Samsung NX30 vs Olympus OM-D E-M1 Comparison

January 5, 2014

Samsung NX30 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 cameras banner

In this article we will be comparing the newly announced Samsung NX30 versus Olympus OM-D E-M1. Both are Olympus and Samsung’s flagship models, each one represents the best and latest in mirrorless camera innovation from those two companies.

Opening Words

To be honest, I am a big fan of Olympus since the early digital camera days. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is certainly one of the most attractive mirrorless cameras on the market right now.  However, I have to admit that Sony really caught my attention when it announced the Sony A7 and Sony A7R full frame mirrorless cameras a month later. This showed me how competitive and exciting the mirrorless market is, much more exciting than the DSLR for sure (well, at least in my perspective). There is plenty of room for innovation, and for our luck, this innovation takes place as we speak.

Samsung wasn’t really strong on my radar, and I wasn’t that excited about the iFunction feature either. I think that the new Samsung NX30 is really an important announcement, and Samsung really had to release such camera to put it back on the track.  Samsung have been relieving very positive  opinions and high rating on many camera review websites. This includes praising its NX300 retro styled camera for its excellent image quality, Hybrid AF and Wireless connectivity. This also includes the NX300M with the open-source Tizen software. Samsung lenses also gained positive feedback about their optics quality, and on the NX30 announcement date, Samsung also announced its first fast aperture premium standard-zoom lens, the 16-50mm F2-2.8 S ED OIS lens.

Samsung certainly got many of the world’s electronic consumer’s attention with its Samsung Galaxy smartphones, and now its Samsung time to shine in mirrorless camera’s market too.  I think that the expectations from a large cooperation like Samsung are very high, considering its financial lead over other companies in this business. I practice, I didn’t find this advantage being translated into more innovative products. The NX30 certainly looks a good step forward towards more interesting and more advanced compact system cameras.

Worth mentioning that Samsung still doesn’t have any full frame CSC, but who knows what Samsung is planning for us this year – well, only Samsung does.

I did compare the Samsung NX vs GX7 and Olympus OM-D E-M5,  and also versus NX20 and NX300 — but I find the E-M1 to be the most interesting contender of them all.  So in this comparison I will compare the NX30 only versus the OM-D E-M1, and see which one comes on top as the best mirrorless camera.

Like other articles, I will first start with (kind of) short introduction to each camera, and later on I will compare the two cameras in terms of specs and features — see which one offers the best features. Of course you will be one to decide which camera fits your particular shooting style, but this comparison will help you make a smarter buying decision nevertheless.

Samsung Smart Camera NX30

We’ll start with the Samsung NX30. The NX30 is Samsung’s latest NX flagship model, replacing the Samsung NX20 camera which was announced on April 19, 2012. The NX30 gains many advantages over its predecessor, making it a must-have upgrade for NX20 owners.

The first most noticeable difference is its design. The NX30 got a noticeable makeover and it’s now noticeably bigger than its predecessor. There are positive and negative side to a size increment. On the positive side, this allows Samsung to evenly spread the buttons and dials apart, promoting better handling and easier access to various camera settings through the available buttons and dials.  The NX3 now features two top dials and have a much more prominent grip as well. A larger and heavier camera helps to balance the weight distribution between the camera and a heavy lens or accessory which is mounted on the camera.  Its improved ergonomic design will also appeal to people with large hands and when used with gloves on.

Samsung NX30 and NX300 size comparison

Samsung NX30 and NX300 size comparison (via

At the heart of the NX30 is a 20.3 megapixel APS-C sensor, the same sensor used on the NX300 — which means excellent image quality. The new sensor provides the camera with its Hybrid Autofocus mechanism. The NX30 features both 247 contrast-detection AF points and 105 phase-detection AF points (aka Hybrid). This helps the NX30 to outperform contrast AF-only cameras when it comes to tracking fast moving subjects, as the phase-detection AF provides almost instantaneous measurement of distance of the subject from the camera. It becomes very useful especially when shooting subjects that moves away and towards the camera. The NX30 can takes advantage of both technologies to provide DSLR-like AF performance for many shooting situations.

Many people prefer to buy a mirrorless with APS-C or Full Frame sensor because you can achieve higher degree of shallow depth of field (background blur) compare to a smaller sensor with the same equivalent focal length. This is because a lens with a smaller focal length had to be used to achieve the same equivalent field of view. The focal length is one of things (along distance from subject and aperture) that affects depth of field.

At the rear you can find one of the NX30 most innovative features, and that’s a 80-degree tilting 2359K-dots EVF with contact sensor. So not just that you get a high-resolution EVF, but one with a tilting mechanism as well. The tilting EVF takes less space at the rear because Samsung used a pulling mechanism, which means you need to pull the EVF out first and then you can tilt it up.

So what a tilting EVF is good for?  — it’s main advantages are inherited from its mechanism obviously. This means that its easier to compose your shot when the camera is positioned below eye-level.  For example, if you shoot a macro subject and the camera is mounted on a tripod below eye-level,  it’s easier to use the tilting EVF. You also have the option to use the fully articulated LCD at the back of the camera, and what a screen it is: 3-inch, fully articulated, 1036K-dots, Super AMOLED (S-Stripe) and touch sensitive as well.

There are many type of colro filter arrangement, including S-Stripe RGB, RGB Stripe, EGBG pentile, RGBW square, RGBW Pentile. The main advantages of the S-Stripe is that less space is wasted on borders between the pixels, better accuracy, boost the lifetime of the blue organic material and provide better image quality when the image is rotated.

You can see the difference between RGB square, S-Stripe EGB and Pentile in the video below made by PWSunUP YouTune user.

Among the other features that the NX30 offers are: 1/8000 sec shutter speed, improved SMART CAMERA  3.0 features (Group Share, Remote Viewfinder Pro, Photo Beam, Tap & go), DRIMeIV image processor, built-in Flash, hot-shoe, 9 fps continuous shooting, 1080p60 video recording, 3.5mm mic input, Uncompressed HDMI output, Wi-Fi and NFC.

Yep, the NX30 is an outstanding Multimedia machine that will impress stills photographers and video fans alike. It offers extended controls that allow fast access to frequently used camera settings, so it’s easier to change those without taking your eyes from the viewfinder.

The Samsung Smart Camera NX30 is compatible with all Samsung’s NX lenses, fourteen of them. This also includes two fast pancake prime lenses (30mm f2.0, 20mm f2.8) and the new 16-50mm F2-2.8 professional-grade S lens which was announced at the same time as the NX30. This is a must have lens for the NX30, if you can afford it. The reason I am saying this is because it will allow you to shoot at lower ISO (the NX300 sensor, same one used on the NX30 isn’t super impressive, and it’s great to have a fast lens to allow you to shoot at lower ISO speeds). Further more, it is more advanced optically and  has 3 aspherical lens elements, 2 extra-low dispersion lens elements and 2 Xtreme High Refractive lens elements. This means that it should have higher resolution and a good match for the high resolution sensor. Furthermore, you get more shallower depth of field and faster AF performance.

Very little to complain about the NX30. I wish that the NX30 had built-in image stabilization and maybe weather-sealing as well, but I am pretty sure that many of you can live without those features.

Olympus O-MD E-M1

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is Olympus’ new flagship micro four thirds camera, which now sits above the OMD E-M5. Already won dpreview Gold Award and plenty of other positive reviews, the E-M1 bringing the Micro Four Thirds closer to the performance and handling of a DSLR camera but in a much smaller package.

The OMD E-M1 is a professional-grade mirrorless camera. It was designed from the ground up to attract Four Thirds users to switch to micro four third. So if you are shooting with the E-5 for example, this is the camera to upgrade to. For around $1400 (via as of the time of writing), the Olympus OM-D E-M1 isn’t cheap and for $300 more you can but the Sony A7, which is a full-frame mirrorless camera. This might put the E-M1 in competition against the Sony A7, and I personally know many people that would love to shoot with a Full Frame camera. I think that this is were the E-M1 will have a problem as Olympus don’t currently have any full frame camera. I first thought that Olympus should focus on its current Micro Four Thirds models and invest in this direction, but I think that once Sony went to the market with two FF cameras, and especially one (a7) affordable model, Olympus need to have its own offering.

Think about it, as an enthusiast photographer, it’s great to know that you have an option to upgrade to a full frame camera in the future. I’ve seen the image quality that you get from a good Micro Four Thirds sensor, and it certainly limits the creative possibilities in low light. It just cannot compete against APS-C, especially not against a Full Frame sensor. More than that, the A7 is even smaller than the E-M1!

Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Sony A7 size comparison

Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Sony A7 size comparison (via

Full frame cameras get cheaper each year. The image quality surpasses the micro 4/3 in every way (dynamic range, resolution, color accuracy, high ISO, etc.).  so for just $300 you can have a full frame camera — that offer hard to be ignored, isn’t it?

The E-M1 uses a 16.3MP newly developed sensor. This new sensor features on-chip phase-detection AF sensors. The E-M1 uses contrast-detect AF as well. Having said that, although the camera has Dual AF capabilities, it’s not Hybrid in the sense that you can only work with one AF type — and this depends on the lens that you mount on the camera.  When you mount a Four Thirds lens, the camera will use the phase-detection AF and provide superior subject tracking performance. When micro 4/3 lens is attached, the camera will use both contract-detect AF and phase-detection AF.

Also important to mention that in order to mount any of the 23 available Four Thirds lenses, you’ll have to use the MMF-3 dust and splashproof Four thirds mount adapter.  Until November 2013, Olympus had an offer to get the MMF-3 adapter for free when you buy the E-M1, but from my knowledge this offer is no longer available. This was a good offer, because the Olympus MMF-3 4/3 to Micro 4/3 adapter costs around $160 on Amazon. If the E_M1 is your heart wish and already own a bunch of Four Thirds lenses, you probably can’t get  away from buying this adapter — unless you intend to sell your four thirds lenses.

The OM-D E-M1 uses the same 5-axis image stabilization mechanism as the E-M5 but Olympus also added an IS-Auto feature that automatically detects panning and the camera automatically adjust to compensate for that horizontal camera movement. Olympus also upgrade the AF from 25 points to 81 points for the contrast detect AF. You gain a higher resolution 1037K-dots (vs 610K-dots of the E-M5) tiltable touch screen monitor.

The viewfindre also been improved with 2.36K-dots resolution (compare to 1.44K-dot of the E-M5) and it’s also much larger (1.48x 1.15x magnification) as well. The E-M1 also features 1/8000 sec shutter speed (vs 1/4000 sec of the E-M5), fater 1/320 sec flash X sync speed, 10 fps burst (vs 9fps), 1080p30 video recording and new timelapse recording function. For a complete list of the difference in-depth, please read my OM-D E-M1 vs OM-D E-M5 comparison review.

The OMD E-M1 is built to last and withstand harsh weather condition. It’s built with high strength magnesium alloy, it’s air tight weather resistant and have dust and splash proof construction. This means that the camera is protected against dust and sand penetration and also water resistant, so you can shoot with it in a rainy day without any waterproof case. Adding to this great protection is also resistance to cold temperature (aka Freezeproof), which means that you can use the E-M1 in -10 degrees Celsius / 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Planning a trip to Alaska, this is the camera to take with you.

Dust however can get to the camera when you change lenses, and you should make sure that you also use a weather-sealed lens with it. Even if dust do get it, the built-in Supersonic Wave Filter dust reduction mechanism will minimize the chance for the dust to stick on the sensor and cause dark image spots on the image. Olympus have both Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds waterproof lenses available such as the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 Pro, M.Zuiko 12-50mm EZ, the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 Pro and others.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 also has a built-in Wi-Fi that together with Olympus Image Share (O.I. Share) app, allows you to control your camera remotely from your mobile phone and easily share your photos with coworkers,  friends and family members.

E-1 also enjoys a large selection of built-in software features: many creative filters, interval shooting, time lapse video, multi exposure shots, Photostory (combines several images into one story-like image), control over the noise reduction filter, ISO / Exposure / White Balance / Flash and Art filter bracketing, 4:3 / 3:2 / 16:9 / 1:1 / 3:4 aspect ratios, built-in RAW editing, and built-in HDR. The E-M1 certainly took the E-M5 and made it better to appeal to semi-pros and professional as well, and hopefully it will convince Four Thirds photographers to switch to this model instead of switching to another company.

As you can see, a superb mirrorless camera, while not cheap, will certainly attract many enthusiasts and pros to check it out.


OK, I know, that wasn’t that short introduction, but I wanted you to get a good understanding of the camera’s key features and give you a better feel about what each camera is all about. Now it’s time to move on to the comparison itself.

OM-D E-M1 vs NX30

The E-M1 certainly has its obvious advantage over the NX30 for the outdoor photographer, at least when it comes to build quality and weather sealing — which is superb. I know many times that I really wanted to shoot in a rainy day or in the snow but was afraid my camera getting damaged. With the E-M1 I know that it won’t pose any problems, and just imagine the great images that you can get when you have the freedom to shoot in almost all weather conditions without worrying about your camera and using an umbrella that get one hand occupied 🙂 .

Samsung NX30 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 cameras

In the next E-M1 vs NX30 specs comparison table you’ll a good view of the differences between those two cameras. I added my side notes in certain areas to help you better understand the differences between the specs.

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The E-M1 wins when it comes to durability, weather-sealing, built-in stabilization, larger EVF and bracketing at the most part, but lacks the NX30 higher resolution sensor, Hybrid AF (With more AF points), fully articulated AMOLED display, tiltable EVF, built-in Flash, 1080p60 video recording and uncompressed HDMI and NFC.  The E-M1 was designed from the ground up to impress stills photographer, and in fact, neither cameras will convince and GH3 user to ditch its camera for one of these for video recording. Having said that, the E-M1 is the best camera for outdoor photographers who shoot most of their photos outdoors, those who WILL shoot with it under harsh weather conditions, those who already own Four Thirds lenses, those who want to upgrade from a mid-range micro 4/3.

The E-M1 was also widely tested by mane camera review websites, including dpreview who gave it its Gold Award, stating its excellent image quality, in-camera chromatic aberration correction, excellent viewfinder and great build quality.

Like dpreview mentioned and I agree, Olympus took a semi-pro camera and packed its features into a smaller camera body. The E-M1 is comparable to a semi-pro DSLR camera, and its a great addition to Olympus MFT camera’s lineup. It’s great to know that you have a great semi-pro camera to upgrade to when you buy a cheap camera, but plan to upgrade in the future.

The NX30 is a camera that Samsung had to release in order to be competitive in this market. I personally find the E-M1 more appealing for my shooting style, and if the NX30 predicted price are right (around $1100), I might find it hard to spend the extra $300 and probably prefer to buy the NX30 with an extra lens instead. The NX30 price is not released as of the time of writing, but price aside, I find the NX30 to be a superb camera and a great alternative to the Olympus Semi-pro offering.  I love the tilting EVF, the articulating AMOLED monitor, the 9 fps burst speed, Wi-Fi NFC, the Hybrid AF, 1/8000 sec and 1080p60 video recording — this is a dream camera for enthusiast photographers. This is certainly how a mirrorless camera in 2014 should be like. In some aspects its better than the E-M1, but I assume that semi-professionals will be attracted with the E-M1 offering, especially due to its larger viewfinder, 5-axis IS, build quality and weather sealing.

To be honest, the NX30 flagship has semi-pro features too, but I think that Samsung is still no there for the semi-pro market, but it is certainly in the right direction with the NX30. It takes time to build credibility in this business, and Samsung really needed a camera like the NX30 in its lineup. We can’t ignore the many positive reviews that were written on its NX300 and NX20, and the future does look bright for Samsung after this launch. I don’t know how many of you are convinced by it, but I certainly do. If the price of the NX30 is as predicted, I think that the NX30 gives the E-M1  a good run for its money and a great upgrade for anyone with a less advanced NX camera searching to upgrade.

Which one you prefer? — share your opinion by commenting in the comment section below. Thanks for reading.

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