• 4/3 224.9mm2
  • 16.1 megapixels
  • ISO 200 - 25,600
  • 4/3 224.9mm2
  • 16.1 megapixels
  • ISO 200 - 25,600

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Comparison Review

Many pro shooters flocked to the Olympus E-M5 as a more lithe companion to their DSLRs. A little over a year later, Olympus addressed some of the minor shortcomings of the E-M5 with the E-M1, a separate, pro-oriented model.

Let's get the simplest decision points out of the way: if you care about built-in Wi-Fi, the E-M1 is your ticket. Anyone with a library of old Four Thirds lenses will also fall in love with the E-M1 (it offers full compatibility with these lenses).

The E-M1 improves on the E-M5's strong AF performance by adding 37 on-sensor phase detect points. It's important to note, though, that phase detect is not available for video (and if you care about video, there are better options than either of these models).

Action photographers loved the E-M5's 4.2 frames per second shooting with continuous AF, but were stymied by the limited buffer depth of around 15 frames. The E-M1 boosts maximum shooting speed with continuous AF to 6fps, while offering a whopping 50 frames of buffer.

The E-M5 wowed us with intuitive and abundant manual controls. Olympus builds on this performance by adding numerous physical buttons -- most of them customizable -- while increasing their size and spacing (some complained of the E-M5's cramped layout). Two standout additions are a dedicated white balance button and Olympus's '2x2 Dial Control.' Read our review to learn more about these controls. The other major improvement is the larger electronic viewfinder, among the best we've seen.

Both cameras are truly great additions to the Micro Four Thirds family. There weren't any glaring weaknesses in the E-M5 to ameliorate, but all of the E-M1's additions are logical and welcome. Your decision will ultimately come down to whether the E-M1's additional features justify its size and price premium ($400 at time of writing) over the E-M5. Both are fantastic choices. You can purchase the E-M1 or the E-M5 through these links to help support our content.

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Differences

Olympus E-M5 advantages over Olympus E-M1

  • Less expensive
    $499 vs $1199*
    Save money for lenses or accessories
  • Thinner
    43 mm vs 63 mm
    Thinner

Olympus E-M1 advantages over Olympus E-M5

  • Focus peaking
    Peaker vs Non-peaker
    Your camera will highlight what's in focus
  • Fast startup
    ~0.80 vs 1.1 sec
    Faster startup lets you catch the moment
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
    Wi-Fi vs None
    Share your photos wirelessly
  • On-sensor phase detect
    Yes vs No
    Usually improves live view and video AF performance
  • More viewfinder magnification
    0.74x vs 0.58x
    Get a bigger view of the scene through the eye-level viewfinder
  • External Mic Jack
    Jack vs No jack
    Improved sound fidelity when shooting video
  • Less shutter lag
    0.14 vs 0.28 sec
    Focus and take a photo quickly (wide angle)
  • More dots on screen
    1037k vs 614k dots
    Can mean greater resolution or a brighter screen
  • Shoots 1080p video
    Yes vs No
    You'll want this if you shoot video
  • Newer
    2 years vs 3 years old
    Newer cameras often support more advanced features
  • Bigger JPEG buffer
    50 vs 17 shots
    Take more JPEG shots before waiting (burst mode)
  • Bigger RAW buffer
    50 vs 16 shots
    Larger buffer for RAW shots (burst mode)
  • Faster shutter
    1/8000 vs 1/4000 sec
    Shoot wide open in bright light

Similarities

Common Strengths

  • Tiltable Screen
    Both provide
    Tilt the screen for shooting flexbility
  • Touchscreen
    Both provide
    Select your focus point more intuitively.
  • Eye-level viewfinder
    Both provide
    You'll be able to frame photos even when the sun is out
  • In-Camera Image Stabilization
    Both provide
    Reduces the effects of camera shake at slower shutter speeds
  • HDMI out
    Both provide
    Use an external screen to monitor or review video
  • Hot shoe
    Both provide
    Off-camera flashes open new possibilities
  • Bulb shutter
    Both provide
    Hold the shutter open manually for long exposures

Common Weaknesses

  • Tilt-swivel screen
    Neither provide
    Tilt and swivel the screen for maximum shooting flexibility
  • NFC
    Neither provide
    Simplifies pairing your camera with supported phones
  • In-camera panoramas
    Neither provide
    Stitches multiple shots into a panoramic photo
  • Built-in GPS
    Neither provide
    Geotag your photos
  • Top deck display
    Neither provide
    Check settings with a screen on top of the camera
  • Headphone jack
    Neither provide
    Monitor audio recording while you shoot video
  • Dual card slots
    Neither provide
    Gives you more storage flexibility
  • Internal flash
    Neither provide
    Useful in a pinch for fill flash
  • Slow-motion videos
    Neither provide
    Shoot slow-motion videos

User reviews

The Competition

Compared to Panasonic G3

Olympus E-M5
Panasonic G3
  • $543
  • 4/3
  • In-Camera Image Stabilization
  • Higher effective ISO
  • $700
  • 4/3
  • Shoots 60p video
  • More viewfinder magnification
Olympus E-M1
Panasonic G3
  • $1187
  • 4/3
  • Focus peaking
  • Fast startup
  • $700
  • 4/3
  • Shoots 60p video
  • Thinner

Compared to Panasonic G5

Olympus E-M5
Panasonic G5
  • $543
  • 4/3
  • In-Camera Image Stabilization
  • Thinner
  • $457
  • 4/3
  • Shoots 60p video
  • More viewfinder magnification
Olympus E-M1
Panasonic G5
  • $1187
  • 4/3
  • Focus peaking
  • Fast startup
  • $457
  • 4/3
  • Less expensive
  • Shoots 60p video

Compared to Panasonic G6

Olympus E-M5
Panasonic G6
  • $543
  • 4/3
  • In-Camera Image Stabilization
  • Higher effective ISO
  • $501
  • 4/3
  • Tilt-swivel screen
  • Focus peaking
Olympus E-M1
Panasonic G6
  • $1187
  • 4/3
  • In-Camera Image Stabilization
  • Higher effective ISO
  • $501
  • 4/3
  • Tilt-swivel screen
  • Less expensive

Compared to Panasonic GX7

Olympus E-M5
Panasonic GX7
  • $543
  • 4/3
  • Less expensive
  • Higher effective ISO
  • $543
  • 4/3
  • Focus peaking
  • In-camera panoramas
Olympus E-M1
Panasonic GX7
  • $1187
  • 4/3
  • On-sensor phase detect
  • External Mic Jack
  • $543
  • 4/3
  • Less expensive
  • In-camera panoramas

Compared to Olympus E-M10

Olympus E-M5
Olympus E-M10
  • $543
  • 4/3
  • Less expensive
  • Wider angle kit lens
  • $494
  • 4/3
  • Focus peaking
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
Olympus E-M1
Olympus E-M10
  • $1187
  • 4/3
  • Fast startup
  • On-sensor phase detect
  • $494
  • 4/3
  • Less expensive
  • Higher effective ISO

Review Excerpt

  • Attractive body design; Well-built, weather-sealed body; Excellent image quality; Excellent image stabilization; Very fast autofocus.

  • Exposure compensation dial changes easily; Small buttons; No in-camera chromatic aberration correction; Bundled flash is weak; Video compression artifacts with rapidly-moving subjects.

  • Exceptional rugged, weather-proof, professional build; Lightning fast contrast-detect AF, and phase-detect AF that makes Four Thirds lenses far more responsive; Tons of useful physical controls with immense customizability; Arguably the best image quality of any Micro Four Thirds camera we've tested to date; Large, sharp, high-resolution electronic viewfinder; Advanced Wi-Fi capabilities, including remote control shooting in PASM exposure modes.

  • Bigger and heavier than many other compact system cameras; Most expensive Micro Four Thirds camera on the market to date; Menu system and customization options have a steep learning curve; No optical low-pass filter means greater risk of moire; No built-in flash.

Olympus E-M5 vs Olympus E-M1 Discussion

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