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Olympus E-M1 versus Panasonic GH2

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2013 and September 2010. Both the E-M1 and the GH2 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 15.9 megapixel.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-M1 and the Panasonic GH2 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures 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 – the E-M1 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Olympus E-M1 vs Panasonic GH2 front
E-M1 versus GH2 top view
E-M1 and GH2 rear side
Body view (E-M1 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GH2 is somewhat smaller (9 percent) than the Olympus E-M1. Moreover, the GH2 is markedly lighter (11 percent) than the E-M1. It is worth mentioning in this context that the E-M1 is splash and dust resistant, while the GH2 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog. Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

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 comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ rgt) 130 mm 94 mm 63 mm 497 g 350 YES 2013 1,399discont. check
Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft) 124 mm 90 mm 76 mm 442 g 330 no 2010 1,499discont. check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) 125 mm 72 mm 37 mm 427 g 330 no 2016 1,199 latest check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 85 mm 45 mm 469 g 310 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 119 mm 82 mm 46 mm 396 g 320 no 2014 699discont. check
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 122 mm 69 mm 37 mm 420 g 330 no 2013 999discont. check
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 122 mm 89 mm 43 mm 425 g .. YES 2012 1,299discont. check
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) 128 mm 89 mm 74 mm 505 g 330 YES 2016 899 latest check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 78 mm 63 mm 487 g 330 YES 2015 1,199 latest check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 93 mm 84 mm 560 g 500 YES 2014 1,499discont. check
Panasonic G6 (⇒ lft | rgt) 122 mm 85 mm 71 mm 390 g 340 no 2013 599discont. check
Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 93 mm 82 mm 550 g 540 YES 2012 1,299discont. check
Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 115 mm 84 mm 47 mm 336 g .. no 2011 599discont. check
Panasonic GX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 116 mm 68 mm 39 mm 318 g .. no 2011 949discont. check
Panasonic GH1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 90 mm 45 mm 385 g .. no 2009 1,499discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-M1 was somewhat cheaper (by 7 percent) than the GH2 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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

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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic GH2 sensor measures
Sensor size

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 15.9 megapixel. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the E-M1 and the GH2 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the E-M1 is much more recent (by 2 years and 11 months) than the GH2, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time. 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 GH2 MP
Sensor resolution

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 review, the E-M1 provides substantially higher image quality than the GH2, with an overall score that is 13 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.8 bits higher color depth, 1.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 23.0 12.7 757 73
Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60i 21.2 11.3 655 60
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.7 12.8 1312 80
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 1080/60p 23.1 12.4 894 74
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.0 12.5 842 73
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 22.8 12.3 884 72
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 22.8 12.4 895 72
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60i 22.8 12.3 826 71
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.8 4592 3448 4K/30p 22.8 12.5 656 71
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.5 12.6 806 75
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 4K/30p 23.2 12.8 791 74
Panasonic G6 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 21.3 11.5 639 61
Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 22.7 12.4 812 71
Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.8 4592 3448 1080/60i 21 10.6 667 56
Panasonic GX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.8 4592 3448 1080/60p 20.8 10.6 703 55
Panasonic GH1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000 1080/24p 21.6 11.6 772 64

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the GH2 provides a faster frame rate than the E-M1. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The two cameras under consideration are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the E-M1 offers a substantially higher resolution than the one in the GH2 (2360k vs 1534k dots). The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-M1, the Panasonic GH2, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft) 1534 no 3.0 460 swivel no 4000 3.0 15.6 no
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 18.0 no YES
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 4000 8.0 5.8 YES
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 8000 9.0 7 YES
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 610 tilting YES 4000 9.0 no YES
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 9.0 6.2 YES
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 1036 swivel YES 8000 12.0 17 no
Panasonic G6 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 1036 swivel YES 4000 7.0 10.5 no
Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1746 no 3.0 614 swivel YES 4000 6.0 12 no
Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 460 swivel YES 4000 4.0 11 no
Panasonic GX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 460 fixed YES 4000 4.2 7.6 no
Panasonic GH1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 460 swivel no 4000 3.0 10.5 no

Both the E-M1 and the GH2 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The GH2 was replaced by the Panasonic GH3, while the E-M1 was followed by the Olympus E-M1 II.

Summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-M1 or the Panasonic GH2 – 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 OM-D E-M1:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (13 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.8 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.4 EV of extra DR).
  • More detailed viewfinder: Has higher resolution electronic viewfinder (2360k vs 1534k dots).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 460k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 11 months of technical progress since the GH2 launch.

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Reasons to prefer the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i vs 1080/30p).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 55g or 11 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • 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 September 2010).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-M1 is the clear winner of the match-up (12 : 6 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.

E-M1 12:06 GH2

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-M1 or the GH2. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ rgt) HiRec 84/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,399discont. check
Panasonic GH2 (⇒ lft) 86/100 HiRec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2010 1,499discont. check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) - 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2016 1,199 latest check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 81/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 699discont. check
Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 78/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 999discont. check
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2012 1,299discont. check
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 899 latest check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 1,199 latest check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,499discont. check
Panasonic G6 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec - 5/5 - 4.5/5 2013 599discont. check
Panasonic GH3 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 79/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2012 1,299discont. check
Panasonic G3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec 75/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2011 599discont. check
Panasonic GX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 Rec 77/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2011 949discont. check
Panasonic GH1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 89/100 HiRec 72/100 HiRec 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 1,499discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. 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 comparisons

In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. 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 you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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