Olympus O-MD E-M1X Quandary

To understand what’s going on with all the fury surrounding the E-M1X, we need only glance back at last year. 2018 was a watershed moment in mirrorless history. We not only saw Sony break the price barrier with the a7 III, but Canon and Nikon both entering the full frame market with their own full frame cameras at the $2,000 price point. Meanwhile, Fuji was able, thanks to moving manufacturing to China, to slash the cost of their flagship X-T3 to around $1,500.

Now suddenly we have well over a half dozen premium APS-C and full frame sensor cameras with very few compromises – with features like 4K 60p internal, blazing fast AF, eye AF, IBIS, headphone and mic jacks, 10-bit 4:2:2 4K video, respectable dynamic range, crazy good low light sensitivity – competing directly against larger more expensive flagship m43 cameras.

Prior to last year, getting a full frame mirrorless camera at an affordable price – that could also shoot decent video, with no overheating, long battery life, good ergonomics and so on – just how many choices were there? None! And mark my words – soon we will have full frame mirrorless for $1,500 brand new. Canon’s currently at work on an entry-level EOS R as we speak.

Contrast the above economic realities with Olympus introducing the costliest m43 to date, leaving reviewers scratching their heads trying to figure out precisely who this camera is targeting, which, as has been pointed out by some, may simply be attributable to poor marketing.

Blackmagic’s Pocket 4K was aimed squarely at budget filmmakers wanting to shoot RAW; the Nikon and Canon releases were to stop the bloodshed of owners switching over to Sony; while Fuji has attracted a near cult following among photographers who feel that digital cameras have become soulless machines. The X-T3, GH5s, GH5 and others all have a clearly defined user base in mind. Not so much the E-M1X.

The cost, along with the announced 150-400mm f/4.5 tele zoom, give us a clue that Olympus is after the pro market – a market overwhelmingly dominated by full frame shooters. This is decidedly not an upgrade for your casual enthusiast with a Pen F and two consumer-grade zooms who prioritizes compact size and modest cost – it’s for those earning a living with their gear, who shoot day in and day out in extreme conditions. What Olympus failed to realize is that, while they were busy going after outmoded DSLRs, an avalanche of affordable, high-performance full frame mirrorless cameras was just about to flood the market.

Will this camera get pros to abandon their Nikon D5s and Canon 1D Xs? Will they be willing to accept a camera whose maximum usable ISO is an underwhelming 3200? Which shoots cropped 120fps? With a humdrum EVF and blackout? Whose AF-C can’t even begin to aporoach that of a $900 entry-level Sony? I guess we’ll soon find out…

Olympus OM-D E-M1X: For Whom?

Reviews are pouring in, and one common theme emerges: nobody can quite figure out who the OM-D E-M1X is for. Below, excerpts from a half-dozen reviews.

TechRadar

• Constrained by MFT sensor

• EVF resolution not as high as rivals

Digital Camera World

• “Bulky” for Micro Four Thirds

• “Pricey” for Micro Four Thirds

Cinema5D

• It is 2019 and we have learned to expect more, especially from companies that have no higher video market to protect and sadly, OLYMPUS chose to deliver a camera that records 8bit 4:2:0 internally AND when recording to an external device!

DPReview

• I’m not sure who this camera is for…

The Phoblographer

• I’m not sure who is going to buy this camera

• Image Quality feels lacking

• The focus tracking was all over the place

• Color depth, dynamic range and high ISO output all suffer in comparison to products with cough larger sensors.

PCMag

• I’m not sure who is going to buy this camera

• Expensive. Incremental improvements. Underwhelming EVF.

• I’m not yet able to say whether the E-M1X merits its roughly $3,000 price tag

Digital Trends

• Expensive for the format

• EVF is lower resolution than the competition

• Larger, heavier than full-frame mirrorless

• Photographers that need that background bokeh or high ISOs will likely want to spend their $3,000 on something with a larger sensor.

Contrast the above with, for example, Chris Niccolls’ response to ‘who is this camera for?’ at the conclusion of his glowing review of the Sony a7 III:

“A lot of people. I mean the camera’s gonna make big waves… A camera like this really pretty much in every way, shape and form blows [the competition] away. The a7 III is now at a price point where it competes with a lot of APS-C cameras and m43 cameras… You gotta ask yourself, for the same price, I can get a full frame camera with all of the thin depth of field and aesthetic that goes with that plus amazing dynamic range and low light performance out of this sensor for a very similar price point. That’s gonna be very appealing…”

Nobody seems to know who the Olympus is aimed at, aside from those already heavily invested in the brand. Does the Olympus blow the competition away? If not, how to explain the exorbitant price tag?