Olympus OM-D E-M1X: a BIG camera for action photographers

Olympus is not going to follow Panasonic to the full frame world, saying that it is not in its nature. But the company is about to launch a new Micro Four Thirds mirrorless, made for action shooters.

Olympus next E-M1X: a BIG camera for action photographers

The next Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus will arrive January 24. It’s, apparently, designed for sports photographers, is huge, probably heavy, and will cost, according to rumors, close to $3000.

Olympus released today a video showing the new Micro Four Thirds from the company, which will be announced January 24, with release date in February, if the rumors from the usual sources are correct. The same rumors suggest the OM-D E-M1X, as the camera will be named, has a 20MP sensor, improved stabilization with up to 7.5EV, is twice as fast as Olympus E-M1 Mark II, being able to capture 18fps, features a larger EVF, AI AutoFocus and can take 80MP high resolution images handheld. Two TruePic V III processors are at the heart of this impressive list of specifications.

As Olympus has not yet confirmed or denied any of the above, we’re left with rumors, and the images now made available through the video, which suggest the new Micro Four Thirds top of the line camera from Olympus is going to be BIG. In fact, still according to rumors, but now with the images confirming it, the  body is going to have built-in power/battery grip, which contributes to the final size of the camera.

Olympus next E-M1X: a BIG camera for action photographers

Are sports photographers shooting with Olympus?

The camera is apparently designed for action photographers and as of yet there is no indication about its video features. Rumors indicate that data captured is transferable by air to a server, the camera offers radio control of remote flash, Bluetooth and is USB chargeable. All this fits with the indication by Olympus, at last Photokina, that they have new long telephoto lenses. The video now made public does show a photographer using a long lens to cover different sports. One question remains: will there be sports photographers interested into using the small MFT sensor when the alternatives available in full format are more versatile, and will not mean a dead-end?

The question of buying into a system that may vanish tomorrow has to be raised, if you remember what happened with the Four Thirds professional model Olympus E-5, launched in 2010 with much fanfare but soon forgotten, in favor of the OM-D series introduced in 2013. As I wrote then,  Olympus “announced the end of their Four Thirds system, created in 2006. The Olympus E-5 DSLR, from 2010, was the last of their professional line. It’s the end of one era and the dream of the open standard.”

Olympus next E-M1X: a BIG camera for action photographers

Almost alone in the MFT market

For years now, Olympus has claimed the advantages of the Micro Four Thirds system, and now that it is mostly alone – Panasonic will not leave but will probably slow the introduction of new models – the company believes that they will dominate the MFT market. In a recent interview published by Imaging Resource, Aki Murata the new VP of sales and marketing for Olympus America, says, among other things, that “Olympus has no plans to go full frame”,  the company “has been focused on small camera bodies for 50 years” and “the companies moving towards full frame are leaving behind the photographers that care about size/weight.”

That’s all very interesting, but not completely true, if the dimensions we already know refer to the new camera about to make it to the market. The video now made available suggests the E-M1X is a BIG camera, and the dimensions of a recent model registered by Olympus may well be those of that camera: 144.37 mm (width) x 146.765 mm (height) x 75.345 mm (depth).

Olympus next E-M1X: a BIG camera for action photographers

Olympus E-M1X is bigger than Nikon Z7

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, by comparison, is 134.1 mm x 90.9 mm x 68.9 mm and weighs 574 grams, a number that is still unknown for the E-M1X. But because people will want to compare, I looked at the numbers: the recent  Canon EOS R mirrorless is 135.8 mm x 98.3 mm x  84.4 mm and has a weight of 660 grams, while the Nikon Z7 has 134 mm x 100.5 mm x 67.5 mm and weighs 585 grams. In both cases, we’re talking about full frame mirrorless cameras against the size of a MFT sensor! Yes Canon and Nikon models do not come with a built-in battery grip, but the end result is one: the new camera breaks the notion created by MFT in terms of size: it offers a small sensor inside a BIG body!

Now, I know Olympus will say this is a model for professionals, and the battery grip and other features that the camera will have – according to rumors – are part of a unique package, but I wonder how many sports professionals shoot or want to shoot with Olympus, and are willing to go with a 20MP sensor, at a time when everybody talks about the advantages of millions of pixels – 4K, 8K and beyond – and how great it is to be able to reframe shots in post production. That’s the real important question, not the size.

Olympus next E-M1X: a BIG camera for action photographers
Screenshots from two different videos from Olympus do suggest the new model is really bigger than previous MFT models

Olympus: DSL-ARM and a clear strategy

In the same interview mentioned above, Olympus spokesperson says that the company “has the clearest strategy and arguably the most security going forward”. Only time will tell if that’s true, but looking at the market as a whole, I do not see where this MFT model fits, or even who is going to buy the $3000 E-M1X camera. At the same time, the video published by Olympus reminded of a campaign made by the same Olympus back in 2015, named DSL-ARM.

According to the company, “DSL-ARM is the affliction of having your arm stretched by using a heavy DSLR. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is the cure to DSL-ARM because it’s almost half the size of a DSLR, but with all the power”. Well, with a BIG body and long telephoto lenses, it seems the disease will be afflicting some of Olympus professionals, in a near future…

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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…

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I am curious and wonder how well the rumoured 4k video options will work on a micro 4/3rds system? If I do playback on a smart phone, Ipad or monitor probably they will look stunning and great… but what if I seek to playback the images on a larger screen like a 65 – 86 inch 4k TV? (as is a pretty standard household size) or even at a cinema / theatre scale? Will the resolution hold up when enlarged this much, or will it also suffer in the same way as expanding still images from a micro 4/3rds sensor??… Read more »