Andy Westlake investigates Olympus’s innovative new flagship camera: a pro-focused, rapid-shooting Micro Four Thirds powerhouse
Olympus OM-D E-M1X: Features
The E-M1X is based around a 20.4MP Four Thirds sensor which, at approximately 17.4 x 13mm, is roughly half the area of APS-C, and a quarter that of full frame. It offers a standard sensitivity range of ISO 200-25,600, extendable down to ISO 64 at the risk of clipped highlights. Two TruePic VIII processors provide the necessary horsepower for its remarkable speed, along with many of its other special features.
Continuous shooting is available at 15 frames per second with focus fixed at the start of a burst, or at 10fps with continuous AF, with a 287-frame raw buffer. Switch to the silent electronic shutter and this increases to 60fps with fixed focus or 18fps with focus tracking, but at the risk of image distortion due to rolling shutter artefacts. For unpredictable subjects where timing is everything, Olympus’s Pro Capture mode can record up to 35 frames at 60 fps before the shutter button is fully depressed, in effect meaning you can capture shots before you’d normally have time to react.
Shutter speeds range from 60sec to 1/8000sec using the mechanical shutter, extending to an ultra-fast 1/32,000sec with the electronic shutter. There’s also an electronic first curtain shutter mode that eliminates any chance of image blur due to shutter shock. The mechanical shutter is rated for 400,000 actuations, and is exceptionally quiet; the electronic shutter is completely silent.
Autofocus employs on-chip phase detection, with 121 cross-type focus points. This may not match the sheer number of AF points on recent mirrorless cameras, such as the 493 used by the high-speed Sony Alpha 9, but it still means you can focus practically anywhere across the image area. You can utilise groups of 5, 9 or 25 points, and even define custom AF-area patterns to suit your own needs. Both face and eye-detection are available, too.
Alongside the usual pattern and centre-weighted metering modes, there’s a choice of spot, shadow spot, and highlight spot modes, any of which can be linked to the focus area. The latter can be particularly useful in high-contrast situations to avoid losing highlight detail.
The E-M1X gains an uprated version of the firm’s already industry-leading 5-axis in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) system. Thanks to a new gyrosensor, Olympus is claiming an incredible 7.5 stops of stabilisation when the camera is used with an optically stabilised Zuiko lens such as the 12-100mm f/4 IS, with the body and lens working together to give ‘Sync IS’. Unfortunately this doesn’t work with Panasonic OIS lenses; instead you have to choose between in-lens and in-body systems.
Olympus was one of the first to introduce a high-resolution multi-shot mode, but until now it’s been strictly tripod-based. On the E-M1X the firm has debuted a version for hand-held shooting, which outputs 40MP JPEGs. Unlike the tripod mode, which uses the IBIS system to sample the image with increased accuracy, it’s based around the concept of ‘super resolution’, with the inevitable slight differences between up to 16 hand-held frames exploited to construct a 40MP image.
Olympus’s long-exposure Live Time and Live Bulb modes remove the guesswork for shooting long exposures by displaying the image as it builds up, while Live Composite is a clever way of extending light trail shots beyond what would normally be possible. New on the E-M1X is Live ND, which allows the shooting of long exposures just like using a neutral density filter (for more about this, see later in this review).
There’s a whole stash of additional features on board too, including a vast array of bracketing options; high-dynamic range shooting; in-camera keystone correction for removing unwanted converging verticals, and a comprehensive intervalometer.
Files are recorded to dual high-speed UHS-II SD card slots, which can be configured in practically any fashion required. It’s possible to use them sequentially or simultaneously, and choose which file types to record to each. There’s even a button for switching between cards, which is especially handy for playback. The two BLH-1 batteries combine to give a CIPA-rated life of 2850 shots between charges. They can be re-charged via the camera’s USB-C port, and a pair of external chargers is also provided. The camera can also be powered over USB.
The E-M1X can record video in Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) resolution at 30fps, with a new OM-Log400 profile available to produce footage that’s suitable for colour grading in post-production. It’s even possible to set different levels of image stabilisation for hand-held recording. A specially engineered heat pipe is designed to prevent over-heating problems during recording.
There’s a standard 3.5mm stereo microphone input, which is set high enough on the camera’s shoulder not to interfere with the movement of the articulated screen. Below it is a headphone socket, but this does partially block the screen’s rotation. The HDMI and USB-C connectors sit below, under a shared cover.
Across the other side you’ll find a 2.5mm electronic release socket, cross compatible with those used by Canon, Pentax and Fujifilm. Olympus has even built in set of field sensors, as used by its Tough cameras, comprising a GPS unit, thermometer, manometer and compass. These can record the camera’s longitude, latitude, elevation, temperature and shooting direction into the EXIF data.
Smartphone connectivity is provided by built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This lets you use your phone as either a simple Bluetooth remote shutter release, or as a comprehensive remote control over Wi-Fi, including full access to exposure settings and a live view display. You can also copy your favourite images across to your phone for sharing. Olympus says a new version of its OI Share mobile app will support raw file transfer, while new Olympus Capture software enables Wi-Fi tethered shooting from a computer.