The OM-D E-M1X has recently blown out the second candle. Launched on the world market in February 2019, the Olympus super flagship was the most ambitious camera ever made by the Japanese company.
Being a completely new product, with completely different dimensions compared to the standards of the system, the E-M1X initially struggled to make itself understood by most. In reality, it was enough to take it in hand to understand what constructive perfection had been achieved.
The E-M1X then demonstrated its capabilities and characteristics in the field: the question I would like to answer instead with this article is whether it is still worth buying an E-M1X today, after the release of the E-M1 MarkIII.
“The question I would like to answer instead with this article, is whether it is still worth buying an E-M1X today, after the release of the E-M1 MarkIII”
Personally, I have been using the E-M1X for a year, and I have had the opportunity to try and test it previously on several occasions; the feeling that remains after intensive use of the camera is always the same: extreme comfort at excellent performance.
What many did not understand at the launch of the product is that the OM-D E-M1X was not a camera designed to move the market, but a product designed to offer those who already used this photographic system the maximum in terms of quality, speed, comfort.
Even the increased dimensions (actually very similar to those of an E-M1 MarkII with battery grip mounted) have allowed a much more rational weight distribution.
Holding the E-M1X is a real pleasure, using it is comfortable, even after several hours.
Initially designed for sports and wildlife photography, the E-M1X proved to be a perfect camera even for completely different photographic genres. The possibility of being held vertically without any difference from the horizontal position, the perfect positioning of the “joystick”, and the precise and fast autofocus immediately made it my favourite portrait camera, both outdoors and in the studio.
Exactly a year ago, however, the ambitious OM-D E-M1 MarkIII also came onto the market bringing all the technological solutions of the X into a more compact professional body. For many, it seemed to be the killer of the E-M1X: it cost less, it was newer and it did everything the X did, perhaps even in a better way.
Indeed, the new TruePic IX processor was perfectly capable of performing the same complex functions that on the X were managed by a dual TruePic VIII processor. In fact, to be honest, the handheld Hi-Res mode works much better on the E-M1 Mark III than on the X.
The very comfortable Live ND Filter is present on both, and, in general, the image quality is very, very similar for the two top-of-the-range sisters.
I have been using the E-M1 Mark III for some time, and I must admit that it is a truly excellent camera, a significant step forward compared to the Mark III.
However, if at this moment I had to choose again what to buy, I would immediately go to the EM1-X again.
There are a multitude of very personal reasons for this, which can only be understood with the continued use of the product that led me to this statement.
I will try to explain my point of view better.
First, the price. At the time of launch, the OM-D E-M1X cost €2900 (and this is still its official price) but is now often promoted at €1990 across Europe. If it was already great at full price, it’s a bargain on offer!
Furthermore, for me, ease of use, ergonomics and operating speed are crucial factors. When I hold my instrument, I don’t want to worry about understanding, remembering, looking for functions or commands: everything must be comfortable, fast, precise. The E-M1X is designed to fit perfectly in the hands of demanding photographers and this is evident from every design choice made.
Surely a body like the E-M1 Mark III is more comfortable and versatile: if you need the oversized handle, use the battery grip, otherwise, it can be disassembled. The same for batteries 1 or 2 at the same time depending on the configuration used. However, although the E-M1 Mark III has the joystick, for example, this is not as comfortable and well-positioned as on the X. The need to optimize space has made it more difficult to have the keys and controls in perfect position.
With the E-M1X, I can shoot without ever taking the camera out of my eye. Everything is at your fingertips, everything can be adjusted without any difficulty. Each key is shaped, positioned, uniquely identified: hands and fingers move safely without hesitation.
There is no better camera from this point of view in the catalogue of any other brand.
Personally, but I have not done scientific tests in this sense, I find the X files the best ever in the Micro43 range. It allows the best recovery in the shadows and an excellent dynamic range: superior, in my opinion, even to the excellent E-M1 Mark III.
The portrait photographs taken with the E-M1X have a “cooler” look I don’t know how to define it. I still use the E-M1 Mark II for work, but I must admit that the difference between the two files is perceptible despite many think they have the same performance.
Two years after its release, the X is now at a really affordable price. Buying an OM-D E-M1 Mark III with additional grip and second battery makes it (at this time of promotion) less convenient than the OM-D E-M1X. Therefore, the choice must be based on operational needs and other factors rather than cost.
People like me who use their grip-mounted camera shouldn’t have the slightest hesitation in considering the X as their perfect choice.
Apart from the size, the only reason to prefer the Mark III to the X is to be found in the handheld Hi-Res function, which works exceptionally on the new Mark III.
A significant firmware update for the X was released a few weeks ago, affecting the AF performance. On balance, in the prime of its maturity, there is no better time than now to take this super camera home.
Of course, owning both would be the perfect fit for any Olympus professional photographer.
Text and photos: Ugo Baldassarre
Translation: Giorgio Aprile
Italian based photographer for portrait, weddings, events and also Street Photography. He works with Olympus Pro Gears