Just over a week ago, I attended the local Olympus E-M1X launch event at Precision Camera. It’s part of the North American retail tour that Olympus started right after the unveiling of their new flagship camera. Naturally, I wanted to check out the new beast of a camera and say hi to the folks from Olympus. Over a half-a-dozen Olympus employees from around the U.S. came, along with a manager from Japan.
After a short presentation, we all got to play with the E-M1X at four stations designed to showcase its strengths. There were about a dozen cameras, some of which you can see in the beauty shot above. Olympus was clear that they have no intention of producing a full frame camera and they are doubling down on the strengths of a fast compact camera system. I agree with their approach. If they join the full frame fray, they’ll be just one of four other camera companies (five if you include Leica) trying to distinguish themselves. And, as I wrote about a month ago, technology and AI may make Olympus the winner in the shrinking serious camera market.
What are my impressions? The E-M1X is certainly large, by micro 4/3 standards, but not compared to other camera systems. It’s well-built, serious and enticing in its own way. Designed as an action and landscape camera, I’m not the target audience. I prefer the smaller more unobtrusive cameras which I use for travel and street photography. That said, there are certainly features that I covet. The seven stop in-body image stabilization is my favorite.
The beefy body works well for the Pro lenses. The 12-100mm f4 Pro, which I find too large for my E-M5 Mark II or PEN-F, works perfectly on the E-M1X. The 12-40mm f2.8 Pro looks downright small. The irony is, when I use the 12-40mm f2.8 Pro on my camera, it’s a two-handed operation. My camera and grip is too small to balance the lens. With the E-M1X, single-handed operation is a breeze. All of the f1.2 Pro Prime lenses, the 17mm, 25mm and the 45mm are about the size of the 12-40mm, and they too would work well on the E-M1X.
I’m not used to using the vertical, portrait grip but it’s equally comfortable for large lenses. Interestingly, the feel of the horizontal and vertical grips are different, though the placement of all the buttons are identical.
While all Olympus lenses work on all Olympus bodies, there is now a two tiered system. The smaller bodies works well with the consumer zooms and f1.8 – f2 prime lenses. That’s the setup I’ve been using. The E-M1 Mark II and especially the E-M1X balance really well with the Pro lenses. While the “Pro” tier is certainly more expensive and more capable for certain types of photography, the smaller consumer tier has its own advantages. The reality is, image quality wise, the two tiers are not very different.
What both tiers have in common is that Olympus (and Panasonic micro 4/3) has the most capable camera size to image quality ratio. While the full frame cameras ultimately have higher image quality, they don’t have the speed and size versatility of Olympus. And, depending on how you output your photographs, the increased image quality of full frame may not even be visible.
While I keep telling myself that the E-M1X is not designed for me, it hasn’t stopped me from “contemplating the possibilities”. It’s always a fun exercise to justify another camera. I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post.
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