Did Olympus fumble the design of the E-M1’s EVF ?



The EVF (electronic viewfinder) of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a high resolution viewfinder (2.36 million dots). It displays a very detailed excellent image but it seems that the EVF is easily prone to damage if the diopter is set to +2 magnification (I normally wear glasses but remove them to photograph, hence the diopter change).


After several days of not using my camera, I was surprised to find a bright green squiggly line in the viewfinder that did not show up on the LCD, or in the recorded images. The mark was not attributable to any bump or damage, nor anything on the surfaces of the lens, sensor, or EVF. Perplexed, I began a search online to see if anyone else had experience the same thing. What I found were complaints from other users and an explanation of sorts.

(in Forums:   http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/55575326 )


Apparently the mark is a burn-in into the EVF, similar to a burn-in on a monitor that leaves a residual ghost image.* It seems that the high diopter setting of +2 in combination with a second or two of direct sunlight into the viewfinder is enough to etch a permanent burn into the Olympus E-M1's EVF. Bad design? Certainly. I have had no such problem with any other cameras, including Canon's, Sony’s, or Panasonic’s all of which have the same diopter setting. But I should be clear that although the burn-in is annoying and interferes with composing a shot, it does not affect autofocus function.


Since I made the discovery over the weekend I had to wait until Monday morning to call Olympus’ U.S. Customer Service. The feedback I heard from Olympus was that they had heard about 2 or 3 incidents, but they did not express any real concern over the burn-in nor suggest any pre-emptive actions to prevent such a thing from re-occurring. Somewhat of a flippant attitude.


Often I shoot with two cameras. I can only surmise that the damage to the EVF occurred while the E-M1 was in my camera bag or around my neck. Had I known of the risk of burn-in I would been more careful of its position.


Since my E-M1 is no longer under the original one-year warranty it will cost about $200 to fix. It seems that is Olympus’ standard fee for repairs. And while it is not an onerous fee it is something that should never happen with high quality equipment like the E-M1. There is no warning in the User Guide or manual about this kind of accident happening, but I believe it is something users should be alerted to. I think that Olympus should make an EVF eyepiece that would prevent this kind of damage from occurring, even if it happens to be available at an additional fee. Or better yet, re-design the EVF to avoid it altogether.


* http://compreviews.about.com/od/monitors/a/LCDBurnIn.htm.