Olympus is sticking with the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) sensor for its mirrorless cameras, despite seeing rivals move to larger full-frame sensors. This means its new flagship, the OM-D E-M1X, has a sensor that is about half the size of the full-frame ones in Panasonic and Sigma's latest mirrorless cameras.
Not that Olympus is worried about playing second fiddle to them - the company has said it believes in the MFT format's potential and that most users do not need full-frame sensors.
According to Olympus, the E-M1X is not the replacement for the E-M1 Mark II, which was launched in December 2016, but instead sits alongside to cater to a different target audience - sports and action photographers.
To that end, Olympus has thrown in two TruePic VIII image processors for faster image processing, a whopping 60 frames per second (fps) shooting speed with locked autofocusing (AF) and an 18fps shooting speed with AF tracking. It also comes with a 121-point cross-type on-chip phase detection AF sensor for more accurate AF.
The E-M1X also features the world's highest image stabilisation performance of 7.5 shutter speed steps, says its maker.
Other notable features include a 50-megapixel handheld highresolution mode, two memory card slots that support high-speed UHS-II SD cards, a 270-degree rotatable display for selfie stills or videos, and support for 4K video recording.
I used the E-M1X with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro lens in this review.
One of the benefits of the MFT image sensor is that it allows the camera body to be more compact and lightweight. But the E-M1X is anything but compact and lightweight.
This is due to its integrated vertical grip design. For sports photographers, a vertical grip is essential as it allows them to quickly switch from landscape to portrait orientation and vice versa.
PRICE: $4,448 (body only)
IMAGE SENSOR: 20.4-megapixel Micro Four Thirds
DISPLAY: 3-inch tiltable touchscreen LCD with 1,037,000 dots
SENSITIVITY: ISO 64 to 25,600
SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 60 frames per second
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
WEIGHT: 997g (body with battery and memory card)
BATTERY LIFE: 5/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5
It also allows the E-M1X to be equipped with two batteries for longer battery life.
The build and handling of the camera is excellent. In fact, it is one of the best cameras in this regard I have used. The weather-sealed magnesium alloy body gives plenty of confidence. It endured the cold and rain of Yokohama, Japan, where I was attending the annual camera show CP+, without issue.
The ample grip and contoured thumb rest provide a really good gripfor the camera.
All the buttons, dials and controls are intelligently placed. The location of the two control dials - one below the shutter release and the other at the rear right of the camera - lets users adjust settings easily with their index finger and thumb.
On the top right are a mode dial, a dedicated video recording button, an exposure compensation button and an ISO button.
My favourite new feature is the addition of two mini-joysticks for use in either portrait or landscape orientation. These joysticks allow you to quickly move the AF point, which is critical when composing photos.
Perhaps the only slight downer is the lack of a small status display on the top of the camera.
Operation is swift. Powering up takes around half a second, while shutdown takes just over one second. Shutter lag is negligible.
The E-M1X is an absolute monster when it comes to shooting speed and AF performance. It was a cinch photographing fidgety toddlers outdoors and a skateboarder in mid-air in dim indoor lighting.
Using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 90MB per second, the E-M1X was able to shoot 53 RAW images in 3.6 seconds, a performance that puts most digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras to shame.
Its 50-megapixel handheld high-resolution mode is fantastic, with image quality comparable with that of a full-frame camera. It usually takes eight to 10 seconds to capture a 50-megapixel still. And there is no camera shake in all the photos I have taken in this mode.
Normal still image quality is also superb. Colour reproduction is spot on, with sharp and crisp details, whether in normal or high-resolution mode.
I can hardly find any noise artefacts until ISO 1,600. At IS0 3,200, image noise is more evident. But anything above ISO 6,400 is not recommended as there is clear detail loss.
Video quality is stellar with hardly any jerks when I walk while capturing footage.
Battery life is rated at 870 still frames on a full charge. In my tests, the battery level dropped to 50 per cent after I shot about 690 still frames and 15 minutes of video footage. Excellent.
The only issue with the E-M1X is its steep price ($4,448 for the body).
With that amount of money, you can buy a mid-range, full-frame DSLR camera with a decent fast lens. I think this might be hard for some consumers to stomach, despite the E-M1X's excellent performance.
• Verdict: The Olympus OM-D E-M1X is an all-round excellent mirrorless camera, weighed down only by its hefty price tag.