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OM System OM-5 an upgrade without innovations?

This week OM Digital Solutions introduced the second camera under the brand OM System. One year after the introduction of the new brand, it become apparent how OM Digital Solutions sees its own future and which target group the brand is addressing. But is the OM System OM-5 an upgrade without innovations or are there news which we haven’t seen from Olympus / OM Digitalsolutions yet? I would like to share here my thoughts and not the technical details, which I had after the introduction of the OM-5

OM System OM-5 schwarz
Image from OM Digital Solution

My assessment about the OM System OM-5 technology

The outside of the OM-5 is identical with the E-M5 Mark III. Only the silver variant has a black instead of a silver on / off switch. The advantage is that a E-M5 Mark III user who upgrades doesn’t have to learn how to use the camera again. A critique, the change in usage of successors, which you can read in a lot of forums, is therefore invalid. But also a lot of the inside has not changed. Instead of utilising the new menu system, the OM-5 comes with the one from its predecessor E-M5 Mark III. Both is one of the critique points in the media. In my opinion there is a good and a bad side. On on hand the well known handling stays the same, on the other side innovation and process is not possible. To decide whether this is good or bad is on your side.

Process without process

Beside the design and user interface a lot of hardware components are the same as of the E-M5 Mark III. Sensor. Wifi, autofocus system, battery and interfaces has not renewed at all. Only image processor and built-in image stabilisation has been updated. Both are the base of the new functionality of the OM-5. This are computational functions as Live ND and handheld HighRes shot. Both functions need the higher performance of the TruePic IX and are therefore not possible by a simple firmware update of the E-M5 Mark III.

The improved image stabilisation enables longer exposure times without tripod, but is not as good as the stabilisation of the OM-1. This is for sure to differentiate the to models. All of this is in the class of the OM-5 innovative. Looking on the available technology is this state of the art or even old technology. The sensor for example is already available since available and for sure not the newest techology in the market. The sensor has been introduced 2016 and is therefore 6 years old, which is for sensors a very long time.

OM System OM-5 silber
Bild von OM Digital Solutions

My rating of the OM System OM-5

The OM-5 is no flagship model, where the price is not that important, but should be the profit contributor camera for OM Digitalsolutions. The sold quantities must be higher to have a healthy user bace for OM System cameras. Therefore the development cost and manufacturer cost has to be balanced. As in other industries OM Digitalsolutions is using already available components. The R&D cost are already paid.

Principally nothing wrong with this, but the question is who is the traget group of this camera. Users who already have a E-M5 Mark III do have only few reasons upgrade to the new camera. The news are, in my opinion, not big enough. Users of other camera brands are not highly motivated to change. There are some features which are not available at the competition, but this is not enough. Users of other brands has to change the lenses as well. This generates additional costs and the price of the camera is not cheap.

The Panasonic users are the only remaining ones. At least those who own a Micro Four Thirds system. In addition there are the E-M10 Mark IV and PEN E-P7 users. Those users are the ones in danger to leave the camera industry. Cameras of smartphones are getting better and the majority of the E-M10 Mark IV and PEN E-P7 users do not understand the advantage to change lenses and use different focal length. I doubt, that those users will pay the price for the OM-5

Conclusions


In my opinion it will be hard to sell the OM System OM-5. It is a camera between the flagship model OM-1, which has the news features, and the much cheaper E-M10 Mark IV. Users, who want to have the latest features will by the OM-1. Is price priority the E-M10 Mark IV is the choice. This phenomenon is not unique for OM Digital Solutions, but shows the big issue of the camera industry. After years of massive innovations and the development of new sensors is now the development of camera technologies limited. Nowadays it is not possible anymore to introduce every 1-2 years big innovations steps, which makes technic fans happy.

Detailed technical reviews of the OM System OM-5

  1. Mirrorless Comparison has a nice comparision between E-M5 Mark III and the OM-5 as well as a comparison of the OM-1 with the OM-5
  2. A classic website for reviews is Dpreview who writes about their first impressions of OM-5.

Your opinions counts.

I’m happy about your opinion. Please leave it in the comments. I will read them and looking forward to discuss them with you. How is the future of the camera industry in general and how do you see the future of OM Digitalsolutions.

OM System OM-1 introduced

Now it is official. One year ago announce The OM System OM-1 is officially introduced. With the OM-1 OM Digitalsolutions fading the Olympus ear out and introduce not only an impressive camera but also a new product naming. Exactly at the 50th anniversary of the OM-1, the digital grandson is introduced to the market. As in the seventies is also the digital version of the OM-1 compared to cameras, which offers a similar performance, small and lightweight. Nevertheless, it is equipped with technical possibilities, which are so far not available in the market.

Kingfisher taken with the OM-1

Lightning fast time machine

Pro Capture has been introduced together with the E-M1 Mark II back in 2016 and supports you as a photographer shifting back in time. While pressing the release button halfway down, the camera already records images and saves them in buffer storage. As soon as you fully press the button down this buffer storage will be stored on your SD card. This supports you to shoot unforeseeable incidents easier than without Pro Capture.
The OM-1 brings this function to a totally new level. With up to 120 images per second, you are able to record finer details of movement which enable you to catch the perfect moment. At this speed, the camera focuses and makes the exposure metering with the first image and keeps it with the following. In case the subject you would like to capture is moving towards or away from you, the camera should adjust focus and exposure in between. Also in this mode, the OM-1 sets new standards. The OM-1 offers 50 frames per second. This speed is unmatched by any camera on the market. This enables you to shoot any small detail in movement. Of course, you have these speeds also in the normal sequential shooting mode as well.

Starting kingfisher taken with the OM-1
Starting kingfisher taken with the OM-1

New intelligent autofocus system

Such speed values are only possible if your focusing system is blasting fast as well. The autofocus system of the OM-1 is based on a so-called Quad Pixel AF Technology. This technology divides each pixel into 4 sub-pixel, which can be controlled separately. Therefore it is possible to control those Subpixel diagonals, which enables the camera to realize cross-type phase-detection AF points. 100% of the sensor area is covered. Because the sensor can be read out very quickly, the data can be sent to the image processor very quickly. The new, very fast image processor Truepic X does the rest.

This new technology is also the base for improved intelligent subject detection. OM Digitalsolutions is calling it AI detection AF. The subject detection is based on machine learning and is able to detect airplanes, cars, birds also cats, and dogs. There is not only a big leap in the speed and accuracy of recognition, but also a lot has happened in terms of functionality. In the past subject detection was only available in C-AF + Tracking mode, now it is also available in S-AF and C-AF. In S-AF and C-AF the cameras show, as with C-AF + Tracking, if a subject is detected. However, in those modes, the camera only focuses on subjects, if those are within the focusing fields. Especially experienced photographers will be happy about it, as they are getting better control over this functionality.

In case you would like to know more about AI detection AF please read my short blog post “OM System OM-1 AI detection AF”

OM-1 in the forest

OM System OM-1 introduced – Image Quality

in the general opinion pixel count of sensors is equaled with resolution. The OM-1 shows, that this is not correct. Although the pixel count has not been increased, the completely newly developed sensor offers a better detail reproduction than the E-M1 Mark III. This is not surprising as the sensor is a backside illuminated sensor and has a much better noise performance than its predecessor. Most visible is this in high sensitivities, but also visible in the base sensitivities, which offer better data handling. This results in a better detail reproduction in fine structures, which is generally called resolution.

Noise performance

As already mentioned the noise performance of the OM-1 has been massively improved. The OM-1 is roughly 2 f-stops better compared to E-M1 Mark III. My personal impression is that it is even slightly better than 2 f-stops. This means that images taken with 25600 ISO do have roughly the same noise performance as images of the E-M1 Mark III at 6400 ISO. You could say that the light sensitivity has been improved by four times. If you have in mind that the sensor area of a Micro Four Thirds sensor is four times smaller than the area of a 35mm camera, you could say that the OM-1 is on the same level as a 35mm camera with a similar pixel count.

But not only noise performance has been improved compared to E-M1 Mark III, also the dynamic range is larger. Roughly 1 f-stop more dynamic range is now available. This enables you to shoot better images of a gorge, which is very bright in the background.

All in all, is the image quality improvement larger than you can expect from a new camera generation and I would say the image quality of this Micro Four Thirds camera is now on the same level as 35mm cameras.

Robin in a bush

OM System OM-1 introduced – Reliability personified

Olympus aka OM Digital Solution has been the market leader in dustproof and splashproof cameras since a long time. The OM-1 is even better. It offers an IP53 standard certification and could be used in nearly all weather conditions you can imagine. In addition, it is guaranteed that the camera works down to -10°C. However, this is only the official value as I used the camera in much lower temperatures as well. But this is not all. In addition, the OM-1 comes with a supersonic wave filter, which removes dust from the sensor. For this purpose, the OM-1 is equipped with a mechanical shutter that is specified for 400,000 releases. More than you will need as an ambitious photographer.

Everything is new

Not only sensor and processor is new developed, but also the menu has got a new design. Even more important it also goes a new structure. In my opinion, the redesign is a complete success. Functions are arranged much more logically and the layout means you only have to look to the left when searching. Once you have found the parameter you are looking for, you can see the setting that is currently being used on the right-hand side. The Super Control Panel has also been streamlined and adjusted. The result is a much simpler overview and you can make settings faster.

Conclusion

The OM SYSTEM OM-1 is a thoroughly wonderful camera. The engineers have not only taken the image quality a considerable step forward but also brought the speed of a camera into previously unimagined spheres. Anyone who still misses something here will be surprised with a completely new operating concept that is very easy to understand for owners of an OM-D and new users can learn very quickly. From my point of view, there are only small things that could be improved.

OM System OM-1 AI detection AF

With the OM-1, OM Digitalsolutions has taken the intelligent object detection, introduced with the OM-D E-M1X to a new level and called it “AI detection AF”. In addition to the additional detection of cats and dogs, both the speed of detection and the accuracy have been significantly improved. I want to briefly discuss which improvements have been achieved and how.

Speed

The OM-1 introduces two new essential improvement for subject detection AF. On one hand side the sensor and on the other hand the image processor 

The new sensor is a backside illuminated stacked CMOS sensor, who has pixels which are divided in four sub pixel. This design brings two essential improvements compared to the OM-D E-M1X. A stacked sensor can be read out much faster and is therefore able to deliver needed information for AF calculation faster. The four sub pixel information can be read out separately and could be utilized as cross sensors for phase detection autofocus. This is the reason why the OM-1 has a 100% sensor coverage of autofocus sensors. But providing the information faster is only one thing. To be able to utilize this data the image processor has to able to process those data. Therefore the new image processor of the OM-1 is much faster as the one in the E-M1X.

Starting kingfisher taken with AI Detection AF

Precision

Beside speed accuracy in subject detection is as important. A fast autofocus is not helpful, if the subject detection is working well. The accuracy of the OM-1 subject detection as been improved by two changes. On one hand side the size of the single AF points as been reduced. Therefore, are more AF points available, which leads to a better differentiation between objects, background and foreground. Result is that the camera is not irritated by branches or similar interruptions, which leads to a improved subject detection. On the other hand the algorithm to recognize the single subjects has been improve and programmed directly into the processor, which is thanks to the much higher processing speed able to deliver the focus results in a shorter time. The camera is able to react to changes in front of a lens much faster.

Kingfisher taken with the OM-1
Kingfisher

Functional AI detection AF Improvements

Luckily the improvements of the OM-1 are not only in speed and precision, but also in functionality. In case of the E-M1X the intelligent subject detection is only available when you activate C-AF + Tracking and the hole sensor area. That is the reason that the photographer is not able to recognize which subject will be focused on. Even though the camera focus on the subject which is closest to the selected AF point.

The OM-1 is offering intelligent subject detection also on S-AF and the “normal” C-AF mode. In opposite to the C-AF + Tracking, which is following the focused subject, S-AF and C-AF keeps the position in the frame and reacts accordingly. This enable the photographer to decide which of the functionality fits to his / her needs best.

Great tit in the trees taken with the OM-1

Conclusion about AI detection AF

The new generation of subject detection as essential improvements compared to the one introduce three years ago with the E-M1X. All aspects, which do have influence in subject detection, has been improved.

Die neue  Generation der Objekterkennung ist eine wesentliche Verbesserung gegenüber der vor 3 Jahren vorgestellten E-M1X. Alle Aspekte, die einen Einfluß auf die Objekterkennung haben, wurden wesentlich verbessert. The interaction of the new sensor, new processor and new algorithms gives you a package that makes it much easier to photograph objects such as birds in flight. This development also shows what we can expect from new camera generations in the future. Instead of just increasing the number of pixels, there will be more and more computational photography, in which the camera provides functions that make it easier for the photographer to achieve results. After all, 20 million pixels, the OM-1 is more than enough to print out the pictures in any desired size and hang them on the wall.

OM-1 details

Interested in details about the OM System OM-1, then read “OM System OM-1 introduced”

PEN E-P7 introduced

E-P7 silver front view

In 2009 Olympus introduce in Berlin the E-P1 the first mirrorless camera with Micro Four Thirds standard. Already at that time, the camera design was based on the PEN design in the late sixties. Several successors have been released and in 2013 the last PEN of the P series has been released. Now after 8 years, OM Digital Solutions pick up the threads and releases with the Olympus PEN E-P7. Its design doesn’t require hiding from its predecessors. Modern but classic looks pretty nice and OM Digital Solutions achieved once again a very attractive camera.

Product image of the Olympus PEN E-P7
Olympus PEN E-P7 with M.Zuiko Digital 12mm F2.0

The inner values of the Olympus PEN E-P7

Personally, I love the design and this is already a good reason to buy the E-P7, but the E-P7 is coming with the newest technologies. It has the current image processor TruePic VIII and brings a 5 axis image stabilisation, which can correct 4,5 EV steps. In addition, it is the first PEN with the known 20 MPixel sensor of the E-M10 Mark IV. In conjunction with the high-quality M.Zuiko lenses, the E-P7 can deliver the best possible image quality.

What I like about the E-P7 most are the creative possibilities. Besides the well know Art Filters and the long time exposure function Live Composite and Live Bulb, the E-P7 is coming with Monochrom Profile and Colour Profile Control, which is known from the Olympus PEN-F. For both profiles, the E-P7 comes with four presets, which could be adjusted to personal preferences. The creative functions can be combined. For example, you can combine the Monochrom Profil or Color Profile with Live Composite and LiveBulb. This enables you to create unique results without long time post-processing.

The target group of the E-P7 are those who are using the smartphone to take images and looking for a camera with interchangeable lenses to be more creative. Therefore is the camera compatible with OI.share, with which you can remote control the camera. In addition, it is possible to transfer images directly from the camera to the smartphone. New in the E-P7 is, that you can transfer taken images automatically to the smartphone. Now it is even easier to transfer images to your smartphone and share them on social networks.

Olympus PEN E-P7 on a semi reflective underground
Olympus PEN E-P7 white

Critics

As beautiful as the camera is there are some features which will not be liked by all of you. For example, the display is only tiltable by 80° up and 180° down. It is also no swivel display. As the display is tilted downwards to see it from the front it is not possible to use a tripod. This makes selfies and selfie movies more difficult. OI.share can help here, as the live view can be used to control the image.

In addition, the E-P7 doesn’t have an electronic viewfinder. A lot of photographers do prefer an electronic viewfinder, especially when they are taking images in bright surroundings or need reading glasses. Here is a viewfinder helpful as the image is shown in infinity. The missing viewfinder is the reason for the compact size of the camera, which enables you to have the camera always with you.

Details of the Olympus PEN E-P7

Conclusion

All in all the E-P7 is a very nice camera. Especially using the creative functions is fun and enable you to create impressive images without post-processing. This helps you to share your own image styles fast and uncomplicated on social networks. Due to the small size and weight, it competes with a camera like the Canon GX7 with the advantage of interchangeable lenses. In case you own already a Micro Four Thirds camera, the E-P7 is certainly an option as a second camera.

Further article about the Olympus PEN E-P7

Officially the E-P7 is not compatible with the Profoto Air Remote O-TTL, however see how it works in my article “Olympus PEN E-P7 and OM-D E-M10 Mark IV compatible with Profoto Air Remote O-TTL?