Olympus OM System OM-1 Camera Review

OM Digital Solutions' first camera after buying out Olympus's camera business
By Charlie Gardiner

In January 2021, OM Digital Solutions announced they had completed their acquisition of the Olympus imaging business, bringing 85 years of camera-manufacturing history to a close. OM Digital Solutions' first port of call was to reassure existing Olympus customers that they would be continuing down the same path Olympus had set out, honoring warranties and orders and developing new mirrorless cameras and lenses. 

As a nod to the past and to reaffirm their commitment to honoring the Olympus roadmap, OM Digital Solutions' first camera release since taking over the iconic camera company, the OM Systems OM-1, carries the Olympus logo across the viewfinder. However, it is widely understood that the Olympus branding will be dropped in future models. Still, it's a nice touch from the new owners. 

OM Digital Solutions have said they are looking to develop and expand the division's mirrorless camera and lens business to better compete with the more established manufacturers like Sony and Canon.

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US MSRP: $2199.99 

 


 

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Jump To

The OM System OM-1 Camera

Our Thoughts

Key Features

Notable Improvements

OM System OM-1 for Underwater Photography and Videography

Conclusion

 


 

The OM System OM-1 Camera

The OM System OM-1 camera is a Micro Four Thirds 20MP camera capable of capturing 4k 60p video and 1080 at 240 fps. It's a solid body built around an all-new 20MP stacked CMOS image sensor. The release of the new OM System (Olympus) OM-1 camera coincides with the 50th anniversary of the original Olympus OM-1 SLR that is so widely admired in the SLR world. It's a nice touch and a perfect time to pivot towards a new future under new ownership.

In addition to the new and improved sensor, the OM-1 also packs a faster processor that is used in conjunction with the staked sensor to cut readout speed almost in half, which helps reduce rolling shutter.

The overall ergonomics of the OM System OM-1 camera are excellent if you're using it topside; it has a prominent grip and a great button layout. If you plan to buy the OM System OM-1 for diving, there's only really one option currently when it comes to underwater housings, and that's the Nauticam Olympus OM-1 Underwater Housing.

Our Thoughts

Micro Four Thirds cameras appeal to a specific subset of people, and the OM System OM-1 is no different. At $2200 for the body, it's pretty expensive for an MFT sensored camera, much like the Olympus EM-1X. And like the Olympus EM-1X, we don't recommend that anybody specifically buys it unless they've already bought into the Olympus Micro Four Thirds system and have a collection of native lenses. For MFT users, the Olympus OM-1 will be the best MFT option ever to hit the market. 

There are many other better full-frame mirroless camera options within a similar budget like the Sony A7 IV, Canon EOS R6, and Nikon Z6 II. Even much more affordable APS-C cameras like the Sony A6600 or the Nikon Z50 will produce better dynamic range and detail in your images. 

The only time we would say buying the OM System (Olympus) OM-1 camera is a good idea is for people who want to upgrade their existing Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera. At that point, you've probably already built up a collection of lenses that you can use and have formed some attachment to the brand. 

Key Features

  • 20 Megapixels photos
  • Micro Four Thirds Stacked CMOS Sensor 
  • TruePic X Dual Quad Core Processor
  • ISO 80-25600
  • 5-Axis Image Stabilization
  • 1052 Autofocus Points
  • Equivalent 2x Focal Length
  • 10 FPS in Photo Mode
  • 4K/60, 1080/240 Video
  • Weight - 599g (1.32 lb / 21.13 oz)
  • Fully Articulating LCD Screen
  • Two SD Card Slots

Notable Improvements

For people looking to upgrade from an older Olympus model, there are some welcome improvements in the OM-1. 

Electronic Viewfinder

One of the biggest improvements is in the brand new viewfinder. Older models had low-resolution viewfinders far behind what you get from other manufacturers. The OM-1 comes with a much better 5.76M dot OLED viewfinder with a 120 fps refresh rate and a refresh delay of just 5ms.

Menu

The new menu system is a totally reworked version of the old Olympus menu that now resembles the old Sony style menu system. It's a massive upgrade and simplifies the layout, putting everything in a logical order. A small feature we like about the new menu system is that when an item is greyed out, you can still move the selector over it, and it will tell you why that option isn't available. 

Battery Life

The OM-1 comes with a brand new battery, the BLX-1. Again, it's a nice upgrade from the old one and allows you to get a solid 90 minutes of video and around 520 shots per charge, and that's with the rear screen on. A related aside, the OM-1 doesn't come with a battery charger as standard. Instead, it comes with a USB cable that you can use to charge the battery while it's still in the camera. 

High-Resolution Mode

Although the camera has a 20MP sensor, you can use a high-resolution mode to capture extra details when needed. The camera will capture multiple images in high-resolution mode and process them in-camera to produce a single 50MP image handheld and up to 80MP using a tripod. The new TruePic X Dual Quad Core processor only takes seconds to process the final image.

Live ND Shooting

While the live ND shooting mode isn't strictly new (in fact, it's not new at all), it has been improved. You can choose from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 stops of exposure reduction to capture motion blur without an actual physical ND filter. It's one of the computational photography modes you can choose from in the OM-1 and will probably be one of the most used. What's really nice about the live ND shooting mode is that you can use it to capture motion blur even when shooting handheld. 

OM System OM-1 for Underwater Photography and Videography

As we've already mentioned, if you are a MFT lens user, the Olympus OM System OM-1 is a nice, albeit expensive, upgrade. But if you are thinking of entering this lens format, it may not give you the best results for similar price points in APS-C and full frame caemras. For example, the Sony A7C, coming in at around $500 less than the OM-1, has a full-frame 24.2MP sensor and a ton of housing options. It's a no-brainer really. 

One feature that does make this camera an option for underwater photography is its much-improved subject detection autofocus system. In previous Olympus cameras, subject detection autofocus was basically unusable. But thankfully, it is now at a point where accurately tracking fast-moving subjects like fish and sharks is possible. 

The uncropped 4K/60p video mode also gives you a chance to capture nice underwater video footage. There is no drop in video quality going from 4K/24p to 4K/60p, and in combination with the native OMLog 400 video profile, you're able to max out the camera's image quality potential in post-production. We're pretty excited to see what the video will look like as it is the best "Olympus" camera ever to hit the market for underwater video.

Conclusion

The OM System OM-1 camera represents a good option for underwater photography & video for current MFT lens users. The image quality will be a little better than previous Olympus cameras and the new autofocus tracking system will be the most exciting improvement. We are extremely excited to try it out underwater. Most importantly, if you've been an Olympus user disappointed by video on older cameras, you'll be happy to hear that the video from the OM-1 is excellent. If you're a dedicated MFT video shooter however, you may want to consider the new Panasonic GH6

Now if you're not a current micro four thirds user, this is a good camera, but worth a pass.

If you're looking for a new camera, Bluewater Photo has an in-depth guide to the best underwater cameras for all levels; you should check it out before deciding. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Originally from the UK but now living in the south of Spain, Charlie is a diving instructor, associate editor of the Underwater Photography Guide and avid ocean lover. You'll find him exploring the many local wrecks and travelling to new places in his spare time. 

You can follow him over at World of Travel Photography where you can also see some more of his photography. 

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