Olympus OM-1 Review: Camera Is Announced And Tt Looks Like A Photographic Revolution
A Whole Olympus
If you didn’t hear, Olympus decided to focus on its medical and industrial companies rather than its imaging sector when it sold it off in 2020. After some internal reorganization, OM Digital Solutions took over management of the Micro Four Thirds system’s Olympus division and began marketing its cameras and lenses under the OM System brand.
The OM-1 is the first camera of the OM System to be sold in the US. The Olympus logo is being retired after this model by OM Digital Solutions, therefore it’s the final one with it. Regarding its position in the lineup, the cost has undoubtedly increased. The OM-1 is unquestionably the E-M1 Mark III’s successor, although it introduces additional features. Given the recent release of the Panasonic Lumix GH6, another camera with a Micro Four Thirds sensor, this could be more indicative of the camera market as a whole.
Although the price is higher, the fit and finish quality have improved. The OM-1 is a reasonably sized handheld camera with good stabilization, weather protection, and a solid magnesium frame. Its design is quite similar to that of the E-M1. The system is a popular among outdoor photographers since it is lighter and offers better weather protection for those who go long distances to get an image.
OM System goes a little farther than only asserting that the OM-1 is shielded against splashes and dust. The camera has passed testing and received an IP53 rating, which indicates it resists most sand and dust infiltration and can withstand water sprays coming from 60-degree angles.
Controls and Handling
The body’s dimensions—3.6 by 5.3 by 2.9 inches (HWD) and 1.3 pounds—are reasonable. The Olympus OM-1 differs from the Olympus E-M1 series in aesthetics just slightly; it has a deeper handgrip, preferring rounded edges over sharp angles, and has generally better-feeling buttons.
The majority of the dials and controls are positioned similarly to those on the E-M1 Mark III, which is a pleasant continuation for photographers switching to the new body. Nevertheless, OM changed the front and back dials by relocating them within the top plate from the top. Although it is a break from the system’s norm, you shouldn’t have too much problem adapting. As the shutter release is automatically set, there is very little chance that you will accidentally bump a dial when reaching for it. A similar strategy was used by Olympus with the pro-oriented E-M1X.
Just the Record and EV buttons are located on the top plate behind the shutter. The neighboring Mode dial has a center post lock that may be toggled on or off. The On/Off switch is tucked into the side of the elevated Drive/Self-Timer and AF/Meter buttons, off to the left. They are compatible with the E-M1 series, although I prefer the OM-1’s take’s feel a little bit more. The power switch is thicker and the two buttons are somewhat concave, making them all a little bit easier to locate by touch.
Although the front and back controls are rather normal, we’re glad to find two programmable buttons between the grip and lens mount because some professional cameras don’t use this area at all. Standard rear controls include buttons for Menu, Display, Play, and Delete as well as a d-pad for navigating menus, an eight-way joystick for setting the focus point, and a fast toggle switch to convert between camera modes.
In addition to the controls, there is a new menu system, which should make customizing the camera a little simpler. The new system is easier to see since it places menu tabs on top, rather than the sides, and because each menu item is set against a gray background. You may keep commonly used choices in one location using the system’s My Menu page.
Compared to other cameras, you’re more likely to enter the menu here. We’re pleased to see the menus get some attention because the OM-1 has a lot of computational features—we address those a little later—and is very programmable. The Super Control Panel, an on-screen overlay menu, is an exception since it contains a set of defined functions. Yet, this menu benefits from an increase in size and a semi-transparent backdrop while still providing rapid access to several tasks. The whole menu system does not accept touch input, but the Control Panel does.
The OM-1 has an eye-level electronic viewfinder and a 3-inch LCD. The LCD is a conventional vari-angle design; to articulate and rotate it, you must pull it away from the camera and swing it out to the side. It’s a decent display with a diagonal size of three inches, a crisp resolution of 1.62 million pixels, a strong backlight, and reasonable viewing angles.
The E-M1 Mark IV’s eye-level viewfinder is a pleasure and a significant improvement. The EVF displays a bigger image to the eye and, with a 0.82x magnification rating and a clear 5.8-million-dot OLED panel, is comparable to the top full-frame models. A quicker refresh rate is preferable for capturing moving subjects since the EVF by default refreshes at 60 frames per second, but it also has a high-speed 120 frames per second option.
Both connectivity and power
The OM-1 is powered by the OM System BLX-1, a new battery. Its 520 shot rating from CIPA ranks it among the best battery-operated mirrorless cameras. In actual use, you’ll probably get more pictures. CIPA ratings are helpful for comparing cameras, but they’re often conservative, especially for photographers who employ rapid shooting settings. In reality, as long as I remembered to charge the OM-1 before a picture shoot, I never had to worry about the battery life. The OM-1 is capable of operating and charging using PD-rated adapters, which is beneficial for studio use, and on-the-go charging is possible via USB-C.
The OM-1 also has a hot shoe, micro HDMI, 3.5mm microphone and headphone, and PC sync connections in addition to USB-C. You have access to two SDXC storage slots, each of which supports UHS-II transfer rates. For connection and data transmission with smartphones, the OI has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi within. Remote controls, transfers, and geotagging are supported with the Share companion app (available for Android and iOS).
Autofocus using quad pixels
The OM-1 adopts a novel focusing strategy that makes use of its Quad Bayer image sensor. For cross-type phase detection at each focus point, the design divides each pixel into four quadrants, or “sub-pixels,” of equal size. 1,053 of these focus pixels are used by the OM-1 to provide edge-to-edge autofocus coverage.
With some lenses, such the M.Zuiko 300mm F4.0 Pro and other lenses with fast focus motors, the focus mechanism is swift enough to function at 50 frames per second (fps) and at 25 frames per second (fps) with other lenses. It masters the fundamentals; face and eye detection function flawlessly.
But, the subject tracking leaves us wanting. While tracking moving subjects, the OM-1 performs as well as the E-M1 Mark III, which means that it frequently veers off course. It works well for rapid bursts of movement, but it’s not as tenacious as the tracking technologies found in rival models like the Fujifilm X-T4 and Sony a6600, which often keep with a subject better.
Yet, the OM-1 excels in some areas. There are several specific subject-recognition modes available, including Trains/Locomotives, Birds, Cats/Dogs, Cars/Motorcycles, Airplanes/Helicopters, and Birds. As I didn’t have time to take the camera to a racetrack, I didn’t test the Cars/Motorcycles special mode, which is optimized to identify motorsport vehicles (not commuter cars).
But, my neighborhood birding location is close to a New Jersey Transit train line and the Newark International approach route, making it a wonderful place to test out the alternate means. The OM-1 performs significantly better with the aid of topic identification. You can tell it has found and is focused on tagged targets because it draws boxes around them. You can observe a bigger box over the body and a smaller one over the eye in animals and birds.
But, depending on your circumstances, getting the camera to lock onto your objective might be difficult. I like using the Bird detection mode, however I discovered that for the greatest results, I often needed to switch between focus regions depending on the species of bird. The wide focus area performed well while photographing bigger species, such as eagles and geese, that were swimming on broad water or against a background of blue sky. I was able to concentrate only on taking the photo.
With songbirds perched in branches, the narrative is drastically altered. I had to deal with many barren trees because I got the OM-1 to evaluate in February. The OM-1 leaps to branches in the foreground even when bird detection is on if the focus system is set to a wide view. This is normal, however it necessitates that you either actively focus on a bird or change to a narrower region of interest for focus. Here, the 1/2 toggle switch is useful since it automatically switches between two distinct sets of focus settings. It is located on the back near the eyecup. I refrained from activating the focus clutch on the 300mm F4 lens since it emits a loud click that may scare away birds that were feeding nearby.
Even the most intelligent autofocus systems may have trouble locating a target in dense undergrowth. I compared the OM-1 to the full-frame Canon EOS R5, which also boasts bird-detection autofocus, and found that the OM-1 needed a little manual focus assistance to get through branches.
Yet, the OM-1 frequently jumps off and returns to foreground branches after the initial focus acquisition, but the R5 stays with a bird once it locates it. The OM-1’s focus mechanism shifts from the cardinal to front branches as you can see in the video above. Although that’s a terrible experience for birders, we assume OM could fix it with next firmware.
Stacked High-Speed Sensor
The OM-1 is designed around a new image sensor that, although maintaining the same 20MP pixel count as the E-M1 Mark III, has faster reading for quicker burst shooting, a more practical electronic shutter, and produces better photos at higher ISOs. For overall snappier operation and substantially speedier picture processing, it is combined with an upgraded image processor.
The rapid shooting capabilities are outstanding. The OM-1 accomplishes 50 fps with continuous focus and autoexposure for every frame with several lenses, including the 12-40mm F2.8 Pro I and II, 12-100mm F4.0 Pro, 40-150mm F2.8 Pro, 300mm F4 IS Pro, and 150-400mm F4.5 TC IS Pro. This is possible when using the completely electronic shutter. The tracking speed is just 25fps with other lenses.
The buffer effectively manages the pace. Using 300MBps Sony Tough UHS-II storage, I tested the OM-1 and got roughly 100 images at 120 frames per second and 50 frames per second. Buffer clears were remarkably swift, taking about 12 seconds for Raw+JPEG couples and six seconds for either JPG or Raw capture. The camera may shoot hundreds of pictures before the buffer runs out while it is operating in the 10 frames per second mechanical shutter mode.
While using a mechanical shutter, the EVF displays a flickering image, which is common for photographers accustomed to using mirrorless cameras. It comes in handy while operating in locations with challenging digital illumination, since their scan speeds might annoy fully electronic shutters and cause banding effects. Moreover, it is necessary for flash work; the OM-1 lacks an in-body flash but comes with a portable add-on called the FL-LM3. It receives power via the hot shoe, and the camera controls 1/250-second mechanical shutter sync.
I primarily relied on the electronic shutter. It reads out quietly and rapidly enough to stop moving action. Whether operating in the 25/50fps or 120fps continuous drive mode, there is no blackout between exposures, so you get a continuous feed in the viewfinder. This is another benefit of the stacked sensor for tracking moving subjects.
The viewfinder blacks out in between exposures whether you operate in the single release or basic continuous drive modes (adjustable between 5 and 20fps). It’s a reliable sign that you made an exposure, but it doesn’t exactly line up with what other stacked sensor cameras have seen. While utilizing the electronic shutter on the Canon EOS R3, Sony a1, and Sony a9 II, you don’t lose sight of a scenario, which is a huge advantage for being present.
Before the industry had chosen a term for the practice, Olympus began integrating computational photography into their cameras. Now, OM Digital is building on that tradition. Since smartphones utilize computational techniques to extract increased dynamic range, softened backgrounds, and clear nighttime results from their comparatively small picture sensors, it is now better codified.
The imager on the OM-1 is better to begin with. It performs well in low light on its own because of its 20MP Micro Four Thirds processor, which is far bigger than the chips that power smartphone cameras. Moreover, its lenses optically blur the backdrop. We describe each of its many computational characteristics in further detail below.
On the Computational menu page, the High Res Shot option is at the top. In this mode, the sensor is moved slightly for each exposure while a series of photographs are quickly taken one after the other. In order to produce photographs with more resolution and more accurate color sample, the camera combines them (the process takes around three seconds). It is great for scenarios with stationary subjects since you can use it handed and obtain 50MP results or switch to tripod mode and get 80MP results. Photographers who wish to print large-format landscapes will find the mode to be very helpful.
Another excellent choice for landscape photographers is live ND shooting. It mixes a number of shorter exposures to mimic the effects of long-exposure shooting, making it ideal for capturing surreal images on cloudy days with rolling clouds or for muffling the sound of flowing water. Although Live ND provides an alternative to carrying conventional ND filters, video requires filters since Live ND is just for still images.
With focus stacking, you can take macro pictures with a lot of depth of field. When focusing closely, it’s quite simple to obtain a blurred backdrop; but, if you want more of your subject to be in focus, you must use a very small f-stop or focus stacking techniques. A portion of the manual labor is eliminated by the in-camera option, which mixes several photographs taken at various focus points to create deep focus macros.
High Dynamic Range, sometimes known as HDR, is a photography setting that permits photographs with enhanced shadows and muted highlights. The in-camera HDR is worthwhile employing whether you’re trying to take a decent picture of a subject in bright backlight or aiming for a less dramatic effect in mixed lighting.
A camera setting called “Multiple Exposure” combines several exposures into a single image, usually to provide a unique effect. Real-time experimentation with this mode is possible, and you can even combine several exposures using the OM-1’s in-camera Raw editing features.
An Advancement at Higher ISOs
The advantages of the fast-reading Stacked CMOS sensor have been discussed, but what about image quality? The OM-1 has a similar number of pixels to the E-M1 Mark III and E-M1X, but it has several noticeable image advantages. Its native range of ISO 200–25600 is larger than the E-M1 Mark III’s native range of ISO 200–6400.
Our ISO test scenario demonstrates that the new chip maintains parity with the older one up to ISO 6400; when the sensitivity is increased, some grain is visible in the raw output, but the detail is unaffected. When you approach the E-M1 Mark III’s wider range (ISO 12800), the OM-1 gains a tiny advantage, which persists at ISO 25600. With the OM-1, you can push to ISO 51200 or 102400; the E-sensor M1’s can only go as high in its expanded range. Even though the noise pattern is harsher at ISO 51200 than it is at ISO 25600, it is still passable. At ISO 102400, there is a noticeable loss of quality and some color shift, but that was to be expected. When you increase the ISO, this Micro Four Thirds camera’s sensor can compete with APS-C processors, which is no minor accomplishment.
The OM-1 may be used to take JPGs that are prepared for sharing. When using the camera’s usual settings, the high-ISO output seems slightly different because, as you exceed ISO 6400, in-camera noise reduction removes grain while also erasing minute details. The default level for noise reduction is Standard, but there is also a Low setting if you’d like a little bit more detail and don’t mind some grain. JPG noise reduction may also be disabled.
Yet, there are benefits to shooting in raw format, including in-camera editing. With raw photographs, you may edit pictures using various JPG settings after the fact or make use of a large collection of creative filters for effects like pop art, soft focus, grainy black and white, and other imaginative ones. For JPG-only capture, the filters are furthermore accessible.
The OM-1 also shoots video; it can push 1080p to 240 frames per second for slow motion and supports 4K in 16:9 or 17:9 DCI ratios at up to 60 frames per second, nearly matching the rival Fujifilm X-T4 in these areas. The OM-1 supports 8-bit H.264 recording with common color profiles; art filters are also supported, just in case you’re a fan of David Lynch and like the Eraserhead-style gritty black-and-white appearance.
Better color sampling (4:2:0) is obtained with 10-bit H.265 capture, but your in-camera color possibilities are constrained. Either utilize an HLG profile for distribution to HDR TVs or use the flat OM-Log profile and color correct while editing. For our test film, we applied OM’s LUT using OM-Log.
For handheld video, the 5-axis IBIS system is quite helpful. The clip I captured while filming with my phone in wide-angle vlog style is pretty useable; it’s not exactly gimbal smooth, but it’s not too far off. It works well for telephoto photos as well; I captured a couple movies using the 300mm F4 lens handheld, which I would normally have to secure on a tripod with other systems.
The absence of true 4K slow motion is the one thing that disappoints me about the video specifications. We’ve seen 4K120 slow motion on more high-end cameras, including stacked full-frame models like the Canon EOS R3 and Sony a1. While they fall into a different pricing range, I thought that faster slow-motion footage will eventually filter down. Of course, the new Panasonic Lumix GH6 is more attractive than the OM-1 if you’re purchasing a Micro Four Thirds for video. The Apple ProRes codec and 4K120 are supported by the GH6.
The OM-1 will support raw recording, however it needs an external recording device. A upcoming firmware update will enable the camera’s 12-bit 4:4:4 Raw format for the Atomos Ninja V and V+. The little micro HDMI port is the biggest obstacle to employing a recorder; small connections aren’t as reliable as full-size HDMI ports and are vulnerable to damage from carelessly handled cords.
Deserving of the Name OM-1
When Olympus broke off its camera division, photographers with a sizable collection of Micro Four Thirds lenses had some heart-skipping moments. Yet the 20mm F1.4 Pro, a top-notch lens from OM System, has already put photographers at rest. Although the OM-1 is still in its infancy and has only recently begun to reach photographers, our experience with the camera has already demonstrated that it represents a significant advancement for the Micro Four Thirds format. Whether it lives up to the mythology that inspired its name, only time will tell.
The camera’s build quality is somewhat better than the previous generation of Olympus cameras in terms of handling; the buttons feel nicer, and the viewfinder is a significant upgrade over the one on the E-M1 Mark III. We also appreciate the updated menus because they are a little easier on the eyes. The sensor and CPU enhancements result in quick responses everywhere.