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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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