I go out shooting basketball occasionally and now that the new Olympus (OM System) OM-1 camera is out and promises high performance, it was the right time to try it out. Basketball is a fairly fast sport where a second sometimes means a few meters.
So we went with Niki Št’astná, a leading Czech macro magician and nature photographer. We had several lenses with us, some borrowed for testing. Many thanks to the Czech Olympus representative (OM Digital solution) for the loan:
M.Zuiko 150-400 mm f/4,5 TC1,25x IS PRO
M.Zuiko Digital ED 40‑150mm F2.8 PRO
M.Zuiko Digital ED 100‑400mm F5.0‑6.3 IS
M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm F1.2 PRO
M.Zuiko Digital ED 8‑25mm F4.0 PRO
M.Zuiko Digital ED 20mm F1.4 PRO
M.Zuiko Digital ED 12‑45mm F4 PRO
We shot with the OM-1, E-M1 mark II and mark III and swapped the lenses around. The cards were of course fast UHS-II cards and below you can see how many photos we shot.
The viewfinder was the biggest help in fast action and sequential shooting. The E-M1 mark III has a viewfinder resolution of 2.36M dots and the new OM-1 has a resolution of 5.76M dots. Plus no blackouts. Looking into these two viewfinders is vastly different. In the new viewfinder everything is clearer, sharper and somehow it „flows“ more, fast movements are incredibly smooth. Then we started shooting sequences and noticed no difference at all. That is, except for the rapidly dwindling space on the memory cards. Niki and I swapped bodies in quarters and the transition to the EM1 mark III was always surprising. When shooting sequences, it flashed in the viewfinder, the tracking occasionally shot off or didn’t track the desired location, and somehow it „flowed“ less. Until I tried the viewfinder in the OM-1, I found the one in the E-M1 mark III perfectly fine, but I had to reconsider. The shift here is huge.
Battery and battery life
The baThe batteries in both cameras were charged to 100% and we shot at least 40 minutes of game time and about another 10 to 20 minutes of overtime, free throws and people in between. With the E-M1 mark III we took a total of 1221 photos. Most of them in C-AF + TR mode and at the end of the shoot the camera showed 66% of its remaining capacity. With the new OM-1 we shot a total of 1663 photos, most of them in C-AF+TR mode. The battery had 65% at the end of the shoot. The result shows that the new battery makes sense. Both cameras had to struggle to keep up with focusing where we wanted, saving photos in sequences to cards very quickly, displaying photos or changing settings. And even though the new OM-1 is more powerful, it managed to take more photos. The battery seems to last a lot.
Focus and C-AF with tracking
I don’t know about my wildlife colleagues, but for basketball, the E-M1 mark III has a lot to do in C-AF mode with tracking on. Sometimes it misses focus and sometimes the selected point bounces off to the side. However, the success rate of usable photos is about 80%. The new TruePic X processor in the body of the OM-1 does a really excellent job. The C-AF mode with tracking enabled not only manages to hold a given point without bouncing, but also keeps it in focus at all times and refocuses as the fast-paced situation develops. The result is filled memory cards with sequences that have a nearly 100% success rate of capturing sharp photos! I went through the photos in sequences several times and had to work hard to find any that were out of focus.
When I was shooting with the new OM-1 before it was possible to process RAWs in any program, I generally used lower ISO values than with the E-M1 mark III. Now that the programs are updated, I could compare the photos directly against each other. My feeling was not wrong and there is really no need to be afraid to use a higher ISO value, at least by one stop. I purposely tried a higher value than needed on a couple of photos. I have created a folder where you can download sample photos plus photos from the sequences shown. All in RAW format. You can download the whole thing here everyday from 7:00 till midnight CET. Please note that I am not a professional basketball photographer.
M.Zuiko 150-400 mm f/4,5 TC1,25x IS PRO
The glass is just great, such a range, small size and a nice weight that doesn’t bother when held for long periods of time and a constant F4.5 aperture.I have to admit though that it’s a bit overkill for basketball photography as I would need more room to manoeuvre. I did take a few photos with it, mostly it was details, full figures usually didn’t fit and if they did, their backs were to me. And as I’m not used to such long glass, it happened a lot that I suddenly got lost and had to look around to see where the balloon had actually gone and then aim again. That’s not the fault of the glass of course 😊 Niki managed a great sequence which you can see below.
One might say that the HighRes handheld shot is used for landscapes, architecture, etc., because you need to keep the subject from moving too much. And then there’s Niki, who made such a creative shot for basketball in no time.
I have to say, I’m really looking forward to my own body arriving so I can try more photography options. Once again this camera pushes the boundaries of creativity a little further.
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