Olympus E-M1 Journal :: Entry #1: I just punched the "add to cart" button

I'm not quite sure why I did it, but when I saw that the newly announced Olympus E-M1 was available on Amazon, I hit the "add to cart" button followed by the "check out" button.  I ordered the Olympus FL 300R flash too, as there is a full rebate on this little GN20 flash when bought at the same time as the E-M1. And I love little under-powered flashes (seriously) because they do a fine job balancing flash and ambient light, albeit with a higher ISO than some folks like. (But the high ISO is needed to get the ambient light working!)

It's a bit crazy for me to order another camera, as I am already a happy camper with the Olympus E-M5 and Sony NEX-6. Until this month, I had actually been hopeful of slowing my Olympus equipment acquisitions, and instead adding lenses to the NEX-6.  In fact, in October I had my eye on the new Sony Zeiss 16-70mm F4 zoom, and I ordered and received a copy.

When mounted on the 1.5x cropped NEX-6, the 16-70 gives an effective field of view of 24-105mm.  This is a lovely range and would take care of 80% of my travel and landscape needs.  But alas, when I gave it a trial, and I compared results versus my Olympus 14-54mm zoom, with its effective field of view of 28-108mm, I was disappointed in the Sony product. I reported my findings (the Sony was far softer in the corners than the Olympus) here on this blog and then returned the lens. In my opinion, it is a good lens but not worth the $1000 asking price.

The refund allowed me to look at the E-M1.  Fortunately very thorough reviews have been popping up on the Internet.  I read them all and got really fired up about this camera body.  After reading each review I would get excited but then calm myself down by telling myself that a new camera wouldn't make my photography better.  I think that is true.  At this point the cameras I own are quite sufficient.  BUT...

One night while watching a few cop dramas on TV, I began to make a list of features I was attracted to that would differentiate the E-M1 from the E-M5 (new stuff and improvements to old stuff).  This process ultimately convinced me that this new Oly was what I "needed".  (Note that quotes around "needed"!)

I'm not sure I can read this list either!

Below are most of the items on the list, but in readable form.  All these are based on what I have read on the Internet.  The camera has not yet arrived.  I can't wait to confirm these features (hopefully) and to find a few more that will advance this camera over the other Olympus' I have owned.

1.  One Touch White Balance - I used to use this a lot on the E-520 but lost track of it on the E-M5.  On the E-M5 only the Fn1 button can be programmed for one-touch WB and I really need to use the Fn1 button for AEL/AFL because that is where the exposure lock button should be.  From what I understand and see pictured on the Web, there are two buttons on the front of the E-M1, either of which can be programmed for One Touch WB.  On the other hand, auto WB works pretty well I am sure, so maybe I will never use the One Touch WB after all. I shoot RAW or RAW+JPEG.  I never shoot JPEG alone, which is when accurate WB is most important.

2. Larger Viewfinder -  I think this may actually improve my photography.  I hope it does well for glasses wearers.  I like the fact that this viewfinder supposedly allows for more control of its dynamic range.  Not the dynamic range of the ultimate image, but that of the viewfinder itself.  The E-M5 is pretty good at this already as I can see into the dark areas of the composition much better than I can with the viewfinder on the NEX-6, which has too much contrast and shows dark areas as black.  I have old eyes which don't see as well in the dark, so I need all the help I can get.

3. Depth of Field Preview - The E-M5 has this but I can barely see in the viewfinder what's going on, so I've never bothered to program this to one of the function buttons.  With the E-M1 I am guessing this might make sense to program to one of the two buttons on the front of the body.

4. Lens Optimization - Supposedly the new in-camera software will handle specific lens issues.  I am hoping it will take care of the chromatic aberrations from my 14-54 zoom.  I read it is also supposed to apply some smart sharpening to certain lenses and various focal lengths where there is otherwise sub-optimal (soft?) sharpness.

5. Faster autofocus for FT lenses - This is a BIG deal for me.  I have four lenses designed for Olympus dSLRs (FT bodies).  They focus very slowly on MFT bodies.  With the addition of PDAF pixels on the sensor, apparently focus is much faster for these old lenses. The first thing I am going to do when I get this camera is try out my 11-22, 14-54, 50, and 70-300.

6. Better Continuous Autofocus - This too has supposedly been improved with the PDAF pixels.  My grandchildren don't yet move fast, but I am looking forward to using continuous focusing (maybe even try tracking!) as a better way to get sharp images.

7.  Small Focus Points - Yippee.  You can get magnified (i.e. small) focus points on the E-M5 but it's a bit awkward and requires customizing one of the function buttons to magnify.  You also lose the histogram which is unfortunate.  I am hoping the E-M1 will give me smaller points and the histogram overlay at the same time.

8.  Focus Peaking - This works very nicely (most of the time) on my Sony.  I hope the Olympus implementation is just a good but I have heard grumblings otherwise.  I have a bunch of old MF lenses I still like to use.  The Sony works fine with them, but the Olympus has the bonus of in-body image stabilization.

9. 2x2 Switch - This allows you to use the two top plate dials for four things.  In manual mode, for example, the two dials will default to aperture and shutter speed. Then flip the 2x2 switch (I think it's a little lever, like the on/off switch on the E-M5) and get ISO and WB using the same two dials. On the E-M5 you can get ISO on the front dial too, by customizing one of the top plate buttons or the up or down button on the four-way controller.  But, after you take a picture on the E-M5, the ISO adjustment on the dial is not available again until you press the function button again.  What I like about the E-M1 implementation is that I think I will be using manual mode more frequently, as the front dial can adjust ISO just like it adjusts EV compensation in other modes. For example, I can shoot landscapes at, say, F8 and 1/125th and simply rotate the front dial to get the ISO that gives me the desired exposure.  The setting will "stick" until I move the 2x2 switch again.

10. Size - There is definitely more real estate on the right side of the back of the camera, and for this I am thankful.  I think the buttons are bigger too.  I hope they feel more solid than the squishy ones on the E-M5.  The grip on the E-M1 looks awesome, but I always wish the small cameras I favor were a wee bit taller so my pinkie finger can grip onto something and not be curled up under the body.  On the E-M5 I had to purchase an auxiliary grip.  I had the Oly battery grip but sold it.  I prefer the Really Right Stuff three-piece set: grip, bottom plate, and L-component.

11.  Weather Proof  - I don't know how helpful this feature will be, but I keep thinking I might like to do some winter photography. I live in New England so there are lots of cold months.  Of course, I'll probably "need" to buy the new 12-40 F2.8. It'a weather proof, too!

12. Presets on the Mode Dial - Apparently each click (P, A, S, M, etc.) on the mode dial can be programmed with with a "preset".  This provides an alternate mode, not a replacement mode.  I think you move from primary mode to alternate mode by using the 2x2 switch.  With Olympus, a preset is like a custom setting.  However, in the past you had to dive into the menus to find your presets, or assign a function button to it.  I like having them on the E-M1 mode dial, assuming I can remember which clicks were programmed to which preset. I think I might easily forget whether I am in the primary mode or the alternate mode. I think I'd prefer having the more traditional C1, C2, etc.  That way there'd be no mistake.

In a few days the E-M1 will arrive.  I can't wait.

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