The New Olympus OM-D EM1X: One Feature that Nobody Wants?

Earlier this month, rumors emerged regarding the forthcoming offering from Olympus: the EM1X, due to be announced in January. No-one was expecting it to have one feature that makes it unique and yet no one wants.

In his inimitable deadpan style, Camera Conspiracies (aka Vegetable Police, aka Canadian War God, aka Kasey) offers his thoughts on the apparent prospect of the EM1X’s built-in battery grip. Given how much video and hybrid shooters enjoy having the option of throwing cameras onto gimbals and cranes, one has to wonder why Olympus would choose to add the significant additional weight of extra battery power given that most manufacturers deal with this problem by making a battery grip an optional extra. 

Sure, the Nikon D5 and the Canon 1D X Mark II both have built-in battery grips, but these are big, expensive full frame, top-of-the-line cameras, not micro four-thirds, where size and weight is typically a huge advantage. If the rumors are to be believed, the new Olympus will measure 144 x 147 x 75 mm, just shy of the 1D X’s 158 x 168 x 83 mm. For micro four-thirds, that is huge.

As Camera Conspiracies points out, Olympus is known for creating cameras that offer solid video features with great stabilization. Is this sports and wildlife shooter (18 fps) going to keep that tradition, and how bizarre would it be to have such a huge body with a flip-out screen?

From what we’ve seen, this is not a concern for Olympus, which seems more interested in taking on Canon, Nikon, and increasingly Sony in the world of professional sports photography. A full-frame setup such as a 1D X or a D5 with a 400mm lens is a serious investment, both financially and in terms of the small car that you’ll need to carry it around. In the world of micro four-thirds, such a lens would be significantly lighter, making pro sports photography both more affordable and significantly kinder to your lower back, without a massive compromise in image quality.

However, with all of that said, how many truly fast, super telephoto lens are available to micro four-thirds shooters? The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO is a solid option but offers a reach that is the equivalent of only 300mm in 35mm terms at its longest. Even Olympus seems unsure, allegedly cancelling the development of their 400 mm f/4 a few months ago.

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Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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and who will buy rumored 3000$ m43 camera ?

Olympus needs some growth for their m43
and they make it (on their camera body size).. super!

A lot of Olympus users are on the defensive about this. Fanboy-ism for sure. They're all nuts. So is Olympus. Unless it comes out with an organic sensor, there's no way in hell it will be able to compete with APS-C, never mind FF. I love my Olympus E-M10 Mk II and Panasonic GM5 because they both live up to the promise of M4/3, great photographic performance at miniscule sizes. Olympus better pull one hell of a rabbit out of their hat with this M4/3 monstrosity.

It would still be small for a sports kit. I think that it won't be great for low-light sports like Basketball, but for outdoor sports, it might be a good option for those that either physically cannot or simply do not want to carry around a heavier kit to shoot sports.

M43 sensors are fine in terms of their resolution and ISO performance for most uses so I think it's all going to come down to the AF performance and availability of suitable lenses for sports photography.

A ton of sports are low light so you're effectively losing half if not more of the usability for what, a few grams here and there?!?! Plus if they're targeting sports it's going to be on a monopod most of the time anyway.
Really confused as to what they're doing here.

On a professional level, yes. I can see many people that might only be interested in shooting a particular sport, though.

Maybe you are a parent whose kid plays baseball. Maybe you're a soccer fan and the stadium has some restrictions regarding the size of camera gear you can bring in. I'm not sure that able bodied professionals will buy these, but I can definitely see a market. The only question is whether that market is big enough and whether they can grab enough market share to make this all worth it.

If this ... this ... thing! ... retails for $3k as rumored then only the 1%’ers are going buy it. Assuming they are even in interested in photography, that’s a really small target audience.

What professional, or even average photo enthusiast in their right mind is going to invest in gear costing this much with limited production capability? Unless Olympus has developed a sensor that can compete head to head with an FF sensor (I'm not holding my breath on that), only the most diehard Olympus fanboy is going to be shystered into buying this thing.

No plans to purchase a matter how big or small their sensor is. Enjoyed listening to him though.

Wait, he just pimped his book "Monkey Strength" half way through.

Also: dfuk did I just watch?

As odd as it may seem, vloggers need to get over the fact that most cameras are designed with photographers in mind, video is a bonus feature. Cameras are being ruined with crappy articulating screens and emphasis on 4k video features that stills photographers don't want, and the whiney vlogger is still never satisfied. This is clearly aimed at the sports and wildlife PHOTOGRAPHER. Don't like it, don't buy it. I didn't ask for full frame mirror less video cameras, so guess what? I didn't buy an Eos R or Nikon Z, they're not worth the asking IMO. not with those ridiculous over sized over expensive lenses.

I'm a stills photographer and I happen to like my articulating screen. Saved me a lot of back and knee aches.

The article misses a huge point here. If you want a pro sports kit with up to 300mm 2.8, with Olympus it is a EM1 mkii body and single 40-150 pro lens, currently costing around £2,500. Canon 1dx plus 70-200 2,8L and 300mm 2.8L is over £13,000 and huge. Nikon is also over £13,000 and Sony the same. If you throw in the 600mm f4 equivalent then Olympus is a small bag 2 lens option at £4,500 whilst Canon, Nikon and Sony are in excess of £20,000 and you couldn't easily take those systems out with you. Olympus should be applauded for giving people an affordable carryable professional system when nobody else currently wants to.

Except at the same f stop, the 35mm frame cameras will have gathered 2x the light overall. A 150mm 1.4 is required for ISO equivalency with the Micro4/3 body.

Yeah, and the equivalent 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 FF lens is the same price and less weight as the Oly 40-150 f2.8.
Only cool thing about m43 and sports is the insane fps...

For Fstoppers, here are some basics regarding light and aperture.Regardless of the size of the imaging area, unless you compare M43 to large format (4X5), light gathering at a given F stop remains the same. F2.8 on M43 gathers the same amount of light as F2.8 on FF. It is the DOF that changes, and depending upon the subject matter, unless it's about portrait or wedding photography, where isolation of the subject is often important, the greater DOF of M43 can actually be an advantage over FF. No more missed shots because the DOF was too shallow. For sports,if you are using long lenses, there is very little need for greater DOF, because it is already inherently shallow in long lenses. As to catching fast moving objects, like in AF for sports, that's more of a software (firmware) issue. Although I do not own one, as I understand it the EM1 MK2 mostly resolved this problem.

No, M34 gathers 3,8 times less light (or photons, if you will) than FF with similar exposure values and hence has a 3,8 times worse SNR. It also doesn't have a bigger DOF than a full frame system if you buy an equivalent (cheap) lens or stop down 2 stops.

I own an em1 mk2 and can assure you, the phase detect AF does not work properly because the lenses support a contrast based focusing system.

Matthias, I think you need to research your facts a bit better. I exclusively shoot E-M1 mkii's for professional sports and action and the phase detection works perfectly day in, day out. How on earth do you think anyone produces a lens that only supports contrast based focussing?

Gregory is absolutely right as I posted earlier. If you set any 2 parameters the same out of aperture, shutter speed and ISO the third will be the same irrespective of micro 4/3 or full frame sensor size. It is only noise that is affected and an effective greater depth of field for the same aperture. Your comment that buying a cheap lens is equivalent to pro micro 4/3 glass is madness. The cost of the lens is utterly irrelevant. It is quality that counts.

Any time you would like some training on how to use your E-M1 mkii and get great results, please let me know and either I can come and do it at my normal rates or I can get someone at Olympus in Hamburg to give you some pointers.

There is no point arguing about crop factor conversions of exposure parameters with someone who is that heavily invested in the system, so I just won't indulge in this any further.

I'll address one point because I think you honestly might not know this:

"How on earth do you think anyone produces a lens that only supports contrast based focusing?"

Long story short: Different focusing methods require different architectures of the motor and the interface with the camera. I'll spare you the mechatronical details but basically a contrast based focus system tells the lens "keep going until I say go back again", whereas a phase detect system tells the lens "go straight to position x". Lenses built with contrast based focusing in mind like the OLY 40-150 f/2.8 (released in 2014, voice coil motor) don't have motors that can precisely jump to a position ( like stepper motors or USMs) outside of a feedback loop with the sensor. They therefore essentially don't have any PDAF capabilities which makes them focus much slower than, say, a D500 with a 70-200 f/2.8.

So that was just a firmware update then as it is this which determines the focus response of the lens. Stsangely, the 40-150 is recognised as being one of the fastest most accurate and sharp lenses on the planet. It keeps full AF at 18 fps.There have been many updates on this.. I'm sorry, but I invested my money in Olympus because it works. No one makes a bad camera any more and firware improvements have dramatically extended the lifetime of hardware like lenses and bodies. The only issue with sensors these days is generally high iso noise. At normal iso settings there is nothing to choose between in the real world. I print a lot at A0 and bigger with no issues. It seems that you just don't like your Olymus. That is a good thing as no camera will ever be right for everyone and this is something I regularly lecture on. It is about what works for you in the real world and nothing else.

I must have made a bad job of explaining the problem if you suggest it can be fixed with a firmware update...

When "a phase detect system tells the lens "go straight to position x" you got a good chance missed soft focus even on a still subject especially when pdaf sensor isn't calibrated to work with particular lens. Olympus focus system more precise than stepper motor crap, and you know it.

That makes the assumption that both sensors arw the same resolution. Which is not necessarily so. All three kinds if noise (shot, thernal, and read noise) are at the pixel level. FF is only guaranteed an advantage on shot noise, which us based on the poission distribution of photons, its not linear with ISO. Read noise is largely a function of chip technology, and thermal noise, obviously, heat -- so FF is worse. The upshot: noise is not usually an issue at low ISO on most ILC sensors, and increaees faster not with sensor size but sensor age. FF wins on high ISO which is dominated by shot noise, at the same resolution.

In modern sensors shot noise is the dominating factor.
I didn't make an assumtion about resolution. The only assumption made was that the images are viewed at the same size in which case it always holds true. If you zoom in 100% on a 100Mp FF image and a 20Mp M43 image, then yes, you will see a bit more noise in the FF. But that isn't how photographs are looked at in real life.

Curious as that only applies to potential signal to noise ratio, not the iso setting. The aperture, shutter speed and iso are identical irrespective of sensor size.....

Re:"Except at the same f stop, the 35mm frame cameras will have gathered 2x the light overall"
And how this supposed to happen? Does your light meter tells you that? M4/3 camera with 150mm/2.8 and FF camera with 300mm/2.8 equivalent will give you same exposure with same settings! If FF gets 2x (or other FF boys go even further saying 4x) more light you will have to increase 2 times shutter speed or lower ISO 2 times or you will get overexposed image. Do you understand this?

He's funny! It didn't matter that I'm not interested in m43, the video was worth the entertainment value anyway.

Heavy shit should stop being so heavy.

-Camera Conspiracies 2018

"In the world of micro four-thirds, such a lens would be significantly lighter, making pro sports photography both more affordable and significantly kinder to your lower back, without a massive compromise in image quality."

No it won't because for equivalent performance you could use a lens two stops slower which would roughly match the size [and better the price!] of an equivalent mft lens - they're just ensuring you don't save much on the body weight with this beast.

I know Olympus likes to kid its users they're getting equivalent performance from a 300mm f4 as a 600mm f4, but they're not. If you don't think this is true there's a very simple thought [or indeed practical] experiment. Get yourself a Canon 300mm f4 and a mount adapter and hey presto! A 300mm f4! It won't have full interoperability, but that's hardly Canon's fault.

A 600mm f8 would do exactly the same job on a FF camera, because you'd still be getting the same overall amount of light.

It's very simple unless you're an Olympus marketing man. Even Panasonic now it's going to the larger format has admitted its forthcoming 10-20 f1.7 [which I imagine will be eye-wateringly pricey] will only be equivalent to a 3.4 zoom on the S series.

In case you think I'm just down on MFT, it's the format I use most - in fact I've just bought a G9. That plus the Sigma 18-35 plus a speedbooster with 6.5 stops of IBIS gives me a low light monster when I need it and a light carry around when I don't need that monster of a lens. Little to no weight advantage in use and slow AF with the Sigma, but there are no free lunches. But I do think I have a system that's versatile for my needs now without needing to get out my venerable 5dII when I need subject isolation at close range or clean low-light shots.