Olympus's flagship model, the EM1X has been released on the market for around a year (Feb 2019) and I've been lucky to get my hands on this beautiful camera for the last few months. Here is my review on the camera and how it performs as a professional photographer main rig.
For those who are new to Cam Blake Photography, I am a working professional photographer based in Hobart, Tasmania. My work covers many aspects of photography, from Landscape/Wilderness, Commercial, Wildlife, Weddings/Portraiture and Aerial Photography. I have been a professional for over 15 years and have been using Olympus cameras all the way back to the very first digital DSLR they release, the E1, back in 2003.
Before I get into the review, I must disclose that the EM1X used for the review was on loan from Olympus Australia. I do not get paid for my opinion of this camera and I am providing a serious, honest review of this camera from someone that has used this system since its inception.
So, let’s get started.
The first thing you notice about the EM1X is the size and the extra weight in the new design, with the built in battery grip. It feels solid and very well weighted in the hands. However, if you are moving from, for example, the EM1 mkii then you will notice the different in both weight and size.
With two batteries snug in the battery grip you will be pushing up to almost 1kg in weight, which would be close to twice the weight of the EM1 Mkii with just one battery. However, the weight is well balanced and even though you will notice the different, the fact that the Olympus micro 4/3rd lens are smaller and lighter than the traditional full frame gear, you will still be comfortable.
I have photographed 3 weddings with the EM1X and I can say that a full day event with this rig plus lenses is a breeze. The ergonomics of the in built grip actually makes it a super comfortable camera to use for long periods of time. I personally used the battery grip attachment on the EM1 Mkii when shooting so the feel is very similar, just more solid.
The body of the EM1X continues the traditional of Magnesium-alloy construction, which makes them pretty much bullet proof.
The EM1X continues the use of the 20MP LiveMOS sensor that was found in the EM1 Mkii which from some reports people aren’t overly happy about. To be honest, it would be nice to see a camera of this caliber with an upgraded sensor and it starts to raise the question as to whether Olympus has reached its optimal sensor size in regards to megapixel.
But for any photographer that is worth their salt as a shooter, you know that the 20MP sensor that is being used is plenty enough for the array of images you will be creating. For me a professional, it’s more about the complete package, rather then just the megapixel count. And this is the number one reason that I shoot with the Olympus system. It’s the complete package of features that attracts and works for me.
Another feature that has continues on into the EM1X is the dust reduction sensor cleany thing... commonly know as the Supersonic Wave Filter. Dust spots; I doubt I have ever had to remove a dust spot from my Olympus images files. This system of dust removal just works and is a credit to Olympus for developing such a feature.
The EM1X has balls. Big Balls! The new rig comes complete with two ultra fast TruePic processors allowing the camera to work at incredible speeds, not only with its AF system, but couple that together with the Image Stabilisation, the camera can shoot and write images at blistering speed. There is no “wait time”.
The EM1X comes equiped with two high speed UHS-II SD cards slots. With all this new power and speed, you’ll need these slots to capture all the action.
As a predominately landscape and wilderness photographer, the AF system of the EM1X isn’t a buying point for me. But as someone that also shoots approx 6 weddings a year, many commercial jobs that range from aerial work to action, then it does come into the equation. Over the years, one thing I have always feed back to Olympus and clients about the Olympus OMD system is that the AF can be a bit slow and inaccurate as compared to other systems that I have used.
This issue has been significantly improved with the EM1X model, and I mean significantly. With the combination of the phase and contrast detection AF, there is a huge difference in speed, accuracy and success in the new AF set up. I don’t know a heap about or pretend too know about autofocus systems and how they work or not work. As a professional all I notice is whether the image is sharp and how long did it take to get to that point when shooting faster action as opposed to a stationary landscape.
I took the EM1X to a local football match and shot the entire game from start to finish. Using the 121 point cross-type phase and contrast AF it was certainly a huge improvement from the EM1 Mkii performance. No searching, no misfires, no thinking too long to get the shot. It’s fast, really fast! And it’s accurate. Where as with the EM1 Mkii I would usually get 3 out 5 shots on point, the EM1X has to be rated at 4.5 out 5 images in focus, at the point I wanted, and in super quick succession.
Frames per second (FPS) is unbelievable in this camera. The specs say 15fps in a normal sequential shooting mode and up to 60fps in a silent sequential mode, but I wasn’t counting when I shot the football game because it just did what it needed to do.
The EM1X also has a plethora of AF modes. Too many for me to play with as there really is a mode for every single scenario you can think of. Even to the point that the EM1X can identify shapes, Such as planes, trains and automobiles. I will wait the John Candy AF mode in future firmware updates. :)
EVF and Monitor
Similar to the sensor, the EVF and LCD monitors in the EM1X haven’t been updated or increased. The EVF is the same 2.36 Million dots EVF and the Monitor is 1037k dots. The EM1X still has the brilliant ability to swing that screen out, around, up and down. And close off to protect when not required. Again, there is mumblings from the crowds that Olympus have let down users with no update on the EVF or screen. I say this doesn’t matter.
You get the feeling with the EM1X that Olympus have taken the smarter path with design and said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. If the EVF and screen do their desired purpose, then why change that? You see it too often with other brands, where new models are released frequently with minimal updates, where as the new releases from Olympus always impress with innovation and practical updates.
This section is a simple and short one. Battery life is exceptional. I can shoot an entire wedding on one charge of the double battery system. Each battery I was getting well over 800 images from each battery, which is damn impressive.
A new update to the new EM1X which I love as a photographer that explores back country on a regular basis, is the addition to USB charging of the batteries. This means lighter hiking weight as the batteries are chargeable on the go, which avoids the need to take extra batteries with you. This is a great add Olympus.
The OMD system has always been an incredible system with weatherproofing and the EM1X just goes a tad further in its ability to work in practically every scenario. I’ve used this camera in snow, wind, rain, dust, you name it. And as with previous models, you can not break these OMD’s
Image Stabilisation (IS)
Olympus is the industry leaders in IS and that is fact. Others have IS, but none that match the Olympus IS system in my opinion. The new EM1X, coupled with the Olympus IS lenses can give you a ridiculous 7EV stops of stabilisation and with more precise lenses such as the 12-100mm PRO you can get 7.5EV of IS.
That is mind blowing technology and I one that pretty much eradicates the need for a tripod out in the field. It’s really incredible when you can hand hold a .5 second image and be pin sharp. There is even examples of hand held Milky Way images shot up to 10 seconds exposure. That’s is simple amazing.
As a landscape photographer, being able to take high quality professional images hand held, without the need of a tripod is a massive bonus. And speaking of hand held...
High Res & Hand Held High Res Mode
In the last firmware update for the EM1 Mkii there was the addition of the High Res mode. The ability to shoot a 50MP image in a 20MP camera... how is that possible? With sensor shifting and some clever processing, you can shoot a 50MP image. On the EM1 Mkii it was only available to do this on a tripod as the camera needed the time and stability to produce the high res image.
The EM1X goes one step further; High Res images handheld. Now some will say this is a gimmick. I can confirm that this is not a gimmick. I have taken images for my clients using the high res mode and the quality is super impressive. As mentioned before, Olympus doesn’t release cameras just for the sake of it. They design and use of innovation to create industry leading features on their cameras. Yes, the 20MP might have reached its climax, so how do you improve on that? You design another kick ass feature to create higher resolution images, whilst still maintaining size and weight of the popular OMD system. Genius!
Along with the beautiful image quality available, the EM1X also has 4K high res video mode to capture scenes in stunning 4K quality. Add the 4K video to the IS and you pretty much have a steady cam 4K video in your hands. The EM1X also does OM-Log, which to my understanding is like having a 4K RAW file to edit and produce in post production.
There is so many features to mention here in the EM1X, and to go through them all would just restrict both you and I being able to get out and shoot, instead sitting at the computer reading my blog.
Things like the inbuilt ND filter feature, Live bulb and composite modes, and the amazing customisation of buttons options of the camera, the brilliant lenses line-up to support the EM1X and much more.
So lets summarise the EM1X with some Pros and Cons;
Overall the EM1X is designed to target the working professional sports or wedding photographer, but for me, it just works as a brilliant camera all round.
This EM1X could be the pinnacle of the OMD system, and rightly so. It has everything you have been needing from the OMD system over the years.
Olympus have done another stellar job designing a camera that just works and does everything it’s required to do. Although the price tag is higher, the extra bang for buck is justifiable in my world. The addition of twin batteries, USB charging, GPS (which includes temperature and altitude), amazing Image Stabilisation (up to 7.5EV stops), a very workable 20MP sensor (high res up to 50MP), and the typical Olympus weatherproofing design make this camera a perfect all round rig suitable for any genre or application you desire.
I wish to thank the Olympus Australia team for the opportunity to use this camera. Thanks :)
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