#2 Second Camera: OM Digital Solutions OM-1 II

Next up in the CIPA release queue is the OM-1 II

bythom omds om1ii

Up front (literally) we have a name change. The original OM-1 had an Olympus name plate on the viewfinder front, while the new model gets an OM System replacement. 

In terms of what really makes this new model a new model, the list is short, but potentially significant:

  • The internal memory buffer has doubled.
  • An updated IS system improves the CIPA rating to 8.5 stops.
  • The camera is blackout free at slower frame rates.
  • The camera can now record in 14-bit raw in the high-resolution (sensor shift) mode.
  • A virtual graduated ND filter is available (computational, not mechanical), and regular ND can now be up to ND128.
  • The focusing system gains a full human recognition to its autofocus AI, and the focus system overall has been consolidated and improved.

Overall, the changes to the camera are welcome, but after two years with the original camera feel more like a firmware update than any real change (other than the extra memory). A significant update, to be sure, but still, some things I believe still need addressing aren't changed in this new camera.

bythom omds 150-600mm2

Along with the OM-1 II, OMDS also introduced two lenses, the 9-18mm f/4-5.6 II and the 150-600mm f/5-6.3. Both appear to be rebadging jobs. The wide angle zoom takes away the Olympus markings and replaces them with OM System ones as well as a newer external design ethos, but the optics appear to be the same as the original Olympus lens. The latter zoom is a bit of a controversial one in that the lens appears to be the Sigma full frame telephoto version in an m4/3 mount. The thicker OM filter layer on the top of the image sensor requires a slight tweak to how the focus is projected rearward, but otherwise this seems to be a Sigma optic being rebadged.

Commentary: When OM Digital Solutions took over the Olympus camera group I mentioned several issues with their naming decisions, and now you can see the result of that. If you accidentally type in in a Web browser instead of, well, you don't get the company making the camera. Heck, if you type in, you get a Go Daddy "get this domain" page; you need to actually type This is a bit of marketing 101 failure. 

The existing customers aren't going to have any real issues with this, as they've already re-pointed their Web browsers at the new pages, but for someone seeing or hearing the name for the first time, slight misses on what they type into a search engine aren't going to bring up the relevant pages. This is one of those things I call a "friction." In business, you want as few frictions as possible, as each tends to rob you of sales, and if you pile up enough of them, that could be enough to start a downward glide in your results.

Meanwhile, rebadging a Sigma optic means I need to come up with a new name. When Nikon did the same thing with some Tamron lenses back in the F-mount days, I began calling them Tamrikon. I guess now we have Sigmoms. (When I come up with these names, I first do a search to make sure that they're unique. Then it's fun to follow what happens next. You'll see that Tamrikon on Duck Duck Go brings up references first, then Internet fora posts, for instance. In other words, I can follow my word usage from my site to Web fora. A fun game for all. Well, okay, for me.)

Here's the problem with the Sigmoms just introduced: it's the same size and weight as the full frame version. In essence, OM Digital Solutions is saying this: we'll give you a 4:3 aspect 2x crop that's 20mp. Okay, but you'd get 26mp out of a Sony A7R Mark V with the same lens ;~). The question then becomes is the OM-1 body smaller and lighter than the A7R Mark V? Well, there's a 2 ounce (66g) advantage to the OM-1, but with that lens on the camera you're also at a minimum of 300mm effective. In other words, you get 300-1200mm at 20mp versus 150-900mm at 61 to 26mp. Oops. I'd rather have the Sony. I first warned about this problem back in 2003 with the introduction of the E-1: if the size/weight and capabilities are near identical, you don't want to be bringing the smaller sensor to the fight.  

#1 First Camera Announcement: Hasselblad

I wrote earlier that the run up to CP+ was going to be full of announcements. First out of the gate is something that at first glance looks very familiar:

bythom hasselblad 100c

Even though it's quite compact, that's really two separate pieces you're looking at: a thin 907x "camera plate" containing pretty much just a mount, coupled with the new CFV 100C back that has all of the control functions. (You can also use older Hasselblad "backs" with the CFV 100C body instead of the 907x plate, but you lose autofocus and end up with a far bigger product with those.)

The CFV 100C packs quite a bit of high-end capability into a really small unit that weighs less than two pounds (27.5 ounces, or 780g with battery and card, but not lens). If you purchase this combination you'll likely be using XCD lenses, of which we currently have fourteen. While I mentioned card—one CFexpress Type B slot—the CFV 100C has 1TB of built-in storage. Out back you have that tilting touchscreen, at 3.2" and 2.36m dots. As usual with the classic Hasselblad designs, there are add-on grips and (Nikon style) hotshoe adapters you can add. But modern features are present, too, including 10-bit HEIF support.

Price for the combo is US$8200.

Commentary: Hasselblad went through a "not sure what to do next" period that included rebranding some Sony cameras with odd body style changes before DJI acquired them and settled them back down into what they do best. 

Personally, I like this new camera better than even the X1D, as it returns to something that was valued in the studio (and to some degree, in the landscape photography world). That, of course, is not hiding the photographer behind the camera. In the studio with the old look-down finders, a Hasselblad user could stay in eye to eye contact with their subjects, only occasionally glancing down to check composition. If you use a camera with an eye level viewfinder in the studio, you have to take the camera from your eye and ready-to-snap position to engage your subject. 

In terms of landscape work, I also prefer composing on a larger screen than a small screen at my eye. There's something about looking at a larger surface further from your eye that's more akin to the way a photo will eventually be hung on a wall that I can't quite explain, but I noticed back when we got Live View on our DSLRs. Moreover, I photograph really low much of the time with nature and landscape work, so having a screen that tilts up is preferable to me laying on the ground to see how my composition looks. Coupled with how small the CFV 100C is and it's big 100mp capture, I'll bet I start seeing more and more of these in the field. 

Yearly Site Update

As usual each year around the holidays, I do a bit of maintenance and updating of my sites. It's taken me much longer than usual to get this done this time around, as the number of changes in the mirrorless market last year coupled with some inattention on my part made quite a few bits and pieces needing some loving attention. A quick summary of what's progressed so far:

  • The 2021 and 2022 news/views has been archived into a sub-folder. Pre-2021 news/views lives here. That's 12 years' worth of news that needed to be dealt with in a more permanent home that doesn't clutter the top menus.
  • The Articles section has been gone through, and I've updated comments and recommendations to be up to date. That includes the System Guides for the five major mounts, as well as my small travel camera recommendations.
  • The Cameras section has been updated, with new charts and information where needed. Some missing Z System reviews have been brought over from 
  • The Books section has been simplified, with the Z System books all now pointing over to the site where their information is maintained on a more regular basis.
  • About Sansmirror got a bit of editing and fixes.

Which leaves me with...

Lenses. I've got a lot of work to do to bring this section up to my standards. We've got a dozen years' worth of collected information, some of which is no longer accurate (e.g. lens no longer made, change in specifications/price, etc.). What I'm doing is going through all the autofocus lens databases and making them "current" one by one. Unfortunately, some of the lens makers have been "fiddling" with available lenses/mounts, changing prices with currency fluctuations, and in some cases, finally providing full details on a lens. So I've got a lot of work to do on these sections, and it will take me awhile to do it. My priorities in updating this section are: (1) camera maker lens data, (2) autofocus third party lens data, and (3) manual focus third party lens data. I also need to take another pass at the articles in the lens section. I'll let you know when all this work is complete. For now, I've updated the Canon RF, RF-S, Fujifilm GFX, Nikon Z (DX and FX) sections, and am currently working on the Fujifilm RF section. I'll probably tackle one section each week, but that's at least three months work.

Once I've completed getting most of the lens section up to snuff, I'll start adding new reviews to the site. 

State of the Mirrorless Market

Here at the start of 2024 we now have a full set of players, and a fairly full set of product from each. That started to become true in 2023, but now it's a reality. It's important to understand a few things if you're just entering the mirrorless world (and probably even if you're already in it). 

First up, is that the various makers have some divergent strategies now:

  • Canon — Canon is highly focused on market share, much as they were in DSLRs. Canon's financial fundamentals start to become problematic—owning, maintaining, and updating their own sensor fab, for instance—without that 50% market share they seek. 
  • Fujifilm — Fujifilm is mostly focused continuing their slow gain in market share in the APS-C arena, while keeping their GFX (medium format) cameras a tempting option for high pixel full frame users.
  • Leica — Leica continues the M, Q, SL iterations and tweaks that appeal to their high-end customers.
  • Nikon — Nikon is focused on bringing the highly acclaimed and successful Z9 technology downward in their FX lineup at the moment, and have had three hits in a row now doing that. The question everyone is asking is whether any of this will make it to DX lineup, too, and if so, when.
  • OMDS — OM Digital Solutions is the one company I don't have a good read on. They've tolerated a significant ILC market share decline while mostly rebranding the original Olympus gear they inherited. 
  • Panasonic — Panasonic has surprisingly resurrected their m4/3 line, bringing back products that had appeared to go off market. Meanwhile, their L-mount lineup seems to be chasing the same pot of gold at the end of the mid-level full frame as before. I've always felt that they needed more integration with the Pro Video side of the company, and now that these divisions have finally been merged, perhaps we'll see it.
  • Sigma — The Foveon sensor seems to be lost in fab space, leaving Sigma with just its oddball fp models. But let's face it, Sigma has always been an oddball with their cameras. They simply march to a different rap beat.
  • Sony — If you haven't already detected it, the video side of the Sony Imaging group is fully driving the car now. Alpha models seem more like "mailed in" efforts lately, but the video side keeps expanding and exploring. This has to be strategic: Sony is seeing video as more important in the future than still photography. 

Second is my usual proclamation: if you've been using Brand X in the film and DSLR era, there's really no clear reason to move to another brand in the mirrorless era. Canon and Nikon, in particular, have been relatively faithful in moving their long-established UX (user experience) into mirrorless. 

That said, the place where that logic starts to break down is with crop sensor cameras. Nikon has fumbled their DX lineup. Sony seems to suffer from a lack of imagination (and energy) in theirs. OMDS seems intent on saying "m4/3 is for the birds" (small, light, and lots of reach). Only Canon is continuing to be the rebel and powering on much as they did with DSLRs (see what I did there?) When Fujifilm re-entered the interchangeable lens market after a long DSLR hiatus, they did so pretty much targeting crop sensor, so they're not surprisingly the ones with the fullest, most interesting crop sensor lineup now. 

(Disclosure: I currently perform my professional work with Nikon FX cameras, the Z8 and Z9. When I want a smaller, lighter, casual approach to fool around with, I use a Fujifilm X-S20 at the moment. Why did I pick those cameras? For the reasons stated above: the full frame Nikons because that's the UX I know best, and the Fujifilm for APS-C because, well, Fujifilm seems to be the only one trying to build out fully competitive products, including lenses, in this space.) 

Way back in 2006 I wrote "if you can't create a good looking image at the maximum size the top desktop photo printer can produce, it isn't the camera that's the problem." Even though that maximum size has increased a bit—was 11x17" when I wrote that, now it's basically 13x19"—the same thing is even more true today. That's why understanding and mastering the UX for a camera is so important. You can take great photos with pretty much any mirrorless camera on the market today, but to do so means you have to understand how it works and make it work. 

It's easy to get caught up in the specifications. This site has hundreds of pages of camera and lens specifications. But I believe all those numbers and factoids are mostly meaningless now, except for specific tasks or requirements. If you have those specific needs, the camera that will cater to them will isolate out of the noise pretty darned fast with just a bit of looking.

Someone, somewhere is going to tell you that dynamic range or focus ability matters. Not really on any current camera. As I've proven before, they can pretty much all focus just fine once you master them, and it's going to be rare that you find a dynamic range that stops you from doing something (assuming, of course, that you know how to set exposure properly). I don't obsess about those things now. Well, okay, I do obsess about them, because I obsess about everything in my own work. But I mean in terms of recommending one camera over another to others, no, it's rare that specifications and performance issues come into play. 

We're probably at or near Peak Mirrorless here in 2024. Not necessarily peak in sales volume, but more in terms of breadth and depth of options available on the market. If there's something I want to do photographically, I'm pretty sure there's a mirrorless camera available today that will let me do that. That's a pretty remarkable statement, if you think about it. 

For me, 2024 will be more about extending my personal abilities, not finding a camera with more abilities. 

Some Don't Understand the Sony A9 Mark III

(Disclaimer: I haven't yet been able to do more than quickly handle an A9 Mark III, and that's probably all I'll be able to do until it becomes generally available later this year. However, for the purposes of this discussion, I don't need to have an extended session with the camera.)

Now that dpreview has given credence to all the measurebators' fears (lower dynamic range) and provoked even more misinformed discussion, it's time to adjust people's views.

Simply put, the Sony A9 Mark III buyer would not typically be all that worried about maximum dynamic range. Never was, never will be. 

The primary technology change in the A9 Mark III is the global shutter. Global shutters have basically three benefits at the expense of two drawbacks, all else equal:

#1 Benefit: No rolling shutter, LED banding, or display line mismatch effects.
#2 Benefit: Potentially higher bandwidth (higher frame rate).
#3 Benefit: Flash sync at any shutter speed.
#1 Drawback: The extra electronics involve decrease well capacity, which triggers a gain adjustment that increases base ISO.
#2 Drawback: The same changes basically lower dynamic range compared to a non-global shutter version, due to noise.

That's really it. For general purpose photography, the two drawbacks would make it unlikely that you'd buy an A9 Mark III. For particular use cases, particularly in sports and wildlife photography, the benefits might make it so that you do want an A9 Mark III.

Here's the thing: if I were a full-time working pro sports photographer running from venue to venue, that #1 benefit would easily outweigh the two drawbacks. That I'd also get that #2 benefit might come into play every once in awhile. The #1 drawback isn't really a drawback, as I'm rarely at base ISO for this type of work. The #2 drawback might come into play in a few situations (ironically, including when LED displays are backlighting the action on the field, so instead of a scrambled display I'd get a blown out display). 

Putting on my hat as a full time wildlife photographer, benefit #2 starts to become more interesting, though with small birds in flight I could see some benefit to #1 when it comes to wing tips. Unfortunately, the #2 drawback starts to come into play, particularly as a lot of my work these days happens in very low light (and no direct light) but high contrast conditions. 

I'm still trying to figure out just how much of a benefit #3 actually would be to anyone. Granted, flash sync at 1/200, as it is on the Nikon Z9, is too slow. I encounter plenty of situations where I need that to be higher. However, even being to sync at 1/500 would be enough, and I'm sure that's coming soon in a non-global shutter camera. (Actually, coming again. We had 1/500 flash sync during the early DSLR era with CCD image sensors.)

Dpreview's test results aren't surprising. As I wrote when the A9 Mark III was announced, this was definitely a technology play by Sony, and one that seemed timed and presented in a way that suggested more than it was. The A9 Mark III is going to have customers, for sure, but it's a fairly small subset of the market. Nikon's Z9 followed by the Z8 has taken quite a bit of wind out of Sony's sails (and sales), but I'm not sure the A9 Mark III really gets them to the mark in first place.

I wrote that we need to adjust some folk's views. That's very true with all that I see from the comments that are proliferating. 

For example, that dynamic range thing. Basically, we measure that from some "noise floor" to saturation. I've already noted that the extra electronics at the pixel level reduce the maximum saturation, so the noise floor starts to become very important. Almost everyone (including dpreview) that I see commenting about A9 Mark III noise tendencies seems to be doing it from "what I see." Have you tried measuring their samples? In particular, use a largish area on one of the ColorChecker patches and observe the standard deviation. Curiously, the Sony A6600 has a slightly lower standard deviation in every same ISO sample I took. But then again, that 24mp APS-C sensor in the A6600 was essentially Exmor state-of-the-art, so I don't find that surprising. 

The question is whether the A9 Mark III has enough dynamic range for its intended use(s). My answer in looking at others' results so far is, "yes if the image is properly exposed." All sports venues are lit, for instance. Sure, some of that lighting is low in value and has a fair amount of fall-off from the central point, but it's direct light. If you're accounting for the difference in images taken, say, in the far corners of a poorly lit soccer field versus the center field with your exposure, you should be fine with the A9 Mark III. About as fine as you'd be with the A9 Mark II, which I don't hear any of my pro friends complaining about. Moreover, there's the issue of frequency with some lighting, and the global shutter is going to deal with that, too.

The fact that a lot of pro sports output is JPEG means I'd be looking at how Sony tweaked BIONZ for the A9 Mark III, too. Judging from dpreview's examples, that seems to be fairly strong JPEG noise reduction with only modest edge softness at ISO 12800. Indeed, with those settings, the standard deviation is now lower than the A6600, and the A9 Mark III seems to be retaining edges a little better. I also look at the A9 Mark II results against those from the Mark III, and see similar things, so I'm just not seeing that the intended audience for this camera is likely going to be disappointed in it. 

Looking for gear-specific information? Check out our other Web sites:
DSLRS: | general:| Z System: | film SLR:

sansmirror: all text and original images © 2024 Thom Hogan
portions Copyright 1999-2023 Thom Hogan
All Rights Reserved — the contents of this site, including but not limited to its text, illustrations, and concepts, 
may not be utilized, directly or indirectly, to inform, train, or improve any artificial intelligence program or system.