As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from amazon.com

You Need to Try This. OM System OM1 Review


I think the general consensus among the photo community was that Micro Four Thirds was probably done for when OM Digital Solutions (OMDS) split from Olympus. But in all honesty, it gave me more hope. Often I’ve spoken with Olympus reps who felt like they were held back from their true potential. With those restraints removed, the new OM System OM1 shows how the company is starting to blossom again. Emblazoned with the old Olympus logo on the front, it’s bound to cause confusion. But once you work with it and learn how it works, it’s going to be the most fun you’ve had with a camera in years.

View this article with minimal banner ads in our app for iOS, iPad, and Android. Get no banner ads for $24.99/year.

Too Long; Didn’t Read

The OM System OM1 brings a ton of features that no other camera system has. It delivers it all in a small package while also offering a ton of lenses. It’s not perfect, but most of the problems can be fixed with firmware updates that hopefully come.

Editor’s Note: OM Digital solutions said to us, “The OM-1 is pre-production with final firmware.” This is all that’s available to journalists. We can always call it back in for testing if needed.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • This new menu system is amazing
  • So much autofocus versatility with scene selection!
  • So small and well built!
  • A great amount of buttons, but it probably could’ve done with even more
  • There’s finally an rating system that’s easy to access!
  • Weather sealing is some of the best on the market.
  • An incredibly lightweight camera with OM’s lenses
  • When the autofocus sensitivity is increased, this camera is a beast at photographing and locking onto birds. But it’s still not on par with Sony and Canon.
  • Autofocus is better for moving vehicles than flying birds simply because birds are a smaller part of the frame typically.
  • Dramatically improved high ISO output
  • Autofocus tracked a cat walking towards me pretty well. It works but it’s buggy at times just like Sony, Canon, and Nikon.
  • The cameras computational photography capabilities are so incredibly fun.
  • The cleanest high ISO print we’ve ever gotten from a Micro Four Thirds camera at ISO 6400.
  • Face detection is better than Nikon, Fujifilm, and Panasonic. It’s not quite on par with Canon, Sony, and Leica.
  • Low light AF sensitivity works well, but that’s because it negates the exposure preview setting after a while.
  • THEY FINALLY FIXED FOCUS PEAKING ZOMGWTFBBQ!!!!

Cons

  • Olympus went and made an awesome menu system but didn’t make it touch compatible.
  • Separates bird and animal detection
  • Bird detection is very difficult to use when a teleconverter is attached.
  • Animal and bird detection is a bit better than with Nikon and Panasonic, but still behind both Canon and Sony.
  • I wish OMDS gave subject detection a dedicated button.
  • No sensor protection when the camera is turned off. Come on, folks! How do you make a camera with an insane IP durability rating and not protect the sensor?
  • C-AF with Tracking isn’t the best. Tracking moving birds is tough and almost impossible.
  • Image stabilization at very slow shutter speeds doesn’t seem as great as previous Olympus cameras, but is still very good.
  • Need to use their software to get the most from the color capabilities the raw files capture.

Innovations

There’s a lot that’s innovative about the new OM System OM1.

  • First off, there’s cross quad-pixel autofocus that works pretty well most of the time.
  • There’s a brand new menu system that rival’s Canon’s as being the easiest to navigate. If the OM System OM1 had a touchscreen menu, it would quite literally be on par with Canon’s.
  • It’s the first camera to use the new BLX-1 battery, and that lasts an incredibly long time. I went nearly four days without charging.
  • IP53 weather sealing rating
  • 50 fps shooting in continuous autofocus potential
  • 120 fps shooting in single autofocus potential
  • LiveND 64 cuts down so much light and lets you keep the aperture a bit wider open to prevent diffraction.
  • Live Composite is still just as awesome as it ever was, though Panasonic has it now with their cameras too.
  • ISO 25,600 is sort of usable, which is rare for a Four Thirds sensor.
  • This sensor gives us the cleanest high ISO prints we’ve gotten at ISO 6400 and at 17×22 inches.
  • The metering is a little weird.

Tech Specs

These techs are taken from OM Digital Solutions.

  • 20MP Live MOS Sensor
  • TruePic X processor
  • IP63 weather sealing rating
  • Up to 50fps in C-AF
  • Up to 120fps in S-AF
  • 5.76MP EVF
  • Blackout free EVF
  • Quad Pixel Bayer stacked CMOS sensor
  • ISO 200-25,600
  • Computational photography modes
  • AF scene detection for humans, birds, animals, trains, and vehicles.
  • 1053 cross-type AF points
  • AF sensitivity of -8 EVF at f1.2
  • New BCX-1 battery
  • $2,199.99 body only
  • $2,799.99 with the new 12-40mm f2.8 PRO II

Gear Used

We tested the new OM-System OM1 with the following:

Ergonomics

See that big name on the front? Yeah, it confuses us too. Don’t call it an Olympus, though. The OM System OM1 only has the Olympus marker as an homage to where it came from. But the front of the camera has a few custom buttons you can use. I set mine to activate and deactivate things like subject detection and simulated OVF settings. 

Here’s a view of the top of the OM System OM1. There’s a mode dial, record button, exposure dials, exposure compensation button, and the other setting buttons on the left side. Of course, you can’t forget about the hot shoe.

Very much so, this camera feels and looks like the predecessors that carry the Olympus name. 

Turn to the back of the OM System OM1, and you’ll find all the settings you need. Somehow the company managed to not clutter the back area much and keep the camera very small. They deserve a ton of applause for this. Everything feels right. Arguably, I’d say it could use even more buttons, but I’d probably put those in front.

The camera has a swivel and rotating LCD screen. This is useful for a whole lot of reasons.

Build Quality

With OM Digital Solutions’ approval, I went to do the site’s standard torture tests for gear made by Olympus and OMDS. I’ve been doing this for years with their cameras, and they know they can trust us. Why do this test? Years ago, Olympus brought the press to Iceland, where many cameras had issues in the conditions. Some got smashed by hail, some got extremely cold, and some got very wet. So considering all this, I think running the new OM-System OM1 under a faucet for a while isn’t all that bad. And, of course, it survived. Did it have a few hiccups? Yes, and I’d expect it to. 

For what it’s worth, OMDS won’t get angry at this. Our videos have literally been shown to customers and retailers to display how durable their products are. What’s more, I mean, look at our product photos! The OM System OM1 survived a lot of abuse. 

However, I’ve got one issue with the build quality. The OM System OM1 has an IP rating of IP63, which is what the first Google Pixel was. Nevertheless, the OM System OM1 misses a big part of modern cameras: sensor protection. The OM System OM1 doesn’t let the shutter unit come down to protect the sensor if you turn the camera off. This is critical for pretty much any modern camera out there. But it’s missing from the OM System OM1.

Besides how durable the camera is, it also feels terrific in your hands. Somehow OMDS found a way to make a small camera with excellently placed buttons and still make the camera feel good in the hands. What’s more, they put a full dial and button set on both sides of the viewfinder area up top. This is shocking to me; many other companies say they can’t do this. Through and through, OM system cameras have had some of the best ergonomics I’ve ever felt. The only ones that come close are Leica and Fujifilm.

Ease of Use

The new OM-System OM1 takes a significant step forward regarding ease of use. They’ve completely revamped their menu system. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, on a quick glance, you’d think it was a Canon menu system. However, the OM System OM1 doesn’t have a touch-capable menu. This, perhaps more than anything else, bums me out. This could’ve been one of the most perfect menu systems out there. OMDS could’ve shown Sony, Fujifilm, Leica, Panasonic, and the rest the masterclass how to do a menu right. Further, with two taps of the screen, you would’ve been able to get anywhere you wanted.

Despite this, you can still use the front and back dial to navigate the new menu on the OM System OM1. And overall, it’s super quick to get anywhere you need. There are still things you might want to wire into the My Menu system, like the subject detection. The OM System OM1 lets you set a button to turn subject-detection on and off but not cycle through its different options. Sometimes, when you’re walking around the forest, you want to go from photographing woodpeckers to chipmunks in a few seconds. Like with Sony, you have to set the camera to do one or the other. Panasonic, Canon, and Nikon all group birds and animals together. And to make things simpler, that might be the better thing to do.

All the new stuff you can do immediately and quickly through the computational photography menu is really cool. Here you can access things like HDR, High Res shot, Live ND, and Live Composite. I know it would be crazy processor-heavy, but it’d be cool if I could do something like LiveND and Live Composite together. But you can’t pair them, and I understand why.

Image Stabilization

Chief among the OM System OM1’s predecessors was image stabilization too. Years ago, I handheld a photo for 15 seconds. I did that when I was younger, and these days I’ve got a few things that make holding my breath a bit more complicated, like slight heart issues. Despite this, I got a pretty good photo handheld at 13 seconds. For most other photographers, this is exceptional. I know a bunch of folks who probably couldn’t even handhold an exposure for one second. Still, it shows just what’s possible with the new OM System OM1.

Besides this, we also tested it at exposures longer than a second. You can take a look at some of these below.

Live Composite

The OM System OM1 let me do something that I always thought was impossible: star trail photography in NYC. But during the height of the pandemic, the Panasonic S5 proved this wrong using the Live Composite mode. In February, the stars are more visible to a camera, if not the human eye. I’m legally blind, so I surely can’t see a lot of them. But the OM System OM1 could. Take a look at these photos. Lots of folks like to create composites of NYC with stars over it. But all this was done in-camera with the most minor adjustments in OM Workspace.

Unless you’ve lived here or have tried to photograph the stars in NYC, you won’t really know how impossible it is. But the OM System OM1 got it done using the Live Composite mode. 

Live ND

Not to have the Live Composite mode outshine it, there’s also the exceptional Live ND mode. This prevents you from stopping the lens down a lot and creating diffraction issues. This is a big problem with Four-Thirds sensors, as f5.6 is the equivalent of f11 in full-frame depth of field. You typically don’t want to stop down beyond that. But with a live ND setting, you can cut down a whole lot of light, with the highest setting being Live ND 64.

For sure, Live ND is one of the things that makes the OM System OM1 so unique, along with the rest of the Olympus system cameras.

And of course, the OM System OM1 has a bunch of other tricks like High Res shot. It’s undoubtedly usable, and I totally tested it. But quite honestly, if I needed a higher resolution photo, I’d just reach for offerings from Sony, Canon, Nikon, Leica, or the Fujifilm GFX lineup.

Autofocus

Autofocus with the OM System OM1 is a really complicated affair. It takes what the Nikon z9 can do and goes a step further. No matter what though, it can tackle nearly any situation as long as you’ve got the right settings dialed into the camera. The OM System OM1 works similar to Sony in that sometimes it doesn’t make sense to shoot in the Single Autofocus setting – just leave the camera in the AF-C mode. At the same time, Continuous AF with tracking is just as wonky as it was. When the Olympus EM1 Mk III was released, Olympus flew us and other press to Costa Rica, where we were discouraged from using it. And throughout my testing with the OM System OM1, I felt the same way. Despite this, most of my images were in focus with the right combination.

I asked for a 300mm f4, but it wasn’t available for loan, nor were any of the other long lenses. So a lot of testing was done with the 40-150mm f2.8, sometimes using the 2x teleconverter. The teleconverter slowed things down and degraded the image quality. Once that was off, the OM System OM1 could easily outpace even Nikon on some things.

Human AF

Today’s announcement of the OM System OM1 happens to align with February 15th being my birthday. So to protect all my friends from Omicron, I set up individual dinners and drinks. And pretty much every time, the OM System OM1 nailed the focus on human faces.

This test wouldn’t be a standard Phoblographer test from the site’s founder without flash. So I used the OM System OM1 with a flash around my apartment and in very low light. The OM System OM1 and 7-14mm f2.8 PRO grabbed my face better than the Nikon z5 did with the Nikon 35mm f1.8 Z S.

As far as human autofocus detection goes, I really can’t fault this camera. But that’s easy to accomplish these days. If the company still used Kodak sensors, it would make sense to say it’s perfect for a Kodak Moment. But instead, set the camera to the Instant film art filter, and don’t shake the camera once you get the photo.

However, human AF detection is still not fast enough to shoot moving subjects with a wide-open lens for street photography. And it really needs to get there. As it is, only Sony and Canon can really do that well.

Bird AF

Bird AF is where things become complicated with the OM System OM1. Trying to find birds in trees with the OM System OM1 is a mixed bag of success and fine-tune adjustments. To be fair, this is a problem with all cameras from Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Panasonic. The OM System OM1 is a bit more special, though, because of the lenses. Using the 40-150mm f2.8, I quickly flipped it into manual focus mode, assisted the system, set it back to autofocus, and then the OM System OM1 was able to lock on. This is, by far, the fastest and most secure autofocus of the bunch. Manual focus override can cause issues with other systems because it’s constantly on. That’s not the case with the snap-back focusing ring on the 40-150mm. 

To clarify all this, the system does a better job without a teleconverter. And I’m wondering whether it’s because I have a bad unit or it’s that the depth of field equivalence becomes f11. Either way, the 40-150mm f2.8 worked admirably when the teleconverter flew the coop. 

In most situations, the OM System OM1 did an excellent job finding a bird, locking onto it, and getting the photos I wanted.

Where the system went wrong is moving off of C-AF to C-AF with tracking. That’s where it just became a mess. Photographing birds in flight was often super challenging. Comparatively, Canon and Sony have a significant advantage over OMDS.

Animal AF

Of course, the OM System OM1 makes it paw-sible to photograph your four-legged friends. After setting the camera to Animal AF, you just point, shoot, and have fun. In my tests photographing pups around the streets of Jackson Heights, Queens, the camera never once failed. It would always grab some part of the face in focus. Most of the time, it acquired the eyes. But sometimes, I’d get the whiskers of a cat eating or something.

Now here’s the really great part; when set to C-AF and continuous drive mode, the OM System OM1 tracked our community garden cat walk towards me pretty purrfectly. I didn’t get to test it with dogs and cats running around, but I’d assume that with the C-AF and tracking mode it would be a tad problematic. 

Photographers photographing animals shouldn’t have much of an obstacle to overcome with the OM System OM1.

Vehicle AF

Vehicle tracking is, of course, very good with the OM System OM1. Vehicles tend to take up more space in a photo because they’re significant in size. And even when we tested previous cameras with race cars, we didn’t have much of an issue. This is no exception.

The same goes for trains. This camera tracked the NYC subways quite well when I asked it to. There were, of course, situations where I didn’t want it to.

Autofocus Tracking

The C-AF with tracking mode is, in general, pretty annoying. OMDS would do best to combine it with the C-AF mode somehow. The majority of the time, when I was testing it, the camera and lens wouldn’t always be able to nail the subject. This photo of a mourning dove is probably the best I got. 

Focus Peaking and Manual Focus

For years I’ve held onto the Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95 lens. It’s a fantastic lens and, thankfully, focus peaking no longer sucks. To get the most of it, do the following:

  • Page six of the AF menu in Peaking settings, set the color, set it to high, and set image brightness adjustment to on
  • Configure the AF ON back button to switch the camera into focus peaking mode
  • Set the frame right to high
  • You can use it with or without Simulated OVF

This is super exciting to me. For years, focus peaking has been basically garbage across various camera systems. But the OM System OM1 is one of the few to get it right. The other option is Canon with their rangefinder system in-camera.

Metering

I’m going to quickly remind you how we test metering. The Phoblographer tests modern cameras against the age-old Sunny 16 system. This says that one should get ISO 200 1/200th and f16 as your exposure on a clear, cloudless day. Crazy enough, the OM System OM1 said that I was overexposed by nearly a stop. Most camera sensors would say I’m underexposing a bit. But instead, I was giving the sensor up to a stop more light at times. So what does this mean? It means the sensor is more sensitive than we’re giving it credit for at ISO 200. That’s quite odd but sort of expected for modern manual mode with cameras. Still, something has to be going on here that we can’t quite put a finger on.

Image Quality

The image quality from the OM System OM1 is delightful. It’s not like previous cameras where you wouldn’t want to shoot above ISO 1600. They indeed took their sweet time and the last ship to leave the port to get there, but they’re finally there. ISO 6400 is quite good with the OM System OM1. And overall, the colors are stunning. Not since the Olympus EM5 original have I liked the image quality this much. It’s not like the Kodak colors of the early Pen cameras. But it indeed has a stylized look even in the vivid color mode when you set the camera to keep the warm white balance.

JPEG Output

I like the JPEG quality from the OM System OM1 for sure. What’s more, you can add in some of the Art filters. Combined with my beautiful Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95, the grainy black and white mode is a dream. With Olympus cameras I’d usually just use on JPEG, but now you can do even more with the RAWs. Despite this, the JPEGs are still as lovely as they’ve ever been.

RAW File Versatility

Above is the original photo that I shot quickly.

And above that is the edit that we did in OM Workspace. It’s not bad, but it could be better. Still, though, this tells me the colors aren’t what you should expect from a full-frame camera or a Fuji. Despite that, they’re still quite lovely.

Here’s another quick edit I did. I’m going to update this section when the OM System OM1 gets full support in Capture One 22. Lightroom, despite it being the standard, doesn’t work with manufacturers as well.

High ISO Output

The photo above is at ISO 6400. I printed this using our Canon Prograf-1000 and Canson paper at 17×22 using the OM Workspace software. This is by far the cleanest ISO 6400 photo I’ve made with a Micro Four Thirds camera. I’m really relieved it’s this good. For the record, no editing was done to the photo.

Above is a photo shot at ISO 25,600. It’s not too terrible, to be honest! We’re pretty impressed at how much of an improvement the OM System OM1 has. 

OMDS told us that the AI Noise Reduction feature isn’t available in our version of OM Workspace that we’re testing. But it will come on launch. When that happens, it’s supposed to be really impressive. Personally, I have a hunch that they’ve been working with Skylum Luminar and sharing tech.

Extra Image Samples

From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Unedited

Edited

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small size
  • Computational photography modes
  • AI built into the camera
  • Image stabilization
  • Feel in the hand
  • New menu system
  • Lens selection available
  • The price is decent
  • Insane weather sealing
  • Autofocus is in line with other manufacturers
  • Clean high ISO output

Dislikes

  • They could’ve given the menu a touchscreen
  • I think they still need to tweak their C-AF with tracking

Through and through, the OM System OM1 is a fantastic camera. It will perfectly suit the needs of most professional photographers who don’t need super high megapixels. Better yet, it’s also great for passionate photographers who just want to have fun. There are lots of fantastic lenses available for it and lots of creative choices photographers can make. And don’t forget about the world-class build quality it has. Combine all that with the small package, incredible battery life, and more!

Is it a perfect camera? No. But most of what needs to be done with it can be done through firmware updates.

Currently, the OM System OM1 is receiving five out of five stars. We’ll update our review when Capture One support becomes available. If what we want is fixed via firmware, the OM System OM1 will easily win our Editor’s Choice award. Want one? Check out Amazon for the latest prices.






We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Sharkr
Logo
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Compare
0
Shopping cart