Olympus OMD EM1 Review: Part 2
The Olympus OMD EM1 is relatively light. I can sling the camera over my shoulder (with the provided neck strap) and walk around with it all day. The same cannot be said with a DSLR. Within 30-minutes, the weight of a DSLR on my shoulder begins to hurt.
Being of Chinese ethnicity, food plays a massive role in my cultural upbringing. I eat when I am celebrating. I eat when I am sad. I will even eat when I am angry. Food is life. I live to eat (sometimes). And Hong Kong has really great cheap street food. So naturally, I take a lot of photos of the food that I eat (mainly because I want to make my friends jealous). With a M.Zuiko 35mm f/1.8 or Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 mounted on the OMD EM1, you look like just another tourist. Nobody will bat an eyelid when you hold your camera up over your food to take a photo. It is so compact and so unobtrusive that it has made the process of taking photographs (of people and of objects) much easier because nobody takes a second look at a small camera.
A few years ago, getting ‘Western’ coffee that matched an Australian palette was hard to come by in Hong Kong. Thankfully, there are quite a few cafes to choose from now. One is Mansons Lot in Wan Chai. There is also a second, a large franchise, called The Coffee Academics. Apparently, it is owned by the same group that own Cafe Habitu (I generally don’t like their coffee at all). Don’t ever go to the Causeway Bay franchise. I have been told the service there is horrible and there is a lack of seating. Western coffee costs a fortune in Hong Kong, even for me, as an outside. Depending on the exchange rate, it equates to $8 per cup. That is double the price I pay for good coffee here in Sydney, Australia. And in local Hong Kong terms, that is two full meals. Let that sink in.
One of the many reasons why I went to Hong Kong was to try Tin Ho Wan. In fact, it was my first stop after leaving my luggage at my AirBnB apartment in Causeway Bay. It wasn’t fantastic, certainly not mindblowing but the specialty baked polo buns with char siew filling was unique; a bit sweet for my palette but it was nice. Plus, the freshness of each dim sum was enjoyable. I believe Tin Ho Wan is one of the cheapest Michelin Starred eateries in the world. On the topic of dim sum, you must try dimdimsum. I personally rate it higher than Tin Ho Wan.
One of the perceived shortcomings of a micro four third camera is the sensor. Comparing the sizes of a m43 sensor to that of a APS-C and full frame sensor, there is a significant difference. Photography is ability to manipulate light. The smaller the sensor size, the less photosites, the less dynamic range, and more noise in low light situations (for detailed explanation, see here). Theoretically, one would assume that the micro four third sensor found in the OMD EM1 would perform poorly in low light. Whilst in some circumstances, this holds true, my real world results speak otherwise.
Even for all the food pics above, there was not a whole lot of ambient light. The available ambient light was not of a great quality. I had to use ISO 1250 to achieve a decent enough exposure. In post production, I bumped up the exposure and pulled some detail out of the shadows. For a small sensor, ISO 1250 does a very good and clean job. But sensor size and ISO is just one aspect of the function. There is also depth of field.
The above photos were mostly taken at an aperture of f/2.0. The depth of field however, is equivalent of f/4.0 on full frame. Some may see this as a disadvantage. For travel photography, I would guess that narrow depth of field is not on the high priority. In fact, I think it is quite the opposite. Unlike wedding photography, travel photography doesn’t need to blur the f*ck out of everything. I want to see the background. I want to see the context of each photography. I want to see beyond just a tiny focal plane! I mean, each of the photos above are still aesthetically pleasing are they not? If I had shot the same photos, with the same aperture, with a full frame, there really would not be much in focus. Depth is good, just as a narrow depth of field is good when used appropriately.
This is one of my favourite things to eat: a Hong Kong club sandwich. They’re hard to come by these days as they tend to be quite an effort to make, and because it requires effort, vendors tend to charge more. Most often, this single club sandwich can cost the same (if not more) for a full set meal. Nevertheless, I was told that this place in Shau Kei Wan did club sandwiches so I decided to give it a go. It wasn’t fantastic and it wasn’t horrible. I think my favourite club sandwich comes from the Australian Dairy Company in Jordan (which was closed during the duration that I was in Hong Kong).
There is one thing that continues to bother me with the Olympus OMD EM1. It has to do with the write speed of the camera. From my experience, the OMD EM1 writes really slow to the memory card (class 10, 30-40mb/s SD). What makes matters worse is that while the camera writes to the memory card, you cannot view the images on the LCD. You may not change ISO. You are prevented from doing a lot of things until all the files have been recorded onto the memory card. The buffer size of the OMD EM1 is nothing to scoff at, even when shooting raw files, but having to wait for the entire buffer to clear before resuming any execution is unfathomable in this day and age. There have been many instances where I have accidentally triggered the shutter and a burst of shots have been taken. I then have to wait at least 10 seconds before I can do anything with the camera.
If you only shoot jpeg, perhaps the problem is less exaggerated. Spending $100 on a 64GB 95mb/s card seems exorbitant on the OMD EM1 especially if it is for travel photography. For those who wish to use the OMD EM1 professionally, be wary of this limitation of the camera.
Taking photos with the OMD EM1 is so easy. For starters, the grip is big and deep. It fits my hand just perfectly. No other camera has a grip like the OMD EM1. I often wish the Fujifilm X-T1 had a grip like the OMD. The deepness of the grip makes the camera very comfortable to grip. Plus it feels very secure in your hand. Secondly, the auto-focus system found across the entire OMD range is nothing short of a miracle. I first came to know the OMD through it’s marketing advertisement. I believe it was this one. At the time, I was a DSLR user. The thought of a touch panel instantaneous AF system was stunning. I had my doubts but the AF found on the OMD series is really something special. I can use the AF points in the EVF or I can simply touch the rear LCD to achieve focus and to activate the shutter. Brilliant. Did I mention that it is fast?
A second feature of the OMD EM1 that attracted me was the spread of AF points across the entire sensor. Yes, the entire sensor. I can choose to focus on a subject almost anywhere within the EVF/LCD and there will be a AF point there. This is unlike any DSLR where the majority of the AF points are clustered around the center. Not exactly useful is it? But having usable and effective AF points spread across the entire sensor? F*ck yes! I’ll take twenty! HERE TAKE MY MONEY!
In a place such as Hong Kong, where everyone and everything is in a rush, you may have a split second to take the photo, lest the moment be gone. You may be walking. You may be on a bus. You may be on the MTR. Regardless, with the OMD EM1, you can turn it on, put the camera to your eye (or LCD), focus, and take the shot, all within a matter of 2-seconds.
I did a couples portrait session whilst in Hong Kong using the OMD EM1. You can see it here. I think most of the photos were shot using the M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 ED. Damn sexy beast of a lens.