The Olympus OM-1 is back: the iconic camera has been reincarnated as a fast mirrorless flagship.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Olympus’ legendary SLR, and the OM-1 designation makes an unexpected comeback on the company’s first mirrorless camera, developed in partnership with Olympus Digital Solutions.

Although it has the OM-1 moniker, the new Micro Four Thirds camera is really a follow-up to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, which will be released in early 2020. Consequently, the new OM-1 lacks the retro styling of its trailblazing predecessor, but it does bring plenty of new features to the table of his own devising.

The OM System OM-1, which is equipped with a new 20MP stacked BSI Live MOS sensor and TruePic X engine, boosts the performance of Micro Four Thirds cameras by a factor of two or three. It is primarily geared at the landscape, wildlife, and macro photographers.

OM-1’s sensor is “stacked,” which is a chip design that ensures fast read-out speeds. As a result, the OM-1 can shoot in blackout-free bursts of 50 frames per second with continuous autofocus (using the camera’s electronic shutter), and it can also record 4K/60p video with 10-bit 4:2:2 color depth internally.

The autofocus performance of the previous E-M1 series cameras, which had been a slight Achilles heel, has also been significantly improved. The OM-1 boasts 1,053 phase-detection autofocus points, and the company claims Quad Pixel AF with software tracking for a variety of objects ranging from birds to motorcycles in its marketing materials. Trains and aircraft may also be tracked with AF tracking systems.

So, what more surprises do the new Olympus OM-1, or rather the new OM System, have in store for us? Continue reading to find out all you need to know about this fascinating mirrorless camera, as well as our initial opinions on its future potential.

Olympus OM-1: Release Date and Pricing

OM-System OM-1 body only will be available for purchase beginning in early March for $2,199 / £1,999 / AU$3,299 (US dollars).

That is a significant increase over the price of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, which began at $1,799.99 / £1,599.99 / AU$3,099 when it was first announced, but the OM-1 also incorporates features from the Olympus OM-D E-M1X (which sold at $2,999 / £2,799 / AU$3,499).

You will also be able to purchase the OM System OM-1 with an M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO II kit lens, which will be available for purchase soon. This bundle will cost $2,799 / £2,499 and will be available in early March in the United States and Europe (Australian availability has not yet been announced, although it is expected to be approximately AU$4,750).

Overall, this cost is in line with what we anticipated for the OM System OM-1, albeit it does place it in a potentially difficult position when compared to its closest competitors. For example, the Fujifilm X-T4 is presently available for $1,699 / £1,399 / AU$1,999 as a body-only, which represents excellent value despite the camera’s outdated technology.

Full-frame cameras such as the Canon EOS R6 ($2,499 / £2,499 / AU$3,999) aren’t much more expensive than the OM-1, yet they provide a higher resolution. Of course, sensor size isn’t everything, and the OM-1’s performance needs to back up its boasts if floating voters aren’t going to choose one of its competitors (assuming they haven’t already).

Design

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III and the OM System OM-1 are virtually similar in terms of physical design, with the exception of an updated electronic viewfinder (EVF) and back screen.

The E-built-in M1X’s battery grip is absent from the EM1X, resulting in a tiny, lightweight camera that weighs just 599g (without a lens). In terms of depth, it’s a few millimeters thicker than the E-M1 Mark III at 72.7mm, but only by a few millimeters.

In comparison to its spiritual ancestor, the most notable control alterations are the dials, which are now located on the front and rear of the camera, rather than on the top plate. For professionals, this is a more typical configuration that will be comfortable to work with. A new AF-On button has also been added to the rear of the camera.

The OM-1’s OLED EVF is a significant upgrade over the E-M1 Mark III, with a resolution of 5.76 million dots (or 1600×1200 pixels), a 1.65x magnification, and a refresh rate of 120 frames per second. On paper, this puts its viewfinder on a level with cameras such as the Canon EOS R5, and it puts it ahead of competitors such as the Fujifilm X-T4 and Canon EOS R6 in terms of resolution.

It’s no secret that Olympus cameras are recognized for their robustness, and this is also one of the OM-1’s distinguishing characteristics. In addition, it claims to be the world’s first and only IP53-rated camera, which means it’s very resistant to water splashes, dust, and freezing temperatures. The company says that the camera is entirely freezeproof, which is ideal if you want to shoot a timelapse in Antarctica.

While the OM-1 does not accept current CFexpress cards, it does have two slots for UHS-II cards, which is a welcome addition. In addition, OM Digital has developed a new battery for the camera, the BLX-1, which is a huge 2,280mAh unit that can shoot up to 520 photographs on a single charge and is compatible with the camera. According to theory, you should be able to get far more out of your time in the field, though we’ll have to put that to the test first.

OM SYSTEM OM-1 Autofocus and Features

OM-System OM-1’s performance improvements are due in part to the combination of its 20MP stacked BSI Live MOS sensor and TruePix X processor, which work in tandem. Together, they provide it with shooting power that, in most cases, outperforms the larger and more expensive E-M1X from 2019.

So, what exactly is it capable of? When using the electronic shutter, Olympus says that the OM-1’s burst shooting can achieve an amazing 50 frames per second with continuous tracking autofocus. When utilizing the mechanical shutter, the frame rate is still limited to 18 frames per second, however, it is possible to get 120 frames per second with single autofocus (when using the system’s pro zoom lenses).

However, when it comes to sports and wildlife performance, continuous shooting speeds only tell you a portion of the story.

For example, the OM-1’s buffer has a maximum capacity of 96 raw files (when shooting at 50 frames per second) and 92 raw files (when shooting at 120 frames per second). After two seconds of burst shooting, or less than a second at maximum speed, you’ll notice a considerable slowdown in performance. In other words, you’ll have to be quite selective about when you press the shutter button.

The focusing system is another important consideration. With the Quad Bayer configuration of its sensor, the OM-1 is expected to outperform recent Olympus cameras like the E-M1X in this category. This implies that each photosite is divided into four sections, resulting in a total of 1,053 cross-type autofocus points over the whole frame of the OM-1 (a big upgrade from the E-M1X and E-M1 Mark III).

OM Digital claims that its upgraded AI autofocus algorithms, which are capable of tracking birds, dogs, cats, vehicles, trains, and other moving objects, resulting in a system that should prove to be a highly strong autofocus system. Additionally, according to the manufacturer, the OM-1’s new stacked sensor provides improved low-light focusing (down to -8EV), an additional stop of dynamic range, and even a two-stop increase in the noise performance.

The OM-1 also builds on two Olympus traditions: excellent in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and computational wizardry, which were previously available only on the OM-1. A similar amount of stabilization to that seen in the E-M1X and E-M1 Mark III is promised for the camera body as well (or eight stops when combined with the right lens). Because the full-frame Canon EOS R5 has maximum stabilization that matches the OM-1’s, this no longer outperforms the competition, but it does aid in the support of some of the OM-1’s sophisticated in-camera shooting techniques.

Some of them are well-known favorites that have been given a new lease of life. For example, the Live ND function, which is a virtual neutral density filter that allows you to generate long exposures without having to use real neutral density filters, now has a maximum density of ND64 (around six stops). The Live Composite function, which is frequently used for light painting, may now be accessed from a portable device.

When it comes to in-camera focus stacking, smartphone-style processing is also on board, with the capability of stacking 15 photos in about five seconds for macro-style photographs. Additionally, the processing speeds for the High-Res Shot mode have been decreased, with 50MP handheld photos reportedly being pieced together in less than five seconds. If you use a tripod, you may capture photographs with up to 80MP resolution; however, you must be extremely cautious of any movement in the scene.

OM SYSTEM OM-1 Video

While the OM System OM-1 offers certain video enhancements over prior Olympus cameras, it is unlikely to be a video powerhouse capable of competing with the Panasonic GH6 in terms of image quality. However, rather than being a full-time videographer, this camera is intended for photographers who also want to shoot some video on the side.

The lack of a 4K/120p slow-motion mode is the most notable omission, but the OM-1 is capable of shooting uncropped 4K/60p video with 10-bit 4:2:2 color depth and autofocus. Additionally, slow-motion film at 240p in 1080p quality (with a tiny crop) may be captured, which may be beneficial for certain b-roll material or cut sequences in the future. Because of the layered sensor, the rolling shutter should be significantly decreased, according to OM Digital’s promises.

A 12-bit ProRes raw video option is available if you’re willing to utilize an external monitor such as the Atomos Ninja, and OM Digital has also incorporated an HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) recording option with its normal OM-Log400 and Flat recording choices for color grading.

Other minor annoyances, such as a Micro HDMI connector and a 29-minute recording time restriction, may also be a source of frustration for filmmakers, but the OM-1 appears to be more adept than its spiritual forebears when it comes to filming video.

OM SYSTEM OM-1 Lenses

In addition to the new OM-1 camera, OM System has introduced a pair of new lenses to go along with it. OM-1’s weather-proofing and performance were not enough, according to the firm, and it needed to develop a new M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO II lens that could match those characteristics. In early March, that lens will be available for purchase at a cost of $999 / £899.

There’s also an intriguing new M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4 Pro lens, which isn’t much smaller than the previous 12-40mm but is far more powerful. This lens, which will be used in conjunction with the OM System 12-45mm and 8-25mm lenses, completes what appears to be a useful mini pro lens family for road trips. That lens will be available for $899 / £799 starting in early March, as will the others.

Worthy Of The OM-1 Name?

Despite the fact that the new OM-1 is named after the legendary film camera from the 1970s, it is a direct successor to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III in all other respects. Furthermore, it outperforms that camera in almost every aspect of its operation.

Of course, given the fact that the E-M1 Mark III was released two years ago, this is to be anticipated. Will the OM-1, however, be able to differentiate itself in the fiercely competitive camera market of 2022? After all, its major competitors have all jumped onto the life raft of full-frame cameras in order to escape the threat posed by smartphone technology.

A special sort of photographer, presumably one who likes extended treks into the great outdoors to capture landscapes, animals, and the occasional YouTube video, will find the OM-1 to be competitive on paper with other DSLRs. Speed, weather sealing, and useful in-camera processing tricks are all incorporated into a system that is relatively light in weight.

This means that it unquestionably embodies the spirit of the original OM-1, a small camera that was instrumental in bringing film photography to a wider audience. Nonetheless, it is unfortunate that the camera lacks some features such as a card slot and 4K/120p video recording. The Fujifilm X-T4, Canon EOS R6, and (soon) Panasonic GH6 will all be competing against it for the attention of individuals who aren’t already Olympus or Micro Four Thirds enthusiasts.

We’re looking forward to getting our hands on it and putting its new stacked sensor and burst shooting capabilities through their paces very soon, though.

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