Olympus desires to shatter the assumption that you’ll want to use a full-frame digicam with the intention to be a professional sports activities photographer. Its reply, the OM-D E-M1X ($2,999, physique solely), is a mirrorless mannequin with a smaller Micro Four Thirds imager, however constructed like a professional SLR. Its design incorporates the built-in vertical grip most well-liked by many professional sport shooters, and twin processors add extra superior topic recognition and monitoring to its autofocus system—for some topics, a minimum of. We’ve solely been capable of work with a pre-production digicam with beta firmware to date, so we’re not prepared to provide it a score, however we do have first impressions to share after utilizing the digicam within the discipline.
Micro With a Grip
There’s a sense amongst some that mirrorless equals compact. That will be true, but it surely would not need to be. Models with full-frame sensors shave dimension and weight versus an SLR, however other than some wide-angle designs, do not use lenses which are considerably smaller. On the opposite hand, cameras just like the Olympus PEN-F, when paired with a small prime or zoom, slide right into a jacket pocket with out bother.
You will not be capable of pull off the identical trick with the E-M1X. It’s greater than different Micro Four Thirds fashions (5.8 by 5.7 by 2.9 inches, HWD, 2.2 kilos), however smaller than a gripped SLR just like the Nikon D5 (6.2 by 6.3 by 3.6 inches, 3.1 kilos). Like the D5, the E-M1X incorporates an built-in vertical capturing grip.
And it is the grip that basically units the E-M1X other than the E-M1 Mark II. The E-M1X shares lots of its imaging expertise with the Mark II—it makes use of the identical picture sensor and a really related (albeit improved) autofocus system—however does supply some enhancements. Dual processors velocity up operation and add higher topic recognition to its autofocus system (for sure photographic topics), and refinements to the in-body stabilization system add handheld high-resolution multi-shot seize.
As with the E-M1 Mark II, the E-M1X is sealed to guard it from mud and splashes, so long as you pair it with a lens that can also be sealed. I shot in a downpour with none issues, and have had good outcomes utilizing sealed Olympus cameras in tough situations previously, so I’ve no purpose to assume the E-M1X’s sealing is something lower than sturdy. As far as scores go, Olympus states the E-M1X exceeds IPX1 requirements. To cement how a lot the corporate stresses climate safety, Olympus confirmed us a video of its inner testing course of, through which the E-M1X was blasted by jets of water coming in from a number of instructions.
In addition to safety when the lens is connected, Olympus states that the E-M1X does a greater job retaining mud off the picture sensor throughout lens modifications. It would not do the plain—which is to maintain the mechanical shutter curtains closed when the digicam is powered down—however as an alternative depends on improved protecting coatings and the sensor-shift system to maintain mud spots away. As with any digicam, sensor mud is one thing that requires long-term use to essentially consider.
The E-M1X will slide proper into the arms of veteran E-M1 Mark II homeowners—particularly if you happen to already use the digicam with an add-on grip. There are 4 programmable buttons flanking the lens mount, however they solely carry out two features. One pair is to be used with the digicam in panorama orientation, and the opposite is for portrait capturing. Controls are designed in a method so that they will fall beneath your fingers on the identical place whatever the digicam’s orientation.
Top controls aren’t duplicated. A raised cylinder sits on the left of the highest plate. It has the On/Off swap built-in at its base, and three management buttons (Drive, Autofocus, Bracketing) on its prime. The sizzling shoe sits centered behind the lens mount, atop the EVF. As with the E-M1 Mark II, the E-M1X would not embrace a built-in flash.
The Mode dial is within the acquainted place, simply to the proper of the new shoe. It’s a locking design, with the usual PASMB settings and 4 slots for Custom settings (C1, C2, C3, C4), and a dial for Movie mode. You additionally get a Record button on the highest to begin movies in any mode, however switching to the Movie place means that you can have a separate financial institution of settings for video. Other prime buttons embrace ISO and EV compensation controls, and naturally the shutter launch, which is comfortably angled on the prime of the handgrip, simply above the entrance command dial.
The C banks are helpful for photographers who’ve favourite settings for various topics, and particularly for occasions the place you will be switching between settings from shot to shot. When photographing motion you might wish to program C1 with a really fast shutter velocity to freeze movement, and C2 for an extended one whenever you wish to introduce some intentional movement blur. It’s faster to maneuver the Mode dial one place than to maneuver from 1/2,000-second to 1/15-second utilizing a command dial, in any case. Do keep in mind that the C settings are very sticky—if you happen to make modifications and energy the digicam down, it can revert to what’s saved within the financial institution whenever you energy again on.
Rear controls are just like the E-M1 Mark II, however not equivalent. The Fn button is in the identical place, simply to proper of the EVF, and continues to be surrounded by a toggle swap—however the swap now faces in the other way, so it is far more comfy to regulate. It’s fairly helpful too—it could actually do just a few various things, together with altering what the principle command dials do, or serving because the On/Off swap. The latter is a pleasant contact, as I am not a fan of getting the On/Off swap on the prime left—I want it to be accessible utilizing my proper hand.
The AEL/AFL button is simply to proper of the Fn swap, and the rear command dial sits to its proper. Both have counterpart controls on the vertical grip. Also showing twice is a small eight-way directional management. It’s new to the E-M1X, and as with controls we have seen in different professional cameras just like the mirrorless Sony a9, its major use is to maneuver the lively focus space.
The four-way controller, with the OK button at its heart, is positioned nearly mid-height. There’s no purpose to double it—it sits in roughly the identical place no matter the way you maintain the digicam. It’s flanked by Info and Play buttons which, likewise, haven’t got vertical dopplegangers.
The the rest of the rear controls run in a row beneath the LCD, within the a part of the digicam that does not bodily exist on the un-gripped E-M1 Mark II. Menu, Delete, Card, and White Balance buttons are included, together with a lock swap to disable all vertical grip controls, or to lock down solely those you set within the menu. The latter perform is named C-Lock, with the C standing for Custom. The C-Lock is not the one customizable management—if you happen to dive into the menu you will discover the E-M1X could be very configurable.
For probably the most half, I discovered myself fairly pleased with the overall controls and their format. Olympus has a robust on-screen menu to complement them—it pops up whenever you press the OK button. I’d’ve appreciated to see some backlighting, as Nikon does with the buttons on the D5 and the D500.
The LCD is identical as you get with the E-M1 Mark II. It’s a 3-inch LCD panel with contact enter assist and a vari-angle design. The display is loads sharp, 1,037okay dots, and shiny. We’ve seen bigger screens with extra densely packed pixels on another cameras, however I do not discover the E-M1X’s show to be in any method poor.
I am not as pleased with the EVF. It’s a very good deal bigger than that of the E-M1 Mark II—Olympus states the E-M1X EVF sports activities 0.83x magnification, which is up there with the most important we have seen in competing fashions. It’s large—about the identical dimension because the 0.82x EVF utilized by the Nikon Z 7—but it surely would not look almost nearly as good because the Z 7, which is the most effective in any class. Not each product will be class main, however we do need them to be aggressive. The E-M1X EVF appears like an even bigger model of the one included within the E-M1 Mark II.
As talked about, I am utilizing a pre-production digicam, so there’s an opportunity the expertise might change with finalized firmware. There is one firmware change I would like to see, and it’s eye sensor associated. The E-M1X mechanically switches between viewfinder and LCD. But the attention sensor is simply method too delicate. It switches away from the LCD typically when utilizing the digicam at waist-level. You can disable the automated switching with a button, however I would like to see Olympus provide the choice to disable it when the LCD is swung out and away from the physique.
There is one different odd habits associated to the EVF. If you are reviewing pictures or navigating by menus on the rear LCD, however wish to carry the digicam to your eye to get a view by the EVF as an alternative, the attention sensor drops you out of picture overview of the menu and into picture seize mode. It’s a plus if you happen to’re making an attempt to carry the digicam to your eye for a fast shot, however an annoyance in any respect different occasions.
Connectivity and Power
The E-M1X has the usual cocktail of Bluetooth, NFC, and Wi-Fi communication choices. It works with the Olympus Image Share app (for Android and iOS units) to switch images to your good gadget and for distant management. This is all outdated hat for Olympus at this level, and we haven’t any unhealthy issues to say concerning the Wi-Fi system. You’ll need to undergo an preliminary setup course of, however as soon as settings are locked in on the telephone and digicam facet, it is a easy matter to begin a wi-fi switch.
The digicam would not have an Ethernet port. It’s not one thing you discover on lots of fashions, however is anticipated in a single marketed to professional sports activities shooters. Photographers working the sidelines with the Canon 1D X Mark II, Nikon D5, or Sony a9 can jack right into a community and immediately switch images again to an editor, who will get the most effective pictures posted earlier than halftime. Olympus could also be going after the professional market with the E-M1X, but it surely’s not going after professionals who want that stage of performance.
The digicam does have GPS, together with a barometer, compass, and temperature sensor. If you need extra knowledge concerning the situations through which you captured a photograph, the E-M1X has you lined. The GPS provides the obvious profit—geotagging your pictures. I haven’t got lots of use for the opposite sensors, however you would possibly.
The digicam has a sizzling shoe and a PC Sync socket to speak with exterior lighting tools. It additionally sports activities a 2.5mm distant jack, 3.5mm headphone and microphone connections, mini HDMI, and USB-C.
The USB-C port helps in-camera charging. The E-M1X is powered by two batteries, and so they cost and discharge in sequence somewhat than concurrently. On-the-go charging through USB could be very handy, although I’m puzzled as to why the digicam cannot perform and cost concurrently—it is a characteristic that may be appreciated for studio use and really very long time lapses.
You can even cost batteries the quaint method, in an exterior charger. The E-M1X ships with two batteries and two chargers—all equivalent to the facility equipment for the E-M1 Mark II. If you shoot with each our bodies you will have the comfort of utilizing the identical energy for each. I’d love for Olympus to have developed a multi-battery charger, however perceive that the idea could also be antiquated. It’s really easy to cost the batteries through USB, I did not contact the wall charger throughout my time capturing with the E-M1X.
Olympus continues to make use of SD reminiscence. It’s not alone on this class—Sony additionally makes use of SD in its a9. Both of the digicam’s reminiscence card slots assist UHS-II switch speeds, and whereas SD is not as speedy as XQD or Cfast, the quickest playing cards can deal with burst capturing on the E-M1X’s modest 20MP decision.
I’ve solely had entry to beta firmware up to now, so I am unable to converse to the efficiency of the ultimate product. But I can discuss what the E-M1X is able to on paper. Its autofocus system is improved versus the E-M1 Mark II, however not dramatically so. Instead of including focus factors or enhancing burst velocity, Olympus has focused on enhancements in regard to topic recognition.
So the highest velocity, for monitoring, continues to be 10fps utilizing the mechanical shutter and 18fps utilizing the digital shutter. You can push the digicam to 15fps and 60fps, respectively, however focus is locked through the sequence. You can get pleasure from Raw seize, even at 60fps, though just for very brief durations.
While the E-M1X is not any sooner, it does promise to be higher, thanks (a minimum of partly) to twin picture processors that permit the physique to juggle extra computational duties than the only processor utilized by the E-M1 Mark II. Eye Detection has been added, for instance, giving portrait photographers extra exact focus than Face Detection alone supplies.
See How We Test Cameras
The E-M1X has particular focus modes that acknowledge completely different topics—particularly trains, vehicles, and planes. In its Motorsports mode, it does a greater job monitoring fast-moving vehicles than with out it—a boon for photographers who focus on photographing races and the like. It can even acknowledge helmets, so if you happen to’re photographing bikes or Indy vehicles, the digicam will attempt to place the sharpest level of give attention to the driving force’s head. In addition to racing, the digicam can acknowledge trains and airplanes in two different modes. This characteristic solely works when the digicam is ready to its slower steady drive mode—10fps for the mechanical shutter and 18fps for the digital.
Using the pre-production digicam, I used to be capable of check out the Motorsports focus perform at a NASCAR observe and a motocross course. The digicam lets you recognize when it acknowledges a topic, drawing a digital field round it within the EVF, and I used to be completely happy to see the E-M1X picked up each vehicles on the observe and grime bike riders flying by the air with aplomb.
If you are not a photographer working in these disciplines, you will nonetheless profit from different modest enhancements, however do not count on an evening and day completely different in autofocus efficiency. I additionally used the E-M1X to a Division I school soccer observe. The digicam was capable of lock onto the motion, and observe gamers operating instantly towards the lens at full velocity. Unfortunately a few of my finest pictures aren’t capable of be printed right here, because the NCAA has pretty strict guidelines in terms of sharing images of pupil athletes. But I did not toss many out attributable to missed focus—even with early firmware, the E-M1X nailed shot after shot.
The E-M1 Mark II was already a very good digicam for capturing motion, and sure, the E-M1X’s focus system is healthier. But it is an incremental enchancment. The Sony a9 continues to be the category chief in terms of autofocus and burst capturing velocity—it provides 20fps Raw seize, with monitoring, however with none kind of EVF blackout or stutter. Even with the E-M1X’s digital shutter, you aren’t getting a superbly easy view of the motion as you make pictures. The a9 does price considerably extra—it is priced at $4,500—which is essential to remember.
Beyond Simple Stabilization
The E-M1X makes use of a Micro Four Thirds sensor with 20.9MP decision and five-axis stabilization. We’re ready on remaining and firmware to run lab checks, however count on it to ship picture high quality that’s on par with the E-M1 Mark II.
The picture stabilization system has been improved. When paired with the 12-100mm zoom, the digicam is rated for 7.5 stops of compensation—a full cease higher than the E-M1 Mark II. Olympus states that photographers will be capable of handhold pictures for 4 seconds with the zoom at 12mm. I used to be capable of pull four-second exposures off constantly on the widest angle, however when zoomed in additional, I discovered one to 2 seconds netted higher outcomes—nonetheless, that is nothing to sneeze at.
The stabilization system additionally helps multi-shot picture seize. The Olympus High Res Shot mode captures quite a lot of pictures in succession, barely shifting the sensor between every publicity, and might output a 50MP photograph—however a tripod has been a requirement up to now. The E-M1X provides a handheld model, which makes use of the digicam’s sensors and stabilizer to do the identical and not using a tripod. I discovered the hand held outcomes to be very hit and miss with the early pattern of the digicam I have been utilizing. When it really works, it really works extraordinarily effectively, however when it would not, I received outcomes with noticeable blur brought on by digicam shake. We’ll reserve judgement on how efficient the hand held High Res Shot is once we work with a finalized digicam.
There are another issues the E-M1X does that Olympus shooters are accustomed to. It helps Live Bulb, Live Composite, and Live Time—instruments that can assist you nail lengthy exposures with out having to carry out difficult calculations to correctly stability publicity time, aperture, and sensitivity (you will see the publicity construct on the rear LCD and you may cease it with a press of the shutter). The E-M1X provides Live Neutral Density, which simulates the impact of a impartial density filter so you may internet lengthy exposures with out having to dam gentle coming into the lens. It’s one thing we have not but had lots of alternative to check, however will have a look at the characteristic with the finalized .
The E-M1X shoots video at as much as 4K high quality, in each the DCI and UHD codecs. It can roll at 24, 25, or 30fps at 4K, and you may push all of it the way in which to 120fps at 1080p. Video is stabilized, and guide publicity management is on the market. The enhanced topic recognition out there when capturing stills in AF-C mode would not work for video seize.
In addition to inner recording to SD, the E-M1X outputs a clear 4:2:2 sign through its HDMI port, so you may pair it with an exterior recorder. There are each microphone and headphone jacks, so recorded audio can attain skilled ranges. A Log video profile is on the market, together with an LUT for straightforward grading, if you happen to want to paint right your individual footage.
Micro Four Thirds in a Full-Frame World
If there was an enormous photograph story in 2018, it was that it was the 12 months full-frame mirrorless methods got here into their maturity. The Sony a7 III kicked issues off, delivering extra efficiency than we would ever assume to see in a $2,000 digicam. Canon and Nikon launched their very own methods within the late summer season. In early autumn, Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma introduced plans to collaborate on a full-frame system primarily based on Leica’s mirrorless L-mount; Panasonic plans to launch two L-mount cameras in 2019, and Sigma has additionally said it plans to ship its personal digicam, probably primarily based on the Foveon sensor design.
Where does this depart Micro Four Thirds? Panasonic has said that it’ll proceed to assist the format, nonetheless I count on it to sluggish Micro Four Thirds releases and focus on full-frame growth for a minimum of the subsequent two years. If I am proper, it leaves Olympus to hold the torch for the system in the intervening time.
While the remainder of the trade concentrates on the 24-by-36mm full-frame format, Olympus—and Micro Four Thirds evangelists—are fast to level out the benefits of a smaller sensor. System dimension and weight have lengthy been a rallying cry, and, whilst you can cherry decide some full-frame mixtures that compete, it is largely true. The E-M1X is not as small as, say, the PEN-F, but it surely’s a featherweight when put next with an enormous Canon 1D.
There are sacrifices, after all. Micro Four Thirds sensors usually present extra picture noise than full-frame variations, and depth of discipline is not usually as shallow as with a full-frame digicam, even when apertures match. And, when trying towards the long run, we have but to see a Micro Four Thirds sensor with greater than about 20MP. It’s no drawback for 4K video seize and its 8MP body decision, however 8K is on the horizon and packs 33MP into each body of footage.
Whether or not Micro Four Thirds is best for you might be not a priority to E-M1X consumers. This digicam isn’t meant for first-time system patrons. Instead, it is a a lot better match for shutterbugs already entrenched within the system. I am not but capable of say whether or not the E-M1X deserves its roughly $3,000 price ticket—that verdict will wait on a finalized model of the digicam. Check again quickly for a full overview.