Olympus OMD EM-5 vs Fujifilm XE-1 | Lindsay Dobsen

So how do I feel about my new cameras? Well I’m delighted with both of them. I was more or less able to predict how the XE1 would perform based on my ownership of existing X cameras and my familiarity with the brand. But the OMD was something of a revelation, I really didn’t expect a micro 4/3 camera to produce images which were often difficult to distinguish from those of the Fuji, even in low light. There really is very little between them. Fuji grain is quite fine and the images are very smooth, but you really only notice that at pixel peeping level or in very large prints. The native auto white balance of the Fuji is slightly cooler than that of the OMD in bright daylight (and vice versa indoors or under artificial lighting) but both are equally pleasing and can be tweaked to taste in-camera. Much is said of the beauty of Fuji colours and also of the pleasing colour rendition from the OMD. Again, I like both equally and they can be adjusted to suit you, or in my case to perfectly match each other on occasions when I’m shooting both cameras together. It should be mentioned that many OMD images floating about the Internet have a rather orange tinge to them – that is easily managed in camera and can be turned down to suit your needs. Overall I found the image quality of both cameras to be quite close in most scenarios, with the Fuji having a small advantage at very high ISO levels and with fine detail at pixel level (the XE1 lacks a high pass filter). The Fuji applies less aggressive sharpening at standard in-camera settings than the OMD and I will be reducing the in-camera sharpening on the Olympus from now on. The default noise reduction on the Fuji appears less aggressive than that of the Olympus. Dynamic range is a strength of Fuji X cameras and has historically been a weakness of Micro 4/3 sensors – but not any more – even pushing up the in-camera contrast on the OMD and shooting in harsh sunlight revealed no particular weaknesses.

So which camera do I prefer? That’s quite a difficult question, both are capable of producing outstanding images. After all, most people do after all judge cameras according to the finer points of the pictures they produce, often at the expense of overall performance. And it’s the latter where the Olympus really excels. A few weeks ago I created a blog post entitled “Fujifilm XE-1 – Will it Be Love?” and in response to that I can say “a fondness”. In the room with the snake the Fuji really struggled to lock focus at times and the slight lag of the EVF added to my frustrations. However the OMD nailed the shots easily (despite having a cheap and slow zoom on at the time). And of course the OMD is not only faster but is also weather proofed which is a great bonus for me, amongst its other performance attributes. So whilst I greatly admire the XE1 for its outstanding images, classic looks and wonderful build quality, it’s rather like a luxury saloon car – pleasurable to handle providing you’re not in too much of a hurry. The OMD on the other hand is a bit like a highly specc’d modern sports car – a little sharper around the edges but your journey will be fast and fun. I can see my infatuation with the OMD continuing and thus far it is the camera I reach for the most, but both cameras have a firm place in my kitbag.

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4 comment(s)

I am curious why you end the piece with the statement that both cameras have a place in your bag. A statement like that confuses me. You laid out all the strengths of the Om-D, and said there is hardly any discernable IQ difference, but that the OM-D was the better overall performer in other areas. In what scenarios would you pick up the Fuji? Assuming the answer is „low light when absolute IQ is important“ the question then becomes, do you really feel it is worth the cost and space for such limited use?

Full disclosure, I am an X-Pro 1 shooter

Your question is perfectly valid David – as a current (and very happy) Fuji X camera user (X100 and X10) the XE1 was a natural choice. And of course I have a lot more testing to do, particularly with respect to portraiture. I also need to have two compact systems in the bag, with one acting as either a backup or for occasions where one system has a short lens mounted and the other a telephoto. I hope I will have a more definite answer for your closing question over the next few months. But in summary, I expected the XE1 to perform a little faster than it does (I have no criticism of its IQ) given the pre-release statements and currently I am finding that is limiting its use a little. It’s not unusual to purchase two different systems in order to ascertain which will best suit you. And that is key – everybody is different.

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