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…

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