The Olympus OM-1 is amazing! These are my 5 reasons why

Geraint Radford
(Image credit: Geraint Radford)

Sharing the same as the original Olympus OM-1 camera that was released in 1972, the new OM-1 is perhaps just as revolutionary. The OM System OM-1 has been highly anticipated, and for good reason – it replaces the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III and Olympus OM-D E-M1X as the flagship model and packs in a lot of tech in its compact body, including 120fps burst shooting, IP53 weather sealing and 8 stops of image stabilization.

We've already shared our thoughts in our full Olympus OM-1 review, so who better to ask for their first impressions than a real-life Olympus ambassador who uses the camera everyday to shoot fascinating close-up captures of insects and flowers. Let's see what professional photographer Geraint Radford makes of Olympus' flagship.

About Geraint Radford

Lauren Scott

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)

Geraint is an Olympus ambassador and macro photographer from Wales, UK. A lover of bugs and bourbon biscuits, he likes to shoot beautiful, crisp images without disturbing his subjects. Geraint has previously used an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III.

Hi friends! Geraint here checking in with five things I love about the Olympus OM-1 for outdoor macro photography (in no particular order). News of the new flagship camera from OM System brought me a lot of excitement! After using it for a few months I can say that it takes everything I love from the previous cameras – I've previously used the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III – but enhances them. 

• Read more: Best Olympus OM-1 deals in May

At the same time, there are some super cool new features that elevate my photography opportunities, allowing me to explore the macro world like never before. Here are just some of my favourite new additions that have already improved my shooting experiences.

(Image credit: Geraint Radford)

1. Handheld High Res mode

Handheld High Res mode lets you shoot a 50MP Raw file from the 20MP micro four thirds sensor. The details that can be achieved using this feature are amazing! It does this by shifting the sensor to create a composite image. The subject must remain still during this process so speed matters.

This feature can be found on certain Olympus cameras but the OM-1 is the first model which I can confidently use in the macro world. This is because it is so much faster, and the extra stability offered by the IBIS means that the process is almost instantaneous…wowzer! I have noticed that my keep rate is now far higher than before when using HHR for the correct photographic opportunities.

A handheld capture using a magnifications ratio of 2:1 vs 35mm sensors. That’s some resolution! As someone who deals with large printing, I can say that I’m very excited about photographing this macro season.  (Image credit: Geraint Radford)

Geraint Radford

A nursery web spider is relaxing among some bluebells. This wonderful creature remained perfectly still, giving me time to photograph him in High Res Mode (Image credit: Geraint Radford)

2. The Snazzy new viewfinder

The benefits of this upgraded viewfinder go beyond the higher resolution and beautiful colours. The addition of the night vision mode has solved a few niggles that I had with my E-M1 Mark III (which I still love!). 

Tiny macro subjects require extra magnification, and my preferred way to achieve this is to pop on some extension tubes because we aren’t adding extra glass and diminishing image quality. The issue with using extension tubes is that they reduce the amount of available light which makes it rather tricky to see though the viewfinder. 

Before the OM-1, I would use live view boost, which does works but slightly impacts the quality of the image in the viewfinder and exaggerates the small movements we create at high magnifications (making focus stacking more challenging). The OM-1’s night vision mode does not have these issues so I can shoot freely with extension tubes – even in the dark and spooky woods.

3. Autofocus

Autofocus and macro photography don’t always go hand in hand. My initial impressions are that the OM-1 in continuous autofocus mode works really well in the close-up world. I would recommend pre composing your image, selecting one of the 1053 autofocus points and then activating the continuous autofocus (C-AF), which will adjust for the micro movements that happen. 

If we time our shots carefully, shooting when the key areas are in focus, we can achieve a decent keep rate without having to manually adjust the focus frequently. I usually activate the AF and then gradually move the camera closer to the subject, allowing the camera to manage the focus so I can watch for interesting moments to capture without being distracted.

A very lucky shot of a clumsy little honey bee. I noticed the bee approaching and thankfully, the AF system was quicker than I was in location the action (Image credit: Geraint Radford)

4. Better ISO performance

Although my work isn’t heavily reliant on high ISO shooting, having at least one extra stop of noise performance opens new opportunities.

Mini beasts tend to be shiny, owing to their exoskeletons. Controlling highlights requires nicely diffused lighting. This can be achieved with a diffused flash or if we are using natural light, we can shoot in shaded/overcast conditions to give us soft lighting.

Being able to exceed ISO 1600 whilst retaining lots of detail is very useful. I believe that this opens creative opportunities and gives me the ability to capture dynamic images of insects on the move, using only natural light. On previous models, I would be hesitant to get beyond ISO 800 in my macro shooting because we rely upon fine details to show off how intricate these beings are. 

Having this flexibility also means that I can use higher ISO levels when I am using flash so that I can maintain more ambient lighting. This does a couple of cool things. I can use lower flash durations which makes focus stacking much faster because I don’t have to wait for the flash to recharge. I can maintain colours in my backgrounds, so I am not limited to the “studio” look (where we have black backgrounds) in my macro work. Not that I think it’s a bad look, it’s just nice to have flexibility.

Using an ISO of 1000 with a short flash duration, It’s possible to keep a naturalistic feel to the photograph whilst achieving high shutter speeds of 1/1000sec (using OM System high speed sync) and freezing the action (Image credit: Geraint Radford)

Geraint Radford

One evening in my garden, after checking in with my sleepy chickens, I noticed this beautiful bluebell standing proud. I grabbed my camera and composed the photo so that the widows of my home were backlighting the flowers. Because it was so dark, I used an ISO of 12800 with an exposure of 1/40th. Being able to capture creative images, handheld in low light is really rather cool (Image credit: Geraint Radford)

5. Sheer speed

Everything is faster on the OM-1 versus previous Olympus cameras that I have used. The stacked sensor design has opened more opportunities for capturing those rare moments in time. For me, photography is an adventure, I love being outside and looking for cool subjects to photograph. Every second counts and if I miss a photo opportunity, I need to move onto the next one as soon as possible and this camera does not get in the way of a really fun day out.

Geraint Radford

Macro moments are fleeting and nature is ever changing. At first, I did not notice the cheeky ant approaching and very nearly missed this special scene. I quickly switched on my camera and used continuous AF to capture this photograph of a flower crab spider that is eating an unfortunate hover fly  (Image credit: Geraint Radford)

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and first impressions. Macro photography is such a rewarding pastime and I hope that you have a lot of fun exploring this fascinating world.

Read more:

The best cameras for macro
The best macro lenses
The best ringflash for macro

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Lauren Scott
Managing Editor

Lauren is the Managing Editor of Digital Camera World, having previously served as Editor of Digital Photographer magazine, a practical-focused publication that inspires hobbyists and seasoned pros alike to take truly phenomenal shots and get the best results from their kit. 

An experienced photography journalist who has been covering the industry for over eight years, she has also served as technique editor for both PhotoPlus: The Canon MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and DCW's sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine

In addition to techniques and tutorials that enable you to achieve great results from your cameras, lenses, tripods and other photography equipment, Lauren can regularly be found interviewing some of the biggest names in the industry, sharing tips and guides on subjects like landscape and wildlife photography, and raising awareness for subjects such as mental health and women in photography.