The Olympus E-M1 MKII Review Part 1: Iceland
By Steve Huff
*NOTE: All images here in this review are JPEG, some out of camera, some with slight contrast edits. At the time of writing this there were no tools available to convert the RAW files. Part 2 will have RAW conversions and comparisons. Click on the images in this review to see them larger and how they were meant to be seen. Also, conditions in Iceland were grey, dull, wet and well, grey. So keep that in mind when evaluating images here and from others who were on this photo trip*
As I sit here on my flight from Iceland back to the USA I have been reflecting on the past eight years of running this review website/blog. Bottom line, I am one lucky guy. I get to take my passion and turn it in to my job, my work, and to top it off I get to sometimes travel the world to do what I love doing…using and reviewing cameras, lenses, and gear. I am truly blessed and before I start with this review I want to thank each and every one of you who have come here in the past, present and in the future to read what I have to say. YOU are appreciated, so thank you for these past eight years!
Since I have quite a while on this flight (yes, I am starting to write this on my flight) before I reach my connection flight, I decided to write down my thoughts, likes and dislikes of the new E-M1 MKII after using it all week in the frigid cold but gorgeous Iceland, while my memory is still fresh. Over these last few days I have shot images for this review using the new camera and at the same time, *BIG SURPRISE*….I fell in love with it. I fell in love with it not only for it’s image quality which is quite nice, but for everything else as a package. This camera has a lot put into it, and it shows.
Some of you may not realize this but Olympus started developing this camera FOUR years ago. Who knows, maybe the EM1 MKIII is being developed as I write this and will be out in 3-4 years but for now we have this one and boy is it a remarkable photographic tool that lives up to the hype. I suspect that Micro 4/3 fans are going to flock to this one in droves, maybe. But what about those who are not fans of the format? Can this camera sway them?
As I said at the top of the page all of the images here are JPEGS (No RAW support at the time of this writing), and for JPEGS I am highly impressed. Just look at this first shot below and the detail, color, and overall vibe…you must click it though to see the larger version! Needless to say, I was not disappointed in the slightest, and again, this is from a camera JPEG.
Massive Waves in Iceland…feel the cool frigid air as you view this image in a large size. 12-100 f/4, EM1II The Sky was grey blue, it was cold and the waves were huge.
Keep in mind this is Olympus’s new Professional Flagship Micro 4/3 camera. It is going to be larger and more feature packed than a PEN or EP series, and it is meant to be the all out best camera they know how to make today in 2016. So it is not going to be $1000, and couldn’t be. As for design, It is very similar in design to the old EM1, though a little bit taller. It is serious, it is tough, it is for the pro or anyone who enjoys a solid highly usable camera.
But it’s still Micro 4/3, and comes with some of the same limitations as it always has but for me, the body is so advanced, and it is so enjoyable to use, and so inspiring to use that as a package it is one of the most incredible cameras I have ever had the pleasure to use.
Some of the E-M1 MKII improvements over the MKI by the numbers
With a new 20MP Live MOS sensor Olympus has upped the ante with image quality and improved image noise by 1 stop and they also claim a dynamic range improvement (and I believe that). Not a huge performance increase in high ISO noise but I will take any improvement we can get when it comes to Micro 4/3.
At the healthy price point of $1999 it will be the most expensive Micro 4/3 camera ever offered (I think), but even so I feel it will be a hit for Olympus as there are many Micro 4/3 fans out there who love to shoot with this system, pros and enthusiasts and amateurs alike, and many have been waiting and waiting and waiting for this one to be announced.
In my world and my eyes, this may be the biggest and coolest camera release of 2016. I simply cannot think of another that matches the specs and performance of everything it does at this price point or size. Specs wise, it packs a big fat knock out uppercut to most competitors.
But yep… the price point will be $1999 body only with the camera shipping before Christmas. That is the real price and expected ship date. I can hear it now! $2000?!?! I can buy a Fuji and lens for that! A Sony 6500 and lens for that!? A used A7 series! Well, this is no Fuji or Sony APS-C! For me it is superior in some ways (like build, speed, fps, video specs, dual SD slots, weather sealed, etc) and Olympus seems to be aiming for the big guns here. I will say this…if you are in the market for a camera that can be used as an emergency weapon, or a camera that can survive a trip on Noah’s Ark then keep reading.
Think of it almost like a mini Canon 1dx series camera but half the size all the way around, even the sensor, and way less than half the price 😉 That is what this new EM1 MKII is all about. Powerful and Tough.
This camera can take snow, sleet, hail, rain and freezing temps. I put it through all of that during my week in Iceland and it never flinched. Though at one point the eye sensor for the EVF was covered by so much water it would not switch to the LCD. A quick dry with a cloth restored it back. But the camera was getting pelted with rain for most of the days we used them.
This is only the Beginning
This is Part 1 of my review, and it will be jam-packed full of thoughts (10k words) and images as well as a few tests and crops. In part 2 that will come a little later, I will do more testing and comparisons and use the other lenses I own with it. Part two will have comparisons, testing the AF tracking, RAW files, more video testing, long exposure tests, and all of the things we did not get to while in Iceland.
In Reykjavík Iceland at the best Hot Dog stand in town (they were delicious). Though this guy gave me a snarl when I aimed and fired. Shot with the E-M1 II and 25 1.2, wide open.
Ahhh memories! I remember back a few years ago when I was on an international flight to Ireland to test the then new Flagship pro Olympus camera, the original E-M1. The hype and excitement was huge as that was the 1st “PRO” Micro 4/3 body to be announced and launched, ever. I really enjoyed that trip and getting to test the camera in various scenarios, and I was so impressed by that camera that I made it my Camera of the year for 2013.
The Original E-M1 ticked all the right boxes back then, and I knew it would be at least 3 years before the successor was announced as that is just how Olympus rolls. They take their time and do not release a new camera every 6-12 months. The IQ was and is still beautiful with the original E-M1 (those who have issues are usually the pixel peeping crowd as Micro 4/3 does have a tendency to show some slight noise at base ISO when viewed at 100%…pixel peeping) and anyone who says otherwise (that IQ is not good with M 4/3) are usually those who just like to talk trash about the format, or those who have the “bigger is always better” mentality.
Unless you need 100MP of detail for a huge mural sized print, today, the new breed of Micro 4/3 can do the job 99% of the time and what really helps is the speed and response of the camera, assuring you get the shot.
NEW KEY FEATURES OF THE E-M1 II
But how is this new camera? Does it live up to and surpass the original? You know, there are indeed times when the successor doesn’t seem as good as the original but in the case of the E-M1 MKII, it is truly a big upgrade over the original for all that it offers, the speed and response increases and the overall quality and vibe of the camera. This is an easy 5 year or longer camera just as the original is still a good choice today for those on a budget.
In fact The old E-M1 can be found these days for a GREAT price, and it is still a wonderful camera. If you are on a budget, now is the time to jump on that because the original is still fantastic.
At the Blue Lagoon in Iceland with the E-M1 and 25 1.2, wide open. Click it to see how sharp this JPEG is.
I have wondered for years what on earth Olympus could improve or add to make the E-M1 better. The original was so so good. Sure, high ISO needed improvement for 2016 standards, the speed needed improvement for 2016 standards, and hey, even if they could up the game with image quality, then all the better. But with M 4/3 I think we have kind of *almost* hit a ceiling with IQ as we are limited to that sensor size, and with the smaller sensor we will always have more noise, less DR and less Shallow DOF than when shooting on a larger or even full frame sensor. BUT with that said, I strongly feel that the EM1 MKII is capable of 99% of the shots one may need to take and the best part about the camera is, the way it works and the features we have available. It’s truly like no other camera out there.
The lenses. They are some of the most beautiful and best made today by any manufacturer and Olympus has even stepped it up in that area. They were always good, but the pro line is as good as it gets for Micro 4/3 and these latest two just blew my mind. It seems they are getting better still and it is my position today that Olympus and even Panasonic are making some of the best lenses today, for any format.
But as I have said over and over through the years, Olympus are the ones who usually innovate rather than just doing a small refresh when it comes to major new camera releases. In fact, that is one thing I love about Olympus. Instead of releasing a new camera every 9-12 months like some do, they create a very powerful camera and update it when it needs updating. In the case of the E-M1 that time frame has been just over 3 years. As I mentioned earlier, instead of playing the “update game” all of the time, Olympus chooses to give massive firmware upgrades instead. Which is amazing. I wish more camera companies would do this as the original E-M1 is like an all new camera from when it was launched thanks to the new firmware updates over the years.
I have seen more rainbows in Iceland in four days than I have in Arizona in 10 years! 12-100 f/4. We had dull and grey light for 90% of this trip, but even with that the camera did very well.
So what on earth could Olympus bring us in an E-M1 MKII that would make it worth an upgrade over the already great E-M1 MKI? Well, after a week of use I can say that they have hit it out of the park with the new MKII in almost every way. While I did find a weakness or two I will mention below (pretty minor and firmware fixable), and did hope for a thing or two to be better (was hoping for a Leica SL style EVF), this camera absolutely rocked me with its speed, build, handling, response, performance, IQ and feature set. EVERYTHING. My regular readers know that when I get to this level of excitement about a camera, it means I REALLY REALLY liked it, and this one is no exception, and I can’t help it. When something this good comes along it stands above the usual fare and gets me going!
You must click this image to see it in all its glory. The waves at the black sand beach we visited were INSANE. The guide told us a very sad story of how recently a woman was there with her husband and child. She stepped up to the water to take a photo and the waves sucked her in and she died. These are nothing to plat around with. This shot looks like a man is rising from the waves to show his power. The camera was in Dramatic Tone II to give extra drama to the scene.
Yes sir, this camera is a serious pro tool, and anyone who says today that this format can not be used for pro work, well..they are truly missing out on an incredible camera and system with some of the best lenses right next to Leica in the quality dept. After just a week of use I did not want to give this kit back to Olympus before heading home, but sadly all 10-15 reviewers there had to turn in the gear on the last night as usual… of course 😉
Yes, many of your fave reviewers were all there testing right along side with me and what a great group they are. I just wish we were allowed to take the kit home for more tests as the days in Iceland were just not long enough to test all we needed to test (AF tracking, Long exposures, etc) due to all of the driving we had to do. Olympus only had a limited number of bodies though and they needed them all for an event they are having today in NYC. So I understand completely 😉
So with that out of the way, let me get into my thoughts and use of the new MKII E-M1 during my week in Iceland.
First let’s talk about what is new and why someone may want to upgrade. Then I will get into actual use, and my experience with the camera.
With the external battery grip added. Not for me due to size, but some love grips. This will give you double the battery power!
The Build Quality
Yep, this camera is a beast, but not in a “size” kind of way (unless you add the external battery grip, then we are almost in DSLR territory as you can see in the image above, but still much thinner than a DSLR)…more in a performance kind of way. Back in the early days of the original Olympus Pen I would have never imagined how far this format and system could come, and come far it has. Many were writing off Micro 4/3 when it started, and some still are to this day but truth be told, with this camera they will never know what they are missing. I am a fan of the USABILITY of a camera just as much as anything else, and the EM1 had it, and now the II has even more of it. It’s a joy and pleasure to use and hold.
For starters, the new MKII version of the E-M1 has a fantastic build quality. It feels solid, sturdy and much different from cameras like a Sony A7RII, A6500, Fuji or any consumer DSLR. It’s PRO which means it is built to a standard that will allow PROS to use it and not have to worry about it failing or worry about it not locking focus or any issues that a pro may worry about with a lesser camera, like extreme weather for example. I almost want to make a torture test video with it…pouring water over it, using it as a hammer, storing it in my freezer overnight, etc. I think it would hold up. The grip seems deep on this guy so those with smaller hands may find it a tad too deep. For me, I thought it fit just about perfectly into my grip. It’s easy to hold on to.
“Weatherproof construction and Super-Sonic Wave Filter dust reduction system. The OM-D E-M1 Mark II features high-performance weather sealing for excellent dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof (down to 14°F/-10°C) performance so that users can shoot in the harshest of conditions. This weatherproofing is not limited to the camera body alone: it is extended across the entire OM-D system, including the dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof M.ZUIKO PRO lens lineup5. In addition, a Supersonic Wave Filter (SSWF) dust reduction system vibrates the image sensor more than 30,000 times a second to virtually eliminate any dust that may land on the sensor while changing lenses.”
But just because this body is built for pros does not mean that only pros should use this camera. In fact, any enthusiast or hobbyist or someone who just loves quality would adore this camera. Anyone who shoots an E-M1 and wondering if it is worth the upgrade? I will save you some reading, To me, it 100% is.
There are so many improvements here with the MKII it will take me a while to talk about them, which is one reason this is a part 1 review. I will go over more in part 2 when I get my review unit in a week or so.
Horses with the 12-100 f/4 – see how sharp it is when you click it
The new Live MOS sensor and TruePIc VIII Image Processor
This camera now uses a new 20MP Live MOS sensor using the new Tru Pic VIII engine. We gain a stop for high ISO noise even with 4 more MP over the Mark I, we get a new color noise reduction algorithm and we seem to get some improvements to dynamic range and overall color and IQ, but then again, the EM1 had fantastic IQ and color as well. To me, the IQ difference is not huge or massive nor is it night and day but everything else about the camera certainly is, and the new lenses…OMG they are SO SO GOOD. With that said, I am seeing imagery and quality that is an improvement so I feel IQ has improved, and it should as it’s using a much newer and advanced sensor and processing.
“The newly developed high-speed TruePic VIII Image Processor and a new 20.4 megapixel Live MOS Sensor works in concert with the camera’s electronic shutter to provide full-resolution images at a maximum 60 frames per second in AF and AE lock, and up to 18 frames per second with continuous AF and AE tracking.
Higher resolution and improved dynamic range: The new 20.4 megapixel Live MOS sensor offers 25% higher resolution than the previous model, and the absence of a low-pass filter further enhances image quality. A higher dynamic range improves the reproduction of highlight and shadow detail, and an anti-reflective coating on both sides of the sensor’s sealing glass further enhances contrast performance.”
With the 12-100 f/4, click it to see a much nicer version. Dramatic tone so you will see some noise, that is part of the look. What this mode does for skies is pretty cool.
Dual Card Slots
So yes, the build is fantastic. When you hold it in the hand it makes you feel confident. It is solid, it is full on weather proof, it is freeze proof, it is dust proof and it has two SD card slots that allow you to use one for Video and one for Photos or you can use them with one backing up the 1st or even as a set so when one fills up, it starts to the next card.
I was testing video with a super high speed card in slot 1, and for photos I had a 90MBPS card in slot 2.
It worked out so well and these dual slots are nice to have in a Micro 4/3 body. I would probably end up using them as a way to copy card one to card two for a backup in the case of a card corruption.
“The OM-D E-M1 Mark II features dual memory card slots to allow simultaneous use of two SD cards for more versatile shooting. The slots are positioned in a staggered layout, making cards easier to insert and remove. Users can select from four settings: Standard Mode records to the specified card; Automatic Switching Mode automatically switches to the second card when the first card becomes full; Dual Independent Mode records to both cards according to the specified image quality setting assigned to each; and Dual Same Mode records identical files to both cards simultaneously. Slot 1 supports UHS-II and UHS-I cards, while Slot 2 supports UHS-I cards.”
DRAMATIC TONE JPEG: Using the new Pro Capture mode you will never miss a shot due to bad timing, ever again!
The new Battery System and New Charger
The new EM1 MKII has an all new battery system, and it is beefed up for longer shooting times providing 37% more power than the old system. I was out all day with the camera from 9am util 8pm and I used 65% of the battery. Others were using it quicker but we found that shooting more video will use the battery up faster, and extreme chimping or use of the PRO CAPTURE mode will also use it up more quickly. But for those of you like me, who do not use machine gun modes with a million frames per second, well the battery will last much longer.
The new charger is also nice as it is a quick charger and will charge the battery from empty to full in about 2 hours. The only niggle I had with the new charger, and it is a small one, is that the light on it is large and bright. So if you have it in a bedroom while sleeping for example, and charging, it may keep you up ; ) It’s bright. I had to throw a pillow over it while in my hotel and charging the battery at night.
Also, if you throw your battery on and it starts flashing rapidly with a yellow light, it is not an error! I thought I had a bad battery as the light flash sequence makes you think it is defective, but all it means is that your battery is at 80%.
Overall I love the new battery system and size wise, it is similar to the Leica SL battery. Chunky, thick and square.
“High-capacity battery and rapid charger: The new BLH-1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery has a capacity that’s approximately 37% higher than that of the BLN-1 used in the previous model, providing approximately 440 shots on a single charge (CIPA standards-compliant). The OM-D E-M1 Mark II displays the remaining battery life percentage on the rear monitor so users are not surprised by a depleted battery. Also, the new BCH-1 charger is 50% faster than the previous version.”
Window Shopping. EM1 II and the 25 f/1.2 – click for better version!
The new EVF
The new EVF is nice but not the “ultimate” upgrade I had hoped for. Yes it is lovely, and large and clear but I was hoping for a picture window Leica SL style of EVF which to me is the gold standard of EVF. I am spoiled by the SL EVF so when I go to my Sony’s or Olympus or others I feel like I downgraded. To those who never shot an SL, you will think the E-M1 MKII EVF is amazing 😉 It is great, truly is…but I wish it was to the specs of the SL. It look very similar to my eye as the Sony A7RII EVF. If this camera had that SL EVF I may have retired from doing camera reviews, lol. Joke.
“High-magnification, high-speed electronic viewfinder. The performance of the 1.48x (35mm equivalent) high-magnification, high-resolution electronic viewfinder rivals those of professional full-frame interchangeable lens cameras. With high-speed operation that includes a maximum refresh rate of 120 fps and a minimum response time of five milliseconds, users never lose track of fast-moving subjects.”
The EVF works well and has 120fps with a 6ms reaction time. Its quick, lag free and will not leave you squinting.
One thing I also had hoped for was a better eyecup as mine fell off once in use. It is the square type and it slides down on to the EVF. If you are carrying the camera and it starts rubbing up and down on you side it may pop off. But it is in no way a deal breaker 😉 It’s just a quirk. Mine fell off once and I asked a few others who were shooting if they had this problem and none of them did. I would have liked to have seen a nice large round eyecup for the EVF, but either way it is still fantastic in use and you get a nice big view with no lag, and what you see is what you get, which is always nice. I much prefer todays EVF’s over any optical VF in a DSLR. So much more versatile and usable.
Phil in the Blue Lagoon. 25 f1/2 at 1.2 Click for more details!
Dual Quad Core Processors
The heart of the system! Yes this camera is more powerful than many laptops or desktop computers. With two quad core processors inside this thing is UBER RESPONSIVE!!! I mean, when you use this camera you feel speed, you feel response and you feel like it is a real pro camera. So when you have the response and speed, and this level of build you just get inspired by the entire package. I remember shooting with Nikon and Canon pro cameras, the response and speed were amazing. This is where the EM1 II is now. Very polished, very mature and Olympus made sure to speed everything up.
With the 12-100 f/4
The new focus modes Olympus has put in the new camera assure you very fast AF, and a continuous mode that seems to beat the Sony A6300 with ease. We saw a demo video of it against a 6300 and it just creamed it in regards to continuous tracking AF. I have not seen it against the exciting new Sony 6500, so that may be another test for another day but the focus is solid here and much improved over the original E-M1. Unfortunately while in Iceland we did not get ant opportunity to use the tracking as our whale watch boat tour was canceled due to bad weather. But I will test this in part 2 of my review that will be coming soon.
These dual processors also come into play for playback of images and this camera has no lag in playback, at all. The touch screen allows you to swipe through images as fast as 10FPS and zooming in never gives a delay or lag. Super nice, and as I said, uber responsive.
BTW, this new MKII has 3X the communication speed of the original and twice the memory. Olympus wanted to make sure the camera competed not only with other mirrorless but also high speed pro DSLRS.
Fellow reviewer and friend who loved the Dramatic Tone so much, I had to shoot him with Dramatic tone! Yes, were were fully in the water with our E-M1 MKII’s! SALTWATER! The water was 110 degrees and it was 37 degrees outside of the water 😉 Great times.
This camera can do 60 FPS full RAW with SF and AE lock. It can do 18 FPS with Single Point AF without AE lock. I mean, that is fast. Almost too fast for my tastes but hey, it is there if you want or need it! 18 FPS is like shooting a machine gun off. While we did not have opportunities in Iceland for shooting fast frame rates, I did put it in these modes to see what it sounded like and if it could hold focus and it sure did. Again, AF on this camera is simply fantastic and will not leave you wanting for more especially if coming from a lesser camera. I mean, it shouldn’t! I have never used a DSLR with focus this fast or accurate, and in a camera the size of the E-M1, to have this is astounding.
“The advanced Dual FAST AF automatically chooses between on-chip phase detection AF and contrast detection AF, or utilizes both phase and contrast detection simultaneously. This system boasts 121 cross-type on-chip phase detection focus points in order to dramatically improve accuracy. The simultaneous use of contrast detection and on-chip phase detection AF enables accurate focus in difficult lighting conditions, while a new moving subject tracking algorithm rapidly and continuously measures the subject-to-camera distance to precisely maintain focus. Finally, the in-camera AF Limiter function is included to achieve faster focusing by limiting the focus range of the lens, thus preventing time-consuming focus hunting.
Autofocus functions such as AF Target Mode4, AF target position and face/eye priority AF are easily set with a single button press. AF operations are enhanced with a new subject-tracking Cluster Display, which illuminates active sensors to assure the user of focus-subject accuracy. The AF Targeting Pad feature allows users to select the AF point by sliding their finger on the rear touch LCD monitor while looking through the viewfinder.”
VIDEO: Meet the new Olympus E-M1 II
High ISO and Low Light
When some think of Micro 4/3 they immediately think “Oh, you can’t shoot this thing at night using higher ISO and get clean results”, and with this I tend to agree.
With the new E-M1 MKII, the noise levels have been improved by a stop though they will not get to full frame Sony A7s levels of course. The new noise algorithm that Olympus created for noise reduction is interesting as they created something that really works well at getting rid of color noise, and keeping detail. A side by side between it and the old E-M1 showed much more detail at high ISO. So while this camera will not offer high ISO low light performance of a full frame Sony, it will offer better high ISO than the MKI and give the best low light and high ISO of any Micro 4/3 out there. I am happy to see them working on improving this aspect as it truly is the one main weakness of the system for some professionals. Even so, with a lens like the 25 f/1.2 and shooting up to 6400 you should be covered for any situation.
QUICK HIGH ISO TESTS
THE SHOT – ISO 6400 – NR OFF
100% CROP ISO 6400 WITH IN CAMERA NOISE REDUCTION ON
25,600 maxed out
The MKII goes up to ISO 25,600 which is a far cry from other pro cameras that can go up to and beyond 200,000 ISO, but who here uses 25,600 or higher on any kind of regular basis? I tested the higher levels and saw a nice little improvement in image noise over any past Micro 4/3 camera. But remember this is not going to be your 1st choice for a no or low light camera, for that specialty go for a Sony A7SII or other full framer. But how many actually ever go past 6400 these days? Not many, and at 6400 this camera puts out pretty nice images though with some noise, as we expected.
“The newly-developed TruePic VIII Image Processor dramatically improves image quality when shooting at high ISO settings, making it possible to capture images with minimal noise. The normal sensitivity ISO (ISO AUTO) range has been expanded to ISO 6400 for greater flexibility in a variety of shooting scenarios, and Fine Detail Processing II ensures that no detail is lost due to over sharpening. The ISO LOW setting is equivalent to ISO 64, providing greater flexibility to shoot at wider apertures even in brightly lit situations, making it possible to achieve beautiful, shallow depths of field.”
The Complete Package
Micro 4/3, and especially this new E-M1 MKII to me is about the complete package. The Build, feel, usability, speed, versatility, size, features that no other camera has and yes, even the image quality…which happens to be amazing with the new camera. There are no cameras out there today that can do all of what the E-M1 II can do. NONE. As a package it wins the award for most versatile camera ever, taking the title away from the original EM1. If there were a camera like this with a larger sensor it would put all other camera makers out of business. It would be an end game. So to me the ONLY weakness, and it truly is not even a weakness as we know going it what we are getting into, is the smaller sensor size.
Then again, it is also a plus. How many times have you shot a lens wide open only to have some of your subject out of focus due to the razor thin DOF? I have, many times. It can be frustrating. I have never had this issue with Micro 4/3, so in some ways, this is a better choice for some. Again, image quality is professional and can be very beautiful. Good enough for my eyes, that’s for sure. Again, with the new 25 f.1.2 the amount of shallow DOF is about perfect. Creamy enough for beautiful subject separation but also wide enough to get your subject in focus. Also, there is no softness at f.1.2, so shooting at that aperture is where I would be shooting 90% of the time 😉
The way the 12-100 and Em1II sensor captures light can be quite beautiful
Another with the 25 f/1.2
Beautiful 5 Axis IS. Improved again?
The Olympus 5 Axis inside their cameras perform to a much higher level than those in Sony cameras, and that is partly due to sensor size. With the new E-M1 II the 5 Axis is as good as ever but when you use a lens like the new incredible must own (yes, it is incredible and I will own it) 12-100 f/4 that has an IS mode built in, it works in tandem with the 5 Axis in the body of the E-M1 II you gain 6.5 stops of compensation! Some were hand holding shots for 2 SECONDS with this combo!! TWO SECONDS!!!
When you put the 12-100 f/4 on the body and shoot video it is like having a $$$ steady cam rig as the video is smooth as silk and shake free. That 12-100 will be a SUPER VERSATILE lens for photo or video. A must own lens for anyone who is serious about their Micro 4/3 shooting. Olympus says its one of those lenses that is the best they know how to make and it’s much smaller than any 24-200 full frame lens I have ever seen 😉 Yep, for anyone who has been living under a rock for the past 7-8 years, Micro 4/3 lenses will give you 2X equivalent focal length so the 12-100 becomes like a 24-200 (on full frame) even though it is mechanically a 12-100 lens, which is why it is marked as such. Marking it a 24-200 would be a lie, as it is a 12-100 but in use, it is like using a 24-200 due to the crop.
Just know that at 100 you will get double the reach of a normal 100mm. That is a good thing. But with that 12-100 on the E-M1 II the Image Stabilization is scary good.
“The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is equipped with the latest in-body 5-Axis Image Stabilization to compensate for all types of camera shake. An optimized correction algorithm boasts outstanding compensation performance with approximately 5.5 shutter-speed steps of compensation3. Also, when combined with Olympus lenses equipped with in-lens image stabilization, 5-Axis Sync IS provides the world’s most effective 6.5 shutter-speed steps of compensation2 for blur-free handheld shooting of stills and video.”
CLICK IT TO SEE THE QUALITY. I suggest a large screen! The 25 f1.2 is Olympus most beautiful rendering lens to date. To me, it is up there with Leica glass, like the Summarit line. Yep, I said it.
I will call this 25 f/1.2 the new “Bokeh Master” as it’s bokeh is simply beautiful.
PRO CAPTURE MODE
One new mode on the E-M1 is pretty cool and while I would rarely use it, just knowing it is there is comforting as you never know when an opportunity would arise where you can benefit form it.
So Pro Capture mode has a LOW and a HIGH setting. In Pro Capture Mode you can compose your shot and then half press the shutter. For expample, a situation where I used it was when we went to see GEYSERS blow and we never knew when they would blow and spout out their huge explosive shot. By standing there in front of it, with shot composed and a half press of the shutter button you will be guaranteed to NOT miss any shot.
Pro Capture Mode: There she blows! Dramatic Tone, 12-100, EM1II.
What happens is that when you press down half way the camera starts to physically store 14 shots in its buffer..when the 14th shot hits and you are still half way down it starts the process again. So yo will always have 14 shots recorded when you finally press the fire button. This is compensating for YOUR HUMAN Lag. When I tested this mode my reaction was too slow to catch the moment I wanted but with PRO CAPTURE on I was able to endure I never missed one.
Imagine trying this mode when trying to get a batter hitting a ball, or a horse crossing the finish line in a race, or any moment where capturing THAT moment is crucial. This mode will assure that you get it, and that is crazy cool. No other camera that I know of does this and it is yet another example of Olympus innovating.
“The new Pro Capture Mode provides lag-free shooting so users can capture high-quality full-resolution images at precise moments with no compromises. Using the silent electronic shutter, Pro Capture buffers a running series of JPEG / RAW images when users press the shutter release halfway. Then, by fully pressing the shutter button, users can capture that moment’s image plus up to 14 previous frames all at once.”
Just as they did with the very 1st pull out LCD, and the first dust shaker sensor cleaner, Live Time, 5 Axis IS and more, they continue to innovate and thank God for innovation!
Beautiful way of rendering the light…12-100 with nice detail to boot! Click it for larger!
The new 25 f/1.2 Lens
Well, what can I say. Those who have used this lens have all sung its praises. I know of two photographers who are selling a Leica lens or two over this lens. WHY? Well, the rendering is indeed special. The bokeh is beautiful, the color is so good. It has smooth transitions from in focus to out and creates, at times, an ethereal type of look. I see no CA or distortion or issues at all from my OOC JPEGS (though in camera correction could be happening). It’s one of the most beautiful lenses I have used no matter the system or format. Here are a few more shots from it on the EM1II. Yes, I already placed my pre order for this and the new 12-100 f/4 (and it has arrived). They are two of the best lenses Oly makes IMO (and according to Olympus). The rendering reminds me a little bit of Leica and the new Sony 50 1.4 but at 1/2 the size and weight of the Sony 😉
Three from the 25 at f/1.2. Man, this lens is so impressive and takes Micro 4/3 to the next level up.
Fun in Iceland..
The Bokeh is legendary. Lens was fogging up!
My lens was fogged up here from the mist but it just gave the image an even cooler look.
One more…click it!
This lens..some are saying it is huge and heavy, yet in the hand, and in use it does not in any way feel heavy or large. Some said it is close to the size of the Canon full frame 50 f/1.2, yet when I use the Canon, I am well aware I am holding onto a fat chunky lens, that is heavy. With the Olympus and lens hood OFF it felt great. Sure, it will be larger than the much less expensive 25 f/1.8 but this lens really does easily beat the 25 f/1.8 in IQ, Bokeh, Rendering, Color and speed. This is an f/1.2 lens folks, so size is very small for what we are getting here. The AF of this lens when used with the new EM1 II is very quick.
Also, this is a PREMIUM Pro lens! Do not expect a $300 lens here, as this performs to a much higher standard than any “nifty fifty”. This is more in line with some $2000-$8000 lenses, so it is made for those who want the ultimate performance from their camera system.
Many are already asking me “how does this compare to XXX”. I will say this…this lens is in a class of its own for this focal length on Micro 4/3. No Panasonic or other Olympus 25mm matches it. This lens has a level of micro contrast, depth, color performance, and silky smooth bokeh. While expensive it comes in much cheaper than other 50mm lenses that it actually compares to like the $8k Leica 50 APO, and others. $1200 for a lens of this caliber is not expensive, but for those who feel it is there is always the 25 1.8 from Olympus that comes in at much less.
TWO WITH The 25 at f/1.2 on a PEN-F, so it does amazing on the PEN as well
What you have heard about this lens is true, and I am not the only one singing its praises.
I ordered this lens for myself and shelled out the big bucks for it from Amazon as I feel this lens will be one of those years from now that people refer to as having something special about it. Usually reserved for the big dogs from Leica, Canon, etc. As cameras come and go, this lens will always be around improving with the tech and bodies.
Add the 42.5 f/1.2 Nocticron to this and the 12-100 f/4 and you have one hell of a kit that will deliver plenty of shallow DOF, plenty of beauty and reach from 24-200. You will have the best IS with the 12-100 and video performance that will knock your socks off. To me, this would be the perfect EM1 II kit. If you want to be real adventurous add the 8mm fisheye and 300mm pro for a kit that would be drool worthy.
The LCD is nice as it will swivel out to the side this time around much like the PEN-F. It is a touch screen as well and reviewing images or even firing an image using the back LCD is simple and easy as pie. Some prefer this way of shooting. Nothing groundbreaking but continues with the tradition of using nice, clear large touch capable swivel LCD’s.
JPEG out of the camera with the 12-100 f/4 – OOC JPEG
ELECTRONIC SHUTTER or MECHANICAL
The E-M1 II has a mechanical shutter option that is glorious. The sound it makes is probably the most pleasing shutter sound I have ever heard, even preferring it to any Leica I have shot with. It has a soft seductive and smooth subdued sound that is super quiet. If you do not want that you can always switch over to the electronic shutter and Olympus says they have almost eliminated Rolling Shutter effects. Their words were “Best treatment of Rolling Shutter out of any camera made as of 11/2016″. Nice. So with the EM1II we have a choice like most modern cameras today. Mechanical or Electronic for when you want 100% stealth and quiet.
“A newly developed shutter is rated for 200,000 actuations6 to withstand consistent daily use in professional environments. Floating shutter construction is employed so that shutter shock is not easily transmitted to the camera body.”
“Silent Mode utilizes the silent electronic shutter to eliminate all mechanical noises while shooting. Silent Mode is especially useful for shooting in situations where noise of any kind is not appropriate, including stage performances, concerts and even sleeping children. Also, it is possible to deactivate the AF Illuminator, AF confirmation beep and flash for virtually silent operation.”
Grainy B&W Mode with the 12-100
4K VIDEO at 237MBPS
Olympus has stepped up the game with video and in my very short video tests I found the quality of their cinema 4K mode to be outstanding. Sharp, smooth footage with the new 5AXIS and with Cinema 4K at 24FPS you will get around 237 MBPS. The camera has a mic input of course and an Audio monitor. When I get my review unit I plan on testing video more with my 7-14 Pro. When I do, I will update this page with video info and samples.
“Digital Cinema Standard 4K videos: The OM-D E-M1 Mark II supports Digital Cinema Standard 4K (4096×2060 pixels) video capture at a 24P frame rate and a bit rate of up to 237 Mbps for authentic movie production. The 20.4 megapixel Live MOS sensor provides a read speed three times faster than that of the previous model for effective suppression of movement distortion, resulting in sharp, clear image quality. The video-specific picture mode “Flat” is ideal for color grading and finishing the footage exactly as envisioned by the videographer.”
“With four times the resolution of Full HD, 4K videos are easily affected by camera movement and typically require a tripod, mini jib, crane and other specialized accessories for movie recording. The OM-D E-M1 Mark II pairs its advanced 5-Axis Image Stabilization with electronic stabilization specialized for video (M-IS)10 to effectively reduce camera shake, making handheld 4K video capture possible. This outstanding image stabilization system allows videographers to easily shoot movies with virtually no visible camera shake. The camera’s rear vari-angle LCD monitor can be adjustable to the user’s preferred angle for shooting convenience.”
Cinema 4K Quick Video Samples….I shot MINIMAL video as I was concentrating on stills, but this will give you an idea of what it can do. All shot with the 12-100
Detail with Out of Camera JPEG
When writing this review and going over images I snapped, I have no way to examine the RAW files yet as there is no RAW support yet, even with Olympus’s viewer software. So for now I am looking at the OOC JPEG detail. Here are a couple of shots, one full size 20MP file and two with crops. Click them to see the larger size and full crops. BTW, there is no AA filter with the E-M1 MKII!
Just pointing down at the grass to see the detail. JPEG looks great, the RAW will be much better still.
Sleet that fell, with the 12-100 – Click to see 100% crop.
When I am able to see the RAW files I will do an update with RAW crops. Usually the RAW files show very nice detail as there are no JPEG artifacts.
All of the old faves are still here like the Art Modes, Live Time and Live Bulb, and the menus are now better looking with a nice smooth easy to read look and a different layout. They are still crazy extenisve and deep but you just need to do set up once, and you would really never need to go into the menus again. I would just set it up and use the Super Control Panel which now loads up by default. You can change nearly any setting with the SCP, and it is easy as 1-2-3.
The 25 1.2…sharp as can be wide open with great color performance. OOC JPEG
HLD-9 Power Battery Holder
This dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof power battery holder is specifically designed for the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. With the HLD-9, users have the power of one BLH-1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery in the camera body and a second one in the HLD-9. The rear of the HLD-9 power battery holder is equipped with the same directional pad, two control dials, two function buttons and shutter release, as on the camera body, for identical controls whether the camera is held in a vertical or horizontal position. An optional AC-5 AC adapter can be used for studio photography or other situations when using the camera for long periods of time.
FL-900R Weatherproof High-Intensity Flash
This is a high-intensity flash boasting a maximum guide number of 58m. This accessory on-camera flash has the highest sequential shooting tracking performance in its class at 10 fps12. It features a lightweight weatherproof design with a wireless RC mode for simultaneous control of multiple flash units, and supports Multi Flash, High Res Shot, Focus Stacking and Focus Bracketing Modes. The FL-900R is also equipped with a built-in LED light for recording videos. For additional details, please see the FL-900R press release.
STF-8 Weatherproof Macro Flash
The STF-8 is the world’s first macro flash built with dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof construction13. The flash heads and controller features a lightweight compact design. When combined with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Focus Stacking and Focus Bracketing modes are supported for flash photography, useful for capturing flowers, insects and commercial photos in the studio. The bundled adapter ring is compatible with the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 30mm f3.5 Macro, M.ZUIKO Digital ED 60mm f2.8 Macro and M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12–40mm f2.8 PRO. When using both flash heads the GN is 8.5m. In addition to a TTL Auto Sync Mode for precision control, users can set the flash in 1/3-step increments on the camera when in Manual Mode and in one-step increments with the flash dial. The main flash can also be used as a commander to control multiple flash units. The flash head angle is adjustable within a range of -60 to 40 degrees.
RM-CB2 Release Cable
This release cable with a pin jack terminal (2.5mm diameter) features a bulb lock function convenient for long exposures. The connector terminal features an L-shaped design ensuring a compact form when connected to the camera.
PT-EP14 Underwater Case
This compact underwater housing provides water depth resistance up to 60 meters. It provides a clear field of view to each corner of the screen, designed to be easy to hold to frame and zoom your shot easily. In addition, the PPO-EP03 Macro Lens Port provides compatibility with the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 60mm f2.8 Macro and M.ZUIKO Digital ED 30mm f3.5 Macro14.
Dramatic Tone II
So what are my thoughts after this first use in Iceland?
Well, I know the old Mark I EM1 very well, I used it and owned it for 2 years and it was one of my most well loved and enjoyed cameras. But when side by side with the Mark II it is starting to show its age, as we could expect it to. I mean, it’s been a few years right? This new camera from Olympus is, as I said, a powerhouse pro tool for the Micro 4/3 format. It beats any Panasonic that has been made to date IMO (there is no true “pro” built Panasonic) and the features are exclusive to Olympus and this format. As for the improved 5 Axis IS with the new 12-200 f/4… nothing else like it out there at this level and even though Sony uses this tech, it is not nearly as effective in their Full frame bodies as it is here. Six and half stops of compensation when used with the 12-100 Pro? Two second hand held exposures? Four second hand hold exposures? That is crazy folks!
I was worried about this camera over this past year as I had no idea how much improvement could be done, but they did it. This is more than I had hoped for and I have not even started to scratch the surface of the capabilities. I mean, I really haven’t. Just did not have the time or locations to test the AF tracking or the Long Exposures but I expect they will be awesome as we did see demos, and they were impressive.
I said it before but I have never tested a more advanced camera than the EM1 Mark II. Myself and many other reviewers who were there were enjoying the hell out of this camera and the new lenses. Olympus is for those who love photography and with a camera like this, there really is not much you can not do.
As for the price of $1999, well, it is what it is. Olympus has put SO MUCH into this body for it to perform as it does. The dual quad core processors that give it the oh so enjoyable speed and response, and all premo materials here folks. This camera does not feel cheap in any way, yet every time I shoot a Fuji, and even some Sony’s..they feel cheap, even though they may not be. This camera feels amazing. The dials, buttons and all materials are premium here, inside and out. The 5 Axis, the Touch LCD, the nice EVF, the fantastic speed. Features that no one else offers like Live Time, Pro Capture, and let’s not forget the sensor cleaning dust shaker (that Olympus invented long ago) that keeps the sensor dust free.
Is it worth $2000? ABSOLUTELY, if you want a camera that offers all that it does. If you do not want all of this, and what it offers, then go for something else that is less expensive. Just as I said with the original, even more so now…there is no APS C camera I would personally choose over the EM1 II. There are full framers I would take (that are much more money) but no APS-C would win me over compared to this. But that’s me, and I have shot with them all and I know what I like. What you like, is your own personal thing. But this camera gets a HUGE HELL YEA from me, even at $1999. It’s nice to have a choice down the line as well from beginner Micro 4/3 models to the pro model. The system has never been more complete.
Grainy B&W Mode, from inside a bus, taken through the window!
Weaknesses? Sure, there are some. There always are!
- You will not get low light high ISO performance of a full frame or some recent APS-C cams once past ISO 3200/6400. But you will get decent performance up to 6400 and even usable at 10k if you nail exposure. That’s pretty good for Micro 4/3 and enough for most shooters.
- Depth of Field will be more wide than full frame so do not expect to blow out the background like you can with a Leica Noctilux on an M or Sony A7. But with the 25 f1.2, I am seeing some of the most gorgeous rendering, bokeh, color and depth as I have ever seen for this format, so we are getting closer and in some ways, it may be better to have a little less shallow DOF or more DOF.
- One weakness a couple of us found is there should be a dial lock, like a software lock. Press a button and it locks the dials so we do not accidentally change them while we walk and the camera rubs against us. A few of us had the dials change while we walked so we would go take a shot and the exposure comp would be at +2. It only happened twice with me, but if we had a lock button we could lock the dials while traveling.
- This is still Micro 4/3 so we will still see some slight image noise at base ISO when pixel peeping at 100%. Doesn’t matter to me as I am not a pixel peeper, it has nothing to do with real photography. At all. Go pixel peep some good old fashioned film and get back to me. 😉
Other than that this camera is one of the best I have ever shot with. It is addictive due to its ease of use and speed/response. The AF is blazing fast and even in low light it locks on quickly. I have yet to see a RAW file from the camera as there is no way at all to open a RAW file at the time of this review but the JPEGS are amazing, and with RAW it only gets better. I can not wait to see these files from RAW (I shot JPEG and RAW).
From the bulletproof build to the extreme weather sealing to the extreme speed, buffer and dual quad core processors inside this is one serious machine and it all comes in MUCH smaller than any pro DSLR. Much lighter, thinner and with lenses that are IMO better than most PRO systems lenses. Olympus has been on a roll for years and with this, they really gave us enthusiasts and pros something to drool over.
I will be writing more in part 2 as soon as my review unit arrives and I can test more in low light, AF tracking, long exposure and much more Cinema 4K video. I can not wait. My order is in, and will be my one and only Micro 4/3 camera when it arrives. With the 25 1.2, and 12-100 added to my other lenses, the 8mm pro, 7-14 pro and 300 pro it will be one hell of a kit. Look for much much more soon!
BTW, remember that all images here are JPEGS. No RAW yet!
Click it for Larger – 25 f/1.2
WHERE TO ORDER/PRE ORDER?
You can order the lenses now, as they are shipping. I already received my 25 1.2 from Amazon this week. The 12-100 is shipping this week, and the big one, the E-M1 MKII will be shipping in December, before the holidays. Links are below from 100% trusted dealers I recommend 100%:
PRE ORDER THE EM1 MKII – $1999
ORDER THE 25 f/1.2 LENS – $1199
ORDER THE 12-100 f/4 LENS
Using my links helps to support this website and keep it going. It works the same for you, and you pay not a penny more for using my links, but when you do I get a few cents on the dollar and that is the only way this site stays in business, so if you find this review helpful, feel free to use my links above to order as I would truly appreciate it! IT HELPS SO SO MUCH!
CHECK THIS OUT
and one more taken of me by Michael Palmer from Steve’s Digicams
Dramatic Tone and me by the waterfall that soaked me and the EM1 MKII to the bone! I think Michael shot this with the lovely 7-14 2.8 Pro.
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