Olympus E-M1: Fatal flaw kills it

Before I start, let me be very clear about this. I am a fan of Olympus and micro 4/3rds cameras in general. I purchased their E-P1, eagerly awaited for the E-P3 (which I luckily got for free by winning a photo contest), bought the OMD E-M5 … and acquired the OMD E-M1. I firmly believe that m43 is just the right size for cameras to be very portable without sacrificing image quality. I am a fan and I could probably sustain this expensive hobby of mine with just m43 cameras and their tiny but fantastic lenses.

I have always felt that the E-M1 was THE perfect camera for my needs. I don’t have to repeat the awesome reviews of this camera in this blog. I would even predict that it’s bound to become the camera of the year for 2013. And that’s why I bought it.

I am a landscape of photographer by heart. My portfolio will tell you that. It means shooting in low light and long exposures at possibly insane ISOs are my thing. It is with a heavy heart that I’m telling you that the E-M1 fatally, terribly, horribly fails in this area of photography. The E-M1 has the noisiest sensor I have ever seen in my entire life.

Let me show you a sample dark image (lens cap on) taken by my older E-M5 at ISO 400, 60 seconds:


And here is the image captured by the E-M1 at the same ISO 400, 60 seconds:



Zoom in and you will see the horrible mess that the E-M1 is. I have never seen worse chroma noise in ANY camera EVER. My iPhone 4S takes better, cleaner photos at ISO 1600, 8 seconds.

Hey, if you don’t believe me, there is an entire thread in Flickr discussing this problem: http://www.flickr.com/groups/om-d_user/discuss/72157637548153684/

It is quite obvious that the E-M1 is targeted at landscape photography otherwise it won’t have extreme weather sealing and live-bulb mode. It is a fatal flaw that they neglected to test the sensor in shooting conditions that it was meant for. 

Even at native ISO 200, shooting for 20 seconds will result in very noisy images. This is very unacceptable. 

I decided to move on and promptly returned the camera in just 4 days from the day I got it. The sales person at JB HiFi was very helpful. He did not question my integrity after we tested another stock in store and he saw for himself how bad the images were. 

Thank you for the short ride Olympus. Maybe the next iteration of the OMD will open up my wallet again. As for now I will continue shooting with my E-M5.



It turns out that the E-M1 uses a Panasonic sensor and NOT the awesome Sony sensor that is in the E-M5. This explains the huge difference in image quality.

Read about it here: http://www.43rumors.com/surprise-olympus-e-m1-uses-a-panasonic-sensor/


4 thoughts on “Olympus E-M1: Fatal flaw kills it”

  1. Interesting. At the same noise filter settings? Noise reduction turned on? Surprising the new sensor would be worse. Might be a deal breaker for me too.

    1. same settings all throughout. I was already selling my E-M5 when I noticed the terrible lightning shots I captured with the E-M1. I’m very disappointed for the fact that it was love at first sight that ended in four short days.

  2. If you were buying the E -M1 mainly for street photography and portraits would you have kept it ? Have you discovered anything else or alternative settings since that would change your mind as this was the camera I was about to purchase over the Sony A7. Great blog by the way.

    1. For street and portraiture, the E-M1 should be an absolutely fantastic piece of kit. The viewfinder is so big it’s like shooting with a full frame camera — perfect for street shooting; no APS-C camera can match the VF4 in terms of viewing area. Be prepared to get a lot of stares on the streets though as they think you got a film camera. I get that with my E-M5 🙂

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