Yellow Warbler - OM-1
Bird Photography,  Olympus / OM System,  Photo Gear

Comparing the OM Systems OM-1 and Olympus OM-D E-M1X for Bird Photography

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
Snowy Owl - E-M1X
Snowy Owl – E-M1X

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.

CameraSizeWeight
OM-D E-M1X with attached Battery Grip144 x 147 x 75mm / 5.67 x 5.79 x 2.95 in35.17 oz / 997 g
OM-1134.8 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.

Advantage: OM-1

Western Meadowlark - OM-1
Western Meadowlark – OM-1

Battery Life

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.

Advantage: 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.

Advantage: OM-1

Great Egret - E-M1X
Great Egret – E-M1X

Image Quality

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.

Advantage: OM-1

Cedar Waxwing - E-M1X
Cedar Waxwing – E-M1X

Ergonomics

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.

Advantage: E-M1X

Price

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.

Advantage: E-M1X

Osprey in Flight - OM-1
Osprey in Flight – 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

More OM-1 Blogs

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

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8 Comments

  • Steve Rushing

    I own both & very much agree with your assessment. I will add that given my large hands, the ergonomics of the OM-! improves with the battery grip & use. It also balances well with the 150-400.

    • Martin Belan

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for the feedback on the blog post. I’m still debating on the 150-400. Is it worth it? I’m heading to Alaska and taking the 300mm f/4 and 40-150mm f/2.8 with the 1.4x tc. I have to admit the 150-400 would be nice to have on the Alaska trip.

      Martin

      • Steve Rushing

        I’m a longtime owner of 300 & TC1.4 &2.0. They were the ‘long’ kit on my EM1X for a pre-pandemic trip to Alaska. A 12-100 on a EM1 iii was my short kit. I found it to be an outstanding setup for all the reasons that drew me to Olympus years ago. Including one leg of the trip on Nat Geo Inland Passage. I didn’t give up anything to the ‘big guns’. In fact, the mobility & weather sealing got me shot opportunities they missed.
        That being said, I think the 150-400 is worth it for my style of shooting, which is primarily here in the southeastern U.S. chasing small songbirds & other wildlife in our forests & swamps. I’m addicted to the ‘reach’, i.e., magnification for the small resident & migrant songbirds for example. It also helps for getting not-too-close shots of vulnerable beach birds like plovers. The versatility of the zoom is an asset as well when a subject pops up close.
        All, imo, without giving up the image quality of the prime.

        • Martin Belan

          Hi Steve,

          Thanks for your feedback on the 150-400. I will definitely have to consider it. But, I feel good about my current configuration with the 12-100mm f/4, 300mm f/4, and 40-150mm f/2.8 based on yours and others feedback. I will be posting the results of my photo trip when I return. Thanks again for the input. Martin.

  • Carbonman

    Martin, I also own the 150-400 (ordering the OM-1 tomorrow) and haven’t used the 300mm f4 Pro and MC-14 since a few days after unpacking the big white beast. It’s an incredible lens, as sharp as and with even more contrast than the 300. It has made bird photography much easier, though the rainy weather here in Vancouver has limited my time outdoors since getting the lens in March.
    I’m shooting with the 150-400 on the E-M1 III and 40-150mm f2.8 on the E-M1 II.

    • Martin Belan

      Hello,

      Thanks for the information on the 150-400. I love the 300mm f/4, but it sounds like the 150-400 is definitely worth consideration!

      Martin

  • Jan Steinman

    Do you use the built-in GPS of the E-M1x? If so, would you count that as a plus for that camera?

    I have not been able to get the phone-sync thing on the OM-1 to work reliably. Either I forget to start logging in the phone, or the phone locations are subtly off.

    And if I go inside buildings, nothing gets logged. It would be nice if the camera at least tried to interpolate locations when something goes wrong.

    • Martin Belan

      Hi Jan,

      I do not use the GPS feature in the E-M1X. I used it several times are forgot to turn it off and it drained my batteries. If you use it, I would consider it a plus for the E-M1X. It is sad that the E-M1X has been discontinued by OM Digital Solutions. I like to log the location and other shooting details while I’m traveling using the Apple Notes app. I can then use this data to update the metadata in Lightroom.

      Thanks for posting.

      Martin

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