Having owned most of the Canon Pro DSLR bodies and the Leica M9 over many years, I now use an Olympus OMD-EM1 micro four thirds camera. I don’t see this camera as only being ‘as good’ as a DSLR or as ‘a good camera for its size’, I view the OMD-EM1 as significantly better than any Pro-DSLR for the travel and portraiture I do. The size is a distinct bonus though, being able to carry it all on a plane is a joy and there is no doubt that a smaller lighter kit promotes spontaneity! This picture below shows the equally diminutive OMD-EM5 with a raft of m43 lenses and accessories, all of which fit into my Think Tank messenger bag.
The Olympus OMD-EM1 is not about compromising quality for a size and weight advantage. This camera and system offer me the very best solution I have found for travel and portraiture. In the photographic world, we tend to be always looking for ‘headline figures’. What has the most megapixels, the highest ISO, the fastest frame rate etc. But there comes a point where each of those elements becomes more than we need to produce great images. Where most camera manufacturers continue the race, Olympus have stood back and taken more innovative approach, allowing design and ergonomics to play a bigger role in getting great pictures.
The key aspects of the OMD design, which I view as,
1) a compact body,
2) a high quality EVF,
3) customisable dual control dials around the shutter release and
4) a flip up screen,
5) in-body stabilisation system (IBIS)
These are the elements which combine to offer me the most intuitive and rewarding shooting experience I have found with any camera. To me, the EM1 in particular just feels like the way a camera is supposed to be. Its no surprise to see that several other manufacturers have incorporated many of these design elements into their latest models.
At the heart of the OMD design, lies the combined use of the main control dials and the enormous, detailed view afforded by the electronic viewfinder. This alone puts the EM1 for me, above every Pro-DSLR which uses an optical viewfinder regardless of its file size. The ability to see and adjust in ‘real-time’ the exact resulting exposure, is a pure joy to use and a facility that is central to the OMD shooting experience. A friend showed me his latest camera recently, a Pro-DSLR with an optical viewfinder. I shot a few frames and immediately felt bereft of the kind of feedback and control I have become accustomed to with a good EVF. All of a sudden I was back in the world of ‘guessing and chimping’ again! – No thanks!