Decades ago I was an Olympus lover. All of my images were crafted on either an OM2n or a OM4Ti, two beautiful cameras which saw me through my early years. But Canon called. I wanted more than Olympus could give and I made the leap to the Canon system, long before digital was even an option.
Recently I’ve been looking longingly at Olympus once more, remembering those early years of lightweight kit and diamond sharp lenses. I read the reviews, watched the videos and loved the look of the new OMD’s, in particular the EM-1.
At last month’s Photography Show in Birmingham’s vast NEC I got to touch one! I wanted to take it home! Of course I couldn’t, however I did arrange to get my hands on an OMD EM-1 at some point in the future when I’m ready.
In the meantime I was looking forward to an Olympus day in Malham with Steve Gosling and a group of photographers, my dual intents being to get some ‘hands on’ time with the Olympus and to immerse myself into monochome. Square monochromes to be precise.
To keep this post succinct I will restrict the content to Canon and Olympus comparisons, and please remember these are my thoughts and mine alone. You can see my favourite, heavily processed, images here…
First though, let me offer a couple of caveats. The Olympus I had in my hands on the day was the EM-5 rather than the EM-1 which I’m led to believe is a superior model. Also I was using a standard kit lens with the Olympus which probably isn’t the glass I would choose should I ever buy into Olympus again.
The comparison shots were taken on my Canon 5D mk2 primarily using the 24-105 f4 lens, again not Canon’s finest creation but perhaps better than the Olympus. I set the Olympus to the square format under the impression that the raw file would be full frame but that was not the case, so I’ve cropped the Canon shots square to match as best I can.
First of all, I’ll get the comparison shots out of the way. These are simple 100% grabs from un-optimised images created from raw files via Lightroom. I used 100iso in both cameras and auto white balance. In both these shots, the Canon image is on the left.
A tripod was used for both images and the crop is from the top centre of the frame. The Olympus image is noticeably warmer but is worryingly soft.
This celandine flower was quite low down in a different image, again the Olympus image is warmer and softer.
On the day the OMD EM-5 was a joy to handle, I used it more than my Canon. The electronic viewfinder was without problems and the controls quite intuitive. The menu system is complex but once the camera is set up there’s no real need to delve into the depths of this very often. Ten minutes of tuition by Steve gave me sufficient confidence to use the camera for the day.
My conclusion is that I will not be trading in my Canons. However I will take Olympus up on their offer of a OMD EM-1 with quality lenses in the near future and will do a more exhaustive comparison test under a range of conditions. Watch this blog!