The new E-M1X represents a significant step up from the E-M1 Mark II – so it remains in the OM-D line-up – in just about all areas of durability, speed, functionality and performance. As a camera for sports and action photography, the E-M1X refocuses attention on the compact telephoto lenses that are made possible by the M43 sensor size.
With an integrated vertical handgrip – to enhance the overall integrity of the bodyshell – the E-M1X is quite a bit bigger than the E-M1 Mark II, but still very much smaller and lighter than a comparable D-SLR. This is especially true when it’s combined with the various PRO series M.Zuiko Digital telephoto lenses such as the 40-150mm f2.8 zoom (equivalent to 80-300mm) and 300mm f4.0 IS prime (equivalent to 600mm). The magnesium alloy bodyshell is fully weather-protected, including insulation against sub-zero temperatures, and has new heat pipe arrangement to reduce thermal build-ups during prolonged shooting spells or when shooting video. Olympus claims that the E-M1X sets “… a new benchmark for reliability” and says the protection against moisture intrusion “far exceeds” the IPX1 standard. The active sensor cleaning – a feature pioneered by Olympus – is more powerful, giving a ten percent increase in efficacy. Additionally, the focal plane shutter is now rated to 400,000 cycles. Of course, there’s also a sensor-based shutter which has a top speed of 1/32,000 second.
The integrated vertical grip enables the camera to accommodate two battery packs – the same BLH-1 unit as is used in the E-M1 II – located in a slot-in cartridge and with in-camera charging via USB-C. Olympus is estimating up to 870 shots from the pair. The vertical grip also fully replicates all the horizontally-orientated controls include a joystick-type ‘multi-selector’ for the quicker selection of autofocusing points and zones.
There are dual memory card slots for the SD format, both with UHS-II speed support, with a locking compartment door. The E-M1X also doubles up on its processors with a pair of ‘Truepic VIII’ chips providing significantly more fire-power to handle the upgraded 121-point autofocusing system, improved image stabilisation and a number of either new or improved in-camera functions. New is ‘Live ND’ which provides a set of five neutral density filters (ND 2 to ND32, i.e. one to five stops), while multi-shot high-res capture can now be performed when shooting hand-held, something Olympus said it would eventually deliver when it first unveiled the feature on the E-M5 Mark II back in 2015. Depending on various factors, including how steadily you’re holding the camera, up to 16 images can be taken when with pixel-shifting and then combined to boost both the resolution and colour reproduction with both RAW and JPEG capture. The resolution increases to 50 MP (JPEG and RAW) in the Handheld mode, up to 80 MP with RAW files in the Tripod mode. Hand-held high-res shooting is derived from further developments to the sensor-shifting system which, of course, also delivers image stabilisation with correction now up to 7.5 stops with 12-100mm PRO series zoom or up to 7.0 stops otherwise. The maximum continuous shooting speed is up to 18 fps with AF/AE adjustment between frames or 60 fps with it fixed to the first frame. The E-M1X has the ‘Pro Capture’ pre-release mode – introduced on the E-M1 II - which begins buffering frames (now up to 35) immediately the shutter release is pressed to the half-way position for autofocusing and metering.
The sensor is essentially the same 21.8 megapixels (total) CMOS device as is used in the E-M1 II, but with some inevitable improvements to the data processing, especially the noise reduction at the higher ISO settings. Colour reproduction is also said to be improved. There’s no optical low-pass filter in order to optimise resolution. The sensitivity range is equivalent to ISO 200 to 25,600 with extensions down to ISO 64.
The autofocusing system employs phase-difference detection measurement using 121 points which are all cross-type arrays with the low-light sensitivity extending down to -6.0 EV (at f1.2). There’s a new control algorithm and the AF data from recorded frames is also used to ensure more reliable tracking of moving subjects. The AF area options now allow for a customised target area to be created, and a 25-point target is added to the nine- and five-point clusters which are available on the M1 II. Interestingly, ‘deep learning’ technology (a form of Artificial Intelligence) drives three ‘Intelligent Subject Detection AF’ modes which specifically optimise the tracking for motorsport, aircraft or trains; rapidly adjusting the target’s position, size and shape as the subject moves through the frame. Expect the list of subject-specific tracking modes to be increased in the future.
The EVF is the M1 II’s LCD panel with a resolution of 2.36 megadots and a 120 fps refresh, but using progressive scanning (rather than sequential) to minimise lag down to just five milliseconds. The magnification is increased to 0.83x (35mm equivalent) and the eyepiece employs a new four-element optical design, including aspherical types and using optical glass with a high refractive index. The result is certainly the most comfortable viewfinder of any M43 camera and one of the best across the mirrorless world.
The monitor screen is fully articulated, primarily to cater to video-makers who need the reversibility and who will also be pleased to see the availability of OM-Log400 shooting in-camera (for easier post-camera colour grading), the choice of both UHD and Cinema 4K resolutions, Full HD recording at 100/120 fps for slow-mo effects plus, of course, the yet more effective image stabilisation. The monitor screen provides for extensive touch control and is adjustable for both brightness and colour balance.
Other notable features of the E-M1X include a built-in GPS receiver and a ‘field sensor’ system which delivers details such the air temperature, altitude and compass heading. It also offers anti-flicker detection and correction, a silent mode, both the 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz WiFi bandwidths for wireless tethering (the Olympus Capture camera control now supports wireless image transfer), 16 ‘Art Filter’ effects, multi-shot HDR capture, intervalometer and a multiple exposure facility.
The OM-D E-M1X will be available in Australia from late February and is priced at $4499 body only. For more details visit http://www.olympus.com.au