Olympus OMD EM-1: Great images, shoddy construction

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I’ve been remiss in reviewing my “new” Olympus OMD EM-1. (Purchased a year ago last spring.)

In general, I’ve been delighted with the image quality. I’ve been much less excited about the camera’s lack of ergonomics and general good design.

But now I’ve run across an issue that left me disgusted with Olympus and so disappointed with the OMD EM-1 that I would recommend that no one buy this camera. No matter how good the image quality is, no one needs a camera that’s cheaply made and sold by a company that doesn’t back its products.

Shoddy construction

Last spring (while in France), I began to notice that the major control knob on the camera – the one I use almost continually to change the aperture and exposure compensation – wasn’t always engaging.

In fact, it was basically never engaging. I’d have to turn the knob multiple times to get any of the settings to change and, in the process, when it did engage it would then often go beyond where I was trying to set it, requiring I repeatedly spin it back the other direction.

Not only was this annoying, but, of course, I missed a few shots.

Of course, being female, I figured I must be doing something wrong. I spent part of the summer trying to figure out if there was any pattern to when it didn’t work and whether there was a way to move the knob that eliminated the problem. Nothing seemed to make a difference. Clearly it was going to have to go in for repair.

However, before I got to the camera shop where I bought it, I asked someone in my camera club who has the same camera if he was having this problem. And he was.

At that point a quick internet search revealed that, not only is this a relatively common problem, but in some cases the knob actually falls off the camera!

Zero customer service when things go wrong

Like my Nikon 600 that spewed oil, I bought my Olympus at National Camera Exchange.

I don’t know why I keep going back there (and I finally won’t anymore), but I keep holding on to this fantasy that they actually know about the products they sell and will steer customers away from ones with known problems – or at least help out when things go wrong. I continue to believe this even though past experience has repeatedly shown the flaws in that belief.

Of course, no one at the camera store had ever heard of anything like this! And, since I hadn’t purchased an extended warranty, they weren’t willing to do anything more than send it in for me. (I was headed out to a photo conference and vacation and didn’t want the camera sent back to my house in case I wasn’t home when it arrived. Otherwise I would have sent it in myself.)

So the camera went into Olympus for repair and, almost three weeks later, I pulled out my Nikon and headed west for my camera club meeting and vacation.

When I returned, I discovered a.) The camera showed up two days after I left and b.) Between them, Olympus and National Camera charged me $240 to send in and repair a defective camera.

Thanks, guys, but I’m not exactly feeling the love.