Streetshooting the Olympus OM-DE-M1 By Robin Schimko

Streetshooting the Olympus OM-D E-M1

By Robin Schimko

The last couple of years I was shooting DSLR full frame bodies only and I didn’t care much about mirrorless cameras. After a while I realized that taking candid pictures out on the streets is a lot of fun. The only problem was the bulkiness of my camera that seemed a little intimidating when people noticed me taking their picture. It would have been an easy solution just to step back a little and take a longer lens, but that’s not me since I like to get close. So I got myself a Fuji X100s but even though I really loved it, the AF frustrated me from time to time and I sold it.

Then I started researching about mFT cameras and that’s when I stumbled upon and I was blown away by his work. That’s why decided to jump into the Olympus system and I bought the E-P5. I was shocked about the super-fast AF system and the pretty good image quality. The only thing I was really missing was a proper grip and suddenly Olympus came out with their new flagship, the E-M1. A couple of weeks later my local camera store had the E-M1 in stock and I went there to try it out. I couldn’t resist and bought one. Usually I am not that guy who is changing his gear so rapidly but the mirrorless world was new to me and I had to find out what would work best for me.


So, how does the E-M1 perform out on the streets? Well to date it’s the best camera I have ever used for street shooting and there are several reasons to back this up:

Ease of use:

It has a proper grip and looks like an old SLR camera but it’s still lightweight and very comfortable to hold, even though it’s really small compared to a DSLR. The buttons and controls are very well designed and they are all very accessible. The only thing I don’t like is the power switch on the left side, because it’s much tougher to use the camera with one hand only, but it’s definitely no deal breaker. And then there are the custom profiles you can link to the mode dial on top. That’s pretty handy and allows you to change the set-up of the camera in the blink of an eye. Did I mention the viewfinder yet? It’s amazing how good the EVF is even though I don’t use it that often. Coming from a DSLR I was used to use an OVF but with a mirrorless camera I discovered how convenient it is to compose by using the display.



The E-M1 is considered to be a professional camera and after using it for a while now I am absolutely sure it really is a proper tool. There was not a single second where the camera failed on me. I’ve never dropped it but I read stories about people who did and the camera had not one single scratch afterwards. I can’t imagine a place where I wouldn’t take the E-M1.



Out on the streets it’s sometimes essential to be really quick to capture a certain moment and here is where the E-M1 really shines. It’s absolutely amazing how fast and responsive the AF works. Sometimes I even use face detection and it can be really useful especially when there is no time to manually change the focus points.



Of course, when it comes to image quality, it’s no D800, but it’s not as far away as the numbers might suggest. I am very comfortable with cranking the ISO up to 6400. Yeah, there will be grain visible, but at least to me it looks really pleasing. What surprises me the most was the dynamic range of this fairly small sensor. In post it is very easy to push the shadows like hell, wow that’s something my old D700 wouldn’t have done better.

I think at the moment the E-M1 is a damn good choice for all you street photographers out there. It’s lightweight, powerful and can deliver very decent image quality. At the moment I am testing the Fuji X-T1 with the 23/1.4 and it seems to be a nice combo, but even though both bodies have nearly the same size, the E-M1 with the 17/1.8 is a lot smaller and the focus is noticeably quicker.


Oh, did I mention that I dumped my D800? I am going mirrorless only and I am happy with that decision.

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Thank you all for reading,









  1. Robin, I enjoyed your commentary on the Olympus, and checked out your webpage and instagram. You have some amazing street shots posted. Frames full of interest, with great composition. Many on the street photography pages I follow could learn much from your images and technique. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Beautiful b/w shots. On my E-M1 I usually shot raw + jpeg monotone with yellow filter. So if the ooc jpeg is not how I intended I can usually work the raw in LR and end with results I like…

  3. Robin,

    You definitely have an eye for this work.

    Could you say more about the B&W conversions? Do you use any “plug in’s”.

    Part of the appeal of your excellent images is the diversity of the people in the images. You have great access. Where is this great street :-)?

  4. Great street photography; you know your stuff. I found the contrast a bit overdone, but… Conscious choice?

  5. I think these are insanely good! indeed the black and white conversions are really nice! I like the amount of contrast it has, exactly my taste. Some of them are almost as if they we’re “posed”, but you can tell they’re really not. Also, at least IMHO, most of these pictures are very cinematic to me, especially the first two and everything down from the two “old-school mobsters” 😉

    Love to see more!

  6. Wow amazing pictures, congrats and thanks for sharing

    Same as some previous comments, I’m curious about the lenses you used, could you please share?
    Did you post-process raw files and convert into B/W or are those monochrome JPEG straight from camera?

  7. Gent in cab cigar smoking, two ladies in traditional clothes, last photo guy in helmet are superbb, some of the best street on Steve’s site.

  8. Robin, the X-T1 is larger than the Oly but is lighter! This matters (to me) more. On the other hand the lenses on the Oly will be essentially smaller and lighter but again, there are some heavier and larger (considering similar class) so finally the size/weight may or may not be an atvantage of each of these cameras.
    The AF speed on the Oly is noticebly higher….hmmm, it is higher but ther are some reports that the Fuji is also really quick and yet reliable so in practice the difference of a fraction of second may not be important.
    And the tracking of Fuji is better (as tested by quite a few reviewers, it is said first tracking ona any mirror-less camera capable enough to comete with a semi-pro DSLR (the pro DSLR- are still way ahead in this area)
    Besides any numbers, tests and logic tehre is something more subjective in our decision making, the way we feel a camea, the way it performs, the colours (endless argument which colour is better: Oly or Fuji).

    Still not decided between these two….

  9. Robin, the foto’s are beautiful one of the best set of pictures i see here recently. You have a very good eye and your post processing is marvelous. Witch program do you use? I add your website to my favourites. Very wel done.

    • Thank you Robert! I use Lightroom and do all my b/w stuff there. Sometimes but rarely I also use PS CC, but LR became so flexible and makes the workflow quick and easy.

  10. you have really a good eye for the candid moment. Love the pictures and the black and white conversion. I work professionally and use only the Fuji X system. Love the IQ and everything else about Fuji.

  11. Your pictures tell stories. What more can we say about great street photography? Keep up the good work!

  12. Excellent shots! I like the second to last photo the most, but they are all excellent because of being composed well. The B&W works well for me too. Very inspiring!

  13. Wow, what a great shot of street photography……compotition, light and shadow, diagonal lines, all took their part!

  14. You have a great eye, my friend! Not everyone who is doing street photography can come out with great composition like this, I have a Fuji x100 as well: after seeing your pics, I think I’ll get myself a em1 too! Won’t sell my x100 though: just too beautiful to let it go…

  15. These are FANTASTIC! I prefer color and don’t usually pay much attention to black and whites, but these really grabbed my attention. To my eye’s these photos have GREAT contrast. I wonder if you could comment on how these were processed.

    • Thank you! Usually I prefer color too, but sometimes black and white stands out for me. But in the end it doesn’t matter, both look great.

  16. Great images, Robin.

    I also went through an X100 (& X10 simultaneously). Loved the IQ, but the AF/MF was frustrating. Switched to a E-M5 within less than 6 months, if I recall. Loved the E-M5 and when the E-M1 was announced and released about a year later, I sold the E-M5 to go with the E-M1. IQ-wise, it’s practically the same excellent IQ, the E-M1 may have just a slight bit better files, but the marginal IQ improvement (if any) weren’t the main points for me to upgrade to the E-M1.

    The design was overall really refined and improved. Weather sealing is cool, but the large amount of magnesium alloy the entire body is built of was very reassuring, and it feels damn good in the hands. Although some people complain about the built in grip being ugly, and to some extent I agree it is probably the 1 design element that is not completely in-sync with the rest of the camera’s more retro-styling, I didn’t mind. I always used the E-M5 with the optional HLD-6 battery grip because I found the body alone was too small and not secure to hold by itself. Because the grip is built as part of the body and all metal within, it just feels so solid overall.. not slight bit of looseness like I had on the E-M5, it wasn’t really loose, but I felt the subtle play even when tightened to the max. Anyways, love the built in grip on the E-M1 as it has absolutely no play when holding and that just feels like a top notch classy built camera.

    And, the ergonomics are the best of any camera I’ve personally every held and used. Other much more expensive “pro” cameras could learn something by how well the E-M1 is designed. The buttons & dials are just large large enough, solid, and provide positive feedback and perfectly placed without needing awkward repositioning of the fingers or hands to access various controls and settings for the most part. The camera is so customizable, I initially found I maybe had a few too many options to choose that I wouldn’t necessarily need to use, but were available.. eventually through practice and use, I discovered what I needed most and how best to access them through the many customizable controls.

    Some people complain about menu diving, and to some degree the Oly menu can be a bit intimidating and in-depth, but once you learn it, they really make sense and easy to access and adjust, if needs be. Still, I find I rarely have to go into the menus. With the large amount of customizing options and access actually available on the outside of the camera, I rarely had to menu dive as most of the common (and even less common) accessed controls & settings are all on the outside via a dial, or a button press or the “1-2” switch away. Once you take the time to know just how much is available at your fingertips, you can operate the camera and make changes so fast.

    And if you have trouble memorizing those extra features you may not normally consider changing via custom buttons/dials/switch, the Super Control Panel (or SCP) when enabled is a great way to quickly access those and more very fast via touch screen. The touch screen is very accurate, actually. Though the SCP may display various customizable settings in sometimes small boxes, I’ve never had the box with setting I actually wanted to change not be selected by a single touch or mistakenly selected a nearby box setting. It’s very easy to use.. just push the setting you want to change and move the command dial and half shutter press and you’re back into shooting mode FAST.

    To sum up, design and ergonomics and ease of use could not be easier than with the E-M1, imho.

    There’s many more praises I could sing about the E-M1, but I’ll save it as I’ve shared some in other posts.

    And, for street shooting and quickly capturing the moment, the AF is still one of the fastest and most reliable you can ever get in a high quality camera such as the E-M1. True, C-AF or C-AF w/ tracking is not one of mirrorless cameras’ strong qualities, but I think it’s a matter of practicing and learning how to work with it that you’ll end up with more successful hit rates and keepers than not. It can AF & track fast moving objects if you know and learn how to use it on the E-M1… I suppose the addition of the phase detect which is available on the E-M1 only helps out, though, I was able to capture fast objects with the E-M5 and it doesn’t have PD and it did pretty good still.

    Oh, and I also shoot up to 6400 on the E-M1.. admittedly, some grain/noise is visible, but overall the quality of the images are good enough, more than usable, that you don’t even care and see that stuff unless you’re anal and pixel peep.. ultimately, you should care what images you can capture as many great images, especially street, are rarely done with totally clean images and perfect everything, yet a great image is still a great image. Regardless, with todays tech and the quality of the RAW files you can get from the E-M1, I think you can do easy noise reduction clean up in post if you really feel you had to… images would still look great, provided you took a great picture ;), but just cleaner without the nose and you don’t need to do much if some noise cleanup was required.

  17. You’ve presented great images!

    I’ve yet to pull the trigger on getting into the MFT format. I do shoot video from time-to-time for my clients using my 7D, so the GH4 is pulling at me, less because of 4K, and more because of overall video features the 7D lacks. The EM-1 get’s such rave reviews for still images and overall camera ergonomics. I want acceptable still and video in one camera. Does anyone have a still image comparison from Raw, pitting these two cameras next to each other? I know the GH4, is supposed to shine on the video side, but what about the stills, in-comparison?

  18. I think this great series is much more in the spirit of true street photos than the last series you posted Steve. These are really great shots, with a strong character that makes them more than just point and shoot in your face snaps. Great work Robin!

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