Fujifilm XE1 vs Olympus OMD EM-5 | Q&A

As many of you will know there is currently a huge amount of interest when it comes to both of these exciting compact system cameras. On the basis of the many questions we’ve been asked I thought I’d summarise my current findings in a Fujifilm XE1 vs Olympus OMD EM-5 question and answer session. I’ll preface this by saying it is in no way a technical discussion but is rather a general statement based on the kind of practical decisions a buyer would normally make – and of course my own personal preferences too. This is key – my needs and wants may be different to your own. I’m sure that more findings and articles on both cameras will follow as I continue to test them in differing situations (look out for some portrait sessions in January or February). I’m a full-time portrait photographer (who also undertakes a variety of subject matter as personal projects) and what matters to me is real-world performance and real-world results for the kind of stuff that I do. I’m not interested in data charts or obsessive pixel peeping, since that rarely reveals anything useful to the user. For a camera system to find its way into my kitbag will depend on a number of variables. First and foremost, what will a particular shoot involve – will it be static portraits, commercial work, pets and wildlife, or street and travel photography? Both the Fuji XE1 and the Olympus OMD EM-5 are very different beasts in performance and handling. Depending on what you shoot, you may be better advised to choose one over the other. The OMD is like a little DSLR, whereas Fuji X cameras are elegantly simple and well suited to those who prefer a less technical experience.

Which camera has the best image quality?
They are both capable of absolutely superb output, I find both equally impressive. Which you prefer will simply come down to personal preference, since we all see things slightly differently.

Which camera is best in low light?
Again, they are both brilliant in low light/high ISO situations. But many commentators who have not tried the latest micro 4/3 offerings will still insist that the XE1 is far superior to the OMD at high ISO values. I have not found that to be the case, in fact they are fairly close and any edge the XE1 has is too slight for this particular parameter to be a determining factor in my choice of one body over the other. Given that we are talking mostly about JPEG output (since currently the X Trans RAWs are not well supported), the amount of noise reduction which your camera applies can be controlled to suit your own personal preferences. I tend to switch the noise reduction down a notch since this gives a good balance between detail and noise control. I will however say that the XE1′s ISO values appear to be set a little higher than the OMD’s. The OMD’s IBIS can often mean that you’re able to shoot at quite slow shutter speeds, thereby keeping ISO levels very low, enough to nullify the perceived advantages of a larger sensor.

Which camera has the best JPEGs?
You guessed it, they are both great. But once again the particular “look” from any given camera may differ and may appeal to different people for different reasons. Earlier incarnations of micro 4/3 cameras used to be quite savage on the highlights, in fact highlight clipping was commonplace. That has been greatly improved and is no longer a problem on cameras such as the OMD. Remember that you can tweak contrast settings in camera to suit your tastes.  Another thing to mention is sharpening, in past years Micro 4/3 images appeared over sharpened and often slightly gritty as a result. That is also a thing of the past, however I do recommend turning down the sharpening a bit on your OMD, this helps the files to look smoother and more film-like.

What about white balance?
When shooting JPEGs I normally stick with auto white balance, since these days most cameras will do a good job in most conditions. For more consistency you can choose a white balance setting appropriate to the colour temperature of whatever scene you find yourself in. But in terms of auto white balance I think it’s fair to say that Fuji have nailed this, both in consistency and accuracy. The XE1 runs slightly cool and the OMD runs a little warmer outside, the reverse tends to be true indoors. Both cameras can be tweaked in their menus to suit your personal tastes and you can bias your preferences towards either the cooler or warmer end of the spectrum.  Quick tip – when shooting RAW a fixed white balance setting will make batch colour corrections much quicker and easier when you process your files.

What about RAW files?
Given that both cameras produce exceptional JPEG files you may find that you shoot RAW less often than you used to. As a professional photographer I normally need to shoot in RAW format, such as when I have to extract lots of fine detail from the picture, or if I find myself in mixed or challenging lighting. Wedding photographers in particular are more likely to shoot RAW because this gives them additional highlight recovery should they need it. I’m afraid I can’t compare the RAW output at the present time or even comment on the XE1′s X Trans RAW images because there is currently no effective mainstream RAW support. (Edit 1st January 2014:  there have been improvements in the RAW algorithms within the leading processing software, but in my opinion it’s still not quite there).

Which camera is the prettiest?
Yes, I do get asked this question. Honestly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so I can’t answer this for you. I happen to think they both look great, but the EM5 has the edge to my eyes. I have both cameras in the silver option because I like the more old-fashioned look, but the black is also popular because it is minimal and sleek.

Can I go out and shoot in the rain?
You can with the OMD which has a good degree of weather sealing (you’ll need to make sure that your chosen lens does as well) as demonstrated by some reviewers throwing buckets of water over their OMDs (not something I would want to do). The XE1 is not weather sealed, however some photographers use freezer bags which can be used to help protect your equipment from light drizzle.

Which camera focuses faster?
I think most of us know the answer to this one. The Olympus has one of the most sophisticated and fastest autofocus systems out there and it is extremely snappy and responsive in all the conditions I have so far tested it in. However don’t expect the tracking focus to be up to much, that is currently too much of an ask for any compact system. On the other hand the XE1 is quite slow, disappointingly so in my view, with none of the speed improvements we were led to expect in the pre-release hype (Edit: firmware updates since then have improved things a little, but it’s still nowhere near good enough for my needs). It’s not so much that the XE1 fails to focus, it’s just rather slow and I have lost quite a few shots because of this (and I am not talking about fast moving targets). We can of course employ zone focus at times and experiment with AF-C (not much use if you must focus and recompose, as I do most of the time), if we have the opportunity, and if our subject is moving in a predictable manner. One thing to consider here is relative sensor size – because the OMD has a Micro 4/3 sensor it has just under a stop of additional depth of field when compared to the APS C sensor of the Fuji, this means you can maintain a relatively wide aperture on the Oly and leverage the extra light gathering capability without sacrificing depth of focus. Focus speed partly depends on which lens you’re using – a wide to tele zoom will normally focus faster than a prime, and a long zoom lens with a variable aperture will probably focus more slowly than a shorter faster zoom.

Is the increased depth of field on the OMD a problem?
Not in my view, in many instances it is a benefit, as I mentioned above. You can still achieve very shallow depth of field when using the Micro 4/3 system simply by attaching one of the many excellent fast prime lenses which are available for this particular format. Remember that depth of field is governed by a number of factors, with sensor format generally being the least applicable in most situations. What matters more is the focal length of the lens you’re using, how close you are to your subject, your chosen aperture, how far your subject is from the background, and your sensor size. Those elements can be juggled accordingly. If you want ultra isolation of your subject that it’s hard to beat the Micro 4/3 75mm f1.8 prime lens, which gives an effective focal length of 150 mm. This is a niche lens, but for shallow depth of field it is staggeringly good.

Build quality?
Both cameras are well made in my opinion, but I would lean slightly towards the ‘feel’ of the XE1, the buttons in particular feel lovely (the OMD buttons are a bit too squishy). But the EM5 is tough and is of course weather sealed, so it gets the prize for build. The fujinon lenses are also beautifully made. Many of the most popular micro 4/3 lenses are mostly made of plastic, however that does mean they are small and light which can be a real benefit at times. You should also be aware that on X system lenses the aperture control is on the lens itself, and in my experience the aperture ring is a little too loose and is easily displaced – quite often I find myself having to adjust this prior to taking my next shot, which in turn often results in missed opportunities. A small piece of electrical tape can come in handy, if you’re not going to be adjusting your settings too often. But to me, I found this irritating.

What is the EVF like?
Both cameras have a good quality EVF but it is possible that one will appeal to you more than the other. I happen to much prefer the EVF on the OMD because regardless of the light I’m in it gains up or down in an instant and it is almost as good as looking into a DSLR. The XE1′s viewfinder on the other hand is not so good in very bright sunlight, and in extremely bright light it can be hard to see the details of the scene in front of you (cupping your hand around your eye will help considerably) and it is also a little laggy and slow at times.

How is the handling?
This is a great question and I cannot stress enough the importance of ergonomics. It’s no good desiring a particular camera if you don’t like how it feels when you finally get the thing in your hands. Balance, the location of the buttons, the menus …. these are all important points which you really need to think about.  The XE1 has a fairly basic minimal layout which I find very pleasing and simple to use, the menus are few and quite basic which I also like. The OMD is more complex because the camera has a great many features and it is also one of the most customisable cameras on the market, so you will need to spend some time getting to know where everything is. One of the great things about the OMD is the fact that a good number of the buttons can have your favourite functions assigned to them, for quick access. Another thing I enjoy on the OMD is the flip out rear screen which is (optionally) touch sensitive – this is a fantastic way of taking stealthy pictures, you can appear to be scrutinising the back of the camera on your lap and all you have to do is tap the screen on the part of the image where you want to lock focus and the camera will quickly take a beautifully focused picture. But it’s not all perfect on the OMD – the buttons are tiny and are quite fiddly, I can imagine this will be a source of frustration to men with large hands. It’s not a problem for me, because I’m female with tiny fingers, but even I have to sometimes glance at the camera to check where the buttons are. Otherwise the balance of the OMD, whichever lens I have on it, is pretty close to perfect. The XE1 tends to feel a little front heavy even with the new 18-55 zoom lens mounted.

What about lens choices?
There is no doubt that the dedicated micro four thirds lens lineup is nothing short of fantastic, with everything from fast primes to the latest f2.8 zooms. Generally speaking they’re not cheap, but there are some affordable gems which are optically superb. These include the 45mm f1.8, PL25 f1.4 and the 40-150 zoom. If funds are not an issue you might prefer the 12-35 f2.8 or the 35-100 f2.8. The Fuji X lenses are, as you would expect, a bit bigger and heavier (given that they must cover a larger sensor) but they are beautifully made and optically excellent. The Fujinon 18-55 zoom represents fantastic value when purchased with the XE1 as a kit. However the X lens lineup is small and this may restrict you depending on what you shoot. Be aware that putting together an OMD system may prove more costly than the Fuji system.

Stabilization
The OMD’s IBIS system is incredibly effective and will enable you to shoot at remarkably slow shutter speeds. It will allow you to use non-stabilised lenses at lower hand holding speeds (tip – switch any lens stabilisation off if in-camera stabilisation is on). The zoom lens which often accompanies the XE1 is also stabilised, and it works well, but not to the extent of the in body stabilisation on the Oly. IBIS can enable you to get pictures where you would probably have no hope with any other system, aside from cranking the ISO still further.

How are both cameras for portraits?
They are both good for portraiture but with autofocus and lighting caveats where the Fuji is concerned. It is often argued that Fuji produce the most pleasing skin tones, and they are certainly good. However this is often because users do not understand how to customise the OMD, and I happen to think that the colour output of the OMD is very pleasing. The zoom lens on the XE1 is ideal for portraiture, the f4 setting at full zoom is plenty adequate for shallow DOF, or the 60mm prime might appeal to you more if you can cope with the slower focus over the zoom. The OMD with the 45mm f1.8 is a great combination. But once again, the blazingly fast and accurate autofocus of the OMD will nail pretty much everything you throw at it. On a more personal note, I find the X Trans sensor renders a slightly ‘plastic’ look to skin (in both JPEG and RAW) which for me is a turn-off, especially when photographing men.

Are both cameras suitable for professional photographers?
The OMD is a high performer capable of coping with a vast array of subject matter. The Fuji much less so. The image quality of both is more than good enough, equalling or bettering the output from most current APS-C DSLR cameras.  Both cameras are good choices for landscapes (the OMD having the slight advantage of increased depth of field at any given aperture). But this is where things change ….. if you shoot moving targets then the OMD has distinct advantages given the fast autofocus and responsive EVF (though don’t expect tracking focus on any CSC to be all that great). The OMD will also focus more quickly in low light so you might prefer it for concert photography for example. If you shoot wildlife the OMD is a good choice thanks to the availability of so many lenses (once again, you can shoot at a slightly wider aperture on this camera without sacrificing too much depth).

Will my clients be concerned that a small camera is not good enough for the job in hand?
I expect that some clients will think that, but you can easily put them straight. There is a post just down from this one where we discuss that very topic: Big Camera Syndrome and Clients

 

So what can we conclude from all these questions? It’s quite simple – don’t agonise over image quality because these cameras are so close that it is not, in my opinion, a determining factor (unless you clearly lean in one particular direction). Instead, think about what you’re going to be shooting and with that in mind look at the performance attributes of each camera and the available lenses.  And don’t forget about handling, it’s quite common to hanker after something only to dislike it as soon as you have it in your mits. For this reason I do recommend that you try and get to a camera store where you can have a good play, shoot some images, and generally decide whether you and the camera will be a good match. My conclusion is that the OMD is a stunning all-round performer but if you’re a casual shooter and you don’t need speed and the other DSLR-like features then you may prefer the styling and easier handling of the (slightly more affordable) XE1. Budget-wise the OMD can work out to be fairly expensive if you have a preference for fast zooms. But I can’t tell you which one to buy. When speed and reliability is important, or RAW shooting, I grab my OMD. On a relaxed personal outing where a wide to tele zoom will come in handy the XE1 would be fine. The heart does occasionally rule the head and the personality of the individual should never be underestimated. As I keep telling some of the more indignant commentators (some of which I cannot publish) it is not a crime to prefer one piece of equipment over another, or to list the documented features of one camera versus an alternative – if we were all the same it would be an astonishingly boring world.

By the way I also own and love two other Fujifilm X cameras which I keep for personal projects – the X10 and the X100. There are plenty of pictures from both scattered around the Blog. The X10 is a terrific all round travel/personal use camera which is great fun to use, and the X100 is a purist’s joy with exemplary image quality and beautiful 35mm (equivalent) optics.

UPDATE: By way of a January 2013 addendum I can confirm that I have now sold the XE1. Test shoots following the usual format of my professional location portrait assignments revealed that the autofocus did not meet our performance benchmarks and in general this camera was not fast enough for the way in which we work. We were not engaging in sports photography or fast moving subjects, so we were quite disappointed that the camera could not keep up with the proceedings – fashion shoots and family photography is normally dynamic, but the XE1 struggled. That does not mean that it will not be ideal for you if you’re a hobbyist taking general travel pictures, but I do receive an awful lot of e-mails from XE1 owners who are rather disgruntled by its behaviour. I always recommend that you try and get to a camera store to test whichever equipment you’re considering, rather than relying on the manufacturer’s marketing hype. It’s also a good idea to make your purchase after any given piece of equipment has been out for at least a couple of months whereby there will be a reasonable body of feedback from current owners.

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  • Nat - December 11, 2012 - 3:39 pm

    Thank you Lindsay, for another well balanced and informative report on two exceptional cameras. As you say they are very different and will appeal to different people. You raise some vital points as well which users often fail to consider. I can see that you prefer the feel of the XE1 but when the situation demands it you will use the OMD for speed. Great that you can own both cameras! (-: but I am still having problems deciding which one will suit me. I don’t photograph children or animals so your statement that the Fuji might be the better buy is probably correct.

  • Lindsay - December 11, 2012 - 3:44 pm

    Hi Nat, yes there are some things that I prefer on the Fuji and other things that I like on the OND. This really boils down to features, and whether or not those features may be applicable to you. For example the tilting screen on the OMD is not something I would have listed as being important to me, but I do enjoy using it particularly for street photography. Alternatively, I love the feel of the XE1, particularly the buttons – also the white balance on any Fuji X camera is outstanding. It’s a question of deciding which features and benefits are most relevant to how you shoot and what you shoot. I suspect that, given your budget, the XE1 and zoom might be all that you need. If you purchase the OMD and the equivalent fast zoom you will be spending a huge amount.

  • Neil Kristiansen - December 11, 2012 - 3:48 pm

    Hi Lindsay,
    I’ve just come upon your site thanks to a link by Fujirumours. A very interesting read on the pros and cons of the Fuji and Olympus cameras. I have subscribed to your Blog :-).
    I recently ordered the Fuji X-E1 but having not being able to handle it in any local camera store I was unsure whether it would be right for me. Unfortunately having handled it for a couple of days the slow focus and viewfinder lag just drove me crazy. It has therefore gone back. I’m in a difficult position of having no local dealer who has the latest CSC cameras in to try! I recently sold all my DSLR gear due to long term illness and being unable to carry the weight around any longer.
    I’d be interested to know if you looked at/considered the Sony CSC’s such as the NEX 7 and new NEX 6 and if so what were your thoughts. I know there isn’t a great lens range for these at the moment, although with focus peaking and adaptors there’s a whole world of manual lenses. Having sent back the Fuji I am now considering either the Olympus or the NEX 6, but I am going to have to find a dealer who has them in stock and do some travelling.
    Out of interest I notice you’re in West Sussex. My sister lives in Fareham, Hampshire and I was wondering if you know of any dealers who has these cameras in stock down there as I will be down that way over Christmas.
    Sorry for the long ramble, and once again I am glad I’ve now found your site and will follow your work/blog with interest. Thanks for any help you can give,
    Neil Kristiansen

  • Lindsay - December 11, 2012 - 4:20 pm

    Hi Neil, you have highlighted an extremely important point and that is handling and ergonomics, which can be a real dealbreaker irrespective of the other features and benefits of any given system. I can understand the slow performance frustrating you, it frustrates me a lot of the time and so I tend to reserve my XE1 for static work. I wonder if this could be improved in a firmware update, but only time will tell. In terms of a dealership with a comprehensive range (and good staff) the only place I can think of is Park Cameras at Burgess Hill, West Sussex. That’s a bit of a journey for you, but if you find yourself over that way it is well worth the visit (you may want to phone them ahead of time to check they have all of the systems available, but they normally do). I’m afraid I don’t know of any other large camera stores so you may need to do an Internet search in your sister’s locality. I greatly sympathise with anyone who has health issues, that is one of the reasons I am switching to compact systems. I haven’t considered any of the Sony Nex cameras mostly because the lens lineup does not cover my needs (and I don’t want to use legacy glass which will complicate the work I do) however I think the Nex 6 in particular sounds like a lovely piece of kit and well worth looking into. So far the best all-round performer I have come across is indeed my Olympus OMD, but depending which lenses you buy it can be quite an expensive option. It’s very hard for me to find fault with the EM-5 other than to point out that the buttons are very small and I would always advise having a play with one before making a purchase. It is also a little bigger and heavier than the Nex.

  • Luis Passarella - December 12, 2012 - 5:17 pm

    Hi Lindsay, my name’s Luis and I live in Brazil. I found your blog and I think that was a very interesting way to approach the two cameras. I have a question and hope you can answer. What size magnification pictures that we can do to a photo exhibition without losing quality and keeping the ISO under control? I used a D700 and knew where I could get but I sold it and think about buying one of the two because the “cost x benefit.” Thanks for your help.

  • Lindsay - December 12, 2012 - 5:42 pm

    Hi Luis. large prints from either camera are a few weeks away so I can’t comment fully I’m afraid. Print size does of course depend not only on ISO but on the tonality of the image – a shadow-rich image will benefit from a lower ISO value, and an urban landscape or monochrome will often tolerate higher ISO values. For my own work I don’t print exhibition work above ISO 800 from my non full frame cameras if the print is over 16″, but that is mostly because I specialize in portraiture. From the 5D MkIII I will print 30 inches and above from ISO 1600 images, but ultimately it boils down to the kind of image you have, the extent to which you can eradicate noise whilst maintaining detail, and your own personal aesthetics. The only answer unfortunately is to do some test prints from a crop of the enlarged file and see what you think.

  • Robert Yanal - December 13, 2012 - 7:04 pm

    Very helpful article, as I’m probably getting a new camera for an upcoming trip to China.

    It seems to me, though, that the shadow areas in the Olympus shots lack detail, which may be a function of the time of day the shots were taken or perhaps of your personal taste.

  • Lindsay - December 13, 2012 - 7:33 pm

    Hi Robert, I hadn’t noticed any loss of detail in the OMD shadows, but since you raise it I will scrutinise that a little more next time. The thing with the OMD is that it has very highly customisable, and the out-of-the-box settings are rarely ideal, whereas the Fuji JPEG engine is fantastic from the word go. I think this was the second time I’d used the Oly so I hadn’t finished setting it up, since then I have tweaked things further. However I do stress to people that they should buy the camera they like best given the performance attributes which are most important to them – pixel peeping should always be quite low on the list in my view given that most of the leading CSCs are all great in that department. I do envy your trip to China, that will be wonderful!

  • martin o halloran - December 17, 2012 - 12:14 am

    I am considering buying an xe1 for a forthcoming wedding. Thanks for your comments. Do you think an xe1 suitable for weddings? I have a canon 500d with kit lenses, and i think the xe1 will be a big improvment.
    Whats your opinion? I value it. thanks once again
    Martin o Halloran

  • Geoff - December 17, 2012 - 3:19 am

    Thanks Lindsay for your very informative review. I have both the OMD and the X-E1. Trying to decide which to keep. The thing is, there are things I like and dislike about both. I wish the OMD had a built in flash. I wish the X-E1 had a video button. Overall though, I love the AF speed of the OMD. I do own and love my Fuji X10, so that I’ll keep. I may do as you did and just keep them both.

    Thanks again for such a fine review.

  • Lindsay - December 17, 2012 - 9:57 am

    Hi Martin, I try not to make specific equipment recommendations beyond setting out my own personal view of any given camera, but as you can see from my report (and others) the autofocus on the XE1 is not particularly fast, particularly in low light. I would recommend that you ask a wedding photographer who is currently using X system cameras for weddings. However wedding venues vary greatly and the specific environment you are going to will dictate your equipment. If you are attending the wedding as a guest with no expectations placed upon you then I would simply take whichever camera suits you best. If you aim to undertake a paid wedding then testing all your kit thoroughly beforehand in typical wedding conditions is of course essential.

  • Lindsay - December 17, 2012 - 9:58 am

    Hi Geoff, many people end up owning both the OMD and the XE1 – they are very different machines but they compliment each other well.

  • Boris - December 28, 2012 - 4:18 am

    Hi Lindsay. Thank you for your time in setting out your experience with both of these camera.

    I noticed you mentioned that one can alter the white balance warmer or cooler using both cameras (I ask about the XE-1). Does this mean that in auto-WB a bias can be made for all pictures, or are you referring to the different WB options (sunset, incandescent, etc)? As far as I was aware, this is only possible with different film emulations, but all are quite washed blue. I particularly like the lenses of the Fuji, but I prefer the warm tones of the Olympus and I would like to emulate these (apparently I see the world through rose-tinted glasses!). I seem to see other people asking for the opposite often though (Fuji colours in Olympus).

  • Lindsay - December 28, 2012 - 10:04 am

    Hi Boris, you’ve raised a very important point and you are not the only person who prefers the Olympus colours. Personal preference should always come into play and it would be a very boring world is every camera produced output which looked the same. Yes, you can create a warmer or cooler bias in either camera (without resorting to manually setting specific white balance). It’s a case of playing around until you find settings which appeal to you.

  • Luc de Schepper - December 28, 2012 - 8:15 pm

    Hello Lindsay, so much useful info on your blog. Thanks a lot for sharing all this. Your X-E1 vs OM-D posting is packed with practical info with emphasis on the things that matter in real photography. Great stuff! I own a Nikon D700 with a set of fine prime lenses and a X100. However the weight of the Nikon set is becoming a problem for me, especially on holidays and city trips. So I’m considering the X-E1 or the OM-D. Or perhaps wait for a future X-Pro2 as I do like the Fuji X-series image quality. I’ve handled the X-E1 and OM-D. The X-E1 is nice but rather small and I don’t like that you have to press the AF button before being able to move the focus point. And there’s the slow autofocus of course. The OM-D is really small, it feels like an electronic toy, with very small buttons. Still, we are spoilt with these luxury choices these days. Thanks again and I’m looking forward to reading your future posts.

  • Lindsay - December 28, 2012 - 9:43 pm

    Hi Luc, it is a difficult choice but ultimately I think it may come down to ergonomics, and whether you need good autofocus ability and of course RAW – both of which are currently limitations of the XE1.

  • Iain Sword - December 30, 2012 - 10:24 pm

    Hi Lindsay. Thanks for sharing this really interesting article. I currently shoot with a crop-sensor DSLR but am thinking about switching to a CSC kit, so it’s great to hear your thoughts about these two exciting cameras.

    Just one small point to make – under the section about the OMD’s increased depth of field, you mention that 4 factors govern an image’s DOF: aperture, subject distance, focal length, and sensor size. However sensor size has absolutely nothing to do with DOF – the necessity of wider focal lengths on smaller sensors is what really increases the DOF. I don’t mean to sound pedantic, but thought this statement might confuse some of your readers.

    Keep up the great work. Look forward to reading more of your posts.

  • Lindsay - December 30, 2012 - 10:55 pm

    Hi Iain, IQ wise you won’t be giving up anything by switching to a modern CSC and your back/neck/shoulders will thank you for it. With respect to DOF perhaps I should have said that sensor size affects ‘apparent’ DOF. You are not being pedantic at all, but I normally leave the more scientific explanations from my articles since many readers are novices. Good luck with your purchase and do report back on how you find the system once you have it.

  • Daniel - January 2, 2013 - 5:00 am

    Hi Lindsay, I was wondering which camera you would be happy with if you knew you wouldn’t be able to upgrade for the next 2 or 3 years. I can see that the Fuji has better high ISO performance and a good future lens roadmap. But the Olympus already has many wonderful lenses in production. Do you think you would yearn for a better camera body with better high ISO performance if you picked the Olympus and knew you couldn’t upgrade for the next 3 years?

  • Lindsay - January 2, 2013 - 8:51 am

    Daniel, IQ and ISO ability of both cameras is great, and very close, so that would never be the determiner in my decision (as a professional I’m interested in real world performance so pixel peeping between the two is of no value). As a professional, for the work I do (your subject matter may differ) there are performance failings in the Fuji which limits its usefulness and therefore its cost/benefit ratio (not necessarily something which would trouble most amateurs or hobbyists). The OMD meets almost all of my performance criteria therefore that is the system I would choose to keep the longest and it is also the system I happen to prefer. The lens roadmap of the Fuji is only ‘good’ if those lenses meet one’s needs and they do not align well with my own needs, however the u4/3 lenses cover all my requirements and more.

  • paul miles - January 2, 2013 - 7:40 pm

    Hi Lindsay’
    Stumbled across your review by accident…but good it certainly is.
    I’ve had for the last 2 years a Nikon d7000 with various lenses including a nikon 50mm 1.4, nikon 18=200 and a Tamron 90mm1:1 2.8 macro which is my choice of lens for macro photography which is my favoured following.
    I’ve had some really good photo’s from the Tamron and I’m ready to give it all up in favour of a Fuji xe1….but will the image quality suffer as a result of me going to this kind of set up??
    I can accept that technology moves as fast in cameras as it does in computers but will I be making a big mistake moving across to this type of camera???

  • Lindsay - January 2, 2013 - 8:12 pm

    Hi Paul, I’m afraid I don’t really know anything about Nikon systems, but your decision will probably need to hinge on your subject matter (presuming you photograph more than just macro). The XE1 cannot be compared to a DSLR since it is completely different in pretty much every way. For example, currently there is no viable mainstream RAW support for X Trans and the autofocus will be much slower than your DSLR. In addition the X lens lineup may be limiting. Of course these limitations may change, perhaps even soon, but I think the best thing to do is to try and get to a camera store where you can have a play with the Fuji and see how you feel about it. On the other hand the OMD is rather like a miniaturised DSLR and so it may be a better choice.

  • Timothy Bell - January 5, 2013 - 11:19 pm

    Lindsay,
    Have you ever listed the settings you apply to the OM-D in regards to changes from the default. I am also a portrait photographer who has recently acquired an OM-D(in addition to my DSLR) and I have agreed with your comments and would appreciate this baseline info to set up my camera.
    Thanks,
    Tim

  • Lindsay - January 6, 2013 - 3:38 pm

    Hi Tim, as mentioned in my article(s) I turn sharpness and NR down, warming to off, and WB bias a notch towards blue. That’s it pretty much, I like a flatish neutral starting point but everybody is different and much depends on final workflow. But with portraits the colour and lowering of sharpness is the most crucial, in my view.

  • Sunil - January 21, 2013 - 4:15 am

    What OMD lenses do you recommend? What would say about the quality of the OMD kit 12-50 mm? Thanks.

  • Lindsay - January 21, 2013 - 2:56 pm

    Sunil, lens choices are very personal and are of course dependent on your subject matter. As a portrait photographer I use the PL25 f1.4, the 45 f1.8 and the 35-100 f2.8. I’m afraid I can’t comment on the quality of the 12-50 as I don’t use kit lenses as a rule (too slow for the work I do) but one of the key features of this lens is the macro capability.

  • Joel - January 21, 2013 - 9:48 pm

    Hello Lindsay, an absolute gem of a review. The approach and contents are perfect. Very useful. Thank you. When I first came across the X100 I fell in love with it. My only hesitation was its fixed lens. Then Fuji annouced the XE-1 with interchangeable lenses; huge smile on my face. I wanted to wait for well informed reviews before taking the plunge. Your review is it. I note that you still have and presumeable use your X100 and have now sold the XE-1. What made you sell the XE-1 rather than the X-100 (Perhaps you have written a comparative review of these two elsewhere) If so I would be grateful for the link. I love the retro look of the XE-1 and may well go for it. But if its advantages do not far outweigh those of the X100, then I have a dilema.

    Many thanks.

    Joel

  • Lindsay - January 22, 2013 - 9:07 am

    Hi Joel, many thanks indeed for the kind comment. We try to keep things as balanced and objective as possible, I have no brand allegiance but instead weigh up any purchases according to the intended purpose. On this occasion both cameras under discussion were brought into the business as professional work tools. It turned out that the XE1 was not suited to the kind of portrait work I undertake and therefore it was uneconomic to keep it. On the other hand, my X100 was purchased very much as a camera for personal enjoyment therefore the performance criteria applied to that decision was far less stringent. Why did I not keep the XE1 as my personal use camera? That came down to size, the fact I prefer the OVF on the X100 and also my preference for the files produced by the X100 (I am not keen on X Trans). Without a doubt a fixed lens can be limiting at times however the quality of the glass on the X100 is spectacular and I also have the X10 for personal use on the occasions when I think zoom will be needed. So ultimately it all comes down to what you will be shooting and how you like to shoot. But I agree it is a difficult decision!

  • Sunil - January 22, 2013 - 3:25 pm

    Thank you for your response, Lindsay. Is the fact that the sensor is exposed when changing lenses no longer an issue with mirror less cameras. I have not seen that come up lately. My main interest is travel photography and I was leaning towards zoom lens.

  • harold - January 22, 2013 - 7:36 pm

    Sorry; I lost interest when he mentioned no difference in dof.
    Clearly regurgitated 4/3s fanboy talk and somebody whos knows little about photography

  • Lindsay - January 22, 2013 - 7:47 pm

    I’m not sure what you mean Harold, nowhere have I stated there is no difference in depth the field – in fact in my articles I often refer to the fact that the DOF differences (less than a stop if comparing to APS-C) could be either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the situation. DOF is controlled by a number of factors of which sensor format is but one. I am brand/format agnostic and shoot with a range of equipment from different manufacturers, including Fuji, Olympus and Canon. For the record I am a “she” and am reasonably well known in my field.

  • Ryan - February 2, 2013 - 3:53 pm

    Hey Lindsay, loving your blog posts and pictures!

    I currently own an X100 and although I love the image quality, the lens and the hybrid viewfinder, the EVF lags quite a bit until you half press the shutter button and the AF/having to press macro for anything <70cm or so is extremely frustrating.

    I mostly shoot candid scenes and street but a lot of the time I'll be taking casual pictures of family and friends, especially in houses/restaurants where AF is crucial.

    I'm currently looking at the Fuji X series and the OM-D series and was wondering what you would recommend. I would personally love something that's hassle free (quick AF and something that just works) but I also love the physical dials of an aperture ring and exposure compensation. What do you think of the two dials on the OM-D? are they easy to turn and do they give a positive feedback so you can feel confident about changing exposure compensation? also do you find the OMD's high iso comparable to the X100?

    Thank you,

    Ryan.

  • Lindsay - February 2, 2013 - 7:56 pm

    Hi Ryan, many thanks indeed for the kind words. I also have an X-100 and I agree that the image quality is sensational. It does of course have its quirks, like most Fuji cameras, and I also agree that the EVF can be quite frustrating (I tend not to use it very often). Where autofocus is concerned the OMD is very good indeed, vastly better than the Fuji X cameras (in fact the autofocus is one of the reasons why I recently parted company with my XE1). I found the aperture ring on the lens quite annoying, the slightest knock or movement and it would shift, slowing the photographic process down still further. With respect to the buttons and dials on the OMD, they are smaller than other cameras and I would say that if you have large hands they may prove fiddly. I would suggest trying to get to a camera store to see if the buttons would be a problem for you. I haven’t done any kind of precise comparison between the OMD and the X-100 on ISO, since these days most modern cameras are very good in low light. I advise people not to get too hung up on small differences between one machine and the next. But the OMD is very good at high ISO, I’d say it’s very close to the X-100.

  • Ryan - February 2, 2013 - 9:09 pm

    Thank you for the reply Lindsay,

    Seems like the OM-D might be the camera for me, unless the X series AF is drastically changes when they implement the phase detection pixels alas the X100s. So is the aperture ring a lot looser on the XF lenses compared to the X100? Since I have hardly many problems with the X100 aperture ring.

  • Lindsay - February 2, 2013 - 9:51 pm

    Hi Ryan, the X100 aperture ring is nice and firm, but the one on the 18-55 zoom (and the other X lenses I’ve used) is much too loose in my opinion, annoyingly so at times.

  • Steve - February 3, 2013 - 5:54 pm

    Hi Lindsay,
    Thanks for a great review, I am still torn between OM-D and X-e1. I am off to Mustang in Nepal in April/Maya nd want to take pictures for a book I am writing, (landscapes, buildings, people with some flash and low-light stuff). In your view which camera has the best image quality/sharpness of the two and is the AF on the X-e1 vastly inferior?

    Thanks again

    Steve

  • Lindsay - February 3, 2013 - 6:26 pm

    Hi Steve, as mentioned in the article image quality between the two is a non-issue (in fact image quality/sharpness is largely down to optics) and the lowlight capability of the OMD is very good, certainly good enough for the many professional wedding photographers who have now adopted this camera. Ultimately the quality of your images are of course down to your abilities as a photographer and has nothing to do with pixel peeping, however if you need to photograph moving subjects or if you need to work quickly in lowlight situations then the OMD is far more capable. They are very different machines, the OMD is a fantastic performer across the board (rather like a small DSLR) however the Fuji X cameras are better suited to slower more considered shooting. It all comes down to your personal style, preferences, and handling (so the best advice I can give is that you try to get both cameras into your hands before buying). If you’re travelling do bear in mind that the OMD and many of the Micro 4/3 lenses are weather sealed, and the X cameras are not. There are also vastly more lenses available for Micro 4/3 systems, from fast primes to fast zooms and beyond. I no longer have the XE1 as I found it to be unsuited to the work I do.

  • Steve Kemp-king - February 5, 2013 - 10:30 am

    Thanks for this, looks like it’s going to be the OMD as the dust on the Tibetan plateau can be a menace. There are hardly any camera shops left in London, and Curry’s/pc world don’t have either where i live. can you recommend a good dealer anywhere?

    Finally is the OMD kit lens 12-50 good? I’ve read mixed reviews.

    thanks again

    steve.

  • Lindsay - February 5, 2013 - 10:58 am

    Hi Steve, Park Cameras in Burgess Hill, Sussex, are excellent and usually have a full inventory. If you’re in the area they are well worth a visit (you may want to phone them ahead of time just to doublecheck they have what you want in stock).

  • Steve Kemp-King - February 7, 2013 - 3:49 pm

    I now have an olympus OM-D so that, at least, is settled. Thank you for your kind advice! now to get it out of the box. Hmmm……….

  • Lindsay - February 7, 2013 - 4:07 pm

    Hi Steve, many congratulations on your OMD! The hard part is ploughing through the manual, it’s quite a complex camera in many ways as I’m sure you know – it’s worth taking the time initially to set things up to suit your own way of working.

    The online manual can be found here: http://olympusamerica.com/files/oima_cckb/E-M5_Instruction_Manual_EN.pdf
    And a good quick start guide can be seen here: http://www.dpreview.com/articles/9115179666/user-guide-getting-the-most-out-of-the-olympus-e-m5

  • Eric - February 19, 2013 - 4:38 pm

    Lindsay, thank you for your real world review of the two cameras. May I ask what in particular you found most problematic regarding the XE-1 in its application as a tool for portrait photography? From my limited use of the camera it seemed like it would excel in these types of scenarios where blazing fast AF isn’t a necessity. The reason I ask is that I’m quite disenchanted with my 5DII for portrait work, despite the wonderful IQ it provides and was considering either an X-PRO 1 or XE-1 to replace it. I am, however, not a professional (although I do shoot the occasional headshot session) so I realise your requirements may be different than my own.

  • Lindsay - February 19, 2013 - 6:44 pm

    Hi Eric, the key thing to remember is that photographers are all very different and as you rightly point out professional requirements will be very different to those of an amateur or hobbyist. When shooting professionally there is not much room for error, we cannot miss our shots nor will a client tolerate even a relatively small proportion of mis-focused images. Portrait photographers vary wildly, particularly location photographers such as myself. My shoots tend to be quite fast paced where we work from one concept to the next, providing a wide spectrum of images for the client. This will involve different locations and very different kinds of light. Both the speed and the accuracy of the XE1 meant that it was not a tenable work tool for me. However on personal outings this is rarely a problem since I’m not repeatedly asking the camera to accurately focus on a human face, but I already have two Fuji X cameras for recreational use. I will add to that the lack of mainstream RAW support which is not yet good enough for many professional applications.The OMD on the other hand is proving to be an immensely capable professional camera and of course the lens selection for Micro 4/3 is fantastic. For me it comes down to using “the best tool for the job”.

  • Simon - February 26, 2013 - 4:05 pm

    Thanks for the review.

    I have a OMD EM5 and quite like it but find the buttons a bit small and irritating. The focus although it is fast sometimes missfires as I find the focus area on the EM5 too big; I therefore have to rewly on the eye focusing feature which is a bit hit and miss. I have only found a way to reduce the focus area size in live view; any thoughts?

    I also have problems with the kit zoom but the Olympus 9-18 mm I have is quite a nice lens; as is the 45 mm F1.8. The 17mm F2.8 is OKish.

    BUT I really need a good standard zoom for travel snaps as I don’t have time to change lenses with the family in tow.

    I have recently tried the XE1 and standard zoom in Calument and liked it. The focusing seemed fine to me, even in the shop light; the AF sensor was a little finer grained so it seemed that I could be more specific with the focusing. Not much point having fast AF if the camera hits the wrong spot. Am I the only one who would prefer slower but accurate focus to quicker inaccurate focus?

    I am going to Focus next week and if there is a deal I may come back with an XE1 and standard zoom. My tests seem to indicate it is a pretty sharp lens and I can get the whole camera and zoom for the price of the Panasonic 12-35 mm F2.8 zoom, which itself doesn’t get reviews good enough to warrant £900 expenditure.

    However I won’t sell my OMD EM5 until I am sure over the XE1, but as I don’t want to spend the dosh on the Olympus fast primes, it seems like the better camera for me at the current time. However before I buy the XE1 I want to find out how much the new 10-24mm Fuji is!

    Else I will end up using the EM5 with my 9-18 and the XE1 with the standard zoom! It seems life is never simple!

  • Lindsay - February 26, 2013 - 4:28 pm

    Hi Simon, I agree that the OMD buttons are small and can be a bit fiddly at times. However I have not yet had a single mis-focused image in any of the situations I have shot the OMD in. The focus area is a little deceptive, in that you need to ensure the centre of it aligns with the point where you need critical focus.

    If you are referring to the 12-50 kit zoom, it is of course very slow and not particularly good at resolving fine detail. If you’re seeking a high quality standard zoom then I would recommend the 12-35 f2.8 if budget allows. The PL25 f1.4 is a nice walkabout lens if that FOV suits you.

    When applied to professional situations the inadequacies of the XE1 focus became glaringly obvious, those flaws are rarely evident during my personal work (and there is no reason why it would not be perfectly fine for general travel photography) but were problematic when it came to environmental portraiture When accurate focusing on a face is crucial. These may not be considerations for many users but as a professional it is a dealbreaker, however there were also other reasons why I decided not to keep the XE1. In terms of autofocus the latest firmware is said to improve the accuracy somewhat. If the camera is simply for your own personal enjoyment then it becomes far easier to just buy whatever you prefer. But it is still a difficult decision and quite often the only way to determine what is best is to own it and see how you get along with it.

  • Randy - March 12, 2013 - 2:34 pm

    Dittos on the “Wonderful Article”
    I’m very glad to have fallen upon your blog.
    I sold my two Canon 2.8 zooms after a major financial hit and attempted to be happy with the 70×200 F4. I wasn’t! I sold the 30D and lens.
    After stumbling from one camera to the next I’d pretty much set my mind on the OM-D…. I’ve been looking for a quality camera that performs well in all areas and exceeds in others. I can’t go down the $2K per lense road again… Therefore 4/3 seems like a no brainer. However I’m 6’05 and have larger hands- longer fingers. I live on an island, so a trip to the camera store is out of the question. I’m starting to get the idea that I may need to go the route of a GH3 or back to dslr since the small/large size really isn’t an issue for me. With that said, I’m a bit disheartened… the OM-D seems like such a quality piece with endless options and within reason- quality glass at affordable dollar points- all good things, but if may be just too small and frustrating for larger hands so it seems. SO, if I have to jump to a bigger that can give me the OM-D level of quality and speed, where would you be looking? Or am I being too wrong to worry since I’m a hobbyist- so not something I’ll be using for work. Thanks Again :o)

  • Lindsay - March 12, 2013 - 6:17 pm

    Hi Randy, one of the things which makes the OMD so attractive is the combination of performance, image quality, all in a very small package. But as you rightly point out small cameras don’t suit everyone. Your island location will as you say make the choice more complicated, unless you can find a seller who will accept a return. I think you are correct in that the GH3 would be the next best thing size-wise, but it is more expensive than the OMD unfortunately. If size isn’t an issue then a DSLR such as a 7D or 60D might be worth considering, but then you may be forced to consider expensive lenses. Not an easy choice in the absence of a camera store.

  • offtheback - March 20, 2013 - 3:38 pm

    Lindsay-thank you for your unique perspective/review of the Oly/Fuji set.I’ve had an EM-5 for 6 months now as my first above point n shoot after several years with film SLR’s.While it took me a couple of months to figure out the menu systems and features(no thanks to the horrid documentation)it is an excellent overall system and the portability is a huge plus.I encountered a strange problem the other day while shooting in a light rain.The auto switching between viewfinder/LCD stopped working and was stuck on the EVF.The problem was a drop or 2 of rain that landed in the switching detector area and simulated my face being at the EVF.Another beguiling moment with the OMD-5.Kinda like a love affair.Thanks again for you wonderful blog+photos.

  • Lindsay - March 20, 2013 - 4:12 pm

    Hi offtheback – yes, it’s fantastic that really good portable systems are now a reality, it’s made a huge difference to my comfort level (I no longer dread packing my camera bag). Interesting you should mention your OMD playing up, good that you could spot the problem – my shutter button locked momentarily in the rain last week, I had to switch the camera off than on again, after which it was fine. I never believe that electronic devices are as water resistant as they say!

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