OM-1 Strategic Positioning

OM Digital Solutions has launched their new OM-1 flagship camera and the strategic positioning of the company is now crystal clear. All we need to do is look at the choices that OMDS has made with this camera in terms of technology and performance characteristics.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

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-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3840 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.6 metres

In an article published here in May 2020 we suggested that the best generic strategy for Olympus to pursue was Focus Differentiation. The fundamental attribute of a Focus Differentiation strategy is a company concentrating its efforts to meet the needs of specific segments of buyers where its products are the best fit. There is no intent to appeal to the entire marketplace with a broad array of product offerings.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 292 mm, efov 584 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3408 pixels on the height, subject distance 4.6 metres

All of us are aware that the hype in the camera market has been about full frame cameras for the past number of years. More dynamic range and more megapixels aren’t the solution to every photographer’s needs. Especially when the lenses for full frame systems are comparatively large, heavy and expensive.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 261 mm, efov 522 mm, f/8.4, 1/2000, ISO-1600, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 4527 pixels on the width, subject distance 13.7metres

What defines the OM-1’s strategic positioning? Speed. Durability. Portability. Weatherproofing. Are those factors the key purchase criteria for wedding photographers? Event photographers? Product and food photographers doing studio work? Fashion photographers? Landscape photographers? Not really. Those market segments are skewed to larger sensor cameras like full frame and medium format.

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, 1/1600, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3092 pixels on the width, subject distance 63.5 metres

The strategic positioning of the OM-1 is focused on photographers involved in birding, nature, adventure, sports, and extreme environment/travel. These are market segments where a dust, splash and freezeproof rating of IP53 is critical.

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, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3858 pixels on the width, subject distance 3 metres

Outdoor photographers whose livelihood revolves around capturing precise action moments understand the value of being able to shoot at incredible frame rates in full resolution… up to 50 frames-per-second with Pro Capture SH2 and 120 frames-per-second with Pro Capture SH1.

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 3588 pixels on the height, subject distance 2.7 metres

The new 20.4 MP M4/3 stacked BSI Live MOS sensor provides  additional dynamic range and better low light performance. When combined with the new TruePic X Dual Quad Core Processor it delivers the kind of processing speed needed to power Intelligent Subject Tracking. Subjects like formula cars, rally cars and motorcycles. Aircraft and helicopters. Trains. Birds. Dogs and cats.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 308 mm, efov 616 mm, f/8.5, 1/4000, ISO-1250, full frame capture, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 5.6 metres

In my mind the OM-1 isn’t just a new flagship camera. It is a strong statement about the strategic positioning that OMDS intends to take with its imaging business. Will this strategic positioning of Focus Differentiation appeal to everyone out there? Absolutely not. And, that’s a good thing.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/8.1, 1/2500, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, subject distance 7 metres

Photographers who place a high value on speed, durability, portability and weatherproofing want a solution focused on their specific needs. The OM-1 is an incredible first step by OMDS in that commitment and journey.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 6.8 metres

I won’t be doing any kind of review on the new OM-1 camera. The waiting list to get a review sample is incredibly long. And, as regular readers know… this isn’t a camera gear review website. In an earlier article we provided a few links that may be instructive for folks who are interested in the OM-1. 

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.7 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 24.8 metres

Over the past couple of years we’ve invested many thousands of dollars into our Olympus kit. Those investments included 3 flagship camera bodies, 9 lenses (most of them PRO versions), 2 teleconverters, and 2 flash units. Each and every component has more than met our expectations, and was worth every penny of investment we made. So, we have no doubt that the OM-1 will deliver outstanding performance.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 483 mm, efov 966 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3335 pixels on the width

There are practical realities that need to be considered when running a business. Two important ones that we face are managing our cash flow and our extensive equipment depreciation schedule.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 169 mm, efov 338 mm, f/6.3, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI, Pro Capture L, full frame capture, subject distance 28.5 metres

Given business conditions brought on by COVID-19 during the past couple of years, we will not be adding any camera equipment of any kind to our kit. So, there is no OM-1 in our future. Not because it won’t be a fantastic camera that would do a wonderful job for us. It’s a matter of practical business realities.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with MC-14 teleconverter @ 334 mm, efov 668 mm, f/8.6, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3706 pixels on the width, subject distance 3.7 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.  Crops are indicated. Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,132 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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, 1/1600, ISO-4000, cropped to 4774 pixels on the width, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, subject distance 63.4 metres

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18 thoughts on “OM-1 Strategic Positioning”

  1. Enjoyed your insights in the article and it certainly looks like OM Systems are doing the right things to keep the performance on the upward path and investing into the computational feature to differentiate from the rest of the pack. personally would love for them to go the next step with their rugged camera line beyond the amateur TG-6 to something like the Nikon 1 AW1. The model was probably not a winner for Nikon but it is still highly prized because there is no other tough camera with a 1 inch sensor and doesn’t need a cover. I’ve used Dicapac, Outex and underwater housings and they all are clumsy to carry , awkward to operate controls, obstruct viewing and can be very expensive. I think that could be a niche extension of their rugged philosophy and would trust them to do it properly. As for the rest I am still enjoying to extend my use of the many features on my E-M1 MkII and will have to be patient to see when the likes of the OM-1 fall into my budget scope!

    1. Hi Mark,

      You raise a good point about the TG series and OMDS leveraging that expertise. I don’t know what the situation is in other markets, but based on some discussions that I’ve had with camera store personnel in Southern Ontario the TG cameras tends to outsell all of the competitive models combined. I looked at the Nikon 1 AW gear, but ended up buying a J4 along with an underwater housing as there were some leakage issues with the AW gear. It may have been caused by a lack of proper user maintenance… not that it matters now.

      Some photographers will wait to see what the dynamic range test data reveals about the new sensor. If it performs as indicated that may sway some folks to make the switch.


  2. May I suggest that people purchase OM system gear if they want to see the trade name flourish. No sales, no new gear.

    1. Hi Lewsh,

      I think it is likely that we’ll see many of the existing lenses upgraded to IP53 standard which should create some replacement market, as will camera replacement. The biggest challenge for OMDS will be to get new owners into the system. Hopefully the feature set of the OM-1 will entice them.


  3. Agree with all of that, with one addition.
    If they have made some improvements to noise and DR, this might be attractive to a segment of landscape photographers.
    At this point, I’ve kind of done what I want in terms of getting traditional landscape shots at crowded locations with an FF or MF camera on a big tripod. OTOH, a lightweight, very weatherproofed solution can be hiked to places I wouldn’t tote the big, heavy gear. And with good IS, Live ND and HHHR, I can avoid the tripod more and more.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      From what was discussed during an OMDS launch event yesterday, the stacked BSI sensor delivers one additional stop of dynamic range and two stops better low light performance. Maximum ISO is now ISO-102400. It will still fall short of full frame or medium format, but an improvement nonetheless.


  4. Hey Tom
    I am wondering if there will be a follow up camera to the M1X or of OM has drawn a line with this camera as the top of the line? Any thoughts?


    1. Hi Joel,

      I really have no idea what plans OMDS may have for a future double gripped camera. The company has been discounting the E-M1X fairly aggressively for a number of months which is often a signal of something happening. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and my old brain came up with three scenarios.

      The first is that OMDS was discounting the E-M1X to help sell the 100-400 IS and the PRO 150-400 f/4.5 so they could hold the price on those new lenses. The second thought was that the new ‘wow’ camera would duplicate the capabilities of the E-M1X at a more attractive price so they wanted to move E-M1X stock ahead of the ‘wow’ camera launch. The third notion is that there is a new double gripped camera in the works and it was time to clear out existing inventories ahead of the introduction of a new double gripped camera. I suppose all three ideas could have some validity as they are not mutually exclusive.

      I know that a number of very well known professional nature photographers moved over to Olympus and specifically bought the E-M1X. Folks like Jari Peltomaki, Andy Rouse, Petr Bambousek and David Tipling to name a few. It would make strategic sense to me that OMDS would bring out a double gripped camera to serve the needs of the professional nature photographer market. One can only imagine what would be possible with a new double gripped camera with the stacked BSI sensor and a pair of TruePic X processors. It would likely leave the OM-1 in its dust in terms of speed, and computational photography features, and potentially blow competitive cameras out of the water.


  5. I have followed your site for some time & very impressed with what you are able to do with Oly (OM DS) for BIF. I do believe you get the very most from small sensor photography.
    I am still trying to improve my M1x & 100-400 BIF photography. NO WAY am I ready for the MC 1.4.

    My wife & I did travel extensively doing wildlife photography before C19 & hope to start again in Sept. A couple of years ago we returned to Oly from Nikon. We are getting older & the airlines have more restrictions on size & wt. I have just ordered the OM 1 & will use that with my M1 III for air travel & leave the M1x at home.
    I think your above article really is “spot on”. I just hope it works for ON DS in a niche market.

    If you ever get to travel again suggest you visit Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter SC. All 8 of the swan species & in May over 120 iris varieties in bloom.

    1. Hi Forrest,

      Thanks for your kind words regarding my work… much appreciated. Airlines are getting more strict with regards to the size and weight of carry-ons so it is prudent to plan accordingly. Thanks for the suggestion regarding Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter SC. A trip like that would feed two of my photographic interests… birds and flowers.


  6. I rented a FF Sony A1 camera and two lenses for a week and used them in a low light indoor shoot with excellent results. But I was pleasantly surprised to see how well my low iso Olympus outdoor shots compared side by side to the Sony results. And I was VERY surprised to experience the weight and size difference for the first time and live with it for a week. I’ve been spoiled by the relatively light and small m43 gear. No way will I be traveling or hiking with the FF gear with any long lenses. Indoor basketball and volleyball or events, sure. For my own birds and wildlife niche usage, I’m still all in for Olympus m43, more so now after finally using FF myself, and especially now with the OM1 improvements in CAF+Tr and video capabilities options. OMDS is definitely filling the niche.

    I also hope for some firmware updates for the 1X and 1iii bodies in two-three months, after the initial surge of OM1 sales is complete, similar to what happened with the FW 3.0 update for the 1ii body after the 1X body was released, except not as extensive due to hardware limitations. This strategy may also be a strategic business decision, capture as many sales of the OM1 body as possible, then enhance the value of the existing bodies enough with FW to keep your base happy with their long term investment while they save up for the new body rather than jump systems.

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspectives Joe. I’ve also become spoiled by the use of smaller sensor cameras and I don’t miss my full frame gear at all.

      It will be interesting to see what happens to the camera market in the medium and longer term as the impact of smartphones continues to be felt. My view is that there are specific niche photography genres like wildlife that won’t face any significant competition from smartphones. If true, then OMDS may have a successful strategic advantage by focusing on that type of market.


  7. Hello Tom,

    I think the strategy makes sense. The market is really focusing on niches, and with limited resources, it really makes sense to cater to a particular niche instead of splaying broadside and trying to appeal to a wide audience. Some people are really blindsided by the “full-frame is best” mantra that the other factors for making a decision to go with a particular system are overlooked.

    Be it may, I hope OM will capture a significant market share in the niche, and that the Olympus brand will continue to give photographers a choice when it comes to taking the weight + cost + size vis-a-vis results into careful consideration.


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