Can the OM-D E-M1 Replace Your DSLR for Sports Photography?

I've been covering high school basketball this season with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens. As people see my shots online, the question has come up: Could I use this tandem instead of a DSLR to cover indoor sports?

The answer is a resounding, "depends."

Zach with Ball Photos by Derrick Story. OM-D E-M1, 75mm lens, ISO 3200, Aperture Priority f/1.8, 1/400th, +0.3 EV

For example, here's a note that I recently received from Joel, who is a photographer in the TDS community.

"I have had some issues with the 75mm Oly lens. I am shooting Dvision 1 college basketball in the best-lit arena in the Patriot League. I am able to use a combination of ISO settings starting at 1600 and going up thru 3200, simply dependent upon the aperture and shutter speed I desire. BUT, I am having some problems with focus slipping off my intended subject, or simply never locking in the first place. I don't have those issues with the 45mm lens."

Joel went on to ask if I were having the same issues with the Olympus 75mm lens.

The short answer is "yes."

My loss is higher with the 75mm than with the Canon 85mm f/1.8 on my 70D DSLR. So why do I keep shooting this season with the E-M1 and 75mm?


The reason is because when I do get a shot I like, I love it. There's a certain feel that I get with the mirrorless kit that doesn't happen as often with other cameras and lenses. And as the season wears on, my percentage of good shots is rising. I'm having to learn how to shoot with this rig.

This is why my initial answer to the E-M1 vs DSLR is "depends." If I were shooting a single assignment that required the highest number of good images, I would choose my Canon DSLR and lenses. My percentages are better.

If, as the case for me this year, I have an entire season to build a collection of images for the high school yearbook, I'm sticking with the OM-D and 75mm.

Last night's shoot, for example totaled 723 frames for the JV game. I liked 219 images from that game. I loved a dozen of those shots.

For those of you who shoot basketball regularly, how do those numbers compare to yours? My guess is that they are a bit lower. And if you were shooting these types of assignments to pay your bills, you should go with a rig that gives you the best percentages possible. You don't want to miss the game winning shot.

As for me, I'm going to evaluate the body of work at the end of the season. Then I will decide. But for now, I'm going to stick with the E-M1 and 75mm and see how good I can get with them.

Nimble Photographer Logo

This kit has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting