Sports cameras are a separate genre of photographic equipment, and most often the prices for them just go through the roof. But just recently OM System (Olympus) released an interesting high-speed Micro 4:3 format (MFT) camera, and one of its advantages is the low price for this class.
We compared the cheap OM System OM‑1 with Canon’s full-frame monster EOS R3. Both cameras are positioned as sharpened for fast continuous shooting. We figure out which camera is best for shooting sports, wildlife and action.
Format Limitations: MFT vs Full Frame
Of course, the Micro 4:3 format cannot directly compete with the full frame (which in our today’s material represents the Canon EOS R3 camera). A larger sensor, by definition, gives full-frame models many advantages:
- wider coverage of the frame;
- improved detail;
- Better picture quality in low light conditions.
But if you study the characteristics of the OM System OM‑1 and Canon EOS R3, it becomes clear that in some important parameters they are very close. So, both cameras use multilayer sensors, which provide excellent opportunities for high-speed shooting with an electronic shutter. And the electronic shutter allows you to get rid of the limitations in burst photography speed that exist for a mechanical shutter.
And if the Canon EOS R3 was originally announced as a professional camera for sports and action shooting, then the OM System OM‑1 is still a “dark horse”. Let’s see if the OM‑1, despite all the limitations of its format, can compete with the “charged” EOS R3?
High-speed continuous shooting: OM System OM‑1 vs Canon EOS R3
In order to get the maximum speed, the cameras must be in electronic shutter mode. And, of course, for shooting moving objects, we need continuous shooting with autofocus.
High Speed Continuous Shooting OM System OM‑1
In continuous shooting, the camera has no problems with white balance and exposure — brightness and colors remain consistent and do not jump. There is also no “flickering” effect, which can be a real scourge of a sports photographer. What it is? When shooting with an electronic shutter, electronic screens and scoreboards (common in sports arenas) can show banding — the OM1, thanks to its high readout speed and small sensor size, easily copes with this artifact.
The OM‑1 can shoot at up to 50 fps with autofocus. This speed is only available with six Pro Series lenses: 12–40mm f/2.8 PRO and PRO II, 12–100mm f/4 PRO, 40–150mm f/2.8 PRO, 300mm f/4 IS PRO and 150–400mm f /4.5 TC IS PRO. With the rest of the “glasses”, the speed of continuous shooting with autofocus is 25 fps, which is also very good. And without autofocus, the camera accelerates up to 120 fps.
Shooting at 50 fps is good for short bursts, as the camera needs some time to clear the buffer, and it will periodically “slow down”. Therefore, for long shots without much development (for example, when you shoot from the level of the field, and the athlete moves towards you) — 25 fps is a more preferable choice.
If you want to use the old trick of professional sports photographers, then you can reduce the speed to 15 fps and “shoot” at that speed all the time, without any restrictions.
OM‑1 has ProCapture special mode, which no other camera manufacturer has. In this mode, the camera starts recording images when you half-press the shutter button. After you press the button completely, it saves the last 70 shots. With this, you can fine-tune the number of frames taken before and after you press the shutter button. Thus, you will always be ready and the camera buffer will not clog at the most inopportune moment.
This is a very cool feature for sports and for wildlife when you want to capture the “right” moment. For example, you saw a bird out of the corner of your eye, pressed the button halfway and began to turn in its direction. By the time you’re fully turned and the bird is flying away, you’ll have some cool shots ready.
High Speed Continuous Shooting Canon EOS R3
This full-frame monster, as expected, also has no problems with white balance, exposure or “flickering”. To combat flicker, the R3 has a special Anti-flicker mode that automatically synchronizes the shutter speed and the flicker rate of the electronic scoreboard/screen.
At the same time, its continuous shooting speed is lower than that of the OM‑1: 30 frames per second. This is due to the larger frame size, which takes longer to read than the miniature Micro 4:3 sensor.
However, most often 30 fps will be too much, so you can safely reduce this figure to 25 fps, saving space on the memory card.
Verdict: when comparing high-speed shooting, you can give victory OM‑1. It shoots faster and has a handy ProCapture mode.
Autofocus: OM System OM‑1 vs Canon EOS R3
Autofocus OM System OM‑1
Tracking autofocus has never been Olympus’ strong point. To be honest, he was a real manufacturer’s problem. What has changed in OM‑1?
The new product has a very simple tracking autofocus system without any professional features. You can customize only the most basic things, such as sensitivity.
The tracking itself only works well in the most basic situations — when you have only one object in the frame that needs to be tracked. At the same time, in pursuit of the player, the autofocus zone cannot “stick” to the face in any way, more often remaining on the chest. However, the large depth of field characteristic of the Micro 4:3 format allows you to maintain suitable sharpness on the whole person.
As soon as the second figure appears in the frame, the tracking starts jumping around — the focus jumps from one person to another. If this is shooting a match at the stadium, then the focus may even be in the stands. The system works very unpredictably and sometimes misses.
You can solve the problem using a more classic zone tracking autofocus: you manually set the area for tracking autofocus to work and you can move it with the joystick or touchscreen. Here you will no longer have the advantages of automation, when the focus itself follows the player, you will have to independently monitor that the player enters the frame.
This is a technique inherited from the DSLRs still used by many professional sports photographers. It is more complex, but if you master it, you can get cool results. In general, in this mode, a very good hit rate.
Autofocus Canon EOS R3
When working in the tracking autofocus mode with tracking (tracking) of the object, everything works quickly and efficiently, autofocus is tenacious and predictable. But the main thing that is necessary for the pros is that it can be configured in great detail to suit your needs.
- what object you are working with (people/animals/motorcycles and cars);
- scenarios (for example, autofocus continues to continuously track the subject and ignores any new objects in the frame, or vice versa, instantly focuses on new objects entering the frame).
The Canon R3 has an Eye control system. Autofocus follows the movement of your eye in the viewfinder — where you look, there is focus. Although for some users the mode does not work very effectively for some reason.
As for the zonal tracking autofocus, after such a cool automatic tracking, it already seems like something from the last century. But on this camera it is also very convenient to use it — the entire frame is available for selecting the zone, and the percentage of “hits” is very high.
Verdict: confident leadership Canonalthough if you get used to a more “manual” shooting mode, with Olympus you will also have an excellent result.
Image quality: OM System OM‑1 vs Canon EOS R3
It is time to discuss some of the obvious weaknesses of the Micro 4:3. Let’s start with depth of field. In a Micro 4:3 format camera with the same aperture, there will be a greater depth of field — all other things being equal, the space behind your object will be sharper. Therefore, it will be much more difficult for you to visually isolate the object (player or car) by blurring the background, compared to a full-frame camera.
That doesn’t mean you’ll always have soft blurry backgrounds on the Canon EOS R3. If you want a sharp picture, you just need to stop the aperture and increase the ISO. So with R3 you have a little more creative freedom.
In terms of detail, the difference between the models is not very big, although it is: 20-megapixels for Olympus versus 24-megapixels for Canon.
But this is not the main difference. The Canon R3 has a larger matrix, which gives more opportunities to collect light. And this means a better picture at high ISO. And if you’re shooting indoors, such as shooting hockey or basketball, or photographing in the evening, as is often the case with football matches, you will inevitably have to raise the ISO.
ISO 1600–2000 (at f/2.8 and shutter speed 1/2000 sec.) is common, and here the difference in image quality is visible to the naked eye.
So in poor lighting, OM‑1 problems show up. You immediately become limited in the choice of lenses — only fast apertures are suitable (for zooms, this is f / 2.8). In general, the quality will be quite decent for social networks, but for more professional tasks this becomes one of the reasons to take a more expensive full-frame camera.
On the street during daylight hours with good natural light, there will be no such difference. So OM‑1 is an outdoor and daytime option.
Verdict: full frame Canon R3 again bypasses the impudent applicant.
Which camera to choose
But of course, we left the main “zest” for last. It’s about the price difference. Consider a set of a camera and a zoom lens for sports photography (after all, this is a significant part of the cost of the kit):
- OM System OM‑1 with 40–150mm f/2.8 pro zoom for $3,799;
- The Canon EOS R3 with a 70–200mm f/2.8 pro zoom will cost $8,798.
With OM Digital, you get a quality camera with fast burst shooting and decent (if not perfect) autofocus that can compete with the super-expensive top-end solution for professionals. And all this for more than double the price.
The set from Olympus weighs 1360 grams versus 1892 from Canon — you save not only money, but also 500 grams of weight. In terms of dimensions, the OM‑1 is more compact, so there will always be room for one more lens in a backpack.
So what’s the bottom line? If you’re a professional looking for uncompromising image quality, the Canon EOS R3 is definitely the one to go for. If sports and action photography is more of a hobby for you, or if you want to save $5,000, the OM System OM‑1 is more than a worthy option.
* when preparing the article, materials from the resource dpreview.com were used