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Panasonic Lumix G9 Exploration Diary


Dallas

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1510112835_IMG_893885.jpgThis may come as a surprise to you, faithful reader, but I’m not the kind of guy who likes to spend money on cameras. Especially new digital cameras. Having learned my lesson about rapid depreciation in tech the hard way back in 2002 with my “investment” in a $3000 Canon D30 DSLR, getting the latest and greatest new camera bodies has since been quite low on my list of priorities. Lenses and useful photographic accessories, yes I buy readily, but cameras (and computers) not so much. I tend to wring every last drop of life out of them before I upgrade.

 

For the past 7 years I have been using the original Olympus E-M1 bodies as my primary cameras and if it wasn’t for the fact that I am beginning to see the end of their useful battery life, I could probably stave off the notion of upgrading for another 7 years. I don’t believe that there is anything in photography that I do right now that those cameras are not capable of delivering. They have been faithful companions on more shoots and safaris than I could shake a stick at.

 

During 2019 I had a mild case of “upgrade-itus” and I looked long and hard at the Sony A7 series of cameras. Bigger sensor, more capabilities in low light and an in-camera HDR that would make my then burgeoning foray into real estate photography an even easier doddle than what it was with Olympus were the drawcards. I came really, really close to buying an A7ii which can be had for very little brand new, but then I started thinking about the other costs of buying into this new system. I would have to buy all new lenses too. That’s a significant investment. Long story short, I put the idea of a new camera on hold as the virus lockdown forced me into a completely different and somewhat neglected line of freelance activity, namely website design.

 

Recently though I started making training videos related to my website services and I discovered that my old E-M1 batteries were really beginning to show their age. I might get 200 shots or 20 minutes of video out of a charge before the power icon began flashing red, which meant that upgrading to a newer camera was going to be unavoidable.

 

You might ask why not just get new batteries for the E-M1’s? It’s a good question, but since they are only available nowadays as a special import item at a somewhat heavy cost, it doesn’t make much sense to follow that option. What does make some sense is to consider newer body options in the Micro Four Thirds stable. And that’s exactly what I did.

 

Right now there are a LOT of options to choose from in Micro Four Thirds. Way more than any other system. Just Panasonic and Olympus alone have multiple iterations of body styles and models. G-series, GH-series, GX-series, E-M1 series, E-M5 series, E-M10 series, Pen series. The list is long! Knowing what you need out of a camera body when making a decision like this is obviously quite important.

 

For me the immediate needs boil down to these things;

 

  • no compromise on what the E-M1 already offers
  • ease of use
  • compatibility with my existing kit
  • reliability
  • good video

 

The current cameras in Olympus’ line up all meet those criteria, as do the Panasonics. However, there is a standout in the Lumix range that demands further examination and that is the G9.

 

Originally launched in 2018, it isn’t the latest and greatest, but a version 2.0 firmware update took it from being a primarily stills oriented camera to being almost on par with the legendary Lumix GH-5 as far as its video capabilities go. What’s even more interesting is that this Micro Four Thirds camera is available brand new for a shade under $1000, which on the face of it is just over half the price of the Olympus E-M1.3 (where I live). That’s very hard to ignore, even for depreciation-averse me.

 

And so after much consideration if I was going to upgrade it had to be to the Lumix G9. Even in this critically stupid economic time, where spending big money on electronic things isn’t recommended, the deal is too good to pass up. Mine arrived on Tuesday.

 

I will be sharing my experiences with this camera with you here on Fotozones, not so much as a review, but as a long term practical exploration of how it works and what it’s good for. Some of this material will be free, but other, more in-depth and practical parts will only be available to Subscribers.

 

For now I will say this about the G9. It’s wonderful. But it’s very different to everything I have ever used. Whilst it may share a lens mount with Olympus, that’s about as far as it goes. Everything else is uniquely Panasonic.

 

I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the materials used in the body construction. They feel a bit plasticky to me when compared to the Olympus cameras I am used to. If I scrape a fingernail on any part of the top plate it sounds hollow underneath and not dense, like the E-M1 does. To me it’s very reminiscent of the materials Canon use to make their mid-range DSLR’s like the 90D; reassuring, but not premium, if you know what I mean. When you click the button in the centre of the rear dial you can hear that there is not much to dampen the sound, whereas the same button on my E-M1 feels considerably more… premium (for lack of a better word). Same thing with the feel of the top PASM dial when it’s locked.

 

The feel of it in the hand though is excellent. The ergonomics are fantastic and I can reach all the buttons on the right side easily without having to adjust my grip too much. I love the top LCD display and the EVF is certainly a huge improvement on my E-M1. I like that you can change the magnification of it, but it is weirdly shaped with quite pronounced pin-cushion distortion.

 

Another huge plus is the joystick which lets you move the AF target around the screen. I accidentally discovered that by pressing it in (like a button) that it will centre the AF target. This after I must have spent about an hour trying to find a way of programming a button to do that the way I have my E-M1 set up.

 

Speaking of AF, this camera has a very complex array of options and it will take a lot of getting used to for me. I do like that the Pinpoint option can be set up to automatically zoom into the point of the frame that is being focused on, either as a pop-up within the frame or covering the entire frame and then also allow you to adjust the speed at which it does this.

 

The Panasonic DFD autofocus system is very fast and I was surprised to see that it does a fairly credible job with my old 4/3 50-200mm Olympus lens via the MMF-3 adapter. I certainly wouldn’t use it to track anything with that lens, but for stationary subjects it will be quite adequate.

 

The menu system is intense but not quite as mind boggling as what you will find in an Olympus. It didn’t help that immediately on starting the camera up for the first time I managed to set either Japanese or Chinese as the language by misjudging where I needed to tap! That took me about half an hour of scrolling through indecipherable text to eventually find a menu item with a speech bubble icon next to it which led me to the place where I could select English as the default language. I honestly had visions of having to learn Katakana to operate my new camera.

 

I have not yet been able to properly put the G9 to the test in a work shooting situation, but I will certainly need to learn it properly before I feel confident enough to put it into production. So far though it all seems rinky-dink. I will update this exploration diary as I go.

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From midnight tonight our country relaxes the lockdown restrictions to a level that almost resembles normality. We are now able to travel to other provinces, buy tobacco and alcohol (not that those ar

This may come as a surprise to you, faithful reader, but I’m not the kind of guy who likes to spend money on cameras. Especially new digital cameras. Having learned my lesson about rapid depreciation

Panasonic MFTs cameras do a great job on both photos and video.     I shoot 4K video on my Lumix GX85.  I just love the results, but I don't care for the grip.   For stills I use m

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blurmagic

Panasonic MFTs cameras do a great job on both photos and video.  

 

I shoot 4K video on my Lumix GX85.  I just love the results, but I don't care for the grip.

 

For stills I use my Panny 42.5 lens.  Super sharp with excellent bokeh (for MFTs that is).

 

Good luck with your new G9.  I've not ever seen one, but from the photos I've seen of it it certainly looks to have a good grip and buttons/dials.  I've heard good things about it and look forward to hearing what you think of it.

 

Dave

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Hugh_3170

The most recent Olympus camera bodies to use the BLN-1 batteries was the Pen F, and the E-M5 Mk2 before that.  You have me tempted Dallas to get some new spares whilst they are still available new from Olympus. 

 

I have never had much luck with third party batteries, although I have heard good things said about those from Hahnel.

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Hugh_3170

Panasonic had a very good kit zoom lens - with a 14-45mm zoom range.  I kept mine along with the 14mm and 20mm primes - both good, especially the 20mm.

 

 

1 hour ago, blurmagic said:

Panasonic MFTs cameras do a great job on both photos and video.  

 

I shoot 4K video on my Lumix GX85.  I just love the results, but I don't care for the grip.

 

For stills I use my Panny 42.5 lens.  Super sharp with excellent bokeh (for MFTs that is).

 

Good luck with your new G9.  I've not ever seen one, but from the photos I've seen of it it certainly looks to have a good grip and buttons/dials.  I've heard good things about it and look forward to hearing what you think of it.

 

Dave

 

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Dallas
2 minutes ago, Hugh_3170 said:

Panasonic had a very good kit zoom lens - with a 14-45mm zoom range.  I kept mine along with the 14mm and 20mm primes - both good, especially the 20mm.

 

 

 

 

I also had that lens. It was one of the first I bought and I regret selling it. Looking back at some of the photos I took with it in Namibia on my then E-M5, they are almost as good as what I get with the 12-40/2.8 PRO.

 

Another one I regret selling is the 45-175mm X series with the motorised zoom. That was so convenient and small. Really nice little lens. 

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Dallas

As I am playing with it and discovering the best ways I can adapt the settings to my typical shooting style, I am growing increasingly impressed with the way Panasonic have designed this camera. 

 

There are some things I really like so far, but there are also some things I don't really get. For instance, you can customise just about every button and dial, but you can't change the function of the dials when you are reviewing a photo (ie. choosing which one to use to zoom in on an image). Unless I am missing a setting somewhere that can only be done with the rear dial on the top plate - I can't switch it to the front like I do with the Olympus. It's a bit of an inconvenience, but I suppose I could get used to it. 

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Luc de Schepper

Very nice camera, I trust you'll like it. I handled it during an introduction meeting and was impressed by the autofocus speed. I didn't like the pincushion distortion of the viewfinder. All in all excellent value for money.

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Dallas

One of the most difficult adjustments for me is going to be learning how best to treat the Panasonic RW2 (raw) files. With so many years of shooting Olympus I really don't even have to think about how I process the images much at all. I used the Adobe Standard profile on those images and have been quite happy with colours and sharpness. With these RW2 files I will have to find a different approach because the Adobe Standard colour profile doesn't produce quite the same results with these as it does with Oly files. They seem very lacklustre when run through my usual processes. 

 

Here's one where I have used the Camera Natural profile with Auto in Lightroom and a gradient to bring out the sky a bit. I guess no more lazy editing for me! 

 

PDAL0190.jpg

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blurmagic

I'm a long time Photoshop and Lightroom user.   Heck, I even taught PS classes.  Also, over the years I've tried many other post processing softwares, but always ended up back at PS and Lightroom. 

 

A few months ago I discovered a "new to me" software.  It took me a while to learn it, but I'm now so much in love with it that I no longer use either PS or Lightroom.  The only thing that my new workflow can't do that PS can is "Liquify",  but I rarely use that feature anyway.

 

This new software has an AI component which I like and sometimes use.  The software is called Luminar 4.   It's inexpensive, its' regular updates are free,  and the only other software I use (Topaz Denoise Ai, & Topaz Sharpen AI) can be installed as plugins.

 

While Skylum/Luminar has some free video tutorials.  I have found that the best Luminar 4 training videos are available on YouTube by Jim Nix.  Watch a few of his videos and you'll soon develop a strong command of the software.

 

Sure, there's a bit of a learning curve at first, but well worth it in the end.

 

And yes, it handles RAW files from Panasonic MFT cameras very well.

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Dallas

I actually have Luminar 3 and I think also their HDR software, which I haven't put onto my new Mac Mini, so yes, I think I should go check them out and see how they do on RW2. Only thing is my workflow is so entrenched in Lr that I don't think changing will be easy for me. 

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Dallas

I have spent a week getting to know the G9 and once I got over the initial shock of trying to figure out how everything I usually do to set up a camera is achieved, I am happy to report that working with this camera will be very comfortable going forward. I will be writing about how I have set my camera up in the Angle Of View section of the site over the next few days. Basically this information will include things like going over the AF modes, how I make quick changes to those, how they work with my style of shooting, plus of course as many other things that a working photographer will use on a shoot. 

 

 

 

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Dallas

From midnight tonight our country relaxes the lockdown restrictions to a level that almost resembles normality. We are now able to travel to other provinces, buy tobacco and alcohol (not that those are important to me) and go to gym. I am hoping, really hoping, that this will at least see the return of photography work to normal levels so that I can go about actually working with the G9. I have been doing some testing of the bracketing options at home and it's a very nice implementation they have developed that allows you to set up bracketing in different numbers of frames and exposure spaces between frames.

 

These are quick examples of 3 frame brackets in the studio processed as HDR in Lightroom. I really didn't have to do much with these other than adjust the white balance of the resulting DNG, add 20% dehaze and reduce some blue in the first one (the passage outside the office door was very blue as it's been overcast here today). What I found very good was the G9's level indicator and profile correction of the 8-18mm Leica. Usually when I am using this lens on the Olympus I have to do some correction for distortion and correcting the verticals. Not at all with the G9, which saves me a step. 

 

PDAL0326-HDR.jpg

 

PDAL0329-HDR.jpg

 

PDAL0335-HDR.jpg

 

I finally took delivery of my pine laminate top for the shooting table on Thursday. It really is nice to have this extra working surface in the studio. I am just not sure how I want to finish this. I'm thinking of putting on Danish oil or something similar, but want to avoid anything too shiny. 

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Dallas

I have figured out the remote control app for the G9. It is a bit of a convolution to get it paired with the device (when will the tech people be able to make this easy?) but once it is paired the operation is smooth. I can use it as a monitor for making videos and the latency is markedly improved on what I was used to with Olympus Capture (granted things may have improved since the E-M1 first came out). I'm not sure what the difference between connecting via Bluetooth or WiFi is? 

 

I do find the interface a bit too busy and its not obvious to me what all the controls do, so there was a lot of touching various things to see what they do. Seems to work well though. 

 

PDAL0355.jpg

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Dallas

Still no opportunity to use the G9 professionally, but I did make a video with it for my Digital Solutions business (websites and WordPress/Woocommerce training). I am finding it a very capable and easy to learn camera, filled with a bunch of features that make sense. It did take me a while to figure out that a lot of these features (such as HDR and iResolution) get greyed out when you have your file capturing set to RAW. 

 

On making the video I used face detection and stupidly used 1080p60 as the shooting format. This created a bit of a situation in Davinci Resolve where my little Mac Mini couldn't render that many frames when reviewing. Luckily I managed to figure out that you can set the playback to run at 30 FPS but still render the finished video at a higher frame rate. Learning video production is quite a steep curve! The Face Detection AF works quite well, but I do notice it drifting focus a bit in other parts of the frame which can become quite distracting for a viewer, so I may need to do some manual zone focusing for this setup in future.

 

Anyway, here's the video, shot with the Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO. If you're interested in building your own Woocommerce site or would like to learn a bit more about the process feel free to subscribe to this new channel. 

 

When time permits and I get enough material I'll be making similar videos for Fotozones on things photographic. 

 

 

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Hugh_3170

Well done - you speak much more clearly and make better eye contact than the vast majority of people producing such film clips.  The technical side is already better than most, but no matter how good the technical stuff is the presentation is what makes or breaks these clips.  Sadly there is a lot of rubbish out there.

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1 minute ago, Hugh_3170 said:

Well done - you speak much more clearly and make better eye contact than the vast majority of people producing such film clips.  The technical side is already better than most, but no matter how good the technical stuff is the presentation is what makes or breaks these clips.  Sadly there is a lot of rubbish out there.

 

Thanks so much for the feedback, Hugh. I really do appreciate it as I am trying to get better with this. I have since making this video discovered a pretty cool teleprompter app that I am going to use for the next one so that I don't have to have notes in front of me. The free version of the app lets you import three scripts (which you can continue to edit at will) and you can control the scrolling speed, plus start and stop it from any other device simply by visiting a URL they provide on the local network. It really works well. Wish I had known about it for this video.

 

Ideally I would like to get one of those beam splitter devices that you attach to the lens for the teleprompter to sit inside of. This lets you see the text while looking directly into the lens, yet somehow it doesn't appear on the camera. For now though I can position the cellphone on the hotshoe and I'm shooting far back enough for this to not be terribly noticeable. 

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So, my first pro outing with the G9 didn't quite go according to plan. I had been commissioned to photograph a few large furniture items in situ as well as some basic product shots of the items that would be deep etched in post. I packed all my gear, even extra clamps and backdrop material, stands, brollies, etc, got to the house where the shoot was happening (about 40km from me) and realised that I had not packed any umbrella holders. 😬 Now I have the clients primping and fluffing cushions and nattering away waiting for me to start shooting. At this point I was very rattled because while I had some clamps with me, they weren't the right kind to hold the brollies onto the stands. I also totally stymied myself trying to remember how to set up my Godox transmitter to fire the three Godox flashes I had brought along for the shoot. 

 

Eventually I thought, stuff it - I'll just do this in HDR like I do for property and wing it, using a camera I at least know will work - my Olympus E-M1. I made a lot more work for myself, but in hindsight it was probably a good thing that the flash setup wasn't working because with the amount of setups I had to shoot I'd have had to change the lighting for every shot, which would have made the already long 6 hour shoot take even longer. Here's one of the easier shots I did. That darn jutta rug would not lie flat or straight for the shoot at all. 

 

DALL0028-HDR.jpg

 

Anyway, I eventually got to use the G9 on a property shoot this Monday evening and it really is an easy camera to work with. The HDR results using the same technique I use with the Olympus aren't quite the same when I am in editing, but I am sure I will eventually get it right. Here's a shot of the property at twilight. I haven't done any twilight shoots in HDR before and they are a little different to regular daytime shoots. Obviously the biggest difference is the amount of time the shutter stays open for, plus on the G9 it does a noise reduction for every long exposure frame. If I was shooting more than 3 frames I'd probably have been there all night!  

 

PDAL0642-HDR.jpg

 

Yesterday we returned to our Saturday Farmer's Market for the first time since this covid lockdown thing stuffed up all our lives. I took the G9 and Leica 8-18mm lens with me, but only shot a 5 frame vertical pano of the valley next to the main eatery hall and this random shot of a few of the people sitting outside. Weather wasn't ideal. 

 

PDAL0677-Pano.jpg

 

PDAL0676.jpg

 

On the whole I really do like the way the G9 works. It is very well thought out and once I get a bit more experienced in working with its raw files I am sure it will be a faithful servant. 

 

 

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I made another happy discovery with the G9 yesterday. 

 

One of the main reasons I bought this camera was for the advanced video feature set and while I probably won't ever use even half of the capabilities it offers, I do intend using it for the making of a number of training and promotional videos in my studio. These can be time consuming to produce and of course they also drain the small standard batteries pretty quickly. When I bought the camera I only got one battery as the importer hadn't brought in any stock, so I have been making my videos with that one. It's been ok, but if I want to do some extensive recording it's not ideal to be limited to just one. 

 

What I didn't know is that this camera can be powered by an external power bank via its USB port and the supplied cable. So, provided I buy one that supplies a minimum of 5V and 1.8A I can power this thing for ages using that as the external supply. What's even better is that I can power the camera in studio using the same USB port and the supplied A/C adapter. Happy days! No more stressing about having to turn it off constantly to preserve power. :) 

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Might overheating be a problem if the camera is powered on continuously for an extended period?

 

I shot with a G9 a few months ago on a Panasonic demo event and was very impressed with the quality of the images. But I am not in the market for a new system

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On 24/09/2020 at 10:47, Anthony said:

Might overheating be a problem if the camera is powered on continuously for an extended period?

 

I shot with a G9 a few months ago on a Panasonic demo event and was very impressed with the quality of the images. But I am not in the market for a new system

 

I don't think so, Anthony. The heat would only come from the sensor while it is in recording mode and on the G9 that is limited to 29.95 minutes. I haven't tested it yet, but iu suspect that if the camera is left on the normal sleep mode settings will kick in if nothing is happening with it. 

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I was running a few video tests now using my slightly tweaked studio set and the new camera power setup. When running the camera off a/c power the audio is unusable. It picks up terrible humming and interference to the built-in pre-amps, which is kind of disappointing. However, I did purchase a Romoss 10,000mAh powerbank earlier in the week (really cheap at about $15) and that unit powers up the camera beautifully. I have zero audio interference from it.

 

Another very nice feature of the G9 is that if you have set it up to be able to be powered by USB, when the camera is on it will draw the power it needs from the external power source, but when it is off it will use that external power source to recharge the battery in the camera. What this effectively means is that I don't have to buy more than one OEM Panasonic DMW-BLF19 battery (at a cost of about $100 each here). The Romoss 10 (10k mAh) is a very reasonable size unit, which I could quite easily put in a pouch and wear on a belt pack should the main battery drain too low on a shoot. I would rather buy a couple more of these for way less money than the OEM battery if I ever find myself burning through all that power in a short time. It's a very clever design feature by Panasonic. 

 

Here's some pics of the power bank in my hand. Not too big at all.

 

IMG_2892.JPG   IMG_2891.JPG

 

 

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I got my first pack shot job since the beginning of lockdown and with the new setup I have doing this type of work has gotten considerably easier. The subject matter for this job was however extremely challenging. Shooting see-through spice bottles with white labels on a white background. 

 

What I decided to do was cheat a bit and instead of using my usual 2-light strobe setup, the room darkening I have done for the videos I am making allowed me to use the continuous video lights and get this result (after a bit of dodging and burning in Lightroom). 

 

PDAL0760.jpg

It's not perfect, but for use on the web and in PDF catalogs it is just fine. 

 

Here's what the set looked like. I have to say, the G9 was a pleasure to use on this shoot. I powered the camera with the USB power bank I bought and left it on the entire duration of the shoot (about 90 minutes) connected via wifi to my iPad Pro. The power bank dropped by one LED light after that session. The remote app that Panasonic has created is a little bit befuddling with the way it is laid out, but I got use to it after a while. It does the job, which is the main thing. 

 

IMG_2898.JPG

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      By Dallas
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      I watched video after video on YouTube about the A7ii and it’s hard to find anybody not happy with that camera, even though it is now about 6 years old. I thought about my own carefully crafted MFT system and forced myself to truthfully evaluate what it was that I found lacking that would prompt me to go in a different direction.
       
      I thought long and hard about it and after doing a few more successful shoots in a variety of different fields, including real estate, product photography and (new to me) commercial lifestyle with real models and off camera flash in the field, I began to remember why I had moved across to MFT in the first place.
       
      I have been using two E-M1 bodies with a variety of different lenses since my move from Nikon FX in 2014. One of these bodies has had to have its shutter replaced, a process that wasn’t particularly bothersome, even though the camera had to be sent to Portugal for the work to be done. When it came back about 3 weeks later it looked like a brand new camera because they replaced all the rubbers, as well as the entire top plate. Well worth the expense.
       
      When I bring images into Lightroom from my Olympus E-M1 cameras I barely have to do anything to them before delivering to clients. I do have some presets that recover highlights and shadows and these days I can’t seem to stop myself from applying the dehaze filter by at least +10 on everything I shoot, but that’s really it as far as pixel massaging goes. I don’t ever sharpen and I don’t typically use noise reduction on client work either. Since my first jobs after moving to this system professionally (I have used MFT cameras personally since about 2011) I have not had a single client ever question the quality of my images. Not one. In fact I get compliments about my work all the time, even from other photographers.
       
      When I look at the 8 lenses I am presently using, apart from the “mandatory”  tilt shift lenses that architectural photographers wax lyrical over, I have everything I need, from 7.5mm fisheye, all the way up to 280mm telephoto (560mm angle of view in 35mm terms). All of the lenses I use are exceptional performers and honestly I could not wish for anything more from them. I know that if I was to move back to 35mm I would have to spend a huge amount of money to get the same as what I currently have in lenses.
       
      And what would I be gaining if I made that move? For sure, I would get better low light performance, shallower depth of field and maybe better AF-C, but how critical is that to what I do? Not very. A lot of the work I do actually requires more depth of field than can reliably be obtained by a 35mm system without engaging some trickery, such as focus stacking, especially in architectural and product photography. I would also have to carry much heavier equipment than is the case with my existing MFT system. Not to mention an entirely new camera support system with new tripods, heads and thicker Peak Design straps.
       
      Despite the click bait fringe elements you will find online who predict the impending demise of the MFT system, there appears to be more development going on with it right now than there is in most other systems. There is quite literally something for everybody in MFT, be it smaller compact camera bodies like the Panasonic GM or Olympus PEN series, giant action cameras like the Olympus E-M1X, serious video and film making capabilities with the Panasonic GH5 and Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K, alternative lighting that offers HSS and TTL from Godox, plus scores of different lenses from a variety of makers ranging from ultra wide to super telephoto to enormous fast apertures from Voigtlander. It’s pretty much a honey pot for gadget freaks like me, so why would I want to pigeonhole myself with another camera system that is nowhere near as versatile?
       
      I’m sticking with Micro Four Thirds. It just makes a whole lot of sense in spite of that radical part of my brain that usually falls victim to the FOMO GAS.
    • Dallas
      By Dallas
      I recently went through a period of gear FOMO brought about by discussions that were taking place on a couple of real estate photography groups that are dominated by Canon and Sony users.
       
      Basically the feeling expressed by the majority of participants on these groups is that if you aren’t using a 35mm sensor, you won’t be able to do architectural photography properly because you won’t be able to use tilt-shift lenses for other formats, such as APS-C, or in my case Micro Four Thirds.
       
      The two most widely talked about lenses in these circles are the Canon 17mm and 24mm T/S. These are both incredible pieces of glass, but they are also fairly expensive. The reason why they are so highly sought after has less to do with keystone correction than it has to do with being able to shift perspective without having to move the position of a camera. So, for example, if you are in a room and you set up your camera for a one point perspective shot, but decide that you would like to see less of the ceiling and more of the floor, simply shifting the lens downwards instead of re-positioning the camera will allow you to keep the same one point perspective height but obtain more floor than ceiling in your frame. It’s a great way to adjust things in-camera rather than in post.
       
      Sony A7 users are able to not only use the Canon EF lenses with an adapter, but some adapters made by Metabones will also provide you with full metering and auto focus support (down to eye-focus) on the whole Canon range of EF lenses. This means that you can get all the camera features of a Sony and the benefit of Canon’s best glass without really losing any functionality.
       
      This discovery had me really thinking about whether I should add a 35mm mirrorless camera from either Sony or Canon and the 17mm TS to my arsenal for architectural work (an area I am most comfortable working in). The costs would have been justifiable, in fact I would be able to purchase an EOS RP body and the lens for about the same money as an Olympus E-M1X. Alternatively I could buy a new old stock Sony A7ii with a kit lens for less than the price of the Canon RP and if I wanted to, I could build up a collection of 35mm glass that could include the Sony Zeiss range too.
       
      I had been thinking about doing this since midway through 2019. In fact, while on holiday in Cape Town last year I visited Orms camera store the day before Black Friday and got hands on with both Canon RP and Sony A7iii (they didn’t have the ii). The A7iii felt fantastic in hand compared to the RP, but it was quite a lot more expensive and they weren’t including the 28-70mm kit lens that the A7ii usually gets sold with.
       
      A part of my brain that I have never truly understood when it comes to rationalising gear purchases began sending an urgent pulse pressing me to buy the thing anyway and worry about the financial impact later. After all, I would be able to make it up quickly in work that would surely pour through the door the moment the world learned that I had upgraded my camera. This other conservative part of my brain was telling me to stop fooling myself about parting with such a large sum of money for something that would simply serve as a gateway to much more expense in the form of lenses I would not be able to resist if I added this new system to my gear.
       
      On the day the conservative brain won out and I breathlessly retreated back to my Airbnb to re-absorb our amazing view of Table Mountain (which tends to calm most people’s troubled minds). After returning from my Cape Town holiday to Durban I couldn’t get this potential system switch out of my mind and this wasn’t helped by commercial emails from suppliers landing in my inbox advising me of price drops on the Sony A7ii with the kit lens to levels that are mouth-wateringly tempting.
       
      I watched video after video on YouTube about the A7ii and it’s hard to find anybody not happy with that camera, even though it is now about 6 years old. I thought about my own carefully crafted MFT system and forced myself to truthfully evaluate what it was that I found lacking that would prompt me to go in a different direction.
       
      I thought long and hard about it and after doing a few more successful shoots in a variety of different fields, including real estate, product photography and (new to me) commercial lifestyle with real models and off camera flash in the field, I began to remember why I had moved across to MFT in the first place.
       
      I have been using two E-M1 bodies with a variety of different lenses since my move from Nikon FX in 2014. One of these bodies has had to have its shutter replaced, a process that wasn’t particularly bothersome, even though the camera had to be sent to Portugal for the work to be done. When it came back about 3 weeks later it looked like a brand new camera because they replaced all the rubbers, as well as the entire top plate. Well worth the expense.
       
      When I bring images into Lightroom from my Olympus E-M1 cameras I barely have to do anything to them before delivering to clients. I do have some presets that recover highlights and shadows and these days I can’t seem to stop myself from applying the dehaze filter by at least +10 on everything I shoot, but that’s really it as far as pixel massaging goes. I don’t ever sharpen and I don’t typically use noise reduction on client work either. Since my first jobs after moving to this system professionally (I have used MFT cameras personally since about 2011) I have not had a single client ever question the quality of my images. Not one. In fact I get compliments about my work all the time, even from other photographers.
       
      When I look at the 8 lenses I am presently using, apart from the “mandatory”  tilt shift lenses that architectural photographers wax lyrical over, I have everything I need, from 7.5mm fisheye, all the way up to 280mm telephoto (560mm angle of view in 35mm terms). All of the lenses I use are exceptional performers and honestly I could not wish for anything more from them. I know that if I was to move back to 35mm I would have to spend a huge amount of money to get the same as what I currently have in lenses.
       
      And what would I be gaining if I made that move? For sure, I would get better low light performance, shallower depth of field and maybe better AF-C, but how critical is that to what I do? Not very. A lot of the work I do actually requires more depth of field than can reliably be obtained by a 35mm system without engaging some trickery, such as focus stacking, especially in architectural and product photography. I would also have to carry much heavier equipment than is the case with my existing MFT system. Not to mention an entirely new camera support system with new tripods, heads and thicker Peak Design straps.
       
      Despite the click bait fringe elements you will find online who predict the impending demise of the MFT system, there appears to be more development going on with it right now than there is in most other systems. There is quite literally something for everybody in MFT, be it smaller compact camera bodies like the Panasonic GM or Olympus PEN series, giant action cameras like the Olympus E-M1X, serious video and film making capabilities with the Panasonic GH5 and Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K, alternative lighting that offers HSS and TTL from Godox, plus scores of different lenses from a variety of makers ranging from ultra wide to super telephoto to enormous fast apertures from Voigtlander. It’s pretty much a honey pot for gadget freaks like me, so why would I want to pigeonhole myself with another camera system that is nowhere near as versatile?
       
      I’m sticking with Micro Four Thirds. It just makes a whole lot of sense in spite of that radical part of my brain that usually falls victim to the FOMO GAS.

      View full article
    • Dallas
      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.

      View full article
    • Dallas
      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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