Body and Handling

The E-M1X is well built, even by the standards of high-end cameras. Like the E-M1 II, the X is unusual in that Olympus guarantees that its weather sealing meets the IPX1 standard. This means it has to be able to withstand having water dripped on it for ten minutes. This may not sound like a very high bar, but consider the fact that most 'weather sealed' cameras don't even promise to withstand it.

Key takeaways:

  • Solid construction with environmental resistance rated as IPX1
  • Viewfinder has moderate resolution but impressively little lag
  • Battery life not spectacular by standard measure, but should be sufficient for most use cases

Viewfinder

The E-M1X is built around a 2.36M-dot LCD panel that can run at up to 120Hz. The four-element optical part of the finder includes an aspherical element to give edge-to-edge sharpness even with the camera's relatively large 0.83x magnification.

The continued use of LCD technology for the panel means that this viewfinder exhibits significantly less contrast than many competing cameras' OLED viewfinders, with darker tones that can appear washed out. Olympus claims it chose LCD to ensure the nearly instant 5ms lag time, something we feel is a sensible trade-off given the camera's intended use for fast action.

During real-world shooting, we found the viewfinder's minimal lag time made it very easy to follow fast action, especially compared to other mirrorless cameras. And though there is a slight drop in viewfinder resolution during burst shooting, we hardly found it distracting.

Body

At first glance, the E-M1X looks like an E-M1 II with a battery grip attached, and it offers a lot of the same controls. However, the way these controls work have been slightly reworked and, as well as gaining the portrait orientation buttons and dials, the E-M1X also adds a pair of 8-way AF joysticks.

There are also more buttons, both dedicated and customizable, scattered around the camera body. This reduces the need for the function of buttons and dials to be changed by the 2-position lever on the back of the camera. Speaking of which...

2-position lever

Like the E-M1 II, the E-M1X has a two-position lever immediately to the right of its viewfinder. This can perform one of four roles: it can switch the role of the main command dials (to control ISO and White Balance), swap between your choice of AF modes, switch to movie mode or act as the power switch.

However, using the lever to jump between AF modes doesn't let you enter and exit face detection mode, nor can it be configured to enter one of the three 'subject-recognition' C-AF modes. These can be assigned to one of the four 'C' positions on the mode dial, but not accessed with a single button press or lever throw. If you set it to switch AF functions, you can select whether the two states define AF drive mode, AF area mode and AF mode. So, at its most basic, you can get it to swap between AF-S and AF-C modes, or you could get it to jump between single AF, central single point and AF tracking, 3x3, and top left (for instance).

This can be especially limiting in fast-paced situations since face detection and subject-recognition tracking both override your chosen AF area. Should you want to focus on something other than a face or detected object, you'll need to dive into the Super Control Panel or menus to change these settings.

Lock / C-Lock control

As well as the pair of eight-way joysticks, the move to a two-grip design has created the need for a lock control. The 'Lock' position locks out the portrait-orientation controls (which is handy, since it's easy for the edge of your hand to brush the very-sensitive second shutter button, which immediately cancels anything else you might be trying to do).

In addition, though, there's also a 'C-Lock' position on the lever which, in true Olympus style, lets you customize which control points are locked-out when the lever is switched to C-Lock.

Twin batteries

The E-M1X uses the same large BLH-1 batteries utilized by the Mark II, only now it uses two of them. These can be charged in-camera either across the USB-C socket or through a dedicated DC-In socket at the bottom of the landscape orientation grip.

Paired this way, the batteries give the E-M1X a substantial 870 shot-per-charge CIPA rating. And, as always, it's fairly common to get more shots than the rated value (Olympus claims to get 2,580 shots using Quick Sleep mode and testing 'based on' the CIPA methodology, for instance).

Sports shooting is a very different way of using the camera than the one modeled by the CIPA battery test: generally involving much more time spent looking through the viewfinder but much less time reviewing each image. We'd expect a formal rating of 870 to be more than enough for most sporting events, but we'll be checking this theory as our review progresses.

The E-M1X will also run just fine on a single battery, though with the expected reduction in shooting endurance.