Olympus Announces OM-D E-M1 X
It's official! The Olympus OM-D E-M1X camera was announced today. Olympus published the full-length version of the teaser video along with a video. If you've already watched those and read reviews, much of the information below might seem redundant. If you want to get all into the technical pixel peeping side-by-side comparisons, there are plenty of websites and blogs that offer that. But I wanted to share a hopefully straightforward approached to the features of the E-M1X and what makes it different from the E-M1 Mark II. With the exception of the product photos, all images in this post I took on the E-M1X. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out, comment or email me and I will address in future posts.
In brief: All the benefits that make the O-MD system reliable and enjoyable to use are multiplied in the E-M1X. Bigger for a full-size ergonomic grip housing a significantly faster processor with enhanced and intelligent focusing abilities, built-in wifi, GPS, live ND, hand-held hi-res and about as many features as you could pack into a body. It's not necessarily the next generation of the E-M1 Mark II, but a power-packed flagship companion that proves the revolution of mirrorless is here to stay and certainly a viable system for professionals.
If you know the O-MD line, you already trust it's quality, durability, consistency. You know the quality of the sensor and processor will produce great files that despite a not-full-frame sensor, you can confidently create large prints and proudly deliver images to clients. You know it's weather sealed. It's rated to an even higher weather sealing mark. I don't know what more extreme case you'd be in than the downpours I've put it through, but when I came off the rope into a pool in Zion and accidentally dunked it, I was pleased to see it didn't seem to mind. Not to say I'd ever intend to dunk it, but it's nice to know that it can survive the kind of vacation I enjoy. I've had my E-M1 Mark II for over two years now and, as you know, sports photographers are not exactly gentle on their gear. It's consistent. I know when I turn it on, it will turn on and perform as expected. Ultimate Reliability is a core commitment of Olympus.
You know it pairs well with the line of M.Zuiko lenses which are sharp, fast, lightweight, small and overall incredible! My unexpected newfound love for the 12-100mm F4 is really surprising and I can't wait for the 150-400mm F4.5.
You know it's from a company that is committed to Micro Four-Thirds and who is building a reputation for great cameras on top of their reputation of well-loved film cameras. When I tell people I use Olympus gear, I can't tell you how many say that the OM film cameras were there favorite and how they took it everywhere. Now Olympus is making it's mark in the digital world with OM-D system.
WHAT'S NEW ABOUT THE E-M1X
When the E-M1 Mark II came out, it seemed like everything was new. New sensor, new rotating screen, faster frames per second and all kinds of specs that blew out the original E-M1. To be honest, when I first received an E-M1X sample back in September (have I mentioned how exciting it is to be part of the Olympus Visionary group and get early access, testing and feeback to Olympus) it seemed to be an E-M1 Mark II with a grip you can't remove. But as you dive deeper into the processing power, AI capabilities and incredible features of the camera, you see that it is both familiar (which is a good thing) but packed with improvements (which is even better). My impression was "same, same" but as I continued to use it and became aware of more features, I realized how well it fits into the O-MD revolution.
The first thing you'll notice about the E-M1X is that it's bigger. It has all the ergonomics of a DSLR for those who want a full-hand grip but still the light-weight nature of a mirrorless. While it's bigger in size to accommodate an extra battery, if you are like me and are used to using the extra grip, it feels similar but more intentional.
The bigger build allows for some more buttons so you can quickly change settings without going into the menu or super control panel. All of these buttons are customizable. With the E-M1 Mark II, I customized the red record button to be an ISO button because I nearly never take videos and I often change my ISO without pulling the camera away from my face while shooting. Now there is a dedicated ISO button. These buttons also have a different tangible feel so if you don't have the muscle memory where the second-from-right button is, you can tell by the texture of the button. There are also buttons below the full articulating screen so you can quickly switch between cards and tag images to protect or share without having to go into the touchscreen menu.
This I suppose qualifies under buttons, but it deserves it's own segment. How many of you have changed your focus point to go for a rule-of-thirds focus point and used the back panel to do so. Now you have a little nub that not only goes left and right but also diagonal. It's like the queen in chess :)
C-Lock, Custom C-Lock
While having the grip on the E-M1 Mark II allowed you to lock the grip's shutter button so you didn't accidentally take pictures with your hip (we've all done it) you can now enable a custom c-lock that can lock a variety of buttons and wheels. Say to turn off your front dial so you don't accidentally hop from shutter speed 1/1600 to shutter speed 1/640 (that darn hip again!)
Speaking of adjusting focus point, you can now set focal planes. Say your subject will be moving across the bottom of the frame from left to right. You can set your focus point to be the bottom of the viewfinder and it will grab anything in that plane. You can set multiple planes... I'm not sure what use case you would do that in, but hey, it's an option.
The EVF on the E-M1 Mark II was already much more natural than most EVF I've used with a refresh rate that wouldn't give you a headache. On the E-M1X it's even larger and more responsive.
Olympus put a USB-C slot on the E-M1 Mark II which made it easy to transfer images, update firmware, send to a monitor, etc. But the E-M1X USB-C port is now capable of charging your camera. As some have said, they don't see the need to use the battery charger because they will charge in camera. Anything that can make you bring one less gadget on a trip is a victory in my book! (Though since my non-sports adventures are often without electricity, I'll probably still be bringing extra batteries)
I've said before that I could get through a football game on a single battery. But if I'm doing a lot of wifi sending, it might drain faster so I typically use the grip on the E-M1 Mark II if for no other reason than the comfort of knowing I can let one battery deplete completely and seamlessly switch the the second as opposed to wondering how long to risk 15%... 10%... 7% before swapping batteries. The E-M1X uses the same batteries, so no need to bring multiple chargers or buy new batteries if you already invested in the batteries for the E-M1 Mark II.
Two UHS II slots
While other companies are abandoning a second card slot, Olympus doubled-down on their commitment and instead of one UHS II slot and on UHS I slot, it's now two UHS II slots. RAW+Large Superfine jpeg to both cards? No problem!
Change Settings While Recording To Card
What good would two card UHS II card slots be if the camera can't keep up with writing to the cards? On the E-M1 Mark II while I could continue taking pictures while the camera was recording but I couldn't change settings like ISO or shutter speed until the camera was done recording. With the new faster processors, all features of the camera are accessible while the camera records those large files.
While the Tough T-G5 has built in GPS and the E-M1 Mark II had a way to link GPS to your phones GPS with their app, now it's part of the camera. While I get that the Tough T-G5 is more designed for adventure and maybe a wedding photographer doesn't necessarily need GPS and even sports, I identify the stadium in the caption and don't need GPS, but I always like to think that the flagship camera offers everything that any lower-level camera in the companies line might offer. Don't make me choose between wifi, GPS, and fast shutter speed, let me have it all in one!
While the WiFi in Olympus is incredibly reliable, it does take some time to sync. With bluetooth connection enabled, your device can stay tethered to the WiFi making the WiFi on/off a faster connection.
Autofocus Modes - Planes, trains and automobiles.
Planes, trains and automobiles. Olympus spent a ton of time in development making life easy for photographers who cover trains, planes, and automobiles. With designated modes, it can find and lock focus on a car like you wouldn't believe. For photographers who cover those genres, I think this will be a complete game changer in the industry. It doesn't really affect me too much, but it does give me hope that Olympus continues to invest in R&D to not only make better cameras but offer features that weren't even part of the conversation before.
Live ND, Image Stabilization, Handheld Hi-Res, 4K video
The above features are all pretty impressive. I did take a 10 second hand held of the Boston skyline, but for the most part, they don't have a use-case for 90% of my work, so I don't feel I've utilized them enough to speak to them. Some of my fellow Visionaries I'm sure can offer great feedback and examples. (It's worth noting, as I read reviews of people who market themselves as angry critics, just because a camera offers something you don't need, doesn't mean it's not an incredibly useful feature that other users were begging for.)
All of the new menu features could be overwhelming and trying to remember specifically where in the menu to access your most used custom settings could be awful. (On the E-M1 Mark II muscle memory can quickly takes me between formatting the card and checking the battery status but I couldn't tell you "cog wheel, J2, top line, over, second line" But thanks to 5 pages of a custom menu now my most accessed custom settings are easily accessible.
THE FUTURE OF O-MD
No camera is perfect, turning on WiFi still disables the camera (though the bluetooth means it connects more seamlessly), the sensor is still not the best for extreme low light (you've all heard my argument of why this isn't problematic for me) and while they've managed to get trains, planes, and automobiles, there isn't a football helmet focus setting. I'm not sure if that will ever come, or if it would even outperform general continuous autofocus, but I am excited that Olympus continues to be on the leading edge of technology.
Will I be using this camera? Yes. Is this camera designed for everyone? No. Depending on how you use your camera and what you photograph, this might not be the camera for you. That's ok. While this camera is will be very appealing for those who photograph motorsports and plenty of professionals will be taking advantage of planes, trains, and automobiles, it's also an incredible camera for sports, weddings, portraits, you name it, just based on it's performance. I will be using the E-M1X to cover an alumni event tonight, followed by the Cal basketball game, and then for a portrait session with the lacrosse team Saturday. I'm so excited to finally be able to publicly use this camera and share images and details with you. Thanks for reading and please reach out if you have any questions that I didn't address here.
Disclosure: I am sponsored by Olympus as a member of the Olympus Visionaries group. I was not paid or instructed to write this post but I was provided with the camera and the promotional images by Olympus.
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