First Impressions of Olympus OMD E-M1X
Below are my first impressions of Olympus E-M1X. This may seem a little late to some of you since the camera was released in 2019, but I recently switched from SONY full frame to Olympus micro four-thirds cameras. I blogged about my switch and impressions of the OMD E-M1 Mark III . Besides travel and landscape photography, I also take wildlife pictures. Locally I take a lot of bald eagle photographs and large bird pictures, but also other wildlife when I travel. I needed a second camera body so I can have one set up with a long lens and one set up for landscape. My preference is shooting with two camera bodies set up separately so I am ready for any shot. The E-M1 Mark III is spectacular. I decided to explore the Olympus E-M1X for wildlife photography.
Before I go into details, I want to provide an important qualifier. This is NOT a technical review. You can read plenty of these. This is my first impressions and thoughts on using the camera for wildlife photography instead of a full frame camera.
Size and ergonomics
There was instant regret purchasing the E-M1X as soon as I ordered it. I did switch from SONY to Olympus partially for the size. Why am I getting such a large camera? I didn’t want more weight.
Unboxing the camera I still had these thoughts. But I also knew that the 300 mm pro lens felt very front heavy and out of balance on the E-M1. I found the integrated vertical grip very important. First, the extra weight of the camera balanced the larger heavier lens. The camera feels very comfortable. And the weight is certainly tolerable and the ergonomics of the camera are perfect for me. Did you ever pick something up and it just felt right? That was my first impression of the Olympus E-M1X.
While I “liked” the 300 mm pro lens on the E-M1, I “loved” it on the E-M1X. It is balanced much better and also much easier to handhold.
The multi-selector joystick for AF point navigation is something I was used to from SONY. On the E-M1X there are two joysticks, one for horizontal shooting and the other for vertical shooting. The camera also remembers the positions of the AF point separately for landscape and vertical orientations.
On a sling camera strap, I did not find the weight too much for hiking and walking. The camera is very easy to use and so much fun!
Olympus E-M1X is simply a joy to shoot with. The dual grips are very comfortable, and the ability to customize buttons and shooting modes makes this camera easy to set up and use in a way that totally works for me.
Handholding for wildlife photography
I find shooting the 300 mm pro on a tripod a little difficult. Especially when coupled with one of the teleconverters, it is not easy to capture the focus due to the extreme focal length. I’m still practicing with this, but I did find handholding the lens particularly easy with the larger camera and built in hand grip. Bird photography is easier to nail focus while handholding. The IBIS is so good that it made this lens a pleasure to shoot with. This solidified my first impressions of the Olympus E-M1X.
Handheld High Resolution Shooting
This feature is on the E-M1 Mark III so I was familiar with it. While I don’t foresee me using it quite as much for wildlife, it is a feature I really like. I am impressed with Olympus for the innovations that they put into their cameras, and handheld high resolution is an example. Since I print large scale pictures, this feature is very useful. It is more useful when shooting landscape and still photography, but I will try it for non-moving wildlife.
I won’t go into a technical review of the autofocus system, but will say WOW. From a user perspective, this autofocus is fast and accurate. Even while learning to focus with the length of the 300 mm pro lens, I had a high keeper rate.
Another great feature of this camera not in SONY cameras is the Pro capture mode. Capturing birds in flight is always an objective. Pro capture mode allows you to take pictures before you actually start taking the picture. Pro capture takes advantage of the camera’s electronic shutter. When you half-press the shutter, the camera starts filling temporary storage. A pre-determined number of images before and after the actual shutter release are recorded. This even works in RAW format. It is extremely helpful while you are waiting for the bird to take flight. Instead of guessing when it will take flight, using pro capture mode ensures you get the shot.
At my first trip to the heron rookery, I had just gotten the camera and did not use pro capture mode. The picture below was taken about 244 yards away based on my rangefinder reading. As you can see, the bird leaving the nest is blurry.
The picture below was taken using pro capture mode. This nest is about 250 yards away and pro capture mode helped obtain a clear picture of the heron coming into the nest.
Shutter vibration in most cameras is a common issue, especially when using a long lens. Since my E-M1X camera is used with a long lens the majority of the time, I leave anti-shock 0 second feature activated at all times. Basically it is first curtain electronic shutter. This made a significant difference in my wildlife photographs. It is extremely helpful while you are waiting for the bird to take flight.
Live ND Filter
Another great innovation feature is live neutral density filter. This feature simulates a neutral density filter for slowing down the exposure. You can select the strength of the filter from ND2 which is 1 EV to ND32 which is 5 EV. The end result of the picture shows in the display before you take the picture so you can adjust accordingly. Again, not used as much in wildlife photography, but it is a very useful feature.
The image quality is the same for the M-1X and newest E-M1 . I covered the image quality in a previous blog. Since that blog, I have purchased mostly M. Zuiko PRO lenses. While sometimes light is a challenge, it is worth mentioning that I have not encountered any situation that that I could not capture a shot. I can stretch the ISO and still get good image quality.
In good light, the image quality from my SONY cameras and Olympus cameras are comparable. However, I much prefer the colors of the Olympus cameras. And with the IBIS, I get good image quality shooting wide open. In the picture below, even though this nest is 156 yards away, you can see the tongue of the adult heron with no problem.
This nest is 127 yards away.
I understand this is a new feature for Olympus. It is also in the E-M1 Mark III. Since I have had this with all my previous Canon and SONY cameras, I can’t imagine not having this. It is an incredibly useful feature, even if you only add formatting cards to it. Between the customizable buttons and my menu, you can set this camera up for any way that you use it. It is extremely rare for me to go into the main menu screens to do anything.
Depth of Field and Bokeh
Depth of field and bokeh are both subjective topics. Bokeh is not crucial to me as a landscape and wildlife photographer. My personal experience with the Olympus E-M1X camera is that I can get acceptable bokeh. The picture below is an example.
What I’d like to see
My first impressions of the E-M1X intelligent subject AF looks promising. Unfortunately, I don’t take pictures of the three subjects currently supported; cars, trains, and planes. I have only tried this briefly, but if Olympus creates an algorithm for intelligent subject AF for birds in flight that would be fantastic.
Camera gear choices
The choice of camera gear is an extremely personal one. I will be as bold to say that there isn’t any camera made today that can’t take a good picture. With that said, to me a camera is only as good as I can use it to capture my vision. I went from being a “full frame snob” thinking I had to have the larger sensor to capture great pictures, to using Olympus micro four-thirds cameras exclusively. My first impressions of the Olympus E-M-1X camera is it works for me, I am extremely pleased with the switch to Olympus, and the Olympus M-1X is a perfect camera for wildlife.
My Thoughts on Olympus Sale to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP)
It would be remiss not to put in a comment on the recent news from Olympus about the sale of the imaging to JIP. I’m a new user to Olympus. But in all honesty, I like my cameras so much it has not deterred me from moving forward. I have a significant investment in Olympus bodies and lenses now. This equipment was purchased with the desire to take good pictures. My decision was based on a lot of research and testing and I’m very happy with my choice. Olympus cameras feel right in my hands, are intuitive, and work for both my lifestyle and photography style.
I just want to take pictures with equipment that works for me, so will not be making any changes. Keep in mind much of my equipment is newly purchased and still returnable. But why would I return something that works so well for me? I hope that JIP invests in R&D and moves the Olympus camera line forward. But while taking this wait and see approach, I will enjoy taking pictures with the best equipment I have used.
Switching from full frame SONY to micro four-thirds Olympus has had a positive impact for me. The Olympus cameras are packed with fantastic features and I can honestly say photography is FUN with these cameras.
Debbi Marquette Photography is located in Upstate New York at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. Debbi is an award winning and published travel, landscape and bald eagle photographer specializing in artistic, authentic, and memorable landscape and wildlife photography. She travels frequently, lives near the mountains and constantly has a camera in her hand to capture photographs so others can see the beauty of our world.
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