First thoughts on the Olympus OM-1
Since writing previously for Olympus Passion about my B&W street photography with the PEN-F, I have given up my job as a full-time accountant and instead work part-time as an accountant and have the support of my new employer to pursue additional income through my photography.
I’m not usually an early adopter of trends or new technology or someone that ‘needs’ the newest camera, preferring instead to enjoy a ‘good deal’ when a camera is being discounted due to an impending release of a new model. In addition to the PEN-F, I have the E-M1 Mark ll, which is now six years old.
That said, when I first read about the OM-1 thought that I should consider ordering one, especially now that I can put the purchase ‘through the books’ of my photography business. Whether it would be a ‘WOW’ camera was another thing.
Another factor in my consideration was because the first SLR that I bought in the late 1970s was an OM-1 and so I felt an emotional pull to have the digital version, especially as we’re led to believe it’s to be the last camera with an Olympus logo; complete the circle, as it were.
I don’t usually take birds in flight, do long exposure landscapes, astrophotography or take any video, but the draw for me was the improved dynamic range from the new sensor, reduction in noise in low light and the major improvement in autofocus.
Add in the blackout-free shooting, the joystick for choosing the point of focus and the improved EVF/screen, the in-camera ND and pro capture, and I was a convert. I recognise that the draw may not be as strong for someone with the E-M1lll or the E-M1X.
I ordered it on the day it was unveiled in a global announcement and was pleased to be in the first wave of deliveries in the UK. As an added bonus, Guernsey (where I live) does not have any VAT/GST so the cost of photographic equipment is one-sixth lower than in the UK.
On taking the camera out of the box, I was pleased with the look of the camera and how it felt. The redesign of the grip is great and although it feels very secure in my hand, I’ve added a wrist strap as a backup, using the same one as I have on my PEN-F, and this gives me the availability to quickly take a photo as I don’t like to carry a bag round my shoulder in addition to the camera.
Rather than buy a battery charger, I took the additional free battery and bought a 20,000 mAh Power Bank that I can use to charge the camera from, if necessary, when out and about. It will also run the camera at the same time, so, if necessary, I can pop the power bank into my back pocket and run a USB cable to the camera.
After charging the battery, I went out for a ‘test drive’ with my dogs, as usual, and took a number of photos of common street scenes. I packed my bag with a 12mm f/2 on the camera and added the 17mm, 25mm, 45mm and 75mm f/1.8 lenses. These all fit into a small over the shoulder bag, and although I do covet the f/1.2 versions, I don’t think they are small or light enough for carrying when dog walking.
Later, I took my dogs to a beach, put on the 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO and set the subject recognition to dogs and the autofocus to C-AF + tracking. Not one shot was out of focus, whereas on the PEN-F I’d struggle to get one in focus and on the OM-D E-M1 Mark ll, I’d be lucky to achieve 50% in focus when the dogs were running towards me.
I have been very impressed with the OM-1 compared to the EM-1 ll and the PEN-F, I am blown away by the autofocus. It is lightning fast, extremely accurate, even in the dark and doesn’t hunt for focus.
Ergonomically it’s a dream with one very small niggle; I wish the menu button had been accessible with my right thumb whereas its placement on the top left-hand side means that two hands are needed to navigate the menu. The new menu is laid out in a more logical manner, and the addition of the information of unavailable ‘greyed out’ menu options is an improvement.
I shoot in raw using the ETTR (expose to the right) method to try and capture as much information as possible without blowing the highlights. I mostly post-process in Lightroom but will sometimes export to Photoshop for removing unwanted elements and Nik Collection for Silver Efex.
I like to shoot scenes around my town, and at night I usually shoot at ISO1600 and then denoise the raw files in DxO DeepPrime, but at ISO1600 I find that the raw files from the OM-1 do not need to be denoised.
I’m still experimenting with the OM-1, taking it out with me every day in place of my PEN-F. I have no intentions of retiring the PEN-F, it’s just that I want to get to the same level of mastering the intricacies of the OM-1 controls and settings so that I’m not fumbling through menus and buttons wondering how to effect a change (let’s be honest, we’ve all been there!), especially if on a shoot for a paying client.
While it’s still early days, I have no complaints about the OM-1, only praise and look forward to what I hope will be many years of service.
“My name is Sam Thompson, a lifelong Olympus user living in Guernsey, walking forty miles a week with my dogs and my camera, looking for the next “keeper”; the one you can feel when you’ve taken it and carries you through until the next one.”