E-M1X Twelve Month Review

When I sat down at my computer to write this Olympus OM-D E-M1X Twelve Month Review I wasn’t quite sure where to start. So, I went back and reread the 6 month review I wrote in November 2019 to see if anything had changed in terms of my perceptions of this camera. And, what additional insights I could add.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/3.2, 1/125, ISO-5000, subject distance 630 mm

As regular readers know I’m not a professional camera gear reviewer. My website doesn’t have very many articles dedicated to gear reviews. I’d much rather be out creating images with a camera and sharing those experiences with readers, than spending time doing gear reviews. So, I suppose the best place to start with my E-M1X Twelve Month Review is for you to read the one I wrote after 6 months with this camera. Not much has changed, other than I love my Olympus gear even more.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/2.8, 1/400, ISO-200, -0.7 step, subject distance 955 mm

Before you read any further into my E-M1X Twelve Month Review it is important to state upfront that the objective of this article is simply to share my experiences using the E-M1X. I am not suggesting that other photographers should change systems or do what I have done in terms of my choice of camera gear. Everyone should use camera equipment that best suits their needs.

So… grab a coffee or a cup of tea… this is a pretty long article.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/320, ISO-3200, subject distance 245 mm, handheld focus stacking used, out-of-camera jpeg adjusted in post

One Became Two

I decided to start this E-M1X review at the end. By that I mean where I am today with my Olympus kit, and the OM-D E-M1X specifically. The E-M1X is a superb piece of professional camera equipment. It has done everything that I have asked of it… and is always ready for more.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/7.1, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 8.4 metres

I have come to rely on this camera to such a degree that towards the end of 2019 I bought a second E-M1X as a backup camera. After investigating less expensive options I realized that I wouldn’t have been happy with anything less than the E-M1X. I can’t think of a stronger form of endorsement than letting my wallet do the talking for me

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 12-100 mm f/4 IS PRO @ 12 mm, f/8, 1/10, ISO-200, image processed to taste from RAW file

Size, Weight and Cost

Since it was launched one of the most common complaints about the E-M1X has been its overall size and weight. For photographers who look at the size of the E-M1X and immediately rule it out as being not for them… they’re absolutely right. Anyone who can’t see beyond the physical size of this camera should be buying something else. The Nikon D6 or Canon EOS-1D X Mark III are also larger, double gripped cameras that do not appeal to all photographers. Let’s remember that we’re talking about professional camera models that have very specific audiences.

The E-M1X is large when compared to other M4/3 cameras, but is actually quite compact and light when viewed against the Nikon D6 or Canon EOS-1D X Mark III. I went to the manufacturers’ websites to obtain the following size and weight specifications.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-200, subject distance 885 mm

Weight comparison
Olympus OM-D E-M1X body only: 849 grams (1.87 lbs.)
Nikon D6 body only: 1270 grams (2.79 lbs.)
Canon EOS 1D Mark III body only: 1250 grams (2.76 lbs.)

Physical Dimensions
Olympus OM-D E-M1X: 144.4 x 146.8 x 75.4 mm (5.7 x 5.8 x 3 inches)
Nikon D6: 160 x 163 x 92xmm (6.3 x 6.4 x 3.6 inches)
Canon EOS 1D X Mark III: 158 x 167.6 x 82.6 mm (6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3 inches)

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 with STF-8 Twin Macro Flash, f/8, 1/250, ISO-200

So, when compared to other professional double gripped cameras the Olympus OM-D E-M1X is smaller and weighs about 1/3 less. Add the size and weight of full frame pro lenses in comparison to M.Zuiko M4/3 pro glass and the size and weight differences between these camera systems become even more apparent. While full frame double gripped cameras do a great job in specific situations like photographing moving subjects in low light, the E-M1X excels with portability and overall functionality. It also costs less than half of the other two cameras noted.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko 1.4X teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5.6 1/1600, ISO-160

When comparing manufacturer list prices in Canada, for the same cost as a Nikon D6 or Canon EOS 1D X Mark III a photographer could purchase an E-M1X plus the three M.Zuiko PRO f/2.8 zooms (7-14mm, 12-40mm and 40-150mm, efov 14-28mm, 24-80mm and 80-300mm).

My E-M1X weighs about the same as the full frame Nikon D800 that I used to own. From a performance perspective there is no comparison. For the type of photography that I do the E-M1X easily runs circles around the D800. We need to keep in mind that these are very different photographic tools designed for very different jobs. That said, there is absolutely nothing that I miss about owning full frame camera gear.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro with STF-8 Twin Macro Flash, f/11, 1/250 ISO-200, subject distance 270 mm

Image Quality

The capabilities of smaller sensor cameras have always been underestimated, most often by people who have no in-depth experience with them. It seems that the level of aggression exhibited by critics in photography chat rooms is inversely proportional to their knowledge of small sensor cameras. Having used the Nikon 1 system exclusively for many years I have come to appreciate the image quality that is possible from smaller sensor cameras. When used in ways to maximize its strengths, and minimize its shortcomings, the Nikon 1 system is capable of very good results.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/8, 1/40, ISO-200, subject distance 1.4 metres

I’ve found the dynamic range, colour depth and low light performance of my E-M1X is noticeably better than my Nikon 1 J5 cameras, and significantly better than my V2 or V3 bodies. My E-M1X files take less time in post and have quite a bit more latitude with which to work. Given the shooting controls on the E-M1X it is also easier to capture a proper exposure upfront.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 115 mm, efov 230 mm, f/2.8, 1 second, ISO-200

To be fair, I have not used any full frame gear for almost 5 years, and even longer for an APS-C camera, so I cannot provide any current firsthand experience. When working in post with M4/3 files, one does need to treat them differently when compared to working with files from full frame cameras in order to squeeze as much as possible out of them.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 7-14 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, efov 28 mm, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-200

I appreciate that some folks may be concerned about image quality from a smaller sensor camera like the E-M1X. This really comes down to personal expectations and the proclivity of an individual photographer to pixel peep. It is simply illogical to expect identical image performance from a M4/3 sensor camera and a full frame one.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-4000, subject distance 3.4 metres

From a practical perspective the image quality from a M4/3 camera like the E-M1X is more than good enough for the majority of photographers based on what they actually do with their images.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/400, ISO-6400, subject distance 235 mm, Handheld Hi Res Mode

I don’t often produce large sized prints from my files. My in-house print capability is limited to 24” roll paper with my HP Z3200 DesignJet 12-colour printer. RAW files from the E-M1X produce outstanding 61 x 81 cm (24” x 32”) prints which is as large as I have produced in-house.  I have no doubt that even larger sized prints like 76 x 102 cm (30” x 40”) would still yield excellent results.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/250, ISO-6400, subject distance 260 mm, Handheld Hi Res Mode

Low Light Performance

Obviously physics do come into play when working with a M4/3 camera, especially when compared to a full frame body. As can be expected noise is more prevalent at higher ISO values. I’ve not found this to be of specific concern and I have no hesitation shooting my E-M1X up to ISO-6400. Applying noise reduction to RAW files in post handles the issue quite well. If you check the EXIF data, you will see that I have included a good number of images in this article that were captured at ISO-6400.

If you consistently shoot at high ISO values, and if you are a pixel peeper who hates any indication of noise, your needs will likely be better met with a full frame sensor camera.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-6400, subject distance 260 mm, Handheld Hi Res (HHHR) version

It is interesting to note that a number of professional photographers have switched to Olympus, and specifically the E-M1X. I think Andy Rouse summed it up best when he explained that the image quality of his E-M1X is “good enough for me.”

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 212 mm, efov 425 mm, 1/80, f/8, ISO-5000, subject distance 1.4 metres, Hand-held Hi Res Mode

In terms of image quality it ultimately comes down to chasing the unicorn-like fantasy of image perfection, versus appreciating the practical reality and value of “good enough for me” image quality. From my perspective, being able to capture a wider range of photographs in new and different ways is worth far more than a bit of dynamic range, or some additional megapixels.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40mm f/2.8 @ 12, efov 24mm, f/4, 4 seconds handheld, ISO-200

IBIS Performance

The outstanding IBIS performance of the E-M1X is a significant equalizing factor when it comes to comparing image quality between various camera systems. I hate using tripods. Being able to handhold my E-M1X for multiple second exposures extends its functionality significantly, and can help me get the most out of its M4/3 sensor. When I owned a Nikon D800 I was seldom able to shoot handheld at anywhere close to the camera’s base ISO in lower light conditions. Any camera’s dynamic range is at its highest at its base ISO. With my E-M1X I can shoot at the camera’s base (ISO-200) on a regular basis.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro with 16 mm and 10 mm Kenko extension tubes, f/8, 1/320, ISO-6400, subject distance 260 mm, Hand-held Hi Res Mode

Being able to create landscape images before sunrise handheld at shutter speeds of 1, 2 or even 4 seconds changes a photographer’s perspective on what is possible and practical.

I’m a senior citizen so my physical ability to handhold my camera at extended shutter speeds has likely degraded over time. I’ve found that 1 or 2 second handheld exposures when using the M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 are not that hard to do. The most I tend to push that lens to still get usable images is a 4 second handheld exposure.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40mm f/2.8 @ 12, efov 24mm, f/5.6, 3.2 seconds handheld, ISO-200

Due to the wider angle focal length, the M.Zuiko PRO 7-14 mm f/2.8 is easier to handhold at slow shutter speeds. I’ve had success doing handheld exposures of up to 8 seconds with that lens. Younger photographers with more physical steadiness than I possess could likely handhold at even slower shutter speeds when using an E-M1X.

IBIS performance not only impacts landscape photography but also macro photography, and the use of Olympus features like Handheld Hi Res and In-Camera Focus Stacking. It still amazes me that I can shoot Handheld Hi Res macro images, and handheld in-camera focus stacked macro images, with my E-M1X. I’ve even had success shooting Handheld Hi Res macro while holding my E-M1X with one hand and my arm outstretched.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-5000, Handheld Hi Res Mode, subject distance 300 mm, image captured one-handed with arm outstretched

How my camera enables me to do this type of photography boggles my mind. Until a photographer experiences what is possible with the IBIS system on the E-M1X it is impossible to fully understand how much this extends the photographic potential of the camera.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/2.8, 1/800, ISO-200, -0.7 steps, subject distance 1.1 metres

Working with 4:3 Rather Than 3:2 Image Ratios

When I first began using Olympus camera gear back in May 2019, I must admit that I wasn’t sure if I would like using a 4:3 image format. After using Nikon full frame, APS-C and Nikon 1 cameras for many years I was totally oriented to the 3:2 image ratio.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-6400, Handheld Hi Res Mode, subject distance 460 mm

My initial concerns proved to be completely unfounded. I soon discovered that a 4:3 image ratio is a much more natural composition shape for a wide range of subject matter. It is especially helpful when photographing individual flowers, insects, and for portraits. Birds-in-flight also fit much better in a 4:3 frame as it allows for more vertical wing movement.

Overall a 4:3 image ratio is far more pixel efficient than using 3:2. Less cropping is needed when printing images to fit in standard 8” x 10” frame and similar 5:4 ratio standard picture frames.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 45 mm f/1.2 prime, f/1.2, 1/100, ISO-2500, subject distance 785 mm

Wide angle landscapes can be a bit more challenging. Photographers can take multiple images and stitch them together. This is something that many folks do with their 3:2 ratio cameras anyway. I’ve found that when creating landscape images with my E-M1X and its 4:3 image ratio, it makes me think more about incorporating foreground elements. The M4/3 format gives me more composition room to fit them in.

The most famous painting in the world is the Mona Lisa, which was created by Leonardo da Vinci in 1509. The painting has stood the test of time and is revered by many as the greatest masterpiece ever created. It measures 77 cm x 53 cm (30 x 20 7/8”). This is much closer to a 4:3 image ratio than it is to 3:2. The way I figure it, if creating something close to 4:3 worked for Leonardo da Vinci, it’s good enough for me!

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/250, ISO-3200, subject distance 245 mm, Handheld Hi Res Mode

Working with Olympus Menus

Most camera reviewers complained to varying degrees about working with the Olympus menu system. People moaned about how complex and difficult it is to navigate, compared to other cameras. I think the vast majority of these complaints are caused by the familiarity that a reviewer has with the menus in their favourite camera gear. Reviewers seem to have expectations that Olympus should parrot the menus in cameras that they own. This, of course, is an unrealistic expectation.

There’s no doubt that the menu on the E-M1X is quite complex and takes some time with which to acclimatize. The biggest reason for this is the sheer amount of customization that is available to a photographer with the E-M1X. It can be overwhelming if one attempts to do too much, too quickly.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-2500, subject distance 3.7 metres

One of the initial things that I did after I purchased my first E-M1X, was print a hard copy of the 682-page E-M1X Instruction Manual. When printed double sided with 2 pages on each side of a sheet of paper, it is about 17 mm thick (~0.67 inches). I have mine spiral bound and I’ve never felt compelled to read it cover to cover. About once a month I do reference it to get clarification on a particular setting or procedure.

When needing information I most often go to the Olympus Learn Center to look for clarification. I frequently do internet searches for printed articles, or use YouTube. There are all kinds of good and easily accessible information available to help a photographer. This reference material is often produced by Olympus Visionaries who do a very good job with their explanations.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-6400, subject distance 3 metres

The E-M1X does have a My Menu option where a photographer can pre-select specific settings that they use frequently to create a custom menu. At this point I have not had the need to use this feature. By pressing the OK button, or the Super Control LV button on the top left corner of the camera body’s back surface, the super control panel is quickly available. Most common settings can be adjusted there if needed. Folks who like using a touchscreen can program their camera using this capability on the rear screen. I hate using touchscreens and have this turned off on my E-M1X.

Photographers who are new to Olympus should have the same expectations they would have when moving to any new camera system. The menus will be different and it will take some time to learn them. Once you do, you can navigate around quite well. In my experience the reviewer complaints about the Olympus menu system are overblown and petty.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, 1/320, f/7.1, ISO-6400, subject distance 1.9 metres

Increasing Reaction Speed Using C1-C4 Custom Modes

If a photographer wants to react to changing photographic opportunities very quickly they can set up various custom shooting profiles with the four custom modes. These are marked C1 through C4 and are found on the mode dial on the top of the camera.

I recently set these up on one of my E-M1X bodies and have each of the four custom modes set to various settings that I most often use for birds-in-flight. These include:
C1: AF-C with single point AF
C2: AF-C+TR with custom 3×5 auto-focus grid and Airplane Subject Tracking
C3: Pro Capture H with single point at 60 frames-per-second
C4: Pro Capture L with custom 3×5 auto-focus grid at 18 frames-per-second.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 with STF-8 Twin Macro Flash, f/8, 1/250, ISO-200

I’ve only been using these custom settings for a little while so I may change them over time. One thing is very apparent… photographers should definitely use these custom modes if they want to dramatically speed up their reaction time to changing photographic opportunities.

At some point I will be programming my second E-M1X with settings that I typically use for still photography subjects. These will most likely include Handheld Hi Res mode, In-camera focus stacking, Live ND, and perhaps HDR.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 134mm, efov 268mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-400, subject distance 15.65 metres

Auto-Focus Performance

Nothing has changed with my assessment since my 6-month review. The E-M1X has very responsive auto-focusing that works very well in a wide range of lighting conditions. At this point in time the best setting for birds-in-flight is AF-C without tracking.

Experience has taught me that when using the Handheld Hi Res mode or In-Camera Focus Stacking it is very important to position a single auto focus point on a part of the composition that provides high contrast. This really helps the E-M1X’s IBIS system lock down to capture multiple frames before combining them in camera.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 140 mm, efov 280 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-500, subject distance 5.4 metres

The E-M1X utilizes 121 cross type auto focusing points. I expect the auto-focusing performance to improve further as Olympus launches firmware upgrades. One of my biggest hopes is that we will see Birds-in-Flight added to the Subject Tracking capabilities in the future. The three subject tracking modes currently available work extremely well for the intended subjects.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/3.5, 1/200, ISO-10000, image processed from RAW file

Working with E-M1X RAW Files in Post

I use my standard workflow with my E-M1X files in post. I start by applying a custom preset in DxO PhotoLab 2 and use the Spot Weighted Smart Lighting Tool as well as PRIME noise reduction. I then export a DNG file into Photoshop CS6, and finish my images off with the Nik Collection.

Overall, I do far fewer corrections with my E-M1X files than I would when processing Nikon 1 J5 files. This is to be expected given the differences in dynamic range, colour depth and low light performance.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, with 16 mm and 10 mm Kenko extension tubes, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-5000, subject distance 260 mm

For many of my E-M1X RAW files all I do in DxO PhotoLab 2 is use the standard DxO camera/lens defaults, PRIME noise reduction, and the Spot Weighted Smart Lighting tool. Then I export a DNG file into CS6.

I find the RAW files from the E-M1X are predictable, have lots of flexibility and respond well in post. Overall, they are very easy and efficient with which to work.

Weather Sealing, Dust Proofing, and Freeze Proofing

The Olympus OM-D E-M1X has an IPX1 weather sealing rating, is rated to -10 Celsius, and has a Super Sonic Wave Filter for dust reduction. I’m not a ‘techie’ when it comes to camera gear so I’m not well suited to explain how all of this works.

Heavy splashes caused by waves hitting a retaining wall are about to wash over my Olympus OM-D E-M1X and M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2,8 with MC-20 teleconverter

Suffice to say that weather has never held me back from using my E-M1X. My original E-M1X body has never needed the sensor to be cleaned because of dust. I’ve shot in rainy conditions that have caused other photographers with pro gear to pack up and leave. Heavy spray coming from waves hitting the shoreline and covering me and my Olympus gear with water has never deterred me. I view my E-M1X as a go anywhere, photograph anything piece of kit.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, f/10, 1/2, ISO-64, Live ND

Live ND

This is a great feature that can be used without the need to carry filters in your kit. Providing up to 5 stops of neutral density filter effect, Live ND is a feature that I don’t often use, but it is great to know that I have it available whenever I need it. I never have to worry whether I have a set of ND filters with me.

There are some restrictions to keep in mind in terms of the fastest shutter speed available based on the amount of ND effect desired. For example the fastest shutter speed available when using ND32 (i.e. 5 stop effect) is ½ second.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 40 mm, efov 80 mm, f/8, 1/2, ISO-64, Live ND

As is the case with all cameras, photographers simply need to learn how to work within the technical limitations of their gear. I have found Live ND to be easy and effective to use for typical images of waterfalls. Experiments with other types of subjects will follow down the road.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/8, -0.7 step, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 8.1 metres

Working with Pro Capture

This capability is nothing short of incredible, allowing a photographer to confidently and deliberately capture action sequences that were extremely difficult to photograph in the past. Until a photographer actually spends some time shooting with this mode they simply cannot understand what a game changer this is for action photography. There’s no way I can imagine going out to do bird photography without planning to use Pro Capture.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, subject distance 8 metres

The vast majority of my Pro Capture work has been with the H setting, and shooting at 60 frames-per-second. This uses the first frame in an image run to lock focus and exposure for the balance of the photographs. When photographing birds in flight, either taking off or landing, this feature can produce some quite unique and compelling images.

Olympus OM-E E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, subject distance 9.2 metres

The Pro Capture L mode uses continuous auto-focus and I think there are a number of specific situations where this feature can be employed with great effect. For example, tracking a tern while waiting for it to do a mid-air shake.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-6400, Handheld Hi Res Mode, subject distance 715 mm

Working with Handheld Hi Res Mode (HHHR)

For those times when a photographer wants additional resolution, the Olympus Handheld Hi Res Mode provides instant flexibility without the need to lug a tripod around.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/320, ISO-1250, subject distance 245 mm, Handheld Hi Res mode

There are some caveats in terms of choosing very still subject matter and using a shutter speed that is appropriate for the skill level of the photographer. This mode can be used up to ISO-6400. Since the E-M1X captures 16 images, then combines them in post, using HHHR does a very good job dealing with image noise. I have absolutely no hesitation using this feature shooting up to its limit of ISO-6400, and have done this on a very regular basis.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/250, ISO-6400, subject distance 265 mm, Handheld Hi Res Mode

While some people may think about using Handheld Hi Res mode primarily for landscape photography, it is also excellent when used for handheld macro photography, architecture, flowers, stationary animals, and shooting handheld in dark conditions such as museums and other such facilities.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/400, ISO-6400, subject distance 250 mm, Handheld Hi Res Mode

The E-M1X produces a high resolution 50MP ORF RAW file as well as a standard resolution ORI RAW file, plus jpeg, when the Handheld Hi Res mode is used, This gives a photographer a lot of options in post and for future use.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/8, 1/250, ISO-6400, Handheld Hi Res Mode, subject distance 355 mm

The E-M1X also has a Hi Res Tripod mode which produces an 80MP RAW file. During my first year using the E-M1X I’ve never had the need to use this feature. Much of that is likely due to my aversion to tripods.

Olympus OMD-E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/50, ISO-1250, subject distance 610 mm, handheld focus stacking used, out-of-camera jpeg adjusted in post

Handheld In-Camera Focus Stacking

I’ve done some experimenting with this feature and have had some good results with it when doing macro photography. I do find it a bit more challenging to get a good, crisp image with this feature when compared to using the HHHR mode. This is likely more to do with my lack of familiarity with this feature and my relative inexperience using it.

Olympus OMD-E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/3.5, 1/200, ISO-2000, subject distance 245 mm, handheld focus stacking used, out-of-camera jpeg adjusted in post

I’ve also pushed my E-M1X when using this feature, setting it for 15 images to stack in-camera which may be contributing to my success rate. The handheld in-camera focus stacking feature produces a finished jpeg file, as well as giving a photographer all of the frames used to do the in-camera focus stacking.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/250, ISO-1600, subject distance 210 mm, handheld focus stacking used, out-of-camera jpeg adjusted in post

Comfort, Handling and Ergonomics

As noted in my E-M1X 6 Month Review, the handling and ergonomics of the E-M1X are simply wonderful. Buttons and dials are well positioned. They are easy to find and adjust without needing to look away from the viewfinder. I really like the different sizes, heights and textures that Olympus has incorporated with various on-body controls. These differences make it very easy to identify and differentiate controls by touch, in both landscape and portrait orientations.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300mm, efov 600mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-640, subject distance 920mm

Comfort is something that is often overlooked in camera reviews and some photographers don’t give this factor as much consideration as it deserves. For people like me who are often out using their cameras for long periods of time, working with a camera that is comfortable is a critical factor. A body that causes fatigue and discomfort can be very distracting from a creative standpoint. It also reduces overall project efficiency.

I have large hands and from the first moment that I picked up an E-M1X it felt very natural and comfortable to hold. Shooting with this camera for long 8-10 hour days has not ever caused fatigue or pain. When it came time for me to decide on a back-up Olympus camera for my business I very quickly came to the realization that I simply would not have been happy with anything less than a second E-M1X body.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, 1/30, f/8, ISO-2000, subject distance 1.1 metres

The Pursuit of Freedom

As a photographer who has always hated tripods and carrying around more gear than necessary, the Olympus OM-D E-M1X with M.Zuiko lenses is a perfect camera system.

I have a medium sized shoulder bag that allows me to carry an E-M1X body M.Zuiko PRO 7-14 mm f/2.8, M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8, M.Zuiko Pro 40-150 mm f/2.8, M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter, Kenko extension tubes, 2 extra batteries, 4 extra UHS-II SD cards, cleaning solution and cloth, blower, and two battery chargers.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-1250

All of the gear, including the camera bag, weighs about 5.8 KG (~12.8 lbs.). My Olympus kit allows me to shoot natively from 7mm to 150mm at f/2.8 (efov 14mm to 300mm). Using the MC-20 teleconverter extends my range to 300mm at f/5.6 (efov 600mm). Plus I have macro and extension tube capability.

Although it isn’t included in my regular Olympus kit bag, I also have an M.Zuiko PRO 45mm f/1.2 prime. This extends my overall photographic capability further and is ideal for portraits.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO-200, FL-700WR flash used, subject distance 1.5 metres

Other than the extension tubes, my entire Olympus kit, including my STF-8 Twin Macro Flash, FL-700WR Flash and FC-WR Wireless Flash Commander are all weather sealed to same standard as my E-M1X and M.Zuiko lenses. This adds additional flexibility and all weather capability.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-400, subject distance 750 mm


One year later, the Olympus OM-D E-M1X continues to impress with its professional build, flexibility, IBIS performance, image quality, comfort and handling, as well as its unique image capturing technologies. It isn’t a camera that will appeal to everyone. For photographers who want a professional, double gripped camera that has real-life go anywhere, shoot anything capability, as part of a relatively small, lightweight, and cost affordable system, the E-M1X has a unique place in the camera market. It is an outstanding fit for my specific photographic needs.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/2.8, 1/250, ISO-200, handheld focus stacking used, subject distance 275 mm, out-of-camera jpeg

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Most images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Some of the photographs displayed are jpegs produced in camera.

Olympus OMD-E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/2.8, 1/50, ISO-500, subject distance 300 mm, handheld focus stacking used, out-of-camera jpeg adjusted in post

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29 thoughts on “E-M1X Twelve Month Review”

  1. Hi Tom,

    Assuming you still actively use the E-M1X, I’d enjoy reading any comments you might offer on the effects, good or bad, that the Olympus bird tracking feature has had on your photography.


    1. Hi Allen,

      I not only still actively use the E-M1X… I bought a second one in late 2019 as a back-up camera for our client video business. The E-M1X is the finest camera that I have ever owned, regardless of sensor size (I’ve used full frame, APS-C, M4/3, 1″, and smaller sensor cameras). For my needs, the E-M1X is a perfect fit.

      The menu on this website has a section for Bird Detection AI: https://smallsensorphotography.com/category/bird-detection-ai. If you spend some time in that section you’ll find a good selection of images captured with this technology.

      I cannot imagine going out to photograph birds and not using Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking. The only time that I do not use it is when I use Pro Capture H… a setting where Bird Detection AI is not available. It did take some time and patience to familiarize myself with using Bird Detection AI. I have two of my Custom Modes (C1 and C4) on one of my E-M1X’s set up to use Bird Detection AI. My favourite bird-in-flight setting is using Bird Detection AI in combination with Pro Capture L.


  2. Hi,
    great article and photos!
    It fills me with hope about m43 platform.
    I have rediscovered m43 cameras and lenses recently. I purchased some new m43 gears (Panny and Oly) but unfortunatelly after few weeks after my serious investments I read the Olympus news about out of camera business. Regardless of Olympus decision I’m still thinking to buy
    more m43 gear because the system IMO have best weight/quality ratio.

    1. Hi Rafal,

      Thanks for your comment about the article and photos! While the Imaging Division is potentially moving over to JIP and a new corporate structure, it is not closing. So, I’m optimistic that Olympus cameras and lenses will be around for many years to come.


  3. Tom, Great article! I have had the X for a year (normally fitted with the 300) and a 1 Mk2. I have some great shots, thanks to the portability and anti-vibration (70 and several mini-strokes). Love the X haptics. However, I am having difficulties with the menu structures. To me they seem written more from a software engineer than a photographer perspective, and I have advanced experience in both as a professor and lecturer before age and health issues. My problem, I know , but difficult to overcome; I keep meaning to create a few flash cards but then forget 😉

    1. Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the positive comment about the article… glad you enjoyed it!

      I’ve never really thought about the developer orientation of the Olympus menu. My focus has been on trying to memorize where to find the settings that I typically use.

      During the COVID-19 restrictions I have been doing some ‘blind practice’ with the external controls on my E-M1X which has worked very well. A practice session usually lasts about 15 minutes or so. I sit with my E-M1X on my lap and begin with everything set to my typical Manual settings. I then close my eyes and come up with a scenario in my mind.

      For example, I might imagine that I see a small bird that I want to photograph using Pro Capture H. To do that I know I need to move the function dial 4 clicks counter clockwise and my shutter speed dial three clicks to the right (I have the shutter speed in all of my C1-C4 modes set to 1/1600). These simple movements would allow me to quickly have my E-M1X set to Pro Capture H at 60 fps with my standard 15/15 Pre-Shutter and Frame Count Limiter settings, f/5.6, and 1/3200, with Auto ISO. I practice finding the external controls by touch only, and making adjustments without looking at my camera. Then, I open my eyes to check if I got it right. I reset everything back to my typical Manual settings, then try a new scenario. I do this repeatedly so I can build my muscle memory.

      I also practice moving my focus point blindly, then checking to see if it is where I want it to be. Using the small bird/Pro Capture H mode scenario again, I might imagine that the bird will be taking flight from left to right. Then I practice clicking my joy stick four times to the left to have my focus point exactly where I need it for that kind of photographic opportunity. If I anticipate that the bird may be flying upward (like a robin taking flight from the ground) I would use three clicks to the left, then two clicks down, to set my focus point. Imagining a particular photographic opportunity in my mind, then using touch only to change settings on my camera has helped me better remember what I need to do to respond to a particular opportunity.

      I have found that setting up my C1-C4 custom settings has really helped with the speed and functionality when making -on-the-fly’ changes with my bird photography 🙂 I’ve found the ‘blind practice’ sessions to be very beneficial. Its at the point now that I can look at a bird and immediately know if I want to photograph it in Manual mode, or with one of my custom C1-C4 settings, and adjust my mode dial, shutter speed, and AF point without needing to look at my camera. This has resulted in far fewer missed opportunities.

      If you haven’t set up the C1-C4 modes yet, doing so could be very helpful for you, as well as setting up My Menu.


      1. Tom, what a brilliantly helpful way to ‘lock in’ memory! Thanks, so much – I’ll try and emulate. The multiple ‘vascular insults’ (interesting term – and I thought I had been insulted by experts :-)), from my mini-strokes caused comparatively poor memory. However, your tip might well be the answer. I am walking well and love the X/300 combo – what a weight saving compared to my D750 and Sigma Sport 150-600, plus tripod. Love the idea of the new Olympus super-Tele zoom but suspect my wife might initiate further brain-bashing 🙂

        1. Hi Bob,

          I was finding it difficult to switch from Pro Capture H back into AF-C and respond quickly enough to capture rapidly changing birding opportunities. Having the four C1-C4 custom modes all set for variations of my birding configurations is really quick. Being able to switch settings without having to look at my camera allows me to get my gear ready as I’m approaching a bird.


  4. Very nicely written article, my only real comment would be careful doing IQ comparisons between cameras using just Bill Claff’s data from phototophotons. The way his data is plotted uses the ISO value as stated by the camera at face value which makes the Olympus cameras look like they perform better than they actually do. There’s every bit of 2 stops of performance difference between the E-M1X and most modern FF cameras at high ISO and low ISO performance as well except some of the older Canon FF cameras, the new architecture introduced in the 1DXiii has eliminated that gap that still existed.

    1. it is not the intention of MFT to compete with FF on pixel level, as physics prevents this …
      it the universal usability, my friend !

  5. Thanks for a thoughtful, well written perspective that accurately represents what I’m coming to learn about the E-M1X.

    As a Canon FF shooter from the 1Ds days to present, and with just a handful of days in the Olympus system I’m excited for the possibilities of learning these tools and making them work like second nature. They have the ergonomics and the capability, that much is clear in spades.

  6. Hello Tom,

    This is a fantastic article, and I’m glad you were so thorough! In emails I sent you a few months ago, I told you I would sell all of my Nikon full-frame gear, D850, and my D500. I’ve not regretted selling it at all. Thanks for your recommendations and being objective about it.

    I bought a new M1X, and a EM1-M3. I mostly regret buying the M3 because after getting used to using the M1X I got used to the placement of all the buttons, switches, and wheels. My hands are just not big gorilla mitts, yet I still prefer the M1X switchology. Everything is just in the right place, whereas the M3 switchology is just crammed together, and is not as easy to “feel” for the buttons as on the M1X. I’m a retired fighter pilot, and cockpit ergonomics was severely tested, and the best results baked into the fighter’s hand-eye interface. I’m about 80% sure that I’m going to sell the M3 and buy another M1X. Starry Sky is about the only feature that the M1X doesn’t have, and that’s not really anything important to me. I use the 100mm f/4 Pro on the M3 and it feels front heavy, and not on the M1X. The v9 of the processor doesn’t make any difference to me either. When a successor to the M1X is released (if ever) I’ll buy that too. But for now I’m probably going to sell the M3 and find another M1X.

    By the way, I’m selling my three Nikon 1 v3’s, two v2’s, and Nikon 1 v1. I have three 70-300 CX’s, four N1 32mm f/1.2, and four 6.7-13mm CX wide angle lenses and 5 10-100mm CX’s, three FT3’s, and one new J5 and one only used a few times. I want to thank you for helping me make my decisions about the Olympus system, and the Nikon 1 systems.

    As a dedicated Nikon 1 system user, are there any you’d recommend I keep?


    1. Hi Michael,

      I’m glad that our email exchanges were helpful for you. I do my best to provide objective answers to questions posed by readers.

      It sounds like you made a good decision in terms of your specific needs with camera gear. Changing brands as well as camera formats is a major decision and I’m very glad that it has worked out for you.

      In terms of your Nikon 1 gear, I really can’t provide counsel on what you should keep or sell as this is a very personal decision. It really comes down to which items in your Nikon 1 kit that you enjoy using the most and which gear may make sense to keep for the future.

      Here are some of my earlier articles that may be helpful for you:

      Of these three articles the ‘creating a camera buying decision matrix’ may prove the most beneficial if you adapt this analytic approach into a camera gear selling matrix.


      1. Ok, I looked at the articles, and maybe I’ll burn my ships and just all the Nikon 1 gear. I like how small it is, but maybe it is just time to say goodbye to my old Nikon 1 friends. The Olympus gear is for now, challenging, yet photography for me is fun again! Today I did buy the second M1X and will most likely sell my new EM1-M3. Thanks for your help!

        1. Hi Michael,

          I find it interesting that when my wife and I were contemplating what to do with our Nikon 1 gear it also came down to an ‘all or nothing’ decision. Regardless of what each of us decides, just making the decision feels good as it brings clarity.

          Your ‘photography for me is fun again’ comment resonated with me. I’ve found that my Olympus gear provides so many new and different ways to create images that it makes my creative juices flow in a ‘fun again’ way. While I still enjoy my Nikon 1 kit, shooting with the E-M1X provides a limitless photography experience. When I’m out with my E-M1X I have a feeling of absolute confidence that I have never felt with any other camera before. It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing or what the subject matter happens to be, I know I’ll be able to ‘get my shot’. As you know, this creates an incredible feeling of creative freedom.

          When I was first investigating Olympus gear I chatted about the E-M1X with an ‘early adopter’ of this camera. I had the chance to hold it and examine it firsthand. He warned me that if I used the E-M1X for any length of time, even for just a day or two, that I would become hooked on the camera. He was absolutely right!

          It doesn’t surprise me that you bought a second E-M1X and are considering selling the E-M1 Mark III. You are experiencing the same thing that I do in terms of the comfort, ergonomics and handling of the E-M1X. The main reason that I discussed these issues in my E-M1X Twelve Month Review article was to draw attention to how critically important they can be.


  7. Enjoyed the reading of your enthusiasm for your gear which I think is important to have tools of confidence. I feel similar about my Fujifilm equipment (XT2, X100F) while I still have my Nikon 800E which I have a strange emotional attachment to along with a few primes to boot. The main reasons I switched is age and a bit of arthritis in the hands/wrists. I think Fujfilm and OLYMPUS have found their niche along with large bodies of fans. Hopefully they both will continue producing quality and user friendly equipment along with listening to their customers.

    1. Thanks for adding to the discussion Hubert!

      I’ve never used Fujifilm gear but I know a number of photographers that own that brand and really enjoy using it.


  8. Tom,

    I appreciate your real life comments more than the hype usually generated by the professional reviewers. Testing for a week or so does not give one a very in-depth insight on what the camera can do, how it will fare weeks and months down the road, etc. The “full frame is always better” mantra is tiring to hear.

    At this point in time, it would be interesting how photography will pan out. Sales of gear was already declining before the pandemic, along with diminishing income for photographers who derive part or full income from photography. The full frame story (also the MF and smaller MF) was being bandied about to create differentiation in a market saturated by users who take pictures through their smartphones. Now, it would have to change/evolve. With so many people in the US claiming unemployment benefits, perhaps the budget for extras like entry-/enthusiast-level bodies and lenses will be affected or altogether eliminated. Interesting times, indeed.

    Anyway, one good thing that may come out of this is that perhaps, we can learn to enjoy a good image, regardless of the camera used to take it.


    1. Thanks for adding to the discussion Oggie!

      I really related to the last portion of your comment… “…perhaps, we can learn to enjoy a good image, regardless of the camera used to take it.” The images we create is where the rubber meets the road with photography… the tool that is used to accomplish that is secondary.

      Where the camera market is going (other than down) has no doubt be the focus of market research being done by camera manufacturers.

      If I put my old corporate marketing hat back on, it appears to me that all of the labels that have been put on various buyers are quite old and out of date. Underlying all of these labels (e.g. entry level, enthusiast etc.) is segmentation based on dollars spent on products.

      Going forward I think the camera makers that will survive will need to adopt a much more user-centric approach to their product development and marketing. In the future it may be a much better strategy to develop products around the types of subject matter that people photograph… with emphasis on subjects that cannot easily be photographed with cellphones. Action photography like sports, aircraft, birds-in-flight jump immediately to mind. Social media focussed subject matter like general people shots, basic travel captures, selfies and the lot do not strike me as fertile ground for camera makers.

      It’s interesting that when I was contemplating buying my Olympus gear I had two levels of buying criteria. The first was immediate and near term business needs. The second was thinking about how I would be using cameras after I was no longer doing client work.

      I am anticipating that my current Olympus kit (plus one potential additional M.Zuiko lens that I still may purchase, if and when it is launched) along with my Nikon 1 collection of gear will meet my needs for as long as I’m still alive. So, other than one potential additional lens purchase I will likely never be in the camera market again as a consumer. So, after about 46 years as a camera consumer I will be exiting the market as an active buyer. This demonstrates that while older photographers are currently a key target market… even that segment will erode over time.

      For camera manufacturers the most important thing going forward will be psychographic marketing, i.e. understanding the attitudes that are present with buyers and marketing to attitudes… not based on products. They will need to understand from an attitudinal basis, why some people prefer to capture images with a camera, rather than a cellphone. All product development and marketing will be driven by those attitudes.

      Back in my commercial trucking days we created some research based, customized psychographic segmentation for truck buyers in Canada. All of our advertising and promotions were attitudinally focused, not product or application focused. During my time in the commercial trucking business I worked for two different truck manufacturing companies, both for roughly seven years each. In both cases I used psychographic segmentation with our marketing programs. The first company increased market share from 9.5% to 15%. The next company where I applied this technique was able to increase market share from 16.5% to 27.4%. In both cases average gross margins also increased over time.

      If camera manufacturers are to have any success bringing new people into the camera market it won’t be by flogging larger sensor cameras. It will happen when they understand the attitudes that are associated with understanding why people choose a camera over a cell phone to capture images.


      1. Tom,

        I find it, for lack of a better word at the moment, serendipitous, that you mention that your current Olympus setup may be the one you’d use for the rest of your life, as I was thinking along the same lines when I upgraded my Sony A6xxx and the thought crossed my mind.

        I worked in advertising and marketing for most of my working life and that makes me understand the segmentation for cameras. I agree with you, though, that that would have to change. The market for entry level cameras looked wiped out by the pandemic, if not the smartphones (case in point: Apple just released a $399 upgrade of the iconic iPhone SE).

        I also had this thought for a while now: why not a modular camera that grows with the user? Maybe, it was not a strong contender for pulling in profits for the camera makers but a camera with a longer shelf life (customizable, upgradable with store-brought components/software updates, etc.) may merit the times we live in now (less of products with shorter planned obsolescence cycles). Anyway, just a thought 😀 I seem to forget if a small manufacturer was toying with that idea (or was it Sigma?) where you buy a basic body, then if you need flash, buy a speedlight component and plug-in to the main body, etc.


        1. Interesting thoughts Oggie… all of this will unfold over the next year or two. Sometimes I wonder if cameras will end up as museum pieces sometime in the future.


    1. Hi Ed,

      I briefly considered the E-M1 Mark II and the E-M5 Mark III. The newest version of the E-M1 was not available at the time of my second E-M1X purchase.

      I have large hands and when using the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 f/2.8 with the E-M1 Mark II, the camera quickly caused cramps in my right forearm so I ruled it out back in May 2019. I would have ruled out the E-M1 Mark III for the same reason. The E-M5 Mark III did not have the frame rates that I wanted as well as various ergonomic factors.

      I thought about the E-M1 Mark II or E-M5 Mark III as back-up cameras that I could use with only the smaller and lighter M.Zuiko PRO zooms, but this struck me as too much of a compromise to save a bit of money. Adding grips to either camera would not give me the same handling and ergonomics as the E-M1X so I also ruled those options out. Since I look at my investment in Olympus gear from a longer term business perspective, adding a second E-M1X, even though it costs more, made the most sense for me. As I mentioned in the article, comfort is a critical purchase criteria.

      I think for most people the E-M1 Mark III would provide a great balance of size and performance. It would be an excellent choice for photographers who want some of the technology from the E-M1X but in a smaller package.


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