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Olympus OMD EM5 Mk II Review and Thoughts


Andrew L (gryphon1911)

I was recently the proud recipient of a brand spanking new silver Olympus OMD EM5 Mk II.

Got the green light to get it as a birthday present to upgrade my original EM5 to the new Mk II

As always, I shoot to the real world usage and to what I prefer and not to charts, or spec tests. None of that means anything to me if the overall experience of the camera doesn't work for what I want.

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Olympus 25/1.8 1/60, f/1.8, ISO 400

Handling

First thing I noticed - build quality. As with the other OMD bodies, it is top notch. Feels very solid and has a good weight to it without feeling heavy. The grip on the right hand side is a bit more prominent than the previous EM5. The texture of the outer casing feels more grippy as well.

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Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO 1/80, f/5, ISO 800 @ 40mm

The extra buttons and placement of said buttons on the body are pleasing for me as well. The jury is still out on the fully articulating screen - some people like them some don't. I'm kind of liking the ability to spin it completely around and protect it - it just takes time to get used to in comparison to the tilt only of the previous OMD cameras.

If you just need to tilt it, it can get a bit fiddly, but having the ability to articulate the screen is better than not having any articulation at all.

Overall, I find the handling changes an improvement.

18107799191_0b8005e174_k.jpg

Olympus 40-150/4-5.6R 1/200, f/5.2, ISO 800 @ 111mm

The front and rear dials are thicker, which makes turning them easier. The shutter release feels more solid to me than the original EM5. It is remeniscent of my old film Yashica Electro rangefinder camera.

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Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO 1/200, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 40mm

Image Quality

The sensor has not really changed from the other iterations of the OMD, so if you liked what you saw from the previous OMD cameras, you'll be getting that again. IBIS works great and is very smooth in operation.

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Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 II 1/2000, f/5.7, ISO 250 @156mm

I've modified my JPG engine settings with a -1 sharpness and noise reduction on low. I found even the basic sharpness settings can be too aggressive for me, which could cause higher base ISO noise and artifacts. Adding a little extra sharpening and noise reduction in post works wonders on the files.

AF Speed

Olympus has kept the same contrast detect only AF for the Mk II, which works fast and sure in most situations shooting with S-AF. Still not the best option for C-AF, but I have not had a lot of use shooting continuous, except the surfer shots below. There are many more keepers than what I was getting with the Mk I. If you want good C-AF performance and stay within the m43 family, you'll want to look at the EM1/GH4 with phase detect AF or a DSLR.

With that being said, action is possible even with use of S-AF mode and a little planning, as seen below.

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Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 II 1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 500 @ 300mm

Hi Res Mode

You will need to use this mode on a tripod and with a scene that has no movement in it to prevent artifacts from showing themselves in the final stacked image. You get the options to pull a 64MP RAW or 40MP jpg file. This provides you with enhanced resolution and truer color rendering. There are plenty of other places that have done extensive head to head images of a standard 16MP capture versus the hi res mode equivalent. There are even reviews that stacked the D800 series against the EM5 Mk II, showing some benefits of the EM5 Mk II method over the larger MP/sensor of the Nikon.

As with anything, there are specific use cases for this kind of feature, and used accordingly can be beneficial.

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Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 II 1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 124mm

I can see this being of use to product and still life photographers as well as urban exploration or cityscape captures.

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Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO Hi-Res Mode 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 40mm

Video Recording

Not being a heavy video user, I am actually just now exploring it's use in my business use. There are better options out there for video, however, right now, the options are adequate for me to use as a learning tool.

Other Misc. Items Of Note

The EM5 Mk I had a top shutter speed of 1/4000. Mark II gives you 1/8000 mechanical shutter and electronic (silent) shutter mode up to 1/16000 shutter speed. You not only gain an increase in top shutter speed, but you also get the benefits of silent operation. Limitations of electronic shutter can be rolling shutter effects present themselves in fast moving subjects as well as issues with fluorescent lights or monitor refresh rates. You also lose the ability to use flash with the electronic shutter.

Shutter shock mode, electronic shutter and hi res mode are available as options in the drive mode, so no menu diving to activate it. Even continuous silent modes are available.

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Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 800 @ 300mm

The mechanical shutter is noticeably more quiet than the EM1/EM5. Those shutters were by no means loud, but the Mark II is a definite improvement. Put in context, not loud is in comparison to the cameras like Nikon D300/D700, which sound like pistol fire in comparison(exaggeration for proving a point).

The EVF is the same as what you'll find on the EM1, so definitely some visual goodness. Also present is the built in Wifi that can be used with the OI Share app.

Again, like in the EM1/EM5, you get the weather sealing and touch screen operations.

The new, detachable flash unit is another surprise upgrade. Differing from the flashes that came with the original EM5 and EM1, this flash has a fully articulating head, allowing it to be more easily deployed as a bounce flash. It has a low guide number of 9, but if you need/want that little pop for fill, this gives you more creative options and not just the pop of a in line with the lens built in flash.

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Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 II 1/2000, f/5.7, ISO 250 @ 156mm

Is it worth the upgrade?

The Mark II brings a bunch of upgrades to the table, and I'm still experimenting with the viability of the hi res mode. I appreciate all the improvements that the new body offers and having as much fun shooting it as I did the original EM5 - maybe more so. It just feels more refined and polished to me.

I'd say if you are pressed for cash or on the fence, get or stick with the original EM5. Otherwise, take the plunge and pick up a Mark II - it is a great functioning camera.

Another thing that this camera reminds me - the feeling I get when I shoot with the Nikon Df. The feel, the look, the responsiveness - especially when shooting with prime lenses just makes me want to keep shooting with it. While the Df still is the supreme stills shooter for me, the EM5 Mk II has solidified itself to the #2 spot.

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Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 II 1/2000, f/6.5, ISO 400 @ 258mm

The EM1, while a fantastic camera, feels more like a professional tool I would and do use for paying jobs. It is in the same line of thought I have using the Nikon D300/D700. They are tools with a purpose for making money or doing work. The Df and EM5 Mk II feel like tools I use to create art and express myself, have some fun with. It may not make a lot of sense on an analytical front, but from an emotional level, it makes all the sense in the world to me.

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Thanks Andrew. I have the E-M5/2 on loan for a couple of weeks again and this time I need to get out and use it some more. 

 

I agree with you that the build quality is really good and I really like the new front and rear command dials. Button placement is also better, but one of my Olympus shooting buddies has complained that there is no easy way of using a rear AF-on button like there is on the E-M1. I don't focus that way so it's not an issue for me. 

 

However... that flip out screen is a deal breaker for me. Can't stand it. That said, the LCD quality seems to be a step up on the E-M1. Photos viewed on it look amazing. 

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Andrew, good to know you like the camera.  Actually EM5 MkII is the first Olympus m4/3 camera I have ever looked at seriously.

 

One suggestion for correction: Panasonic GH4 doesn't have PDAF sensor.  In fact, no Panasonic m4/3 camera has PDAF sensor.  All Panasonic m4/3 cameras are CDAF only.

 

One thing I always wonder is that Olympus doesn't disclose the lowest light value at which the AF (of any type) works.  All the current Panasonic cameras are rated to be able to AF down to -4EV.

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Andrew, good to know you like the camera.  Actually EM5 MkII is the first Olympus m4/3 camera I have ever looked at seriously.

 

One suggestion for correction: Panasonic GH4 doesn't have PDAF sensor.  In fact, no Panasonic m4/3 camera has PDAF sensor.  All Panasonic m4/3 cameras are CDAF only.

 

One thing I always wonder is that Olympus doesn't disclose the lowest light value at which the AF (of any type) works.  All the current Panasonic cameras are rated to be able to AF down to -4EV.

 

You are absolutely correct.  I do not know why I had it in my head that it did.  It uses the DFD technology.

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Andrew,

 

I just found this review. I like what you have to say about this camera. I have a Df that is my main camera but I've been looking for another camera that's a smaller camera and doesn't cost me too much in functionality. I would use it when I want a more portable solution for family/street/events/travel. I've got a substantial kit sitting in a cart using the XT1. However I just can't get past the X-trans sensor and the fact that Fuji is lens size doesn't represent that much size/bulk savings over a FX camera. So I've started looking at m43 again. I use a X100 and Ricoh GR a great deal but I do need the flexibility of a zoom on many occasions.

 

If you start off for a shoot with this camera, are there times you feel you need more camera to get the results you want? At what point do you think you really need the Df to get what you need.\?

 

Thanks,

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Options, options.  A smaller DX Nikon body with a few well chosen DX lenses should also be considered as a lighter weight option.

 

I have a D40X, but then are there again I also have an E-M1 with a 12-40mm lens as my main walkabout camera.

 

Andrew,

 

I just found this review. I like what you have to say about this camera. I have a Df that is my main camera but I've been looking for another camera that's a smaller camera and doesn't cost me too much in functionality. I would use it when I want a more portable solution for family/street/events/travel. I've got a substantial kit sitting in a cart using the XT1. However I just can't get past the X-trans sensor and the fact that Fuji is lens size doesn't represent that much size/bulk savings over a FX camera. So I've started looking at m43 again. I use a X100 and Ricoh GR a great deal but I do need the flexibility of a zoom on many occasions.

 

If you start off for a shoot with this camera, are there times you feel you need more camera to get the results you want? At what point do you think you really need the Df to get what you need.\?

 

Thanks,

 

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Options, options.  A smaller DX Nikon body with a few well chosen DX lenses should also be considered as a lighter weight option.

 

 

Hugh, certainly options, options. I've used Nikon DX and it's come a long way from my D2Hs :-). That camera was used with the 17-55mm f/2.8 DX and not quite a lightweight option - I know apples and APPLES/oranges. I was on a tour a couple of years ago when the D7000 was new and one of my tourmates used it with the 18-200. It was a nice kit and at the time I was using a X100. I love that camera and still have it, but I miss the functionality of a zoom in those situations. I'll keep a D7200 in mind, maybe with a 16-85mm f/2.8-4. 

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Andrew,

 

I just found this review. I like what you have to say about this camera. I have a Df that is my main camera but I've been looking for another camera that's a smaller camera and doesn't cost me too much in functionality. I would use it when I want a more portable solution for family/street/events/travel. I've got a substantial kit sitting in a cart using the XT1. However I just can't get past the X-trans sensor and the fact that Fuji is lens size doesn't represent that much size/bulk savings over a FX camera. So I've started looking at m43 again. I use a X100 and Ricoh GR a great deal but I do need the flexibility of a zoom on many occasions.

 

If you start off for a shoot with this camera, are there times you feel you need more camera to get the results you want? At what point do you think you really need the Df to get what you need.\?

 

Thanks,

 

Need is absolutely a subjective thing here, just to set that.

 

For me, I find that the Nikon Df is as near a perfect general shooting camera.  There are times when I need to shoot a lot in really low light without the aid of supplemental lighting.  In those instances, I tend to favor the Nikon FX cameras in my kit.  I also tend to favor the Nikon cameras where shooting sports with erratic movement is involved.

 

I've been working with the m43 gear to the point that I can get just about anything that I want from it that I can get from my Nikon gear.  I've yet to run into too many situations where I wished I had brought another kit.

 

A few big benefits of the m43 kit are that I can bring all my lenses in relatively the same space, size and weight as a Nikon FX camera and 2-3 lenses.

I also get excellent image quality from comparable lenses in a fraction of the cost.  I also get a lot more reach.   I have the Olympus 75-300mm lens that gets me out to a 600mm field of view.  You could take that lens, which cost me $475 new and get a used EM5 for under $500.  for that money I cannot even tough the lens cost of a Nikon 600mm.

 

Even comparing a Nikon 24-70/2.8 versus the Oly 12-40/2.8 - having similar fields of view, the Oly is only going to run you $1000 new without any deals.  I have a friend who just picked up the 12-40 for $800.  Then you look at the size and weight of the 2 and you still get more of a benefit with the Oly kit where that is concerned.

 

Right now, bang for the buck, getting an EM5 is probably one of the best deals out there in an MILC.

 

As far as fixed lens cameras go, I really like my X100T.

 

Depending on your needs, you might like the original X100 - since XTrans is not something you are looking forward to using.  The X100 can be found used.  It is a bit slow on the AF and in overall operation, but talk about gorgeous files and a Bayer sensor to boot.  You also have the Nikon Coolpix A, which on a good day can be found pn sale for $300 new.  The Ricoh GR is considered by many a very underrated performer and a favorite by many street shooters.  I've not really had a chance to really dig into one, so I only have other peoples information to go on.

 

After all that,  I would seriously consider looking at Olympus or even Panasonic in m43 mount.

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...................... fact that Fuji is lens size doesn't represent that much size/bulk savings over a FX camera.

 

This is yet another fallacious Internet beat-up that appears to have begun with people reading specs and making assumptions without directly comparing actual hardware.

 

Here is a photo of my old bag (at left) in which I carried a D3s, A D2x, 80-200/2.8 AF-D, 35-75/2.8 AF-D, 105/2.8 AF-S VR Micro, 16/2.8 AF-D fish, 50/1.8 AF-D, 17-35 AF-S and SB-800, plus spare batteries and ancillaries. This bag was big, heavy and pretty much full with that load. The camera bodies took up the full height of the two end compartments.

 

In front of it is my current bag, with X-T1 & 10-24/4, 8/2.8 fish, 18-55/2.8-4, Zeiss 50/2.8 Makro, 56/1.2, 90/2, 50-140/2.8 plus a Sigma DP1 Merrill and a DP3 Merrill, plus batteries x3 for each camera. Losing one of the Merrills means space for carrying an EF42 flash. Losing the other Merrill means space for my Fuji X-Pro1.

 

This bag is full, but nowhere near the weight the the Nikon bag was, nor is it anywhere near the size and awkwardness of carrying, and I have even more optical versatility. So it's entirely fair to say that I can carry a similar functionality in a bag almost half the internal size that I did with my Nikon outfit. There is another factor here - the Fuji bag is completely carry-on compliant. The old Tamrac Pro12 bag for the Nikon would be borderline at best these days, and probably be too heavy anyway for many airlines.

Feg08vJ.jpg

 

My point is that it is beyond plain to see that the claim that Fuji lenses save little over the 135 DSLR lenses just nowhere near correct. They are substantially smaller and lighter, even the 50-140/2.8 zoom is only marginally longer but narrower than the Nikon 24-70/2.8 (I've physically held the two side by side to ascertain this) and a similar weight, but it is most definitely smaller and much lighter than its "equivalent" in the Nikon line, the 70-200/2.8 (even on paper this is evident, 82mmx175mm, 995gm, compared to 87mmx215mm, 1,470gm).

 

The reduction in size and weight comparing Fuji to M4/3 is not proportionally as much as is the Fuji is from the Nikon, either. In fact the X-T1 is about the same size as an OM-D EM1. It's the mirror and associated DSLR design factors that make the size difference, not so much the sensor size. In fact the Oly 35-100 f/2.0 is bigger, and heavier, than the Nikkor 70-200/2.8, while the Panasonic 30-100/2.8 is far lighter - but then the Pana isn't much different to the Fuji 55-200/3.5-4.8, so choices are there. Point is that both the Fuji and the Oly/Pana M4/3 are substantially more compact and lighter than are their DSLR 135 counterparts, and the Fuji gear is much closer to M4/3 than it is to DSLR..

 

The only way to confirm these truths is to compare side-by-side, but my photo should be a reasonably accurate starting point - rest assured I would not have willingly chosen a bag the size of the Tamrac Pro12 to lug around full of Nikon equipment at events and weddings if I could have got away with something smaller, and equally I got the little KATA shoulder bag for the Fuji/Sigma gear because it was plain silly hauling that massive Tamrac around with more empty space than gear inside it after I switched over to mirrorless. These days it is just a convenient storage for lenses and gear that I'm not actually using at the time.

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The only way to confirm these truths is to compare side-by-side, but my photo should be a reasonably accurate starting point - rest assured I would not have willingly chosen a bag the size of the Tamrac Pro12 to lug around full of Nikon equipment at events and weddings if I could have got away with something smaller...

 

That is the issue, though - most people don't have access to the systems to compare, which is why posts like yours are very helpful.

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OK, I'm guilty of stating perceptions over fact.

 

Trying not to be defensive here :-). We don't use the same lenses. My Df kit usually contains a 24mm f/2.8 AIS, 50mm f/1.8 AFS and 105mm f/2.5 AIS and more often only a 35mm f/1.4 AIS.  A couple of weeks ago, I set that Df kit alongside a XT1 kit with 16mm, 35mm and 56mm. My reaction was one of disappointment. For me to go to that Fuji kit, there were a few things that colored my judgement: price of abandoning a good kit for what I didn't perceive to be the size differential I was anticipating for a mirrorless body; disappointed at Fuji for IMO wasting an engineering opportunity to scale down lenses to meet my desire for smaller lenses (e.g. where are those f/2 WR lenses); and my having to deal with a non LR workflow.

 

The X100 is the reason I'm looking at Fuji, it set a lot of expectations and I love that size, flexibility and maneuverability. But I suffered through SAB (so call it my D600 experience). The shutter went out about midway through a 14 day trip of Italy. I continued to use it when I could at f/2 (including stretching that with internal ND) and fortunately had an X10 that my wife was carrying for the rest. Not the quality I was wanting. The final firmware updates a year after release finally brought the camera up to where it should have been at release. The hassle of getting SAB fixed was way beyond any reasonable consumer experience, especially after having been accused of mishandling the camera, getting it wet, subjecting it to airline vibration and "did I read the operating manual?". After two months of hassle and two trips to the repair station it was finally repaired properly. So I have an edgy background with Fuji and it embitters me (not even somewhat). However, I respect their optics, the fact that they have photographers in their design group and keep pushing forward on product and industry pressure. I'm just not fully in their mainstream. So I'll try to do better in my commentary in the future.

 

While I use other zooms, primarily the f/4 Nikkors and 70-200mm f/2.8 AFS, that's not what my comment was about. It was really about my most compact kit, the one that I choose to tote. The wonderful Fuji lenses in my comparable focal lengths are often f/1.2 lenses and I would rather they be f/2 for my use. 

 

Thanks for bringing the other side into this. I still use my X100 (and Ricoh GR) because I don't think you can get smaller and still have that quality - I'm willing to listen to other suggestions.

 

I have done the side by side with the X-T1 but there are no stores that I frequent that handle Olympus. Camerasize.com does help somewhat.

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Need is absolutely a subjective thing here, just to set that.

.......

 

I've been working with the m43 gear to the point that I can get just about anything that I want from it that I can get from my Nikon gear.  I've yet to run into too many situations where I wished I had brought another kit.

 

............

 

After all that,  I would seriously consider looking at Olympus or even Panasonic in m43 mount.

 

Andrew,

 

Thank you for your views. They add a lot of weight to my decision. You, Alan and many others on this group can get just about anything out a camera and know very much why it works.

 

I'm going to have to make a change for the smaller, it will be about travel and the people I'm traveling with. It's not all about photography, some of it is about my not letting my photography and/or equipment dominate the social situation of the travel. 

 

It's encouraging that you like your X100T. Perhaps I should just refresh my X100 (which is starting to have some intermittent problems) and use that as an intro to the Xtrans. I could be making too much of that situation. I do know that a family outing with all the grandchildren can generate several hundred to thousand images and the LR process of getting them to a manageable number seems to me to be quite reasonable. Perhaps only a few need an alternative RAW converter, but I just don't have any feeling for what's really needed to make that a permanent or integral part of my photography.

 

I reviewed and enjoyed your website - I'm especially drawn the the B&W images.

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LR is not great at processing the X-Trans, so if you intend to use LR I would not recommend X-Trans.  Photo Ninja does a great job.

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Given that there were zero Fuji FX lenses five years ago, and given the quality (mostly) of the lenses that have been produced since, it is fair to say that Fuji have been reasonably good at filling general needs. They obviously had a sales-driven growth model by producing lenses that most people would be interested in at a price that most people would be interested in paying with specifications that would match most of the competitive lenses on the market. Hence the original 35/1.4, 60/2.4 "macro", and 18/2 "pancake" wide (and which to be honest, I had zero need for any of).

 

In fact it wasn't until the 14/2.8 that I actually bought a lens I really could use (after the Samyang 8/2.8 fish, of course), and really it wasn't until the recent run of lenses starting with the Zeiss 50/2.8M and the 56/1.2 that lenses appeared that I actually wanted. It is now four and a half years after I bought my x-Pro1 - but the wait was worth it.

Fuji as a company is at least one that listens to its customers and the clamour for small, slower lenses is one I doubt is being ignored. I can certainly see that others have no need for lenses I prefer and a very definite need for lenses I have no need for, as does Fuji, most probably. It's simply a matter of designing and building as income from past successes provides the bean counters with the figures above the red line to provide the OK to do so.

Keep an eye out for the next lens road map - one is probably due out shortly as the predicted lenses on the last one are nearly all a reality now. My guess is that the lenses you (and thousands of others) have asked for will be on it.

 

I'm waiting on only one thing now, the 1.4x TC to take my tank-buster 50-140 into "proper" tele regions to enable me to sell off the excellent and small but fragile 55-200/3.5-4.8. The difference in build quality and feel is palpable in the WR Pro lenses, along with the confidence in longevity their ruggedness brings.

 

Whether or not I actually need the 100-400 to follow that and which is slated for early next year is open to conjecture - I never had anything longer than 300mm for my FX Nikons (short of the totally inadequate Samyang 500/6.3 mirror lens), so to be frank and following a similar path I might just be as well off in the long term to settle for the FX-fit but probably totally inadequate Samyang 350/6.3 instead. This lens is tiny and weighs next to nothing, and will probably be worth the $400-odd it'll cost me for the total amount of use it will get. I have also converted the 500/6.3 to FX mount using a trashed cheap converter, and while it is even worse than inadequate the once-a-year use it gets certainly brings things up close and personal with the X-T1. PP can kill a lot of the flaws, and with my new resolution to return to B&W it might even become passably usable in that role.
 

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Andrew,

 

Thank you for your views. They add a lot of weight to my decision. You, Alan and many others on this group can get just about anything out a camera and know very much why it works.

 

I'm going to have to make a change for the smaller, it will be about travel and the people I'm traveling with. It's not all about photography, some of it is about my not letting my photography and/or equipment dominate the social situation of the travel. 

 

It's encouraging that you like your X100T. Perhaps I should just refresh my X100 (which is starting to have some intermittent problems) and use that as an intro to the Xtrans. I could be making too much of that situation. I do know that a family outing with all the grandchildren can generate several hundred to thousand images and the LR process of getting them to a manageable number seems to me to be quite reasonable. Perhaps only a few need an alternative RAW converter, but I just don't have any feeling for what's really needed to make that a permanent or integral part of my photography.

 

I reviewed and enjoyed your website - I'm especially drawn the the B&W images.

 

I find that even shooting JPG from the Fuji cameras give you a lot to work with.  So, using Lightroom in that respect is really not a whole lot different than anything else.  When you do find the need to shoot RAW, you can just use an alternate process for those special use cases.

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I always hammer on about raw and processing because my final use depends on it. If you're not going to print your files large as an intended end use, then there's little point in sweating beyond a jpeg, whether OOC or modified afterwards. In that case, as Andrew points out, there is no impediment to sticking with LR if that's what works for you.

 

If you're going to shoot for B&W, however, then an 8-bit jpeg will definitely sell you short. 256 shades of grey is absolutely marginal in recording smooth tonal transitions, and if edited afterwards there is a very definite chance of smooth mid-tones like blue skies being visibly affected by posterisation, even on an 8-bit monitor. On a wide-gamut monitor the images so affected will look downright horrible.

 

I tend to set my processing bar high by default because I'm never sure of just how big or how detailed I might have to print something in the future. Granted that a lot of the effort so expended is wasted, but there's the assurance that even a decade or more down the track there's a good chance the file will print well even on the newest tech printers as a result.

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My advice to anyone wanting to find out how m43 performs is to get one in your hands by either renting one for a couple of days, or try and find an Olympus dealer who offers demo days (I do this in my home country and I know they do them in the UK too). 

 

Honestly, the only areas where larger systems might have a slight advantage over m43 are in extreme high ISO (anything over ISO 6400 is extreme in my book) and tracking of some subjects, as Andrew mentioned. Everything else considered it's a brilliant system with brilliant lens choices. I'm using the 40-150/2.8 PRO on this safari and so far I have been quite impressed with near field subject image quality. It's such a pity the 300mm f/4 has been delayed because that lens on this birding safari we have just done in the Chobe would have been awesome to have on one of those photography boat gimbals. 

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    • 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.
    • 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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