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Adopting the Olympus OM-D System Pt. 1


Dallas

It was some time in 2012 that a friend of mine suggested I should go and have a look at the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 micro four thirds camera that had been brought into stock at a local retailer. At the time I was shooting professionally with two Nikon D700 bodies and a slew of big zoom and prime lenses, some from Nikon and some from Sigma.

 

I had expressed an interest to this friend in getting into a smaller camera system like micro four thirds because whenever I wanted to take a camera with me somewhere it involved dragging this big camera backpack along, something that made me look (and feel) very conspicuous. But the problem wasn’t so much the back pack, it was that I couldn’t always fit everything I wanted to bring with me into the backpack for fear of injuring my back due to the weight I would end up carrying.

 

I was looking for something lighter and a bit more more manageable to take with me on outings. I didn’t want a 1-lens-does-all solution either. I wasn’t expecting to do professional work with it but I did want to get results that I’d be happy with. Prior to me checking out the Olympus E-M5 I had owned both the Olympus Pen E-P1 and E-P2 cameras, plus I had just recently picked up a Panasonic GF-1 with a couple of decent Panasonic micro four thirds lenses on a special. I loved those little m43 cameras, but the image quality, while good, just wasn’t quite in the league of a DSLR and once you’re used to a certain pay grade going down from there is seldom something you aspire to. Those early m43 cameras were good for most things, but not that good in low light or situations that required solid auto focus performance, which is where I often found myself wanting them to be good.

 

So off I went to this shop where they had the OM-D E-M5 on display. I asked the sales assistant if I could get hands on and on touching it for the first time my immediate thought was something along the lines of “Oh, that’s a solid piece of kit”. It really was. Compared to the PEN series cameras this one wasn’t that much bigger, but something about it felt a whole lot more substantial. It felt like a serious photographic tool. Tilting touch screen? I was hooked!

 

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You can’t really tell a lot about performance from playing with a camera in a store, so I left it there and of course the first thing I did when I got home was begin searching for online reviews and more importantly sample images that could show me what the camera was capable of producing. I especially wanted to see how it fared with tricky shooting, such as low lit rooms and back lit situations. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I found.

 

There were a LOT of people talking about the OM-D E-M5 online. From the usual reviews and bench tests to the field reviews everybody was unanimous: the camera was great and it was going to be a question poser to DSLR users, for sure.

 

It was still a hard decision for me to make, because I had two copies of one of the best DSLR’s ever made and I was about to go off on safari to Sabi Sabi in a month’s time. I needed both D700’s for that trip. Or did I? One D700 would be used for telephoto shots taken with my Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 lens. The other would be used for… What was the other one going to be used for? Wide angles? On safari? Well, I might as well use the OM-D for that my inner logic said.

 

I eventually bit the bullet and ordered a silver and black OM-D body only from a local dealer. A few days later it arrived and while I still had both the Nikon D700’s in my possession, only a few hours later I was quite certain that I would be able to not only use this camera in conjunction with my D700, but I would also be able to use it in many situations where the D700 simply wouldn’t perform well. I already had a buyer hanging on for one of the D700’s so all it took was a phone call and a financial transaction for me to bid one of them goodbye.

 

The one good decision I made with this change was that I didn’t go crashing 100% into it the way I had done twice before when I moved from Nikon to Canon and then back to Nikon over a period of about 4 years. I ran both the Nikon and the Olympus systems side by side for well over a year before eventually moving over entirely to the Olympus system after the E-M1 came out. That gave me the safety net I needed in my photography career to be able to use a system I was already very familiar with (Nikon), as well as being able to experiment with a new system (Olympus) to see what I could use it for and how effective it could be in any given situation.

 

The things I have learned along this path of change might be quite helpful to other photographers who are considering making a similar change to their setup. Initially I had intended to write an eBook about this move, but I have now decided to write a series of freely accessible articles for potential Olympus users instead. The purpose of this series of articles therefore is to help you understand a little bit more about how the Olympus system works and also how it compares to DSLR systems like Nikon and Canon in various shooting situations. By the end of this series you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the system (based on my experiences).

 

I will also cover various shooting situations I have encountered with the camera and show you photos from paid and non-paid jobs I have done with the equipment I have.

 

Why Olympus?

 

The company Olympus has been around since 1919, which means right now it’s just 5 years shy of celebrating its centenary. That’s a long time to have been in business and despite the recent financial irregularity issues that saw 11 of their executives arrested and charged criminally for contravening various business laws in Japan, the company still continues to operate independently of any dominant shareholding. The largest shareholder currently is Sony Corporation who hold an 11% stake in Olympus.

 

I was attracted to the brand for two main reasons:

 

1. they’re innovative (5 axis in body image stabilisation -IBIS- is such a brilliant idea, and so is the touch screen LCD).

2. their products are excellent quality, especially the optics - in fact the professional grade lenses are renowned for being amongst the very best you can get and there are many very fast lenses that you don’t get from other manufacturers.

 

The Lens Selection

Another major selling point for me wasn’t so much the brand, but more the fact that micro four thirds is an open standard, meaning that any manufacturer can produce cameras and lenses for it and this is probably why there are so many lenses available for m43 today. At the time of writing this guide there are over 45 different lenses available for m43 from a range of different manufacturers including, Olympus, Panasonic, Leica, Sigma, Voigtlander and Samyang. This large range includes everything from fisheye lenses to macro and telephoto, as well as some extremely fast prime lenses. There are three manual focus Voigtlander lenses with maximum apertures of f/0.95. Expensive at over $1000 each, but if you’re looking for speed they don’t come much faster than that!

 

Something else that needs to be taken into consideration is that all the excellent lenses that Olympus developed for its 4/3rds DSLR system are now fully compatible with the Olympus E-M1 using an adapter (MMF1, MMF2, MMF3). If you look at the range of Super High Grade lenses on offer you’ll start to get an appreciation of just how significant this development is, especially if you’re after telephotos. Olympus makes some of the finest fast telephotos and tele-zooms you’re ever likely to encounter. They’re all weather proof and most of them have very fast apertures. An example of this would be the 150mm f/2.0, which offers the equivalent field of view of a 300mm lens on something like a Nikon FX body. Then there is the 90-250mm f/2.8 (180-500/2.8 equiv.), as well as Olympus’ own 300mm f/2.8 (600/2.8 equiv.) that offers you the equivalent field of view of lenses with double that focal length in bigger systems (who makes a 600mm f/2.8 or a 180-500mm f/2.8?).

 

Combine this selection with the amazingly effective IBIS of the E-M1 and the options for nature photography begin to step well off the plane of what is possible using bigger systems. Smaller lenses mean less weight and IBIS means less need for expensive physical camera stabilisation such as gimbal heads and ballheads. For those interested in nature photography or birding it is a compelling system to investigate.

 

My interests in photography and the work I actually get paid for are fairly dissimilar. I’m drawn to landscapes and cityscapes as well as action and stage work for my personal stuff, but my paid work lies in event coverage and sometimes product photography. For all those areas I probably relied on 3 different lenses for the Nikon FX system. There was the incredibly wide Sigma 12-24mm FX lens, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 OS. So for the Olympus system to work for me I would need to have lenses that could do the same kinds of things.

 

Initially I was using the Panasonic 14-45mm f/3.5-4.5 kit lens on my E-M5 which is a great kit lens, it really is. But because it’s not so fast and a lot of the time I am shooting indoors, I wanted something that came close to the quality of the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. My options at that time came down to the very capable and super fast Olympus primes, such as the 17mm f/1.8 (35mm equiv.) and the 45mm f/1.8 which are the two focal lengths I use most of all. Or the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 zooms. Unfortunately I would have to import those due to lack of brand presence here in South Africa, so I gave the primes from Olympus (who do have very good representation here in SA) some serious thought.

I do like shooting primes, but I don’t like changing lenses in the field, so I decided to bite the bullet and get the Olympus PRO 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens for about $1000. This turned out to be a very good decision as it is a brilliant piece of glass. Prior to getting it I had always said that the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 was the best zoom I have ever used, but after seeing the results I was getting from this guy I changed my mind and the king of the zooms for me now is definitely this Olympus lens.

 

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On the wide angle zoom side there were two options for me to look at; the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 and the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6. The Panny is a lot bigger than the Oly and it runs a constant f/4 maximum aperture throughout its range where the Oly loses a stop at the longer end. The good thing about the Oly though is that it is a collapsible lens, so when it’s not in use it is very small, which fits well with my whole philosophy and primary interest in wanting to move to this system - size and weight.

 

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I read quite a few reviews on both lenses, as well as several comparisons and the general consensus was that unless you had to have the extra stop at the long end and the much wider wide end, you’d be happier with the Oly. Image quality between the two was neither here nor there. One thing that the Oly does have in its favour is that you can use screw in filters on it whereas the Panasonic lens is pretty much like the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 - there is no filter thread.

 

So I ended up getting the Olympus 9-18mm and I am very happy with it. It was a lens I ended up doing some satisfying landscape work with in Namibia last year, plus of course I could use the very cool LEE filters Seven5 system on it.

 

The only thing I couldn’t replace with an Olympus lens yet was my Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8. Yes, there was the very good Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8, but as mentioned it’s unavailable here where I live. Then I began reading about the Olympus 75mm f/1.8. It gives an equivalent field of view of 150mm on the Nikon FX system, which is not that far from the 200mm I would mostly be using on the Nikon system. If you’ve read my review of the 75mm Oly you’ll know how I feel about it. It’s a piece of glass to cherish. I’ve never used anything quite like it and the shots I got with it during my coverage of two major conferences last year got me high praise from my clients. The people at ICANN being one of them.

 

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With this lens I have all three of my main requirements covered and instead of being burdened with a rucksack, I can take them all in a tiny bag like the ThinkTank Retrospective 5 and still have space for other lenses.

What Other Lenses?

 

The really cool thing about m43 is that there are some fun lenses you can pick up for very little money. One of my favourites is the $300 Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye. I use this little lens everywhere I go. It’s manual focus but it has such incredible depth of field that if you set it to f/5.6 and infinity focus, you are pretty much assured of everything from around 20cm in front of the lens to the horizon being in focus.

 

Recently I was loaned two other fun lenses that I am having a great time with - the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 and the Sigma 30mm f/2.8. The 19mm is a super little lens and I will be writing a more in-depth review of it soon. On the macro side there are two native options: I have the Panasonic/Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit which I like a lot, but there is also an Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro that has many macro users all atwitter regarding it's outstanding sharpness and overall optical performance. Some people are even saying that it is in the league of the legendary 125mm f/2.5 APO Lanthar by Voitlander.

 

The long telephoto options are plentiful when it comes to Olympus. You can spend a boatload of cash and get the legacy 4/3rds glass for use on the E-M1, or you can wait for Olympus to bring out their new PRO lenses later this year and early next year. In the pipeline are the long awaited 35-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens and the 300mm f/4 PRO telephoto. The latter will give you an equivalent 600mm f/4 in FX terms but at a fraction of the price. If the optics of the rest of the Olympus range are anything to go by it’s going to be a very desirable lens for the person buying into the Olympus OM-D system.

 

There are also a plethora of slower and cheaper telephotos to chose from, such as the Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7. I have this lens and while I am not particularly gushing about it, it does provide the amateur photography enthusiast with a very useful zoom range (150-600mm FX equivalent) in a relatively small and well finished package.

 

Olympus recently also introduced a long awaited 25mm f/1.8 prime, which has been very well received and rounds out their fast prime selections really well. You now have the 12mm f/2, 17mm f/1.8, 25mm f/1.8, 45mm f/1.8 and of course the grand daddy 75mm f/1.8. All of them are stellar performers.

 

So there are lots of lenses to choose from in the OM-D system and unless you have exotic needs for things like tilt and shift, the eco-system is well populated. In the next article I will be looking at the photographic gains you will make as an Olympus system user.

Edited by DDFZ

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Dallas, I really enjoyed this article.  The lens selection covers every situation I'd encounter, so I am happy.  As an aside, post-processing software tools at this moment are just amazing.  It's a great time to be a photographer.

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Its nice to hear peoples thought processes as they go through this transition. This could very well help someone craft a good transition strategy for themselves.

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I don't think too many people are aware of just how well rounded out the m43 system is, especially on the Olympus side. Right now I think there are only tilt and shift lenses that they don't have in m43. everything else is there, including faster telephoto lenses than you'd get for 135 systems. It surprises me that more wildlife photographers haven't picked up on these advantages. With a 2x teleconverter you could effectively have a 1000mm f/5.6 lens by using the 90-250mm f/2.8 on an E-M1. 

 

I'll add more information about my experiences as I publish more parts of this series. 

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I agree. I have a friend who is almost exclusivity a wildlife shooter and she loves her Nikon gear, but she is always telling me how the D800 and the big Nikon 80-400mm and Sigma 500mm she has wear her out just getting them to the shooting location.

I keep getting on her to check out the m43 options and see of they will for her needs.

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I think the 300/4 is going to have people stand up and take notice. It'll be smallish, sharp and wonderful, I'm sure. :)

 

The 4/3rds lenses aren't small and light, but in equivalency terms I guess you're getting double the "reach" for your money than if you were shooting the big glass from Canon and Nikon. 

 

This system will just keep getting better. I have no doubt that this will happen, in spite of what the doomsday prophets say. 

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Moving to M43 isn't just about smaller, lighter, and less expensive.

 

Look at this video  on switching from 5D3 to Panasonic GH4.   

 

 

For folks that are video driven the GH4 produces 4K video at about half the cost of 5D3 and in a smaller, lighter package.   It will be interesting to see folks shooting TV shows and documentaries with GH4.

 

The wife and I don't regret our move to E-M1.  Can't wait for the 40-150 Pro lens this fall.  

Edited by mcasan

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An updated rumour is that the Panasonic 150/2.8 will be released on Photokina this fall.

http://www.43rumors.com/ft4-panasonic-150mm-f2-8-to-be-sold-end-of-2014-3/

In native m43 mount this makes

Panasonic 35-100/2.8

Olympus 40-150/2.8

Panasonic 150/2.8

Olympus 300/4

The tele department is starting to look real good in the native m43 mount, even without adapting 43 lenses. I think the three last lenses in the list will be important lenses for the m43 lenses, since they will provide professional quality long lenses in a very portable format.

Edited by bjornthun

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I recently got an Olympus OM D M10, as I wanted a lighter kit than my Nikon D300 and D7000. I was reluctant to spend for the M1, and the M10 got good reviews so I decided to try it. I am very happy with it, and when I fill out my lens set I will consider also getting an M1. The 12-40 f2.8 is a great lens, and I use it a lot. I also got the kit 14-42 with the camera for a light lens for just carrying around a light camera, and it is pretty good. I got the 75-300 as a substitute for my Nikon 70-300VR, and in the range from 75 to 200mm my copy is very good, and is still quite useable out to 300mm. I was surprised at the good image quality at 300mm at the close focus range, it makes a passable semi macro lens. My next lens will probably be the 9-18mm and then maybe the 60mm macro.

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The 50-200 SWD continues to amaze me on the E-M1. I'm starting to hope for a remake in the native m43 mount. Having a lens that goes all the way to 200mm (FX equiv. of 400mm) is really something. I think that both the IBIS and the zero shock feature contributes to this, as I'm actually able to handhold at 1/125 sec at the longest setting.

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Guest Danie

Posted

Yes, m43 is a wonderful system. I have the E-M1, which I use primarily with the 12-40, 60mm macro and 43rds 50-200 SWD with 1.4 TC for wildlife. I plan to add the 300mm f4. All of them are truly outstanding lenses.

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Danie, how does the 1.4TC perform with the 50-200mm? I might get a TC for Botswana later this year but not sure if I will need one. I'm hoping that the 40-150/2.8 will be out before we go. That's going to be a sweet lens! 

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I have both the 1.4x and the 2x TC. For the 50-200 SWD I would only consider the 1.4x converter. For the 150/2 both can be considered. That said, my experience with them is still very limited, so no very definte statements from me at this point.

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Dallas, I think you have to redo your math.

Convert a MFT lens to full frame equiv requires you to consider the crop factor for both focal length AND aperture. 

The MFT 300/2.8 is equal to a FF 600/5.6

 

It's well explained in this video (along with other aspects).

No, he does not.

The Olympus 300/2.8 has a focal length of 300mm and a max aperture of f/2.8. These two quantities are properties of the lens alone and not of the sensor format. The angle of view of a 300mm used on m43 is approximately half that of a 300mm used on a 35mm format camera.

Since you are Norwegian you can find a thread on foto.no about that exact youtube video, and read Bjørn Rørslett's posts in that thread. That should clarify the matter at hand. Mirrorlessrumors.com has also added a few corrections about that youtube video.

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Guest nfoto

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Simple fact of life: you cannot change the max.aperture of a lens by cutting away parts of the image circle projected into the film plane by that lens. A fact seemingly no longer known to the photographic community.

 

The "300/2.8 becomes 600/5.6" myth (FF vs m43) has as consequence the smaller format would need 4 times the exposure for the same scene, compared to the native (FF) sensor. Anyone can verify this is indeed not the case. Fortunately as otherwise  light metering in photography would have been well nigh impossible.

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Er - no, mathematically an f/2.8 lens is always an f/2.8 lens. The f/number is used as an indication of the light passed through the lens and is the ratio calculated between focal length and the diameter of the entrance pupil of the lens. F# = f/D

 

300mm lens with a 107mm entrance pupil = f/2.8

600mm lens with a 214mm entrance pupil = f/2.8

600mm lens with a 107mm entrance pupil = f/5.6

 

The correct and only conclusion is that, while the subject matter in the frame fills the same amount of the frame of each camera has the same megapixel count, the 600/2.8 lens itself will be twice the diameter and probably twice the size of the 300/2.8 lens. Both are still f/2.8 lenses and exposure at similar settings will be the same, a 300/2.8 lens does not magically become two stops slower when used on a M4/3 camera.

 

Aperture is a constant measurement and therefore, along with the constant of shutter speed and of ISO makes it possible to work out an exposure no matter what the camera format or lens used. It doesn't matter what the focal length is, an f/2.8 lens will give the same exposure as any other f/2.8 lens, and the f/ number itself is used to calculate exposure, nothing else. The actual reason for the use of aperture in exposure measurement is increasingly lost with almost everyone using AE these days, but set your camera to manual and work out the exposure with a hand-held meter and the penny drops immediately - 1/250@f/8 800 ISO is 1/250@f/8 800 ISO no matter what lens is on the camera, or what format the camera is.

 

The incorrect use as a comparison of this "equivalent f/stop" nonsense as far as I can gather relates to the apparent depth of focus rendered by the lens at any given f/stop. In that case the Depth of Field of the 300mm lens will always be the same as a 300mm lens on any format, so while the M4/3 crop factor gives an image that is similar dimensionally on the sensor with the same megapixel count to an FX 600mm lens, the DoF at any given aperture will be the same as a 300mm lens on an FX camera, not a 600mm lens on an FX camera.

 

I didn't have time to sit through yet another interminable video of some guy yabbering on about detail that is easier read about and which can be explained very simply with two photographs using the lenses in question on the cameras in question shot using the same exposure readings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) so I can't say whether the actually said this somewhere in a video 40 minutes long, but simply writing that a M4/3 300/2.8 is equal to an FX 600/5.6 lens is wrong in the meaning of how much light the lens passes, which is what aperture number refers to.

 

It is true that stopping a lens down increases depth of field as it is stopped down, just as it is true that a longer lens (600mm) has a shallower depth of field than a shorter lens (300mm) at the same aperture number, but as far as aperture goes, changing it will change exposure, and that is what is the relevant thing to f/ number.

 

So as far as exposure goes is that in the same situation a 600mm lens will expose the scene correctly at 1/250@f/2.8 @ 800 ISO as will a 300mm  f/2.8 lens on any format. The Depth of Field will be considerably shallower at those settings with the 600mm on FX, with the M4/3 300mm rendering a similar DOF to what the 600mm would at f/5.6, but the exposure is the same.

 

Whenever I hear this sort of thing referred to and a statement such as a M4/3 300/2.8 is equal to an FX 600/5.6, I read it as the M4/3 lens is allegedly slower than the FX lens, which is simply not the case, and I do not read it that the 600mm lens has a shallower depth of field wide open than the 300mm, which is a given fact of DoF vs Focal Length in lens performance and not an indicator of degree of measurement of that effect.

 

Using the aperture number as an indicator of DOF is wrong, and like the confusion that the genius who thought it a good idea to invent the use of "crop factor" and "equivalent focal length", the incorrect use of aperture as an indicator of something that it does not measure (DOF) is just another silly way to further confuse the issue. Aperture is not a measurement of DOF, although DOF is influenced by aperture. In other words, Longer focal length lenses have shallower DoF than shorter focal length lenses, and f/ number is not a measurement of that other than "more" or "less".

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While that sad man sits making videos of his theories, I will continue to use my m43 system and make photographs with my m43 lenses. Nothing he, or anyone else says, is ever going to change that.

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Thank you Bjørn, Bjørn and Alan for taking time to explain the details.

I stand corrected.

Most of the times "when a story sounds to good bad to be true", it often is.

 

/Jan

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Something else that annoys the crap out of me is when people start referring to micro four thirds as a "crop" sensor. What's it a crop of? It's perfectly matched to the image circle of a m43 lens. An FX lens on a DX body has a crop factor. A DX lens on a DX body has no crop factor. The image circle is designed to match the sensor size. 

 

The sooner we get away from the terms "full frame" and "crop factor" the less confused everyone will be. I agree that focal length is probably not a good characteristic by which to identify a lens these days - we should probably be using Angle Of View - but as has been mentioned by Bjørn, aperture is aperture, regardless of its size. It is actually expressed mathematically as a ratio: f/2.8 means that the size of the aperture entrance fits into the focal length (f) of the lens 2.8 times. To say that camera companies are gypping consumers with false apertures on their lenses is a bit stupid. 

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Don't get me started on the crop factor B.S., Dallas. :)

 

Perhaps the 135/FX/"Full-Frame" sensor could accurately be referred to as a 6x "crop" sensor - the original photographic sizing norm was the Daguerreotype "plate" size and rough divisions thereof, 8.5 x 6.5 inches (216x165mm) being "whole plate", with half plate = 6.5 x 4.75", (165 x 120mm), quarter plate = 4.25 x 3.25" (108 x 88mm) etc.

 

It's fair to say then that everything in stills photography that is smaller than "full plate" should be referred to as a crop factor of that size, if indeed it is deemed necessary to continue with this "crop sensor" nonsense (and the following crap about "equivalent" focal lengths and the total rubbish of "equivalent aperture").

 

But never mind my feelings towards the originator of the "crop factor" crap, the genius who came up with tying aperture number to depth of field and then started using that in an "equivalent" sense deserves jail time.

Edited by Alan7140

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It's quite entertaining to read the above anger about the terms "full frame" and "crop factor" (and those who use them) and then do a search for how some of the authors previously used the terms themselves. Just sayin'.  ;)

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I wonder what crop factor would have been associated to medium format and large format. I think the results derived from the crop factor nonsense in those cases would be quite hysterical. :D (for anyone in doubt, I do not subscribe to the crop factor hysteria.)

When I bring lenses for my m43 camera, I do not think about what these lenses correspond to on 35mm format, but rather in terms of how they relate to my normal lens for m43, namely the 25mm.

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When I bring lenses for my m43 camera, I do not think about what these lenses correspond to on 35mm format, but rather in terms of how they relate to my normal lens for m43, namely the 25mm.

I actually do think in terms of 35mm format even when I use m43 but that is just because I'm so familiar with the FOV of 35mm that I get confused otherwise.  :)

 

And "full format" of course is a misnomer (or "crop factor" for that matter) but I think all attempts to correct that are bound to fail.

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      The first thing that struck me about this camera when taking it out of the box is the sheer size of it. It is huge. If you’ve been using Micro Four Thirds bodies to get away from the bulk of traditional DSLR’s then you will not want this camera. I was quite shocked at its size initially, especially when compared to my gripped E-M1 (original) which I have been shooting since 2014. The Nikon D5 is only 15mm bigger in terms of depth, height and width all around, so for a small sensor camera to be so close in size to a flagship 35mm camera begs some serious questioning of the makers.
       

      Side-by-side view of the E-M1X and the original E-M1 with its grip
       
      So why did Olympus make this camera so big? When you begin handling it the answer falls into place. It’s designed for sports and action photographers who are used to the speed and heft of cameras like the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series. That’s the user market Olympus are targeting with this machine. It feels substantial in the hands and the ergonomics are such that if you’re used to a bigger camera, moving across to the E-M1X will be much easier for you to adapt to, especially since the Olympus is so highly customisable that you could easily set it up to pretty much emulate the ergonomics of your big DSLR. Well, maybe not the Canons which often require simultaneous button presses to activate certain things, but most certainly it would be easy for a Nikon shooter to make the change.
       

      Not much in it, dimension wise, is there? 
       
      So we now have a giant MFT camera that feels like a Nikon D5. Why didn’t they do what Panasonic has done and make a bigger sensor too? Good question. Why stick with MFT sensors if you want to attract the sports and wildlife shooters of the world? This is where the concept of MFT begins to make sense. The main advantage to be had when shooting this small format as opposed to 35mm is that MFT lenses are comparatively diminutive. For example, on my safari I packed in the Olympus 300/4.0 PRO as well as my older 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD and a third un-gripped body with the Olympus 12-100/4.0 PRO. I also had the Pan/Leica 8-18mm lens in my bag because I wanted to make some photos of the lodge while I was there. Those items I took as a carry on in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage roller and while the bag was not exactly light once my laptop and other peripherals were in it (about 15kg total), had I wanted a similar focal range shooting a 35mm system, I would have had to pack a 600mm f/4.0, 200-400mm f/4.0 and a regular camera with professional wide angle and ultra-zoom lenses. There is no way you could take that as a carry on with 35mm, so you’d have to bring a hard case and pay for the extra baggage. You then also have the added stress of wondering if your precious gear will make it to its destination. Having been in this exact situation many times before moving across to MFT from Nikon 35mm I know exactly what the challenges of travelling with large lenses and heavy gear are.
       

      This is the gear I took on the safari in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage.
       
      Conversely travelling with MFT is easy. Even with the giant E-M1X body, the space and weight savings of the incredible Olympus PRO and Panasonic/Leica lenses is a Godsend. Also consider the additional overhead of having to bring along a support system for your big 35mm glass because I doubt you’re going to want to hand hold a 600/4.0 lens if you’re going on a photography trip where such a lens is wanted. You’ll also need to pack a monopod and probably a gimbal head too. MFT systems like Olympus don’t require any support other than your hand, even when shooting the 300mm f/4 PRO. The IBIS and lens IS combine incredibly well.
       
      Given its considerable girth, for the E-M1X to make sense as a photographic tool that is intended to win over 35mm users it also needs to have some other things going for it. It will need to have seriously fast and accurate auto-focus, plus it will need to offer decent image quality in low light. This is where things get interesting. Read on!
       
       
      Auto Focus
       
      I’m not a back-button focus photographer. I can understand the principle behind this method and I have tried it a few times, but I have been using single point AF-S for so long that trying to change that deeply ingrained behaviour is really hard for me. I’ve also never set up any of the cameras I have ever owned to work in AF-C mode with any degree of success, so I tend to stab at the shutter button rapidly to keep slow moving things in focus (it’s very rarely that I will find myself photographing fast moving subjects). This method has worked for me for quite a long time now. So when I started reading the autofocus section in the E-M1X manual (which itself is a gargantuan 680-odd pages long in just English alone!) I was staggered by the array of setup options for the AF system of the E-M1X. I simply didn’t have enough time before my safari to comprehend all the options it offers, let alone try them out in practical situations.
       
      As mentioned I always set up AF to use a single point in AF-S mode and I recompose once I see the green dot. I don’t use the grouped points, so for me learning something as sophisticated as the AF system on the E-M1X is going to require a specific set of applications, which currently I don’t have in my work. For people who shoot birds in flight, aviation, motorsport and fast action sports such as soccer, ice-hockey and the like, this is probably going to be a winner, especially since they have built in subject recognition for certain things like cars, trains and planes. Apparently these subjects will be added to in firmware as they build up better data on new ones. I can imagine that leopard detection might be a thing in the future.
       
      One feature that I didn’t try but thought was interesting is the Len Focus Range. This setup allows you to define the distances that the AF system should work in. It basically allows you to tell the camera not to focus on objects that are a certain distance away from you. For example, if you are shooting a sport like boxing or ice hockey, you could set this up to avoid focusing on the ropes and/or plexiglass between you and what you’re trying to shoot. Some lenses will have these limits built in, but with the E-M1X you can specify exactly how many metres you want to work within.
       
      Another thing I liked about the X is that you can assign the Home position for the single AF point to be in a different position when shooting in the portrait orientation. This is really handy for events when I find myself having to shift the AF point between shooting people at a podium and then switching to the audience in landscape orientation. Very nice feature.
       
      What I can tell you about the AF system as I used it, is that it’s reassuringly lightning quick and accurate for the wildlife subjects I was photographing. There’s no hunting unless you miss a contrast point, like all cameras I have ever tried. Focus is almost instantaneous, even when subjects are not so close.
       
      In summary, I don’t think that anybody coming from 35mm will be disappointed with the AF capability of the E-M1X. If anything they might be pleasantly surprised given the sheer array of options available to control how the system works.
       
       

      Wildebeest in the misty morning, no problem with auto focus here in spite of the grass
       

      Using my "repeated stabbing" AF technique I managed to get a moderately sharp image, but I reckon had I used the camera's AF-S mode here the shot would have been better. 
       
       
      Speed
       
      One of the biggest advances Olympus made with this camera is the CPU speed. This is a very fast camera in terms of how quickly it processes and reads off data from the sensor. It’s so fast that you can do sensor shift high resolution images handheld. I didn’t really try this out properly, plus Lightroom can’t read the resulting .ORI files so the handful of shots I did take with this mode active, I have to process in Olympus Workspace, which I am completely new to. Sorry! As such I can’t formulate an opinion right now on how useful it is based on such a small sample of images, but what I can say is that on stationary subjects I think it can work quite well. I’d love to try it out in studio doing product photography, but I think there might be some issues syncing it with studio strobes.
       
      Getting back to the intended sports user of this camera, there is the not-so-insignificant Pro Capture mode to consider as a lure for the photographers who want to simplify their lives and get great action every time. Basically with the mode active the camera writes continuously to the buffer while you are holding the shutter button halfway down. As soon as your critical capture moment arrives you trip the shutter and the camera will record whatever it has currently in the buffer to the card(s). This is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel really, especially if you have the patience to sit with your finger on the trigger waiting for a bird to take flight. You can’t miss the shot. Unless you’re like me and you get tired of waiting and the bird chuckles at you as you put down the camera just before it flies away.
       

      I'll settle for stationary birds
       
      On the subject of Pro Capture, this mode is set by changing the drive mode in Super Control Panel (SCP). However, the thing is you may (like me) forget to switch this back to a regular drive mode after failing to record the wretched lilac breasted roller taking off, and then at your next sighting you will end up with dozens of images of a stationary buffalo. Or worse still, you’ll be wanting to shoot a sequence of something happening, but after you accidentally trigger Pro Capture you will have to wait for the camera to write its buffer onto your card. If you have a not-so-fast card like me this could be a few seconds, followed by several more trying to remember where to switch off the Pro Capture mode. Ideally I’d love to be able to have Pro Capture activate by holding down a custom function button together with the shutter button. A Fn button on the PRO lenses would be an ideal setup for this pretty cool feature. While I had the E-M1X I couldn’t see a way of being able to assign that particular feature to any of the custom function buttons, so hopefully Olympus’ engineers will read this criticism and work out a way of doing it in future firmware upgrades. I did manage to set up a quick switch between normal and Pro Capture by using the Custom Modes, but that requires remembering to change modes between sightings. Duh.
       
      Regarding Custom Modes there are four of these that are assignable to the PASM dial, so if your memory is better than mine you can set up each custom mode for a different type of shooting simply by changing the mode. However, you’re going to have to have a Gary Kasparov like mind because the sheer number of custom settings on a camera like the E-M1X is mind-boggling. There are pages and pages and more pages of custom settings in the menus and if you’re not used to the way Olympus does menus, you’re either going to go stir crazy or require a lot of patience (and batteries) to get the better of it all. It’s not insurmountable though and experienced Olympus users will probably be able to set up their custom modes quite easily after a few weeks with the camera in the field.
       
      One thing I really liked about the X is that there is a Custom Menu area where you can save up to 5 pages of menu items that you regularly need to access. Storing an item in there is as simple as pressing the Record video button while the item is selected in the menu. That’s a very big plus for me and goes a long way towards personalising the Olympus menu system.
       
       
      Stabilisation
       
      The IBIS and lens IS combine in the E-M1X to create an extraordinary amount of stabilisation. I was using the 300/4.0 PRO on this body almost exclusively for the duration of our 7 days in Sabi Sabi and occasionally I would shoot birds sitting on nearby branches. When I do my focus and recompose technique the subject does what I can only describe as a “moonwalk” glide from one part of the frame to the other. There is absolutely no camera shake at all handheld, which when you consider that you are using a 4.1˚ angle of view is bonkers! Olympus claim a 6 stop advantage in handheld photography and I have no doubt that this is true. Given my sloppy technique this is yet another Godsend to make my images look much better than they should.
       

       

      Stabilisation with long lenses is incredible.
       
       
      Battery
       
      Battery life was pretty decent. The camera comes with two batteries and typically I only exhausted about 50% of the one each day. Granted I don’t shoot as much as everybody else. On this safari I took a total of 1726 images with the E-M1X, averaging 288 per day. So, assuming I were to exhaust both batteries in a day I would be able to shoot over 1000 frames before having to recharge them.
       
      However, it is also possible to charge the camera via USB-C, so if you did get trigger happy enough to shoot that many in a day on safari, you could recharge from a  power bank between sightings. Or just buy more batteries.
       

       
       
      Low Light
       
      Right, this is where the rubber hits the road as far as getting 35mm power-users interested in switching to MFT. I’ll say it at the outset, I was disappointed in the low light performance of the E-M1X sensor.
       
      For starters, it doesn’t seem possible to be able to set Auto-ISO to go above 6400 on the X. None of the expanded ranges are available when using the auto mode while shooting RAW, which I think is just silly. This is how I shoot these days. I always use Auto-ISO. On the original E-M1 I sometimes let this go as high as 12800 and while the images may appear grainy they have a certain film-like charm to them. You can’t do that on the X. You have to set ISO 12800 or above manually.
       
      As far as graininess goes, 6400 on the E-M1X is very grainy and there is also a major loss of colour fidelity. To be honest I was expecting much better performance from the sensor at high ISO, so for me this is a deal breaker. Since the camera is intended to compete against the likes of the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series (where higher ISO is a forte), it sadly falls well short in this area.
       
      Having said that, I think that if you buy this camera and invest some time in learning how to deal with the grain and colour issues in post production you could probably get some very good results.
       

      Shot at ISO 6400, you can see the grain in the background, plus there has been a general loss of colour saturation.
       

      But then in good light you'll get rewarded.
       

      Gorgeous colours from the Olympus. No adjustments in post.
       
       
      Cool Things I Liked
       
      The sound of the mechanical shutter is really soft. It’s a lot quieter than my old E-M1 and if you are in the business of shooting in quiet places (churches, meetings, etc) you may not even have to switch to electronic shutter and risk the rolling effects thereof. It’s nice and quiet.
       
      I really appreciated the built in GPS and weather sensor on the E-M1X. This camera will tell you what the barometric pressure, altitude and ambient temperature was on every shot you take. I wish Lightroom would pick up those EXIF fields, alas you have to use the Olympus Workspace software to read them.
       
       
      A Couple Of Nit Picks
       
      There are a couple of things that I didn’t like, most notably there is no loop for a grip strap in the base of the camera so you would have to put a plate onto there to accommodate one (I used the Peak Design Clutch with its little plate). That seems like a daft omission to me because the moment you have to put a plate on the grip you lose the comfort of shooting with it in portrait mode.
       
      I was also a bit disappointed with the EVF. The refresh rate and colour was all good, but it just seemed to lack a bit of bite. The EVF on my old original E-M1 seems sharper to my eyes, which is a little weird. I did try adjusting the diopter a few times, but it didn’t seem to improve things. It could have been a contrast setting in the menus that I missed?
       
      The one thing I really don’t like (and I have expressed my dislike of this before) is the flip out LCD screen. This is something video producers want, but as a stills photographer I truly don’t want this as it’s a very weak point of the camera just waiting to snap off in the right circumstances. I much prefer the tilting screen of the original OM-D’s. Olympus should make it an option for this kind of premium camera: which type of LCD screen would you prefer, Mr. Customer?
       
       
      Conclusion
       
      I wish that I could have kept the camera for just a little bit longer as there are many other areas I would have liked to explore its performance in, especially my daily bread and butter work of property and product photography. Alas, they are in short supply around here so it had to go back post haste.
       
      My overall impression is that it is quite an impressive machine. It offers the photographer a lot of very cool features, excellent customisability and ergonomics. It is a specialist camera, however, and as such I think that the intended market for it is going to be a hard nut for Olympus to crack, especially given its lack of high ISO performance, which is something the sports photographers demand.
       
      If you’re a day shooter or you shoot action in well lit arenas then the advances this machine brings in terms of auto-focus and customisability, plus the sheer plethora of outstanding MFT lenses available for the system makes it a very attractive option, especially for those who travel a lot for photography. You get the ruggedness, heft and weather proofing of a pro body and the lightness and compactness of much smaller lenses.
       
      For me personally I would love one, after all I got more keepers on this most recent safari than in all the 10 years of safaris preceding it, but… there is the matter of that eye-watering $3000 price tag to consider. With the recent firmware upgrade to the E-M1 Mk II now bringing its feature set closer to that of the X, it is going to be much harder for Olympus to pitch this camera at the wider market and existing MFT users with that price tag. If it were closer to $2000 I might be a lot more interested in buying one.
       
      My final advice? If you want the very best camera that MFT can currently offer you for stability, video features, ruggedness, crazy feature set and customisability, get the E-M1X. If you are expecting par performance with a 35mm pro camera for low light, rather save $1500, wait for the sensor technology to improve and get the E-M1 Mk II for now.
    • By Dallas
      Olympus South Africa very kindly loaned me an E-M1X for my recent Photo Safari to Sabi Sabi and while I only had a few days before leaving on the trip to become accustomed to the camera, I did manage to produce some great images (by my standards) while using it in conjunction with the Olympus 300mm f/4.0 PRO.
       
      The first thing that struck me about this camera when taking it out of the box is the sheer size of it. It is huge. If you’ve been using Micro Four Thirds bodies to get away from the bulk of traditional DSLR’s then you will not want this camera. I was quite shocked at its size initially, especially when compared to my gripped E-M1 (original) which I have been shooting since 2014. The Nikon D5 is only 15mm bigger in terms of depth, height and width all around, so for a small sensor camera to be so close in size to a flagship 35mm camera begs some serious questioning of the makers.
       

      Side-by-side view of the E-M1X and the original E-M1 with its grip
       
      So why did Olympus make this camera so big? When you begin handling it the answer falls into place. It’s designed for sports and action photographers who are used to the speed and heft of cameras like the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series. That’s the user market Olympus are targeting with this machine. It feels substantial in the hands and the ergonomics are such that if you’re used to a bigger camera, moving across to the E-M1X will be much easier for you to adapt to, especially since the Olympus is so highly customisable that you could easily set it up to pretty much emulate the ergonomics of your big DSLR. Well, maybe not the Canons which often require simultaneous button presses to activate certain things, but most certainly it would be easy for a Nikon shooter to make the change.
       

      Not much in it, dimension wise, is there? 
       
      So we now have a giant MFT camera that feels like a Nikon D5. Why didn’t they do what Panasonic has done and make a bigger sensor too? Good question. Why stick with MFT sensors if you want to attract the sports and wildlife shooters of the world? This is where the concept of MFT begins to make sense. The main advantage to be had when shooting this small format as opposed to 35mm is that MFT lenses are comparatively diminutive. For example, on my safari I packed in the Olympus 300/4.0 PRO as well as my older 50-200/2.8-3.5 SWD and a third un-gripped body with the Olympus 12-100/4.0 PRO. I also had the Pan/Leica 8-18mm lens in my bag because I wanted to make some photos of the lodge while I was there. Those items I took as a carry on in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage roller and while the bag was not exactly light once my laptop and other peripherals were in it (about 15kg total), had I wanted a similar focal range shooting a 35mm system, I would have had to pack a 600mm f/4.0, 200-400mm f/4.0 and a regular camera with professional wide angle and ultra-zoom lenses. There is no way you could take that as a carry on with 35mm, so you’d have to bring a hard case and pay for the extra baggage. You then also have the added stress of wondering if your precious gear will make it to its destination. Having been in this exact situation many times before moving across to MFT from Nikon 35mm I know exactly what the challenges of travelling with large lenses and heavy gear are.
       

      This is the gear I took on the safari in the ThinkTank Airport Advantage.
       
      Conversely travelling with MFT is easy. Even with the giant E-M1X body, the space and weight savings of the incredible Olympus PRO and Panasonic/Leica lenses is a Godsend. Also consider the additional overhead of having to bring along a support system for your big 35mm glass because I doubt you’re going to want to hand hold a 600/4.0 lens if you’re going on a photography trip where such a lens is wanted. You’ll also need to pack a monopod and probably a gimbal head too. MFT systems like Olympus don’t require any support other than your hand, even when shooting the 300mm f/4 PRO. The IBIS and lens IS combine incredibly well.
       
      Given its considerable girth, for the E-M1X to make sense as a photographic tool that is intended to win over 35mm users it also needs to have some other things going for it. It will need to have seriously fast and accurate auto-focus, plus it will need to offer decent image quality in low light. This is where things get interesting. Read on!
       
       
      Auto Focus
       
      I’m not a back-button focus photographer. I can understand the principle behind this method and I have tried it a few times, but I have been using single point AF-S for so long that trying to change that deeply ingrained behaviour is really hard for me. I’ve also never set up any of the cameras I have ever owned to work in AF-C mode with any degree of success, so I tend to stab at the shutter button rapidly to keep slow moving things in focus (it’s very rarely that I will find myself photographing fast moving subjects). This method has worked for me for quite a long time now. So when I started reading the autofocus section in the E-M1X manual (which itself is a gargantuan 680-odd pages long in just English alone!) I was staggered by the array of setup options for the AF system of the E-M1X. I simply didn’t have enough time before my safari to comprehend all the options it offers, let alone try them out in practical situations.
       
      As mentioned I always set up AF to use a single point in AF-S mode and I recompose once I see the green dot. I don’t use the grouped points, so for me learning something as sophisticated as the AF system on the E-M1X is going to require a specific set of applications, which currently I don’t have in my work. For people who shoot birds in flight, aviation, motorsport and fast action sports such as soccer, ice-hockey and the like, this is probably going to be a winner, especially since they have built in subject recognition for certain things like cars, trains and planes. Apparently these subjects will be added to in firmware as they build up better data on new ones. I can imagine that leopard detection might be a thing in the future.
       
      One feature that I didn’t try but thought was interesting is the Len Focus Range. This setup allows you to define the distances that the AF system should work in. It basically allows you to tell the camera not to focus on objects that are a certain distance away from you. For example, if you are shooting a sport like boxing or ice hockey, you could set this up to avoid focusing on the ropes and/or plexiglass between you and what you’re trying to shoot. Some lenses will have these limits built in, but with the E-M1X you can specify exactly how many metres you want to work within.
       
      Another thing I liked about the X is that you can assign the Home position for the single AF point to be in a different position when shooting in the portrait orientation. This is really handy for events when I find myself having to shift the AF point between shooting people at a podium and then switching to the audience in landscape orientation. Very nice feature.
       
      What I can tell you about the AF system as I used it, is that it’s reassuringly lightning quick and accurate for the wildlife subjects I was photographing. There’s no hunting unless you miss a contrast point, like all cameras I have ever tried. Focus is almost instantaneous, even when subjects are not so close.
       
      In summary, I don’t think that anybody coming from 35mm will be disappointed with the AF capability of the E-M1X. If anything they might be pleasantly surprised given the sheer array of options available to control how the system works.
       
       

      Wildebeest in the misty morning, no problem with auto focus here in spite of the grass
       

      Using my "repeated stabbing" AF technique I managed to get a moderately sharp image, but I reckon had I used the camera's AF-S mode here the shot would have been better. 
       
       
      Speed
       
      One of the biggest advances Olympus made with this camera is the CPU speed. This is a very fast camera in terms of how quickly it processes and reads off data from the sensor. It’s so fast that you can do sensor shift high resolution images handheld. I didn’t really try this out properly, plus Lightroom can’t read the resulting .ORI files so the handful of shots I did take with this mode active, I have to process in Olympus Workspace, which I am completely new to. Sorry! As such I can’t formulate an opinion right now on how useful it is based on such a small sample of images, but what I can say is that on stationary subjects I think it can work quite well. I’d love to try it out in studio doing product photography, but I think there might be some issues syncing it with studio strobes.
       
      Getting back to the intended sports user of this camera, there is the not-so-insignificant Pro Capture mode to consider as a lure for the photographers who want to simplify their lives and get great action every time. Basically with the mode active the camera writes continuously to the buffer while you are holding the shutter button halfway down. As soon as your critical capture moment arrives you trip the shutter and the camera will record whatever it has currently in the buffer to the card(s). This is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel really, especially if you have the patience to sit with your finger on the trigger waiting for a bird to take flight. You can’t miss the shot. Unless you’re like me and you get tired of waiting and the bird chuckles at you as you put down the camera just before it flies away.
       

      I'll settle for stationary birds
       
      On the subject of Pro Capture, this mode is set by changing the drive mode in Super Control Panel (SCP). However, the thing is you may (like me) forget to switch this back to a regular drive mode after failing to record the wretched lilac breasted roller taking off, and then at your next sighting you will end up with dozens of images of a stationary buffalo. Or worse still, you’ll be wanting to shoot a sequence of something happening, but after you accidentally trigger Pro Capture you will have to wait for the camera to write its buffer onto your card. If you have a not-so-fast card like me this could be a few seconds, followed by several more trying to remember where to switch off the Pro Capture mode. Ideally I’d love to be able to have Pro Capture activate by holding down a custom function button together with the shutter button. A Fn button on the PRO lenses would be an ideal setup for this pretty cool feature. While I had the E-M1X I couldn’t see a way of being able to assign that particular feature to any of the custom function buttons, so hopefully Olympus’ engineers will read this criticism and work out a way of doing it in future firmware upgrades. I did manage to set up a quick switch between normal and Pro Capture by using the Custom Modes, but that requires remembering to change modes between sightings. Duh.
       
      Regarding Custom Modes there are four of these that are assignable to the PASM dial, so if your memory is better than mine you can set up each custom mode for a different type of shooting simply by changing the mode. However, you’re going to have to have a Gary Kasparov like mind because the sheer number of custom settings on a camera like the E-M1X is mind-boggling. There are pages and pages and more pages of custom settings in the menus and if you’re not used to the way Olympus does menus, you’re either going to go stir crazy or require a lot of patience (and batteries) to get the better of it all. It’s not insurmountable though and experienced Olympus users will probably be able to set up their custom modes quite easily after a few weeks with the camera in the field.
       
      One thing I really liked about the X is that there is a Custom Menu area where you can save up to 5 pages of menu items that you regularly need to access. Storing an item in there is as simple as pressing the Record video button while the item is selected in the menu. That’s a very big plus for me and goes a long way towards personalising the Olympus menu system.
       
       
      Stabilisation
       
      The IBIS and lens IS combine in the E-M1X to create an extraordinary amount of stabilisation. I was using the 300/4.0 PRO on this body almost exclusively for the duration of our 7 days in Sabi Sabi and occasionally I would shoot birds sitting on nearby branches. When I do my focus and recompose technique the subject does what I can only describe as a “moonwalk” glide from one part of the frame to the other. There is absolutely no camera shake at all handheld, which when you consider that you are using a 4.1˚ angle of view is bonkers! Olympus claim a 6 stop advantage in handheld photography and I have no doubt that this is true. Given my sloppy technique this is yet another Godsend to make my images look much better than they should.
       

       

      Stabilisation with long lenses is incredible.
       
       
      Battery
       
      Battery life was pretty decent. The camera comes with two batteries and typically I only exhausted about 50% of the one each day. Granted I don’t shoot as much as everybody else. On this safari I took a total of 1726 images with the E-M1X, averaging 288 per day. So, assuming I were to exhaust both batteries in a day I would be able to shoot over 1000 frames before having to recharge them.
       
      However, it is also possible to charge the camera via USB-C, so if you did get trigger happy enough to shoot that many in a day on safari, you could recharge from a  power bank between sightings. Or just buy more batteries.
       

       
       
      Low Light
       
      Right, this is where the rubber hits the road as far as getting 35mm power-users interested in switching to MFT. I’ll say it at the outset, I was disappointed in the low light performance of the E-M1X sensor.
       
      For starters, it doesn’t seem possible to be able to set Auto-ISO to go above 6400 on the X. None of the expanded ranges are available when using the auto mode while shooting RAW, which I think is just silly. This is how I shoot these days. I always use Auto-ISO. On the original E-M1 I sometimes let this go as high as 12800 and while the images may appear grainy they have a certain film-like charm to them. You can’t do that on the X. You have to set ISO 12800 or above manually.
       
      As far as graininess goes, 6400 on the E-M1X is very grainy and there is also a major loss of colour fidelity. To be honest I was expecting much better performance from the sensor at high ISO, so for me this is a deal breaker. Since the camera is intended to compete against the likes of the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1D series (where higher ISO is a forte), it sadly falls well short in this area.
       
      Having said that, I think that if you buy this camera and invest some time in learning how to deal with the grain and colour issues in post production you could probably get some very good results.
       

      Shot at ISO 6400, you can see the grain in the background, plus there has been a general loss of colour saturation.
       

      But then in good light you'll get rewarded.
       

      Gorgeous colours from the Olympus. No adjustments in post.
       
       
      Cool Things I Liked
       
      The sound of the mechanical shutter is really soft. It’s a lot quieter than my old E-M1 and if you are in the business of shooting in quiet places (churches, meetings, etc) you may not even have to switch to electronic shutter and risk the rolling effects thereof. It’s nice and quiet.
       
      I really appreciated the built in GPS and weather sensor on the E-M1X. This camera will tell you what the barometric pressure, altitude and ambient temperature was on every shot you take. I wish Lightroom would pick up those EXIF fields, alas you have to use the Olympus Workspace software to read them.
       
       
      A Couple Of Nit Picks
       
      There are a couple of things that I didn’t like, most notably there is no loop for a grip strap in the base of the camera so you would have to put a plate onto there to accommodate one (I used the Peak Design Clutch with its little plate). That seems like a daft omission to me because the moment you have to put a plate on the grip you lose the comfort of shooting with it in portrait mode.
       
      I was also a bit disappointed with the EVF. The refresh rate and colour was all good, but it just seemed to lack a bit of bite. The EVF on my old original E-M1 seems sharper to my eyes, which is a little weird. I did try adjusting the diopter a few times, but it didn’t seem to improve things. It could have been a contrast setting in the menus that I missed?
       
      The one thing I really don’t like (and I have expressed my dislike of this before) is the flip out LCD screen. This is something video producers want, but as a stills photographer I truly don’t want this as it’s a very weak point of the camera just waiting to snap off in the right circumstances. I much prefer the tilting screen of the original OM-D’s. Olympus should make it an option for this kind of premium camera: which type of LCD screen would you prefer, Mr. Customer?
       
       
      Conclusion
       
      I wish that I could have kept the camera for just a little bit longer as there are many other areas I would have liked to explore its performance in, especially my daily bread and butter work of property and product photography. Alas, they are in short supply around here so it had to go back post haste.
       
      My overall impression is that it is quite an impressive machine. It offers the photographer a lot of very cool features, excellent customisability and ergonomics. It is a specialist camera, however, and as such I think that the intended market for it is going to be a hard nut for Olympus to crack, especially given its lack of high ISO performance, which is something the sports photographers demand.
       
      If you’re a day shooter or you shoot action in well lit arenas then the advances this machine brings in terms of auto-focus and customisability, plus the sheer plethora of outstanding MFT lenses available for the system makes it a very attractive option, especially for those who travel a lot for photography. You get the ruggedness, heft and weather proofing of a pro body and the lightness and compactness of much smaller lenses.
       
      For me personally I would love one, after all I got more keepers on this most recent safari than in all the 10 years of safaris preceding it, but… there is the matter of that eye-watering $3000 price tag to consider. With the recent firmware upgrade to the E-M1 Mk II now bringing its feature set closer to that of the X, it is going to be much harder for Olympus to pitch this camera at the wider market and existing MFT users with that price tag. If it were closer to $2000 I might be a lot more interested in buying one.
       
      My final advice? If you want the very best camera that MFT can currently offer you for stability, video features, ruggedness, crazy feature set and customisability, get the E-M1X. If you are expecting par performance with a 35mm pro camera for low light, rather save $1500, wait for the sensor technology to improve and get the E-M1 Mk II for now.

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    • By Dallas
      We have not reviewed this lens yet. If you have tried it, please enter your comments below.
    • By Dallas
      We have not reviewed this lens yet. If you have tried it, please enter your comments below. 
    • By Dallas
      I just got word that Olympus has updated the firmware in the E-M1 Mk II and this sees it now getting a lot more of the features that the E-M1X has, including improved AF, expanded ISO range (down to ISO 64) as well as some other stuff that I didn't even know these cameras could do. Here's Robin Wong to run through some of the details.  
       
       
       
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