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OM System OM-1 Review

The OM-1 is the latest top of the range Micro Four Thirds camera to be introduced and it's also the first to feature the new OM System branding. John Riley has been putting it to the test at this year's Whitby Goth festival to find out how it performs.


|  OM-1 in Mirrorless Cameras
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Olympus OM 1 Body Flat Front View | 0.4 sec | f/16.0 | 48.0 mm | ISO 100
 

Quick Verdict

Beautifully made, the Olympus OM-1, the last OM System camera to bear that name, is compact, efficient and performs admirably; a suitably impressive way to say farewell to the Olympus name and to greet OM System. This is no retro design though, it is a significant step upwards in terms of technological achievement and performance and makes the MFT format able to seriously challenge the results from much larger formats. 20MP can deliver excellent results and the small format does mean that the system as a whole is compact, especially valuable when using lenses that in other formats would be much larger and heavier. This could well seriously tempt the travel, landscape, street, wildlife and sports photographers and all those who prefer to travel light, without significant compromise on quality.

+ Pros

  • Excellent handling
  • Excellent image quality
  • Fast and responsive controls
  • IP53 sealing against dust and direct water spray
  • Low noise levels
  • Excellent video facilities and performance
  • Up to 8 stops IS with suitable lenses
  • Vastly improved menu system

- Cons

  • Only 20MP may be a factor for some
 

 

The first camera body from OM System is also the last one to bear the Olympus name. The ethos of the designers carries on with what is a significant performance step upwards in terms of noise levels in particular but also in general. Particular attention has been given to the menu systems, something that not all users were totally happy with on previous models.

Supplies of the camera and lenses have been slow, so this review was undertaken using two previously reviewed lenses, the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO and the Olympus 300mm f/4 IS PRO. These offer a "35mm equivalent" field of view of around 80-300mm and 600mm respectively.

So let's pack up the kit, head for a week around the Farnborough Head region, including the gannets and puffins at Bempton Cliffs, even spend some time with the Goth weekend at Whitby, and see how the new camera body handles and performs out in the field as well as in the studio.

 

OM System OM-1 Features

Olympus OM 1 Oblique View | 0.3 sec | f/16.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
 

Straight out of the box, the first impression is that the OM-1 is tiny. It weighs in at a modest 599g with one card (there are two SD card slots) and the battery, but more than that the dimensions result in a positively trim piece of kit. It also looks very well made, and all controls are of high quality.

There are plenty of switches on offer, covering ISO, exposure compensation, AF settings, drive settings, as well as the usual control wheels and joystick. The screen, a very crisp 3-inch monitor with 1.68M dots, makes it very easy to read and navigate the new menu system. The OLED EVF has 5.76M dots and offers a superb view of the world that is detailed, sharp and yet also easy on the eye; quite a challenge to even pentaprism optical viewfinders. The new menu system is, without doubt, a vast improvement, being much more logical than previous Olympus menus.

 

Olympus OM 1 Sample Menu Screen Stills | 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100
 

The AF low light capability is also impressive, operating down to -5.5EV, surely more than enough to capture those black cats in coal cellars. Metering range does not extend quite so low but is still a realistic -2EV. The mechanical shutter is rated for 400,000 releases and the electronic shutter will of course go on as long as the sensor has life in it. The IS system is claimed to offer 7 stops of stabilisation, or 8 stops in conjunction with compatible lenses, such as the two new IP53 sealed OM System optics: M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO II, priced at £899 and the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4 PRO, priced at £799. Pending their availability, the camera itself offers that 7 stops and it is a rock-solid claim, comfortably meeting the claims made.

Some special functions of the camera are dependent on compatibility of the lenses, and the focus stacking feature, for example, needs one of the following optics:

  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm F2.8 PRO
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO II
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-45mm F4 PRO
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm F4.0 PRO
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 30mm F3.5 Macro
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm F2.8 Macro
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 1.4x Teleconverter MC-14
  • M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 2x Teleconverter MC-20

 

There are extensive video capabilities and codecs, including H.264 (8 bit) and H.265 (10 bit) and 4K 60p and FHD 240p. Video quality is smooth and the IS makes for a very stable platform even without a tripod.

The IP53 sealing offers the user the confidence to actually have a positive definition of what “weather sealing” can and cannot do. To achieve the rating one of the two new IP53 rated lenses need to be used. The result is that the camera is not waterproof, but is resistant to dust ingress and resistant to water ingress from direct spray of up to 60 degrees from the vertical. This would seem to cover a rainy day, although how much water is too much water can never be absolutely guaranteed. In practice, most of us settle on a level that we are comfortable with but at least with the OM-1 there is some benchmark that can be applied.

 

Key Features

  • IS (Image Stabilisation) up to 8 stops
  • 20.4MP Stacked BSI Live MOS sensor
  • Mechanical shutter 60s – 1/8000s
  • Electronic shutter 60s – 1/32000s
  • AF range -5.5EV to +19EV
  • Ai AF: Formula cars, rally cars, motorcycles / Aircraft, helicopters / Bullet trains, standard trains, steam locomotives / Birds / Dogs, cats
  • High-speed sequential shooting up to 120fps without blackout
  • Metering range -2EV to +20EV
  • In-camera focus stacking (3 to 999 shots)
  • In-camera HDR (3, 5 or 7 exposures)
  • OLED EVF 5.76M dots
  • 3” Vari-angle touch-sensitive monitor 1.62M dots, swivel type
  • Video M-PEG 4, AVC, H.264
  • Video HEVC, H.265
  • High reliability
  • ND64 inbuilt
  • ISO 80-102,400
  • Shutter rated for 400,000 exposures
  • Tripod Hi-Res Shot JPEG 25M/50M/80M
  • Tripod High Res Shot RAW 80M
  • Handheld High Res Shot JPEG 25m/50M; RAW 50M
  • Operation -10C to +40C
  • Flash synch 1/250s
  • Wireless LAN built-in (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
  • Bluetooth built-in (Ver 4.2 Low Energy)
  • Moisture and dust resistance to IP53 standard
  • 599g with battery and 1 card
  • Battery BLX-1 Li-ion
  • 2 SD card slots
  • Battery life Std mode: 520 shots, Quick Sleep mode: 1100 shots
  • Battery life movie: 90 minutes
  • Art filters: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line, Water Colour, Vintage, Partial Colour (18 colour selectable), Bleach Bypass, Instant Film
  • High Res Shot: 25MP, 50MP or 80MP
  • Price £2000 body only

 

OM System OM-1 Handling

Olympus OM 1 Body Cross Oblique View | 0.3 sec | f/18.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100
 

 The compact size of the OM-1 does help when travelling and when using longer lenses, where any saving in weight could be an advantage. Whilst it is small it is not so tiny as to be fiddly, nor is there much tendency to accidentally change some settings. This reviewer tends to carry a camera in the right hand and with some models, this can result in the thumb nudging a control, usually one that selects the focus point. The OM-1 is largely free from such things, but until the grip was honed there were a few pictures of the floor from accidentally nudging the shutter release. More important is the placement of the on/off switch and I would have preferred this to be on a collar around the shutter release rather than a separate switch on the top plate. However, it's not a deal-breaker.

The AF system is superb – really fast, virtually silent and not easily fazed. With both the 40-150mm and the 300mm focus is secured very accurately. Wildlife shots are amazingly on the ball shot after shot. IS is also, as mentioned above, rock-solid, be it in stills or in video shooting. Of course, this helps prevent camera movement but does nothing for subject movement and high shutter speeds may still be needed for some subjects such as wildlife and sports.

Olympus OM 1 Body Screen Opened | 1/8 sec | f/16.0 | 28.0 mm | ISO 100
 

If high shutter speeds are needed then it is important to be able to turn up the ISO setting, especially with slower lenses such as the 300mm f/4. The range goes up to ISO 102400, although the highest quality runs out from ISO 6400 and higher.

Controls operate smoothly and are firm enough not to be pressed in error. Care needs to be taken when changing lenses as the sensor becomes exposed, so this is not something to undertake in disty or wet environments. The monitor swivels out and can be viewed from the front if desired. The battery compartment door is also placed in such a way that access is still possible when using a tripod.

In summary, a very satisfactory camera in use, with excellent attention to ergonomics both in button layout and in menu design.  

 


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