Six Months With The Olympus OM-D E-M1 X Camera

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I was one of the lucky fellows who received one of the pre-production models of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 X camera bodies. That was just about six months ago. I primarily ran tests with it the first six weeks I had it, partly because I had to keep it a secret that I had one. Once the camera was out in the wild, I began shooting with it almost exclusively, only using my Olympus OM-D E-M1 MK II as backup. Then, last month I traded in the MK II for a second Model X and that is all I use.

Six months is a good amount of time for someone like me to judge a camera. I am supremely confident in the images I make with this body and decided I would sum up some of my experiences after long-term use.

So here are my random thoughts…

The camera is a real workhorse. It hasn’t missed a beat since I got it. The build quality is amazing and the fit and finish very superior to other cameras I have tested.

The biggest area of concern for the Internet was the size and the weight of the camera. I chuckled when numerous “experts” (who had never even seen a Model X, let alone shot with it) had decided this camera was a failure from the start.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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This camera fits better in my hand than the MK II with a battery grip did. The engineers at Olympus have really figured this out. While it is a larger and heavier camera than the MK II, it doesn’t feel like it – AT ALL! That is a neat little trick.

I use long lenses, so carrying an Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Lens and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital MC-14 1.4x Teleconverter, I am sporting a rig that will get me the same field of view as any similarly situated DSLR, but that is about half the size and weight of its DSLR equivalent. That is a good thing. I am free to work longer because I am not tired.

The camera is still remarkable to me in that it is blazingly fast. Everything about the “X” is faster than the MK II and it’s noticeable. Is this life changing? No – but it sure is convenient and desirable.

One of the functional improvements I really like is the ability to review images and make changes to the menu while the camera is buffering. I know most cameras already do this, but the Olympus cameras did not so this change is welcome.

I am absolutely addicted to the new joystick placement – when you shoot either vertical OR horizontal, it’s in the same place (Olympus replicates the joystick in two places on the back of the camera to make this possible.) Combining this new feature with an autofocus that is just a nit faster than before has caused my keeper rate to inch up about 10%. Not earth shattering but absolutely noticeable and very welcome.

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I haven’t done much to change my birds in flight settings although I do shoot with a tighter pattern on the Model X – I use five instead of nine AF points as my starting point and sometimes drop down to one and switch from TRACKING AF to CONTINUOUS AF with perched birds. I just get better results this way. I use TRACKING with larger birds against clean backgrounds or when in flight.

The files I get from the Model X are very easy to work with as long as I remember to expose to the right. (If you are not familiar with this concept try watching this video –  from Michael Breitung.)

One of the problems that newbies have with the switch to Micro Four Thirds is that they complain about noise. I don’t have a problem with noise. I expose to the right, and if the remaining noise is distracting then I remove it in post – with one or two clicks. No big deal.

You start to assimilate a camera when you regularly use it and then when you go back to the older body you are reminded why you like the new one. There’s no HUGE difference. Thankfully all the Olympus EVFs are great – even in the pro-super bodies, but I do notice the difference between the electronic viewfinder in the “X” and older cameras. Likewise, the ergonomics make SUCH a big difference to me on this camera. I am deadly accurate with that new joystick and when I pick up the older camera not having it there causes my thumb to completely stress out 🙂

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I am in a position to buy and use any camera I want. Yes I am an Olympus Visionary, but that is because Olympus found out I switched and asked me to join the program. I would consider using another camera if I really thought that there was anything out there that was better for me. But at this point, I don’t plan to ever look back. The Olympus gear frees me up to work better, smarter and longer – without pain or getting tired. The images I am making today are some of the best of my career, and with the glass that Olympus has coming up – i.e., the new 2X teleconverter and the new super zoom, I can imagine that things are only going to get better from here.

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