This E-M1X 2 Year Review article follows up on similar postings I wrote at the 6 month and 1 year camera ownership time frames. The purpose of this article is to provide a first-hand assessment of my experiences working with the E-M1X, and capturing over 200,000 images with this camera model over the past two years.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.
There is no intent to encourage readers to buy this particular camera, or to change out their existing camera system. Each of us has our own specific needs when it comes to camera equipment. What is perfect for one photographer may not be the best choice for another. Our individual goals should be to buy and use whatever camera format, brand and model that best meets our needs.
Ergonomics, Handling and Comfort
Very few camera reviews spend very much time discussing the ergonomics, handling and comfort of specific cameras. If you’re like me and often spend extended periods of time using your camera handheld, the importance of ergonomics, handling and comfort cannot be overstated. Quite simply, a camera that does not offer excellent ergonomics, handling and comfort, can be an inefficient pain to use.
When I originally was selecting which camera gear to include on my Olympus Americas equipment loaner list, I was unsure whether the E-M1 Mark II or the E-M1X would be best to meet my specific needs. Fortunately for me, Olympus Americas made the decision to let me borrow both cameras.
I have large hands, and within the first couple of hours of using these two cameras it became crystal clear that the E-M1X was by far the superior camera when it came to ergonomics, handling and comfort. I put the loaner E-M1 Mark II back in its box on that first day, and never picked it up again.
As regular readers will know, we upgraded my wife’s camera gear with an E-M1 Mark III and a couple of smaller, lighter M.Zuiko zoom lenses (i.e. 14-150 mm f/4-5.6 II, 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II) last fall. That camera body is readily available for me to use should I have the desire. If memory serves, I’ve only used it a couple of times. In these instances I created a concept for an article that required me to use the E-M1 Mark III.
Other than those situations, the thought of using the E-M1 Mark III has never even entered my mind for a second. That’s not to say that the E-M1 Mark III is a bad camera. Far from it. The E-M1 Mark III is a very capable camera. It just doesn’t have the ergonomics, handling and comfort that I need.
Until a photographer spends time with a camera body using it in the field under real life conditions, it is very difficult to properly assess its ergonomics, handling and comfort. After 2 years and capturing over 200,000 photographs with it, I still feel that the E-M1X is an absolute joy to use. The grip is extremely comfortable and feels natural in both portrait and landscape orientations. Controls are easy to find by touch which makes the E-M1X very efficient to use.
The in body image stabilization of the E-M1X is outstanding. Until a photographer actually experiences being able to shoot handheld at multiple second exposures of 4 seconds or longer, it is difficult to fully comprehend the importance of IBIS performance.
About 6 years ago when I was using full frame camera gear handheld in lower light conditions, I would very seldom use my full frame camera body at ISO values under ISO-800 given the low light shutter speeds required. From a real life, pragmatic standpoint there is precious little difference in dynamic range when using my E-M1X at ISO-200 compared with using my previous D800 at ISO-800. It’s been my experience that the IBIS performance of my E-M1X can make a minimum 2 stop difference under specific handheld, slow shutter speed, shooting conditions.
In situations where I can use the E-M1X’s Handheld Hi Res (HHHR) mode in combination with slow shutter speeds made possible by the E-M1X’s IBIS performance, the results are even more pronounced. For example, when using both of these technologies in tandem at higher ISO values like ISO-3200 through to ISO-6400 my E-M1X outperforms the D800 I used to own in terms of resolution, dynamic range and image noise.
Without question there can be differences in dynamic range between sensors. The general rule of thumb is that the larger the sensor, the higher the dynamic range. The internet has legions of trolls who love to bash cameras based on sensor size. M4/3 is a favourite target. Unfortunately many of these folks make broad, generic statements based on sensor size without considering that not all sensors are created equal even when the same size sensors are compared. Nor do they seem to consider how other technologies in a camera (like IBIS and HHHR which were previously noted) can be leveraged to maximize its available dynamic range.
As we all know, maximum dynamic range typically occurs at a camera’s lowest ISO value, and tends to drop off fairly quickly as ISO values increase. Most people look to DxO Mark and/or Photonstophotos dynamic range scores when comparing cameras. According to DxO Mark a dynamic range score of 12 EV is considered ‘excellent’ and a difference of 0.5 EV between sensors is needed to begin to be noticeable for most people.
The most recent Olympus camera tested by DxOMark was the E-M1 Mark II. We can likely assume that the E-M1X would have similar sensor scores. The dynamic range of the 20.4 MP sensor in the E-M1 Mark II was assessed at 12.8 EV. Trolls, of course, heaped mounds of criticism on the camera… claiming that its dynamic range was terrible.
Logically the same vitriol spewed on M4/3 cameras like the E-M1X should have been dumped on a number of Canon full frame cameras as well. Some have lower DxO Mark dynamic range scores than the E-M1 Mark II (and likely the E-M1X). These would include Canon cameras like the 5DS (12.4 EV), 6D Mark II (11.9 EV), and RP (11.9 EV). Those full frame cameras were not subjected to the same troll abuse of course. Vitriol seems to be blinded by sensor size.
In Canon’s defence the company has significantly improved dynamic range sensor performance with its newer generation full frame cameras. I find it fascinating that Canon has been able to achieve market share leadership for a number of years with digital cameras that used sensors that were outperformed by their competition. Obviously a camera is a lot more than just the sensor it uses.
Before deciding which camera to buy, many photographers will want to assess dynamic range performance, and consider how they intend to use their images. Reviewing test scores on DxO Mark and Photonstophotos can be helpful. The E-M1X may, or may not, meet their requirements. From my perspective, the dynamic range performance of my E-M1X cameras is more than sufficient for my needs. Plus, technologies like IBIS and HHHR can help maximize the available dynamic range with the E-M1X.
As photographers we have individual needs in terms of the depth-of-field that we use in our creative approaches. Aperture, lens focal length, distance to subject and distance to background can all affect depth-of-field in a photograph or a video composition. This is true regardless of the size of the sensor in our cameras.
Shallow depth-of-field can be achieved with M4/3 cameras like the E-M1X. The way that is achieved may be different than with a full frame camera. Typically a M4/3 shooter would use a longer focal length lens and get in tighter to their subject. Choosing a shooting angle where the background is further away is also helpful. There may be occasions where extension tubes can be used to help achieve shallow depth-of-field.
The shallow depth-of-field results with an E-M1X image may have a different ‘look’ than images created with a full frame camera. Just like there can be a different ‘look’ with a medium format camera when compared to a full frame camera. We need to remember that many roads can lead to the same destination. Achieving shallow depth-of-field with various camera formats is akin to playing the same piece of music using different instruments.
When discussing depth-of-field performance what is often overlooked is the importance of achieving deep depth-of-field. The vast majority of my work requires deep, not shallow, depth-of-field. Travel, landscape, and macro photography are genres where deeper depth-of-field is often preferred by many photographers. Using shorter focal length lenses can make it much easier to compose an image with deep depth of field. This can have an impact on the aperture and/or ISO value used.
For example, let’s imagine composing a landscape image where a photographer wanted everything in focus starting with a foreground element that was 1.3 metres away. With a M4/3 camera like the E-M1X this would be easy to do when using the M.Zuiko 7-14 mm PRO f/2.8 zoom. A photographer could achieve their objective by shooting that zoom lens wide open at f/2.8, using a focal length of 7 mm and focusing on the foreground element. This would deliver nearest acceptable sharpness at 0.6 metres. The furthest acceptable sharpness would be at infinity.
A photographer standing in the identical position with the same composition objectives and using a full frame camera would have to use their equipment differently. Let’s say they were using a full frame 14-24 mm f/2.8 pro zoom. Using a 14 mm focal length, an aperture of f/2.8, with a focusing distance of 1.3 metres, would deliver nearest acceptable sharpness at 0.82 metres with furthest acceptable sharpness at 3.15 metres.
To get furthest acceptable sharpness at infinity, the full frame shooter would need to stop their lens down to f/5.6. At that aperture the nearest acceptable sharpness would be at 0.6 metres and furthest acceptable sharpness would be at infinity. Assuming a consistent shutter speed between the M4/3 and full frame cameras, the full frame user would need to bump their ISO up by 2 stops. As mentioned earlier, a difference of 2 stops goes a long way to equalize the dynamic range performance between the E-M1X and full frame sensor cameras.
For my style of photography and the client work that I do, I would much rather use my E-M1X than the D800 that I used to own. When shooting static landscapes or interiors of buildings handheld in low light conditions, using a shorter focal length lens like the M.Zuiko 7-14 mm f/2.8, combined with the IBIS performance of my E-M1X, can have a 4 stop advantage compared to using a full frame D800 camera with a zoom like the full frame 14-24 mm f/2.8.
As can be expected, RAW files produced with an E-M1X will have more image noise than those shot with a full frame camera. Advancing technology with post processing software like DxO PhotoLab 4’s DeepPRIME and Topaz Denoise AI can be leveraged to mitigate noise to a large degree. I use multiple programs in post, and have found that applying DeepPRIME at the beginning of my process, and Topaz Denoise AI at the end, delivers excellent results. I regularly shoot my E-M1X at higher ISO values whenever needed.
The quality of the weatherproofing of the E-M1X is simply outstanding. I’ve been out in inclement weather than has caused the users of full frame double gripped cameras to pack up their gear and leave. Shoreline spray (i.e. the image above) has drenched me and my E-M1X with no ill effect on my equipment. I’ve even had the wind blow large amounts of water off an overhead tarp directly onto my E-M1X while shooting with it. I just kept shooting and didn’t even bother to wipe the water off my camera and lens barrel.
Super Sonic Wave Filter
After two years of continual use and multiple lens changes in a range of conditions I’ve never had to clean the sensors of my E-M1X bodies. The Super Sonic Wave Filter does its job in spades. This may sound like a small issue but it makes an assignment or photographic outing efficient, predictable and reliable.
I’ve used an E-M1X for extended periods of continuous shooting and have never had it overheat. As noted at the 7:20 point in the Imaging Resources YouTube review of the E-M1X, the camera incorporates a heat pipe to help dissipate heat. This is another factor that makes the E-M1X a reliable workhorse of a camera.
Having 4 custom modes on the top dial of the E-M1X extends the functionality of the camera, and makes it fast and easy to adapt to changing subjects or conditions. I have the custom modes on one of my E-M1X bodies set up for bird photography. I can quickly change the settings on my E-M1X with a simple top dial adjustment, rather than miss photo opportunities by wasting time digging into the camera’s menu. The custom modes on my other E-M1X are geared towards travel, landscape and macro photography.
AI Subject Tracking
When I bought my first E-M1X two years ago I did so with the hope that Bird Detection would be added to the AI Subject Tracking capability of my E-M1X. I use Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking for all of my images of perched birds… and on rare occasions for birds-in-flight. For most flying birds I use a combination of Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking with Pro Capture L. It took me a while to experiment with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking to figure out how I could best use it for my style of bird photography. Now, I can’t even imagine using anything else as Bird Detection AI is my ‘go to’ technology for bird photography.
As COVID restrictions are lifted I hope to use the other AI Subject Tracking modes on my E-M1X. Thus far I haven’t had the opportunity to use them sufficiently to offer an informed view.
This technology has allowed me to consistently and confidently capture images that were close to impossible in the past. As noted earlier, I use Pro Capture L for birds-in-flight, typically with a frame rate of 18 frames-per-second. I absolutely love using Pro Capture H for birds taking flight or landing. I also regularly use it to capture butterflies taking flight. My standard settings are 60 frames-per-second, with Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limiter both set to 15. For my style of photography Pro Capture has been an absolute game changer.
This technology is both effective and practical. For a photographer like me who hates to haul around a tripod or other type of camera supports, Live ND allows me to quickly adapt to opportunities to photograph moving water without the need for a tripod or physical ND filters.
Unfortunately COVID-19 restrictions have been ongoing to some extent for well over a year now. As a result I have not taken on any client projects during that time frame, so my assessment of video performance of the E-M1X covers some of my early observations and experience.
Suffice to say that I have been completely satisfied with the camera’s performance against the expectations I had for it. Auto-focus is fast and accurate. I don’t typically track a lot of moving people in the type of work I produce, but the E-M1X has performed very competently in this regard.
My biggest surprise with the E-M1X has been its low light performance in video. With both my D800 and Nikon 1 V2 cameras I typically kept my ISO value to ISO-800 or less when shooting video. In a pinch I would occasionally shoot at ISO-1600. At ISO-3200 the resulting video files were too noisy with either camera for practical use. In comparison, I have no hesitation shooting my E-M1X at ISO-3200 and quite often to ISO-5000. In a pinch I will shoot video with it up to ISO-6400, depending on conditions.
In terms of video project efficiency moving to the E-M1X has been fantastic. When I was shooting video with my full frame D800 system it was a cumbersome ordeal. I needed to bring a car full of studio lights (usually 4 to 6) and camera supports.
Moving to my Nikon 1 V2 kit, along with the increased depth of field created by shorter focal length 1 Nikkor lenses, allowed me to leave all of my studio lights behind.
Now with the E-M1X, three M.Zuiko PRO f/2.8 zoom lenses and the M.Zuiko PRO 45 mm f/1.2, I no longer need to bring any studio lights or any camera supports. I can now shoot entirely handheld, with everything I need to film a project, fitting into one medium sized shoulder bag. I love the freedom and efficiency that delivers.
GAS Free Summary
This E-M1X 2 Year Review, reconfirms major points made during my 6 month and 12 month reviews. The E-M1X is a terrific fit for the work I do and my style of handheld photography. The addition of Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking has made the E-M1X an even better camera for my needs. After 2 years of heavy use I continue to be amazed with what the E-M1X can do. It has become my creative soul mate.
For the past 2 years I have been completely GAS free and I’m totally satisfied and comfortable with my M4/3 system. Whether the E-M1X is the right camera for other photographers is something only they can determine. We all have our individual reasons for buying camera gear.
Folks who prefer to only shoot handheld, and want a rugged, dependable, incredibly capable, and comfortable camera may want to consider trying out the E-M1X.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. This is the 1,031st article published on this website since its original inception.
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