Olympus OM-D E-M1X - Robin Wong's Experience

Olympus has just launched the new Olympus OM-D E-M1X. Olympus claimed this camera was aimed specifically toward professional photographers operating in extreme and demanding shooting environment. However, the E-M1X is not a replacement for the E-M1 Mark II as Olympus positioned both cameras side by side as the current flagship models for Olympus Micro Four Thirds system. While the core of the E-M1X is similar to the E-M1 Mark II in many ways, the E-M1X hosts a new set of features and notable enhancements which I will discuss in depth in this article. The key highlights of E-M1X include integrated vertical grip, dual Truepic 8 processors built in, improved construction and reliability with better weather sealing, higher shutter life (rated 400k), more effective image stabilization, hand-held 50MP high res shot mode, dual UHS-2 SD card slots, larger EVF and enhanced AF performance. The photographers Olympus had in mind for E-M1X are undoubtedly sports and wildlife shooters.


Before we dive into the article, here are some important notes. 

I am an Olympus Visionary, a brand ambassador for Olympus Malaysia. 

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. 

All images shown in this article were shot on pre-production model Olympus OM-D E-M1X with multiple M.Zuiko lenses (except the product shots, which were all shot on E-M1 Mark II). All images were shot in RAW unless otherwise noted, and were post-processed in the new Olympus Workspace image editing software. I only applied minor tweaks and adjustments to the images: mostly white balance, exposure compensation and contrast boost. Olympus Workspace is now fully available for download from Olympus and effectively supersedes the dated Olympus Viewer 3, with much needed speed and performance boost. I will have a separate article after this to discuss about the new Olympus Workspace software. 

UPDATE 28/1/2019 5.45pm - Olympus Workspace is now available for download here (click)

UPDATE 24/1/2019 5.45pm - I was told that the Olympus Workspace should be available for download on the same day of the E-M1X launch. I cannot seem to be able to find the download site online. I shall ask my Olympus contacts to verify this. 

UPDATE 26/1/2019 - My article on Olympus Workspace is now posted. 

Over the course of 5 days shooting duration, I have tried my best to maximize the potential of the Olympus OM-D E-M1X. I have had one full day shooting wild animals in South Africa, utilizing mostly M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO and 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lenses. I have also shot Motorsports at Sepang International Circuit, did some urban landscape shooting, street photography during both day and night, live music stage performance at a dimly lit bar and a little bit of insect macro action. I pushed the E-M1X in both good and dim light conditions and in as many possible shooting scenarios as possible. 

OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1X FEATURES OVERVIEW VIDEO


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.


CAMERA SPECIFICATIONS HIGHLIGHTS

The key specifications for the Olympus OM-D E-M1X are listed below:

1) Integrated Vertical Grip and Improved Controls
The vertical grip is built into the E-M1X for better handling with larger lenses. Main control dials are now recessed into the camera to prevent from accidental turning. New multi selector/joystick to control AF points. 

2) Better Reliability
Better weather sealing, new and more effective SSWF dust reduction filter and rated 400,000 shutter actuation. 

3) Dual Truepic 8 Processor with Heat Pipe Cooling
Two Truepic 8 Image processors were used, and the advantages are: handheld high res shot, live ND filter, improved AF subject tracking, faster start-up time and processing speed and read/write for dual UHS-2 SD card slots. Heat pipe cooling built into camera to ensure less camera error/lock-up when overheats under harsh afternoon sun while shooting high burst sequential shots. 

4) Improved Image Stabilization
New gyro is adopted together with revamped algorithm. With M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 PRO IS lens, E-M1X can achieve 7.5 EV stops stabilization (all other lenses, 7EV stops)

5) Enhanced AF performance
Low light AF is now rated down to -6EV with use of F1.2 PRO lenses, and new subject tracking mode added - Motorsports, Airplanes and Trains. Single-AF speed and accuracy have been reworked too. 

6) Larger EVF with 0.83x magnification
The size of the electronic viewfinder is on par with the largest in the market. However, the resolution remains the same at 2.36 Million dots and 120fps refresh rate. 

7) WIFI Tethering is added
Olympus Capture and Olympus Workspace need to be installed to enable WIFI tethering. 

8) Field Sensing System Built in
GPS (GLONAS, QZSS), compass, manometer, temperature sensor and acceleration sensor.

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. 

12) Image Sensor, shooting FPS are similar to E-M1 Mark II
The E-M1X uses similar image sensor as E-M1 Mark II, and the general sequential burst speed is the same (60FPS electronic shutter S-AF, 18FPS electronic shutter C-AF, 15FPS mechanical shutter S-AF and 10FPS mechanical shutter C-AF). Pro Capture mode remains the same. All features and functions from E-M1 Mark II are available on E-M1X (silent shutter, live composite, etc)

13) Camera dimensions and weight
E-M1X: W:144.4mm H:146.8mm D:75.4mm, 849g without battery
Comparison notes: 
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

For full specification list of Olympus OM-D E-M1X, kindly visit the official product page here. 


The front of E-M1X retains the signature OM-D look from E-M1 Mark II. 

Buttons on the body have been enlarged for easier pressing. Also they are spaced further apart to prevent accidental pressing. The arrangement is a little different from E-M1 Mark II. There is a new C-Lock to selectively disable any buttons or dials on the camera. 


Olympus added a new multiselector (joystick) for quick AF point navigation. 

There is now an ISO default shortcut button, with different texture on the button so that it can be differentiated from other buttons on the camera. 

Two batteries can be slotted into the camera. 


To some, this is an extremely large size, but to me, if I use larger lenses, it makes sense. 



I admit I do not shoot vertical orientation a lot, I generally prefer to shoot in horizontal/landscape position. Maybe this will change when I use E-M1X more often from now on. 

CAMERA SIZE, WEIGHT & INTEGRATED VERTICAL GRIP

Let's address the elephant in the room. 

Ever since the leaked images and rumors showing images of Olympus OM-D E-M1X, the general feedback was the size of the camera being too large, diminishing the advantage of Micro Four Thirds system championing smaller camera system footprint. If you argue that the ideal camera size should be small and compact in form factor, then you are right, E-M1X is too huge. Nonetheless, bear in mind that E-M1X is not the only camera in the Olympus OM-D line-up, there are choices of E-M1 Mark II, E-M5 Mark II and also E-M10 Mark III, all at different shapes and sizes to fit different needs and preferences. If the large size aspect alone is a put off and decision breaker, then this camera was not designed for you.

The integrated vertical grip was important for two reasons: 1) Balance when shooting with much larger and heavier lenses and 2) Better handling when shooting in vertical/portrait orientation. Having used the E-M1X and M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO IS as well as 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lenses for a full day in Madikwe Game Reserve shooting wild animals, I can vouch that these lenses handle much better on the E-M1X than E-M1 Mark II. I was also using E-M1 Mark II during that trip, which I have blogged about herehere and here. The extra weight and size on the E-M1X counterbalanced the 300mm and 40-150mm PRO lenses very well, making it more natural to hand-hold for a longer duration of time. If you use these two lenses significantly and frequently in your shoots, the E-M1X will be a more comfortable and suitable camera for you. 

In fact, in my original review of the Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO lens, I mentioned that the 300mm lens felt front heavy on E-M1, and was not comfortable shooting hand-held for extended period of time. I acknowledge that I do not use the 300mm lens often and that is not an issue for me, but I cannot say the same for photographers whose bread and butter are sports and wildlife shooting, demanding as much reach as possible. The E-M1X with integrated vertical grip handles the 300mm and 40-150mm lenses much better than E-M1 Mark II with added on HLD-9 battery grip.

RELIABILITY AND DURABILITY

Olympus claimed that the E-M1X is created to surpass the E-M1 Mark II in terms of reliability. The weather-sealing has been improved, with guaranteed splashproof and dustproof of IPX1 rating. Moreover, Olympus said that they were confident the camera can withstand demanding and harsh conditions exceeding IPX1 limitations. Both the memory card and battery openings have a separate rubberized lock to ensure better sealing.

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. 

Image shot with Pro Capture Mode High (60FPS)
F4, 1/2500, ISO200, 300mm F4 PRO

F5.6, 1/250, ISO200, 150mm, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO

Crop from previous image

F5.6, 1/160, ISO200, 300mm F4 PRO

F2.8, 1/500, ISO200, 110mm, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO

F2.8, 1/3200, ISO200, 135mm, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO

F2.8, 1/2000, ISO200, 40mm, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO

F4, 1/5000, ISO200, 300mm F4 IS PRO

IMPROVED IMAGE STABILIZATION

According to Olympus, they have developed a new gyro together with Epson for the E-M1X and the algorithm for stabilization has also been reworked. They claimed that this combination allowed the E-M1X to detect camera shake movements 5 times more accurately than previous camera models, effectively improving the image stabilization implementation in the camera. Olympus mentioned that 7.5 stops EV stabilization can be achieved with the M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 IS PRO lens by utilizing the 5-Axis Sync IS, while most other lenses can achieve about 7 EV stops. Do bear in mind that Olympus also mentioned for M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO lens specifically, 6 EV stops can be achieved. 

Putting the Olympus OM-D E-M1X to test, I have used the camera for both the extreme long telephoto shooting as well as wide angle urban landscape shots. 

For telephoto shooting, I have kept the shutter speed at about 1/20 second slowest to prevent subject movement. I found myself confidently shooting even at 1/10 second with 300mm lens with no issue. 

On the other hand, for wide angle shooting, with the 12-100mm F4 IS PRO lens, I was able to hand-hold as slow as 15 seconds shutter speed. I must add that anything more than 10 seconds, I do need to lean myself on something or brace myself against a wall, because my legs wobble more than my hands shake. I can now do 5 seconds shot even more confidently than when I was using E-M1 Mark II. I personally think that the image stabilization capabilities in the E-M1 Mark II is already impressive, and more than sufficient for most of my photography use, but that extra improvement is always appreciated. 

Please be reminded that nothing can truly replace the use of a reliable, sturdy tripod. Powerful image stabilization helps in assuring sharp, shake-free hand-held images. For crucial shooting where critical sharpness is needed, I will not hesitate to bring along my trusty tripod. Having said that, advantage of 5-Axis Image Stabilization of E-M1X opens up a lot of shooting possibilities.

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.

F5.6, 1/5, ISO200, 35mm, 12-100mm F4 PRO

F10, 5 seconds, ISO200, 12mm, 12-100mm F4 PRO hand-held

F5, 5 seconds, ISO200, 12mm, 12-100mm F4 PRO hand-held

F3.5, 1.3 seconds, ISO200, 7mm, 7-14mm F2.8 PRO hand-held

F16, 15 seconds, ISO200, 12mm, 12-100mm F4 PRO, hand-held

F4, 1/15, ISO400, 100mm, 12-100mm F4 PRO, hand-held

ERGONOMICS AND HANDLING

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.

F13, 1/100, ISO200, 60mm F2.8 Macro, Wireless Flash used

F13, 1/100, ISO200, 60mm F2.8 PRO, Wireless Flash used

F8, 1/125, ISO200, 60mm F2.8 Macro, Wireless Flash used 

F10, 1/13, ISO200, 60mm F2.8 Macro, Wireless Flash used

HAND-HELD 50MP HIGH RES SHOT

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.

Handheld High Res Shot 50MP
F5.6, 1/320, ISO200, 9mm, 7-14mm F2.8 PRO

Crop Comparison: Handheld (left) vs Tripod (right) High Res Shot
Click for enlarged view

Crop Comparison: Handheld (left) vs Tripod (right) High Res Shot
Click for enlarged view

Crop Comparison: Handheld (left) vs Tripod (right) High Res Shot
Click for enlarged view

Subject movement causes artifacts in the final composited image of both hand-held and tripod high res shot images, but they are being rendered differently. I found that Olympus managed to minimize predictable effects over an area, such as moving water or leaves by superimposing parts of an image from a single shot 20MP file into the final composited image. This is not yet possible for unpredictable subjects such as moving vehicles along a highway, as shown in the following example. The tripod shot exhibited a fixed pattern "repetitive" subject as it moved across the frames. The hand-held shot had more repetition due to higher number of frames being used in the composite, and the position is less linear due allowance for hand movements during the shot. 


Hand-held High Res Shot 50MP
F5.6, 1/4000, ISO200, 41mm, 12-100mm F4 PRO

Crop Comparison: Handheld High Res (left) vs Normal Shot
Click for enlarged view

Handheld High Res Shot 50MP
F5.6, 1/2500, ISO200, 17mm F1.2 PRO

Handheld High Res Shot 50MP
F5.6, 1/800, ISO200, 80mm, 12-100mm F4 PRO

Handheld high res shot 50MP
F5.6, 1/250, ISO200, 12mm, 12-100mm F4 PRO

Crop Comparison: Handheld High Res (left) vs Normal Shot
Movement of water is less troublesome but still does not look as natural. Nonetheless, the shot is perfectly usable. 
Click for enlarged view. 

Handheld High Res Shot 50MP
F4, 1/100, ISO800, 25mm F1.2 PRO


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!




You may view the results in my full album with images from the Sepang Circuit here (CLICK TO GO TO ALBUM). 
All motorsports samples were shot in JPEG and were straight out of camera. 

AUTOFOCUS PERFORMANCE

I am very happy to report that the AF performance on the Olympus OM-D E-M1X has been drastically improved for S-AF. I did not test C-AF performance, as I could not find any suitable subjects to shoot. I shall continue to test the C-AF if opportunities arise.

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. 

Having used the E-M1X and E-M1 Mark II side by side for a full day in South Africa, I can confidently say that the improvement in S-AF is evident, especially when there is confusing or busy background. The E-M1X separates and focuses on subjects at the front more accurately. 

Perhaps, the biggest AF improvement happens in extreme low light condition. The E-M1X, with the use of F1.2 PRO lenses can focus much faster and accurately in super dark situations. Testing the E-M1X side by side with E-M1 Mark II, the E-M1X focuses almost twice as fast, and more accurately. There was noticeably much less hunting and hesitation and I believe this can drastically improve hit rates when dealing with low light shooting. This will surely benefit stage shooters as well as event, wedding and general photography working with difficult light.

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.

The best way to demonstrate the improvement, is the comparison done in the video below. 

LOW LIGHT AF E-M1 MARK II VS E-M1X


In the video, the light condition was not exactly -6EV, but dark enough to be troublesome for most cameras, even the best in class today. I have shot the exact same stage with one of the cameras that I have recently reviewed which was non-Olympus and it struggled in this similar scenario, even when the stage was lit during performance. For the E-M1X vs E-M1 Mark II test in the video, the stage lights were off, and I tried to target the subjects located at the darkest corner of the room. The camera parameters read ISO6400, F1.2 and 1/4 second shutter speed. If my estimation of EV value is correct (please feel free to point out my errors) this situation was close to about -4 EV. Yet, you can see the E-M1X nailing the AF with ease, and I am sure if the light level dropped a little further, the E-M1X can still keep up.

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. 

IMAGE QUALITY

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.

MY MENU

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.


F1.2, 1/800, ISO200, 45mm F1.2 PRO

F7.1, 1/800, ISO200, 25mm F1.2 PRO

F5.6, 1/500, ISO200, 45mm F1.2 PRO

F3.2, 1/40, ISO200, 17mm F1.2 PRO

F1.2, 1/1000, ISO200, 45mm F1.2 PRO

F5.6, 1/50, ISO3200, 45mm F1.2 PRO

F5.6, 1/10, ISO200, 45mm F1.2 PRO

F4.5, 1/4, ISO200, 17mm

F1.2, 1/1000, ISO3200, 45mm F1.2 PRO

F6.3, 1/4, ISO200, 17mm

F11, 4 seconds handheld, ISO Low 64, 17mm F1.2 PRO


BATTERY LIFE

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.

FINAL WORDS

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.


F1.2, 1/60, ISO1000, 45mm F1.2 PRO

F1.2, 1/125, ISO800, 45mm F1.2 PRO

F1.2, 1/200, ISO200, 45mm F1.2 PRO

F1.2, 1/80, ISO3200, 45mm F1.2 PRO




If you have not had enough sample images (about 48 shown in this blog entry), then feel free to view my full album here, with a total of 88 images. 


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57 comments:

  1. Thank you for your review. Before this review , actually my expectation for this camera would perform better than it should be. If it felt like an updated version of the E-M1 Mark II, I would consider it for my future camera.

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    1. edit:I wouldn't consider purchasing it for my future camera

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    2. Olympus usually makes a huge shift every 3 years. It has only been 2 years since E-M1 Mark II.

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  2. As if It is futile product , Waste money for development. At best this camera should be an OMD EM1 mk3 and it doesn't deserve to be OMD's utmost class

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    1. You may draw your own conclusions. However, to say that it is waste for development, that is a bit too harsh. The new deep learning Ai paved ways to future and more efficient AF implementation in camera, which I believe will be copied by all other brands. The hand-held high res shot is impressive, and if improved further, can be beneficial for many photography scenarios. The image stabilization enhancement was also much appreciated as I do everything hand-held. I won't go as far as saying these things make a futile product.

      I understand the E-M1X is not for you. Then you may choose to look away. Olympus has always championed innovation and new features (dust reduction on sensor, live view, 5-Axis IS, high-res mode, tele-entric lens design in 2008 which the new full frame mirrorless cameras in 2018 are starting to emphasize more, etc). I won't take them lightly

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    3. You right I have drawn my conclusion quickly and have juded too harsh. As if I ignored for every innovations Olympus made. All Olympus breakthrough technology will be benefit for our future camera technology.
      I am disappointed because previously I expected more with the Image quality improvement. Its IQ should far exceed the EM1 mk2(but the sensor is the same). In my opinion, with plenty of its breakthrough technologies, the EM1X should be launch with new sensor for better Image quality. Better IQ is important for upmost class camera. I hope the EM1 X will have performance like other 3000 US Dollar cameras. By the way all of my cameras are Olympus, For the time being I will keep with my OMD EM1 mk2 as my flagship camera.

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  3. Looks like a very solid effort from Olympus. Would love to see how the CAF performs up against a Nikon D500. I have an OMD EM1 mark ii and a D500. I'm guessing it may still be a work in progress on the CAF for Olympus, but I hope it's something they can really nail in the future. It will get me to switch over completely to MFT cameras.

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    1. According to Olympus, they are confident the E-M1 Mark II can go head on with D500 in terms of C-AF. I have not tested it enough to give any meaningful conclusions. I am sure more reviews and tests will be made by others online soon.

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    2. This is very promising to hear. I just bought the Panasonic G9, with the thought of adding a D500 for motorsports photography. If I can now stay within the micro four thirds family with this camera, it would be ideal.

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  4. Thanks for the detailed review. The EVF has come in for a lot of criticism but you have explained the reasons and benefits well. I look forward to seeing it.

    I could not understand why the new AI tracking was limited to 3 subjects, but you say "Currently there are three modes added into the camera - Motorsports, Airplanes and Trains." So that implies that other modes will be added in the future! I certainly hope that animals and birds etc will be added by firmware updates.

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    1. My pleasure to do the review as always. I think the benefit of the EVF will be more evident when shooting in extreme low light. The E-M1X EVF has zero lag even in super dim situation. I can't say the same for other brand camera's EVF.

      I hear you. Train is completely useless for me. And I don't shoot planes either. I guess Olympus is showing what is possible now, and hopefully they add more useful subject tracking modes in the future firmware upgrades!

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    2. I do photograph trains, but they are pretty easy to track anyway as they tend to follow tracks!

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    3. Andy, precisely! Trains are predictable so we can pre focus.

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  5. Thanks for the review! Wonderful pictures, as always. I don't plan to upgrade, since the em10 mark 3 fits my needs, but I'm very excited for the new Olympus Workflow software! Now if only there were a version for Android hehe.

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    1. Thanks Michael. Am working for the Olympus Workspace article now. And I hear you, I want an Android version too.

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    2. If only there was version for Linux...We could ditch out windows completely.

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    3. +1 for Android version :-D

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    4. I'd take an Android version too! Editing RAW images on the fly is a huge advantage, especially quick delivery to my clients.

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  6. Robin, thanks so much for the review. Interesting and insightful, as always. I'm wondering if you got things turned around with the HiRes building crop comparisons. You indicate that the handheld version is on the left but the size of the building is larger on the left. Since the handheld HiRes is 50mp vs. 80mp generated by the tripod method, you'd expect the 80mp rendering to be the larger one. This assumes the two were shot from the same position/focal length and no additional resizing was done in processing. Thanks again.

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    1. Thanks Brent for the kind words. I was using Olympus Workspace for comparison and it automatically sizes the crops. Unfortunately, I don't think the software got it right. I understand where you are coming from. But if you click and zoom on the images you can still clearly see the advantage and which one was shot on high res.

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    2. Just to be clear here, I'm referring to the handheld vs. tripod HiRes crops with the "W" sign at the top of the building and also the following crop with the Citi building in the background. I'm not referring to the HiRes vs. the normal 20mp building crops. The thing that triggered my curiosity here is the aliasing-like edge artifacts around the W in the left crop. The W is much cleaner looking in the right crop. That same edge artifact I've sometimes seen on prior Oly HiRes shots from the EM1ii, Pen F, etc. I was thinking that with a 16-shot aligned strategy you might see less detail/more blur in slanted edges but also fewer aliasing-like artifacts as well. That doesn't appear to be the case here though. On the other hand I see what looks like more aliasing in the slanted "X" girders in the second ("Citi") crop in the tripod version. Could perhaps just be differences in atmospheric conditions/heat shimmer.

      I'll be anxious to get my hands on some well-controlled comparisons to better understand what's gained/lost with the handheld approach. Thanks again.

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    3. Your observation is accurate, Brent. In terms of artifacts, the hand-held high-res mode can be a bit hit and miss, depending on how steady you hold the shot as well.

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  7. Nice review, but you’re the only one who says this is a good choice for a wildlife shooter. Without the improved CAF for anything but trains, planes and automobiles, I don’t think I can agree with you. I’m amazed they couldn’t match the Sony A9’s CAF.

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    1. Unfortunately Sony's weathersealing is pretty terrible. If only you could take the Olympus body and put it around the Sony.

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    2. John, I said it was a good choice for a number of reasons - for Micro Four Thirds users specifically, having integrated vertical grip for better handling/balance with larger lenses, and improved reliability.

      Please also note that I don't compare camera head on.

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    3. Brian, I am sure Sony is well aware of this. Who knows, they might just release an A9X or A7X, with better weather sealing and reliability!

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  8. Oh boy I keep flipping back and forth on this camera, the new af looks fantastic, I suppose the lackluster evf I could live with but same old sensor can't pull the trigger at $3k. All day long at $2k or even a hundred or so more. Since I'm mostly Panasonic I'll jump up to the G9 and hope the sequel is better.

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    1. I won't say the EVF is lackluster. Yes, resolution wise I wish it is higher. But that EVF is smooth and lag-free even in most demanding situations, I won't discount that either.

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    2. I tested G9 extensively as wanted to buy one, glad I didn't. G9's EVF is jerky and terrible. To my taste not even on par with older E-M1 mk1. If that's your criteria you care about - test it before!

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    3. The G9 EVF lags whenever half press of shutter button for AF, which is odd.

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  9. Hi Robin, thanks for the detailed review. I current shoot with EM1.2 and 300/f4 mainly on birds. I searched around for reviews by birds shooters using the EM1X but unfortunately I could not find anything. From your knowledge, do you know of anyone shooting the same genre has published their review? Thanks

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    1. There are some Olympus Visionaries who are bird and wildlife photographers. I'm not sure why they aren't posting much yet. Not all of them are bloggers and have websites or blogs go write their reviews.

      I'm sure some reviews specializing in bird photography will pop up sooner or later.

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  10. Fine blog and images Robin. Thank you.i enjoyed reading this.

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    1. Thanks Paul, appreciate your kind comment!

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  11. Excellent unbiased, concise review ...unfortunately i am 90% in the high ISO, high shutter speed territory and have to stay in the FF circle. i was so hoping this would be the one but once i hear "not good in high ISO/high speed range" i stop reading listening.

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    1. I totally understand John, I too hope Olympus could make significant bounds and leaps in terms of their image quality especially for low light shooting. Thanks for the kind words.

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  12. Nice. Now waiting for E-M5 Mark 3 with some of the features.

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  13. Congratulations on yet another great article! I would like you to know that I base a lot of my buying decisions from what I read in your blog. I find you honest and well informed. I am always curious about the JPEGs you put in your blog that is straight out of the camera. They always seem very nice but I have not yet found setting to my likings in my EM1 mk2. How do you set upp the JPEG processing in your cameras? Keep up the good work!

    /Stefan

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    1. Thanks Stefan. The images in my blog were not straight out of camera JPEGs. I shot everything in RAW. For my own work and also commercial shoots, currently I use Capture One Pro to post process my images. You may find my Youtube video showing me working with my street images using the Capture One Pro here: https://youtu.be/dvqFZbjiZUA

      For the images in this article, since Capture One Pro is not supporting E-M1X, I used the Olympus Workspace (not available for download yet). You may read my latest article about the Workspace here: https://robinwong.blogspot.com/2019/01/olympus-workspace.html

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  14. I was thrilled to see that you tested this camera partly in South Africa, which is my home. Olympus cameras do not have a large following here. Most South Africans prefer large cameras (or their phones) and have not yet warmed to mirrorless, unlike me. I hope you had a good time here.

    Miixhael

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    1. South Africa was fantastic, and I cannot wait to do another trip there. My experience has been nothing short of amazing, and I loved every single moment there. You are lucky to be living there.

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    2. I hope you make it to the East Coast too, and Cape Town, if you get here again. 😊

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    3. I have been to Cape Town! Do a search via the search box in the side bar!

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  15. This has always been one of my favorite blogs to visit. I am not an action shooter, but I’m going to give the EM1X a go for my wedding photography. I shoot with the EM1 II for my wedding business and I love the idea of an integrated grip and the low light AF improvement in the X.

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    1. I think the E-M1X will help especially in low light shooting (church, or outdoor by the beach at night, for example). I am sure you will love it.

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  16. Great review as always Robin. I've been an Olympus user since the OM1 days and has always been a trend setter of innovation other brands to follow. The controversy over format wars is because people don't see these as tools, people got to know the pros and cons for each format and one is not better than the other. I use both m4/3 and full frame cameras and choose it for the best job, for instance, I will choose to use m4/3 for macro and long telephoto work because of the better depth of field (macro) and better optics (telephoto). I learn this when I was asked to photograph a small dried fish of less than 2 inches long and thought by using the Sony A7RII with 90mm G-master (a perfect combination for copying fine art reproduction) was a struggle because of the shallow DoF due to the format size. I then took out the Pan F with 60mm f2.8 in the same setup and shot it with hi res mode, the end result was a print just shy of 80 inches and looked absolutely stunning. I compared the two files during Photoshop processing and the m4/3 (lowest ISO setting) has much better sharpness than the 42mp Sony file.

    I embrace both formats and looking back from the film days, photography has never been this good because we have so many tools and choices to choose from.

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    1. Glad to find that you have the PEN-F and it is working well for you when it comes to fine art reproduction. Indeed, a lot of people under-estimated the advantages of high res mode, it may not be too convenient to use, but the per-pixel sharpness as well as color fidelity are better than single shots from higher megapixel sensors.

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  17. Just received my new E-M1X, hope you can share your setting recommendation on your next blog.

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