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Olympus E-M1 versus Nikon D700

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Nikon D700 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2013 and July 2008. The E-M1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D700 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (E-M1) and a full frame (D700) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 15.9 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 12.1 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-M1 vs Nikon D700

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-M1 and the Nikon D700 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the E-M1 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Olympus E-M1 vs Nikon D700
Compare E-M1 versus D700 top
Compare E-M1 and D700 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D700 is considerably larger (48 percent) than the Olympus E-M1. Moreover, the D700 is substantially heavier (116 percent) than the E-M1. 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 Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M1) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D700). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Olympus E-M1, have moreover the advantage that they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance and can thus use many lenses from other systems via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the E-M1 gets 350 shots out of its BLN-1 battery, while the D700 can take 1000 images on a single charge of its EN-EL3e 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-M1» 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 17.5 oz 350 Y Sep 2013 1,399- i
Nikon D700« 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i
Nikon D850« » 5.7 in 4.9 in 3.1 in 35.5 oz 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i
Nikon D810« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 34.6 oz 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i
Nikon D800« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i
Nikon D3S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i
Nikon D3« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i
Olympus E-M1 II« » 5.3 in 3.6 in 2.6 in 20.2 oz 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i
Olympus PEN-F« » 4.9 in 2.8 in 1.5 in 15.1 oz 330 n Jan 2016 1,199 i i
Olympus E-M5 II« » 4.9 in 3.3 in 1.8 in 16.5 oz 310 Y Feb 2015 1,099 i i
Olympus E-M10« » 4.7 in 3.2 in 1.8 in 14.0 oz 320 n Jan 2014 699- i
Olympus E-P5« » 4.8 in 2.7 in 1.5 in 14.8 oz 330 n May 2013 999- i
Olympus E-M5« » 4.8 in 3.5 in 1.7 in 15.0 oz 360 Y Feb 2012 1,299- i
Panasonic G85« » 5.0 in 3.5 in 2.9 in 17.8 oz 330 Y Sep 2016 899 i i
Panasonic GX8« » 5.2 in 3.1 in 2.5 in 17.2 oz 330 Y Jul 2015 1,199- i
Panasonic GH4« » 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.3 in 19.8 oz 500 Y Feb 2014 1,499- i
Panasonic GH3« » 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.2 in 19.4 oz 540 Y Sep 2012 1,299- 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-M1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 53 percent) than the D700, 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-M1 vs Nikon D700

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Olympus E-M1 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Nikon D700 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D700 is 282 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.5. The sensor in the E-M1 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the D700 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Olympus E-M1 and Nikon D700 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Olympus E-M1 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixel, compared with 12.1 MP of the Nikon D700. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.76μm versus 8.43μm for the D700). However, it should be noted that the E-M1 is much more recent (by 5 years and 2 months) than the D700, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the E-M1 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

E-M1 versus D700 MP

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D700 has a markedly higher DXO score than the E-M1 (overall score 7 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.5 bits higher color depth, 0.5 EV of lower dynamic range, and 1.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Olympus E-M1» Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p23.012.775773
Nikon D700« Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380
Nikon D850« » Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397
Nikon D800« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
Nikon D3« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081
Olympus E-M1 II« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280
Olympus PEN-F« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38881080/60p23.112.489474
Olympus E-M5 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273
Olympus E-M10« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388472
Olympus E-P5« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.489572
Olympus E-M5« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60i22.812.382671
Panasonic G85« » Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34484K/30p22.812.565671
Panasonic GX8« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.512.680675
Panasonic GH4« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p23.212.879174
Panasonic GH3« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p22.712.481271

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The E-M1 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the D700 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-M1 can use is 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Olympus E-M1 vs Nikon D700

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-M1 has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the D700 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-M1, the Nikon D700, and comparable cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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-M1»2360 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Nikon D700«optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n
Nikon D850« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D800« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Nikon D3« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Olympus E-M1 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y
Olympus PEN-F« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Olympus E-M5 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Olympus E-M10« »1440 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y
Olympus E-P5« »- n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 9.0 Y Y
Olympus E-M5« »1440 n 3.0 610 tilting Y 4000 9.0 n Y
Panasonic G85« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 9.0 Y Y
Panasonic GX8« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Panasonic GH4« »2359 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 8000 12.0 Y n
Panasonic GH3« »1746 n 3.0 614 swivel Y 4000 6.0 Y n

Both the E-M1 and the D700 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D700 was replaced by the Nikon D800, while the E-M1 was followed by the Olympus E-M1 II.

Review summary: Olympus E-M1 vs Nikon D700

So what is the bottom line? Is the Olympus E-M1 better than the Nikon D700 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus OM-D E-M1:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (15.9 vs 12.1MP) with a 13% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 922k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 8 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (130x94mm vs 147x123mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 577g or 54 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (53 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D700 launch.

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D700:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (7 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1000 versus 350) out of a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in July 2008).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-M1 is the clear winner of the match-up (14 : 8 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

E-M1 14:08 D700

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-M1 or the D700. 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 following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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-M1»HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2013 1,399- i
Nikon D700«89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i
Nikon D850« »HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i
Nikon D800« »HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i
Nikon D3« »-HiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i
Olympus E-M1 II« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i
Olympus PEN-F« »-82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,199 i i
Olympus E-M5 II« »HiRec81/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099 i i
Olympus E-M10« »-80/1005/54.5/55/5 Jan 2014 699- i
Olympus E-P5« »HiRec78/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2013 999- i
Olympus E-M5« »HiRec80/1004.5/55/55/5 Feb 2012 1,299- i
Panasonic G85« »HiRec84/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 899 i i
Panasonic GX8« »Rec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2015 1,199- i
Panasonic GH4« »HiRec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2014 1,499- i
Panasonic GH3« »HiRec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2012 1,299- i

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. 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? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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