Mark III to OM-1 Upgrade

I’ve had a few readers reach out to discuss a potential E-M1 Mark III to OM-1 upgrade that they are considering. This article provides some general thoughts about this specific decision that I’ve shared with those readers. Since my wife and I are perfectly happy with the
E-M1 Mark III she is using for her photographic needs, the OM-1 is not on our radar at all. Having said that, I’ll do my best to set our personal needs aside and be as non-judgemental as possible when discussing a potential upgrade from an E-M1 Mark III to an OM-1.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 484 mm, efov 968 mm, f/8.9, 1/2500, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4818 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.8 metres

Recognize the signs of a GAS attack.

We can all fall prey to a GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) attack when new camera gear is introduced. Whenever we spend an inordinate amount of time reading reviews and watching YouTube videos about new gear we increase our susceptibility to making an emotional purchase decision. Fixating on incremental improvements in camera specifications is another telltale sign that we are in the midst of a GAS attack.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-3200, cropped to 3665 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 4.2 metres

Removing emotion and focusing on logic

The first step to minimize the risks of making an emotional purchase decision is to sit down dispassionately and prepare a thorough assessment of what we like, and dislike, about our current camera.

The next logical step is to identify the types of images that are currently extremely difficult or virtually impossible for us to create with our current camera gear. Then identify what specific features a new camera has that would expand our photographic potential. We can then estimate what the frequency of those captures would be and the relative importance of those photographs to our business or the practice of our photographic craft.

These exercises should be done in a calm and rational way before any significant time is spent reading camera reviews, or watching YouTube videos. Once we allow our emotions to run wild, our brains have a way of convincing us that we ‘need’ features that we actually don’t.

For those of you who may not have read my earlier article about why I won’t be buying an OM-1 this link may be of interest.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3529 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.6 metres

A few questions worth asking ourselves.

Regardless of the sensor format or brand of gear we use, before making the leap from one camera model to another it is prudent to ask ourselves a few questions that can help clarify our thinking, and keep our emotions in check.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-4000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2664 pixels on the height, subject distance 37.4 metres

Will you benefit from Subject Detection AI?

This is a fundamental question when deciding if the OM-1 is the right camera for you and if an upgrade is in order. This is especially true if the full body format of the E-M1X is not a good fit for your needs.

If you do a lot of action photography of birds-in-flight, motorsports, aircraft and other subjects that are supported by Subject Detection AI and want a smaller format camera body, then the OM-1 deserves serious consideration. If you already own and use Olympus/OM System gear then it could be a ‘no brainer’ decision for you.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + N.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, f/7.1, 1/2 second, ISO-200

Potentially improved sensor performance.

The OM-1 features a new 20.4 PM 4/3 stacked BSI Live MOS sensor. I appreciate that many photographers have been pining away for an upgraded M4/3 sensor for a number of years. So, the fact that the OM-1 has a new generation sensor in it may be sufficient for them to open up their wallets.

The interesting thing to consider is whether you’ll be able to see any difference in image quality based on the work that you actually do. I recently visited the Photonstophotos website and compared the dynamic range date for the E-M1 Mark III, E-M1X and OM-1 cameras. What I found was that there was basically no difference between the three cameras in terms of dynamic range.

As Olympus M4/3 owners already know, there is technology in their cameras that can help maximize the available dynamic range of their cameras, especially for static subject matter. This technology includes outstanding IBIS performance and HHHR (handheld Hi Res). Exposing to the right can also be beneficial.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/4.5, 1/800, ISO-25600, subject distance 1.2 metres

Improved low light performance.

As part of my preparation to write this article I did a bit of research by viewing/reading material produced by some photographers I respect. After spending a bit of time with this material a couple of issues became top-of-mind.

The first issue was that in some cases images were blown up 200% to 400% in order for the improvement in noise performance to be noticeable. And, even then the differences were quite modest. So, the question that begs to be asked is whether we actually enlarge our images to the point where this improved high ISO performance will be physically noticeable. If not, then low light noise performance becomes a moot point.

The second issue that popped into my mind was even if a photographer can shoot at very high ISO values, would they actually take advantage of that capability? Unless a photographer needs to use a fast shutter speed in low light conditions… like photographing a bird-in-flight in low light… they likely would choose a lower ISO value to maximize the available dynamic range of their camera.

At this point the noise comparisons I’ve seen have been done with out-of-camera jpegs, or with OM System software noise reduction applied. This gives us a somewhat limited opportunity to assess low light potential. Once all of the major photographic software support the OM-1, more valuable comparisons can be done using RAW files. We’ll also be able to assess how well software like Topaz Denoise AI and DxO DeepPRIME perform with OM-1 RAW files.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3581 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.8 metres

Falling prey to incrementalism.

It is true that the OM-1 is a faster camera in many respects when compared to the E-M1X or E-M1 Mark III. A photographer would need to assess whether those differences are worth the investment in a new camera body.

I can’t speak for other folks, but the increased frame rates with the OM-1 were not a motivating factor for me on a personal or professional basis. The OM-1 does not offer any new, breakthrough technologies that are not present to some degree with my E-M1X. So I have no compelling reason to invest in an OM-1. Other photographers may put a higher value on increased speed than I do.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-5000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3813 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.6 metres

How else could you invest the purchase price of an OM-1 to expand your photographic potential?

As photographers we sometimes get caught up in the specifications of a new camera body and fail to recognize the importance of filling holes in our lens system. For many of us a new camera body is ‘sexy’… a new lens less so.

Investing in new lenses can often increase our photographic potential far more than a new camera body. For example, in Canada an OM-1 costs about $2,800. Let’s say that a photographer already owns an E-M1 Mark III and doesn’t really need Subject Tracking AI capability for the work they do.

Rather than invest $2,800 in a new OM-1 that photographer may be well served reviewing their lens system. Let’s say that they want to expand their work into macro photography and do not yet own a long telephoto zoom lens like the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5.-6.3 IS. For about the same cost as an OM-1, that photographer could add the M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro and the 100-400 zoom. The result would be a far more versatile and flexible photographic kit.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/3200, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4299 pixels on the width, subject distance 17.1 metres

Make the decision simple by applying logic.

By the accounts that I have read, the OM-1 is a terrific camera that will appeal to many photographers, especially those who specialize in action photography like birds-in-flight, motorsports, aircraft in-flight, and sports.

If you are considering the purchase of an OM-1 you can make this decision simple by applying logic, and leaving your emotions behind. For some folks buying an OM-1 will be a ‘no brainer’… for others it may not be an obvious decision. Stay calm and take your time. When you do… you will increase the odds of making a good decision.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3848 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.8 metres

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.  Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,153 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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21 thoughts on “Mark III to OM-1 Upgrade”

  1. I’m weighing up my options at the moment. I currently shoot with the EM1ii. I’d certainly find the AI focus modes, HHR and ND filters useful. My question is whether the EM1x would represent a better value proposition at the moment given that i can get a used version with 1000 shutter actuations for £1,000 in the UK, half the cost of a new OM1. The question I’m mulling over is whether to go for the EM1x now or wait and go for an OM1 with the enhancements many havre identified.

    1. Hi Mark,

      That’s a tough call. It depends on what is most important to you and whether you feel you would get more value from the increased frame rates and some of the enhanced features of the OM-1.

      Have you ever used an E-M1X? If not, it may be useful to see if you can rent one for a few days to try out the handling and ergonomics, as well as the computational photography features. You may, or may not like the size and weight of the E-M1X which would answer your question quickly.

      On a personal basis, I absolutely love the comfort, handling and ergonomics of my E-M1X bodies. They are the most comfortable cameras that I’ve ever owned and make long days out in the field or doing client work far less tiresome.


      1. Hi Thomas I do use the battery grip with my EM1ii, especially when using my longer lenses. I do like the ergonomics and handling of it , it feels much more balanced so the EM1x is a serious contender

  2. I channelled my funds to the 300mmf4 pro instead. The lens gave me more “wow” to my photos! In the meantime i wish the OM1 is a success so that this system can continue to give us more interesting products in the future!

    1. Hi James,

      Like you, I would like to see the OM-1 be hugely successful… as well as the other products that OMDS is introducing.

      There were a lot of naysayers when JIP acquired the Imaging Division from Olympus. In my view Olympus had the most differentiated and unique product offerings in the market so it had a ton of potential.

      Unfortunately Olympus had not run the division well and allowed its fixed costs to get woefully out-of-line with market realities. Olympus also did not do a good job strategically with market segmentation and product positioning. I think OMDS is doing a very good job getting its fixed costs in line, and repositioning its product portfolio in a manner that leverages its strengths.

  3. Thanks for another very informative review Tom.

    I am sadly a very bad example of someone who suffers from GAS. I held off as long as I could and with a good pre order bonus I crumbled. And I am so very glad I did.

    I can speak as someone who has the M1X and the Mark 3. I would honestly sell both to get another OM-1 and may do so in the future. At the moment my long lens is on the OM-1 and my 12-100 on the Mark 3. The Mark 3 with the wider lens will be great for landscapes etc. And it has the computational features I like though quite a bit slower than the OM-1. The M1X hasn’t been used since I got the OM-1. The only thing I miss is the GPS which I would love to have.

    I haven’t noticed much of an improvement re noise. But there is a huge improvement in the EVF. It is almost like looking through the viewfinder of a DSLR. It is amazing. And subject tracking is way better. I struggled with subject tracking on the M1X. If I got the results you constantly get it would have been so easy to stay with it. On the OM-1 it is quicker and way more accurate.

    It is also nice shooting SH2 which means no blackout in the viewfinder. The downside is that it is 25 fps so you can end up with way too many images.

    If prospective buyers are not into wildlife and birds or sports then any of the other Olympus cameras are so good that I wouldn’t change. But if the subject tracking is needed I would so recommend the upgrade.


    1. Hi Carol,

      It doesn’t appear to me that you fell prey to GAS at all, but rather made a sound decision based on your use of your current gear and some of the challenges you were experiencing with it. I’ve read some opinions of pro photographers that I respect who have said that the Bird Recognition AI om the OM-1 is better than with the E-M1X. Your experience bears this out and the OM-1 has been a very worthwhile upgrade for you.

      I’ve often thought that cameras are like guitars. Both are instruments used to achieve specific ends. While guitars look very similar they can feel and play quite differently, and some brands/models just fit individual players better than others. I think its wonderful that you’ve found that the OM-1 is a much better fit for you.

      I’ve always found it interesting how each of us has different purchase criteria when it comes the camera gear that we buy. It has been almost 7 years since I used a DSLR and I have no memory of what the viewfinder on my previous Nikon DSLR’s was like to use. When I was considering my initial move to Olympus gear back in May 2019 the quality of the EVF wasn’t on my list of purchase criteria at all. And, although I can’t imagine buying a new camera any time soon, EVF quality would never be on my list of future purchase criteria. Different strokes for different folks.


      1. The EVF is certainly a criteria for me, to get a better feeling for what the end result will look like. Besides an E-m1 iii I also have a Panasonic G9. While it’s not my main camera, for several use cases I prefer it because of it’s much better EVF.

  4. I upgraded from the mk ii to the OM1. Omg the camera is well worth that upgrade for me. I notice much greater latitude and in particular the roll off to whites is much nicer. I was trying to blow them intentionally for some high key and was blown away that I hadn’t. I am happily using higher ISO’s than before. The noise pattern is noticeably different. An incremental improvement that is noticeable. I find it so interesting that the charts show very little difference between the sensors, yet it’s definitely noticeable. Mind you I don’t think it will make any noticeable difference in my photography.

    The camera actually feels more solid in the hand. Probably the grip is thicker.

    But the viewfinder. Omg it is stunning. I have yet to compare it to my Panasonic S1r. But I can clearly say it’s what I have always wished for. The newly updated viewfinder layout is lovely as the histogram no longer blocks out so much of the screen. Now it is smaller and discreet.

    I would upgrade for the viewfinder alone. I don’t regret it spend. Mind you I skipped the mk iii.

    As always such great points you make. Thanks.

    1. Same here… although I have yet to see the OM-1 I ordered on the last day of the “free battery” promo.

      I did not see the Mark III as enough of a difference from my Mark II. So I tend to purchase “every other” release, rather than get too excited about the ones in-between.

      So, I’m prepared to be “wow’d” with the OM-1, compared to the E-M1 Mark II. But I can see how those who have a Mark III or a M1x might not feel the same.

  5. Hi Tom,

    I enjoy the article, which counterbalances the online impression that everyone is pre-ordering the latest and greatest camera/lens, when in fact, the majority of photographers can neither afford nor justify buying the new equipment.

    I am using a M1X & a EM1-II and a couple pro zooms for my work, and I am happy with them. In fact, I don’t need the M1X, but I got it for $950 (used with 20k shutter count). May be 2-3 years, I’ll get an OM1 to replace the EM1-II.

    Thanks for the good work
    Tony C.

  6. When shooting images i never look at the rear LCD screen ,only the Average quality EVF on my OM-D 1 mk ii so a top class EVF would be a big thing for me.
    Strange thing is no reviewer or user has said the OM-1 EVF is top class,they say “its better”.
    But when i looked at the leica SL2 EVF i just could not believe the size and clarity it offered.
    It was amazing and i am told the panasonic equivalent and top end sony models offer similar clarity.
    I will wait to actually see through the OM- 1 EVF to see how it compares with the best but i would buy the camera for that alone if it was that good.
    I like the idea of good bird tracking AI but I dont really believe the reviewers who say it works,i mean there the same ones who said it works on the previous models when it clearly is not reliable.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      We all have our own priorities when it comes to the camera features and performance that are most important to us. The EVF and LCD screen on my E-M1X are more than adequate for my needs.

      In terms of Bird Detection AI, in my experience it works extremely well and I very seldom capture any bird images without using this technology. The only exception is when I use Pro Capture H. I find it very reliable. There is a learning curve involved with Bird AI and it does take some practice and commitment.


      1. Just to be clear tom ,your saying the bird AI works very well on the EM-1 x?
        Its just that it contradicts many reviewers views especially compared to some sony / canon cameras as well as the new OM-1.

        1. Hi Stephen,

          Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying. I’ve written a number of articles that discuss the approach that I use.

          I don’t pay much attention to reviewers 🙂


  7. Hi Thomas,

    I am not immune to GAS and although I am happy about Om1 release I did follow your line of thoughts and decided to postpone investing in a new body until my current gear will serve its purposes. So far I am very happy with the E- M1X & E-M1III and I don’t think my work will benefit so much to justify the purchase at this time.

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