered a successor of the Olympus E-5, which was a DSLR camera. Olympus wants to gather all its enthusiasts and professional photographers under the same umbrella, and promote and invest its funds in its Micro Four Thirds system.

The OM-D E-M1 also feature a newly-developed Live MOS sensor, which its main goal to deliver superb AF performance for both Olympus Zuiko and M.Zuiko lenses. When you mount Zuiko four-thirds lenses using an adapter, the camera will utilize the sensor’s phase-detect AF system to match the full potential of Olympus’ Zuiko Four Thirds lens performance and switch to contract-detect AF system to maximize and taking full advantage of the ultra-fast AF performance and super quiet focusing that Micro Four Thirds lenses are designed for (aka ‘Dual Fast AF’).

This will allow former E-5 (announced September 2010) owners to safely upgrade to the new Micro Four Thirds system, while still continue using their high-quality Zuiko lenses. This hybrid approach should help Olympus attract and maintain its loyal photographer’s base, which is very important in days where the DSLR market continues to shrink in favor of Compact System Cameras.

Both Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 feature an in-body sensor-shift image stabilization mechanism. This means that you can buy a non-IS lens and it immediately become stabilized by the built-in IS system.

The advantage that the Oly has over the Pana is that the E-M1 features the well-regarded 5-axis IBIS, whether the Panasonic GX7 feature a 2-axis IBIS.  Unlike the E-M1, the DMC-GX7 IBIS is not active during video recording, so it’s recommended to mount an image-stabilized lens if you intend to shoot handheld, especially when shooting with telephoto-zoom lenses.


For stills, the E-M1 IBIs is far superior to the Panasonic’s 0ne, and compensates for yaw/pitch/vertical shift/horizontal shift and rolling camera movements. The E-M1 also has a ‘Lens IS Mode’ which allows you to switch to using the lens IS instead of the built-in one, if you had such lens mounted on your camera. The E-M1 IBIS gives 4 EV step compensation based on CIPA measurement conditions.

The advanced 5-axis IS will allow you to get sharper images and minimize the occurrence of  blurred images when shooting with slow shutter speeds below the recommended shutter speed for a particular focal length setting (1/focal length).  It will give you much better freedom when shooting in low-light situations, because you can shoot the scene with shutter speeds 4 EV steps slower than the minimum recommended shutter speed for a sharp image — so more light passes through the lens, expanding your creative low-light shooting possibilities. Combine that with a fast aperture lens and great high ISO performance, and you get a superb low-light photographic tool.

The E-M1 features 81-point contract-detect AF and 37-point phase-difference detection AF. So when shooting with M.Zuiko Micro Four thirds lenses you will enjoy more crowded AF points that will allow faster and more accurate subject tracking.  The GX1 features 23 AF points, less impressive than the Oly specs obviously. Both cameras enjoy the touch shutter release and other touch-oriented functionality (e.g. Touch to enlarge) to make it easier for novice photographers to operate the camera. I personally don’t use this function — maybe when shooting macro shots, but some photographers find it very handy, especially when given the ability to use the touch manual focus and magnification functionality that makes it easier to focus on smaller subjects in the scene. Making sure that you get the focus spot on at the first time.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 features a 1728-zone multi-pattern light metering system with EV 0 – 18 range sensitivity. The Oly E-M1 feature ‘only’ 324-area multi-pattern metering system, but one that offers a bit more flexibility  (i.e. Spot metering wit highlight/shadow control) and more sensitive (EV -2 – 20). Both cameras offer focus  peaking functionality to make it easier to fine tune the focus.

Both cameras provide super fast and accurate AF performance, with the E-M1 enjoying a more flexible and better AF system overall.  If you are a Videographer, you will enjoy the E-M1 5-axis IBIS, but unfortunately the E-M1 falls short when it comes to video frame rate options and I will talk about that in the video recording section later on.

Image Quality / High ISO Performance

Both the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Panasonic Lumix Gx7 are aimed towards the enthusiast photographers market segment. Many of those pay a good attention to the camera features and image quality. Image quality, especially the high ISO performance plays a significant role for those who purchase those types of cameras in the first place — which becomes even more significant for low-light shooters.

Both Gx7 and E-M1 are excellent low-light snappers, but of course we are here to find out which one performs better. In order to observe the differences, if there are any, I went to imaging resource and use its comparometer tool to closely inspect and compare the high ISO performance of both cameras one versus the other — here is a summary of my observation.

  • ISO 100 (E-M1) / ISO 125 (GX7)
    The E-M1 image looks sharper and with a better contract. This is quite significant when you watch the image at 100% scale.  This is very noticeable when you look at the colored textured napkins, where on the E-M1 you can see every a lot of details, which are lost on the GX7.  And although the GX7 image looks a bit on the soft side, the E-M1 just resolved more details. Both images are very clean in terms of image noise, so no problem there.
    Advantage: Olympus OM-D E-M1 (much better fine detail, higher contrast and better color reproduction overall. Oly also has a native ISO 100, the GX7 does not – starts at native ISO 200)
  • ISO 200
    I wanted to see if the same sharpness/contrast trend continue to this ISO sensitivity as well, just to be sure that something maybe was not accurate with the ISO 100/125 images, but the result is the same. The E-M1 produces much sharper images. When I say “sharper” I don’t mean like having a stronger in-camera sharpness (although it might be), but the E-M1 is able to resolve much more find details than the Gx7 and its very obvious in certain type of photos, especially in fine-details textured areas. I also liked better how the E-M1 produced the reds, and the saturation is slightly higher on the E-M1 as well. Overall, I find the E-M1 image more pleasing to watch and enjoyed the superb detailed image at this low ISO sensitivity. Image noise wise, both are very clean.
    Advantage: Olympus OM-D E-M1
  • ISO 400
    The same differences reported on ISO100/ISO200 regarding sharpness and contrast are still the same at ISO400.  Slight noise in the dark tones, but nothing to be concerned about — very clean image for both cameras.
    Advantage: Olympus OM-D E-M1
  • ISO 800
    Noise is much more visible now in mid-tones as well. The GX7 image looks cleaner and the GX7 does a much better job in suppressing noise while still maintaining  a detailed image. This is more visible when looking at the color palette at the bottom. Also it seems that the dynamic range is higher on the E-M1 when looking at the white, gray and black colors – with the GX7 white looks a bit gray-ish, rather than pure white as it looks at the E-M1 image.
    Advantage: GX1 (lower image noise — see next section), E-M1 (better fine details, higher contrast, higher dynamic range)
  •  ISO 1600
    At ISO 1600 we usually start to get a better understanding of the cons and pros of each sensor regarding noise suppression. I was interested to see whether the GX7 will continue to outperform the E-M1 at ISO 1600 as well.
    Both cameras produce very impressive ISO1600 images, so that’s the good news. Having said that, the GX7 certainly outperforms the E-M1 in the noise department by quite a large margin I have to say. The results are quite mixed. In some areas of the image we can see that the E-M1 does a better job suppressing noise and still maintaining details. In other areas it seems certainly looks like the GX7 outperforms the E-M1, especially in the color palate part of the image.
    In my opinion, the GX7 applied much more aggressive NR, but it the NR is being applied well in the areas that need that extra NR attention. Overall I prefer the E-M1 more preservative NR approach, and I think that image-noise wise, the E-M1 performs better than the GX7 — I can say one EV step advantage in favor of the E-M1 in ISO 1600.
    Advantage: Olympus OM-D E-M1
  • ISO 3200
    If I missed something, I will certainly spot it at ISO 3200.  At ISO 3200 (at least for micro four thirds cameras) you get to clearly see which one is the better performer of the two.
    We can see the advantage that the E-M1 has over the Gx7 when we look at the way the fine details (texture, fine text) is preserved on both cameras. The E-M1 does a much better job. However, in areas that are more plain and less complex with less fine details, the GX7 produces a cleaner look due to stronger NR. I think that enthusiast and semi-pro photographers will prefer the E-M1 output better than the Gx7 for JPEG (didn’t check it in RAW though).
    Advantage: Olympus OM-D E-M1

The same NR trend continues up to the highest ISO sensitivity (25600). In my observation, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 has around 1EV advantage over the GX7 when it comes to image noise. The E-M1 result in a sharper image, much better detailed image and it applies weaker NR (which I personally prefer).

Both cameras result in excellent to very good IQ at high ISO, with the E-M1 having the edge. At low ISO the E-M1 performs much better than the GX7, and I find the GX7 sample images to be on the soft side.  If you care about image noise, fine details and dynamic range — you should certainly be interested in giving the E-M1 a chance. It’s not that the GX7 was bad, not at all — the E-M1 was just better overall and gave more professional results.

Video Recording

Both the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic GX7 can record 1080p full HD videos at 30 frames per second with stereo sound. That’s in fact the only frame rate the Oly can shoot with.

The Panasonic Lumix GX7 enjoys much greater flexibility, and can record videos at 60p (progressive – higher quality), 60i, 30p and 24p (cinematic frame rate).

Let’s take a look at two sample videos, first two videos taken with the E-M1, the  third and forth with the GX7.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 full HD sample videos

Shot by onfotoRu using E-M1 + Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2.0 Macro lens

Brilliant! – Super impressed with the second video, aren’t you?

Panasonic Lumix GX7 sample videos

First video by Kartikey Smita Karnatak YouTube user

Less impressed with the light metering, color but sharpness is very good.

Obviously this professional GX7 sample video from Panasonic looks better.

Both cameras can shoot great looking videos, with the E-M1 enjoying its 5-axis IBIS for video recording, but the GX7 offers also great video quality but with more flexible frame rate options.

Other feature differences:

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The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a semi-pro grade Mirrorless Interchangeable lens camera. At ~$400 price difference over the GX7, the E-M1 brings several advantages that will certainly attract the enthusiast and semi-pro photographers. Among those advantages are: 5-axis image stabilization, larger and more fully featured viewfinder, better ergonomics, more buttons for fast access to frequently used camera settings (inc. WB and HDR), better high ISO performance and image quality overall, more AF points, base ISO 100,  bundled tiltable flash, 3.5 mm external mic stereo jack, official optional battery grip, weather-sealing and faster burst speed.

I personally think that the Olympus E-M1 is well worth its extra price over the GX7 when it comes to stills. However, although the E-M1 takes gorgeous videos, it lacks the frame rate flexibility of the  GX7 which also provides 60p and 24p frame rate video recording options. The GX7 is both video and stills oriented camera for both beginners and advanced photographers alike. It is much cheaper than the E-M`, significantly smaller and lighter. It offers  slightly higher EVF resolution, built-in Panorama function, pop-up flash,  60p/24p/60i/30p video recording, NFC for easy wireless connectivity and tiltable electronic viewfinder (World’s first) which the E-M1 lacks.

If you are searching for an excellent video+stills MILC for a reasonable price, the GX7 might be the camera to get this year. If video is not in high priority, and you are searching for a high-end stills shooter, which is bundled with the best the CSC market has to offer or you are upgrading from the E-5 — the E-M1 is the camera to get. This comes with a high price tag, but as you’ve read and seen, it’s well worth it.

The E-M1 is also a great camera for the outdoor photographer. You don’t need to worry shooting with it in the rain, in the snow or at the beach. The E-M1 weather-sealing will get you the right protection you need when shooting outdoors in harsh weather environments — just make sure that you also get a weather-sealed lens, and as I mentioned, the official battery group carries the same weather-sealing properties.

So there you go. Two new modern compact system cameras, each one with its cons and pros. Now it’s your time to decide which one to pick up.Don’t forget that you also need to purchase a lens if you buy the camera body-only. Some people prefer investing less money on the camera body and buying a better lens or a secondary lens when they start out. Also remember that if you buy the GX7 and later on decide to upgrade to the E-M1, you can do so and still keep your lenses from the other camera, as both use the same lens mount.

If you have any questions, just write your question in the comment section below. If you have an experience with either cameras, drop an opinion in the comment section below and tell us which one you prefer. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share this comparison article if you enjoy reading it.

I also recommend reading my Olympus OM-D E-M1 vs Sony NEX-6 comparison. The NEX-6 is another great Compact system camera to consider as well. Also check the E-M1 and GX7 size comparison on camera size website.

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