If you’re a fan of landscape photography, then you’re probably aware of the feature on Olympus cameras called Live ND. Since it was introduced years ago, no other camera manufacturer has implemented it into their cameras. Granted, there has also been a worldwide pandemic that’s restricted productivity and innovation. But still, Olympus cameras, and therefore OM System cameras, are very capable. For a while, they were the only ones with vehicle AI autofocus tracking. But in truth, Live ND is one of the coolest things they’ve made.
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Have you ever gone to photograph a landscape and then needed to bring along ND filters? It’s not all that inconvenient, but you may have a whole stack of them in a case. Lots of them also vary by quality. Some remove all colors casts and provide maximum sharpness. Other filters make the image softer and dreamier. While I personally like the latter look, not everyone has the same taste. So Live ND gives photographers a bit of help with things like that. It acts as an artificial ND filter.
Unfortunately, it was a feature that also wasn’t talked about a lot. That’s a problem with the way camera reviewers often do their jobs. Instead of focusing on some of the major new innovations, they mostly focus on image quality. But in reality, no one can tell the difference between a Canon photo or a competitor’s. Reviews Editor Hillary Grigonis proved this a while back. These days, in many cases, sensor size won’t matter until you get to the extreme edges of photography. Sure, Olympus can’t do high ISO imagery as cleanly as other cameras. But if you add their art filters, you’ll get unique image quality.
When it first hit the scene, I thought a lot of other manufacturers would’ve copied it. I mean, it would make sense for Sony, Canon, or Nikon to do something similar. But at the same time, I thought Panasonic cameras would’ve gotten it as they have the Live Composite feature. That wasn’t the case. And instead, OMDS keeps this tech to themselves.
And bravo to them! In a world where too many cameras do the same things, OMDS is standing out. At this point in time, image quality is such a small factor to buying a camera. You can do a whole lot with post-production. Of course, we always say we’ll try to do the least post-production possible. But that really truly happens with very few camera systems. We wish Olympus applied their Art Filters to their RAW files in Capture One. We also wish that several brands weren’t on an endless quest to achieve clinical perfection. But, in a camera world where many manufacturers use the same components, features are what will differentiate them from each other.
With that said, there’s a lot of praise the the OM system deserves. At the same time, they surely can improve their animal autofocus detection, high ISO output, and perhaps even add more AI to the system. Since they use a smaller sensor, AI is truly their future. It works the processor nowhere as hard as it would with a full-frame sensor. With that said, I’m hopeful for the future of OMDS. I just hope all the manufacturers start to realize that photography can all be done within the camera.