OM System OM-1 review
The OM System OM-1 is the first high-end Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera from OM Digital Solutions, the company that bought the Olympus camera business. It’s a rugged, image-stabilized 20MP camera capable of high-speed shooting and offering a range of computational photography modes.
- 20MP quad-pixel AF Stacked CMOS sensor
- Environmental sealing rated to IP53
- 1053 X-type AF points
- Blackout-free shooting at up to 50 fps with AF and AE, 120 fps with AF and AE locked
- Image stabilization rated to 7EV of correction (8EV with compatible lenses)
- 4K (UHD or DCI) at up to 60p, in a choice of 8 or 10 bit
- 1080 capture at up to 240 fps
- Twin UHS-II card slots
- Recognition-based subject tracking
The OM-1 represents a new naming scheme for OM System cameras and is released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original OM film SLR. The OM-1 continues to carry the ‘Olympus’ name across its viewfinder in recognition of this legacy, but we’re told it’s likely to be the last model that will.
The OM-1 has a retail price of $2199, body only. Alongside the camera, OMDS launched the OM System 12-40mm F2.8 PRO II, an updated version of the system’s fast standard zoom with improved coatings and weather sealing uprated to match the camera. The body and the new lens are available as a kit for $2799, a $400 discount compared to the buying them separately. A battery grip (HLD-10) is available for $349.
The OM-1 is built around a completely new 20MP Stacked CMOS image sensor. Stacked sensors are the next generation of technology beyond BSI designs, combining layers of semiconductor to allow more complex designs and faster readout.
The sensor has 20 million microlenses and a Bayer array with 20 million color patches, but there are four photodiodes behind each of these, which are combined to form each pixel. These sub-pixels can be read-out individually, giving the camera four fractionally different perspectives on the world. These are compared to derive depth information about the scene, giving phase difference autofocus in an X-shaped pattern.
With 80 million individual photodiodes to read out, it’s perhaps not surprising that Stacked CMOS design only delivers a readout speed twice as fast as that of its predecessor. We’ve measured the rate at around 1/125th seconds, which is twice as long as the fastest full-frame stacked CMOS chips take, despite the smaller size.
It’s still quick enough to improve the performance of the various multi-shot modes the OM-1 offers. For instance, Hand-held High Resolution mode, which shoots eight images with slight offsets to give 50MP images can now be shot with less risk of subject movement between shots, and can be combined much quicker, thanks to the OM-1’s more powerful processor.
We clocked a handheld hi-res on the OM-1 at 7 seconds from shooting to the end of processing, vs 16 seconds on the E-M1 III.
Computational multi-shot modes
- High Resolution mode (Tripod) – Shoots eight images with 1/2 pixel offsets to boost resolution to 80MP. Processed in camera, and can include Raw
- Hand-held High Resolution mode – Shoots twelve shots using image stabilization. Gives up to 50MP resolution. Processed in camera, and can include Raw
- Live ND – Blends multiple short exposures to simulate one long one exposure, now with an ND64 (6 stop filter) option
- HDR – Shoots four shots with different exposures to capture a wider dynamic range, then tone-maps them down to a conventional SDR image
- Live composite – Combines shot-to-shot changes between multiple long exposures to build up composites images that include details such as light trails. For the first time, the OM-1 lets you use image stabilization in live composite mode.
- Focus Stacking – takes a series of photos focused at different distances and combines them into an image where everything is in focus. The OM-1 promises twice the processing speed.
Subject Detection AF modes
The OM-1 expands on the E-M1 X’s range of subjects that the AF system has been trained to recognize. OMDS has used machine learning processes to teach the OM-1’s AF system to recognize Trains, Cars, Planes, Helicopters, Birds and Animals.
|Allows use of Face/Eye detection||Cars||Airplanes||Trains||Birds||Cats|
The enhanced depth information from the quad pixel AF system is used to help ensure this ‘Subject Detection AF’ doesn’t mis-focus on a nearby object that overlaps with the recognizes subject.
OMDS also says it’s reworked its face and eye-detection algorithms to be much more responsive, which is good to see from the continuation of the first camera series to include an Eye AF feature. It’s worth noting that Face/Eye detection is a completely separate function from Subject Detection AF and is locked out if you engage subject detection.
Away from these subject-aware modes, OMDS says it’s reworked its C-AF system so that it’s better at judging subject distance for moving subjects.
The basic C-AF + Tracking system, that follows non-recognized subjects around the scene, hasn’t been updated so we’re not expecting much improvement in that regard, but C-AF + Tracking can be combined with Subject Detection AF as a way of selecting which detected subject you want to focus on.
High Speed Shooting
The camera’s faster sensor and processor allow it to shoot blackout-free at up to 50 frames per second with full autofocus and autoexposure, including the option to capture Raw files. If you can live with locking AF and AE at the first exposure, the OM-1 will shoot at up to 120 frame per second. Both modes are based on the electronic shutter, which with a ~1/125th readout speed shouldn’t exhibit too much rolling shutter.
The 50fps-with-AF shooting is only possible with six of the ‘Pro’ series zooms, with the rate dropping to 25 fps with most Pro series primes, and older or less expensive lenses (14 fps with the early 14-42mm and 17mm F2.8 lenses).
Impressively, these rates extend to ProCapture mode, which starts recording images when you half-press the shutter button, then retains up to 70 of those images from the moment before you fully press the shutter button. You can fine-tune the amount of shots taken before and after the shutter press. By default the camera will limit the total number of shots to 50 but you can increase this to 99 or disengage the limit completely if you wish.
In terms of video, the OM-1 gains the ability to shoot 4K, either in UHD or DCI ratio, at up to 60p. It can shoot for up to 90 minutes on a single battery, before the battery is exhausted and for over 2 hours when using an external power source without overheating concerns, OMDS says.
In addition to the 8-bit H.264 modes, the OM-1 can also shoot 10-bit footage in the H.265 format. Moving to 10-bit switches the camera across to either OM-Log mode (for if you plan to color grade your footage in ‘post), or Hybrid Log Gamma mode (if you plan to view your footage directly on an HDR display). This makes sense, as these are the two circumstances in which you’ll gain most from shooting 10-bit footage.
The OM-1 can also output Raw video to an Atomos Ninja V or Ninja V+, for capture as ProRes RAW, if you prefer. OMDS tells us this will be 4K footage without sub-sampling but it’s difficult to deliver Raw footage at anything other than native resolution (around 5.2K in this instance), so we may have to wait to see just what this looks like.
Body & controls
The OM-1 has a body with a rather more substantial grip than the previous-generation E-M1 cameras, but its control layout is otherwise pretty similar.
The OM-1 is a smaller camera than some photos make it look, and each of the individual control points is pretty small. Personally I found they were all big enough to operate but some people with larger fingers may find that the balance between the size and the number of controls on such a small body doesn’t work for them.
Fn Lever and Customization
The camera maintains established Olympus-era features such as the two-position ‘Fn Lever.’ This can be used to switch the function of the camera’s command dials, or as an On/Off switch or to jump between two distinct AF modes (ie: C-AF with a large AF region and S-AF with a small AF box).
However, the system has not been updated to include the camera’s newer AF modes, so this switch can’t be used to engage or disengage the Subject Tracking modes or Eye/Face AF, nor the custom focus limiter settings. Given the incompatibility between Subject Tracking modes and Eye/Face AF, it’d be really useful to be able to use the Fn Lever to jump between, say: automotive tracking mode and Face/Eye detect, but there’s no simple way to do this.
These setting, and the camera’s computational photography modes can be assigned to the camera’s eleven function buttons however, and if you assign Subject Detection AF to a button, then holding the button and turning a dial lets you pick your subject type, without visiting the menus.
OMDS picks up from where Olympus left off and has designed and tested the OM-1 to Internationally recognized ingress protection (IP) standards. Along with Leica, it’s the only company to make specific claims about the effectiveness of the sealing of any of its ILCs.
The OM-1 achieves a rating of IP53, where the ‘5’ represents a very high level of dust resistance (6 would be completely dust-proof), and the ‘3’ indicates that the camera can withstand at least three minutes of water being sprayed at a 60 degree angle. This isn’t quite as protected as the Leica SL-2 but sets it apart from most manufacturers, whose claims tend to be entirely non-specific.
This doesn’t mean the OM-1 is waterproof, but a camera that can provably pass standard water ingress tests is easier to depend on than one that’s ‘weather-sealed to the standard of the previous model, but not as much as our flagship cameras.’
OMDS has detailed which of its lenses offer the same standard of sealing as the body. It’s essentially all of the ‘PRO’ series lenses, with the exception of the original 12-40mm F2.8 PRO from 2013. To a great extent these are also the lenses that fully support AF at 50 fps.
|Lens||IP53 rated?||50fps AF?|
|8mm F1.8 PRO||Yes||No|
|7-14mm F2.8 PRO||Yes||No|
|8-25mm F4 PRO||Yes||No|
|12-40mm F2.8 PRO||No||Yes|
|12-40mm F2.8 PRO II||Yes||Yes|
|12-100mm F4 PRO||Yes||Yes|
|40-150mm F2.8 PRO||Yes||Yes|
|40-150mm F4 PRO||Yes||No|
|300mm F4 IS PRO||Yes||Yes|
|150-400mm F4.5 TC IS PRO||Yes||Yes|
The OM-1 gains a much higher resolution viewfinder than was used in E-M1 models. Instead of a rather dated 2.36M dot LCD the OM-1 gets a 5.76M dot OLED viewfinder. And, despite Olympus saying it had stuck with LCD technology for reasons of speed, OMDS says the new 1600 x 1200 pixel display can refresh at 120hz with a delay of just 5ms.
5.76M dot OLED viewfinder, 120 fps refresh and a refresh delay of 5ms, matching the specs of the older cameras. The optics give the finder an equivalent magnification factor of up to 0.83x (depending on the view layout you choose), which is big by any standards.
There’s a fully-articulated 1.62M dot touchscreen on the back of the camera, and OMDS has updated the menus and user interface to take advantage of the screen’s higher resolution.
New menu system
OM Digital Solutions has completely re-worked the menu system of the OM-1, which we have to assume will underpin future generations of OM System cameras. And, while it’s good to see color-coding make a reappearance in the menu system, the layout seems needlessly awkward to navigate.
The menus are arranged in a series of horizontal tabs and you need to scroll through each tab to find out what the next tab is going to contain. As such it requires you to memorize the menu structure rather more than the older system, where you could see several sub-menu titles within the Setup tab, before you dived deeper in. You can, at least, use the front and rear dial to scroll between tabs and pages, respectively, but you can’t tap the screen to navigate to a different tab, for instance.
My immediate thought is that perhaps OMDS looked to Canon’s menus for inspiration, in the way Olympus appeared to have looked quite closely at Nikon’s, before them. But in practice the OM-1 is so feature-rich that it reminded me more of the system Sony has just mercifully abandoned.
To OMDS’s credit, the options within the menus have been re-arranged into well thought-out groups such that, when you remember that it’s Camera Tab 2, Page 1 you’re looking for, all the computational photography modes are grouped in a single page.
Super Control Panel
The Super Control Panel is still present, which remains one of most efficient ways of seeing and changing camera settings: tap the function you want to change, spin the dial and you’re done.
Sadly, like Fn Switch, it’s not been updated to reflect the camera’s newer capabilities. So there’s no way of accessing or selecting the camera’s Subject Detection modes, for instance. And, if you’ve switched on Subject Detection in the menus, the Face/Eye detection option in the SCP simply doesn’t work when you try to click on it. The camera’s computational modes, which help set it apart, are also not accessible from the Super Control Panel, which feels like a significant missed opportunity.
The OM-1 is powered by a new BLX-1 battery. It’s a 17Wh unit that powers the camera to a battery life rating of 520 shots per charge using the rear screen, no number is given for the viewfinder. As always, these numbers are likely to be a lot lower than the number of shots you’re likely to get, but they tend to be useful for comparison between cameras.
No external charger comes with the camera but it can be charged or operated over its USB-C socket. If you use a USB-PD power source that’s powerful enough, the camera can be powered and charged while being used. An external, two-battery charger is available ($149 or $219 with a battery included).
When OMDS announced that it was about to launch a new OM System camera, the Internet’s most waggish wits assembled to ask why anyone would want a new Micro Four Thirds camera. Having dug into the camera a bit, I get the distinct impression that OMDS asked itself exactly the same question, and the OM-1 is its answer.
The limits of smaller sensor systems get widely discussed, because it’s easy to point to the shallower depth-of-field and superior low-light performance* of the full-frame cameras that have become more affordable in recent years, but the benefits can be unfairly overlooked.
|The computational multi-shot modes can significantly boost the camera’s dynamic range, as well as factors such as resolution, but they generally only work in circumstances where both you and your subject can remain still.|
The OM-1 body isn’t appreciably smaller than most enthusiast full-frame cameras but it’s a sensibly light camera, which you’ll immediately notice as you pick it up. OMDS describes the body as magnesium alloy but it feels like the outer surface is plastic, perhaps contributing to its impressive weather sealing. A rating of IP53 doesn’t mean the OM-1 is waterproof but it means you’ve got a lot more to rely on than a manufacturer’s promise that it’s ‘environmentally sealed’ to an unspecified degree.
The result is a camera that will comfortably accompany you pretty much wherever you choose to take it. At which point the other great benefit of a smaller sensor comes into play: that you only need a lens with half the focal length full-frame requires to achieve a particular level of reach.
|Multi-shot modes boost image quality by combining images, which reduces noise. The OM-1’s speed makes these modes increasingly practical to use. Handheld 6 Stop Live ND Capture.
Photo: Jordan Drake
And while it’s demonstrably true that the Olympus 300mm F4 IS Pro only provides the same light per whole-image as an F8 lens would on full frame**, it’s equally true that it’ll give you a 600mm equivalent field of view and only require you to carry a 1.25kg lens. Try the same with full-frame and you’re likely to need a larger, heavier lens, whose benefits you diminish the closer to F8 you stop it down.
But OMDS takes this further. A smaller sensor is lighter, which means it has less inertia when it moves: allowing the OM-1 to promise 7EV of in-body stabilization. And, while the new sensor doesn’t match the readout speeds of the $4000+ full-frame stacked CMOS cameras, it’s fast enough to allow multiple images to be combined with minimal time for the scene to change between shots.
Combining multiple shots is a great way of enhancing image quality and dynamic range. So, as long as your subject stays still enough to be captured by hand-held high res or Live ND mode, you’ll start to see image quality stepping back up to match a larger camera. But without having had to lug that larger camera with you.
The OM-1 can shoot between 50 and 120 single exposures per second, which none of its rivals can get close to.
And even if you’re a purist, who prefers to think of photography in terms of single exposures, the OM-1 can shoot between 50 and 120 single exposures per second, which none of its rivals can get close to. And it can start buffering shots from the moment before you fully press the shutter, which is a hugely valuable feature if you’re patiently waiting for a moment of action your subject won’t go back and repeat for you.
It’s too early for us to pass judgement on the performance of the quad pixel AF system, or assess whether it justifies the trade-off that seems to have been made in readout speed. But if it lives up to promises, the prospect of a small, light, rugged and adaptable go-anywhere, do-anything camera seems like a pretty decent riposte to those preemptively-written obituaries for smaller sensor systems.
* You only get the low-light benefit if your shot also allows that shallower depth of field.
** Using the same shutter speed.
Our test scene is designed to simulate a variety of textures, colors and detail types you’ll encounter in the real world. It also has two illumination modes to see the effect of different lighting conditions.
There’s not a big difference in detail levels between the OM-1 and the E-M1 III at low ISOs, though the OM-1’s JPEG engine appears to render fine detail a little better.
Atthe newer camera appears to preserve detail rather better, and gives a rather larger-grained appearance to the noise in . Look at the Raw and there’s no appreciably difference in noise between the , which is in-line with what we’ve seen in previous BSI and Stacked CMOS sensors. It’s worth noting, though, that the OM-1 keeps up with the older camera’s , which is impressive, as this is where we’d expect its more complex design (with four photodiodes per output pixel) to start to count against it.
It’s not a, even in . However, there is the option to run the Raw files through the OM Workspace software, which uses AI-trained noise reduction to preserve detail while reducing noise.
Look at the, though, and you’ll see two-stop improvement in noise, if viewed at a common output size. High-res mode is only available up to ISO 1600.
|In suitably static scenes, the OM-1’s hand-held high-resolution mode can deliver a resolution and tonal-quality boost by combining multiple frames.
M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 Pro II @ 18mm | 1/1250 | F5.0 | ISO 200
In terms of dynamic range, it’s a similar story. If you brighten an ISO 200 image to the same level as an ISO 1600 shot, there’s no appreciable difference in noise. This shows that there’s very little electronic (read) noise being added by either sensor. Traditionally, high ISOs has lower read noise levels because amplification lifted the captured signal (and whatever read noise arrives upstream of the amplified) above the level of any other read noise. Here there’s very little difference.
This gives Raw shooters the option of finding an exposure in low light, then lowering the ISO setting while maintaining the other settings, then brightening the result back up. This preserves highlights (such as a sunset backdrop or bright neon signs) that would otherwise be amplified to the point of clipping.
Our Exposure Latitude test shows that there’s a similar amount of noise if you dig into the deepest shadows, as there would be on other recent Micro Four Thirds sensors. This is consistent with the performance of the majority of modern sensors, taking size into account.
In both instances, if your scene is static enough to allow the use of high resolution mode, you gain the DR benefit of combining multiple images, and performance rises accordingly.
A performance that’s essentially the same as preceding models, with any improvement being in terms of JPEG processing may seem a little anticlimactic, after the widespread discussion of improvements measured in whole stops. But, just as we were impressed by how little DR the Sony a1 had to give up, in return for its impressive readout speed, here we’re seeing a sensor with quad-pixel X-type AF and twice the previous readout speed without any significant image quality cost. That’s an impressive result, given what the speed allows the camera to do.
Autofocus, along with continuous shooting speed, is the area in which the OM-1 makes the biggest leaps forward for the system. OMDS has continued working on the subject recognition systems first seen in the Olympus E-M1X, that are increasingly common on high-end cameras. The OM-1 offers a wider assortment of subject it can recognize and track. The distance-assessment/prediction algorithm underpinning the C-AF system has also been completely reworked. The only thing not improved is the tracking system (C-AF + Tracking) for subjects the camera doesn’t recognize.
We’ve not been able to test every one of the camera’s AF subject recognition modes to exhaustion but have been impressed by the performance when there has been an appropriate one available (human face/eye detection is treated as being distinct within the menus, but it’s likely to be the subject recognition mode that a lot of people use most often, and it does very well).
Although the individual parts of the AF system work well, it’s only fair to point out that the system as a whole isn’t as slick and simple as the latest ones from Canon, Sony or Nikon. Face/Eye detection, for instance, doesn’t use your chosen AF point to guide it when selecting a subject: the camera will decide what to focus on and Face/Eye detection will over-ride any non-human subject you might have wanted to focus on. You need to tap on the screen or assign a button as ‘Face Selection’ to pick your subject. Details like this mean you’ll have to give more thought to which modes and features it’s best to use, and when.
|You can assign a button to toggle Subject Recognition on and off. Hold that button down and spin a command dial, and you can quickly change between subject types.|
Disappointingly, some of the newer features such as subject recognition, face detection or and focus limiter can’t be assigned to the two-position lever on the back of the camera, meaning you’ll have to futz around configuring custom modes, rather than be able to use the switch to jump between AF setups.
None of this is especially onerous but does make the camera feel a little unfinished, compared with the ‘select a focus area and all the camera’s cleverness will be applied to that area as needed’ systems we’re beginning to see.
Video is another area in which the OM-1 pushes on from the E-M1 III and X. In its UHD 4K mode there’s little difference in the footage between the new camera and the E-M1 III. However, unlike the older model, the OM-1 can capture 4K/60p footage with. There’s a detail price to be paid if you engage Movie IS mode 1, which applies a 1.19x crop to allow digital IS. But, while detail levels drop, you’re rewarded with extremely smooth, stable results, which may end up being more important.
More impressive, though, is the change you see when you engage 10-bit mode. More detailed sharpening in the Log andpull out much more detail from the sensor, and deliver output that is comparable with . Sadly this doesn’t extend to the camera’s 60p mode.
|Rolling shutter timings|
3840 x 2160
|4096 x 2160||6.5ms||6.5ms|
Conceptually we agree with the idea of 10-bit mode only offering color profiles that make use of the added tonal range the extra bit-depth brings. However, on the OM-1 there’s also a big difference in detail when you change modes, meaning that users who aren’t planning to significantly edit the color or brightness of their footage would also benefit from shooting in 10-bit, at which point it becomes awkward that only Log and HLG profiles are available.
There’s a slight increase in rolling shutter when you move to 10-bit mode, but even in UHD mode it’s still sub 7ms, which is extremely good.
There are a couple of factors to be aware of when shooting OM-Log400. The first is that, if you use View Assist to give a more coherent preview, the camera’s histogram will represent the corrected view, not the underlying footage, so it’s worth assigning ‘View Assist’ to a button so you can toggle it off to check your exposure with the histogram. The other is that OM-Log400 on the OM-1 is not the same profile as the Log400 modes on Olympus cameras, so you’ll need to download a new LUT from OMDS when you come to edit your footage: any existing or built-in LUTs are likely to give odd results.
The good news, though, is that the OM-1 gives plenty of separation between stills and video mode. It gives you separate exposure settings and lets you decide whether parameters such as white balance carry over between modes. You can assign all your custom buttons separately for video mode, so dedicating a button to View Assist doesn’t end up limiting your options when shooting stills.
It may not be as polished as one of Panasonic’s more video-focused GH models, but the OM-1’s combination of video quality and image stabilization make it a very powerful video tool. The story with regards autofocus is similar to that in stills: we wouldn’t rely on the generic tracking mode but face detection works extremely well, helping to make the OM-1 especially able as a vlogging machine.
|What we like||What we don’t|
The OM System OM-1 is probably the best all-round Micro Four Thirds camera yet, which is exactly what OM Digital Solutions needed to emphasize that it’s a system with a future. It’s not a perfect camera, but with a bit of work on the photographer’s part, it’s one that’s punches well above its weight.
Essentially the OM-1 adds speed and much-improved AF and video to the image quality, stabilization and weather sealing that higher-end Olympus cameras were known for. This greatly extends the kinds of shooting it feels at home with. Particularly if you’re shooting some one of the subjects the camera has been trained to recognize, the sum of the OM-1’s attributes make for a very powerful combination.
|The OM-1 is pretty usable as a sports camera, even working outside its comfort zone in very low light. And, though the hitrate wasn’t as high as with the Nikon Z9, the option to use a brighter lens on the OM-1 meant it was able to deliver comparable image quality.
M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm F2.8 Pro @ 150mm | F2.8 | 1/800 | ISO 5000
It’s not as polished a camera as the (much) more expensive, typically full-frame, flagships its speed draws comparison with, though. The AF capabilities aren’t as well integrated with one another (or with the camera’s physical controls), and the subject tracking of non-recognized subjects is a noticeable weak-point in an otherwise impressive performance. It’s around half the cost of most pro sports models though and yet can, where necessary, shoot around twice as fast.
The OM-1 can also capture very detailed 4K video. These gains are only really to be seen in the H.265 modes (which are also the 10-bit modes) where you’re limited to Log or HLG HDR capture. Videographers aren’t as well provided for as they would be on the likes of a Panasonic GH, but compared with most stills/video cameras, the OM-1 delivers very good footage, ably supported by the camera’s stabilization system.
Image quality is what you’d expect from a modern Micro Four Thirds camera. Resolution-wise 20MP puts it level with the excellent Canon EOS R6 and not meaningfully behind its many 24MP rivals, but tonal quality and noise will be behind larger sensor cameras unless you can find a way to capture more light. But, if your scene is static enough, you can close some of the image quality gap to larger-sensor cameras with one of the OM-1’s clever multi-shot modes.
The OM-1 excels in situations such as wildlife shooting, where its power and compact telephoto lenses mean it’s able to offer an unmatched combination, but it can also be a pretty capable sports camera or a general, everyday photographers’ camera expected to shoot a bit of everything. So, while it can’t generally match a comparably priced full-frame camera for image quality, but there’s nothing else that offers this level of all-round capability (shooting speed, AF performance, IS performance, weather sealing) in such a small package.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about what these numbers mean.
Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter/magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review). Please refrain from using them for any commercial purposes.
We are retrieving offers for your location, please refresh the page to see the prices.