The Olympus OM-D E-M1 vs. Fujifilm X-T1: Which should you choose?
Choosing the best mirrorless camera for professional work
While once a rarity, stories of professional photographers abandoning the DSLR camp for a more compact mirrorless system are becoming increasingly common. And with there being only two truly viable options out there at the moment, the question of which to choose is pretty straightforward.
On one hand, we have the six-month-old Olympus OM-D E-M1, the pride and joy of the Olympus' Micro Four Thirds OM-D line-up. According to recent reports, it is the model that has helped cut the company's imaging business losses by 60% and increase its mirrorless sales by 19%. Though the OM-D E-M5 that came before it was also popular among professionals, it was never advertised as an alternative to the DSLR. The E-M1, on the contrary, is bent on becoming just that.
The brand new Fujifilm X-T1 is the E-M1's primary competitor. Up until recently, Fujifilm had focused on creating cameras in the rangefinder style for the interchangeable X series, which in their own right have become extremely popular among professionals involved in niches like portraiture, wedding, street and landscape. The X-T1 represents a change in direction for the company, demonstrated by its SLR-like build and controls, improved AF and tracking, and stunningly realistic electronic viewfinder. Like Olympus, it now wants to focus on the serious conversion of professional photographers to a lighter and smaller system.
All images are courtesy of and used with the permission of Mirrorlessons - The Best Mirrorless Camera Reviews.
Before we proceed, you may be wondering why I did not include the Sony A7/A7r as an alternative. Indeed, if we only considered bodies, the full-frame Sony A7/A7r would certainly become a third wheel in the mix. However, as long as there is a dearth of native lenses, the new Sony system will remain useful as a back-up and nothing more.
What does the OM-D E-M1 bring to the table?
If the release of the OM-D E-M1 did one thing, it was to raise the bar for the competition. The message was clear: Micro Four Thirds is a professional system too. Given the inaccurate yet widespread belief in the inadequacy of Micro Four Thirds sensors, the labelling of the E-M1 as a professional alternative was most certainly a gamble for Olympus, but one well-taken, as it continues to top best-seller lists even six months after its release.What makes the E-M1 such a tantalising alternative isn’t limited to one factor but many. Its performance and hybrid contrast and phase detection autofocus are among the fastest and most efficient in the mirrorless world, rivalling even most mid-end DSLRs. A function unique to the Olympus line-up, the excellent 5-axis stabilisation, makes it possible to take in-focus shots down to shutter speeds even as low as one second. Not only does the camera have a wide range of Micro 4/3s lenses at its disposition, but it is also perfectly compatible with all 4/3s glass. Moreover, it is an extremely well-conceived camera, with numerous customisable buttons and dials, a touch and tilt screen, a wonderfully ergonomic body, and an excellent 2.3M-dot electronic viewfinder based on the external VF-4.
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What does the Fujifilm X-T1 bring to the table?
According to Fujifilm, the X-T1 (or at least its concept) has been in the cards since the conception of the Fuji X series back in 2011, which would imply that Fujifilm’s intention has always been to penetrate the professional sector in one way or another. This would make the X-T1 more of an E-M1 competitor by coincidence than by calculation.Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of the X-T1 is its brand new 2.36M dot OLED electronic viewfinder with 0.77x equivalent magnification. Both large and bright, it has exceptional resolution and an ultra fast display speed. It also includes the revolutionary Dual View function, which allows you to see two images through the viewfinder – the complete scene flanked by a crop where accurate focus peaking can be performed. The camera carries forward the tradition of the beloved APS-C X-Trans CMOS sensor II with its high image quality and ISO performance, and also employs a new hybrid contrast/phase detection AF with motion-predictive tracking, quelling any doubts about its AF performance. This, coupled with its ergonomic SLR-like body and the growing range of quality glass for the system, makes the X-T1 a formidable competitor.
Which should you choose?
As you can imagine, there is no right or wrong answer to a subjective question such as this. What may work for one photographer will cause another to recoil.Both the E-M1 and X-T1 are excellent cameras that left us feeling positive about the general direction the mirrorless trend is taking. They share:
- High image quality with attractive colour rendering
- Fast and accurate hybrid autofocus with effective tracking
- An excellent electronic viewfinder
- Quick burst shooting (10 fps on the E-M1 and 8 fps on the X-T1)
- A tilting screen
- An ergonomic and customisable SLR-like body with weatherproofing
- Lots of good lenses to choose from
- WiFi capabilities
If we were to recommend the E-M1 to a photographer, it would be because he or she:
- wants the reassurance that 99% of shots will be in focus at slow shutter speeds
- already owns a number of 4/3s lenses
- desires blazingly fast/accurate autofocus and burst shooting
- appreciates touchscreens for focusing and quick access to camera functions
Likewise, I would recommend the X-T1 to a photographer who:
- places top priority on image quality, especially low-light performance
- wants an EVF that almost resembles an OVF
- appreciates the film-like colours of the Fujifilm JPGs
- does a lot of manual shooting, as the EVF's Dual View function could prove very useful
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