Olympus, the OM System brand, has released a new camera, the OM-1. Parametrically, it is a revolution like the E-M1 mark II, which brought unprecedented speed and shooting capabilities.
Today we’re going to take a look at a quick test of the features I’m interested in. So this is not an analysis of the technical specs, but a test from the user environment and real use. Lab tests are boring. I managed to snag the camera a couple of days before the official launch, so I had a chance to get a good feel for it. It should be noted that at the time of testing, no software could process RAW files, so I based my tests only on JPGs generated by the camera.
First, let’s compare the new camera with the previous generation Olympus E-M1 mark III. The biggest visible change is the recessed rollers and the associated greater resistance to the vagaries of the weather. This has created an area on the top where my thumb fits precisely when I shoot from the ground with the display tilted. The second visible change is a smaller fn lever and a dedicated button above the joystick. The body overall is so much sleeker, more aligned, and has lost a lot of the creases that were harder to clean. The last major change in appearance was in the eyepiece. It is now larger and designed with the eye sensor a little differently. Most importantly, it’s attached much more firmly, so it won’t be as easy to lose. Holding the camera in my hand is again pleasant and very addictive.
Inside, two big changes have taken place. The first in the form of a redesigned quick overview. It dropped some information that I personally have never clicked on in my life, giving room to highlight the important ones.
The second major change is the redesigned internal menu. I was a bit unhappy at first, but after some time I got the hang of it. It is now organized in logical groups that group related settings together. Photographers who have used Canon or Sony will be right at home here, it’s very much in the same style.
We probably all know that Olympus has the best stabilisation on the market in its cameras, and rightly so. After all, in my last test, which you can read here, I was able to keep it out of my hand for 40 seconds! Of course without leaning on anything, that would then miss the point and most importantly the right challenge.
The aim was to test the stabilization again so that the resulting photo would still look usable for the longest possible time and of course handheld. So it’s not about maximizing sharpness from corner to corner, but about demonstrating the technology.
To properly test the intergenerational shift, I took the E-M1 mark II and E-M1 mark III and of course the new Olympus OM-1. For the stabilisation test, I used the excellent M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 PRO lens on the bodies, which is itself stabilised and helps a little more with the already stabilised sensor in the body. The settings on the cameras were always uniform – manual mode, 12mm focal length, F4 aperture, ISO 200 and the time was varied by five and then ten seconds. I chose two test locations this time. The first location is in Kralupy nad Vltavou and the second is a roof window of a house with a view of the surrounding houses and fields. There is enough detail in both locations to examine afterwards. The focusing was always to the same point. I took some of the photos later as I wrote the article and other ideas came to mind, but the settings always remained exactly the same.
But first, let’s see what it looks like without using stabilisation. There are some opinions that stabilization is not needed, doesn’t make sense, doesn’t work, etc.
So now we can start testing with stabilization.
E-M1 mark II
I started with an older, but still good camera, the E-M1 mark II, and did a five-second shoot, which turned out as expected with good results. I gradually worked my way up to 15 seconds, which is the last usable option. Twenty seconds is already ugly and unusable.
E-M1 mark III
I started to torment my younger brother at 15 seconds with great results and from the sunroof I finished at 20 seconds and in outdoor conditions I stopped at 30 seconds. I guess it was too cold and windy, but it is still a great result.
If I could hold 30 seconds off hand with the E-M1 mark III, what can I hold with a new, more powerful camera? I started simply at 5 seconds at home and 10 seconds outside and the result is not too surprising – quite sharp.
However, here I discovered another new feature that really helps with longer exposures. By default on all cameras, if you are shooting for a longer fixed time, you are looking at a black screen or black viewfinder the whole time. But on the OM-1, the help comes in the form of a square, with lines running dynamically down the sides that act as a spirit level to show how much you’re tilting the camera sideways.
In the middle of the square there is a smaller square that also moves dynamically and shows how much the person moves the camera in the x and y axis, i.e. from right to left and top to bottom. Basically, this is a kind of mini-game I play with the camera when I’m shooting long exposure handheld. I try to keep the little square in place as much as possible and the side lines level. The result is super sharp photos. On older models, I solved this by opening both eyes, with one seeing the scene I was shooting and the other seeing the black viewfinder. However, the brain can put the two images together and then you can see how the black viewfinder moves in relation to the scene being photographed. But I have to say that on the OM-1 it’s handled better. Anyway, I kept an awesome 30 seconds outdoors and 40 seconds at home.
However, what kind of test would it be if I didn’t try a really extreme one, which nobody will use in practice, but it is a demonstration of technology. So here is a photo with a 60 second handheld time and without any support.
Yeah, the edges are blurred, but the center is still sharp. Try comparing it to a photo with the stabilisation off. I think that even though the paper specs promise the same value as the E-M1 mark III 8EV, there is definitely some minor improvement here. At the very least, the assist helps, so well done!
All photos can be downloaded in full resolution here. The link works every day between 7 am and midnight.
Continuous focusing is one of the things that improves with each new model introduced. With the E-M1 mark II it worked quite well, with the E-M1 mark III it worked even a bit better, but it still wasn’t quite 100%, although the success rate of the photos was high. What happened to me was that the camera focused nicely all the time and on the last few shots the focus completely fell out. But the new OM-1 has brought this type of focusing to near perfection. I tried it at home running around with my little one in the living room and I am very happy with the result, one might even say surprised. I really searched in vain for at least one out of focus image. I used M.Zuiko 20mm F1.4 lens, ISO500, SH2 mode (50FPS without blackout). In a few seconds I got a lot of photos on my card and as you can see in the slow motion GIF, it’s just focused on the eyes all the time, even though the little guy is raising his hands in front of him and wearing glasses. By the way, I recommend having a high capacity and fast card because both slots are UHS-II type and at 120FPS they fill up very quickly 😊.
LiveTime a LiveComp
My favourite and most used features. The new option to have the stabilisation on even in these special modes made my eyes light up like a little boy looking at a cool sports car. From the tests above, it is also apparent that it is now possible to calmly draw with the light for 10 seconds completely without a tripod. Typically it’s a night city with moving cars or a quick effect behind a model that lasts around 5 seconds, so I have a reserve as well.
Testing outdoors took place at a temperature of around 0°C and it was blowing monstrously many times, so the temperature was definitely a bit lower. The cameras honestly didn’t care and worked without a single hitch. It doesn’t seem like it, but not too long ago I was shooting in a place where the wind blew icy for 4 hours straight and it was raining or snowing here and there. In such conditions it is often difficult to concentrate on the photo, let alone struggle with the equipment and find a raincoat or bag to cover the camera. Here I can always count on the technique to be completely unscathed. The new OM-1 is also IP53 certified.
LiveND is another one of the unique Olympus / OM System features that I use occasionally. It works great and I don’t have to carry anything extra. Now the LiveND mode and others work on pressing and holding a certain button and turning the roller to select the desired value/functionality right away. So I don’t have to go into the menu via several clicks to set a value and then take the photo. I hold, rotate and shoot – simple and elegant.
Overall, I like the new camera a lot, both in terms of looks and new and improved features. This test focused on a specific direction that is commonplace for Olympus camera owners. It is with a heavy heart that I hand in the test piece and I am looking forward to getting my own.
You may also check how this camera can handle the sport action here.
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