While 2018 was the year of the full-frame announcements and many questioned the future of smaller sensor cameras, to counter this trend Olympus decided to start 2019 with the announcement of its latest Micro 4/3 pro-level flagship camera, the OM-D E-M1X.
So, if anything, Olympus is making a clear statement: Micro 4/3 is here to stay, it’s alive and kicking.
The camera itself
From the reviews I was able to grasp so far, apparently this is a hell of a camera. Spec-wise, it comes with super high end features like 60 fps and a so-called Deep Learning Auto-focus which is apparently smart, fast and reliable, let’s you forget about focusing and thus concentrate on your photo framing. Seems to be especially useful for action / sports photography.
Mind me, this camera is intended to be a sports camera for pros and therefore it is full weather proof, has two grips, two shutter buttons, two joysticks, two batteries, two SD card slots, two… you get it. And a whole bunch of pro-level features.
Does it make sense?
Why I’m asking this question? Well, just look carefully at the photo below. Don’t you feel something is wrong?
Look at the size of the sensor and compare it to the overall size of the camera…
The Micro 4/3 sensor is obviously not the largest around, but when you apply it to such a body on steroids, it really makes you question if the whole thing makes any sense.
I have nothing against Micro 4/3 and, in fact, my first mirrorless camera was an Olympus EP-1 and for several years I was a devoted Micro 4/3 user, having owned the EP-2 and EP-3 as well, before settling down on the OM-D E-M5.
But the whole reason Micro 4/3 is a solid system is because it is able to produce excellent images through a small sensor, which is installed in a small camera coupled with small lenses.
In other words, it offers portability without compromising image quality – considering its small size.
Olympus Pen-F: small, light and elegant. And very capable.
Therefore, while cameras like the Olympus Pen F or the OM-D E-M5 make sense to me and effectively represent the essence of Micro 4/3 because they are small, light, elegant and capable, this OM-D E-M1X beast seems a bit out of proportion and over the top for a Micro 4/3 camera.
Just for the sake of comparison, the Pen-F weights 427 grams, whereas the E-M1X tips the scale at 997 grams!
But it’s still small, compared to…
Yes, compared to other pro-level sport cameras like the Canon 1DX II, the Nikon D5 or the Sony a9… Not so much because of the body which is quite similar in size than its competitors (!), but because Micro 4/3 lenses are smaller in nature due to their 2x crop factor.
But then, are we really supposed to compare the E-M1X to these cameras?.. Are we really accepting that a Micro 4/3 camera should be in the same league as full frame cameras?
This is obviously a very controversial debate. I’m sure loyal Micro 4/3 users will come up with all sorts of objective justifications to demonstrate Micro 4/3 is as good as full-frame in every front, including image quality.
But frankly, assuming a neutral stance and being myself an ex-Micro 4/3/ user, I think this is questionable. In other words, I don’t think Micro 4/3 is on the same league as full frame. No demerit to Micro 4/3 with this statement, it’s a solid system per se and in its own world. But just not the same as full frame.
Pro photographers are loyally shooting with their Canon and Nikon full frame DSLRs and used to carrying all that heavy gear around, so I just don’t see them jumping ship to a Micro 4/3 camera which is more or less the same size… And in fact now both Canon and Nikon had already launched their own mirrorless full frame system cameras, so it’s not that long time users of these brands don’t have a mirrorless alternative now.
Then who is going to invest on the Olympus OM-D E-M1X? I don’t know, maybe the existing die hard Micro 4/3 fans?.. Probably Olympus has the answer to this question – I assume they know what they are doing.
So it does NOT make sense?
Micro 4/3 should stay small and light. That’s its raison d’être and why this system has been successful since its inception. Whenever a large and heavy Micro 4/3 camera is launched, you can’t help but to start comparing it to larger frame cameras. That’s when the whole thing stops making sense.
So, if you ask me, the Olympus OM-D E-M1X does not make any sense. It’s a beast that grew out of proportion and it’s against the essence of Micro 4/3. It’s a camera that should not exist in the Micro 4/3 universe.