Extreme test of the new OM-1 Mark II: Skicamping at 2200 masl

The wind rattles the tent poles above me. The cold air steams in front of my face, slowly rising higher and higher. I open the zipper of my tent at 2200 meters and look up at the sky. It’s half past five in the morning. Has the crescent moon risen yet?

No. But 1001 stars stand above the white winter landscape, with the glittering yellow of Grindelwald slumbering in the valley. The nautical twilight is already creeping across the sky. My fingers are tingling with anticipation. I grab my new OM-1 Mark II and slip into my booties.

Starry sky over Grindelwald, here in the evening.

I can hardly see anything in the dark as I set up my tripod with cold fingers. The light from the Mittellegi hut and the Jungfraujoch serve as my guide to get the mighty north face of the Eiger in the middle of the picture. It’s minus 5 degrees, but in my excitement I hardly notice. Fortunately, I know my camera by heart in the dark, so the settings are quickly found.

Then a surprise – the Starry Sky autofocus runs much faster and smoother on the Mark II than on my previous model. It doesn’t falter on a single image, and even in complete darkness it recognizes the stars without any problems – and focuses accordingly. The huge panorama of the night sky and the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau triumvirate spreads out before me, and I capture it on my memory card.

All colors in the sky thanks to Live GND

A little later, the first colors creep across the sky. We are briefly disappointed, as we had hoped for something more than a pale orange. We are almost ready to start packing up when we stop – is that red in the sky? And then the sky explodes in the most surreal shades of red and yellow for a far too short five minutes. If I wasn’t here, I would think that someone had turned up the saturation control too much… But no.

Panorama composed of six individual images. Live GND04 at “Soft” level was used here.

It’s incredibly beautiful, and I try to capture as much of it as possible on my camera as quickly as possible. With one click, I switch on the gradual live ND filter (GND), which supports me in challenging situations with strong light-dark contrasts, and can thus preserve the rich colors and brightness in the sky and at the same time make the wild mountain peaks with snow and clouds bright enough. The moment is over far too quickly, I could have gone on photographing forever. In moments like this, I would love to clone myself so that I could get all the shots with two cameras and two people…

The first image on the left is RAW without Live GND, the second image in the middle is RAW with Live GND08 (Soft) from the top down (sky). Number 3 on the right is the final edited image.

Lightweight, weather-sealed, smart – perfect for my outdoor adventures

Moments like these are what make an adventure for me. Exposed on a mountain peak, which we climbed on skis, with a 17 kg rucksack on my back. Once again, I am glad of my light and compact equipment. In contrast to my photographer colleagues on other systems, I can pack more lenses – my 8mm 1.8, 40-150mm 2.8 and 12-40mm 2.8 accompanied me on this tour – and even the worst cold, rain or snow flurries don’t bother my OM-1 Mark II thanks to its IP53-certified weather sealing. Even an accidental dip in the snow, as shown in the third picture, is no cause for concern.

And even if I hand my camera to a colleague to take a photo of me – as in the cover picture above – I can be sure of one thing: With AI-supported image recognition and the new subject “human”, the camera recognizes me automatically – and the picture is in focus. It’s smart what the recognition can now do!

I have come a long way – with the 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS

In addition to the new OM-1 Mark II, I have also been able to test the new M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS over the last few weeks. For me, this was the perfect opportunity to expand my spectrum from landscape photography more towards wildlife photography. While landscapes do not move, but strong contrasts and low-light situations in particular are a challenge, completely different factors count with animals. Fast continuous shooting, good stabilization and Pro Capture help me to capture the right moments.

Surprise find – I hadn’t expected to see any animals on this tour. Luckily I had the 150-600mm with me.

Ideally, you should have a tripod with you – but as is so often the case, the best opportunities arise when you don’t expect them. This is how I came across the fox, the deer and the falcon on a single walk with my family, whereas before I had been sitting in other places for days with all my equipment for nothing. Luckily the OM-1 MII and also the 150-600mm supported me perfectly with the “handheld” results too, so I was able to get my shots. Here too, the automatic animal detection, especially with the fast-moving falcon, was extremely helpful in being able to focus and release the shutter at the same time.

Functions that I would no longer want to do without

Live GND is certainly the biggest game changer for me, also because the filter works incredibly intuitively. The human subject recognition, which is no longer limited to faces, is also very valuable for me.

But there are two other, smaller changes that I really like – vertical filming is now finally also possible with the OM-1 (previously my OM-5 was mainly used for this) and the menu button can be moved to the delete button on the right-hand side. What may sound trivial is incredibly helpful in handling the camera, so that I can finally reach all the important buttons on the right again. I’m looking forward to more adventures with the system!

Disclaimer: This article was written in cooperation with OM SYSTEM. The descriptions are based on my own experience.

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