Camera Choice

Nikon D810 vs Olympus E-M1 II
810 vs OMD

Here is a recent and brief comparison of two cameras with different body types that I undertook with a view to changing my current equipment (Nikon D810 + lens and accessories) for a smaller camera and lens option, thereby reducing the amount that I need to carry when out walking to view sites and new locations.

In the past I have tried a Fujifilm X-T1 16 MP CSC and found that the available quality was very good but the EVF was for me, difficult to live with.

The updated model, X-T2 solved this problem but the layout did not suite my hands and working methods. So my focus changed to other options and hence I have decided to explore the potential of the Olympus cameras having seen some excellent result produced from Olympus equipment by a photographic society friend of mine.

To start with, here is a brief outline of the main features of Nikon D810 and Olympus E-M1 II.

  1. I have not listed the lens mount type as each system has a vast array of equally high quality glass available, with the Olympus lenses being much smaller in dimensions and weight so I don’t believe that this necessarily needs discussion.
Nikon D810 Outline Olympus E-M1 II Outline
  • 36MP – Full frame CMOS Sensor
  • No Anti-aliasing filter
  • ISO 64 – 12800 allows expansion to 32-51200
  • 3.2″ Fixed Type Screen
  • Pentaprism – optical viewfinder
  • 5 fps continuous shooting
  • 1920 x 1080 video resolution
  • 980g – weather sealed body
  • 20MP – 4 thirds CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 200 – 25600 allows expansion to 64
  • Sensor-shift Image Stabilization
  • 3″ Fully Articulated Screen
  • 2360k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 15.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4096 x 2060 video resolution
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 574g – weather sealed body

Below you can see a size comparison of Nikon D810 and Olympus E-M1 II. Olympus E-M1 II is clearly the smaller of the two cameras. Its body is 12mm narrower, 32mm shorter and 15mm thinner than Nikon D810.

So, clearly here the Olympus wins hands down. The entire equivalent replacement for my Nikon system fitted into my smaller shoulder bag and my large backpack would possibly be made redundant.

It is worth saying at this point that I am a landscape photographer and my needs are specific.  Alongside the general prints that I sell to the majority of my customers, I also need large prints for exhibitions, so any camera that I use needs as a minimum to offer excellent resolution and good detail in shadow and highlight so that large prints can be made.

How do they compare for other uses?

Portaiture

Here the Nikon’s extra resolution is a key factor but the excellent image stabilisation that the Olympus offers almost negates this.  Overall the Nikon just edges ahead.

Sports

Both have weather sealed bodies, one offers greater resolution allowing for cropping, the other has excellent autofocus, image stabilisation and higher continuous frame rate.

Both have 1/8000 shutter speed although the Nikon has a better battery life and an optical finder.  A draw I think.

Street

Here the Olympus’ small size, articulated screen and fast response focussing means that the Olympus is a clear winner here.

Landscape

The Nikon’s large sensor is the key here for me; take a look at the following images and make up your own mind.

The first images were taken to give the sensors a real challenge; directly into the sun this would be a problem for any camera to provide a fully detail image.

There is little difference between the images (Olympus left, Nikon right) apart from a warmer rendition from the Olympus. Even when enlarged it is difficult to discern any real ‘better’ image.

Next, despite the day being dull and grey I photographed a general scene and the performed a large cropped them to provide the same image from each. Again, neither image has been processed in any way.

nikon crop

NIKON

Olympus crop

OLYMPUS

These are mostly the same but the Nikon does provide better fine detail and contrast. When printed up to 20/16 images there is an obvious winner and that is the Nikon.  Having said that, they are a much closer match than you might think.  A Nikon win.

I took other images that show that the Olympus gives good contrasty, colourful and fully detailed images. All of the following images are Olympus and have not been processed, cropped or sharpened at all..

Conclusion

Both cameras are very capable and offer the user the opportunity to take detailed, sharp and colourful images.

The Nikon leads on fine detail when images are enlarged

The Olympus takes the lead with a generous array of facilities and superb image stabilization

  • For portraiture the Nikon is just ahead
  • for street photography the Olympus is comfortably ahead
  • for sports there is a draw and personal preferences will aid the decision here
  • for landscape the Nikon has a clear edge in terms of detail when images are closely examined
  • for high ISO photography then the Nikon is a clear winner at present; clean images to very high settings
  • if weight is a concern then the Olympus is the clear winner

Finally, if you are a landscape photographer like me and you don’t print, if you only use images on social media/online or your images are not likely to be enlarged to a large degree, then it is hard to choose between the cameras

So for me? I almost changed from my Nikon but as I do produce large print (my largest one last year was over 5 metres in length) then, at the moment at least,  the Nikon stays; but it won’t take much for me to make the swap.

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