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OM System OM-1 Review

OM System OM-1 review
Review

Price when reviewed

£1999.99

$2199.99
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Our Verdict

OM System has delivered the camera that many Olympus users have been hoping for, a camera that offers everything the Olympus OM-D E-M1X has (and more) in the more compact, single-gripped form of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III. Look beyond the resolution and you’ll see a new sensor paired with a processing engine that’s 3x faster than its predecessor, plus enhanced autofocusing, AI-enabled subject detection and full-resolution continuous shooting at up to 120fps or 50fps with continuous focusing. There’s also a refreshed menu, faster high-resolution shooting and an even more robust body. It adds up to make a great camera for wildlife, travel and general photography.

OM System has arrived with a bang.

For

  • High weatherproofing
  • High-speed shooting capability
  • Excellent subject detection modes

Against

  • Four Thirds sensor is smaller than APS-C and full-frame
  • Some may wish for higher resolution
  • Menus not touch-sensitive

What is the OM System OM-1?

Putting it simply, OM System is the camera company formally know as Olympus and the OM-1 is the company’s new flagship camera. Confusingly, while it’s officially called the OM System OM-1, the camera also has the Olympus name on it, but we’re reliably informed that it will be last camera to do so. So whether you call it the OM System OM-1 or the Olympus OM-1, the OM-1 is the successor to the Micro Four Thirds Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III and it has features such as a new sensor, improved AF, enhanced sequential shooting and a better viewfinder that take it above the Olympus OM-D E-M1X in the manufacturer’s line-up.

OM System OM-1 price & release date

The OM System OM-1 price tag is £1,999.99 / $2,199.99 for the body only and it went on sale in March 2022.

You can order the OM System OM-1 from Adorama in the US and Wex Photo Video in the UK.

Specification

  • Camera type: Mirrorless
  • Announced: 15th February 2022
  • Sensor: 20.4Mp Four Thirds Type (17.3 x 13.0mm) CMOS
  • Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Sensitivity range: ISO 80-102,400
  • In body stabilisation: 5-axis giving up to 7EV shutter speed compensation, 8EV when combined with lens IS
  • Processing engine: TruePic X
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid with 1053 cross-type phase detection points and 1053 contrast detection points
  • Max continuous shooting rate: Mechanical shutter: 10fps
  • Pro Capture High Mode: 120fps (with Pro lenses) or 50fps AF tracking
  • Max video resolution: 4K (4096 x 2160) at 30, 25, 24p(approx. 102Mbps), 60, 50p (approx. 202Mbps), 4K (3840 x 2160) 30p, 25p, 24p (approx. 77Mbps), 60, 50p (approx. 152Mbps) all in LongGOP, Full HD (1920 x 1080) 30, 25, 24p / ALL-I(approx. 82Mbps), LongGOP(approx. 22Mbps) 60, 50p ALL-I(approx. 162Mbps, LongGOP(approx. 42Mbps)
  • Video format: MOV (MPEG-4AVC/H.264)
  • Viewfinder: 5.76M-dot OLED
  • Screen: 3-inch 1,.62M-dot vari-angle touchscreen
  • Storage: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II)
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 134.8 x 91.6 x 72.7mm
  • Weight: 511g (body only), 599g including battery, 1 memory card but excluding the eye cup
OM System OM-1 review

Features

The OM System OM-1 is a Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera, which means that it has a Four Thirds type sensor that measures 17.4 x 13mm. Like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, the OM-1’s sensor has 20.4 million effective pixels but the sensor design is new as it has a stacked backside illuminated structure. This is a significant step up in sensor design and thanks to its fast readout speed, paired with the new TruePic X processing engine, it drives many of the updates brought with the OM-1 including a 1EV improvement in dynamic range and 2EV better noise control.

According to OM System, the TruePic X image processor is 3x faster than the previous processing engine. Together with the new sensor it enables a maximum continuous shooting rate of 120 fps (frames per second) in Sequential Shooting SH1 or Pro Capture SH1 mode in which the focus and exposure are fixed at the start of the sequence. In Sequential Shooting SH1 mode, this rate can be maintained for up to 92 raw or Large Fine Jpeg files. There’s also the Sequential Shooting SH2 and Pro Capture SH2 modes which enable rates of up to 50fps with continuous autofocus (C-AF) for up to 96 raw files or 97 Large Fine Jpegs. That’s a blistering pace that should prove popular with anyone looking to capture fleeting moments.

However, it’s only possible to get the 50fps shooting with full metering and autofocus operation with the company’s Pro lenses, specifically the following:

M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO Ⅱ
M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO
M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC 1.25x IS PRO
M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO

The Sequential Shooting SH1 and SH2 modes, and the Pro Capture modes use the electronic shutter and according to OM Systems, the fast readout speed of the new sensor means that the rolling shutter effect isn’t a problem. If you want to stick with the mechanical shutter, the maximum continuous shooting rate is 10fps.

OM System OM-1 review

Autofocus system

OM Systems has used a quad-division photo diode configuration for the OM-1’s sensor and this enables the world’s first Cross Quad Pixel AF system. It means the OM-1 has phase detection focusing across every pixel and with 1,053 all cross-type AF points. In further good news, these points cover the whole frame, that’s up to 100% from 70% with the OM-D E-M1 III and E-M1X. In addition, the low-light sensitivity of the autofocus system has been extended by 2EV to -8EV (at F/1.8), making it more dependable in low light.

Thanks to the new TruePic X processing engine, the OM-1 can make high-speed calculations for faster focusing than we have seen before with Olympus cameras. Also, building on the subject detection that was introduced with the Olympus OM-D E-M1X, the OM System OM-1 has AI Detection AF developed using deep learning technology. This enables the camera to detect and focus on formula cars, motorcycles, airplanes, helicopters, trains, birds and animals (dogs and cats). OM System also says that the detection, tracking and responsiveness of the Face Priority/Eye Priority AF have been improved significantly.

OM System OM-1 review

High Res Shot

High Res Shot mode has been around in Olympus cameras for a while to enable photographers to shoot higher resolution images than you’d normally expect with the camera. It works by taking a sequence of 16 images with the sensor shifting by a tiny amount between each shot. The images are then composited in-camera to create one larger image with more detail.

As before, the OM-1 has two versions of the High Res Shot mode, Tripod and Handheld. In Tripod High Res Shot mode it’s capable of creating a 80Mp (10400 x 7792 pixel) image while in handheld mode it creates a 50Mp (8200 x 6132 pixel) image. The news for the OM-1 is that the in-camera processing time has been reduced from around 15 seconds (which feels a long time when you’re shooting) to just 5 seconds.

 

OM System OM-1 review

Video

Olympus received some criticism for not offering enough high-end video features in its flagship cameras. OM System has sought to rectify this with the OM-1, it can capture 4K 10-bit video at up to 60p and Full HD video at up to 240p and supports H.264 8-bit, H.265 10-bit and Multi Frame Rate recording of clips over 30 minutes in duration.

There’s also raw video output at up to 12 bit 4:4:4 to external devices (Atomos Ninja V and Atomos Ninja V+). In addition, the OM System OM-1 offers OM-Log recording for greater dynamic range and colour grading capability, plus a new HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) video picture mode has been added for easier HDR video creation.

Other features

Naturally, the OM System OM-1 benefits from a range of features and technologies developed by Olympus. Live Composite mode, for example, is perfect for capturing images of traffic trails, fireworks and light painting as it enables a sequence of images to be captured with the ambient exposure being set by the first image and from then on only the new brighter areas are recorded.

This feature is also compatible with the image stabilisation system, which is regarded as one of the best available, to enable handheld long exposure photography.

Olympus introduced Live ND with the OM-D E-M1X to enable slow shutter speeds and long exposures without having to use a physical filter on the lens. The OM System OM-1 has Live ND equivalent to using ND2 to ND64 (6 stops). It’s especially useful with wide-angle lenses like the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO that require a special filter holder.

Live ND mode works in stills mode but not for video.

When LV Simulation is activated in the OM-1’s menu, you can see the impact of the filter and the consequent the slow shutter speed in the viewfinder or on the screen on the back of the camera.

Thanks to the new processing engine, the OM System OM-1 takes less time to composite images in Focus Stacking mode. This enables faster creation of images with great depth of field than would normally be possible.

OM System has introduced the new BLX-1 lithium ion rechargeable battery for the OM-1. This has a life of 520 in standard testing conditions but it’s like to last longer in real-world shooting situations.

OM System OM-1 review

Build and handling

While the OM System OM-1 trumps the Olympus OM-D E-M1X in terms of specifications, it has a single-gripped design like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III and its predecessors. That will be good news for many Olympus fans who like the smaller form of the OM-D E-M1 Mark III and are happy to use an optional grip if they want extra battery life or a vertical grip.

As soon as you pick up the OM System OM-1 it’s apparent that the Olympus or OM System engineers haven’t just put new technology inside an existing body. The OM-1 looks and feels similar to the OM-D E-M1 Mark III, but it’s not the same. It’s a bit more angular and the grip is pronounced with a deep groove to accommodate your middle finger when your index finger is on the shutter release.

There’s also been a change to the dials. Instead of having a dial around the shutter release, the OM-1’s front dial is recessed into the body at the top of the grip. Similarly, the rear dial protrudes from the back of the camera rather than sitting on the top-plate. It’s an arrangement that has been adopted by several other brands.

While the front dial is easy to reach, I found myself fumbling a few times to locate the rear dial when the camera was held to my eye. It’s because you have to reach over the thumb rest and ISO button. I found it easier to reach when the camera is below head-height and I was composing images on the rear screen. Thankfully, this was only an issue for a short time as once my muscle memory was built-up, I instinctively found the rear dial.

Recognising the usefulness of High Res Shot mode, OM Systems has given it a dedicated button in stills mode. In video mode, this button is the record button, but in stills mode you can use it with one of the control dials to turn on and select the High Res Shot mode. Nothing obvious happens when you press the button, but if you simultaneously rotate the front or rear dial, the High Res Shot modes (Off, Tripod or Handheld) appear and you can select the one you want using the dial.

The control arrangement on the back of the OM-1 is almost identical to that of the OM-D E-M1 Mark III but there’s an extra button above the mini joystick which has enabled the Auto Exposure Lock (AEL) and AF-On controls to be separated.

OM System OM-1 review

Menu

OM Systems has taken the introduction of the OM-1 as an opportunity to revise its menu structure, pulling together more of the connected features. For example, the High Res Shot, Live ND Shooting, Focus Stacking, HDR and Multiple Exposure options are all on the same page of the menu under ‘Computational Modes’. This is something that has been needed for a while as it seemed like some new features just got tagged on somewhere convenient rather than somewhere logical to the user. Overall, the menu looks cleaner and more modern.

It’s also nice to see that with a press of a button, you can find out why a menu option is greyed out.

It’s not just the main menu that has been refreshed, the Super Control Panel which appears when the ‘OK’ button is pressed has also been revised. Other manufacturers call this the Quick Menu or Function Menu and it gives a fast route to some of the key features.

As well a looking more modern, the new Super Control Panel is able to show a few more features and it looks a bit clearer than the old panel.

Unlike the main menu, the options in the OM-1’s Super Control Panel can be selected and changed using the screen’s touch-control.

OM System OM-1 review

Viewfinder and screen

OM Systems has uprated the OM-1’s viewfinder to a 5.76 million dot OLED device, making it the highest resolution viewfinder on a Micro Four Thirds camera and there’s plenty of detail visible. It’s also blackout-free, has a refresh rate of up to 120fps, magnification of up to 1.65x and a display delay of just 0.005 seconds. It all adds up to give a very natural view of the scene when you’re using it in many situations, however, in very bright light I find that the brightest parts of the scene tend to look overexposed when in fact they are fine in the image. This calls the dynamic range of the viewfinder into question. The solution is to use the histogram display so you can keep an eye on the highlights and be sure that they aren’t burned out nor dramatically underexposed.

Along with the change to the main menu and Super Control Panel layouts, OM Systems has upgraded the OM-1’s screen to a 1.62-million dot device. It’s a 3-inch screen and like on the OM-D E-M1 III and OM-D E-M1X and it’s mounted on a vari-angle hinge. This vari-angle hinge means the screen can be angled for clear visibility whether you’re shooting in landscape or portrait orientation.

Like the screens on existing Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras, the OM-1’s screen is touch sensitive. It responds quickly to a tap and it’s a shame that OM System’s hasn’t extended the touch control to the new main menu.

In overcast conditions and indoors, the OM-1’s screen gives an excellent view it also performs well in brighter conditions. my toughest test for this was when skiing on a bright sunny day trying to video my companions ahead of me. Keeping them framed as we all moved over the piste was challenging, but thankfully, I was able to see them on the screen.

Weather-sealing

In the past, Olympus has taken weatherproofing seriously and it seems that this set to continue with OM Systems as it wishes to be seen as an outdoor and adventure brand. With this in mind, the OM-1 has a magnesium alloy body with seals around the joints, controls and ports to give it a splash-proof and dust-proof rating of IP53. That means it should survive being exposed to a jet of water.

The OM-1 is also freeze-proof down to -10°C and this combined with its weather-proofing gave me (and OM Systems) the confidence to take it on a skiing trip.

OM System OM-1 review

Performance

In the default settings, the OM-1 produces attractively natural results. I tend to use the Natural Picture mode for most situations, but it’s good to have other options including the full gamut of Art Filters.

The auto white balance setting also works well in many situations, delivering images that are a close match for the scene in bright sunshine, overcast and misty conditions. Generally, it does a good job of capturing the atmosphere of the scene without making everything too neutral but it’s good to see a ‘Keep warm Colours’ setting alongside the standard just in case.

The 324-area multi pattern metering in Digital ESP metering mode also proved reliable during my shooting, but the issue with the over-bright highlights in the EVF can be distracting and fool you into underexposing when it’s unnecessary. After some experimentation, I’ve found that the metering system generally gets it right on its own accord, but it’s reassuring to have the histogram view so you can be sure that the highlights aren’t being lost.

Olympus’s image stabilisation system has a strong reputation and it delivers in the OM System OM1. With the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-45mm Pro mounted and used at the 12mm (24mm equivalent in 35mm terms), I was able to get sharp images with 1 second or longer exposures when hand-holding the camera. The stabilisation also works well in video mode but the footage I shot when I was skiing is only really watchable when I was on the smoother parts of the piste. Slowing 60P footage to half-speed helps iron out some of the bumps.

OM Systems OM-1 autofocus performance

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 III and E-M1X both have good autofocus systems that have proved reliable for sport and wildlife photography, but the OM System OM-1’s is a little snappier. Even in very low-light, low-contrast areas, it’s able to focus on the subject quickly without any drama and the subject detection system is very good, but it sometimes needs a little help from the photographer.

When I was photographing skiers swooping down the mountain towards me, I had varied success if I left the camera to set the AF point. I thought that an almost clear background would give the camera a good chance of spotting the subject, but perhaps their helmets with goggles on top, and sunglasses over their eyes, confused it. However, on other occasions, the OM-1 coped brilliantly.

It’s a similar story with wildlife. Sometimes the camera is able to detect the subject without any help but it’s much more reliable if you tell it where to look by narrowing down the focus area a bit. I found using a small to medium-sized AF area or the cross-shaped area worked well for a wide range of subjects. It worked well when photographing birds in flight for example, when they were flying past me and I panned with them and when they were flying towards me.

When photographing a heron through a narrow gap in some foliage, however, I had to use a small spot. As soon as the focus was in the right zone, the camera threw a box around its body and a smaller square around its eye. Once the subject recognitions has kicked in, it does a good job of staying with the subject but it isn’t entirely foolproof and it may jump to a foreground object if it comes between the camera and the subject. Nevertheless, it massively increased my wildlife hit-rate.

The AF system works well in both the standard sequential shooting mode and in Pro Capture SH2 mode when shooting at 50fps.

OM System OM-1 with Lexar cards_DSC5116_1

There are a few customisable options available in the Pro Capture modes, including the ability to set the number of frames captured in one sequence to between 2 and 99. With a Lexar Professional 2000x SDXC UHS-II Gold Series memory card (maximum read/write speed 300/260MB/s) installed, I was able to capture 50 frames consistently in one go when the number of frames was set to the default of 50. When the number of frames is uncapped, I found I was able to shoot just over 100 raw files, usually 102-105, in a single blast at 50fps in SH2 mode and 120fps in SH1 mode. At 50fps it takes just 2 seconds to fill the buffer and a little under half that at 120fps.

Lexar Professional 2000x SDXC UHS-II Gold series

OM System OM-1 image quality

According to OM System, the OM-1 has 2EV better noise control than its predecessors. Shooting on an overcast day in February in the shadow of tall buildings meant I had to push the sensitivity setting of the OM-1 up quite a bit and I’m impressed by how clean the mid-to-high ISO images look, however, I also have a few ISO 200 images with a hint of luminance noise visible in raw files at 100%.

I wouldn’t recommend using the highest available setting (ISO 102,400) on a frequent basis as there’s significant loss of detail and colour saturation, but the results are far from the worst I’ve seen at that setting. Drop down one stop to ISO 51,200 and things improve remarkably. Complex patterns and very fine details are still challenging in gloomy conditions, but overall the results are pretty decent.

In slightly brighter conditions when the ISO still needs to be pushed up to enable a fast shutter speed, a setting of ISO 25,600 produces acceptable results. The raw files have visible luminance noise but it’s within acceptable boundaries while the Jpegs look clean and retain an impressive amount of detail. Nevertheless, I’d aim to make ISO 6400 my maximum setting where possible, but I wouldn’t get too worked up if I had to push to ISO 12,800 or 25,600 to get the shot I wanted.

The raw files from the OM-1 aren’t currently compatible with DxO PureRaw 2, but it will be interesting to see how much of the noise can be removed from its high-ISO files once they can be processed with the software.

There are a few manufacturers that now offer a version of High Res Shot mode (also known as Pixel Shift Technology) but it seems most appropriate in a camera with a comparatively modest resolution like the OM-1. Its Handheld version High Res Shot mode of works very well and the decrease in processing time makes using it much more appealing. Using it in a busy city street, I was able to get the building in sharp register while the moving people were attractively blurred – it’s a technique I’ll definitely be using in the future.

OM System OM-1 video performance

The OM System OM-1 is capable of producing good-quality rather than spectacular 4K 60p 10-bit video. There’s a good level of detail visible and in decent light, the colours look very good in the Natural Picture mode.

As OM System promises, rolling shutter isn’t a major issue and the trees I shot from my skis are upright rather than leaning. I’ll embed a video as soon as it finishes uploading and rendering.

The OM System OM-1 is available to pre-order from Adorama in the US and Wex Photo Video in the UK.

OM System OM-1 sample images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the OM System OM-1.

OM System OM-1 image gallery

OM System OM-1 sample video

This video was shot on the OM System OM-1 in 4K at 60P in 10-bit. It shows sections at full-speed and at half-speed, plus there are clips in the Natural Picture mode and in OM-Log400 – both ungraded and graded.

OM System OM-1 review

Verdict

While the Olympus OM-D E-M1X found favour with some pro wildlife photographers, it caused some confusion and disappointment amongst the legions of enthusiast photographers who like the more compact form of models like the E-M Mark III and E-M5 Mark III. These photographers will be delighted to see the OM System OM-1 leapfrog the E-M1X, maintaining its single-gripped body while gaining an improved AF system with subject detection, continuous shooting at up 120 or 50fps depending upon the AF requirements and improved weatherproofing. It seems to encompass everything that many people like about Olympus OM-D cameras.

Full-frame cameras have shrunk in size over recent year so the OM System OM-1 doesn’t seem especially small by modern standards, but the 2x focal length magnification factor brought by the Four Thirds type sensor means the overall system for the average photographer is smaller and lighter. It’s especially attractive to wildlife photographers who want to use fast, long lenses.

The last couple of years have been rocky for everyone, but the change of ownership and creation of a new brand means that it has been particularly challenging for the Olympus / OM System team. Thankfully, OM System has judged the market well and OM-1 appears to be exactly the camera that’s needed. The subject detection works very well and is a major bonus for bird and wildlife photographers.

The OM System OM-1 is available to pre-order from Adorama in the US and Wex Photo Video in the UK.

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Anita Oakley
Anita Oakley
7 months ago

I’m not happy about the fact that both Kirk and RRS have no plans right now to make an L-bracket for the OM-1!

Paul
7 months ago

There are a few manufacturers that now offer a version of High Res Shot mode (also known as Pixel Shift Technology)”. Hi res shot modes are not necessarily implemented using pixel shift – as evidenced by the Olympus/OMDS Hand Held mode which uses a stacking technique from non-pixel shift images.

Denis RT
7 months ago

It seems like a great hybrid camera. They are in the right direction for sure. I may consider buy one for wildlife cause i already have 2 more m43 cameras and a couple of lenses. Or a second hand em1 mark 3 🙂