Finally, a longer term independent user review for the 2022 release OM System OM-1 from someone who is not associated with Olympus or OM Digital Solutions and purchased the camera themselves in late March. A TasView exclusive, these are my personal thoughts, observations and experiences after using the camera for seven weeks. I have read most of the manual and used many of the features – there is a bewildering array! Some of them were implemented in the EM1 Mark III but I upgraded from the Em1 II, so that is my reference camera.
To keep this review a modest length, I will gloss over many of the digital OM-1’s features, some of them exclusive to Olympus/OM, with an aim to demonstrate them separately and more in-depth in future posts – feel free to let me know what you are interested in most and given time I will try to accommodate.
If you haven’t read it, please check out my first impressions review HERE, where I covered the physical and ergonomic aspects of the new OM-1. My opinions haven’t changed much but I am getting used to the front dial placement and very useful thumb focus joystick. I’ve also now set the camera up for back button focus which I haven’t previously done but am finding it great, particularly for macro photography. The camera is comfortable to carry for several hours and despite my negativity, none of my previous observations are deal breakers for me.
Firstly, when you purchase any new interchangeable lens camera, no matter what the brand, you’re buying into that manufacturer’s system of lenses, accessories and software. There’s a lot more to take into account than just the camera body. In the past, Olympus had fewer new camera releases/updates than most brands but supported customers with fairly regular firmware updates for years that often add new features for free, which in my mind offers great longer term value for your purchase, one of the reasons that drew me to the Olympus system over others. Hopefully this will continue now OM Solutions has taken over. Here I will focus just on the new digital OM-1 camera body.
Before I begin, you should know that after using it for seven weeks now, despite a few niggles, I like it. LOTS! While it is still entirely possible to take crap photos, when you nail it, the results are astonishingly good and really, that’s what matters most.
The image quality from the new 20MP Quad Bayer sensor with 1,053 phase-detection AF points and TruePic X processor is quite a step-up from the EM-1 Mark II, which was honestly no slouch! Sure, it would have been more compelling from a marketing standpoint to have more megapixels when the latest phones are spruiking 100+ in their marketing hype, but that doesn’t really relate directly to better image quality alone, nor does it benefit 95% of photographers. Aside from filling up hard drives faster, it does give you some more cropping wriggle room and look good on the spec sheet, but in reality most people aren’t going to print anything larger than A0 which the Olympus is fully capable of.
For mostly still scenes, the OM1 does offer hi-res 50MP handheld (above) and 80MP tripod modes (below) which are captured by shifting the sensor and automatically combining exposures in camera in jpeg and RAW, though it does take much longer to take a shot. It’s something I expect I will rarely use – but I will test it further in a future post.
While I personally didn’t think the EM1 III had a big enough difference to upgrade from the Mark II for me, the OM-1 has many advantages that make the upgrade worth-while.
The new sensor has improved dynamic range, better high ISO quality, offers finer detail and less noise in long exposures where the sensor can warm up. The image processor is noticeably faster with improved results while completing tasks like focus stacking, long exposure noise reduction and live-comp saving. This speed is enhanced with fast 300MB/s cards in the dual UHSII SD slots – which aren’t cheap but worth it to get the best speed from the camera.
The new OM-1 has improved IP53-rated weather sealing – currently the best of any removable lens camera and the in-camera image stabilisation is another step up, now offering a rated 7EV of correction (IBIS) as demonstrated below.
In camera charging via the USB C port is convenient, being able to plug in a large power-bank to power the camera for super long exposures (star-trails), is a game changer. While the camera only comes with one new type BLX-1 battery and no external charger (these can be bought separately) I took almost 2000 images mostly in burst mode over four hours and still had plenty of power in reserve, though a second battery is on the list of wants in case I forget to recharge before an outing.
An extra custom mode on the dial – these four modes are super handy! At the turn of the dial my OM-1 is now instantly set up for high speed subject tracking, macro focus stacking, astro photography, flash mode or back to the last manual settings I’ve used, genius! It is the one single feature that stops me selling my EM1 II and switch to the smaller and lighter EM5 III as a second body for bushwalking use.
Video mode is now also selected on the dial keeping your last used video settings (under a separate heading in the menu) which is also convenient for filming. It features 4K @ 60fps and FHD @ 200fps with 10 bit H.265 codec. I don’t often shoot video but took a little at the wedding and it came out surprisingly great on the default settings considering the dimly lit environment. You can plug in external mic, headphones and monitor but I haven’t tried these features. If you do a mix of still photography and video, it takes barely seconds to switch modes and start recording, especially if you use Custom mode 4 for stills – just one dial click to video and hit record, it’s almost instant!
The addition of inbuilt six-stop ND64 Live ND Shooting is convenient and saves you carrying a filter. The OM-1 also offers a HDR mode, combining multiple exposures, interval shooting, keystone compensation … bracketing modes for exposure, white balance, flash, ISO, Art filters, and of course focus bracketing and inbuilt focus stacking … and more …
The much hyped Starry Sky AF is good, however, resetting a lens to infinity focus can be achieved on earlier EM cameras by simply pressing the lens release button – an undocumented feature!
And talking about focus, the EM1 II was good and one of the main reasons I upgraded from the EM5 II, but the new OM-1 is faster and better again with more auto-focus tracking options which when set up properly, work very well. Make sure to switch the focus setting to C-AF+TR when using these modes. There are also some limitations with face/eye detection mentioned in the manual:
You may be unable to use [Face & Eye Detection] depending on the setting of [Subject Detection] (P. 90). Set [Subject Detection] to [Off].
# Depending on the subject and the art filter setting, the camera may not be able to correctly detect the face.
# This function is disabled when the AF target mode (P. 77) is ISingle or ySmall, the metering mode (P. 109) is C and [NSpot Metering] (P. 112)is being used.
# This function is disabled when the [KAF Mode] (P. 72) is set to [FAF] or [FAFb]. %We recommend selecting [Off] when photographing non-portrait subjects using [C-AF] or
[C-AFb] in still photography mode.
Continuous auto focus can capture 50 frames per second while single focus can capture an astounding 120fps.
The EVF eye sensor almost didn’t rate a mention as it works so well it almost goes unnoticed. With the monitor facing out but closed against the body (which I hardly ever do) it still works. I just noticed though trying it, you can accidentally change the focus point with your nose if it touches the screen – this is changeable in the AF 5 menu. When the monitor is flipped out the sensor automatically disables which is handy while you use the touch-screen to shoot from or navigate the menus.
The Super Control Panel, accessible in shooting mode with the OK button is where you can quickly access the most commonly changed settings and features via the touch-screen, has had a make-over and is clean and more easily understood and can be navigated via touch.
By necessity, Olympus menus have always been a labyrinth with so many features and almost full user customisation built into their cameras. The OM-1 menu has been completely transformed with a new labelled and coloured horizontal layout that takes some learning but is quite intuitive and mostly logically laid out after a few dives into it. The best new feature for new users is pressing the INFO button on any item gives you a pretty good description of what it does and pressing OK on a greyed out item tells you why you can’t currently use it. There is also a customisable “My Menu” section where you can add and rearrange items (press the orange movie record) to your liking on 5 pages. This is great once you set it up.
A few niggles for me:
- You also can’t navigate the menu via the new LCD touchscreen, but the use of the wheels and direction pads aside from the oddly placed menu button is well implemented to get around once it becomes muscle memory. (Firmware update please OM?)
- The human face and eye detection is separated from subject detection (birds, animals, cars, trains and planes). In order to switch quickly, you need to set up two separate buttons to access them. They could have also put the Starry Sky setting in there too but it is less likely you would want to switch quickly to that.
- One thing I’ve never been satisfied with on any of my Olympus cameras – and this might be a personal thing – is the Auto White Balance. For me, it seems to always miss the mark, whether I have “keep warm colours” on or off. The order of the selectable manual options is not logical either – with Sunny 5300K, Shadow 7500K, Cloudy 6000K, Incandescent 3000K, Flourescent 4000K, Underwater, WB Flash 5500K … putting them in the order of Kelvin would make more sense to me. Oddly, in most instances including taking fungi no matter what the sun/clouds are doing, I’ve found “Underwater” gives me the best results.
Bluetooth/wireless connection once set up with your device is easy, fast and reliable using the OI.Share app, allowing you limited control to take shots remotely which works really well, however, not all modes are supported like … focus stacking where I would have used it mostly for macro work. While it doesn’t have all the features of the desktop OM Workspace software, the app allows you to import and edit photos on your phone or iPad for quick publishing/sharing, access the manual and add geotag to images on the camera as the OM-1 lacks inbuilt GPS. While you can add a text or freehand signature/copyright, you can’t add a graphic.
Another useful feature – when I remember to use it, is the ability to add a star rating to an image when reviewed – handy for tagging the focus stacked jpeg or sharpest image in a series so it’s easier to locate in post. It is compatible with OM Workspace and Lightroom. You can also edit and re-save both RAW and JPG images in camera.
I won’t delve into the free OM Workspace or OM Capture PC software here, suffice to say Workspace’s speed and features have already improved under OM’s watch. One of the most useful and time-saving new features is automatically comparing and selecting the sharpest images from a burst. I might cover the software and my workflow in more detail in a future post.
To conclude, overall the new OM-1 handles well, is almost fully customisable to suit your shooting style, has a large array of great features, some of which are still exclusives for OM System, offers great image stabilisation and advanced weather sealing like no other but most importantly, takes smashing photos!
Worth a mention is the large range of existing (second-hand bargains) and new micro four third lenses you can strap onto the front. This new camera from OM Digital Solutions does the Olympus heritage proud and deserves to be the last camera likely to sport the Olympus brand. Let’s hope this positive direction continues as the company moves forward and personally, I can’t wait to see what lies in store for other cameras in their line up … bring on an updated Pen-F with the new sensor please 😀
I hope you found this fully independent review helpful. Feel free to shoot me any questions or requests if you would like me to test something. Don’t be shy on correcting me if you think I’ve made an error or you disagree. Also feel free to offer me advice … or send me some gear to test and review :).
Thanks for visiting, now get out there and take some photos 😀