As I already mentioned in my very first article, that I am looking at upgrading my photography gear (my two Nikon D750 cameras). As this is a pretty expensive move, I am currently trying both the Sony a9 and Olympus OM-D E-M1X to see which one would best fit my sports photography needs. Now’s the time to experiment with the new top-of-the-line micro four-thirds camera — the E-M1X.

What I am looking for in my new partner

I have specific needs regarding my sports photography. Above all, I need high ISO capabilities and great autofocus. Good lookin’, high burst rate, well built … that’s icing on the cake. Ladies, you’ll certainly agree with me — that’s not too much to ask for, is it?

The bar is high

As you probably know by now, I’ve already been on a first date with Mr. A (aka the Sony a9), which has set the bar — and my expectations — pretty high. As I do lots of strength related sports, I thought Mr. X would be as excited as me to attend an Olympic Weightlifting event and to show me what he’s made of. And — as I also said in a previous article — I couldn’t wait to have the opportunity to hold him in my hands. His curves and ergonomics are perfectly balanced and at the right places (even more so than Mr. A’s). His built-in grip is a delight to work with for vertical portraits.

Meeting in the gym

As we started looking at the first event, women’s Snatches, I felt like his attention was going somewhere else from time to time. Even though I asked him to focus on the athlete’s face, he moved once in a while to the TV screen behind her or the bumper plates on her barbell. I set the Continuous Autofocus sensitivity at -2 (the least reactive one) but it didn’t seem to change Mr. X’s wandering ways. I might be the one doing it wrong here. It’s the first time we’ve met and I am still trying to figure out his character.

Freaaaaaaaaaaaakin’ fast

His 60 frames per second feature is no joke. The first time I used it, I wasn’t even sure if it even worked. I had to go back to view my images to realize he had indeed worked perfectly. Mr. X was perfectly silent with no blinking in the viewfinder. Almost like if nothing happened. Of course, I had to do a classical beginner’s mistake: I hadn’t thought about bringing a very high-speed SD card. With my shooting style, my buffer was filling up in a split second. This is definitely something to think about next time. When you have such a high frame rate — fast as in “the fastest on the market” — you better have a memory card that can keep up with it!

Testing his limits: Level 1

Also known as the normal-high ISO test. To warm him up, I went for the same settings I would’ve used with my Nikon D750. Nothing crazy here, just the minimal requirement I need to properly freeze a Snatch. I used the 75mm f/1.8 at f/1.8, 1/640s and ISO 3200. Here is an example with the original image, a 100% crop and the final edited result (you can click on them to see a larger version).

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Testing his limits: Level 2

Also known as the highest ISO test. Well, the “highest” in this case without going into the extensions would’ve been ISO 6400, but I chose not to go there as I felt it made him uncomfortable. Here is an example of the result with the 75mm f/1.8 at f/1.8, 1/800s and ISO 5000.

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Testing his limits: I won’t push my luck

As I didn’t want to ruin my chances on our very first date, I decided to slow things down a little bit and went for something a little more artistic. I backed things down to ISO 250, which was the lowest ISO I used that day and of course, it gave me the best image quality of all tests. His amazing 5-axis magnetic stabilization (providing 7 stops of image stabilization) made it possible for me to shoot handheld at 1/10s without creating any blur to the background. That would’ve never been possible to do with my D750. Big props for that! Here’s the result with the 75mm f/1.8 at f/3.5, 1/10s, ISO 250

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A great player … at the wrong sport?

Mr. X had all the features I was looking for: An extremely strong build and very fast burst rate with THE fastest electronic shutter speed in the game at 60 frames per second. It reminded me of a bodybuilder. Very strong and powerful. Have you ever tried to make a bodybuilder do a Snatch or a Clean and Jerk? He is indeed in very good shape and can move heavy weights … but his body and nervous system are not meant to work optimally that way. I also noticed he tends to lose stamina (read: battery life) faster than Mr. A for the equivalent amount of time. On a more affectionate note, I loved working all day with the 75mm f/1.8 lens. It’s so light and compact — it saved my back, arms and shoulders big time after many hours of shooting!

A second date

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to bring a bodybuilder to an Olympic Weightlifting event. I’ll be fair to him: We’ll have a second date. Outdoors this time, where I’ll give him the opportunity to shine at his true value. On my next article, I’ll share my thoughts both on Mr. A and Mr. X for similar conditions. That will likely be our last date before my official and final choice. Stay tuned for the fifth episode of my “DSLR to Mirrorless” journey!