The OM-D E-M1 is the flagship model in Olympus’s revolutionary Micro Four Thirds lineup of cameras, designed for advanced photographers who require a high-performance camera and a compact interchangeable lens system. Olympus recently established the M.ZUIKO PRO lens category, which includes the ED 12-40mm f/2.8 (24–80mm, 35mm equivalent) PRO lens.
To discuss the merits of this camera and lens, I caught up with Jay Dickman, a Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist and National Geographic photographer, who shoots with the OM-D E-M1 and an array of M. ZUIKO and ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses. He is a member of the Olympus Visionary Program, comprised of professional photographers who are ambassadors for the brand. “I’ve always liked the small footprint and high quality of Olympus cameras,” Dickman remarks. Because he was so inspired by their products, he switched to Olympus exclusively.
When asked why he prefers the OM-D series to other camera systems, Dickman points out many innovative features. “The Micro Four Thirds format produces image files that are the perfect size for a twopage spread in National Geographic and a lot of other magazines,” he explains. He appreciates the high quality of the interactive, high-definition electronic viewfinder (EVF), which increases brightness in low light. The E-M1 also has a feature for long exposures called Live Bulb, which enables you to watch the exposure take place and monitor the histogram. “When it gets to the perfect spot, you can then cut off the exposure,” he says.
Does the OM-D series support the caliber of work that Dickman aims to produce? The answer is an enthusiastic “Yes.” He describes the images as being consistently of magazine-production quality, adding, “There are times when I’ve been able to output great 30 x 40-inch prints off these files.”
I asked Dickman about his experience with Olympus’s Anywhere Classroom, which includes three online instructional videos of his outdoor, wildlife and nature photography. Dickman kicked off this video series, which is designed to enhance the photography skills of snap-shooters on up to working professionals, and is taught by members of the Olympus Visionary program. In season one, he takes viewers on location in Gunnison, Colorado to share his outdoor photography expertise, using the OM-D E-M1.
“I talk about the process of shooting and getting out in the field,” he says. “Hopefully viewers will pick up on the enthusiasm I’ve developed for this craft over 40-something years and use it to further their own photographic endeavors.” In each video, Dickman offers tips on finding the best light and composition, plus choosing the right lens. In season two, set for release in fall 2014, Olympus Trailblazer Alex McClure will share his expertise in light painting and shooting at night. In season three, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and Olympus Visionary Larry Price will cover topics from portraiture to photojournalism. Olympus recorded its entire online educational series using the OM-D E-M1, which enables users to shoot up to 29 consecutive minutes of 1080 30p HD video.
Dickman observes that Olympus really listened to pro photographers’ input when they designed the E-M1. It features a new 16.3 megapixel Live MOS sensor for high image quality and a TruePic VII image processor, which reduces noise and color fading at high ISO settings. “I shoot pretty clean at an ISO setting of 6400,” Dickman states. The camera’s Super Control Panel offers quick setting adjustments, and it’s equipped with a 5-Axis Image Stabilization System to avoid camera shake.
The E-M1 is compatible with all of Olympus’s M.ZUIKO and ZUIKO digital lenses, including the M.ZUIKO PRO lens series. This versatile lens collection features high-quality prime lenses as well as zoom models. Dickman remarks, “My goto M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED lenses are the 12- 40mm f/2.8 PRO, the 75mm f/1.8, the 9- 18mm f/2 and the 12mm f/2.” When he shoots wildlife and sports, he uses Olympus’s “legacy” Four Thirds lens, the ZUIKO ED 50-200mm SWD, which he can attach to the E-M1 using an adapter. Because these lenses are a two-to-one equivalent to 35mm lenses, Olympus Four Thirds lenses are small and compact.
“I often work with two cameras, one with the 12-40mm f/2.8 attached, and one with the 75mm f/1.8,” Dickman says. “Unless I’m shooting wildlife, I can shoot 95 percent of what I need with those two cameras and lenses.”
One of the most recent Micro Four Thirds lens introductions is the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm f/2.8 (80-300mm, 35mm equivalent), expected to be available later this year. Like other Olympus M.ZUIKO PRO lenses, it will have a rugged dustproof and splashproof design. At the time of our interview, Dickman had just received the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 25mm f/1.8. “I think that Olympus makes some of the best glass — if not the best glass — in the industry.”
The OM-D E-M1 is a mirrorless camera, which makes it very lightweight. Olympus replaced the mirror with the EVF, which features 2.36 million dot resolution, 1.48x magnification and 29ms display lag time. “When you look through the electronic viewfinder, it’s like looking at HDTV,” Dickman says. An eye sensor allows for automatic switching between the EVF and monitor.
Dickman says that the E-M1 is ideal for professional photographers who do a lot of traveling. “All of my Olympus Micro Four Thirds equipment travels in one case, which is well within the international carry-on weight regulations. It’s dangerous in some parts of the world to carry big, expensive-looking cameras. The more I can minimize my visual presence, the happier I am.”
He concludes, “Olympus has put together a fantastic system. This company has brought me equipment that makes my life easier – and that’s huge for me.”
The OM-D E-M1 camera body is $1399.99 MSRP, and the M.ZUIKO PRO DIGITAL ED 12–40mm f/2.8 lens is $999.99 MSRP.
To learn more about Olympus products, visit www.getolympus.com. To view Olympus’s Anywhere Classroom series, visit www.getolympus.com/anywhereclassroom. To see more of Jay Dickman’s work, visit www.jaydickman.net.