Up until recently there was just one model in the Olympus OM-D lineup, with that being the OM-D E-M5. The number 5 in its product name suggested that their could one day be another variation and the recent arrival of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 slots in above the OM-D E-M5 as Olympus’s flagship mirrorless model. Designed to be smaller and more compact than a DSLR, the E-M1 is out to target photographers who don’t necessarily want the bulk of a cumbersome camera. To give you a better understanding of the key differences between these two cameras and to help you make your decision on which is best for you, we’ve picked out the key differences.


The Olympus OM-D E-M5 was launched in February 2012 and at the time of its announcement cost £999 (body only). Since the time of its release, the camera began to drop below £900 in August 2012 and has continued to gradually fall in price ever since.

At the time of writing (13/09/13), the cheapest price we could find for a black OM-D E-M5 was £769 from Amazon. Partnered with the 12-50mm kit lens, this was a combination that originally cost £1149 back in February 2013, but has since dropped to £904 – again with the most competitive prices being found on Amazon.

In comparison, the OM-D E-M1 was announced on the 10th September 2013 with a launch price of £1299 body only. Using the launch of the new OM-D as a good opportunity to release a new kit lens, Olympus also announced the M.Zuiko Digital 12-40mm 1:2.8 lens. Added to the price of the OM-D E-M1, it takes the cost up to just shy of £2000, or £1949 to be precise. The price difference between the OM-D E-M5’s body and the OM-D E-M1’s body was £530 on the 13/09/13. To find out what extras you get for you money, check out the next few pages where we disclose the technical differences.

Find deals on Reevoo for the OM-D E-M5

Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1

One of the key differences between the OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1 are the sensors found inside. Whereas the Olympus OM-D E-M5 features a 16.1MP Live MOS sensor, the OM-D E-M1 uses an all-new 16.3MP Live MOS sensor that incorporates a New Dual Fast AF system with Phase Detection pixels on the sensor. The key point to pick out here are those newly added Phase-detection pixels that are aimed at delivering a faster AF performance to Olympus E-system users who may want to attach their lenses to the E-M1 using a specially developed E-system adapter – the MMF-3. 

The MMF-3 adapter allows existing Olympus E-system users to attach and use their lenses.

So what about the sensitivity range? Well, the E-M1 doesn’t break any new territory in this area with the same ISO 200-25,600 span as the E-M5. What’s interesting to note here however is that the manufacturer claims the new 16MP chip can produce less noise than APS-C sized sensors – something we aim to find out when we subject the Olympus OM-D E-M1 to a full review in the forthcoming weeks.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 features a new Dual Fast AF system.

Getting back to those on-chip Phase Detection pixels, the E-M1 is capable of acknowledging whether a Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds lens is attached before automatically switching to the more suitable AF technology. While Phase-detect is used in combination with Four Thirds lenses, contrast detect AF is relied on for use with Micro Four Thirds lenses. Just to make it clear, the OM-D E-M1 features the same Micro Four Thirds mount like that of the E-M5, its now just appealing to a wider Olympus audience.

In all there are 81 focus area points on the E-M1 compared to 35 on the E-M5, with both cameras fully supporting single AF, continuous AF, single AF+MF, AF tracking and manual focus.

Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1

Rather than using the E-M5’s TruePic VI image engine, the E-M1 benefits from a refreshed TruePic VII processor that gives it a speed advantage. Whereas the E-M5 is capable of shooting full resolution images at up to 9fps, the E-M1 goes one better – quite literally. A continuous burst of 10fps puts it right up there as one of the fastest mirrorless cameras on the market and gives it a significant advantage over some DSLRs that struggle to beat the 6fps barrier with their more complex internal mechanisms.

Note the mode dial to the left of the EVF on the OM-D E-M5.

In regard to shutter speed, the OM-D E-M1 matches the maximum permitted speed offered by most DSLRs. Capable of shooting at up to 1/8000sec, this is an improvement on the OM-D E-M5’s 1/4000sec limit. At the opposite end of the shutter speed scale, both OM-D’s shoot as slow as 60secs, with the shutter speed adjustable in 1/3, 1/2. or 1 EV steps.

The OM-D E-M1 has a busy top plate design with direct access to continuous shooting, self timer, HDR, AF and metering modes from the buttons to the left of the EVF.

Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1

There’s a 70g weight difference between the two with the newer OM-D E-M1 being the heavier option. Body only, the E-M1 weighs 443g as opposed to 497g when a battery and memory card are inserted. This compares to the E-M5’s weight of 425g with a battery and card slotted in.

From this rear 3/4 view, the E-M5 (above) looks similar to the E-M1 (below).

In terms of its dimensions, the E-M5’s body measures 121.0× excluding protrusions. Compare this to the 130.4×93.5×63.1mm dimensions of the E-M1 and the E-M5 is the lighter camera, however the feel and hold of the E-M1 is superior thanks to its well profiled handgrip that features a much improved rubberized finish. 

Olympus has continued the OM-D tradition by making sure the E-M1 features a full set of weather seals. As well as being weatherproof and dustproof, the E-M1 is claimed to operate between a -10 – 40°C temperature range – an improvement on the OM-D E-M5’s 0 – 40°C temperature range.

The E-M1 has a tilting screen like the E-M5, albeit a higher resolution display.

Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1

Two of the key areas where these OM-D’s have differences are in the resolution of their screens and electronic viewfinders. Whereas the E-M1’s display isn’t any different to the E-M5’s in terms of its size or aspect (it’s still a tiltable 3in, 3:2 touchscreen monitor), it now has an improved 1.03million dot resolution as opposed to a 610k-dot display on the E-M5. As well as not only providing a sharper image in Live View, photographs can be viewed more clearly in playback mode. Adding to this, the OM-D E-M1 appears to have lost the green cast with which the OM-D E-M5’s screen was known for.

The E-M5’s electronic viewfinder has a resolution of 1.44k dot.

The resolution increase extends to the E-M1’s electronic viewfinder, where a 2.360k dot EVF replaces the E-M5’s 1.44k dot EVF. Whereas the E-M5’s viewfinder only offered a 1.15x magnification, the E-M1’s has an improved 1.48x magnification that contributes to it appearing larger and brighter than before. Both EVF’s offer brightness and temperature adjustment in +/- 7 levels.

The E-M1’s electronic viewfinder has a resolution of 2.36k dot.

Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1

Unlike the E-M5, the E-M1 now features Wi-fi built-in to make it more convenient to use. Casting our mind back to when we reviewed the E-M5, it had to be used with the Olympus PENPAL PP-1 communicator (£80) to transmit images wirelessly to smart phones. This not only turned out to be an inconvenience for the way it added to the cost, it prevent the use of external flashguns being attached at the same time.

To send images to a smartphone on the OM-D E-M5 the PENPAL PP-1 (£80) is required.

The E-M1 also permits the use of a smartphone to remotely control the camera. It’s possible to mirror the Live View LCD on your phone’s touch screen, then focus and release the shutter remotely via Wi-fi. Even the unique Live Bulb effect can be previewed on smartphones, with Live Bulb updating the Live View image at pre-set intervals during bulb exposures.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 features built-in Wi-fi – an improvement on the OM-D E-M5.

Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1

To say the Olympus OM-D E-M1 feels different in the hand compared to the OM-D E-M5 is an understatement. The larger handgrip contributes to it feeling more like an important camera for serious photographers, and is more comfortable to hold over long durations than the OM-D E-M5.

Some buttons at the rear of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 are on the small side. The playback button is also slightly awkward to operate at the top right of the screen.

Buttons are larger making them easier to access and use than the E-M5’s. Button placement is also completely re-worked and rather than the mode dial being positioned to the left of the viewfinder, it’s now on the right where it can be controlled more conveniently by use of the thumb. A locking mechanism has been added to the mode dial to prevent it being inadvertently knocked or changed as the camera is transported.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 features a more intuative layout and buttons are larger too.

Much like the E-M5, Olympus has produced an additional handgrip for the E-M1 to enhance stability. Whereas the E-M5 is compatible with the Olympus HLD-6 battery grip (£219), a new detachable HLD-7 grip has been made for the E-M1, which is dust, splash and freeze-proof to match the rugged build of the body. In addition to providing 2 control dials and two function buttons, the new HLD-7 extends shooting time by being able to store an additional battery inside, while offering an additional shutter button. The HLD-7 costs £189.

Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1

In summary, the OM-D E-M1 has advanced on the OM-D E-M5 in a number of key areas. It feels the more refined camera of the two as it should with a price tag that makes it one of the most expensive CSCs we’ve seen from the manufacturer. The clear advantages the E-M1 offers over the E-M5 are its compatibility with Olympus E-system lenses, Dual Fast AF system, high-resolution screen, improved electronic viewfinder, 5-axis image stabilisation and Wi-fi integration. This does come at a price, but for those who’s budget the E-M1 exceeds, the E-M5 remains a great stills camera that’s capable of delivering excellent image quality from its 16MP sensor. 

Read our review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Read our first impressions of the Olympus OM-D E-M1

The design of the OM-D E-M5 (above) is thinner than that of the E-M1 (below).

The E-M1’s pronounced handgrip offers more to wrap the hand around to get a strong, firm grasp.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1
  3. 3. Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1
  4. 4. Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1
  5. 5. Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1
  6. 6. Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1
  7. 7. Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1
  8. 8. Differences between the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M1
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  • Comaro

    why no pop-up flash? must be a pain to attach bundled flash for fill flash with every back-lit subject? what am I missing here?