The OM System OM-1 camera has been receiving a lot of positive press as a bird photography camera. The camera has a new Stacked BSI Live MOS Sensor and shooting modes with faster frames per second.
I’ve been using the Olympus OM-D E-M1X for bird photography since its inception and it is a terrific bird photography camera. I ordered the OM-1 on the first day it was available for pre-order and have been testing it for bird photography since receiving the camera on March 3rd, 2022.
Both cameras have some of the same features and specifications but the OM-1 also has some significant upgrades that are beneficial for bird photography.
Similar Features Between the OM System OM-1 and Olympus OM-D E-M1X
- 20.4 megapixel sensor although the OM-1 has a new stacked sensor
- 7.0Ev of compensation with 5-axis stabilization, 7.5Ev with Sync IS on certain lenses
- Joystick for moving the autofocus point. E-M1X has 2 joysticks (1 landscape and 1 portrait)
- 4 Custom Mode Dial Settings. Check out my blog on Using the Custom Mode Dial for bird photography
Which Olympus Camera is Better for Bird Photography?
Below I compare the OM System OM-1 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1X in 7 different categories.
The comments and advantages below are based on my experiences in the field photographing birds using both cameras. I purchased both cameras, they were not supplied by OM Digital Solutions / Olympus for this test.
Size / Weight
The OM System OM-1 has the vast majority of the features of the E-M1X in a much smaller and lighter body (see the table below). I see this as a big advantage for photographers going on long bird photography hikes. Also, the E-M1X can start to get a bit heavy while waiting for a bird to take-off using Pro Capture.
|OM-D E-M1X with attached Battery Grip||144 x 147 x 75mm / 5.67 x 5.79 x 2.95 in||35.17 oz / 997 g|
|OM-1||134.8 x 91.6 x 72.7mm / 5.3 x 3.6 x 2.72 in.||21.13 oz / 599 g|
This is also a benefit for traveling bird photographers where the OM-1 and 300mm f/4 could fit in a smaller bag or leave room for an extra lens. This is especially beneficial when traveling in small planes or in foreign countries with carry-on bag weight restrictions.
*The HLD-10 battery grip can be added to the OM System OM-1 but it doesn’t have the additional joystick.
The OM System OM-1 uses the new BLX-1 Battery with a longer battery life. However, the E-M1X holds 2 BLH-1 batteries in the built-in battery grip. The new BLX-1 Battery is reported to have about a 25% longer battery charge over the BLH-1 batteries.
My experience for bird photography is that in a half day bird photography shoot using Sequential Shooting SH2 and a good amount of Pro Capture, I was down to about 30% of the battery remaining. So, you will still want to carry 2 BLX-1 batteries on your bird photography shoot.
Given the 25% increase in battery charge, I give the advantage to the OM-1.
Bird Detection Autofocus
Both the OM-1 and the E-M1X have Bird Detection AF. Dog and cat subject detection was also added in the OM-1. From my testing, the bird tracking algorithm performs about the same between the OM-1 and E-M1X.
The big enhancements are that Subject Detection is no longer tied to tracking and is now available in S-AF, C-AF, and C-AF-TR. You can now also limit subject detection to within a focus area, not only all focus points like in the E-M1X.
The OM-1 will now only search for a subject within a focus area but will continue to track the subject outside of the focus areas. For birds in flight, I’ve gotten a better hit rate when using Bird Detection AF within the Large Rectangle Focus Area. I still use all focus points when using Bird Detection AF with Pro Capture for bird take-offs.
Subject Detection can also be assigned to a button on the OM-1 which was not available on the E-M1X. This allows you to quickly turn on / off subject detection and to change the subject.
The OM-1 sports a new Stacked BSI Live MOS Sensor. But it is still a 20.4 megapixel sensor. Overall, I have found the image quality to be about the same. I have been willing to push the ISO a little higher up to about 1600 for bird photography on the OM-1 and still get good quality images. On the E-M1X, ISO 1250 was about my maximum ISO.
Advantage: Slight Advantage to the OM-1
Frames Per Second
The OM-1 has a super fast 50 frames per second while photographing in sequential shooting SH2 mode which autofocuses between frames. SH2 mode does have some shutter speed and aperture limitations. Silent Sequential Shooting mode was also increased to 20 fps in the OM-1 from 18 fps in the E-M1X.
While the 25 or 50 fps of SH2 mode does have its uses in capturing bird behavior and actions, I find myself shooting more in Silent Sequential Mode (20 fps). Maybe culling the thousands of images when I get home that has influenced me to use a still very usable 20 fps. While I’ve switched away from SH2 mode, it’s still good to have that feature when necessary for capturing action on fast moving birds.
The Olympus E-M1X feels good in my hands and is well balanced when paired with the Olympus 300mm f/4 Pro lens and 1.4x teleconverter. That said, I really like the lighter weight of the OM-1 and it still balances pretty well with the 300mm f/4 and 1.4x tc. The size and spacing of the buttons and controls of the E-M1X are very useable even with light gloves. The recessed dials are also easy to turn with light gloves.
With the OM-1, I have difficulty finding and pushing the smaller buttons, and finding and turning the recessed while wearing light gloves. Due to this, I would choose the E-M1X for a cold weather bird photography camera.
The retail price of the new OM System OM-1 is selling for $2,199 (USD) while the price of the E-M1X has been reduced by OM Digital Solutions. I’ve seen the E-M1X as low as $1,799 (USD). If you want a battery grip for your OM-1, it will cost another $350 bringing the total to $2,549 for the OM-1.
Conclusion on the OM System OM-1 vs. the Olympus E-M1X for Bird Photography
The results from adding up my scoring in the above 7 categories are:
- OM-1: 5 wins
- E-MX: 2 wins
With a solid 5 to 2 victory, it looks like the OM System OM-1 camera is the winner for bird photography. The newer and evolving technology of the OM-1 (advances in Bird Detection AF, faster fps, new sensor) gives it definite advantages for bird photography.
That said, if you are looking for a bird photography camera with a battery grip, the reduced prices on the E-M1X make it attractive for bird photographers. I used the E-M1X for bird photography for several years and was very happy with the results.
Written by Martin Belan
Related Blog Posts
How I Set Up the OM System OM-1 for Nature Photography
What You Can Customize on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, E-M1X, and OM Systems OM-1. Is the OM-1 More Customizable?
Top Improvements of the OM System (Olympus) OM-1 Menu System