Comfort and Ergonomics

When using camera gear for extended periods of time, the importance of comfort and ergonomics can become a critical factor. This month marks the third anniversary of the purchase of my first E-M1X. I loved the camera so much that six months later a bought a second one. My love affair has only deepened over time.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-800, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3813 pixels on the width, subject distance 60.5 metres

In previous articles I provided feedback on my experiences with the E-M1X at 6 months, 1-year, and 2-year intervals. I won’t regurgitate all of that information here as nothing has changed, other than my appreciation for this camera has only gotten stronger over time.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3708 pixels on the height, subject distance 2.8 metres

I periodically still get emails from readers about the OM-1, asking me when I plan to upgrade to this new body. There seems to be an assumption that its new stacked BSI M4/3 sensor, and some incremental performance improvements in a number of areas compared to the E-M1X, make the OM-1 a “must have” camera upgrade. In an earlier article I summarized my decision not to purchase an OM-1.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3588 pixels on the height, subject distance 2.7 metres

By most accounts the OM-1 is a superb piece of kit, and very likely represents a worthwhile investment for many photographers. To be completely frank, the OM-1 has not tempted me in the slightest. For me it fundamentally comes down to the critical importance of comfort, ergonomics and handling.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-16000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2401 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.4 metres

Three years ago, when I first held an E-M1X in my hands, I knew the camera was the ideal photographic partner for me. It felt like it was custom designed specifically for my hand. The grip provided outstanding support that was so good it allowed me to shoot one handed when needed. Even macro images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 169 mm, efov 338 mm, f/6.3, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI, Pro Capture L, full frame capture, subject distance 28.5 metres

From an ergonomics and handling standpoint the E-M1X was a perfect fit for me. All of the controls were exactly where they needed to be, which made my shooting experience for stills and video virtually effortless. The camera never got in the way of my creativity… or slowed me down.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 403 mm, efov 806 mm, f/8.8, 1/5000, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2564 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.2 metres

I appreciate that many photographers spend an hour or two with their camera equipment during a typical outing. This probably significantly lessens the importance of comfort and ergonomics for them.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200, ISO-500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3523 pixels on the width, subject distance 9.2 metres

During the past three years I’ve never used any kind of camera support with my E-M1X. No tripod. No monopod. No stabilizer. Everything I do is shot handheld. Of course, this would change somewhat should I ever begin using Live Composite.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, 1/5000, f/6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4932 pixels on the width, subject distance 5.1 metres

While a shorter duration outing for me may be 3-4 hours in length, I’m often out with my camera gear for 8 hours or more at a time. Client assignments can be even more demanding.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-4000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3216 pixels on the height, subject distance 33.2 metres

Back in my full frame days I could photograph birds, wildlife or aircraft handheld with a long telephoto zoom lens non-stop for about 3 hours. Then I’d give out physically, and I’d be done for the day. I also found using full frame gear to be physically awkward and cumbersome, which contributed to missed image opportunities… especially when it came to handheld bird photography.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 484 mm, efov 968 mm, f/8.9, 1/2500, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4818 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.8 metres

As has been mentioned in numerous articles on this website, photographers should use whatever camera format, brand and model that best suits their specific needs. Everyone needs to make those decisions for themselves. Full frame gear may be an excellent choice for many photographers. It just wasn’t a good fit for me.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2102 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.4 metres

There will always be new equipment on the market to tempt us. The siren’s song of an improved sensor or enhanced performance in terms of some function’s speed, will never end.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2523 pixels on the width, subject distance 18.1 metres

From my perspective those potential benefits are meaningless if a camera doesn’t have the comfort, ergonomics and handling that I need.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post. Crops are noted. Images were resized for web use. This is the 1,174 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-10000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3036 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres

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OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 280 mm, efov 560 mm, f/8.4, 1/2000, ISO-3200, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4568 pixels on the width, subject distance 11.4 metres

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OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 280 mm, efov 560 mm, f/8.6, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 6.5 metres

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2 thoughts on “Comfort and Ergonomics”

  1. Thomas, thanks for the article. Your thoughtful positions on staying with your EM1X are totally valid. I am surprised by the numbers of videos appearing recently on YT by M4/3 photographers who say they are not investing in the OM-1. As someone told me years ago, “newer does not always mean better”.

    Marketing hype bombards us on a daily basis promising ever greater happiness, social status, self actualization, even salvation through consumption. Marx (Karl, not Groucho) first exposed this in his writings on the “Fetishized Commodity”. Just consider the cult followings around Apple products or Tesla cars, cameras are certainly no different. Leica has one of the greatest cult followings ever. But perhaps that I have been able to afford only one Leica camera (Minilux) over the years makes me a bit envious too.

    1. Hi Edward,

      Whether it makes sense for an individual to upgrade their camera gear depends on their specific needs. I think the OM-1 appears to be an outstanding camera… but from my perspective is not sufficiently differentiated from my E-M1X to warrant an investment.

      Tom

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