Olympus have made a big move with the release of their brand-new flagship camera the OM-D E-M1X and to celebrate they invited us to the Hunter Valley to test out how the camera handled extreme fast-paced action.
Our first stop was a dirt track with a couple of rally cars that flew around covering us in a fine layer of dust. We weren't afraid to get our hands or the camera dirty so we grabbed a 12-100mm lens to test out the new autofocus tracking system.
Using AI, the camera can detect and track 3 different types of subjects: cars and motorcycles, planes and helicopters, as well as trains. The algorithm starts tracking subjects before you even press the shutter and when you half-press, the camera springs to life, locking onto your subject and relentlessly holding focus throughout the frame.
Once the drivers were satisfied that we were covered in enough dirt we moved on to our next challenge, shooting a stunt plane pilot performing a series of elaborate aerial manoeuvres using the 12-100mm lens and the 300mm telephoto lens.
You can see how accurately the autofocus system performed from the video below, which is constructed entirely from JPEGS straight out of the camera, shot in the 18fps burst mode.
Let’s be real for a second though and ask the question that is on everyone’s lips. Why release a bigger camera while other manufacturers are focusing on making cameras that are smaller and smaller?
Does size matter?
With the E-M1X Olympus are making the statement that in some situations smaller is not necessarily better. The grip has been precisely designed to allow for seamless switching between landscape and portrait orientations while at the same time greatly improving the balance of the system when shooting with long telephoto lenses.
But it isn’t just that that the camera is more ergonomic and comfortable to use, it also packed with power, boasting dual image processors and a heat dissipating venting tube. The grip also includes dual batteries that effectively double the shooting time of the camera.
Olympus have taken the release of the E-M1X is an opportunity to flex their muscles and show off what they're capable of. They’re confident that once photographers get their hands on the new camera, they will be converted.
Who is the OM-D E-M1X made for?
Firstly, The E-M1X is not aimed the same shooters the most recent batch of mirrorless cameras are designed for. It is instead aimed squarely at the high end of the professional market and if you think about it that makes sense.
Olympus already produce some of the most compact and portable mirrorless systems with models like the E-M5 Mark II and the E-M10 Mark III, so why not focus on making a camera that instead combines the weight savings of mirrorless with the performance and ergonomics that are an industry standard for professionals.
And that is exactly who Olympus have designed the E-M1X for. The wedding photographers, photo journalists, portrait, nature and sports shooters.
In short, if you pick up a camera to make a living, they designed this camera for you. So why are they so positive that this new camera will appeal to professionals?
It’s built like a tank, with improved weather sealing that surpasses the IPX1 standard and a super durable shutter unit rated for 400,000 actuations. We shot in super dusty conditions on a hot Australian summers day and tested the splash proof construction and the E-M1X didn't miss a beat.
Quality is key. It doesn’t matter how in focus your shot is, if you don’t have excellent image quality nothing else really matters. As professionals, clients expect you to be able to deliver the absolute best. The E-M1X delivers image quality and then some by introducing the new handheld pixel shift mode.
Handheld Pixel Shift
The camera uses the in-body stabilisation system to move the sensor several times, capturing images at different positions and then merging the shots together to produce an ultra-high-resolution final image.
Because this method takes several photos it means that even the slightest movement can ruin the shot, requiring that the camera be set up on a tripod. That is until now.
The Olympus EM-1X can produce handheld pixel shifted ultra-high-resolution images with a whopping 50-megapixels and it can do that at shutter speeds as slow as 1/60 of a second.
5-Axis Sync IS
Olympus were one of the first manufacturers to incorporate in-body stabilisation or IBIS into their line-up and they’ve been refining the technology for years. Their latest innovation, the EM-1X offers an impressive 7 and a half stops of image stabilisation when paired with their 12-100mm f/4 lens, or 7 stops with other Olympus glass.
Just to provide some context of what that means, 7 stops is equivalent to increasing your ISO from 100 to 12,800 or shooting with a shutter speed of a 1/4 of a second rather than 1/500th of a second. So, if you can picture the difference between those settings would have on your image and then add another half a stop that’s the advantage the system can offer.
While we were at the Hunter Valley, we got the chance to speak to Olympus Australia visionaries; Nick Ghionis and Michael Hurren to find out their thoughts about the new camera and the Olympus system in general.
From the time we were given the cameras to the time we reluctantly handed them back, the performance of the E-M1X was nothing short of incredible.
Overall the high-speed capture ability of up to 18 fps with AF/AE tracking was super impressive, but for us the big stand-out features were the industry leading 7.5-stops of image stabilisation and ‘Intelligent Subject Detection’ autofocus.
Find out more about the camera by following the link below.