Panasonic GX1 and Olympus OM-D E-M5

Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 & Panasonic GX1 with Panasonic 20mm f/1.7

Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 & Panasonic GX1 with Panasonic 20mm f/1.7

The Panasonic GX1

So, I’ve mentioned that I started off with a Panasonic GX1. Then I collected an array of lenses to cover most situations. My GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) continues of course.

Several times I’ve found myself in the checkout screen of Amazon and Cameta Cameras, ready to buy the E-PL1 for $150. Why? Because it’s cheap and I wanted a second body… It’s only $150ish for a body, after all. But… there wouldn’t be much to gain. Each time I’d logically conclude that I didn’t need it.

Then, I started looking at limiting factors of my GX1: Image stabilization and ISO performance.

Image Stabilization:

While the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 is generally considered sharper than the Panasonic telephotos, I couldn’t get it because it didn’t have image stabilization. Arguing between the Panasonic 45-150, 45-175, and 45-200, I ended up getting a 45-200 used despite its larger size. I’m pretty happy with it. Its sharpness is probably on the level of the Olympus 12-50, which I realized on my recent trip to Crystal Cove. The trees and brushes just aren’t sharp enough. Back to the IS topic, I just felt really limited in lens selection. But… but that 5-axis IBIS on the OMD…….

ISO Performance:

The GX1 is very nice up to ISO 1600. At ISO 3200, it’s somewhat usable for web images (facebook). At ISO 6400, arguably barely usable for facebook even. But I find myself toting my camera to birthday parties at bars and dimly lit restaurants often. Night-outs in town require more than ISO 1600. I’d get usable photos from the GX1, but I’d get a million blurred ones or high noise too. This is even with my Pana-Leica f/1.4 lens too. And I kept reading about how ISO 6400 shots are usable for the OMD….

The Olympus OM-D E-M5

SO! After putting in and out of my Amazon cart several times, I pulled the trigger. (Then spent the next 3 days looking up cases and accessories but that’s a separate post). The Olympus OM-D E-M5
came to my door the next day and… WOW.

E-M5 5-Axis IBIS: It kicks in when you half press the shutter (if you adjust the settings to do that). You immediately see its effect. Let’s just say that I’ve shot photos at 200mm (400mm equivalent) for 1/4 second exposures with no blur.



E-M5 ISO Performance: EM5 ISO 5000 equates to about GX1 ISO 1600 I’d say. Maybe a tad bit worse, but somewhat comparable. I’ve set my camera to Auto ISO up to ISO 5000 and my photos are fine. Dark bars? No blurred shots, no images with unusable amounts of noise. I end up with a ton more photos.

A couple friends on a night out

A couple friends on a night out

E-M5 Color Rendering/WB: I didn’t even realize this was an issue until I started post-processing photos from my OM-D. Accurate white-balancing, much more pleasing colors, much more adjustable JPG outputs. I find OOC (out of camera) JPGs much more usable. Often, post-processing isn’t even necessary. Photos come out of this camera almost exactly the way I want them.

Conclusion? I love my new camera. I’ve named her Brandy. I’ve got her a nice $90 half-case, a wrist strap to match (just arrived!), and a nice braided shoulder strap. She’s hot.


Advantages of Panasonic: Overall, it’s a very solid camera, especially for its price. I think the controls felt a bit better than on the OM-D. The wheel to adjust settings is great, right where the thumb sits and you can press it to adjust another setting. Menu is pretty intuitive, easy to use.

Side-Effect: I want the OM-2 now. I’ll be posting about this soon, but I’m getting interested in film photography. There’s something special about film compared to digital… and I feel like it’d help with my composition – more thought into each shot.


15 thoughts on “Panasonic GX1 and Olympus OM-D E-M5

  1. I’ve been thinking of getting a new body too, and have been considering Olympus (because I have an Olympus 50mm f1.8 Zuiko legacy lens and even though it doesn’t support AF, it gives very pleasing clarity all the time, so I’m impressed with the brand). But I’m far from being financially stable at the moment so that gives me a looooong time to decide what I want.

    At the same I’m also considering film photography! Either film or those old polaroids. I notice that the way I take my shots have become very calculated; I’m barely trigger-happy these days because I want to save myself the trouble of choosing and deleting so many unusable photos afterwards. I just want to come home to reviewing shots that are all well-composed with only their sharpness to discern. So I think I’m kinda ready for a non-digital camera.

    I look forward to reading your next camera comparison/shopping conquest!

    • I’ve upgraded to the OM-D from the GX1 and I must admit, it is a big upgrade. Panasonic just announced a new type of sensor too, so I’m sure great new products will be coming out soon! Which also means that some of the cameras that are already out will become cheaper 🙂

      I’m jealous that you’re able to be less trigger-happy. I’m still at the phase where I have to take more shots to judge/adjust the composition afterwards.
      I’ve been playing around with a friend’s old SLR and am about to develop my first roll of film… very excited. Ming Thein had an article about some pretty good film cameras! I have not decided what I want to get just yet for myself though…

  2. Pingback: Olympus FL-600R | skpfoto

  3. I’ve been shooting a GF1 for two to three years and am thinking about upgrading. I’m considering the Olympus OM-D E-M5. My wife has one, and I really like the viewfinder. The viewfinder with the GF1 is barely adequate – dark and blurry. The newer viewfinder is supposed to be better but doesn’t fit the GF1. I have the Panasonic pancake lens and the Panasonic 14-45. Do you have any experience using either of these with the Olympus? Any problems?

    • I have both the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake and the Panasonic 14-45mm and use both on the OM-D. The 20mm f/1.7 pancake is supposed to have banding issues when you take photos as soon as you start up the camera when it’s cold. After a couple shots, it goes away. If you were talking about the 14mm pancake, I don’t have it but I’m not aware of any potential issues. The 14-45mm works fantastically with the OM-D and it’s actually my main standard-zoom lens! Nothing beats it in terms of sharpness among the standard zooms. I think you’ll really enjoy the OM-D. Having come from using a GX1, the image stabilization is just amazing.

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  10. I just bought a second hand Panasonic GX1 and I am very pleased with it. I sold my trustworthy Panasonic GF1. It has given me wonderful pictures for so many years. The GX1 really is a big upgrade. Better sensor, better grip, slightly quicker overall and a touch screen! I think it looks very good and of course the price is ridiculously low for what still is a fairly advanced camera body that delivers excellent image quality. O, it’s great fun to use to.

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