Olympus EM1 Mark II Review

Olympus EM1 Mark II Review Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II flagship shoots 18 frames per second

The new OM-D E-M1 Mark II could also have been named OM-D OMG (“Oh My God”) by Olympus because it shoots 18 frames per second at 20 megapixels resolution including AF-C! This is made possible not only by the powerful 20-megapixel sensor, but also by a dual quad-core processor in which a quad-core (4-core processor) takes care of the autofocus alone. For the first time, 121 phase cross sensor AF points are integrated on the image sensor. With S-AF, the E-M1 Mark II even records 60 frames per second at full resolution.

Pros

  • Very high quality, ergonomic housing
  • Excellent mechanical image stabilizer for photos and videos
  • Very good image quality for photos (up to ISO 3,200) and 4K videos
  • Extremely wide range of functions

Cons

  • Trigger somewhat spongy
  • The highest continuous shooting rates are only available with electronic shutter
  • Only one of the two memory card slots is UHS-II compatible
  • Due to the wide range of functions, familiarisation with operation and, above all, menus is necessary

The new “sports camera” Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II shoots 18 continuous shots per second at 20 megapixels resolution including AF-C. [Photo: Olympus]

The continuous shooting rate should be 18 frames per second with AF-C or 60 frames per second with AF-S; at full resolution of 20 megapixels, of course. The fact that the new flagship is the first to master Olympus 4K videos is almost a minor matter.

 

The electronic viewfinder of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II still resolves 2.36 million pixels and magnifies 0.74 times. However, the frame rate is now at a fast 120 fps, the delay is only 0.006 seconds. The menu of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II has been slightly revised, which leads to a better overview, especially in the gear menu. [Photo: Olympus]

The handle of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is slightly larger. The robust housing is also protected against dust, splash water and frost. [Photo: Olympus]

It has a completely newly developed sensor with integrated phase AF measuring points. For the first time, Olympus has succeeded in integrating cross sensors on the sensor, which should make the phase autofocus much more reliable. Compared to the predecessor model E-M1, the 121 AF points are not only more, they also extend over a larger area on the sensor. In addition, there is a contrast autofocus that works with up to 800 measuring points. However, the phase AF points alone are not enough for a good autofocus, but the algorithms and processor performance are also decisive. The new algorithms are supposed to recognize the actual motif much better and predict the movements and thus focus on what the photographer really wants. The sensitivity of the autofocus is adjustable. In addition, the new autofocus should work much more precisely. Also innovative is the autofocus limiter, which can be adjusted in the camera. Three working ranges can be defined and affect each lens used. The new TruePic VIII processor works with a dual quad-core processor, so it has two times four cores. While four computing cores are responsible for image processing, the other four are exclusively responsible for autofocus.

The new live MOS sensor in Four-Thirds format (17.3 x 13 millimetres) has a resolution of 20 megapixels and, like its predecessor, is mounted in a movable position for image stabilisation. The redesigned five-axis image stabilizer now allows up to 5.5 f-stops longer exposure times than without the stabilizer. With an IS lens in hybrid mode, it is even possible to achieve up to 6.5 f-stops according to the CIPA standard, but so far only the Olympus 300 mm F4 Pro and the recently announced 12-100 mm F4 Pro have an optical image stabilizer to support this hybrid image stabilizer. According to Olympus, 6.5 f-stops are the limit for image stabilizers, by the way; with even higher measurement sensitivity, the earth’s rotation would influence the image stabilizer too much!

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II now features 121 phase AF sensors integrated on the Live MOS sensor, covering a larger image area. In addition, for the first time, they are cross sensors. [Photo: Olympus]

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s rear 7.5cm touchscreen swivels 180 degrees and rotates 270 degrees, allowing shots to be taken from unusual perspectives. [Photo: Olympus]

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II can record 4K (3,840 x 2,160) video at up to 30 frames per second or Cinema-4K (4,096 x 2,160) at 24 frames per second and Full HD at 60 frames per second. [Photo: Olympus]

The revised five-axis image stabilizer of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II now allows up to 5.5 f-stops longer exposure times than without stabilizer. With an IS lens in hybrid mode, it can even be up to 6.5 f-stops. [Photo: Olympus]

The image quality is said to have improved with both the higher dynamic range and the one f-stop lower noise. In addition, the lowest ISO level “Low” now corresponds to ISO 64. The High-Res-Shot mode now offers a resolution of 50 megapixels and can better handle problems such as moving degrees or clouds moving in the sky, which previously caused problems with High-Res recording, which still has to be done from the tripod. Although there have always been speculations about a “Hand Held High Res Shot”, this was only a vision of an Olympus developer that is not so easy to put into practice. Although the frequencies could be superimposed for image stabilization and for the high-res-shot, an accuracy of 0.5 pixels, i.e. a few micrometers, would be required, which is practically impossible to achieve, even with the necessary computing power.

The new sensor also enables the recording of 4K videos (3,840 x 2,160) at up to 30 frames per second or Cinema-4K (4,096 x 2,160) at 24 frames per second. The latter is possible thanks to compression with 237 megabits per second (Mbps) in particularly high quality. 4K videos are stored at 102 Mbps, Full HD videos at up to 60 frames per second at 202 (ALL-I), 52 or 30 Mbps (each IPB). It is saved in MOV format with H.264 compression. Instead of the integrated stereo microphone, an external microphone can also be connected and the level can also be controlled. The five-axis image stabilizer also works during video recordings, turning the camera into a steadycam. The 4:2:2 HDMI output also allows external recording and headphones for sound control can also be connected thanks to the 3.5mm jack socket.

Sports and action photographers will not only be impressed by the fast autofocus, but above all by the high continuous shooting rate: up to 18 frames per second are possible with full 20 megapixel resolution including AF-C. Although the silent electronic shutter is used, the rolling shutter effect should be minimal, as the electronic shutter runs over the entire sensor within 1/60 second. Without autofocus and exposure tracking, even 60 frames per second at full resolution are possible. The E-M1 Mark II has a buffer memory twice as large as its predecessor in order to be able to buffer the large amount of data. In addition, one of the two SD card slots supports the fast UHS II standard, so that very high write rates are possible with correspondingly fast cards. The newly developed mechanical shutter allows a maximum of 15 continuous shots per second, but then only with S-AF. The C-AF operates with mechanical shutter at up to ten frames per second. The shutter is mechanically decoupled from the camera, which significantly reduces vibration transmission, effectively reducing the shutter shock effect. Another not unimportant detail is the longevity of the closure, which Olympus specifies with 200,000 releases.

In addition to normal serial photos, the Mark II is also capable of pre-capture, called “Pro Capture” by Olympus. Up to 14 images can be saved before the shutter release thanks to the Loop mode of the buffer. But the photographer can not only set how many images are saved before the shutter release, but also how many there should be afterwards or whether there should be no limit. This should make it even easier to capture the right moment. Of course, the E-M1 Mark II can also handle the focus stacking and focus bracketing functions of the predecessor model (some of which were only retrofitted with a firmware update). Focus stacking should then also work with almost all Olympus MFT lenses. The Olympus has a Type C USB 3.0 interface to enable data to be quickly transferred to a computer. Tethered shooting, i.e. a control of the camera using PC software, is also possible. In addition, the E-M1 Mark II offers WLAN for wireless image transmission or remote control of the camera via app including live image transmission.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II can optionally be retrofitted with the new HLD-9 battery handle. [Photo: Olympus]

The new BLH-1 lithium-ion battery in the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II offers 40 percent longer battery life while halving the charging time. In addition, the battery status is now accurately displayed in percentage points. [Photo: Olympus]

The body of the Mark II is as compact as its predecessor, except that Olympus has slightly increased the grip depth for better handling of large lenses. The housing is also protected against splash water and dust, and the camera is frost-proof down to -10 °C. The new BLH-1 lithium-ion battery offers 40 percent longer battery life (7.4 V, 1,720 mAh) while simultaneously halving the charging time. In addition, the battery status is now accurately displayed in percentage points. Unfortunately, the battery is no longer compatible with existing cameras, not only electronically, but also physically, as the new battery is larger. An info menu also provides information on the number of trips since the last charge. The ageing process of the battery is also analysed and displayed, so that you can buy a new one in time if the old one is no longer good enough. The information is stored in the chip of the battery, not in the camera.

The electronic viewfinder still operates at a resolution of 2.36 million pixels, but now offers a higher refresh rate of 120 frames per second and a very short delay of just six milliseconds (0.006 seconds). The viewfinder also offers 0.74x magnification compared to 35mm, 100% field coverage and a large 21mm exit pupil. Olympus has also thought about a diopter correction from -4 to +2 dpt. The rear 7.6-centimeter touchscreen continues to resolve 1.04 million pixels. Now it can be swivelled sideward by 180 degrees and turned by 270 degrees, so it is visible from practically every perspective.

Since the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II was still in development at the time of the announcement, some specifications are not yet final. For example, Olympus does not yet specify for how many series photos the buffer is actually sufficient. By contrast, the market launch date of December 2016 has now been set. The housing should cost just under 2,000 euros, the set with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40 mm 1:2.8 Pro is around 2,600 euros.

In addition to the obligatory new HLD-9 portrait handle, an underwater housing PT-EP14 for diving depths of up to 60 meters, which is compatible with the previous lens ports, is also to be available as an accessory. Olympus has also announced a new STF-8 pliers flash and a powerful, splash-proof and dust-proof FL-900R system flash with a guide number of 58. We will present both flashes in more detail in the course of the week. The pliers flash is also splash and dust proof and should support both focus stacking and focus bracketing. The new remote release cable RM-CB2 has a 2.5mm jack plug compatible with the new remote release connector of the E-M1 Mark II. The remote release connection was previously integrated in a multi-function USB socket with a manufacturer-specific plug at Olympus. Alternatively, the camera can also be triggered remotely via WLAN, whereby the settings continue to be made via the camera as with a cable remote trigger.

Together with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Olympus also announces a professional service in three packages. The Standard Plus package corresponds to the previous MyOlympus with a six-month warranty extension upon product registration. The larger Advanced and Elite packages are subject to a charge and include, for example, fast support via e-mail, telephone or video call, express customer service, free repair shipments, rental equipment during repair and regular maintenance of the OM-D camera and M.Zuiko lenses.

Ergonomics and workmanship

Olympus has used the last three years (since the release of the Olympus E-M1) time for many meaningful further developments, not only to bring the Mark II up to date, but also to set new standards. The housing itself has been gently revised. The relationship to the E-M1 is immediately apparent in the Mark II, but the details have changed a lot. The grip depth of the rather compact mirrorless system camera has grown a bit, especially in the lower range, which accommodates large Western male hands, like could be the ones in our country. The handle is generously covered with rubber, the middle finger almost digs itself into the pleasant notch, so that the camera cannot slip out of the hand even with a heavy lens, which is relatively light even in the MFT system. However, the little finger only finds a reasonable amount of space on the handle. Those who like it more massive can use the new multifunction handle, which not only doubles the battery life and provides the camera with a mains adapter connection and other control elements, but also provides more handle height and a portrait shutter release. You can get the E-M1 Mark II in small, inconspicuous and handy or in large, dominant, especially handy and heavy.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II features a rugged magnesium alloy housing that is sealed against splashing water and dust. Even frost to -10 degrees Celsius does not prevent the technology from functioning.

Despite its compact dimensions, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II offers many control elements.

Now regarding weight: this has increased by a full 70 grams ready for use, the case now brings it to almost 580 grams. For a DSLM this is not so easy. But the housing is extremely robustly built for this. It consists of a resistant magnesium alloy and is sealed against environmental influences. Some photographers wash the camera (of course only with an appropriately sealed lens) even under running water, if necessary. But they shouldn’t be submerged. Even dust cannot penetrate inside and the camera and battery are frost-proof to -10°C. But where does the extra weight come from? On the one hand, Olympus (finally) uses a double SD card slot. Both slots are compatible with SDHC and SDXC, but only slot 1 supports the UHS-II standard and thus offers significantly higher write rates (we measured up to 170 megabytes per second). If you want to use the potential of the camera, you should definitely buy a big, fast SDXC UHS II card, it’s worth it!

The electronic viewfinder of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II still resolves 2.36 million pixels and magnifies 0.74 times. However, the frame rate is now at a fast 120 fps, the delay is only 0.006 seconds. The menu of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II has been slightly revised, which leads to a better overview, especially in the gear menu. [Photo: Olympus]

Another part of the extra weight falls on the 40 percent larger battery. It now has significantly more intelligence, for example there is a percentage-accurate battery level indicator, as has long been the case in the smartphone sector or in many Sony cameras. But the battery can do even more: it stores how many pictures have already been taken with it and in what state it is. So the photographer can recognize after a view into the camera menu, when he should provide for replacement. Since the information is stored in the battery and not in the camera, the battery can also be used with multiple cameras. However, the new battery is not compatible with the old E-M1 and E-M5 batteries. The 73 gram battery brings it up to 12.8 Wh, which is enough for 440 shots according to the CIPA standard. In practice, we were able to clearly top this value without any problems, especially with serial photos, considerably more shots are possible. If this is not enough, you can double the number of pictures with the multifunction lever.

Olympus is also not poor when it comes to interfaces. Thus USB 3 is supported, whereby the modern type C plug is used, which can be plugged in in both directions. The HDMI connection is a micro version (type D). In addition, there is a headphone output and a stereo microphone input, each as a 3.5 mm jack. Also a flash sync connection is available and a TTL system flash shoe with ISO compatibility for center contact flashes anyway. The multi-function connector, on the other hand, has been omitted, which means that it is only used as a viewfinder connector in the Pen series. Other accessories such as the microphone connection adapter and the wireless adapter are no longer necessary, both are built into the OM-D E-M1 Mark II as is the viewfinder. The fact that the metal tripod thread sits in the optical axis is a matter of course in this class. Also a remote release connection (2.5 mm jack) is not missing.

The operation is very good, even if you have to get used to it because of the many keys, some of which can be programmed extensively. The shutter release has spongy rather than crisp pressure points. Opinions about what is better differ widely. Up to the first point, the shutter release can be pressed quite easily, above that, the spring tension increases significantly, so that one can hold the shutter release half pressed quite well, which is absolutely necessary for some functions, such as Pro Capture (more about this later). Working with an electronic shutter in particular, however, takes some getting used to, as there is neither acoustic nor haptic trigger feedback. At some point the release button stops and cannot be pressed any further. Very practical is the quick switching of the assignment of the two setting wheels. By the way, the E-M1 Mark II also has a classic program selector wheel; it can even be locked. There is no separate exposure compensation wheel as on the Pen-F, but the exposure compensation is also available in the manual mode like the ISO automatic.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II has a more pronounced handle than its predecessor, especially in the lower area.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II offers many interfaces: USB 3.0 (type C), Micro-HDMI, headphones and microphone (each with 3.5 mm jack) and (on the other side of the case) a remote release connector (2.5 mm jack)

The viewfinder functions flawlessly like its predecessor and has the same technical parameters as the 0.74x magnification or the resolution of 2.36 million pixels compared to the 35mm. However, the viewfinder has become faster again and the delay has been further reduced. The screen, on the other hand, has a decisive change, which we see with a laughing eye and a crying eye. The 7.5-centimeter monitor can now be swivelled sideways and rotated 270 degrees. This is wonderful for portrait shots and selfies, but if you just want to fold the monitor up or down quickly, you don’t just have to twist it up a lot more and practice a little finger acrobatics, you can also put it next to the camera behind it. Speaking of finger acrobatics, this is a touchscreen that remains active even when the viewfinder is used as an AF touchpad. If you look through the viewfinder with your left eye, you will soon be disturbed, because your nose will unintentionally shift the AF point. Fortunately, the touchpad function as well as the entire touch capability can be turned off; or you simply fold the screen upside down against the camera, which even protects it from scratches. This also saves power if the proximity sensor remains activated on the viewfinder, which only switches on when needed.

Olympus has slightly revised the gear menu. This has become even more extensive, but now has a clearer intermediate menu level with letters and numbers. In this menu there is almost nothing that cannot be set on the camera. This includes the adjustment of the exposure or the electronic spirit level, which can be displayed in the viewfinder or on the screen in the same way as numerous grid patterns and a live histogram. You can also adjust whether you want an exposure preview or not.

Equipment

The E-M1 Mark II’s program selector wheel is dominated by the creative modes P, A, S and M as well as the three user memories. Nevertheless, the Mark II offers an intelligent automatic function, so that the camera works completely automatically if desired, for example for a snapshot in between or if someone takes a photo with it who is not so familiar with the technology. However, the camera only unfolds its full potential if you get to grips with it. If you want to become less technically creative, you can fall back on the many art filters, which can also be activated as an image style in a creative program on request. A manual exposure and an art filter are therefore not mutually exclusive. The OM-D also creates HDR images automatically on request. Those who prefer to do it themselves can fall back on a sophisticated exposure series function. This is not only limited to the exposure, but also focus bracketing and even focus stacking directly in the camera are possible.

Olympus has completely redeveloped the image sensor, and it is said that the medical department, which accounts for the lion’s share of the group and where Olympus is the world market leader, played a major role in this development, since powerful image sensors are also needed in the medical sector, but they must not be too large. The Micro-Four-Thirds form factor is also a good compromise there. Olympus does not build the sensors itself, but has them manufactured, but the design and specifications come from Olympus. The fact that it is the first image sensor with integrated cross-phase AF sensors underlines this fact. We were able to test this autofocus as well as the powerful serial image function using several scene modes, including birds of prey (not sure actualy what kind of birds they were) flying towards and past us, a herd of cattle and galloping horses. In fact, it was the photographer’s ability to keep the subject in the frame that proved to be the greatest threat to unusable photos. The autofocus, on the other hand, sat when a subject was in the picture and he had the opportunity to capture it. The autofocus is really fast and a lot faster than in the previous model, which already had a phase autofocus. Photographers who adapt old Four-Thirds lenses also benefit significantly from the even faster autofocus. Our laboratory measurement confirms this; we were actually able to measure a rapid autofocus at Olympus: Including 0.02 seconds shutter delay, the image was actually in the box only 0.08 seconds after the shutter release button was pressed. By the way, there are new options for autofocus control in the menu that adjust the reaction speed, for example, because the AF should not always focus on a new subject detail.

Focusing a bird in flight is no problem for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II.

The autofocus of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II also captured the bird flawlessly in the fast fly-by, despite an unsettled background not far from the depiction.

But you can even take pictures before you press the shutter button. Olympus calls it Pro Capture. As soon as you press the shutter release button halfway, the buffer is constantly filled with new images, the last 14 remain in the buffer (the function is automatically deactivated after 60 seconds, so don’t wait too long with the shutter release). If you now press the shutter release button, these pictures will be saved including the following ones as long as you hold the shutter release button and the continuous-advance function is still available (at some point the buffer is full because the memory card does not follow completely). This function makes it easy to capture the right moment. The continuous shooting rate reaches up to 60 frames per second at highest resolution! However, there are two limitations: The autofocus is no longer adjusted at this high continuous shooting rate and the shutter works electronically, which can lead to image distortion with very fast moving subjects (sensor reading takes 1/60 second). If you switch down the continuous shooting speed to 18 frames per second, the E-M1 Mark II can track the autofocus, which works very well as already mentioned. With a mechanical shutter, the maximum number of shots per second is 15 (with AF-S) or ten (with AF-C). In addition, the slower the continuous shooting rate, the longer series are possible. At 60 frames per second, the buffer is only sufficient for 48 photos in raw format; at ten continuous shots per second, three times as many shots are possible at a time. By the way, the Olympus easily writes 8.5 raw images (just over 20 MBytes per piece) per second to the memory card, which corresponds to just over 170 megabytes per second – an excellent value! In JPEG, the buffer lasts even longer, depending on the subject and the compression.

In addition to the continuous shooting function, Olympus has also significantly upgraded the video function. In addition to the video recording button for spontaneous recording in each recording program, there is a special video mode in which more extensive functions are available, such as manual settings for exposure. A maximum of 30 frames per second are achieved in 4K (3,840 x 2,160), 24 frames per second in Cinema-4K (4,096 x 2,160) and 60 frames per second in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080). With bit rates from 202 (Full-HD) to 237 (4K) Mbit/s, very high image qualities are also possible. It is saved with H.264 compression in MOV format. This is a bit unfortunate as not all 4K capable devices support this video format. For example, our Panasonic television from 2015, which can handle 4K material in MP4 format with H.264 or even H.265 compression, but not MOV movies. The autofocus also works perfectly thanks to the phase sensors in video mode. If you want, you can also set the AF-S mode, which makes the videos even quieter and changes the focus only when you touch a different subject detail on the touchscreen. So filming is fun even with autofocus, because the focus only jumps (or is gently changed) when you explicitly want it. The fact that the Olympus has an internal stereo microphone as well as connection options for microphone and headphones, the audio level can be controlled and the time code is stored underlines the video ambitions. Only one zebra function is missing. After all, the threshold of the normal overexposure and underexposure display can be adjusted.

The real highlight of the videos but also photos is the integrated image stabilizer. It allows up to 5.5 f-stops longer exposure times, with an image-stabilized Olympus lens even up to 6.5 f-stops. Exposure times of 1-2 seconds can be easily held out of the hand at 35 millimetres (KB) and larger wide angles. There are also enormous advantages with telephoto lenses. The performance of the Image Stabilizer is even more impressive in video recording. It looks as if the camera is mounted on a steady-cam system, but unlike a heavy, real steadycam system you can move much more flexibly and freely. There is also no Crop by the purely mechanically working stabilizer, even with 4K video recordings the full sensor width is used. However, the image height and thus also the diagonal becomes significantly smaller due to the trimming from the 4:3 sensor format to the 16:9 film format. The image stabilizer enables videographers to work in a completely new way with small, lightweight, unobtrusive equipment.

If you like to flash, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is the right choice for you. It doesn’t have an integrated flash unit, but a tiny rotating and swivelling attachable flash (FL-LM3) is included, which can even act as a master in a wireless system flash setup. The OM-D also masters functions such as high-speed synchronization, flash exposure correction, long-term synchronization or flash at the end of the exposure. The flash sync time is 1/250 (with large system flashes) or 1/320 second (with the small, supplied clip-on flash). With a silent electronic shutter, the flash sync speed is 1/60th of a second. By the way, the mechanical shutter is not particularly loud, but it doesn’t sound as “analog” as it does with the Pen-F, for example.

The image sensor of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with movable bearings for image stabilization allows longer blur-free exposures of up to 5.5 f-stops.

On the bottom, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II offers a multifunction handle connector that improves handling and battery life.

When the (photo) shot is in the box or on the memory card, the possibilities of the E-M1 Mark II are far from exhausted. In the case of raw recordings, these can already be developed extensively in the camera, including the use of art filters. JPEG images can also be edited in the camera (within known limits). Thanks to WLAN, the E-M1 Mark II also sends photos wirelessly to smartphones or tablets on request. In this way, GPS data can also enter the photos if they were previously recorded using the OI Share app. If you want, you can also remote control the camera via WLAN, but there is even software from a resourceful programmer. From Olympus itself there is also a studio software developed.

Picture quality

Of course, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II also had to prove its image quality in my testing. The lens 12-40mm F2.8 Pro was used, with which the E-M1 Mark II is to be sold in a set for almost 2,600 Euro.

The 12-40 mm F2.8 is one of the best set lenses you can get. We noticed this again and again in earlier tests, most recently on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II, where it delivered excellent resolution values. In fact, the E-M1 Mark II has trouble getting close to these high resolution values, even though its image sensor resolves 20 instead of 16 megapixels. There are two reasons for this: On the one hand, the E-M5 Mark II was a particularly good specimen of the 12-40, while the E-M1 Mark II was a mediocre specimen, which was no longer brand-new, but already visibly used. The other reason is that the image processing is a bit more reserved, there are for example less sharpness artifacts. The bottom line is that this 12-40 also achieves a good to very good performance. At all focal lengths, the resolution easily exceeds the mark of 40 line pairs per millimetre (lp/mm) both in the centre and at the edge of the picture; at the centre of the picture, the resolution is easily above 50 lp/mm at wide-angle and at medium focal lengths. The lens doesn’t suffer from a pronounced edge weakness like many other lenses, even high-quality standard zooms, nor does the 12-40 have to be dimmed down magnificently to get a high resolution. Starting with F8, the diffraction slowly becomes noticeable, but only becomes more noticeable with apertures beyond F11. Distortion, edge darkening and colour fringes are minimal to non-existent. However, digital correction also plays a role here to some extent, but without, for example, causing edge blur.

The new 20-megapixel sensor has a higher resolution than its predecessor, which only achieved 16 megapixels. Therefore, it would be understandable if the noise were a little stronger. But Pustekuchen, despite its higher resolution, the new sensor performs even better. At ISO 64, the Mark II’s new “ISO Low” setting, the signal-to-noise ratio is just under 45 dB, a very good value. Up to ISO 1.600 this value remains above the magic limit of 35 dB. The E-M1 was able to do this, but started at a slightly lower level and ended up well below 30 dB at the very high ISO sensitivities, while the Mark II only falls just below 30 dB at ISO 12,800 and 25,600. The noise of the Mark II is fine-grained, with brightness noise slightly visible above ISO 3,200, while color noise plays practically no role. It becomes interesting with the texture sharpness. According to the measurement, the Mark II delivers excellent sharpness up to ISO 1,600 and remains acceptable up to ISO 6,400. The predecessor model was still excellent up to ISO 800 and acceptable up to ISO 3,200, so there has been significant progress here. The input dynamics are also slightly better. Maximum values are achieved at ISO 200 and 400 with over twelve f-stops, even up to ISO 3,200 there are around eleven f-stops.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s new Micro Four Thirds sensor now resolves 20 megapixels and supports 4K video recording. 121 integrated phase AF cross sensors also ensure fast focusing at up to 18 continuous shots per second.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s 40% larger battery now stores a lot of important information about its service life. The memory card slot now holds two SD cards, one of which is UHS-II compatible and up to 170 megabytes/s fast.

With the exception of ISO 64, the tonal value curve is very strongly divided. At ISO 64, the signal attenuation compared to the basic sensitivity of ISO 200 is thus noticeable. By the way, the Mark II does not offer ISO 100. The output tonal range moves up to ISO 400 at a peak level of over 224 of 256 possible brightness gradations, at ISO 800 it is over 192 and at ISO 1.600 still good over 128 gradations. On average, the color fidelity is quite good, although there are no very big outliers to complain about. The Olympus records violet and red tones somewhat more saturated than in real, but without exaggerating too much. This emphasizes a natural color impression, while the images appear very crisp and rich in contrast due to the sharpening and especially the steep tonal value curve. Of course, all this applies to the very good JPEG engine of the camera. Those who want more neutral contrasts can, for example, extensively adjust the tonal value curve in the camera or fall back on the raw data format. The actual colour depth is very high, especially at ISO 64 and 200 with over eight million colours, very good up to ISO 800 with well over four million colours and still good up to ISO 6,400 with over two million colours.

Bottom line

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a real hit. Although it doesn’t cost very little with a good 2,000 Euros, it also offers a lot of performance that is partly unparalleled, for example in the series pictures and even more so in the excellent image stabilizer. The mirrorless system camera is perfectly processed and offers very good ergonomics with the distinctive handle and the many control elements. The many functions with their extensive menus require a lot of training, which can hardly be avoided. Autofocus and continuous shooting work at lightning speed, and the video function also offers excellent quality. The same can be said of the pictures. Up to ISO 1.600 the Olympus delivers a very good image quality, up to ISO 3.200 a good one and even at ISO 6.400 the images are still acceptable, noise is weak and still show many details.

Fact sheet

Fact sheet
Manufacturer Olympus
Model OM-D E-M1 Mark II
Sensor CMOS 4/3″ 17.3 x 13.0 mm (crop factor 2.0
)21.8 megapixels (physical)
20.4 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 3,3 µm
Resolution (max.) 10.368 x 7.776 (4:3)
Video (max.) 4.096 x 2.160 24p
Lens Olympus 12-40 mm 2.8 ED (EZ-M1240) (zoom lens)
Video viewfinder EVF, 100 % field coverage, 2,360,000 pixels resolution, 1.48x magnification (sensor-related), 0.74x magnification (KB equivalent), diopter compensation (-4.0 to 2.0 dpt), -4.0 to 2.0 dpt)
Monitor 3.0″ (7.5 cm)
Disbandment 1.037.000 pixels
tiltable
rotatable yes
swivelling yes
Touchscreen yes
AV connector HDMI Output Micro (Type D)
Fully automatic yes
Automatic scene mode control yes
Program automation yes
Program shift yes
Aperture priority yes
Aperture priority yes
Manual yes
Bulb long time exposure yes
HDR function yes
Panorama function yes, stitch panorama wizard (for external stitching)
Exposure metering Matrix/multi-field measurement (324 fields), center-weighted integral measurement, spot measurement
fastest shutter speed 1/8.000 s
Flash included attachable flash
Synchronous time 1/250 s
Flash connection Flash shoe: Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contact
WLAN yes
NFC
GPS external, smartphone as GPS logger
Remote release yes, cable release, remote control via Smartphone/Tablet
Interval shooting yes
Storage medium
SD (UHS I, SDXC, SDHC, UHS II)
Slot 2
SD (UHS I, SDXC, SDHC)
Sensitivity
automatic ISO 200-6.400
manually ISO 64-25.600
White balance
automatic yes
manual measurement yes
Kelvin input yes
Fine correction yes
Autofocus yes
Number of measuring fields 121 Cross sensors800
Contrast sensors
Speed 0.08 s to 0.11 s
AF auxiliary light LED
Dimensions (mm) 134 x 90 x 69 mm
Weight (ready for operation) 578 g (housing only
)960 g (with lens)
Tripod socket in optical axis
Zoom
Zoom adjustment manual on lens
Battery life 440 images (according to CIPA standard)
– = “not applicable” or “not available”

Pros

  • Very high quality, ergonomic housing
  • Excellent mechanical image stabilizer for photos and videos
  • Very good image quality for photos (up to ISO 3,200) and 4K videos
  • Extremely wide range of functions

Cons

  • Trigger somewhat spongy
  • The highest continuous shooting rates are only available with electronic shutter
  • Only one of the two memory card slots is UHS-II compatible
  • Due to the wide range of functions, familiarisation with operation and, above all, menus is necessary

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II comes in a limited Silver Edition: Worldwide only 2,000 pieces for company and MFT anniversary

This year Olympus is not only celebrating its centenary, but also ten years of MFT. Together with Panasonic, Olympus set new standards in mobile interchangeable lens photography and a trend for the entire market that has now been followed by all major photo manufacturers. On the occasion of the anniversary, Olympus will issue a Silver Edition of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II limited to 2,000 pieces worldwide.

 

Only 2,000 units of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Silver Edition are produced worldwide. [Photo: Olympus]

At the end of February 2019 the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Silver Edition will be available at a price of almost 1,700 Euro. In contrast to the illustration, a lens is not included in the scope of delivery. [Photo: Olympus]

The compact mirrorless system camera set new standards in mirrorless photography just over two years ago: 18 continuous shots per second with AF-C and even 60 shots per second without at full 20 megapixel resolution. In addition, it is still the only mirrorless system camera that integrates phase cross sensors for autofocus directly on the image sensor. Furthermore, the Sync-IS set and continues to set standards in image stabilization with an effectiveness of up to 6.5 f-stops. Further details can be found in our data sheet as well as in our detailed test report in the further links. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Silver Edition will be available worldwide from the end of February 2019 in a print run of 2,000 units at a price of just under 1,700 euros.

Firmware 3.0 for Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and 1.1 for E-M1X: improvements in autofocus, image quality and more

With the firmware update 3.0 Olympus brings many improvements of the E-M1X to the E-M1 Mark II. Among other things, autofocus performance and image quality are improved. Also new is the USB raw data processing, which is already known from Fujifilm. The processor of the camera connected to the PC via USB functions as a high-performance image data processor. The firmware update 1.1 for the Olympus OM-D E-M1X also brings exactly this functionality with it.

Buyers of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II should be very happy about the firmware update 3.0, as Olympus brings the two and a half year old mirrorless system camera to the level of the six month old OM-D E-M1X – free of charge. So the autofocus works after the update already from -6 LW, if a F1.2 fast lens is used. In addition, the new AF algorithm from the OM-D E-M1X provides a more precise AF-S. AF performance is also further improved during video recording. There are also new AF functions such as C-AF Center Priority for high-precision tracking of moving subjects, a 25-field group and the C-AF+MF mode, which allows manual intervention even in C-AF mode.

The improved noise reduction reduces noise by approx. 1/3 step at high ISO sensitivity, and the new detail priority in the low-ISO range ensures a higher resolution. In addition, Low-ISO now also offers an ISO 100 equivalent, in addition to the previous ISO 64. After the update, the OM-Log400 function for flat gradation is available for video recordings, which facilitates video post-processing.

Other changes include internal camera focus stacking, which now works with 3-15 images instead of eight, the ability to play back images and change settings while writing to the memory card, an anti-flicker mode for even exposure under fluorescent light, and the new Art Filter Instant Film.

The update 3.0 for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and 1.1 for the OM-D E-M1X common to the update 3.0 is the USB raw mode. This enables even less powerful computers to process raw data quickly as soon as the camera is connected to the computer via USB. The trick is to use the powerful camera image processor for image processing. The whole thing only works if you use the Olympus Workspace software in its current version 1.1, which is available free of charge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II data sheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 4/3″ 17.3 x 13.0 mm (crop factor 2.0
)21.8 megapixels (physical) and 20.4 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 3,3 µm
Photo resolution
10.368 x 7.776 pixels (4:3)
8.160 x 6.120 pixels (4:3)
5.760 x 4.320 pixels (4:3)
Panorama Stitch Panorama Wizard (for external stitching)
Picture formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard
Video resolution
4.096 x 2.160 (17:9) 24 p
3.840 x 2.160 (16:9) 30 p
3.840 x 2.160 (16:9) 25 p
3.840 x 2.160 (16:9) 24 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 60 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 50 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 25 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 24 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 60 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 50 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 30 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 25 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 24 p
Maximum recording time 29 min
Video format
AVI (Codec Motion JPEG)
MOV (Codec H.264)
Audio format (video) WAV

Lens

Lens mount
Micro Four Thirds

Focusing

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 121 cross sensors, contrast autofocus with 800 measuring fields
Autofocus Functions Single Auto Focus, Continuous Auto Focus, Tracking Auto Focus, Manual, AFL Function, AF Assist Light (LED), Focus Peaking, Focus Magnifier (14x)
Focus control Depth of field control, dimming button

Viewfinder and Monitor

Monitor 3.0″ (7.5 cm) TFT LCD monitor with 1,037,000 pixels, anti-reflective, brightness adjustable, color adjustable, rotatable 180°, rotatable 270°, with touch screen
Video viewfinder Video viewfinder (100 % field coverage) with 2,360,000 pixels, 1.48x magnification factor, diopter compensation (-4.0 to 2.0 dpt)

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 324 fields, spot measurement, AF-AE coupling
Exposure times 1/8,000 to 60 s (Auto
)1/8,000 to 60 s (Manual)
1/32,000 to 60 s (Electronic Shutter)
Bulb with maximum 1,800 s Exposure Time
Exposure control Fully Automatic, Program Automatic (with Program Shift), Aperture Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual
Bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with maximum 7 shots, step size from 1/3 to 3 EV, HDR function
Exposure compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 200 to ISO 6,400 (automatic
)ISO 64 to ISO 25,600 (manual)
Remote access Remote release, cable release, remote control via smartphone/tablet
, remote control from computer: certain functions
Picture effects Fisheye, Pinhole camera, Miniature effect, Blur, Cross process, Dramatic sound and nine other effects, Grainy film, Pop art, 10 other image effects
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sun, White balance bracket, Fine-tune, Shadow, Flash, Underwater, Fluorescent lamp, Incandescent light, from 2,000 to 14,000 K, Manual 4 memory locations
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 60.0 fps at highest resolution and max. 48 stored photos, 18 fps (77 raw images) with AF-C (18 and 60 fps with electr. shutter
)15 fps (84 raw images) with AF-S (mech. shutter)
10 fps (148 raw images) with AF-C (mech. shutter)
Self-timer Self-timer at intervals of 2 s, special features: or 12 s (optional)
Timer Timer/interval recording with max. 999 recordings, start time adjustable
Shooting functions AEL function, AFL function, live histogram

Flashgun

Flash no built-in flash availableFlash shoe
: Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contactFlash connection socket
: F-plug
Flash range Flash sync time 1/250 s
Flash number Guide number 13 (ISO 200)
(flash supplied)
Flash functions Auto, Fill-in flash, Flash on, Flash off, High speed sync, Slow sync, Flash on second shutter curtain, Manual flash output (4 levels), Red-eye reduction by pre-flash, Master function (4 channels and 4 groups), Flash exposure compensation from -3.0 EV to +3.0 EV

Equipment

Image stabilizer Sensor shift (optical)
Memory
SD (UHS I, SDXC, SDHC, UHS II)
second memory card slot
SD (UHS I, SDXC, SDHC)
GPS function GPS external (Smartphone as GPS-Logger)
Microphone Stereo
Power supply Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Olympus BLH-1 (lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.4 V, 1,720 mAh
)440 images according to CIPA standard
Playback Functions Red eye retouching, video editing, image cropping, image rotation, image protection, highlight / shadow warning, playback histogram, playback magnifier with 14.0x magnification, image index, slideshow function with music and fade effects, reduction
Voice memo Voice memo (WAV format) with max. 30 s recording time
Face recognition Face recognition
Picture parameters Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation, Noise Reduction
Special functions Electronic spirit level, grid display, pixel mapping, orientation sensor, live view, user profiles with 3 user profiles
Ports Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 3.0 SuperSpeedWLAN
: available (type: B, G, N)
AV connectors AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D
)Audio input: yes (3.5 mm jack (stereo, 3-pin))
Audio output: yes (3.5 mm stereo microphone jack)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod socket 1/4″ in optical axis
Case Splash-proof class (IPX1), frost-proof down to -10 °C
Features and Miscellaneous Magnesium alloy body TruPic
VIII Image ProcessorUltrasonic sensor cleaning systemEye sensorto switch from monitor to viewfinder modeFive axis image stabilizer
(up to 5.5 EV according to CIPA standard)
AF area with 9 or 5 areasFocus peaking
with white, black, red or yellow indicatorFocus bracket
(3-999 shots)
digital shift functionMulti-exposure functionFlash bracket2, 3 or 5 frames /- 1/3 , 1/2 or 1 LWArt
filterExposure bracketKeep warm color white balanceVideo effectEcho and multi-echoStereo microphoneLive bulb

functionShadow brighteningRaw data editingTime-lapse function

(4K, 1080p, 720p)

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 134 x 90 x 69 mm
Weight 578 g (operational)

Other

included accessories Olympus BC-2 (Case Cover
)Olympus BLH-1 Special BatteryOlympus
CB-USB6 USB CablePlug-in Flash UnitUSB Connecting CableAV CableRigid StrapImage Editing SoftwareOlympus Viewer for Windows and Macintosh
optional accessory Olympus FC-WR (Radio Control Unit) Flash AccessoriesOlympus
FL-700WR Attachable Flash with Swivel ReflectorPanasonic
Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25 mm 1.7 (H-X1025) Zoom Lens
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Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.