Olympus OMD field test with Damian McGillicuddy

I went over to Chester today to meet up with Damian McGillicuddy at his studio to have a play with the Olympus OMD digital camera. Back in the day, Olympus were one of the leading camera systems and always coming up with fresh ideas and I was a both a great fan and a user of their systems, cutting my photographic teeth on the iconic OM2 and the stunningly crafted OM4Ti which I always remember being labelled as “reassuringly expensive”. The small body sizes and vast array of lenses, including the most incredible macro gear and TTL flash which was way ahead of the game, were all things that endeared me to Olympus camera system but alas, they came unstuck when Nikon and Canon introduced auto focus to the market and Olympus could somehow never build AF into the OM system and their demise as a lead player began.

I’ve long since left Olympus but remember the days fondly and, although I’ve heard a few good things about their phoenix like rise into the digital age, I somehow never considered the Olympus system could ever be what it once was. Strangely enough though, the Big Dog himself is now Olympus’ main evangelist, singing the praises of the OMD loudly from his pulpit in Chester and so it was I went over to have a play for myself. I had in mind that being sponsored by Olympus, it would be case of ‘he would say that wouldn’t he?’ but in truth, Damian has shelved his Nikons and is shooting some high calibre images with this diminutive piece of kit and for big name players too such as B&Q. I have to confess to thinking that a micro 4/3 camera with its tiny sensor would be no match for the full frame Leviathans of the  digital world, especially with the latest wave of 24-36million pixel sensors and claims of their being as good as medium format cameras, so it was with some indifference that I loaded my SD card into the tiny camera in my hands and took a few shots of Damian’s model. However, on looking at the image on the back of the camera, and especially when I zoomed in to 14x to inspect the quality, I was utterly blown away by the quality and sharpness of the image. I took a few more as if it were some kind of fluke but no, just as sharp, almost cruelly so with every hair, minor blemish and tiny skin flaw showing up tack sharp and beautifully resolved by the 45mm f/1.8 lens (equivalent to a 90mm in 35mm terms).

I know I only had a brief go with the camera and I’d love to punish it on a professional shoot to see how it stands up to the task and I did think the menus looked overly complicated and the small size meant that it might be a bit fiddley for my chubby fingers, but I sure did enjoy using it. I felt like Clarkson getting into one of those tiny Airfix-like kit cars on the TG track only to be blown away by the unexpected power and speed!  I’m not saying I am going to sell all my Nikon equipment forthwith, I’ve invested too much to do that, but I’m sorely tempted not to buy that other 24mp DSLR just now and instead, invest in an OMD to sit along side my current line up and use it as a very high quality ‘go everywhere’ camera. I do suspect though, that I would end up using a whole lot more than I intended!

Here are a few shots from the session, including a crop at 100% of an unedited JPEG.

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