Olympus OM-D E-M1X testing at the British Touring Car Championship - Darren Athersmith

Olympus OM-D E-M1X testing at the British Touring Car Championship

I was lucky enough to be selected by Olympus to try out their new OM-D E-M1X at a British Touring Car Championship event recently, so I set off bright and early on Saturday to join Olympus and the Power Maxed Racing team at Oulton Park in Cheshire. I arrived just after 8am and after introductions the Power Maxed hospitality team served up a wonderful cooked breakfast, just what I needed after a two-hour drive. Unfortunately, I was double booked as I needed to be in Preston at 3pm to photograph the UK Fighting Championships so I only had a couple of hours with the camera. With that in mind this blog post is nothing more than my initial impressions, Olympus do hold many drop in sessions where you can try their kit for yourself, check the Olympus Image Space website for more details

It wasn’t long before I had a new E-M1X in my hands paired with a M.Zuiko ED 40-150 F2.8 PRO lens. As a lifelong Nikon user and currently shooting with a D5 paired with a 70-200 F2.8 Nikkor my first impression was that this is a nice small and light package compared to what I’m used to, the integrated vertical grip aiding the ergonomics. Spending a day shooting a wedding or sporting event would be much less tiring with this combination over my shoulder. I’ll not list all the specifications here, firstly because I don’t actually know them myself and secondly because all the details are on the Olympus website if you want to check them out. Hopefully though this short post will give you an idea of what I thought about the camera after a short time with it. Will I be buying one, well you’ll have to wait and see!

To allow me to take all images I shot away with me I was advised to take an SD card with me which is what I did and I was pleasantly surprised to see two card slots when I popped open the cover, essential to me for shooting weddings as one card can be configured to back up the other.

Switching the camera on and flipping the rear display around (yes it folds out and can be set to any angle) I found that the menu system is not dissimilar to that of my Nikon so it was fairly intuitive to use once I’d been shown the basics. There’s also a My Menu system where you can configure your own favourites, but I didn’t have enough time to play so can’t comment on its usability. One thing that seemed small compared to my Nikon was the size of the rear display, it’s actually 3” and the Nikon is only 0.2” larger but the Olympus did seem noticeably smaller in use.

Camera set and ready to go my group were taken to Lodge on the circuit to capture the first Touring Cars practice session. To check everything was working as expected I took a quick snap of a car in the pits, it certainly surprised me with just how quick it obtained focus and took the shot. Reviewing the shot on the rear display seemed to show everything was tack sharp where I wanted it, so we were good to go.

First test shot as we walked from the hospitality tent


I positioned myself at the side of the circuit to capture the cars as they exited the corner, panning to allow a slower shutter speed to portray motion in the image. A pet hate of mine is photos of motorsport where the wheels show no motion and the car or bike could well have been simply parked there. I was pleased with the first shot I took of a car, motion was portrayed as I wanted but there was a slight blur that could be seen in the sponsors graphics. No doubt due to my camera handling rather than its ability! Unusually for me the camera was light and easy to handle, and the physically shorter lens felt unnatural compared to what I was used to. Don’t get me wrong though this is not a complaint, simply an observation compared to my usual kit. I very quickly got used to this new lightweight kit in my hand though and by the third shot I was very pleased with the result, see for yourself in the image below bearing in mind that this was literally the fourth frame I took with the camera which I take as testimony to how intuitive and easy to use this kit is. I was particularly impressed with how quickly focus was obtained, I have no scientific evidence but it seemed comparable with my Nikon. I progressively reduced the shutter speed to blur the background more until I was shooting at 1/30 sec, at this speed it is difficult to keep the whole car sharp and you often see only a small section you were focussing on stay relatively sharp, in this case I was concentrating on the Power Maxed logo as there's a little competition on the go!

Typically I'd be using an ND filter to shoot in bright sunshine at these shutter speeds but mine are 77mm and the M.Zuiko lens has a 72mm filter thread. The E-M1X does have built in ND filter simulation though I later found out, unfortunately it was too late to try it.

The fourth frame I shot with the camera - 1/125 sec at f / 11, ISO 200

1/125 sec at f / 11, ISO 200

1/100 sec at f / 11, ISO 200

1/80 sec at f / 14, ISO 200

1/30 sec at f / 11, ISO 64 - Check the POWER MAXED logo


The camera has various focus modes such as motorsport where it detects a car and snaps focus on it, our Olympus rep set this up to demonstrate later in the morning. Now this may be great for some but it’s not for me, the focus point appeared as a large rectangle in the electronic viewfinder and seemed to jump about randomly until it found a car to latch on to. It did work though but I’d rather have more control of what I’m focussing on. Speaking of electronic viewfinders I’ve never been a big fan but the one on the E-M1X didn’t really bother me, I’d still rather an optical but could get used to this.

I switched lens to try the ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO lens for a short while at the end of the session, trying to capture the cars in the distance as they went over the brow onto the start/finish straight. Once again obtaining focus was lightning fast and subject tracking was great too, looking at the stickers on the back of the car this lens produces pin sharp images.

ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO - 1/1250 sec at f / 4, ISO 200


As I had to leave after lunch I only shot for the morning but battery life seemed impressive, probably down to the fact that two batteries are installed in the body. Also, there is a facility to charge from USB which could be handy as it would allow me to recharge in the car whilst travelling. After my short test I had to leave early to get up to Preston, sadly I never got my Power Maxed Racing team garage visit but maybe I will one day?

After what was a very long day for me I got up on Sunday to take a look at the images I’d captured in Lightroom. Now this is a Pro camera so expectations were high and I wasn’t disappointed, image quality is exceptional!

So that’s it, a very short review following a short time using the Olympus OM-D E-M1X, I hope you found it informative. Was I impressed, yes, I was. Will I be switching camps, who knows? Maybe as I start to tire of carrying the weight of my current kit I’ll give it some thought and this combination will certainly be on my shortlist.

I hope you found this short review informative, feel free to leave a comment or ask a question below:

Darren.



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