E-M1X first in-hand impressions

Well I finally got my hands on an E-M1X. I was able to attend one of Olympus’ launch events for the camera and I wanted to share my initial thoughts.

Size
Let’s just get right to it… this is NOT a big camera. I might be the only person in the world saying this. A Phase One XF is a BIG camera. An Alpa Max is a big camera. This is not. The first time I picked up the E-M1X my first thought was… really? This is what all the fuss is about? Trust me, it is an E-M1.2 with a grip. Literally. The small variation is negligible in the real world. The grip is slightly large and more ergonomic. That gives the impression of size…but the rest of the camera feels no different. It is REALLY not that big. And it is really not that heavy. It doesn’t feel dense. It feels balanced, distributed, and bizarrely comfortable. It feels right. The buttons have been moved and spaced out better, and sized to feel really good. Olympus also added some texture to key buttons so you can feel which is which without looking. That really works. Yes the camera is the biggest m4/3 camera yet…but I am certain most people will be nicely surprised that it is NOT anywhere close to a 1DX for instance.

Viewfinder
The viewfinder is excellent. Comfortable, and smoother feeling then even the E-M1.2. I think Olympus made the right choice with a progressive and lag free view that has high magnification and good relief. It feels like an optical view most of the time. It honestly does. I know I can trust what I’m seeing. That’s how the E-M1.2 was, and this just expands upon it. Not sure why people are so critical on this one. In the real world what more do you want than a true representation that can keep up, not lag, show great color, and not black out?

High Resolution
I don’t know what sort of magic Olympus has done behind the scenes…but something is VERY different here. Dpreview found it good, but just like the E-M1.1. I did not. Sharpness and overall “tightness” of the file seems very much improved. The file shot on a tripod looked much better. JPG and RAW actually looked much more similar. The raw file seems far superior to the E-M1.1. Lightroom does not yet support the files, so I had to use Olympus’ software. I don’t want to post any files yet, I want to wait and do a lot more testing. Bottom line, is I am in disbelief looking at the files. I am also in disbelief of the High-Res handheld. Are they really that improved? I think so…but we’ll find out for sure soon…

High res handheld works. And oh my gosh does it ever. I was VERY skeptical. I will say, large motion artifacts do look really bad. (think panning) Tripod mode motion looks much better. However, in most scenes with just slight motion hand motion, hand held high res is solid. It works and it looks good. And it was rather sharp too. On still subjects, the results were actually comparable to a tripod. I’m very surprised. Here is the big one though…

High ISO
This camera is supposed to be the same sensor…but high ISO looked better. ISO 3200 – 6400 looked much cleaner to me. I will not say it is improved yet, because I need to do some much more in depth testing…but from my files so far…it looks cleaner to my eyes. And actually… high res handheld mode can shoot up to 6400 ISO as opposed to the tripod mode 1600 limit. And guess what… at 6400 the file is insanely clean. Like…really clean. So clean I don’t believe it at all. I thought it was just the camera screen…but now on my computer I don’t believe it either. I won’t post shots yet…because I want to validate this with a solid over the counter production model and do serious tests in controlled conditions. But if this is so…… DAAAAAAAAAMMMMNNNN!!!!!!!
Regardless…I think people will be pleasantly surprised in real world use.

Live ND Mode
Well this was a pleasant surprise. It does work…and it actually looks good. In fact…intentional motion blur looked VERY good. As in people motion, zoom motion, forced motion, etc… Forget just water, I think this will open up a whole world of creativity considering you won’t need a filter on your lens and can stay within the aperture and ISO you want. I can’t wait to spend time with this one…

I love that Bulb mode is on the dial. You can just dive into any of the bulb modes immediately from that.

I love that bracketing has it’s own button. And it is an On/Off button pretty much. Just like programming an HDR button. Basically that means if you shoot macro, you can just turn on and off focus stacking with an external button that doesn’t force you to use a custom button. So efficient.

I love the custom menu banks.

I love the placement of the buttons. They all just are in the perfect spot. A photographer obviously hand input on this.

I love the ergonomics. Apparently they had people from their medical division give feedback in ergonomics of the hand and what really works. Regardless, the handheld feel is vastly better than a lot of other cameras.

I love that the rear button focus is placed PERFECTLY. Finally.

Wifi tethering! I didn’t get a chance to try this first hand…but apparently you do not need a router or a network. This goes direct 5ghz connect to your laptop. No cables mean no liability when a client trips. So I cannot wait to work with this further.

The joystick is SMOOOOOTH as butter. Great feel and focus points can be selected much easier than the D-pad.

I have nothing to comment on the autofocus. I didn’t bother playing with it. Sure it seemed lightning fast. I’m a tripod and manual focus kinda guy though, so I focused on what matter most to me. I had very limited time. I dove through the custom menus and examined the features that make a difference to my work. I’ll play with autofocus later. Olympus reps did say that the phase cross points work exactly the same in video as still modes with tracking too… can’t wait to see…

So here is the million dollar questions…is the camera worth it? Well, I will be honest and transparent. I don’t like gripped cameras generally and I certainly didn’t want to like this camera. I prefer small cameras too. However, I bought one. With my own money. Nothing special, perks. I bought one. It arrives at the end of this month.

I am a working professional. My ability to create images is what puts food on my table. I want a camera that is invisible in my hands, works without guessing, performs what I want instantly, and is reliable. I want reliable tethered connections. I want reliable data writing. I want quick access to the features that I use. This camera does all that. And it does it better than any other m43 camera out there. However, on top of that Olympus adds all this technology to actually improve and facilitate image making. And I recognize it immediately. This camera will make the work that I am paid to produce easier to make. There are features that will reduce my liability on set, and make for a better working environment. That alone sold me on the price. Is it for everyone…? Maybe not. Same reason not everyone buys the Canon 1DX. They sell boat loads more of the 5D series. Why? Not everyone needs the the indestructible workhorse. The E-M1 is no less capable. In fact I am still keeping my E-M1.2 as well. They will work great side by side.

I really want to say don’t judge a book by its cover, or by the posted specs. If you are open, you would be surprised to find how functionally better this camera is compared to other 20 – 24mp cameras. I will be doing some serious testing and review of this camera when it arrives. Real world review. There are some very specific items I was quite critical of, and voiced that to the reps as well. There are some items that need some attention, but overall they are niche items. I will leave any of that for my actual review. However, if I am correct from what I got a small taste of…Olympus has some serious cards up their sleeve. And people can scream all they want about the sensor being smaller…but if I’m correct in my assumptions…we have a lot of big things to see. Yes it is a niche camera. Most photographers are not full-time professionals. However, the working pros I think will take notice. And don’t worry…there is a smaller camera coming. Of course there is. Olympus didn’t make a big camera to try and sell higher prices just because… they made a proof of concept, a halo product. This is the 911 Turbo S. It comes with a price. I can’t wait to see what ends up in the rest of the lineup.

In the mean time, I found two reviews on line that are excellent. Imaging Resource had some interesting tech talk about the design features. Very cool stuff. And then Chris Eyre-Walker’s video from about 10 minutes forward shows the camera in some CRAZY real world scenarios. I mean caked in mud and sandstorms crazy. Sandstorm??? Uncovered? You need to check those out! More to come…

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2 responses on "E-M1X first in-hand impressions"

  1. I’m happy to see your positive comments and it sounds like a great camera. However, while its size might not be much more than the EM-1, the weight is almost twice as much (2.19 vs 1.26 lbs with battery in each). For some of us with less than fully functional hands/wrists due to arthritis or other problems, that weight difference is just too much. That’s why we moved to M43 in the first place.

    • Absolutely. I’m always on a tripod so the benefits outweighed the size. However I know a lot of people that share your sentiment exactly. I think we are going to see a powerhouse small body below the e-m1 this year. That with the coming 12-200 lens will offer a lot of people quite a small package that covers a lot of ground. I really think the pen f and 5 line might get consolidated into one amazing midrange body. We’ll see… but I bet by The end of the year Olympus will make a lot of people happy.

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