I’m going to be honest with you: I’ve been waiting for this camera for quite a while now. Finally Olympus has announced it, the new flagship mirrorless OM-D camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. Let’s dive straight into my preview of this new piece of technology, shall we – oh and a little warning – this is going to be a long one…
I haven’t used this camera in real life yet. So I will try to keep my thoughts about performance and usability within reality for now until I get to use it for an actual photo / video job. Obviously a lot of the new features look great on paper, but the real performance of this new camera will show ‘off-paper’.
I’ve grown quite fond of the retro mix modern style of the Olympus cameras.
There’s something sexy about the looks and ergonomics of an old film camera you will find in all of Olympus OM-D and PEN series cameras regardless of how recent they are. And the OM-D E-M1 Mark II doesn’t disappoint. It looks very similar to the previous flagship, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 (Mark I). A little bit more modern and rounded all over, but definitly true to it’s series predecessors in style.
And you know what: I like it. – Why change something that looks perfectly great to start with?
A few things have changed compared to the E-M1 (Mark I)
- button layout (not much really)
- 2 memory card slots
- higher res screen and EVF (electronic viewfinder)
- flip out screen
A few things haven’t changed:
- it’s just as robust and weather sealed as it’s predecessor. GREAT!
- same size and weight (±) (more on that later on)
What it feels like… well I’ll take a look at the video below of my little trip to the Special Event on the 19th of September and a short hands on preview.
I don’t want to bore you with keywords. So I’ll keep it short and sweet here, but will go into further detail about the key features that I am the most excited about in the next point.
- 20,4 MP sensor with TruePic VIII image processor
- 18fps tracking focus *UPDATE ON THIS FURTHER DOWN!
- 121 cross-type On-chip Phase Detection Autofocus
- 50MP hi-res shot mode
- advanced 5-axis sensor stabilisation (up to 6.5 shutter speed steps compensation on IS lenses)
- dustproof, splash proof and freeze proof (-10ºC)
- dual SD card slot
That’s a lot of features and numbers, and I’ll break it down to what really matter to me as an adventure, travel and surf photographer.
There’s a ton of new features worth talking about. But I’ll cut it to the most important ones and will try to explain to you how they really matter in real life situations.
The Auto Focus (AF) on the E-M1 (Mark I) is amazing. It was the only mirrorless camera with On-Chip Phase Detection (PDAF) and Contrast Detection auto focus (CDAF) system.
I’m not going to get all techie here, but the basically it’s the best focussing technology you can get on a mirrorless camera. And they’ve drastically improved it in the new E-M1 Mark II.
Well ALL 121 focus points of the sensor are On-Chip Phase Detection and Contrast Detection focus points (there were 37 on the previous E-M1 model – that’s more than x3 the focus points!). That’s incredible! Expect this camera to beat A LOT of cameras when it comes to focussing!
This is where technology really is the most important helping hand in photography. Again, shooting action sports, in low light situations or extreme environments I NEED my camera to focus reliably. Mirrorless cameras have always felt like they were a step behind the full frame ones… but I get the feeling that this might have changed now! (testing will tell)
I know, I know… it’s not all about the MP (Megapixels). But when you get a bump without dropping image quality but actually improving it I’m not going to say no to it: It’s good to have a few extra pixels to work with.
Up from 16 to 20.4MP is an increase I expected and hoped for as long as nothing had to be cut short as a result of this jump. Luckily it hasn’t!
For example when shooting in environments where framing isn’t the first priority. Say I’m shooting surfing or other action sports where I’m immersed in the forces of nature and have to rely on my shooting technique and instincts for framing a shot. Having a few extra pixels to correct the final image can really save a shot!
The E-M1 (Mark I) shoots 11 fps (non tracking) and 10 fps when tracking focus. Which even now is still quite impressive!
But now the E-M1 Mark II has close to doubled this to 18 fps high-speed sequential shooting while focus tracking! That’s incredible!
Combined with the improved focussing capabilities I expect this to dramatically increase my ‘keeper shots’ when shooting surfing, outdoor and fast moving subjects. Great!
Here are the different speeds the camera offers:
[Sequential shooting H] approx. 15 fps with selectable 10-15 fps
[Sequential shooting L] approx. 10 fps with selectable 1-10 fps
[Anti-shock sequential shooting L] approx. 8.5 fps with selectable 1-8 fps
[Silent sequential shooting H] approx. 60 fps with selectable 15, 20, 30, 60 fps
[Silent sequential shooting L] approx. 18 fps with selectable 1-10, 15, 18 fps
[Pro Capture H] approx. 60 fps with selectable 15, 20, 30, 60 fps
[Pro Capture L] approx. 18 fps with selectable 1-10, 15, 18 fps
This means: The mechanical shutter actually only goes up to 15fps. Anything above that is electronic shutter.
This is a feature we have seen in the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II last year. With the new TruePic VIII image processor and improved 5 axis sensor stabilisation I think the shutter speed has been dramatically reduced.
High Res. Shot precisely moves pixels at 0.5 pitch to capture a total of eight shots and then composites them into a single 50M equivalent ultra high-resolution image. It actually captures an 80MP RAW image that can then be exported into a 50MP jpg image.
As far as I know you’ll still need a tripod to capture these kind of images.
But the new sensor definitly will bring us much closer to this idea of doing this handheld and I suspect (and hope) it’s a technology Olympus will be pursuing in the future. I’ll be updating this info as I learn more over the coming hours/days.
A lot of other camera manufacturers have been adding 4K video mode into their cameras video capabilities over the past months. And as I’m working more and more on my video skills this feature is greatly welcomed into my workflow too.
The 4K in the E-M1 Mark II supports Digital Cinema Standard 4K which is a resolution of 4096 x 2060 pixels – General 4K is 3842 x 2160 pixels. And with the new TruePic VIII image processor it’s three times faster speed compared to traditional models the rolling shutter effect (LINK TO VIDEO) is reduced to a minimum. Nice!
I’m not 100% sure if I’ll be publishing videos in 4K as of now / as of when I get my hands on the E-M1 Mark II, but I will definitely be recording every minute of footage with 4K since it’s just like the HiRes Mode – it gives me more room to play with. And downscaled 4K footage (to HD for example) has it’s advantages too. Often it actually looks much sharper and detailed.
Big bonus here for Olympus is their awesome sensor stabilisation that works in combination with 4K (or any other video codec / size) to stabilise your footage and make almost the shakiest hands look steady as if they were using a gimbal / glide cam / tripod…
I did recently invest in a Came TV Gimbal (for future video work) and using both the sensor stabilisation + the gimbal I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to shoot incredibly smooth footage. But more on that soon.
As you might know. Back when I started shooting with Olympus it was all because I wanted to test how well this camera would stand up against the big brands when shooting surfing. Olympus is one of the very few camera companies that makes dedicated underwater housings for each of their cameras. And for me to be able to take this camera into the ocean to capture surfing is probably one of the biggest sales points. It’s here where I will be testing most of it’s focussing, high frame rates and durability features.
And I’m VERY EXCITED to see that Olympus makes a dedicated housing for the OM-D E-M1 Mark II called the PT-EP14. Awesome!
It has a depth rating of up to 60m and comes with the same port adapter system as the PT-EP11 housing for the E-M1 (Mark I) and NOT the E-M5 Mark II system, which I am very happy about as I’ll be able to use all my ports on the PT-EP14 E-M1 Mark II housing.
Absolutely everything’s been thought about and improved. It’s all in the details. As a long time user it’s always great to see those little updates that make your life just a little easier – but when you add them up just contribute to better user experience.
The screen now folds in and out – yes a great feature when travelling with a camera as you can swing it around and fold it towards the inside and protect it. It also makes it a much better type of screen for video work.
- better battery life (37% higher capacity) 1720mAh vs 1220mAh on the E-M1 (Mark I)
- a percentage display on the screen for the battery life. (finally!)
- dual SD card slots
- improved dynamic range
- improved image quality + better ISO sensitivity = less noise!
- improved sensor stabilisation (5.5 shutter speed steps compensation) – 6.5 with lens with IS (300mm f/4 IS and new 12-100mm f/4 IS)
- optional, fully weather proof grip for extra battery life and comfort: HLD-9 Power Battery Holder.
E-M1 Mark II (right)
Visually I tried to align the lens mounts of each camera for this comparison. As you can see the grip on the E-M1 Mark II is a little bigger and in general it seems like the E-M1 Mark II is a little bit bigger overall. Nothing dramatic though. I like it. I have big hands and a bigger grip is always welcomed.
For the back view I aligned the orange ‘Delete’ button. Not much has changed here. A few buttons have moved, but in general it looks like a familiar setup. Which is great as it won’t take any adjusting shooting either the E-M1 or the E-M1 Mark II.
Well obviously there are the main features I listed and talked about above. But there’s more. For me personally this camera is proof of concept and more importantly: proof of innovation. For years now I’ve had the feeling that most camera manufacturers are just copying each other and jamming higher numbers, and higher Megapixels into their cameras and all it came down to was that cameras have become so affordable to the mainstream that all that really matters are exactly those numbers.
It’s so much easier to sell a camera that has 10 Megapixels MORE than the previous model. A tough sale though is to sell something completely new. You have to convince the customer that ‘new’ and ‘unknown’ is better. THAT is much harder to do.
And I believe that Olympus has really done the right thing here. They are pushing towards new, innovative technology and features other manufacturers haven’t even been thinking about. And I think they have done this in exactly the right moment.
2016-2017 is a major refresh cycle for all the flagship cameras of almost all brands and besides the odd little feature here or there nothing has impressed me away quite a much as the features on the E-M1 Mark II.
BTW. I’m not being paid to say any of this. This is my personal opinion and obviously I don’t know every brand, feature or technology out there – it’s my impression and to me it confirms that I’ve made the right choice to be working with Olympus cameras.
It’s a step, maybe even a leap, in the right direction and I predict that a lot of the technology seen in this camera will gradually be seen in other models on the market.
There’s so much more than the just the new flagship camera. Olympus has also released 2 new PRO lenses! A prime PRO lens and a new zoom lens.
Another new PRO lens is the M.Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO lens. Personally I love the idea of a lens with a wider focal range. And the smaller than usual f/4 apertures will be more than compensated by the built in image stabilisation that works in combination with sensor stabilisation to dramatically stabilise your image allow for super slow shutter speeds.
I reckon this lens will be the ultimate travel lens.
The M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens is amazing wide aperture lens I CAN’T WAIT to get my hands on! And I suspect (and hope) that there will be more of these ultra wide aperture lenses in the future to complete a series of prime lenses in the PRO lineup.
It definitely will bring the micro 4/3 system a big step closer to full frame look when it comes to blurry backgrounds and isolating subjects.
I think this lens will quickly become a very very popular street, portrait and video lens.
PRO also means weather sealed and top of the line build quality. Something I very much appreciate as I take my gear into all kinds of situations, environments and climate zones and the last thing I want to worry about is if my camera will be able to resist the conditions. So yes, PRO is quite important to me.
We’ll you can preorder the lenses now on Amazon. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait until the end of this year for the camera itself.
Price wise I’ve not been able to confirm an exact number, but was told that it would be slight more expensive than the E-M1 (Mark I) at launch. Which I suppose sounds fair.
Well I’m not going to lie about this: I’m praying (to Olympus 🙂 ) to get an early model for test and review purposes and already I am planning on taking these new features to the test as I am planning projects for 2017.
I’ll do my best to write a full, honest and super in-depth review about this camera once I have the time to test it.
But for now:
Thanks for reading all the way down to here. Well done! I hope you enjoyed the read and learnt something new. If you have any question please contact me through the contact form on my website.
Follow along as I go full-nerd on the Photokina for the following 5 days and show you the coolest stuff I can find (and actually think is worth talking about). And hey if you’re coming to Cologne too hit me up and we’ll have a coffee.
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I’ve been pushing my gear to extreme conditions over the past months and I’ve been working on a new video series called Adventure Photography On Location. In APOL I share short episodes and in detail blog posts about adventures I go on to capture the image I’m so passionate about. I give you an in depth insight behind the scenes and share my knowledge and experience with you as I take you to various parts of the world.
The next episode: ‘EP05 Adventure Photorgaphy On Location – Iceland From Above’ will be online this week and I’ll be taking you into a helicopter to capture Iceland… well… from above.
Check out previous episodes here:
In EP31 of Adventure Photography on Location I’m exploring famous Lake Bled in Slovenia and I share some of my favourite composition rules & tools with you and how I use them to improve my photography composition techniques.Details
In EP20 & 21 of APOL I go on my biggest adventure yet as I spend 3 weeks in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan to attempt the famous Lenin Peak. The so called easiest 7000m mountain on the planet.Details
So after many weeks and countless hours of preparation and thanks to the help of Olympus AU I’ve finally made it to Iceland. And in the very first episode of the new video series: Adventure Photography On Location I’m taking you along from Budapest to Iceland all the way into a canyon on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the far west of Iceland.Details