Olympus has released the world's most expensive Micro 4/3 camera, the E-M1X. Is it worth $3,000? Let's find out.
What Is It?
The E-M1X looks like an old-school DSLR, but it is packed with some incredible technology and a tiny Micro 4/3 sensor (a quarter of the size of a full frame sensor). This camera was made for professional sports and wildlife photographers, but it's got so many extra features that almost any photographer or videographer would appreciate it.
The E-M1X is the largest and most professionally built M4/3 camera ever. It's large, but it feels extremely comfortable in my large hands. It has a built-in vertical grip with duplicate buttons and room for an additional battery. The camera is completely weather-sealed and freeze-proof. It's obviously the most robust M4/3 camera ever.
The button layout on this camera is extremely well thought out. Even though this was my first time using an Olympus camera, I felt right at home. Function buttons and switches are placed around the camera that can be totally customized to control the functions most important to you.
The E-M1X has a 20-MP sensor, which is probably enough for most people, but may sound a little low when compared with current cameras that are pushing 50 MP. Because this camera costs $3,000, it must be compared with other cameras in that range. In the video above, I compared the image quality of the E-M1X to the Panasonic GH5 and Nikon D850. Perhaps the E-M1X has a slightly better image over the GH5 but as expected, the Nikon D850's 45-MP file was much better than the files from the M4/3 cameras.
The E-M1X does a decent job of shooting 4K at either 24 or 30 fps, but when you compare the footage side by side to the GH5, the GH5 is the clear winner. The GH5 has many more features for videographers as well, like 4K at 60 fps, 10-bit color, and an unlimited record time. The GH5 is clearly a superior video camera in almost every way (aside from autofocus).
Olympus claims that the E-M1X has the greatest optical stabilization of any camera in the world at up to 7.5 stops. By this logic, if you could shoot a clean image handheld at 1/50th of a second without OS enabled, you should be able to shoot at a full 2 seconds with it enabled and still get a sharp image handheld. In my tests, this didn't seem to be the case. The GH5 appeared to work slightly better when it came to stabilizing video and still images. That being said, the E-M1X still has incredible stabilization and I was unable to test the one lens that Olympus currently offers the full 7.5 stops of performance with.
Most M4/3 cameras struggle in low light because their sensors are so small. In our tests, the E-M1X was approximately one stop better than the GH5 but was still significantly behind the full frame D850.
One benefit of a smaller sensor is read speed. When a mechanical shutter isn't used, each pixels data must be read one by one, and this can create warped still images or a "jello" effect with video during panning. The Olympus E-M1X doesn't have significant rolling shutter issues, but in our tests, it did appear that the GH5 was slightly better.
The E-M1X's most impressive feature is its autofocus. Perhaps Sony's current cameras are still slightly better overall, but the E-M1X is certainly a competitor and it's clearly winning among other M4/3 cameras.
The E-M1X has a range of different tracking modes that can lock on to moving subjects or specified subjects like faces, cars, planes, cars, or trains... Yes, trains... It has a train detection mode. If you shoot sports or fast moving subjects, you're going to love this camera.
The E-M1X is extremely fast when you need it to be. This camera can shoot at 10 fps with a mechanical shutter, 18 fps totally silently, or 60 fps without continuous autofocus.
Other Impressive Features
The E-M1X has a "high-res shot" mode, which automatically takes and combines multiple images into a 50-MP raw file. This feature can be used on a tripod or handheld. When it works, it's extremely impressive, but in my tests, I produced a few partially blurry images that were worse than a standard shot.
The E-M1X also has a digital neutral density feature called live ND that once again takes multiple images and will blur only the areas of the scene that are moving (like water). It's a great option, but in my tests, the files still looked worse than a standard multi-second exposure.
Perhaps my favorite feature of this camera is the "pro capture" mode that will silently and continuously take photos in the background while the shutter button is pressed halfway. Once you fully press the shutter button, the camera will save all of the images in the buffer to your memory card and begin taking standard pictures. This feature is incredibly useful in sports and wildlife photography when you are waiting for the perfect peak of action.
The Olympus E-M1X is an absolutely amazing camera with a not-so-amazing sensor. For $3,000, the average stills shooter would probably prefer buying a camera like the Nikon D850, and for the average video shooter, the Panasonic GH5 is superior in almost every way, and it's half the price.
But, if you're a sports or wildlife photographer, and you hate having to carry around gigantic, heavy telephoto lenses, the E-M1X may still be an excellent choice.