Back in September 2013 Olympus released the fantastic OM-D E-M1 into the world. The Micro Four Thirds camera packs features that many professional photographers desire; chunky dials, ergonomic handling, weather sealing, fast and accurate auto focus and so much more. Combine the E-M1 with almost any of the M.Zuiko lenses and you're looking at a system that will easily tackle most professional assignments.
In fact, you don't have to look too far around the internet to see that many professional wedding and portrait photographers have already moved from one of the big DSLR brands to Olympus (myself included), in search of a smaller, compact system that maintains that high level of all-round performance. Without doubt Olympus launched the E-M1 as a serious camera. A camera for the professional photographer.
However, it's one thing for a combination of a great camera and lens system to meet the demands of the pro photographer, but what about manufacturer service, repair and support and all those things that a pro will need to keep them shooting should the worst happen?
Today I want to share with you the story of what happened when I sent my E-M1 off to Olympus for repair, including how I registered the repair, the correspondence I received, timelines and of course the end result.
How did I break my E-M1?
I dropped my E-M1 the morning after my first wedding of 2016. The bride and groom put me up at the venue overnight as it was a little far from home and was an early start on the wedding day. I was loading my bags in to my car to head home. My E-M1 was inside the top of my Case Logic backpack, alongside all my lenses, when my bag slipped off my shoulder and crashed to the ground.
My E-M1 didn't have a lens attached when this happened (I never pack my gear away like that!) and the bag evidently cushioned the fall, but from a height of about 4 feet, it was enough that the impact took out some of the buttons on the shoulder of the E-M1:
It bothered me, of course, but at a glance everything seemed to be working, but when I got home I found that the touch screen wouldn't work to focus, none of the function buttons worked and neither did the directional buttons around the 'OK' button. All pretty important features and somewhat key to the way I personally operate my camera. It was a disaster!
My first thought was to see how long it took other people to have theirs repaired - I had a shoot the very next weekend and then my diary became rapidly busier every week after with wedding season truly kicking off here in the UK.
Most people were positive enough to say that the turnaround time was 5 working days, meaning it could be returned that same week if shipped on a Monday, which I found quite reasonable. So, I set about registering for the repair ASAP to get my E-M1 sent off first thing on Monday morning.
Register for Olympus Service Plus
I registered my E-M1 for Olympus Service Plus back when I purchased the camera in 2015. Doing so extends your warranty by 6 months and makes the registration process for arranging a repair much quicker. If you haven't already registered your OM-D for service plus, grab the serial number and head over to the Olympus Service Plus website now. If you bought your E-M1 from a reputable dealer and it was brand new, you should have had a leaflet inside the box to notify you about Service Plus.
(If you're from outside the UK you can click the location button at the top right corner of the page and select your own Locale)
How do I get my OM-D Repaired?
Once you have your details setup for Service Plus, head on over the the Olympus Service Portal. From here you can follow your nose to register for the repair, but effectively you will need to:
- Enter your country of residence
- Enter your serial number
- Enter the date you purchased your E-M1
- Make use of the drop downs and pre-populated options to best categorise your issue. You can upload images and there is also a comments box too
- Print off the label and affix to a box.
- Pad and protect your E-M1 well and ship it off to the address given to you as part of the process
I didn't upload any images at all and I didn't leave any comments. For this issue I simply selected 'Keypad Problems' > 'Broken' > 'Constantly' and then submitted this.
If you perhaps dropped a camera and a lens, you can also add another product at this stage too. Save paying for two shipping costs, send them off together.
I got an email with a repair registration number and a link to a tracking page. I saved this in my favorites and checked the status every day!
Where does my OM-D go to get Repaired?
I can only speak about my own experience from the UK, but the instructions I printed were to send to an intermediary address, which then freight-forwarded to Portugal for the repair to take place. At this stage the only tracking information I had was that provided to me from Royal Mail as I chose to ship mine off Royal Mail Tracked, Signed for delivery. This was both to ensure prompt delivery, but also because I was shipping a £1,000 camera! The only reason I know the eventual end destination was Portugal was because I later received tracking information for the return of my camera. The return originated in Lisbon.
How long does an Olympus Camera Repair Take?
Olympus Service Plus registered repairs are said to take 3 days (not including the shipping time). It says so on the Service Plus website. I would say in my case this was about right - in fact the time it spent under the 'in progress' status (being repaired) was only about a day and a half in total. My own E-M1 arrived at Olympus' freight forwarding address on Tuesday and was then at the Olympus repair center (Lisbon) on Wednesday morning. I was able to see this because I used the repair status checker and it showed my E-M1 as 'received'. Olympus then stated that they were working on the repair on Thursday afternoon. Then on Friday morning my repair ticket was updated to say that the repair was complete and that the camera was being shipped back. Very prompt.
Given that it was now a Friday afternoon and that not much in the way of shipping happens over the weekend, I was at that point setting my own expectations to see my E-M1 again on Wednesday. (meaning it would have been 8 working days including shipping) and I was exactly right. Although, I did miss the delivery initially as they tried to deliver earlier than I had expected.
I received a text message from DHL to say that they were going to deliver on the 20th (Wednesday) and so I made plans to be at home on that day to take receipt of the delivery. But, on the 19th (Tuesday) I received a message to say that they had tried to delivery but I wasn't in. Darn. Okay, well that's my fault. If I had continued to track the delivery online I would have seen that it was out for delivery and rushed home. So, it was then re-delivered the next day and I was happy!
My E-M1 was back in my possession on Wednesday. 8 days after me leaving it at my local Post Office in the UK. But it's not fair to say 8 days as It was me that should have kept an eye on the shipment. So in total: 4 days shipping, 3 days with Olympus. 7 Days for the complete repair and return of the camera!
The return was handled by DHL. Whilst there are a few couriers that operate within Europe now that offer some great tracking services, I'm of the opinion that none of them rival what tools DHL offer recipients (and senders) to track their parcels. When I received an email from DHL to say that they had my camera, I was updated at every turn, every barcode scan and every pickup of where my parcel was. It was fantastic!
How much does it cost / Was the damage covered by warranty?
The damage, seeing as it was my fault was not covered by the warranty. This is made abundantly clear in the warranty regulations on the service website. That said, I didn't pay a penny. My Olympus was returned as good as new (more on that in a minute) free of charge. In all fairness if I had received a phone call to tell me that it was evident the camera had been dropped and there was going to be a charge for the repair work, I would have held up my hands and said 'fine' and accepted those costs. But on this occasion Olympus repaired the camera no questions asked...
I'm not suggesting that your E-M1 will be repaired for free without any questions raised if you've dropped yours too, but I get no special treatment from Olympus. I'm not sponsored or endorsed by them in anyway (although hey Olympus, if you're reading this, get in touch). This is pure, unbiased, quality customer service from them, I can assure you of that!
What was the repair work like?
As mentioned the camera feels just like new now.. All of the dials feel slightly tighter and the camera itself feels solid in a new way (i can't quite describe it). It sort of feels like all of the screws, inside and out, have had a good old tighten!
I also had a small 'scuff' between the two top dials that I make use of for shutter speed and aperture. (This was an older mark, not something that happened as part of the drop that caused the E-M1 to break). It was deep enough to get down to the aluminium. I covered this at the time with some black crayon to fill the deep scuff and then a black sharpie to conceal it (not so that I could hide it from Olympus, but because it was only superficial and I wanted my camera to look smart). When I received my E-M1 back there was no sign of this scuff. Although I did a decent job of disguising it, i knew it was there and it's visible if you know to look for it. But the camera I received back showed nothing. I can only assume therefore that plate has been replaced in it's entirety! I even had to check the serial number on the bottom of my E-M1 was the same as the one I had sent away. It was!
Furthermore, my E-M1 was spotlessly clean inside and out. I keep my cameras clean as it is, but this had clearly been given a VIP valet service! Not a spec of dust inside any of the hinged flaps, for example where the SD cards are inserted and the battery compartment.
In addition, when I shipped off my E-M1 i removed everything that was removable except the eye cup, through fear that it would come back with pieces missing. So, I removed the hot shoe covers, the flash sync port cover, and even the rubber cap that covers the bronze pins at the bottom of the E-M1 to connect it to the battery grip. When my camera was returned all of these parts had been replaced...outstanding.
The box was returned well padded and protected. Inside my E-M1 was returned in a brand new official Olympus OM-D E-M1 branded black box, like you get when you buy one new. Inside the box was a very nice, very premium, black Olympus Lens Cloth and even a hand signed letter from the technician responsible for the repair of my beloved E-M1 (Thanks José!)
In short; Olympus did everything to ensure that this camera was repaired fully and returned in as timely a fashion as possible. And, (this is always important when it comes to customer service) I remained up to date throughout the entire process by both Olympus and the courier that they chose to use, giving me peace of mind that my E-M1 wasn't somewhere in Europe in some dusty factory getting lost on a shelf among old spare parts for old cameras.
Can I get a loan camera?
As far as I can see Olympus don't, at this time at least, offer a loan camera as part of the repair service arrangement. Which is something of a shame I will admit. However, before shipping my camera off I got in touch with Olympus Ambassador and all-round nice guy Neil Buchan-Grant to see if he could put me in touch with someone at Olympus who possibly help arrange some sort of loan. I would clarify that I do have a backup body, but I wasn't keen on shooting for a client with just the one camera on me. Neil put in contact with Claire Voyle, who I also happened to follow on Facebook & Instagram, so I got in touch. There weren't any E-M1's available at the time, but I was reminded that Olympus have the 'Test & Wow' service, whereby you can get your hands on Olympus cameras and lenses for a few days at a time. As the name suggests it's sort of intended as something of a try-before-you-by arrangement, but in truth it would serve just as well as a means to fill a short term gap. I didn't make use of Test & Wow as it would have meant that I'd have to go to the London Park Camera store to collect and then again once my 3 day loan period was up to drop it off again. If however I had a wedding that weekend my E-M1 was away, I would have done this. It's only 45 minutes to Central from my home in Virginia Water and then another 15 minutes to the store.
So, with enough planning and if you're local enough to a good Olympus retailer, you could quite effectively fill a short term need with something from the Test & Wow service whilst your work horse is our for repair.
I've been convinced for the longest of times that if you're looking for a smaller mirrorless camera as a replacement (or even to compliment) your DSLR gear, then an Olympus OM-D is the way to go. I've said that in many posts right here in my blog. But, if one of the things holding you back and tying you to your Canon or Nikon is a concern about the level of professional support available to you as an Olympus owner that genuinely shouldn't be something you now fear losing.
Sure, they won't necessarily lend you a camera as a replacement for your own whilst your OM-D is in for repair (although as mentioned you could make use of the 'Test & Wow' service if time permits), but you could also argue that the cost of the E-M1 in comparison to a Canon or Nikon Body could mean you could afford a third body: a backup for your backup, meaning you're hopefully never in a situation where you're down to just one camera body.
In short, if you're a professional wedding or portrait photographer, or shoot a discipline that you are happy the OM-D range can tackle - you can now make the switch. Olympus will have you covered should your workhorse take too much of a beating and need to for repairs. Ultimately, you won't be left guessing when your camera is coming back and you'll have some control over the process. Olympus will do right by you so you can continue to produce stunning work for your clients.
With 3 year warranties as standard and an extra 6 months on offer to those who register their E-M1's to Service Plus (for free), the reasons to pick up an OM-D E-M1 are boundless! That sort of warranty will likely out-last the length of time you own that camera as a professional photographer. Now that's peace of mind.
Well done Olympus and thank you for returning my E-M1 as good as new! (And thanks again to José for the outstanding work!)