OM System OM-1 II Should You Upgrade?
Olympus / OM System,  Photo Gear

Nature Photographers: Should You Upgrade to the OM System OM-1 II Camera?

OM System recently announced a second version of their flagship OM-1 camera.  The new Mark II version of the OM-1 no longer has Olympus branding on the body.

While the OM-1 II has the same 20MP Four Thirds Stacked CMOS Sensor and TruePic X processor, there is one new feature and numerous incremental updates that may be worth the upgrade for nature photographers.

In this blog, I’ll review the improvements to the camera.  I’ll also look at whether it is worth the upgrade to the OM System OM-1 II for the different Genres of nature photography: landscapes, birds and wildlife, macro, and astrophotography.

New Features and Improvements in the OM System OM-1 Mark II Camera

LiveGND

With the OM-1 II, OM System has continued with its advancements in computational photography with an internal Graduated ND Filter (LiveGND).  With LiveGND, you can adjust the darkness of the filter to ND2, ND4, or ND8).  You can also pick between soft, medium, and hard graduations for the filter.  The placement LiveGND filter can be adjusted using the Arrow Pad or the touch screen, and the angle of the filter is adjusted using the front and back dials.

This internal filter reduces the need to carry external filters.  It also works on all lenses, so you don’t need to worry about carrying different sized filters or step-down rings. 

Larger Frame Buffer

One of the concerns of the OM-1 Mark I was the size of the buffer given the fast 50 and 120 fps frame rates.  The smaller buffer on the OM-1 Mark I impacted me most when shooting Pro Capture at 50fps or higher.  I generally have Pro Capture set up on one of the Custom Modes, and while the buffer is flushing, you cannot change shooting modes.

With the OM-1 II, the buffer size has more than doubled.  OM Systems indicates that you can shoot over 200 RAW frames at 120 fps without filling the buffer. This is up from around 90 frames on the OM-1 Mark I.

This is a nice upgrade for action photography, but could lead a lot more photos to cull after your photo shoot.

OM-1 II Subject Detection Menu
OM-1 II Subject Detection Menu

Improved AF with Subject Detection

In addition to adding a new human subject detection mode which now integrated with the other subjects, OM System announced greatly improved autofocus for subject detection.  It has also added the ability to selectively focus on a single subject when it is located in a group of subjects like a flock of birds.

Improved autofocus for subject detection is difficult to measure, I am interested in seeing the improved performance in field tests from other than OM System ambassadors.  But if subject detection AF is greatly improved, this alone may be worth the upgrade for bird and wildlife photographers.

Additional Updates to the OM-1 Mark II

  • Rubber coating on the front and rear dials.  This was one of my complaints of the original OM-1.  The dials were very difficult to turn with gloves on, which is very important in colder climates.
  • Improvement to 8.5 EV steps of image stabilization.
  • Wider dynamic range High Res Shot using 14-bit RAW vs. 12-bit RAW in the OM-1 Mark I.
  • LiveND up to ND128 vs. ND64 in the OM-1 Mark I.  This is a nice addition.  However, I found myself mainly shooting LiveND at ND16 or ND32 on my OM-1 Mark I.
  • The Trash Can Button on the back of the camera can now be configured as the Menu Button, moving the Menu Button back to the right side of the camera.
Are Firmware Updates Coming to the OM-1 Mark I?
Are Firmware Updates Coming to the OM-1 Mark I?

Firmware Updates for the OM-1 Mark I

I wouldn’t expect OM Digital Solutions to update the firmware with some of these features for the OM-1 Mark I.  In their announcements they indicated that additional memory needed to be added to the OM-1 Mark II for these features and upgrades.

I suspect that some of these improvements could be added with a firmware update on the OM-1. Features like reconfiguring the Menu button and some of the improvements for autofocus.  But, OM Digital Solutions is in the business of selling cameras and prefer that you upgrade to the OM-1 Mark II.

Should You Upgrade to the OM-1 Mark II?

Let’s look at this from the perspective of the different genres of nature photography.

Landscape Photographers

The biggest feature / improvement for landscape photographers is the LiveGND filter.  This could be a great feature for landscape photographers who don’t want to invest in or carry multiple Graduated ND filters for multiple lens sizes.

From the demos that I’ve seen, it appears to be fairly simple to use and provides good results in the photographs.

Landscape photographers could also benefit from the rubberized dials when shooting in cold weather, the 14-Bit RAW High Res shot, and improved image stabilization if you don’t like using a Tripod (like me).

Bird and Wildlife Photographers

The two significant improvements in the OM-1 II for bird and wildlife photographers are the larger frame buffer, and improved subject detection AF.  The larger buffer will be a great improvement when shooting at fast frame rates and for Pro Capture.

Bird and wildlife photographers will also benefit from the rubber dials when shooting with gloves on in cold weather.  The improved image stabilization will help helpful when photographing birds and wildlife early in the morning and late in the afternoon when they are most active.

This camera is a really nice upgrade for bird and wildlife photographers.

Macro Photographers

There are a few improvements that could benefit macro photographers.  Rubberized dials and improved stabilization top the list.

Astrophotographers

I Don’t see a large amount of improvements here that could benefit astrophotographers.  I think the rubber dials will definitely help shooting at night in the cold weather.  Other than the dials, I don’t see much here that would persuade me to upgrade.

Upgrading to the OM-1 II from an Olympus OM-D Camera

If you haven’t already upgraded to the OM-1 I, this would be a significant update and would probably make sense if you want to spend the money. Another option would be to upgrade from an OM-D camera to the OM-1 Mark I. Prices should be reducing for the OM-1 1 and as people begin to trade in their OM-1 Mark I cameras, you may be able to pick up a good deal on an OM-1 in places like MPB.

Am I going to Upgrade?

I am primarily a nature photography.  So writing this blog, helped me to make the decision on upgrading to the OM-1 II. 

Right now, I don’t plan on upgrading to the OM-1 Mark II.  I’m still really happy with my OM-1 Mark I. Some of the improvements like the larger buffer, improved subject detection, and LiveGND are intriguing, but not enough to spend an additional $2,400 USD.

Maybe in the future, I’ll sell my E-M1X at MPB and wait for the price of the OM-1 II to decrease around the holidays.

Written by Martin Belan

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7 Comments

  • Robert Gonzales

    Thx for your discussion on the Mark II. What really would have enticed me into buying this new model would have been to upgrade the sensor to a bit higher pixel level – maybe 30?!

  • Bill Dennis

    A good overview of the OM-1 Mk II and reasons to upgrade, thanks. It does have a few useful features but maybe not enough for me to immediately upgrade from the Mk1.

    I think for Astrophotography the 14 bit High Res raw files are of interest to me – I have taken single shot HHHR astro shots on a tripod with some success. The 14 bits may give more dynamic range to play with on faint nebulas etc. I’m not in a hurry to spend the money to find out though – the existing OM-1 is good enough for now!

  • Robert

    Many thanks for the article and great discusssion. I had been thinking of upgrading from my old reliable EM-1 Mk III to the OM-1. Now I am not sure I would go for the OM-1 Mk II right away. Maybe next year or so. I was hoping that they would bump up the mp’s to 26-30 in the OM-1 and again in the Mk II. Decisions, decisions.

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