Olympus OM-D E-M1X, M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO. 1/2500 sec., ƒ/4, ISO1000. Photo By Kelley L. Cox
While the old guard pro sports photographers lug massive cameras and lens combos along the sidelines, professional sports photographer and Olympus Visionary Kelley L. Cox is following the action with an equivalent camera and lens combo that weighs just 5 pounds. “The Olympus OM-D system is so much lighter, I’m easily running up and down the field, with none of the backaches of my colleagues,” Cox observes. “There’s a lot of versatility that comes from a 600mm-equivalent lens that can fit in my waist pack.”
Having recently upgraded to the new Olympus OM-D E-M1X, the standout feature for Cox may not be one you’d immediately guess from the specs. “It’s all about the speed of the processors,” she says. “When I’m shooting, I need to review and tag images on the fly, then import them to my phone for transfer to a client’s cloud service. Before, I’d often have to wait for images to finish recording to the slower SD card if I was saving RAW and JPEG files.” Thanks to the OM-D E-M1X’s two TruePic VIII Dual Quad Core Processors and two UHS-II SD card slots, that waiting is thing of the past. “Now I’m able to start tagging and making image selections instantly,” which lets her keep her focus on the action, not the logistics of image delivery. “Everything about this camera is faster, snappier and more efficient,” Cox says.
A standout feature for Cox is the Frequency Accelerating Sensor Technology (F.A.S.T.) AF system, which deploys 121 points of on-chip Phase Detection plus Contrast Detection AF across the sensor plane. This AF system is further enhanced by the AI-based Deep Learning Technology of the new Intelligent Subject Detection AF in the OM-D E-M1X. Cox has noticed a decided improvement in the autofocus performance of a system that was already working well for the demands of sports photography. Though this new technology is currently tailored to motorsports with three modes—Motor Vehicles, Aircraft or Trains—Cox reports that the AF system is also “faster and tracking is better” for the human subjects on which she focuses. “It’s obvious that Olympus has put a lot of resources and development toward making an exceptional autofocus system.”
As for the world’s most effective 5-Axis Image Stabilization system (it provides up to 7.5 shutter speed steps of compensation) in the OM-D E-M1X, “I’m often shooting at such fast shutter speeds that I don’t need stabilization,” Cox explains, “but when I do, it makes a huge difference. Sunset shooting on the water for sports like rowing, sailing or kitesurfing—to be able to do that handheld is definitely an advantage.” Cox notes that she uses this feature a lot for her personal photography, such as for scenic photography when hiking. And, she notes, the technology also stabilizes the image in the viewfinder, which is always helpful.
The OM-D E-M1X also offers several options for high-speed continuous shooting, advantageous for sports action photography. Cox typically uses the camera’s mechanical shutter with AF/AE tracking, which allows her to capture up to 10 frames per second. As an experienced pro who’s trained to anticipate her subject’s movements, she considers this an ideal speed, but the camera is capable of even faster capture rates using its electronic shutter. The electronic shutter allows totally silent shooting—great for wildlife photography or other situations where noise can be disruptive—and can capture up to 18 fps with full AE/AF tracking, or an incredible 60 fps with focus and exposure locked.
To help every photographer capture the “decisive moment,” Olympus’ unique Pro Capture Mode, available when using the electronic shutter, continuously buffers a series of full resolution images when you depress the shutter release halfway. Fully depress the shutter, and that moment’s image plus the preceding 35 frames are recorded, ensuring you’ll get the perfect shot.
Another important consideration for pro sports photographers like Cox is extensive weather sealing. When the weather’s unpredictable, knowing that your equipment is able to withstand the elements is critical. “Even the best rain covers are a hassle,” Cox says of the accessory equipment covers many of her collogues use. “People look at me strange when everyone else has raingear on their cameras, but I’ve used the OM-D system in downpours without any problems. It’s great to be able to travel anywhere and not worry about it.” And for Cox, the benefit of extensive sealing is not limited to protection from inclement weather—it’s also advantageous poolside when shooting water polo or even for indoor gymnastics. “Just last night photographing gymnasts, with the chalk they use to keep their hands dry flying everywhere, I didn’t have to worry about it getting lodged somewhere and causing problems.”
Even with the impressive technology of the Olympus OM-D E-M1X, for professionals, a camera is only as good as the ecosystem of lenses and accessories available. That’s where the OM-D system really shines for Cox. “The 300mm PRO [M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO] is what made me feel comfortable switching to Olympus. That lens, along with the 7-14mm PRO for capturing venue shots, team huddles and celebrations, as well as the 40-150mm PRO for basketball and indoor sports, are my go-to lenses,” she says. “And the 12-100mm PRO was the surprise lens for me. I borrowed a friend’s and was quickly sold when I realized how sharp and versatile the lens is. It’s great for flexibility when covering football, to catch celebrations and be able to then quickly zoom in on the action.”
For Cox, the advantages of the Olympus OM-D system, with its beautiful image quality, responsive speed and unmatched portability, are a competitive edge, moving the goals forward for what a professional camera system can help her achieve.
To learn more about the professional capabilities of the Olympus OM-D E-M1X, visit getolympus.com/em1x.