Olympus OM-D E-M1X takes on the pro camera market

Olympus has launched a new flagship wildlife, documentary and sports camera using much of the tech in the existing OM-D E-M1 II but in a bigger, tougher body with some significant enhancements.

The OM-D E-M1X uses a 20.4-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, so it’s a bold move for Olympus to pitch it up against pro models with full frame sensors four times larger.

On the other hand, the smaller format means a lighter system overall, the new camera is cheaper than full frame pro equivalents and Olympus has steadily built up an impressive range of professional lenses.

The E-M1X body has an integrated grip and duplicated controls for both horizontal and vertical shooting. It’s dust, splash and freezeproof, and with two BLH-1 batteries installed (the same type as the E-M1 II) it can capture up to 2,580 shots on a single charge. These can be recharged via USB, and if you have a sufficiently powerful charger (it can go up to 100W) both batteries can be charged in as little as two hours.

The E-M1X’s party trick is its 60fps burst mode, which it inherits from the E-M1 II. It also has a Pro Capture mode which buffers the last 35 frames continuously while the shutter release is half-pressed and stores them when the shutter button is pressed fully for ‘retroactive’ capture. The 60fps frame rate is with the focus locked on the first frame, though, and the maximum speed with AF/AE tracking enabled is 18fps.

The autofocus system keeps the same 121 on-sensor AF points as before but Olympus has ‘redeveloped’ its algorithms for much better performance. It now uses focus information from recorded images to help track erratically moving subjects and now comes with different AF target modes using groups of up to 25 AF points, custom AF settings for horizontal and vertical shooting and new ‘intelligent subject detection’ for motorsports subjects, aircraft and trains.

Images are stored via twin UHS II card slots, made possible by the camera’s dual TruePic VIII image processors, which also improve the overall responsiveness, startup and ‘wake’ times. Olympus has extended its High Res Shot mode options so that the 80MP tripod mode is joined by a 50MP handheld mode (made possible by the dual processors) which should allow high-res image capture without a camera support.

There’s also a new gyro sensor which improves its in-body image stabilisation system and offers up to 7.5 stops of compensation when using the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO, which has its own in-built stabiliser acting in unison.

Other features include in-built GPS plus temperature, pressure and compass sensors, a live ND filter simulator which offers 5 strength levels and shows long exposures building ‘live’ on the screen.

The movie features are similar to those in the E-M1 II, and while the E-M1X can shoot Cinema 4K and 4K UHD, it tops out at 30p and can’t match the 60/50p capabilities of some Panasonic models. It does now come with an Olympus OM-Log400 mode, however, and can capture full HD at up to 120fps.

Will the OM-D E-M1X succeed? It will certainly appeal to pros already committed to the Olympus system, but it’s going to be a pretty hard sell against full frame rivals from the other big makers.

Available: Late February 2019
Price: £2799.99 body only
More information: Olympus website

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