First impressions of OM-1 from a FF shooter
When I started photography 30 years ago, I had an Olympus camera. Of several reasons I switched to Nikon ten years ago. It started with a D7000, then I switched to FF with D750, and the last 2-3 years I have used D850 as well. I have been very satisfied with Nikon, but the last year I have played with the thoughts to switch back to Olympus, or OM, which is the name these days.
So my thoughts have matured and now I have a OM-1 and full line of optics….
I write this article after just two days with the OM-1, so you can look at this as an initial personal review and real life test.
Is FF the definition of Pro?
OM-1 is the new flagship and the first camera from OM- digital solutions. This is a micro 4/3-format camera. If you go to a forum for photographers, it’s a lot of theoretical discussion about FF vs micro 4/3- system. Many people say micro 4/3 format is not a professional camera. There are a lot of opinions about the size of the sensor, depth of field and performance in low light and so on.
Some of the saying is of course, facts. The sensor is smaller (20M) and the depth of field is different, and in really low light the larger sensor have an advantage. But how good is the pictures if you go to that extreme hight iso anyway? And have I ever had problems with big prints with the 20M sensor of the D7000, D7500 or D750? The answer is no.
So, what is a “professional camera”? Does it need to be a full frame and have an extreme resolution? As a D850 user, I can´t find the extreme resolution as an one an only argument for the OM-1 to be a non-pro camera. The pro-camera, is in my opinion, the camera who makes the job done and makes you get the pictures you want. It is the camera you have with you and manage to have in the right position when the action or situations is present. And of course, it’s the camera who gives you pictures of high quality. I believe you should choose the right tool for your purposes and your style of photography. I am not sure if this is a high resolution FF -system in all situations.
Why go to micro 4/3- system?
Before I explain my reasons to switch to micro 4/3 format and tell you what’s my type of photography. I mostly do landscapes and wildlife photography. For me photography is a about catching the beauty of nature. Often, I walk for long hikes in the mountains in extreme weather conditions, and other times I spend hours laying in a swamp, waiting for an animal or bird and the right moment.
For some time now, my thoughts have been; is my gear what I need for my type of photography? I have talked to professional micro 4/3 users and looked at a lot of pictures from FF -and micro 4/3- systems. So, my conclusion was, why not give it a serious try?
Advantages vs disadvantages
What are the disadvantages of FF system and advantages of micro 4/3 format, from my perspective?
When I walk in the forest or mountains for wildlife photography the weight is reducing my creativity and fun with photography. I also miss some opportunities because I am not in position at the right moment.
Micro 4/3 – format is a far more lightweight system than Nikon FF. If I bring my D850 with a tele-like 150-600mm Sigma sport, I have a total weight close to 4 kg, just for one lens! With the new OM-1 camera with a Olympus Zuiko 300mm, PRO (600mm FF eq ), I have a system of 1,7 kg. Full frame cameras and tele lenses are super heavy!
The OM-1 and the full Olympus Zuiko PRO lineup, with 7-14mm, 12-40mm, 40-150mm, 300mm and 60mm macro is all together just about the same weight as only the D850 with a battery grip and the 150-600mm. For the next trip I maybe care to bring all optics out in the field!
OM-1 is the first system who have industry standard weather sealing. Its dust and moisture proof with IP 53. That’s a very important advantage for outdoor photography in Norway.
For some time, I have wanted to switch to a mirrorless system. And I think, ff budget had no limitations, I guess I probably buy a Z9 and a Nikon 400mm, 2.8 or equal. But with the prices for Z9 and a full lineup with pro-optics, is total out of reach. You almost get OM-1 and the full series of Olympus Zuiko PRO optics for the same price as for buying the Z9 house….
Olympus Zuiko have an impressive line-up of affordable(?) PRO series lenses and this is also well known among users of other systems. The Zuiko line-up is light weight, well built, and have optics of very high quality. If you include IP 53 weather sealing and a class-leading stabilization system, the Zuiko line up is a very attractive option witch do not stand back compered to other brands.
Olympus and OM-1 has a class-leading stabilization system, and this makes it possible to shot handheld in almost every situation. I hate to use tripod, and I hate carrying tripods on long hikes. So this is a big advantage for my type of photography. With OM, I can shoot handheld with a 600mm eq at 1,4 meter at 1/50 sec at a static subjekt with no problems and have a tack sharp image, I think thats quite impressive.
Processor power is developing fast, and all new camera-systems have introduced AI to make high performance auto focus and well performing tracking. Olympus have always been in front introducing new advanced features in their cameras. OM-1 claim they want to follow the same line for the future.
As for OM-1, I was very interested in the “time-machine” (Pro capture), which make it possible to buffer pictures before things happen and you press the shutter. With this function its a lot easier to capture the moments you almost always miss with other systems. Like take-off or landing of birds or waiting for a wet animal to shake his head. In my initial testing, this is an extremely nice function who makes impossible pictures possible.
The last features who attracted me to the OM-1, was the built in 6 stops ND-filter and live composition. I seldom use filter, because I always forget them at home, so I look forward to test this more intensively.
High resolution shots
I also want to highlight the high-res option(this is for static subjekts only). But its nice to have the possible to shot 50 MP pictures handheld at low stops when I need it, for instance for landscape.
Nice advantages, but what about the real life use and picture quality?
OK, that was some of the advantages of a micro 4/3 system. But to be honest; lightweight system, weather sealing and high-quality optics is waste of money if the picture quality is low.
Impressions so far?
My comments are made after some days of real-life usage, and it’s too early to make final conclusions. I have to say I have no interest in marketing the OM-1, but think its nice to share some thoughts and impressions going from FF- to a micro 4/3- system.
This is my first days with OM-1, and coming from a Nikon system, it take some time to get used to the different setup. But I am surprised how is it was to feel familier with the OM-1.
Menus and setup
The rumors of OM-1´s complicated menus was wrong. Its easy to navigate and set up the camera. But I admit I will need some time to learn all the functions this camera has to offer. Probably it has a lot of options I never will use.
EVF: The EVF is bright and clear and don´t stand behind the rivals.
The AF tracking is ,as fare I can tell by now, superb! With the bird detection turned on, it catches up flying birds fast and reliable and it stick to the bird as long as I manage to keep it in the finder. Of course, I need more practice to get out the full potential, but this works impressive and surprisingly well all the way from the first pictures!
I tried the AF-C + tracking a lot, and when the object passed terrible messy background (or behind bushes), and still, it feels fast reliable and sticky!
The speed of the OM-1 is extreme, and I need to learn using the different options in the right manner, so I don’t get home with fare more pictures than I had expected…. With 50 pictures a second you got it all, but it take time to work trough back home…
I have used the OM-1 in varying light conditions with need for higher iso. As you can see, I have mostly taken pictures of birds so far. I find the picture quality very high, details and sharpness are excellent, and the rendering and colors are nice.
In bad light my impression that it is ok to use high iso, as far you get the right exposure. It seems that at hight iso its harder to recover shadows with high quality than for FF sensors. And I guess when I learn the OM-1 better, I will find more solutions and workarounds for high iso. When you learn to master your camera, you also find how to optimize the pictures.
After these initial test, I am very pleased with the OM-1. Its play full and easy to have in position for getting just the pictures I want. So far it overcome my expectations.
Some worlds after the initial tests
I am not used to the camera jet, so I guess I will be faster and better with the controls after some more practice. Until now I find OM-1 as a rugged, fast, precise and joy full camera with hight quality pictures. I look forward to learning OM-1 better and see how it help me develop my passion for photography. I guess I will use both FF and OM-1 in the future, but as I feel right now, I pretty sure that OM-1 is the one who will be used in most situation. Its portable and easy to use in all situations, brings in a lot of options who raise the creativity, and my hit rate in difficult situations seems to raise already.