OM System’s new OM-1 blazes through 50 frames per second at 20 megapixels with the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) mount’s first stacked sensor. It can do this in full RAW format and with full autofocus and tracking.
Yes, tracking. Cars, motorcycles, birds, planes, and animals will all get tracked with deep learning algorithms. It’s not quite as good at identifying a critter in a larger frame as the quite-good full frame cameras available today, but it’s a big leap in catching up versus the dogs breakfast was the old tracking system. The camera can be told to look for a certain kind of object, such as a face or a train. The combination of recognition and tracking renders it useful.
There are a half dozen or so lenses that will work with the 50 frames per second feature. Older lenses will deprecate to 20 frames per second. This brings up an interesting issue. The promise of the MFT mount system was that you could buy a camera and interchangeably use many other brands’ lenses. As computational photography and integration with various camera tricks becomes more prevalent, this balkanizes the MFT lens landscape. But for 50 frames per second, we’re willing to tolerate a little balkanization.
About that stacked sensor: it pulls down the frame in 1/125th of a second all told, which is faster than your average normal sensor, but it’s about half the speed of an R3 stacked sensor. If not rolling shutter, you may still find some sashaying shutter.
It shoots 4K 60p using the full sensor and even with 10 bit internal recording.
The camera isn’t much smaller than your average full frame camera. The ergonomics and interface appear to be well updated. OM System even sealed the camera to a spec: the IP53 standard for splash proofing. You’re not going to take this unprotected down on your next scuba dive, but the company is making a real water resistance claim that it has to stand behind. This is unlike all but one (Leica) of the other camera makers, who offer instead weasley words of hope and betrayal.
Screens are upgraded, in particular the addition of a tilty/flippy screen.
It uses twin UHS-II SD cards. This will be a disappointment to those excited about the fast frame rate, as this buffer is going to clear only as quickly as the card will eat them. That buffer offers only two seconds of RAW full rate shooting before you are limited to your card speed. And, boy, even the super expensive V90 cards will spend a quarter of a minute eating those two seconds of shots, making it difficult to use the camera in that framerate for sports or wildlife.
The mechanical shutter operates at a respectable 10 frames per second, which would provide for a more reasonable buffer clearing ratio of 2 seconds of clearing for 1 second of shooting.
The battery life appears to be robust. PD chargers will run the camera and charge the battery at the same time.
In sum, the OM-1 provides a serious flagship platform for the OM System brand, which has been struggling since Olympus kicked it out of the house. It did not so much “wow” as it simply caught up to the rapidly-moving full frame market’s feature set. Where it could have wowed, its compromises left dreaded spec sheet asterisks. The 50 frames per second might have made it a sports camera worth having, but waiting 16.66 seconds to clear the buffer means it will not. 4k 60p full frame video recorded internally at 10-bit would have been reason enough to switch from Panasonic… two years ago. But the lack of “wow” belies a very nice camera that could just be the victim of incorrectly set expectations.