The Olympus OM-1 is the camera that Olympus loyalists have been waiting for – and in two very distinct, opposite ways.
At one end of the spectrum, the Olympus OM-1 is the firm’s latest flagship camera, replacing both the Olympus OM-D E-M1X (2019) and Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III (2020). At the other, it is also the last camera that will ever bear the Olympus brand name; after purchasing the imaging division from Olympus, all future cameras released by OM Digital Solutions will carry the ‘OM System’ brand instead.
• Read more: Best Olympus cameras (OM System)
Thus, it marks the end of an era in one sense, and the beginning of an era in another. So, does the OM-1 have what it takes to rank among the best Micro Four Thirds cameras on the market today?
It is packed with computational photography features that are a cut above anything from any other camera manufacturer, and offers them in an ultra-compact body (and, more importantly, lens lineup) that would make such technology prohibitively huge even if it were offered by rivals with larger sensors.
Still, the sensor may remain a point of contention for those concerned with sheer resolution. Let’s see how it all adds up…
Olympus OM-1: Specifications
Sensor: 20.4MP Micro Four Thirds stacked BSI Live MOS
Image processor: TruePic X
AF points: 1,053 cross-type phase / contrast detect
ISO range: 200 to 102,400
Image stabilization: 5-axis IBIS, 7 stops (body only) or 8 stops (w/ Sync IS lenses)
Max image size: 5,184 x 3,888 (standard 20.4MP), 8,160 x 6,120 (50MP Handheld High Res Shot), 10,368 x 7,776 (80MP Tripod High Res Shot)
Metering modes: Multi-pattern, center-weighted, spot
Max video resolution: 4K 60p (H.264, H.265), 1080p 240p (H.264)
Viewfinder: 5.76m dot OLED, 120fps, 0.005 sec delay
Memory cards: 2 x SD/SDHC/SDXC, UHS-II
LCD: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1.62m dots
Max burst: 120fps (no AF/AE), 50fps (full AF/AE)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C, headphone jack, microphone jack, remote connector
Size: 139 x 38.5 x 80mm
Weight: 511g body only (599g with 1x battery and 1x memory card)
Olympus OM-1: Key features
The Olympus OM-1 packs absolutely ferocious firepower into an incredibly compact body. At its heart is a brand new stacked, backside illuminated 20.4MP image sensor, with super-fast readout speeds capable of up to 120fps blackout-free burst shooting in S-AF, and up to 50fps bursts in C-AF.
Answering the critics of the Micro Four Thirds standard, OM Digital promises that it delivers “35mm equivalent sensor performance” with an increased sensitivity of up to ISO102,400, boasting 2 stops of increased noise performance and 1 stop of increased dynamic range over the previous flagship camera. This low light performance extends to the AF system, which can focus down to -8EV.
The OM-1 packs the world’s first image sensor with Cross Quad Pixel Autofocus, featuring 1,053 cross-type phase / contrast-detect focus points. Powered by a new image engine, the TruePic X processor, this delivers AI Detection deep learning AF that promises three times faster and more accurate subject detection and recognition of motor and aerial vehicles, birds, felines and canines – even when interrupted by visual obstacles.
As always, the sensor is housed inside an industry best in-body image stabilization system, which is 10% lighter but delivers improved compensation of up to 8 stops (using Sync IS lenses, with 7 stops of compensation as standard).
The stacked sensor combined with triple the processing power means that a host of exciting computational photography features are now possible. The High Res Shot mode returns, offering 80MP images when mounted on a tripod and 50MP handheld, but the increased horsepower means that handheld shots are now output in just 5 seconds (rather than the previous 12) – and each pixel has full color info.
The brilliant Live ND filters, which deliver a software-powered alternative to the best neutral density filters, now go up to ND64 (the equivalent of 6EV) from ND32 (5EV). The signature Live Composite feature – an incredible tool for light painting, as demonstrated in this video – is now available handheld.
Another stock feature, in-camera focus stacking, is faster than ever, stacking 15 shots in just 5 seconds. All these features mean that photography is now possible with minimal kit, not even a tripod, no matter the location.
Video gets some huge upgrades courtesy of the power increase, too. Footage can now be captured in 4K up to 60p at 10-bit H.265 internally, and up to 12-bit ProRes Raw externally. For 1080p FullHD, super slow-motion can be recorded up to 240p. And an HLG video picture mode is offered for HDR capture.
Olympus OM-1: Build and handling
Being a flagship Olympus body, and carrying on the heritage of the OM-D E-M1 series, the OM-1 features a substantial grip – this time housing a brand new battery, the high-capacity BLX-1, which the manufacturer claims offers up to 520 shots with the mechanical shutter or 5,000 shots electronically. As you would expect, this also necessitates a new charger and a new battery grip (the HLD-10).
The layout is almost identical to previous E-M1 bodies, with the main difference being the hybrid top plate – which features a mode dial reminiscent of the E-M1 Mark III, and a front exposure control dial more akin to that on the E-M1X. In addition, there is a brand-new AF-ON button on the rear of the camera, and the video record button now doubles as a dedicated command for the High Res Shot mode in stills.
Par for the course is that the OM-1, as a professional-grade camera, is weather sealed. However, this is the only interchangeable lens camera in the world that is rated IP53 (from IPX1 on the Mark III). At present, this rating is only achieved with similarly IP53-rated lenses: the new OM System M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro II and OM System M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4 Pro.
Both the rear LCD screen and electronic viewfinder (EVF) have been upgraded. The LCD is a fully articulating touchscreen, with 270° rotation, and 1.62 million dots (up from 1.04 million on previous E-M1 cameras). The EVF resolution has more than doubled, now boasting 5.76 million dots (up from 2.36 million) running at 120fps, for just 0.005 seconds of lag. The finder also boasts anti-fog and low light modes to enhance the shooting experience in challenging conditions.
Here’s something that will be music to the ears of anyone (which is probably everyone) who who finds Olympus’ menus unnecessarily complex: the OM-1 features a redesigned menu system that’s reminiscent of Canon’s EOS menu structure. Rather than the labyrinthine vertical layout previously found in Olympus cameras, the horizontal tab design makes it much easier to find what you’re looking for.
Even better, whenever an option is greyed out because it isn’t available in your current shooting mode, the menu actually tells you why it’s greyed out. This is absolute manna from heaven for anyone who gets stuck wondering why they can’t activate a certain feature – now the camera will explain what needs to be changed! However, menus remain traditionally non touch-operable.
Olympus OM-1: Performance
While we have yet to put the Olympus OM-1 through its paces in our lab tests, our time with the camera thus far has been an absolute joy. The shooting experience is familiar to anyone who has used an Olympus body, but also feels instinctive to anyone who has never picked up a manual camera before.
This is in large part due to the revamped menu structure, but is also helped by some clever new functions. The AF Assist, for example, helps you understand and compensate for camera shake – which is especially helpful when shooting with longer lenses, or working in lower light, when stability is important.
This is achieved via an on-screen box, with a small dot indicating the center of focus (similar to that seen in iPhones and certain Panasonic cameras) – if you wobble and the dot drifts out of the box, your shot will be blurry. It’s a fantastic piece of visual grammar that helps you understand how the camera and its IBIS system works, in order to get genuinely sharper shots every time.
If you’ve used the handheld High Res Shot mode on the E-M1 Mark III or E-M1X, you’ll know that the tech is great when it works – but it doesn’t always work. And at 12 or so seconds between shots, it’s not ideal for anything more than leisurely shooting. Thankfully, the stacked sensor and new processor mean that the mode is radically improved on the OM-1; not only is the computation faster, but the stabilization works so well that we didn’t have a single failed shot. Shooting 50MP handheld shots is now a genuine option.
The autofocus system feels much stickier and more honest. We’ve yet to try it out on more challenging subjects like animals, but so far it has proven pretty infallible with human faces and eyes as well as automobiles – even when shooting at ridiculous burst speeds.
While the 120fps top speed requires you to lock focus, the AI Detection AF is blisteringly quick and keeps up with the 50fps bursts even with fast-moving subjects (both human and vehicular). We’re looking forward to seeing how the AF system holds up while shooting video, as the newfound 4:4:4 ProRes Raw output could make this a viable alternative to Panasonic’s GH series.
Olympus OM-1: Early verdict
Don’t let the “OM-1” name fool you into thinking this is a camera from yesteryear – the Olympus OM-1 packs the technology of tomorrow. The world’s only IP53 weather-sealed camera, the world’s first Cross Quad Pixel AF camera, it is also packed with bleeding-edge computational photography tech, image stabilization that blows everything else out of the water, and ISO performance that promises parity with full frame sensors.
However, the caveat is that this is only a 20.4MP sensor – albeit a stacked one, which can deliver 120fps shooting, 80MP pixel-shift stills and 4K 60p ProRes Raw video. You won’t find this much firepower in another camera, even one twice the size.
Olympus OM-1: Sample images
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