The name of the OM System OM-1 is less well known than its face. That’s because OM Digital Solutions, which acquired the Olympus imaging division in 2021, is using it as the centerpiece of a new line of mirrorless cameras. The OM-1, a logical replacement for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, will be the final camera with the Olympus brand engraved on its body. The first of many OM System cameras to come, if its performance is any indication.
The Olympus OM-1 is a highly contemporary camera that is fun to use. Its name may be a reference to the original Olympus OM-1 35mm SLR, which was introduced 50 years ago. Every aspect of the Olympus Micro Four Thirds system that we have come to appreciate over the years has been improved upon with this model, with handling, power, AF speed (and accuracy), and computational modes all seeing notable gains.
The first-ever “stacked” Micro Four Thirds CMOS sensor deserves special note. Although some may find the fact that it has the same 20MP resolution as earlier Olympus sensors disappointing, the new BSI (backside-illuminated) stacking construction delivers quicker readout times and has Quad Pixel AF with 1,053 cross-type AF points that cover the whole sensor. If you choose the proper AF setting for the situation in front of you, the outcome is better AF speed and accuracy.
Design, OM System OM-1
It will be difficult to find a camera that is better constructed or more pleasant to hold than the OM-1. Its tiny DSLR-style design and large hand grip, which always appears to fit in the hand better than other comparable cameras, are extremely reminiscent of Olympus’ OM-D E-M1 cameras.
You will feel perfectly at home with the OM-1’s feel and control configuration if you have previously used a camera from the E-M1 series. Concave AF/Drive mode buttons and a new shutter button have been added to the body, ostensibly to reduce the possibility of accidental button presses.
The buttons are a touch more difficult to use than those on the bigger E-M1X, a camera that also balances better in the hand with super-telephoto lenses, for individuals who regularly need to wear gloves. The OM-1, on the other hand, has a nice all-purpose design and works well with super-telephoto lenses, and adding the optional vertical grip gives it the right amount of heft.
The OM-1 is a tough small camera as well. Contrary to industry practice, the weatherproofing capabilities is officially recognized with an IP53 grade. We didn’t hesitate to use the OM-1 with a PRO lens when it was raining and on London’s soggy streets, however we can’t speak to the effects of prolonged exposure to harsh weather.
There has been a considerable increase in resolution for both monitors. The 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen now has a respectable 1.62-million dots, and the EVF (electronic viewfinder) has 5.76-million dots. Shooting is a delight with the EVF’s 120fps quick refresh rate. The touchscreen works flawlessly and is helpful for touch focus, but we’d want it to also operate for menus; the exclusion of that capability feels weird.
Speaking of menus, the OM-1 introduces a new horizontal color-coded structure. You may use the front dial to go to the next set of settings or the rear dial to browse through all of the options in each set. Olympus customers will find the new menu structure to be easier to use than the previous one overall. Items are now logically categorized, however there are no subheads to help you recall where sub-groups are.
The second group in the menu is devoted to computational modes, which may be a hint at what’s to come and an indicator of what OM System thinks is vital to OM-1 shooters. We’ll discuss the updates to the High Res Shot, Live ND, Focus Stacking, HDR, and Multiple Exposure modes later in this review.
The dual SD card slots are concealed under the curving thumb grip, a nice design feature. All slots are UHS-II compliant, and the door has a reliable lock and is simple to access. It is evident that OM Digital Solutions does not now see a need for the speedier CFexpress Type B card slot.
With the new BLX-1 unit allowing 520 photos on a full charge, battery life has increased by about 25% compared to the E-M1 III; we used the camera rather intensively before noticing a dent in battery life. It’s an incredible amount of power, and the OM-1’s USB-C connector allows for on-the-go charging while it’s in use. It seems outrageous that a genuine quick-charger isn’t included with a flagship camera; instead, USB charging is the only option unless you shell out money for one.
Performance and characteristics of the OM System OM-1
The stacked sensor and innovative TruePix X picture processor of the OM-1 are the camera’s hidden heroes. The new CPU in the OM-1 is said to be three times more powerful than the outgoing model. At the moment, processing power is elevating cameras like the Nikon Z9 to new heights. In practical testing, we discovered that the camera was twice as quick as the E-M1 III in a number of tasks.
The OM-1 is more suited than the E-M1 III for serious action photography since images are processed significantly quicker, and its computational modes also operate more swiftly. If you’ve ever utilized computational modes like High-Res Shot, you’re probably well aware of the waiting period before the final image appeared on the screen; now that time has been cut in half.
With continuous AF and AE, burst shooting speeds may now reach up to 50 fps with an electronic shutter and 120 fps with a mechanical shutter if you don’t need continuous AF. It is an absurd amount of power, and since the sequences are processed more quickly, the camera can start shooting again right away.
Computational modes are modified with a quicker sensor readout speed in addition to processing power. The stacked sensor’s readout speed of 1/125 sec, which is twice as fast as the EM-1 III’s but half as fast as the Nikon Z9’s, lessens the effect of rolling shutter by one stop.
The negative impacts of movement are reduced by half when the High Res Shot mode is used, and resolution may be increased from 20MP to 50MP when shooting handed or 80MP when using a tripod (we tested the latter handheld and you really do need a tripod).
High Res Shot still needs work and works best with stationary images, but as sensor readout speeds increase, the mode may become more useful with moving subjects and, in principle, resolution limitations may become obsolete.
Olympus invented computational modes for cameras, and greater computing power has improved the performance of these modes. We anticipate that OM Digital Solutions will continue to work in this topic in the years to come because these modes are essentially solutions to sensor size constraints.
Quad-Pixel AF, which uses a new 1,053-point cross-type phase detect AF array to cover the whole picture area, is included into the new stacked sensor. It represents a significant increase in both AF points and coverage and significantly improves overall AF performance.
Image and video quality with the OM System OM-1
The 20MP Micro Four Thirds sensor, which is the resolution of the sensor in the E-M1 III and the OM-1, has been around for quite some time. Has Micro Four Thirds picture quality hit its peak? Resolution isn’t everything, though, as the most recent CPU and new stacked sensor both significantly enhance image quality, particularly when used in multi-shot modes.
Although the ISO 80-102,400 sensitivity range may be added to the ISO 200-25,600 sensitivity range, we would approach the OM-1 similarly to the E-M1 III for single-shot photographs, gladly shooting up to ISO 6,400.
Keep your ISO settings between 200 and 1,600 for the best image quality. Up to ISO 25,600, you’ll see a little increase in noise management compared to the EM-1 III. JPEG noise reduction also seems to be less forceful and more sophisticated than previously, which is a good development.
The largest improvement in image quality may come from multi-shot settings, which have whetted our thirst for more.
For example, Live ND “fakes” a long exposure now up to 6EV, while Focus Stacking enhances depth of field. These modes combine numerous images for varied effects. Also, while High Res Shot may be primarily used to enhance resolution, it also dramatically expands dynamic range.
The H.265 standard unlocks 4K 10-bit up to 60fps for the OM-1 to produce the greatest video image quality possible. You may choose between OM-Log or Hybrid Log Gamma in this format, and there was no noticeable quality difference between recording at 30p and 60p. It’s fantastic work and a great improvement. When image stabilization is on, which is necessary for fluid handheld movies, a minor crop is applied to the 4K image area.
The OM-1 may not have as many video handling options as a camera like the Panasonic Lumix GH6, but the camera still produces outstanding video images out of the box, and it is a very powerful hybrid.
Do I need to purchase the OM System OM-1?
If, purchase it.
You are an action photographer who is looking for the greatest value.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better system at this price range than the OM-1’s new stacked sensor with Quad-Pixel AF technology, which increases focusing performance. Birds, animals, humans, as well as cars and airplanes may now be detected as subjects by eye-detection AF, and the Micro Four Thirds format’s depth of focus is ideal for super-telephoto wildlife photography.
You don’t want your stuff to weigh you down.
The OM-1 is a well-established Micro Four Thirds system that makes sense for photographers who wish to be liberated from the load of equipment since it is compact, light, durable, and easy to use. Effective image stabilization and computational modes further reduce the need for accessories like tripods and lens filters, however a like-for-like full-frame lens will likely be twice as big, heavy, and expensive.