Camera review: OM System OM-1 Mark II

Camera review: OM System OM-1 Mark II

OM System has come out with their flagship camera, the OM-1 Mark II, leaving the Olympus branding behind. Built on the technology of Olympus, the camera has been improved in subtle, and not so subtle ways. I’ll delve into as much as I can in this review.

Note: I received the 150-600mm f/5.0-6.3 lens from OM Systems for the reviews of the OM-1 Mark II and the 150-600mm lens. All comments are my own. See my review of the 150-600mm lens here.

OM System OM-1 Mark II — Initial thoughts

Amid fanfare and some voiced disappointments, the new OM-1 Mark II has been released. My personal feeling is that some folks have too many expectations of magic in new models. There are a number improvements added. I’ve run the camera through my workflow and playflow. I’ll share my experience below.

Is it time for you to upgrade? You decide.

Pros

  • Computational Capture Modes
  • Rubberized dials
  • Updated solid auto-focus on moving subjects
  • Capture speeds and buffer
  • Weather proof with pro lenses to IP53
  • Easily navigable menu system
  • Light weight yet strong magnesium alloy body

Cons

  • Almost too many features – There’s a need to spend serious time to get the most out of the camera. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out why the camera is not behaving the way you anticipate. This, of course can be mitigated by spending some time with YouTube and the camera manual.

OM System OM-1 Mark II — Technical specifications

All technical specifications have been taken from the official OM Systems website.

  • Sensor: 20MP Stacked BSI Live MOS MFT Sensor
  • Storage: SD UHS-II, CFexpress (Type B), XQD Type Memory Two Slots
  • ISO: ~80-102,400 (upper default ISO 25,600)
  • Monitor: Vari-angle LCD – Touch Panel, 1620K dots 3.0” (3:2) (7.6cm)
  • EVF: 3.69m dot (Quad VGA) OLED 100% coverage
  • Burst Mode: 10 fps Shooting, 120 fps with E. Shutter
  • Autofocus: Cross Quad Pixel Phase-Detection AF
  • Viewfinder: 5.76m-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
  • Stabilization: 5-Axis In-Body Image Stabilization
  • Specialty Modes: High-Res Shot 80MP tripod and 50MP handheld, Live ND, Live GND, Live Capture, Live Composite and Focus Stacking Modes
  • Weather: IP53 Weather-Sealed & Freeze-proof Design
  • Capture: Dual UHS-II SD Card Slots
  • Autofocus: TTL phase difference detection system, contrast detection system, 1053 points / cross-type phase detection AF
  • IBIS: 5-axis – up to 8.5 EV steps (Body only)
  • Video 4K: MOV(MPEG-4AVC/H.264)/ MOV (HEVC/H.265) Max recording time unlimited
  • Video: Vertical Video and easy webcam connection
  • Connections: USB 3 type C USB, HDMI: Type C, Mic input: 3.5 mm diameter; Headphone jack 3.5 mm, HDMI Applied Micro connector (Type D)
  • Live View: Field of view ~100%
  • Shutter durability: 400,000 shots
  • Shutter speed: 1/8000 – 60 seconds
  • Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi control with improved OI.Share APP
  • Battery life: Approx 520 shots (1,100 in energy saving mode)
  • Approx. Dimensions: 5.5 in. (138.8 mm) x 3.6 in. (91.6 mm) x 2.85 in. (72.7 mm)
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds (599 g) with battery and memory card, 1.13lbs (body only) (511 g)
5.5 in. (138.8 mm) x 3.6 in. (91.6 mm) x 2.85 in. (72.7 mm)

OM System OM-1 Mark II — Ergonomics and build quality

The OM-1 Mark II is built on a solid body and the weather sealing is IP53 with matching lenses. It feels the same as my OM-1 with a notable, small but I find useful, improvement. Dials are now rubberized instead of hard plastic. They feel better to the bare hand but even more important much easier to adjust while wearing gloves.
Programmable dials and buttons that are easy to customize to your needs. OM System even made it possible to operate the on/off with one hand. In the past you needed to turn the camera on with the switch on the left side of the camera. That was/is a continuing bug-a-boo for me in the previous Olympus cameras. Now you can hold the camera with one hand and program the right switch to power off and on.

OM System OM-1 Mark II — Changes and upgrades

Branding

The camera has now been officially branded to the OM System name. The first OM System camera included a nod to its Olympus heritage.

Stabilization

There’s an upgrade from the already solid in-camera stabilization found in the OM 1. Body only goes from 7.0 Stops to 8.0 stops and syncing from 8.0 to 8.5. I’m still using my tripod but when you need to go really light on gear hand-hold-ability goes up another notch.

Subject detection

Subject detection has been improved. I was thrilled at how the camera was able to locate birds and lock on then even through fairly tight branches. A white box attaches itself to your subject. When multiple subjects are in the frame you can choose which one will become the primary target. I recommend setting your camera to back button focus so you aren’t chasing your focus point when capturing the photo.

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My cat, Luna, is not a fan of sitting for the camera. The Dogs and Cats subject detection worked well while I stalked her through the yard.

In addition to the improvements to the birding setting, Mark II subject detection has a vehicle setting for cars and motorcycles, aircraft, trains, cats and dogs and now humans as well.

Neutral Density Filter improvements

Recent OM 1/Olympus cameras contained a feature that gave you computational Live ND (neutral density) filters from 1 EV to 64 EV which is about 6 stops. The Mark II adds ND128 which is 7EV. This gives even more range to slow moving water and clouds even in fairly bright light. Note that this is a computational feature and will not replace needing ND filters for video creation.

OM 1 Mark II camera Live Graduated Neutral density filter
1. Info showing Live GND current settings. 2. Wheel changes the orientation of the filter. 3. Arrow keys and joystick maneuver the pivot point to the left, right and up, down positions. 4. Pivot point.

A new arrival is Live GND (Graduated Neutral Density). This enables a graduated neutral density filter from 1-3 stops. It can be maneuvered and angled in the frame to suit the horizon. Great for blending bright skies with the foreground and not having to cart around extra kit in your camera bag. In addition, Live GND has your choice of three blending options: Soft, Medium and Hard.

(embed)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERn8UZV0Sq0(/embed)
Dials, joystick and arrows allow complete maneuvering of the graduated neutral density filter position

Oh, and if you ask as I did, can the ND and GND filters be used at the same time. The answer is no they are two totally separate computational functions.

Birding

I am a big fan of avian behavior images verses static portraits. The OM 1 Mark II has a solid improvement in capture speed. It’s hard to believe that you might want/need the 120 FPS that the Mark II is capable of capturing. But in the past, I have missed wing positions in flight that synced with the camera so that the only wing position was captured the same down position frame after frame. You don’t have to use the entire 120 FPS but it’s there if you need it. While you will have extra frames to cull in post production I find it worth it. Especially helpful with small birds. You would think that capturing that many frames would kill your buffer but the new capture rate is 120 fps gets 213 frame buffer in RAW 50 fps gets 256 frame buffer in RAW.

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Holding and finding focus through the foreground trees.

Video users

New to the OM-1 Mark II for video is the lack of a time limit on video capture. Being a sporadic video creator, I know there were a number of other video improvements, but I didn’t get a chance to test them test them. I know this feature will be popular. For online content creators there is now the ability to capture in the vertical format.

Webcam

The Mark II can be used as a high quality webcam. In the past to make this happen there were wonky software add-ons. Now it’s as easy as plugging in your USB cord and turning on your camera. If you are not already there, the menu will ask you toters to Movie mode if your camera is not used as a webcam. For content creators on the road trying to keep equipment to a minimum the Mark II can cover a lot of needs.

One hand operation

The OM 1 made it possible to power the camera on using the select button on the right hand side allowing for one hand operation. An addition to the Mark II is being able to convert the trash button to activate the Menu system further enhancing my user experience.

OM 1 Mark II camera
1 – Toggle switch allows setting for power on/off which is also available on the OM 1. 2 – Added one handed operation on OM 1 Mark II with the trash can button programmed to activate the Menu. Very user friendly programming of buttons and dials to make this camera your own.

OM System OM-1 Mark II — Legacy features of the OM 1

Menu system

The OM 1 Mark II menu system is easily navigable. This was addressed in the first OM 1 camera but I mention it here for those who are still using Olympus cameras or those thinking about making a switch to Micro 4/3rds.

The front dial cycles through master menus. Back dial moves across and either the joystick or the arrow buttons navigate through the menus. Most items are explained well as to what they will do. When in doubt you can highlight an item and push the INFO button for additional information. There are still some menu items that only register off/on but spending some time in your downloadable camera manual they can be a little mysterious as to their function. Reading the manual can be ever so helpful! I say that because I’m a little slow sometimes looking and learning there myself.

Pro capture

While speaking of behavior capture how many times have you waited for a bird to take flight only to end up with a bird butt flying out of frame because you missed that moment? Not a new feature but one I find extremely helpful. Pro Capture helps mitigate bird butt photos by what I call ‘shooting into the past.’ With a half press and hold of the shutter button the camera begins recording frames. It does NOT save them. UNTIL you see the behavior of the take off and you press the shutter all the way. It then saves frames that are in the buffer essentially going back in time. Note that this is blackout-free sequential shooting which enables you to continue to follow your subject once recording has begun.

great blue heron Pro Capture Om system camera
Pro Capture enables what I call ‘shooting into the past’ where you can be recording, but not saving images, until a full press grabs the recorded behavior that resides in the buffer.

Be aware that you might want to have an extra battery on hand when you are using this technique!

juvenile eagle  captured with Pro Capture feature om 1 Mark II
Pro Capture enabled me to acquire this juvenile eagle leaving the branch along with a sequence of the beginning of flight.

Starry Sky Autofocus

Not new to the Mark II this is an essential focus mode for night sky photographers. It automatically focuses on the stars. When the camera indicates it is in focus using Starry Sky AF you know you will have sharp stars unless you leave the shutter open too long, generating star trails. You might have to point the camera in a different direction to get a bright enough object, but once it is locked on, just recompose. I use back button focus so that the focus does not have to be recaptured each time the shutter button is pressed for image capture. The image below is using the OM 1 camera using this feature.

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Using Starry Sky AF ensures sharp stars with less fussing as with other cameras. Note: this is made with the OM 1 as I’ve been fighting cloudy wet weather while testing the OM 1 Mark II

Focus Stacking

Achieving deep depth of field can be difficult when using macro and close focusing lenses. Focus Stacking mode allows up to 15 frame capture that is stitched in camera to increase DOF. The beauty is, it also records those RAW images if you feel the need to reprocess them in another software. Note that this is not Focus Bracketing, which this camera also allows, for a capture of a LOT more images if you are doing super macro work. It’s super convenient to have the work completed in camera verses having to wait for computer processing. BTW once you have set the parameters one shutter press activates all the exposures. These modes give you the best of both worlds creating macro images.

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Focus reaching deep into the throat of the orchid using the Focus Stack Mode. Stack stitched in camera.