Olympus OM1 camera front view

OM System OM1 review – Not a birding review!!!

 

In this OM System OM1 review I am going to show you what the OM1 is like in general use. I originally bought the OM1 with the intention to start spending much more time doing wildlife photography. However, with a young family , I simply don’t have the time available to really dedidcate to that pursuit.

It is easy to find an OM System OM1 review that covers bird photography.

 

Therefore this review will cover what the OM1 is like for landscapes, travel and some candid portraits too.

If you find my review useful then please consider using my Amazon affiliate link below. This wont cost you anything but will allow me to write more reviews like this.

OM 1

As you can see from previous articles on my site I have been using Olympus gear for a long time now. I have owned and used the EM5III which I reviewed as well as the EM1X and EM1III. I wasn’t motivated to write a review for the EM1 III as I didn’t feel that it brought enough to the table to warrant a full review. The EM1X was and is a fantastic camera but one that was controversial due to the size. I really liked that camera and have been tempted recently to get another due to the great deals Olympus Europe are offering on it. However, I’m doing a lot of travel these days and so I have resisted as it doesn’t fit that well with my ethos of travelling light.

Anyway, back to the OM System OM1 review.

The OM1 had enough new features and claimed improvements to get me seriously looking at it because I wanted a camera that was suited to travel. It is not just the size of the Micro 43 system that attracted me but also the possibility to leave both my tripod and filters at home thanks to the IBIS and internal ND filters. This would enable me to travel essentially with just the camera, lenses and batteries without compromising on the kind of images that I could create.

So What’s new with the OM Systems OM1

Here are the main selling points that motivated me to buy the OM1, which I shall talk about in this article.

:Speed improvements brought about by the new dual Truepic X processor and stacked sensor.

:Usable handheld Hi Res mode

:Live ND mode

:Subject detection modes

:IPX 53 weather sealing

:Supposed improved high ISO performance

:50 FPS with AF usable in Pro Capture mode

:Improved viewfinder

Om System OM1 ergonomics

 

The OM1 was the last camera that was designed by Olympus before they sold their imaging division and it changed to what has now become OM System. It has the Olympus logo on it and it feels every bit an Olympus EM1 series camera. The handling is very similar to previous EM1 bodies. A couple of the buttons on the back are a little too recessed for my liking so using it with gloves is more difficult than the EM1X (which was among the best handling cameras that I’ve ever used).

Weather Sealing

However, it is comfortable and the build quality feels up to the usual standards I have come to expect from Olympus. It now comes with an upgraded IP53 rating for weather sealing. In practise, I have put my olympus cameras through some of the most demanding weather over the years, from the wild winds and driving rain of the Outer Hebrides to the monsoons of Asia and they have never let me down. With the OM1 I have no concerns that it will be anything less than solid in all weather conditions.

The main upgrade that interested me was the new 5.76 million dot EVF. This has been a long time coming and is a much needed upgrade in order to mix it with the competition. It is bright, clear and sharp. It makes the EVF a pleasure to use and is a huge upgrade compared with the previous generation’s old 2.36 million dot EVFs. I am now able to clearly see which areas of an image are in focus and combined with the focus aids it is infinitely better than the older cameras. With the EM1X I could barely define sharpness and manual focussing was a real struggle.

Dual SD card slots remain and while it would have been nice to see a CF express type B card slot to match the shooting speeds possible with the OM1 I find that the dual UHS-2 card slots work well for everyday shooting and save me a bit of money on having to purchase (the still expensive) CF Express cards.

On the top dial the OM1 has 4 custom slots which I find very useful for quickly swapping between setups for various shooting scenarios. I initially set these up with differrent birding and wildlife scenarios in mind and it made switching between hi speed shooting modes and various auto focus modes very quick and easy. My custom modes are now setup for various portrait and lighting scenarios.

In terms of ergonomics, everything else remains broadly similar to the EM1 mark 3 so moving from one to the other is pretty seemless physically.

The OM1 has a new and in my opinion, much improved menu system which anyone migrating over from another brand will find far easier to navigate. Items are laid out and named in a much more logical way than the older menu system. As someone who has used a lot of Olympus cameras I knew my way around the old menus but the new one is undeniably much better.

Not only is the menu laid out much more logically but unlike other cameras, when an option is not available it actually tells you why. You can also press the info button to get a brief explanation of what a menu option does. I find the new menu to be one of the best available from any manufacturer.

Sensor

The OM1 comes with a new stacked 20mp sensor that allows it to shoot at insanely high frame rates of upto 120 fps without AF and 50FPS with AF. For birders this is incredibly useful and when combined with Pro Capture it allows you to get shots that are simply not possible with most other cameras.

To read more about these features I would suggest that you head over to specific wildilfe and birding reviews as it is beyond the scope of this review and as mentioned in the title, this is not a birding review.

Claimed Improvements

OM System claims that the new sensor offers a 1 stop improvement in dynamic range and a two stop improvement in high ISO noise performance.

In all honesty I have not done any scientific tests on the dynamic range of this camera compared to previous versions as I no longer have any other Olympus cameras. My instinct from looking at previous photos and ones from the OM1 are that any difference in dynamic range is fairly minor. The shots look the same to my eye and that’s fine as I normally get the exposure pretty close to where I want it in camera and I find the OM1 to have enough dynamic range to do this. Should it be a particularly challenging scene then it’s easy to setup bracketing.

I have tested for noise performance and I can say that a two stop improvement is a little optimistic. I would suggest 1 stop to be a little more accurate. There is definitely an improvement in the high ISO performance of the OM1 compared with the EM1 iii and EM1X and I am often surprised at how good images look at ISO 6400. In fact I was shooting the OM1 just the other day at night and found that the noise performance, even at ISO 10,000 was surprisingly usable when shooting black and white (which I do a lot these days).

Some of the claimed improvement in noise performance undoubtedly comes from OM Workspace now having an AI powered de-noise feature included which does a remarkable job at cleaning up image files. Adobe Lightroom also now has this feature.

As much as I wish they could, OM System cannot overcome physics and the small gap between Micro 43 and APS-C in terms of noise still exists. My Fuji XT5 files still look cleaner once I start to push the ISO to 3200 and above.

OM System OM1 Review – Key features

As mentioned at the start of this review, as well as wildlife photography, the OM1 has some key features and improvements that lead me to believe I could use this camera for travel and leave behind my tripod and filters.

The hand held hi res mode combines 8 images to create a 50mp file and importantly, composites the images much more quickly than the EM1 III.

Hand held Hi res image
HHHR 100% crop

In practise I have found this feature a mixed bag. Sometimes the additional detail and improved noise performance/tonality are readily apparent over standard 20mp images and at other times I struggle to see any meaningful difference between them. What I can say is that the speed at which the OM1 now produces the hi res images makes it much less of a hassle to take them as you are only waiting a few seconds for the camera to be ready to shoot again.

OM System’s Hi res mode still does not have motion correction unlike Panasonic so any movement in the scene can and does cause some issues. In practice, for landscapes I have found hand held hi res quite usable. I have even used it for portraits on occasion and providing your subject doesn’t move too much it can work well. I wouldn’t rely on it though.

One thing that I rarely hear discussed online is the fact that the larger depth of field of Micro 43 sensors for a given angle of view can be a benefit over larger sensors. For instance, when shooting a landscape where I want front to back sharpness on my GFX 100S, it will require me to stop down considerably, pay much more attention to hyper focal distances and quite often require me to focus stack. On the OM1 the hi res mode combined with deeper depth of field actually makes getting these kinds of images much more simple than on larger format sensors. The image quality of hand held hi res is not quite upto medium format standards but it is certainly a lot closer to full frame than you might think.  Either way, I find hand held hi res to be a useful feature and one that I hope OM System develop more in the future.

ND Filter

The other feature that interested me is the ND filter mode. I say mode because it is not a physical ND filter but a software based solution that combines multiple photos and blends them together in camera to give the apearrance of having used an ND filter. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for slower shutter speeds when it comes to rivers, waterfalls and coastal images.

Shots like this are made easy thanks to excellent IBIS and the ND filter.

In practise I have found the ND filter in the OM1 to work really well and give natural looking shots most of the time. With upto 6 stops of ND filtration it offers plenty of scope to get those beautiful silky water effects yet leave your tripod and physical ND filters at home.

 

Auto Focus

While most OM System OM1 reviews focus on how the camera performs for wildlife and bird photography, not much has been said about how good it is for general photography.

The speed of the new processor along with quad pixel Af points mean that the OM1 is very quick to focus. I use the OM1 with single AF unlike when I use Sony cameras which do much better in continuous AF mode.

The OM1 easily captures candid shots like this one of my daughter enjoying snow for only the second time.

The AF is quick to attain focus and rarely gives me any false positive focus locks.

Face Detect

Face and eye AF work quite well when your subject is facing the camera front on and even to the side a little but it is not as good as the latest AF from either Canon or Sony. Those systems are exceptionally good at keeping the subject when they turn away from the camera and back again although my Sony A7IV does ocassionally give a positive focus lock yet the image is not quite in focus. Generally the AF on the OM1 is fast and accurate and on par with my Fuji XT5 when it comes to face and eye tracking. In low light it can sometimes struggle a little bit but all my other cameras behave in the same way under the same circumstances too.

One of the main benefits I find with the Micro 43 system is that I’m much more likely to take it out and capture casual moments and memories.

If i had to rate the OM1 AF when shooting general subjects and people I would put it in the second division, below Canon and Sony but on par with Fuji and Nikon and above my Panasonic GH6. It is more than capable of getting sharp in focus shots in the majority of situations.

The subject recognition modes also work really well, bird photography is a breeze and shooting my growing pack of dogs when they are charging around is no challenge at all. The fact that you can easily setup custom functions to switch between your favourite AF modes is also very useful.

 

OM Sytem OM1 review – Conclusion.

If you are considering the Om System OM1 as a general camera for family, portrait, landscape and travel photography then it is a very capable camera. It has the most advanced computational photography modes of any camera from any brand with features such as live view, live composite and hand held hi res and ND modes. Combined with the exceptional weather sealing and comfort it makes for a great all around camera. It will also allow you to capture some fantastic wildlife images for a lot less money than a lot of other systems while saving quite a bit of weight.

However, as a general camera there is a lot of competition and if the features that I mentioned above are not integral to your plans then it may not make sense to pay for all the technology crammed into the OM1.

Yes, the OM1 is capable of doing just about everything you could want and that makes it a great all rounder. However you are paying for a stacked sensor and hi burst shooting rates which may be of no benefit to the things you photograph.

For landscapes and travel, an OM5 ii (if they bring the new menus, hand held hi res speed and ND filters of the OM1) would be perfect and cheaper/lighter. I would choose the OM1 over any X series Fuji for landscapes as I’m just not a fan of Fujiilm X series cameras for landscape photography.

Alternatives

If you shoot mainly people then I would take a Fuji XT5 over the OM1 and for street photography the Fuji weather sealed f2 primes are hard to beat. I wish OM System would update their compact f/1.8 primes to be weather sealed but they show no signs of doing so.

You also have to consider that you can now pick up some great full frame options for a similar price to the OM1. A Sony A7IV with an f/1.8 lens will still give shallower depth of field than an OM1 with one of the costly but excellent f/1.2 primes. The shooting experience with the OM1 may be a little nicer but the image quality of the Sony will be better.

As with all cameras, there are pros and cons and I could make arguments for and against almost all cameras and kits. In the end, if the OM1 does what you want it to do, for a price you are willing to pay, then you will not be disappointed as it is an excellent camera. There is no camera that does everything brilliantly, thats why I now choose cameras for specific needs. The OM1 suits me perfectly for travel where the subjects will be of the natural world and that’s why I take it with me on these kind of trips.

That concludes my OM System OM1 review. I really enjoy using the OM1 and Micro 43 in general. Many have spoke of the demise of Micro 43 but I sincerely hope that they continue to bring out new and innovative cameras like the OM1 because I certainly enjoy using them. Despite Youtube and other places constantly beating the drum of full frame I believe a lot of people would be well served using Micro 43 instead. All sensor sizes come with compromises and it’s up to us to decide which ones we are willing to accept. Now OM Systems, please make a Pen F II and I would be all over it.

Exit mobile version