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The mirrorless system camera Olympus OM-D E-M1 shows its capabilities in microscopy

Admittedly, we have neglected the Olympus OM-D E-M1 a bit. Although the camera has been on the market for more than a year, we are only now posting a detailed test report for microscopy fans. Although Olympus was the leading player in the DSLR camera segment years ago, the company started to lag behind the competition for a number of reasons. Accordingly, the market has not seen any  Olympus camera models that are of interest for microscopy applications for some time now.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Vorderansicht

In terms of appearance, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is certainly no masterpiece of design. It comes across as a solid, sturdy product, without a lot of frills. Indeed, the camera does not have a whole lot of buttons, which we found rather disadvantageous. Overall, it is well built, using top-grade materials. In terms of size and weight, it falls into the lower range, weighing in at 440 grams without lens. 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 tilting Display

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 has a foldable display with extremely high resolution and a touchscreen monitor which delivers crystal-clear images. Not many other displays can match it for focus, brightness and contrast. Personally, we would prefer a rotating and pivoting display, but that is just a matter of taste.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a mirrorless system camera with a good sensor (16 MP without a low pass-filter). That is sufficient for microscopy, but a few more megapixels would definitely be welcome for macroscopy applications. The camera has many high-end features, such as high-speed autofocus, digital viewfinder, etc. However, these are irrelevant if the camera is used on a microscope. In stationary settings, the microscope is used for focussing and it is very impractical to use the digital viewfinder. Since the camera is firmly attached to the microscope, focussing via the display or remote control is much easier!

The ISO sensitivity can be set to anywhere in the range of ISO 100 to 25,600. The colour depth is 36 bits.

We were surprised by the fact that is impossible to get a Live View output on an external monitor via the HDMI port. Live View only works via WiFi, which requires being connected to a tablet or smartphone. We were unable to find the zoom function.

The VGA resolution is 640/480.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 with LM digital Adapter on photo port of a microscope

Attaching the Olympus OM-D E-M1 to a microscope is easy as can be with our LM digital adapters. The most convenient solution is to connect the camera to the photo tube, but even if the microscope does not have one, it just takes a few moments to fit it to the eyepiece tube.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 with LM digital Adapter on eyepiece tube

We were very pleased to see that Olympus finally once again offers a good remote control software for modern cameras. The Olympus Capture software is an excellent enhancement for the Olympus OM-D E-M1. The camera can be conveniently controlled from a computer, and the images taken can be saved directly to the PC or Mac. The software is very well designed and works flawlessly, which makes the OM-D E-M1 a viable option for laboratory and studio use. The software makes working with the microscope significantly easier. The quality of the preview images is very high (1280 x 960), and it is also possible to apply the zoom, white balancing, etc. to the preview images. All camera settings can be directly adjusted from the computer, without even touching the camera.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Live View Bild on iPad

Conclusion: The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a very capable and well performing camera that is ideally suited for microscopy. Thanks to the Olympus Capture software, it is also a viable option for professional applications. We only noticed one minor drawback: Live View images cannot be displayed through the HDMI port, as it is only capable of playing back previously taken images.

16.01.2015


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