Therefore, this article is not a review of the Olympus OM-D E-M1X camera, and should not be viewed as such. Being an Olympus Visionary, I was privileged to be able to test the E-M1X prior to the official release date. I am sharing my personal experience using the E-M1X, what I like and what I feel can be better improved on the camera in this article. I have had the camera only for a very short time (about 5 days, including one full day in South Africa). I am not able to cover every single feature and aspect on the E-M1X, but I shall do my best to follow up in subsequent articles if I have missed out anything important. Considering I do not have sufficient video expertise, the video part of E-M1X shall be skipped in this article. The E-M1X was on loan and has since been returned to Olympus Malaysia.
UPDATE 28/1/2019 5.45pm – Olympus Workspace is now available for download here (click)
UPDATE 26/1/2019 – My article on Olympus Workspace is now posted.
Here is a quick video of me demonstrating some of the new features that have been added to the Olympus OM-D E-M1X. Special thanks to Robert Evangelista and Sim Piin Hor for helping out with the video. I owe you guys multiple coffee sessions.
9) My Menu – Fully personalized menu
10) USB-C Charging available
11) New Olympus Log Format OM-Log400
For video recording, to prioritize wider dynamic range and preserve highlight. Base sensitivity is ISO400.
13) Camera dimensions and weight
E-M1X: W:144.4mm H:146.8mm D:75.4mm, 849g without battery
E-M1 Mark II (with HLD-9 attached): W:134mm, H:139.9mm, D:67mm, 799g without battery.
E-M1 Mark II alone weighs 574g
In addition to that, Olympus used a new and much improved SSWF (supersonic wave filter) dust reduction on the image sensor to repel dust and dirt more effectively.
The shutter mechanism in E-M1X is also revamped, with rated shutter life of 400,000 actuation.
Having personally used the OM-D E-M1 previously and now the E-M1 Mark II, I have no issues with camera reliability, but the extra assurance of better weather sealing and shutter life are much welcomed.
LARGER ELECTRONIC VIEWFINDER
Olympus has enlarged the EVF in the E-M1X, which is now on par in terms of magnification (0.83x) with some of the largest EVF’s in cameras available currently. The resolution remained at 2.36 Million dots, and the reason for doing this was to maintain the high quality true 120FPS refresh rate of progressive scan rather than interlace method found in other cameras.
I have tested the EVF in multiple scenarios, even in the darkest corners in a dimly lit bar and the E-M1X’s EVF was totally lag free and smooth. I cannot say the same about other cameras (not going to name models and brands), as the EVF normally tend to slow down or stutter in extreme low light. The larger magnification of EVF in E-M1X was a huge welcome, helping in better determining if my images was in critical focus, especially when I was shooting insect macro.
The buttons have been reworked on the camera, they are now larger and easier to press. Some of the positions have also changed. The most notable changes are the default ISO control shortcut button is now available at the top plate of the camera. I do not like the new position of the “delete” button, at the bottom left of the camera which requires the use of the left hand to delete any unwanted images. I tend to delete my images on the go to instantly curate my shots real time, so I have less shots to deal with when I transfer all my images to my PC for post-processing. Hence, operating it with my right hand previously in all other Olympus OM-D modes was faster and easier to reach, when I mostly handle the cameras single handedly. It is obvious from the camera layout that the E-M1X is not optimized for single hand use, and you will have to adapt yourself using both hands.
The control dials are now recessed to prevent accidental knocking or turning. It took me some time to get used to the new positions of buttons and also control dials. After using the camera for a day or two, the positions felt natural and comfortable.
Olympus added multi-selector joystick for AF point navigation, which I think will help improve shooting experience for most photographers. There are two joysticks, one for horizontal shooting position and the other for vertical/portrait shooting. The joystick can move the focusing points in all directions, up-down, left-right, and even diagonally (One of the recent cameras that I have reviewed recently which I shall not name here, I am looking at you!). By pressing the joystick, the AF point can be brought to the center of the frame immediately. Furthermore, the camera will remember the positions of the AF point separately for landscape and portrait orientations. This was extremely helpful when shooting fashion shows, when focusing points can be pre-set to the top of the frame (where the head of the models are) and you do not have to keep changing the points when you change the camera orientations. (See the opening video demonstrating this feature in action)
I admit I am not a wildlife and sports shooter, and I do not use long telephoto lenses often for my commercial shoots as well as personal photography sessions. To test the camera handling, to me there is no better way than shooting insect macro. I did a short session, which was sufficient for me to understand the camera better. For my insect macro shooting, I was hand-holding the camera with a macro lens attached single-handedly, while my other hand was holding an external flash being fired wirelessly. For full description of my insect macro shooting technique, you may refer to my previous blog entry here.
The E-M1X is significantly heavier than E-M1 Mark II, but I found no difficulty in using the camera single-handedly. Truthfully though, I must admit that for my particular shooting technique, the E-M1 Mark II is a better option if I were to do this for longer period of time.
Using the E-M1X, it felt like I was using a medium sized full frame DSLR. The grip was beefy, even deeper than E-M1 Mark II, which allows better resting for photographers with larger hands and longer fingers. I do not have large hands, but I have no issue using the camera. The weight was tolerable during the session, as the macro lens I used was small and light, and I could still shoot single-handedly with no issues.
The hand-held high res mode has got to be the most popular topic that everyone is looking forward to.
Previously, Olympus introduced the high res shot in E-M5 Mark II by shifting the image sensor by half a pixel pitch, shooting 8 images and then composited into a single high resolution 40MP image. This resulted in improved resolution, color fidelity (each pixel now captures multiple colors, instead of just red, green or blue) and also some have reported better noise control as well as dynamic range. However, a tripod or sturdy surface was needed and hand-holding the camera was impossible.
Olympus did two important changes to the E-M1X to allow hand-holding the high res shot mode possible. Firstly, they adopted the new image stabilization mechanism, a new gyro developed with Epson which is more effective in detecting camera movement. Secondly, they used a new SSWF dust reduction filter on the image sensor.
The hand-held high res shot works differently than the tripod high res shot. The tripod high res shot shifts the pixel in a fixed pattern and combined 8 shots into a composite image. The hand-held high res shot uses very small positional shifts during shooting (following the hand movement) to capture 16 shots and then merged into a composite image. Both tripod and hand-held modes are available in E-M1X and can be activated separately.
Here are the limitations of using the hand-held high res shot versus tripod high res shot:
1) High ISO Limit 6400 for hand-held, 1600 for tripod
2) Aperture smallest F8 for both hand-held and tripod modes.
3) No shutter speed limitations, but the slower the shutter speed, the more difficult it is for hand-held mode and higher chance of camera error
4) Flash cannot be used for hand-held, 1/20 second flash sync limit with tripod
5) Subject movement will result in ugly artifacts for both tripod modes, but hand-held mode is less susceptible to ugly artifacts.
6) 50MP RAW image for hand-held, 80MP RAW for tripod
7) Processing time is longer for hand-held, at about 12 seconds for a single image, about 7 seconds for tripod mode
Based on my brief comparison between both hand-held and tripod modes, the tripod mode is still superior in delivering higher resolution images with better color fidelity. The difference is quite obvious looking at images side by side from both modes. For serious shooting, if tripod is available, the tripod mode is still more advantageous.
Also worth noting that, if you choose to use hand-held high res mode, be prepared for camera lock-up of about 10-12 seconds for processing time after each shot is taken. The longer time was necessary to process more images (16 images). You may not want to use this mode in fast paced shooting or time sensitive environment.
I have used the hand-held high res shot in various shooting scenarios, using long telephoto lens, wide angle shooting, as well as close up shooting.
F5.6, 1/320, ISO200, 9mm, 7-14mm F2.8 PRO
Click for enlarged view
NEW AUTOFOCUS SUBJECT TRACKING MODE
Olympus has implemented deep learning AI to acquire new subject detection and tracking algorithm. This resulted in new subject tracking modes for C-AF + Tracking. Currently there are three modes added into the camera – Motorsports, Airplanes and Trains. I have done a quick demonstration in the video to show that the E-M1X can successfully track cars along the highway. Also, I have tested this setting to shoot racing cars in Sepang International Circuit. The E-M1X, with the subject tracking “Motorsports” enabled, can effectively track the cars in any direction (left to right, or coming toward you), and a focusing box around the car will appear and follow the movement of the car. As the car moved closer to me, the focusing box will readjust itself and shift to the driver instead. I have had very high hit rates (almost 100%) shooting continuous AF tracking for motorsports, using this new mode!
All motorsports samples were shot in JPEG and were straight out of camera.
Olympus allowed further customization of the AF points. You can now fully specify the shape and grid of the focusing area and how many points you want to use in your personalized AF setting. I generally use single-AF point, hence this customization won’t make much difference for my own shooting.
To me personally, this low light AF improvement is a huge deal, it places the E-M1X above most other cameras. While some cameras may claim higher megapixels, broader dynamic range or better high ISO shooting, what is the point of all that if the camera cannot even successfully lock AF in highly demanding situation? It makes a world of difference, whether you get the shot, or not, regardless of how you want to talk about the ultimate image quality. The camera that successfully nails the moment wins. The E-M1X elevates the confidence in getting the shot drastically.
There is no question that the Olympus OM-D E-M1X is currently the best camera for Micro Four Thirds when it comes to extreme low light AF performance.
To be entirely honest, after shooting extensively with E-M1 Mark II for the past two years, then seeing what the new E-M1X has produced, the difference in terms of image quality, if there is any, is not worth writing home about. The E-M1X uses the exact same image sensor as the E-M1 Mark II, as well as similar Truepic 8 image processor. Hence, the characteristics of the image output in terms of resolution, color reproduction, dynamic range and high ISO noise control are almost identical for both cameras.
I have found the image quality for E-M1X, with combination in use with M.Zuiko PRO lenses (especially the F1.2 lenses) to be more than adequate for even the most challenging shooting conditions. I am comfortable stretching the image to ISO6400, and can go ISO3200 confidently. High ISO noise tolerance varies from photographer to photographer. I may be ok with ISO6400 from the E-M1X, but your tolerance may be lower.
Under good light, the images straight out of camera is fantastic. I have tested the E-M1X under ordinary street photography environment, and the colors and details in the images are excellent. Using Olympus PRO lenses, or even the F1.8 Prime lenses, I can get sharp images effortlessly even when shooting wide open.
There are now two ISO LOW settings in E-M1X, LOW100 and LOW64. The ISO LOW64 is great when I needed to shoot F1.2 lens wide open under bright afternoon sun.
To me personally, I feel that the best feature being added into the E-M1X is My Menu. With this feature, you can fully personalize the camera menu. With My Menu, you can reorganize the menu and create your own shortcuts, even rearrange them by tabs to your own preference. I think this feature should be added in all other cameras! I shall be exploring My Menu more in depth in near future.
While the default E-M1X menu is still as complicated as ever, with important functions and features requiring deep diving multiple levels into the inescapable maze of confusion and dead ends, the My Menu allows you to avoid all this by grouping all your important functions of the camera in one spot. I think this solution works better, because no matter how the camera manufacturer tries to tweak the menu arrangement to suit the wider audience, it can never fully make everyone happy. So why not you go and pick what you want and organize the menu system yourself, making it truly your own personalized menu for the camera? I’d gladly accept this option and do my own menu, than rely on the engineers to miraculously read my mind and revamp the menu system to suit my own usage.
LIVE ND – NEW FEATURE
Olympus created a new feature – Live ND Filter in the E-M1X. Basically, the camera applies digital ND filter to prevent overexposure of the image when shooting slow shutter speeds in very bright conditions. The Live ND can also simulate the motion blur effect due to show shutter use, being previewed live on the LCD screen or EVF while shooting. There are 5 Live ND settings, ND2, ND4, ND8, ND16 and ND32. All settings will impose shutter speed limits, meaning you cannot use fast shutter speed and this Live ND is used specifically for slow shutter shooting. For example, when ND32 is activated, you cannot use shutter speed faster than half a second. The Live ND is only available for M shooting mode. I have not tested Live ND extensively in this article. I shall explore this more soon.
I must confess, I did not use two batteries in E-M1X, and only slotted one. I fully depleted a single fully charged battery after about 1500 images in a span of two full days shooting. I also did more chimping than usual, the necessity of pixel-peeping to ensure I got critically sharp in focus shots to be shown in this blog entry. I have used the EVF about 50% of the time, together with the LCD screen to compose my images.
After popular demand, Olympus has also enabled USB-C charging on the E-M1X. I do not have a powerbank with me, so I cannot tell you how fast it charges. This is also high dependent on the power supply (voltage) and type of cables used for charging.
After using the Olympus OM-D E-M1X for several days, it feels like I was using an updated version of the E-M1 Mark II. This was not a bad conclusion, E-M1 Mark II was after all a solid flagship camera for Olympus, and Olympus beefed the camera up further in E-M1X. The very core of the camera is the same – identical image sensor, still running on Truepic 8 image processor, having all the advantage of an OM-D: weather sealing, 5-Axis IS and general confidence in shooting and getting the shot. However, at the same time, the E-M1X also boasts much needed improvements such as better AF performance, larger EVF, menu personalization and significantly improved camera reliability.
The integrated vertical grip is not for everyone due to the added size and heft but it can be a critical necessity for photographers shooting with long telephoto lenses most of the time. Camera handling is distinctively better with improved balance and comfort for shooting with particularly M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO and 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lenses. On the other hand, the new upgraded features such as hand-held high res shot, live ND, wifi tethering and field sensing system may help in some situations but are not huge misses for current E-M1 Mark II owners.
To me, I appreciate the significant improvement in AF, both in general S-AF in all situations, as well as vastly more efficient extreme low light AF. This upgrade alone can make or break the deal in some very challenging shooting scenarios. For motorsports shooters, the new subject tracking mode may just make your life so much better with automatic subject detection and tracking, which proved to work very efficiently.
I do not see the Olympus OM-D E-M1X as a camera aimed for all photographers. For photographers who do need to use a camera in extremely harsh environment as well as professional sports and wildlife shooters, this Olympus OM-D E-M1X is a solid option, and the answer from Micro Four Thirds system.