The question I get asked most often is, ‘Which camera do you use personally?’ When people ask me this, I tell them in all seriousness, whatever the latest camera is this week. They never really find that to be a satisfying answer, but it’s absolutely true. In order to break the awkwardness, I’ll say something self-deprecating like ‘Well, I’m not a photographer, I just play one on TV,’ much to Jordan’s chagrin. He’s heard that one a hundred times.
Truly, I enjoy taking photos. In fact, I take way more pictures for DPReview TV than I ever did before. But I so rarely think about what camera I want to shoot with. It’s just a different experience when shooting with the intention to evaluate equipment and create sample galleries. I’m not taking pictures for myself, and I’m focused on technical elements or examples that show the traits of the equipment.
I also like being in front of the camera as much as I do behind it, and I get to use the latest camera gear (which is as awesome as it sounds). But the emphasis is always on helping the viewer decide what gear best suits their needs.
|It’s comforting to see the classic OM-1 designation on a camera again. Note the prominent use of the “Olympus” logo.|
This time I’m holding an OM Digital Solutions OM System OM-1 (rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it) in my hands. It feels good, and it feels very reminiscent of the Olympus E-M1 III. A sensible choice that allows existing users to be comfortable with the new camera. Yet, if I’m being completely honest, my first impressions of the camera were somewhat underwhelming.
Maybe I was expecting more revolution, less evolution. Maybe I was expecting a radical new chassis, but the OM-1 still says Olympus on it, is understated in its design and looks very familiar. The new stacked Live MOS sensor is a serious upgrade in so many ways, but I was still getting hung up on the same old 20 megapixels. In my head, I know megapixels aren’t everything, but in my heart, I wanted to see even a little bump up. It’s been almost eight years, after all. It turns out that I simply had to use the camera to realize my misgivings were misplaced.
I was still getting hung up on the same old 20 megapixels
It’s clear that the OM-1 is intended to maintain the key strengths of what made the Olympus brand so compelling. Compact bodies and lenses, especially in the telephoto range. Rugged, weatherproof construction. Computational photography techniques which can largely mitigate the use of tripods and filters. The most stable image stabilization systems in the business, which make possible many handheld opportunities. OM Digital Solutions has also made a solid improvement to the auto-focusing capabilities of this camera. There’s a lot to like here.
|The OM-1 is a handsome camera, but OM Digital Solutions clearly stuck to a tried-and-true aesthetic.|
Most importantly, though, a camera is a tool, and choosing the right camera means finding the right tool for the job. As fun as it is to review new cameras, most of the gear simply isn’t right for me. Once in a while, though, a camera comes along that just might be what I’m looking for.
Outside of DPReview TV, most of my work is producing videos instead of taking photos. I need a hybrid camera that works well outdoors, and I often use the Olympus E-M1 III for this very purpose. If I had a ‘daily driver’, the Olympus would be it. The OM-1 might be an even better choice, but I should give you a bit of context before we tackle that.
|Filming in the backcountry is intensely rewarding, but it presents many logistical challenges. Having the right kit makes all the difference.|
Here’s something you might not know about me. I’m a fly fisherman. Now ask a fly angler what fly fishing is to them, and they’ll unanimously agree that it’s a full-time lifestyle, not a hobby. From the outside, though, you’d be forgiven for thinking it is a charming pastime involving felt hats and flannel shirts, waving sticks around in bucolic settings. To be fair, sometimes it is exactly that.
There is a running joke in the fly fishing world that anything, and I mean anything, can be related to fly fishing in some meaningful way. Ask any question you can think of, and the answer could start with ‘well, it’s like fly fishing…’ Relating photography with fly fishing is especially easy to do.
They are both expensive, gear-centric pursuits. They both have their zealous brand crusaders. They both get you out of the house and into adventures that you wouldn’t trade for anything. They both demand patience and a deep commitment to learning the craft. They can both, at some point in time, be considered an escape, a job, or an art form.
|A lovely Brown Trout on the banks of the Bow River. It’s most ethical to keep fish touching the water. You need a camera that can be held inches from the surface and handle the occasional splash.|
Now, as much as I’d love to go on about what fly fishing is to me personally, it is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, it is a deep passion of mine. It’s also a passion that I happen to need the right camera for because I create content, review gear, and teach for a local fly shop here in Calgary. Shooting videos inside the shop is easy. Locked-off cameras with additional lighting don’t really play to the strengths of the OM cameras. Most of our videos, however, are out on the river, where we face some unique challenges.
|The weather is rarely as serene as it was on this day. If you’re documenting adventures, rugged camera gear is essential to success.|
Fishing goes hand in hand with weather and water. I need a camera system that can take abuse and handle rain and snow. Even on a clear day, I’m usually filming from beside the water or often standing right in it. When fishing from a drift boat, the oars bring in a surprising amount of water, and splashes are common. The E-M1 III has always stood up to any water thrown at it, and with the OM-1 having an even more rugged IP53 rating, I would have no concerns short of dropping it straight in the river.
|As you can see, my Olympus E-M1 MK III has seen some action and lived to tell about it.|
On a related note, I did leave the E-M1 III on the top of the back tire of a pickup truck. Let’s not get into why. To make a long story short, I drove over the camera in hard, packed mud. Obviously, this is a one-off situation, well beyond any camera’s rating. The lens was destroyed (a Panasonic Leica 12-60, sadly), but the camera survived, and surprisingly the lens mount was sound. I switched to another lens and was able to keep shooting without issue to this very day. Pretty impressive.
|This dramatized reenactment is way less dramatic than the actual incident. However, these are the very pieces of equipment involved. Look carefully, and you’ll see a crease right below the lens mount.|
If you’ve seen some of our sample galleries on DPReview, you know I am a sucker for long exposures of moving water. This popular technique requires a sturdy tripod and a strong neutral density filter. The great thing about Olympus is that you can do this handheld using the Live ND function. This means no tripod and no filters are needed, and the result is very similar to what you can achieve conventionally. Because I’m primarily shooting video out on the water, I’ll still have ND filters with me, but I love leaving the tripod in the truck.
Olympus Live ND is one of my favorite computational photography techniques. Even without a tripod, stationary subjects are crisp, and the motion of the water is dynamic.
E-M1 MK III at F13, 1/2 Sec, ISO 200.
Granted, tripods aren’t the worst burden ever, but throw in a couple of fly rods, fishing equipment, nets, and then hike up a mountain creek, and you’ll find yourself appreciating Live ND. The E-M1 III can replicate up to a five-stop ND filter, but the new OM-1 can push to six stops, which is my preferred choice when using an ND filter for photography. I’m eager to try it out.
When shooting our DPReview TV episodes, Jordan relies on a monopod to provide stable compositions, assist with moving walk-and-talks, and support the weight of larger full-frame cameras. When we traveled to NYC to review the Leica M11, he didn’t want the burden of traveling with a monopod, and he desired a compact, less conspicuous camera kit. His camera of choice was the Olympus E-M1X, and it’s all thanks to the excellent IBIS stabilization.
|A photo from the streets of NYC with the Leica M11. Jordan filmed our episode with the Olympus E-M1X and found it to be stable and discreet.|
The OM-1 can provide seven stops of stability when using the in-body image stabilization alone and eight stops when used with a compatible IS-equipped lens, which is similar to the E-M1X. However, it now provides more effective stabilization against rolling than previous models.
This inherent stability is probably my favorite thing about Olympus cameras, whether for video or stills. When the action is on, I can grab the camera and immediately start filming without delay. I can also follow an angler as they chase a fish along the shore, or even add some dynamic movement handheld and never be left wanting for additional supports.
When the action is on, I can grab the camera and immediately start filming without delay
I rarely use the insanely fast burst rates on the E-M1 MK III, but I absolutely do like the Pro Capture mode. Rising fish often come to the surface like clockwork, and if you’re really lucky, in the same place. You could try to anticipate them and fire a burst of images in the hope they’ll rise, but you’ll likely just fill your card up.
Pro Capture lets you pre-buffer images in full Raw without actually saving them to a card. Simply watch for the rise, and when it happens, press the shutter. On the OM-1, you can keep the previous 50 images before you press the shutter, with full autofocus enabled. More than enough, and your timing doesn’t even have to be perfect.
|A rising trout is a welcome sight. Capturing them is easy to do on video, but pulling a still from the video as shown here often results in poor image quality. The OM-1 Pro Capture mode would be a much better option.|
I’ve always been happy with the E-M1 MK III’s video capabilities, and I rarely leave the OM-Flat profile. It’s very easy to work with, and I like the overall contrast as a starting point. However, slo-mo video is tons of fun when releasing a fish or catching splashes and jumps. The E-M1 MK III has 4K recording capped at 30 frames per second. We can do slo-mo but only in 1080 modes.
Finally, the OM-1 brings 4K/60 recording to the table, and it retains lots of detail. I think this was a barrier for many videographers looking at Olympus cameras, and I’m glad we are past it now. Oh, but you want 240 frames per second? Well, the OM-1 brings that along too.
|Creating content while fly fishing means water is a factor all the time. However, it’s also a beautiful place to shoot, with its constant motion and idyllic sounds.|
Most of the video recording I do river-side is with myself or another presenter talking to camera. However, there is usually quite a bit of motion involved. The host could be casting, turning to camera in a pitching boat, or just walking along the banks of the river and pointing to sections of the water. Regardless, I rely on the eye-detect autofocus on the E-M1 III most of the time. It rarely lets me down, and the tracking speed can be set to a more natural looking smoothness.
|The Olympus E-M1 MK III does a great job retaining focus on the eyes of a presenter, despite busy surroundings and a moving subject.|
Having just reviewed the OM-1, I have to say the autofocus capabilities are much improved. Most of the benefits will be for stills applications, and I’m so pleased to see that AF tracking is now reliable when coupled with subject detection. Shorebirds and streamside wildlife pictures will be a breeze now. As for video, I wasn’t really wanting for better eye-detect autofocus on the E-M1 III. But with the video testing we’ve done so far, the OM-1 is just as consistent, if not more so.
|An Olympus E-M1 MK III with Olympus 12-100 F4 zoom and a mic makes for a compact package.|
Having used the E-M1 III now for two years, it seems purpose-built for outdoor adventure applications. I love being able to head out with a minimal kit and still feel like I can get creative shots. All I need is an Olympus 12-100 F4 lens, a couple of mics and some ND filters. Unpredictable fish, presenters constantly moving, jumping in and out of a floating boat, water everywhere, this is where the Olympus cameras really shine.
Now I mostly shoot fly fishing during the daylight, a situation where the Olympus cameras easily deliver beautiful image quality. However, although the Olympus E-M1X did a decent job filming the streets of NYC at night, this is not Micro Four Thirds’ forte. If you plan on shooting in a lot of low-light situations, say concerts or after the sun goes down, you might be better served by a different platform. But if you’re a documentary filmmaker working in harsh and dynamic situations, with the occasional foray into darker conditions, this could be a perfect fit for you.
|I can’t think of a better all-in-one lens than the Olympus 12-100 F4. It’s rugged and fully supports faster burst shooting on the new OM-1.|
So will the OM-1 be my new camera? Unfortunately, winter in Alberta isn’t the best time to go fishing. However, I’m confident that it would do everything the E-M1 III does but even better. My first impression of the OM-1 was that it was more of the same – that OM Digital Solutions had missed out on an opportunity to make radical changes.
|It’s tough to fly fish through the ice, but I’m eager to try the OM-1 out on the water when it’s liquid again!|
However, Olympus cameras do something unique on the market and push further than other brands when it comes to computational photography. The OM-1 retains what made Olympus cameras unique and improves them across the board. Add in much improved autofocusing and an even more rugged design, and I think it’s the direction OM Digital Solutions needs to go. Now, I realize that what I desire in my own camera is more of the same.
So if you have any questions, please let me know, but be warned, I will make the answer related to fly fishing. Still, wondering what camera I use personally? Well, you might have the answer now.
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