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Olympus E-1 versus Sony A7S

The Olympus E-1 and the Sony Alpha A7S are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in June 2003 and April 2014. The E-1 is a DSLR, while the A7S is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (E-1) and a full frame (A7S) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 4.9 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 12 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Olympus E-1 vs Sony A7S

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-1 and the Sony A7S is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the E-1 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Olympus E-1 vs Sony A7S
Compare E-1 versus A7S top
Compare E-1 and A7S rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7S is notably smaller (19 percent) than the Olympus E-1. Moreover, the A7S is markedly lighter (34 percent) than the E-1. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-1) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7S). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7S, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

Concerning battery life, the E-1 gets 750 shots out of its BLM-1 battery, while the A7S can take 380 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Olympus E-1» 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- i
Sony A7S« 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 17.2 oz 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i
Canon 6D Mark II« » 5.7 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1200 Y Jun 2017 1,999 i i
Canon 60D« » 5.7 in 4.2 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399- i
Leica Digilux 3« » 5.7 in 3.4 in 3.0 in 21.4 oz 750 n Sep 2006 1,499- i
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon Df« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 26.8 oz 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i
Nikon D7000« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499- i
Olympus E-5« » 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699- i
Olympus E-3« » 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699- i
Olympus E-330« » 5.5 in 3.4 in 2.8 in 22.5 oz 750 n Jan 2006 999- i
Olympus E-300« » 5.8 in 3.3 in 2.5 in 22.0 oz 750 n Sep 2004 799- i
Sony A7S II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.1 oz 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999 i i
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 32 percent) than the A7S, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Olympus E-1 vs Sony A7S

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Olympus E-1 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony A7S a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7S is 280 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.0. The sensor in the E-1 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the A7S offers a 3:2 aspect.

Olympus E-1 and Sony A7S sensor measures

With 12MP, the A7S offers a higher resolution than the E-1 (4.9MP), but the A7S nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.45μm versus 6.78μm for the E-1) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the A7S is a much more recent model (by 10 years and 9 months) than the E-1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

E-1 versus A7S MP

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Olympus E-1» Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920-----
Sony A7S« Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287
Canon 6D Mark II« » Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285
Canon 60D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366
Leica Digilux 3« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989
Nikon D7000« » APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
Olympus E-5« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956
Olympus E-3« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.610.557156
Olympus E-330« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----
Olympus E-300« » Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448-----
Sony A7S II« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28324K/30p23.613.3299385
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The A7S indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-1 does not. The highest resolution format that the A7S can use is 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Olympus E-1 vs Sony A7S

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7S has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the E-1 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-1, the Sony A7S, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Olympus E-1»optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n
Sony A7S«2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Canon 6D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 6.5 n n
Canon 60D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel n 8000 5.3 Y n
Leica Digilux 3« »optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n
Nikon D7000« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n
Olympus E-5« »optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y
Olympus E-3« »optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y
Olympus E-330« »optical n 2.5 215 tilting n 4000 3.0 Y n
Olympus E-300« »optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n
Sony A7S II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n

Both the E-1 and the A7S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-1 was replaced by the Olympus E-3, while the A7S was followed by the Sony A7S II.

Review summary: Olympus E-1 vs Sony A7S

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-1 or the Sony A7S – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-1:

  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 380) on a single battery charge.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (32 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 2003).

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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A7S:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12 vs 4.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 59%.
  • Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 134k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 141x104mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 249g or 34 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More modern: Reflects 10 years and 9 months of technical progress since the E-1 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7S is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 5 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

E-1 05:13 A7S

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the E-1 and the A7S in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Olympus E-1»-Recrevrev- Jun 2003 1,699- i
Sony A7S«-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i
Canon 6D Mark II« »Rec80/1004.5/54/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 i i
Canon 60D« »Rec79/1004/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399- i
Leica Digilux 3« »----- Sep 2006 1,499- i
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i
Nikon D7000« »-80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499- i
Olympus E-5« »-75/1004/5-4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699- i
Olympus E-3« »88/100HiRecrevrev4/5 Oct 2007 1,699- i
Olympus E-330« »-Recrev3.5/5- Jan 2006 999- i
Olympus E-300« »-Recrevrev4.5/5 Sep 2004 799- i
Sony A7S II« »Rec-4.5/55/55/5 Sep 2015 2,999 i i
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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