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A Small and Mighty Camera

26.02.2024

It is early in the year and spring is in the air. We are in Somerset, looking for migrating birds. I am holding my new OM-1 camera from OM System with the M-Zuiko 300mm F4 Pro lens and an MC14, extender when suddenly there is a commotion in the reeds. A Bittern breaks cover, flying fast across the front of the reedbed. Despite the distance, Subject Detect picks up the bird with ease and tracks it, giving me a perfectly focused 11 frame sequence.

OM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO • MC-14 • 1/2500 s • F5.6 • ISO 1000

A tree briefly interrupts the view and then the track is on, until another commotion erupts. A second bittern flies up from the reeds, challenging the incoming male.

At this point, we are over 500 m away and the fighting birds are small dots in the viewfinder, yet the camera holds focus. The resulting picture will never win awards, but the behaviour is fascinating.

OM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO • MC-14 • 1/1600 s • F5.6 • ISO 1000

Further along the path I see another bittern flying against a blue sky, offering a far more conventional picture.

OM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO • MC-14 • 1/3200 s • F5.6 • ISO 800

Another favourite image from the day highlights the versatility of the 300mm f4 Pro lens. Once again equipped with the MC14 converter, I see an orange-tip butterfly resting on a plant beside a bridge. At under two metres away, the (effective) 840mm lens captures a beautiful close-up image.

OM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO • MC-14 • 1/1000 s • F5.6 • ISO 640

So how is the OM-1 working out?

I was fortunate to get one of the first cameras in the UK, and I have never looked back. There are few cameras that can touch OM-1 when it comes to shooting wildlife. With bird detection and eye tracking, the camera ‘grabs’ focus and locks onto the bird, even against contrasty backgrounds. This delivers frame after frame of perfectly focused pictures, even in light where it can be hard to see the bird, an example being the marsh harrier hunting as the sun set on the Somerset wetlands.

OM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO • 1/640 s • F4 • ISO 500

The OM-1 is not only a camera for wildlife photography though. The landscape below is a superbly detailed 50 Mpix image, captured hand-held with the High Res Shot mode.

OM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO • 1/1200 s • F8 • ISO 200

The design of the OM-1 has clearly been thought through very carefully. Aside from regular photographic functionality, it is a computational photography master with many clever and useful tricks that belie its tiny size.

This is a marbled white butterfly, focus-stacked in camera, with (my favourite) 300mm Pro lens, to ensure the whole butterfly was in focus, wing tips and all.

OM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO • 1/800 s • F4 • ISO 200

The cutaway view shows the extraordinary detail that can be captured hand-held thanks to the unbeatable in-camera stabilisation.

OM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO • 1/800 s • F4 • ISO 200

A favourite function, easily overused in landscape, is Live ND. It is designed to replicate the effect of using a high-factor neutral density filter to slow down motion. It takes a few seconds to activate the function from the menus and gives a beautiful effect for waterfalls and other fast-moving subjects.

OM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO • 1/2 s • F8 • ISO 200

Macro has long been one of Olympus’ key strengths, and the same now goes for OM-System cameras, thanks to their excellent and very well-priced macro lenses and the inbuilt focus stacking and bracketing. Below is a small trick picture in the studio, to show off the inbuilt focus bracketing. It shows a tiny common whelk placed atop a 5p piece. The image was focus bracketed with a sequence of images that were then stacked in third-party software.

OM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro • 1/8 s • F8 • ISO 200

Macro photography provides joy in the field. The Mycena vulgaris fungi were photographed using the diminutive but scalpel-sharp 60mm f2.8 macro lens. The image was close to a 1:1 macro, so a 10 frame in-camera focus stack was utilised to give the necessary depth of focus.

OM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro • 1/10 s • F4 • ISO 200

Still photography is crucial, but as more photographers realise the power of video, both for their work and social media, it has become increasingly important to be able to capture good quality film in cameras. This is where the OM-1 shines, with its capability to shoot 4k (3840x2160px) RAW videos at 60 fps and up to 240 fps at FHD (1920x1080px). More importantly, it can also shoot beautiful log clips, to allow for optimum grading in post-production, and the in-built stabilisation and AF capabilities make this an extremely capable camera for projects of all levels.

The waterfall clip demonstrates the effect of filming moving water at 100 fps and slowing it down four times.

To say that I am thrilled with the OM-1 is an understatement. This small but very mighty camera has replaced both a full frame mirrorless system and a video camera, equalling, and in many cases exceeding, the performance of both.

This article was commisioned for OM Systems' user website

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