With 32,000 Instagram followers, an extensive website devoted to the craft of travel photography, and a thriving tourism and travel photography business, Olympus Visionary Lisa Michele Burns was an obvious candidate to put the new OM-D E-M1X through its paces in the months before it launched. [Courtesy of Olympus]
‘I booked a trip to Finland to test out the E-M1X, to see if it would stand up to the freezing conditions of Lapland mid-winter. I’d previously photographed Swedish Lapland in January and totally fell for the arctic conditions and frozen wonderland, so this was a great excuse to revisit the region.
‘Finnish Lapland is known for its fells [high and treeless mountain landscapes] and I spent almost two weeks snowshoeing and cross-country skiing with the E-M1X in my backpack. Even after I fell in a deep hole of snow and the camera got completely covered, its weatherproofing held up and it still performed amazingly. My battery level never dropped below 70%, which is exactly what you need when shooting in cold climates.’
Wintertime in the far north is synonymous with gloomy, short days but Lisa found that the E-M1X was up to the task. ‘The major feature that exceeded my expectations was the seven stops of image stabilisation which not only allowed me to shoot during the low light polar night conditions, but to capture 10-15 second handheld exposures of the northern lights. I can’t imagine doing that with any other camera. To be outside, in -20 degree temperatures, shaking from the cold but being able to stand tripod free and photograph dancing waves of aurora above, it was insane!’
In less gloomy climes, photographers can run into situations where the scale from darkest shadow to brightest highlight becomes a problem – particularly when you want to use a slow shutter speed for such effects as blurring a waterfall. The traditional solution is to reduce the scene brightness by fitting a neutral density (ND) filter to your lens.
‘The live ND filter is one of my favourite features of the E-M1X,’ Lisa says. ‘It is so fun to play with at the beach while watching the waves blur through the frame. I’ve never been one to fiddle around with filters and tripods, so having the built-in live ND filter has allowed me to capture long exposures without the fuss. Any solid or still objects in the scene remain unaffected, while any moving elements are blurred. It’s seriously impressive and one reason the E-M1X will come with me on every trip this year.’
When you spend hours every day shooting, the size and weight of your gear becomes a significant consideration. While it doesn’t tip the scales to the same extent as most professional gear, the E-M1X is a little heavier than Lisa’s OM-D E-M1 Mark II, but she doesn’t mind.
‘Despite the size increase from the E-M1 Mark II, the E-M1X surprisingly doesn’t feel that much heavier,’ she says. ‘It’s nowhere near as heavy as my previous Nikon gear that made my back seize up after a day of shooting. Even after a full day of carrying it while snowshoeing and hiking, the E-M1X felt similar to the E-M1 Mark II and didn’t cause me any pain.’
Asked where the new E-M1X fits into her gear collection, Lisa says that it will be sharing space in her camera bag with her E-M1 Mark II. ‘I photograph a lot of underwater and split-level photographs, so at this stage it won’t completely replace the E-M1 Mark II which has the dedicated underwater housing and still performs really well as a professional body.
‘The E-M1X will however be my first call for capturing landscapes and wildlife due to the new hand-held high-resolution mode which captures files at 50-megapixel resolution. I’ll also use it for any action and high-speed shooting situations. While shooting with the E-M1X in South Africa, it was so incredible to have the intelligent AF system and the image stabilisation when bouncing around the African savannah in a safari vehicle – it was a game changer!’
Staring through the electronic viewfinder and seeing a male lion gazing back was one of the most incredible moments of my life. I had the E-M1X paired with the 300mm f/4 pro lens and the duo enabled me to capture some portraits of the animal’s features and expressions.
Asked where would she go if she could somehow magically visit any place in the world for an afternoon, Lisa responds, ‘this year I’m working on a project that showcases landscapes carved by climatic conditions. Ideally a dream afternoon would include popping over to the Antarctic continent (on a plane because I get seasick) for a date with my E-M1X to photograph Paradise Harbour, an iceberg filled bay near Lemaire and Bryde islands. Actually my number one dream destination is Socotra Island in Yemen. Obviously due to safety concerns it’s impossible to visit at the moment but one day, my fingers are crossed I’ll wander the rugged dunes and bizarre landscapes of this untouched gem in the Indian Ocean.