Performance

The E-M1X has two high-power processors giving it the horsepower to pull off super-fast burst shooting with AF tracking, while also providing a fairly deep buffer. The processors also play a part in the camera's image stabilization. Olympus claims IS is improved over the E-M1 II, but our testing reveals its performance is nearly identical, which is to say, excellent.

Key Takeaways

  • The E-M1X offers excellent image stabilization test results: about 3-stops at 24mm, 4-stops at 50mm and ~5-stops at 200mm
  • IS performance is better than full-frame competition, the same as the E-M1 II and slightly behind the Panasonic G9
  • Buffer depth of 60+ frames in Raw+JPEG is impressive
  • 'Sequential Low' is the top mechanical burst speed with AF - 10 fps
  • 'Sequential Low Silent' is the top electronic burst speed with AF - 18 fps
  • 'Pro Capture' mode saves frames from right before the shutter is fully-pressed, but an EVF/LCD refresh rate drop makes it hard to follow action

Image stabilization

How we test IS

Our standard image stabilization test is performed by shooting 10 frames of our test target, starting with a shutter speed of 1/focal length and working our way downward in intervals of 2/3-stop using a neutral density filter (to maintain the same aperture). The test is done at 24mm, 50mm and 200mm, since the challenges of stabilization change with focal length and exposure duration. Note: We use electronic first curtain shutter for this test, when available, to avoid shutter shock skewing our results.

We first do this with IS on, and then with IS off. The images for both are then assessed to the following standard:

Excellent Some softness
Noticeable blur Unusable

1) Excellent - the best the camera is capable of
2) Some softness - only distinguishable from Excellent by comparison
3) Noticeable blur - blur can be perceived without reference to another image
4) Unusable - significant motion perceptible

After each frame is assessed, we plot the results in the graphs you see below. We then compare the lowest shutter speed at which the camera was able to maintain a 50% or greater hit rate with IS on and off at a given focal length (images that are acceptably sharp are those rated 'Excellent' or 'Some softness'). This allows us to determine how effective the IS system is in real world shooting.

Our results compared to CIPA

Our IS test gives numbers lower than ratings based on the CIPA test, regardless of brand being tested. Still, manufacturer results generally match with ours in terms of which cameras perform best and by how many stops. Because CIPA's test method only uses a single focal length (generally around 50mm) and doesn't include any rolling motion, its results trend higher.

E-M1X full IS test results

24mm Equivalent
50mm Equivalent
200mm Equivalent
Stabilization On Stabilization On Stabilization On
Stabilization Off Stabilization Off Stabilization Off

All testing was performed using the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 Pro with latest firmware.

At 24mm with IS on, the E-M1X maintains a 50% or better hit rate down to 1/5 sec compared to 1/30 sec with IS off, resulting in a roughly 2.6-stop IS advantage.

At 50mm with IS on, the E-M1X maintains a 50% hit rate down to 1/2 sec compared to 1/30 sec with IS off, resulting in a ~4-stop IS advantage.

At 200mm with IS on, the E-M1X maintains an 80% usable hit rate at 1/13 sec, but it falls to 30% at 1/8 sec. This means the 50% usable threshold is right around 1/10 sec. With IS off, at 1/200 sec we managed only a 30% hit rate - figuring conservatively we'd might hit 50% by 1/250 sec. Comparing 1/10 sec to 1/250 sec gives us a 4.6-stop IS advantage at 200mm.

EM-1X IS compared to the competition

24mm 50mm 200mm
Olympus E-M1X 2.6 stops 4 stops 4.6 stops
Panasonic G9 3 stops not tested 5.6 stops
Olympus E-M1 II 2.6 stops not tested 5.3 stops
Sony a7R III 2.6 stops 3.3 stops 4.6 stops
Nikon Z7 2.3 stops 4 stops 4 stops

Burst shooting

The E-M1X has several burst modes and it can be a little confusing knowing which settings offer continuous AF while shooting and which lock AF at the start of the burst. Below we've broken it down:

Sequential Low Sequential High
Mechanical shutter 10 fps w/ AF-C 15 fps w/ no AF-C
E-shutter (silent mode) 18 fps w/ AF-C 60 fps w/ no AF-C

Buffer depth

A deep buffer is important when shooting sport, action or wildlife. When shooting Raw+highest quality JPEG (using a V90 card with 250MB/s write speeds), the camera managed 60 frames at 10 fps before the buffer slowed down and 66 frames at 18 fps. Switching to JPEG-only increased the buffer slightly, but not by much. Even on the lowest JPEG quality setting the camera managed just 15 extra frames at 10 fps and no additional frames at 18 fps.

At 10 fps you're getting 6 seconds worth of shots, at 18 fps you're getting ~3.7 seconds. So for sports like football or soccer, in-which players run great distances with the ball, the slower frame rate with the longer shoot time may be more advantageous. Regardless of which frame rate you use, the buffer clears fast and users are not locked out of any settings, including playback, while it clears.


Pro Capture

Pro Capture Low offers 18 fps shooting (using the e-shutter) with continuous AF and can save up to 35 frames prior to a full shutter press. This makes it useful for capturing shots like this. However a serious drop in EVF/LCD frame rate can make it tough to follow the action, and the e-shutter can leave striping and rolling shutter.
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

In Pro Capture mode, first introduced in the E-M1 II, the E-M1X begins recording photos when the shutter is half pressed, buffering up to 35 frames before a full press. There are two speeds, High (60 fps, with focus locked on the first shot) and Low (16 fps, with continuous AF). Pro Capture Low in particular can be useful for capturing non-stationary erratically-moving subjects - like a dog jumping for food - however the EVF and LCD refresh rate drops significantly in this mode, making it a challenge to follow action.