Shooting with the Olympus EM1 MKII. Still LOVING it.

Follow Up: Shooting with the Olympus EM1 MKII and still LOVING it.

By Steve Huff

It’s been a while since my review of the Olympus EM1 MKII. In fact, when I wrote that it was fresh from a trip to Iceland where I used, abused and torture tested that camera. It passed with flying colors. I do not know of many cameras that could have done that, and it impressed the hell out of me. If you missed it, you can see it HERE.

In that review I mentioned I would have a follow up, or a part 2 on the EM1 MKII. But after reading the review again, I realized that I covered just about everything with the camera besides fast action shooting (of which I do not do) and High Res Shot, which I covered in the EM1 MK1 review and follow ups.

The EM1 in cold and wet Iceland was quite the adventure. The Camera never stopped working, even at times when it was drenched with icy cold water, sleet and spray 

See the review HERE

So that review is pretty complete for a real world use look at this camera. It showed that this is one tough camera, and improved on the MK1 in several ways. Battery system, speed, slightly better ISO performance and improved EVF along with a few other nice touches like dual SD cards, etc. .

At $1999.00 it is not a cheap camera but the way prices are heading now (I predicted this 1-2 years ago) on all cameras this may soon look like a deal for a truly pro build camera. Look at the Sony A9. $4500.00. Ouch. (But hey I bought one, and love it). Camera manufacturers are now making cameras for enthusiasts and pros. The amateurs and newbies that used to buy $300-$600 point and shoots or starter DSLR’s are now mostly using their smartphones. Even entry level DSLR’s and Mirrorless sales are slowing due to smart phones. What we have left is the really good stuff for people like you and me. Those who LOVE a good solid camera that is a joy to use, works well and offers no compromises. Companies like Olympus, Fuji, Sony, Leica and others are bringing us just that.

The EM1 MKII also lays in that category though it does have ONE weakness, and that is super low light performance. The Micro 4/3 system by design will never ever meet or exceed full frame or even APS-C for low light when using higher ISO. Micro 4/3 will always have more noise in those tougher lighting environments. So for low light, club shooting, intimate music venues…this will not be your best choice for the money. But in all other cases, it most certainly can. Weddings, sports, wildlife, portraits, vacations, kids, animals, birds, or whatever you want to shoot.

EM1 MKII and 25 1.2

But even so, using this camera (the EM1 MKII) is so much fun and really leaves me with nothing to be desired if I am not shooting in that extreme low light I just spoke of. In fact, many would be hard pressed to tell the quality from the Sony A9 if shooting in daylight and with pro lenses on the Olympus.

Video has been improved as well with the MKII. The 4K cinema mode is beautiful. Also this camera has the worlds best 5 Axis IS that far exceeds the Sony’s 5 Axis (which I find a tad lacking in comparison) so when shooting video with a lens like the 7-14 pro 2.8 you have an almost steady cam/gimbal like performance without needed a gimbal. The image stabilization in this camera is the best I have seen or used to date.

EM1 MKII – Using the 25 1.2 Pro lens for an up close flower shot. The AF is awesome with this camera, and nails it 98% of the time. 

Vacation

I recently took the camera with me on a week long vacation where I visited my mother. Debby and I flew in and I shot the EM1 MKII when we went out exploring on a day to day basis. I had my A9 as well but for photo duty, I purposely stuck with the EM1 MKII to see if I would be let down when compared to the full frame A9. It has been a while since I took out the camera (been using the A9 quite a bit) and as soon as I started using it with the 7-14 Pro and the 25 1.2 I was quickly reminded just how good this system is. Man, Olympus and Micro 4/3 have come such a long way over the years. They really have. Besides the whole depth of field thing (some prefer less shallow DOF and some prefer a larger DOF) a camera like this can make just about anyone happy besides the pixel peeper type who only like to view images at 300%. For everyone else though I could not imagine anyone being unhappy with this camera. Use the good lenses and it really delivers in almost any situation. The EVF is fantastic, the speed. response and haptics as well. Olympus really refined the Mark 1 version with the newer MKII.

One thing I am always so happy with is the Olympus color. Warm, inviting and beautiful.

The 25 1.2 is usually always on my EM1 MKII – It is my favorite M 4/3 lens. 

I have said for YEARS, starting with the original MK1 EM1 that I would take it over any APS-C camera (for me) , and I still stand by that. I have never really “bonded” with any APS-C camera as I always find some kind of hiccup that I do not care for. Fuji’s are nice and today they have improved their cameras speed and response but even so, for me, the EM1 MKII feels much better in the hand than any Fuji. I also prefer Olympus colors and files. In regards to Sony, the A6500 series or type of camera that is made to be small and built for all out speed..well, to me those cameras are very nice but boring in looks, style and feel. When I buy a camera it has to have everything I love. Looks, feel design, controls, speed and output. Let’s look at Samsung, well, they are no longer making cameras…and then there is Panasonic who also makes M 4/3 cameras but they do not make one quite like the EM1 MKII. Even so, I also enjoy Panasonic but they seem to aim more for the pro video market with their cameras and Olympus, more photo based. Then we have Leica, the old Leica T or X, APS-C. They are nice in output for sure but usability, meh. Slow and a tad quirky. 100% different from the Olympus powerhouse. Nikon and Canon? Sure, but those are DSLR’s with mirrors and do offer much more bulk and size when pro lenses are used. They also do not use EVFs which I strongly prefer to an OVF. It took many years but todays EVF”s are pretty nice.

As for full frame vs M 4/3…

I have had a few ask me lately if I would choose this over a Sony A9 or even A7rII if choosing one, and choosing today. The answer to that is tough, as I use my A9 for video 1st and foremost and it just performs fantastic for me due to the now very fast AF for video. The built in mic of the Sony also sounds better than the EM1 II using a nice external mic and the Sony is full frame and offers me more for low light shooting. So for ME, it would have to be the A9 but hell do I have to pay dearly for that choice. An extra $2500..phew. As I said, prepare for the camera market to keep bringing out more and more pricey models as they now build for pros and enthusiasts.

Even though I would take the A9 between these two for its richer full frame output and even more speed with brilliant AF capabilities, for you it may be a different scenario, as my needs are to the same as everyone else of course. With the Sony coming in at $2500 more it will not be worth it for many out there. The EM1 MKII can and will be more desirable to some.

Me being me, I can not have just one system as I love the Olympus system so much for everything it DOES offer over any Sony, and that is FUN factor, super ease of use, JOY of use and the color and character of its images as well as the size and unique renderings of some of the lenses. Sometimes I want MORE DOF instead of LESS, and Micro 4/3 shines here as most of you probably know.

Click any image for larger view. All images here were shot with either the 7-14 Pro 2.8 or the 25 1.2 Pro. 

A full size file of the same house, different angle…click it to see the full size image

For those who are wondering why one would buy this camera for nearly $2k, there are many reasons. The things that stick out to me that make the EM1 MKIi so lovely…well, there are many.

  • Build quality is 2nd to none. This thing can take massive abuse from rain, sleet, snow, ice and even being dropped. No Panasonic, Fuji or Sony can withstand the kind of abuse this one can.
  • Dual SD card slots finally!
  • Nice large clear EVF up there with some of the best in 2017
  • Big battery system and fast charger is nice to have
  • Cinema 4K video is stunning especially due to the incredible 5 Axis IS
  • Speaking of 5 AXIS, I have seen some handhold a 20 second shot with this camera
  • Oly features like Live time, live bulb, high res shot…will not get these elsewhere
  • Pro lenses are GORGEOUS and STUNNING. All of them. 300mm f/4 gets you a 600mm reach.
  • Delivers MORE DOF than a Full Frame camera, and sometimes we want this
  • Color and IQ is beautiful though you will see some noise, even at ISO 100 when viewing 100%. For me, that is not a problem as you will never see it in print or resized images

 

So yes the Olympus EM1 MKII is fantastic but then again, so is the MK1 version. If you want a taste of what a pro Olympus can bring you, and you want a speedy camera, a camera built like a tank yet still light, a camera that can stand up to day to day abuse, a camera that has so many CRAZY AWESOME lenses available for it and a camera that just works then take a very close look at the Olympus EM1 MKII. It is a wonderful camera that may be a fit for you. For me, I still love my Olympus cameras and this one is no exception. CHECK OUT THE lenses in the non pro line I love with this camera HERE. 

A few more shots…

 

 


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36 thoughts on “Shooting with the Olympus EM1 MKII. Still LOVING it.

  1. Hi Steve,the ff give less Dof but with LARGER/heavyier lenses… it’s a very different experience
    if you accept to bring around all day in hands a sigma Art 50mm 1.4 on a A7
    then it is equally acceptable to bring the same lens mounted on a em1 classic or a g80 lumix via metabones speedbooster xl 0.64x …
    the focal length equivalent become 1.28x BUT f-stop become 1.3 faster…
    Thanks to that small crop factor you can get very interesting focal length and similar bokeh with the benefits of expose at f0.9…
    Continuing this argument, it is worth remembering that if we want to get the same identical photo using FF, you will NEED to use 2X higher iso, erasing almost all the noise performance of ff system..
    if I ask you to replicate the picture I get from a 25mm 1.2 @ 1/100 iso 1000,
    you MUST use a 50mm at f2.4 1/100 iso 4000 !

  2. Steve, I understand that the A9 would be the one if there was only one, but would you take the A7Rii over the e-m1ii ?

    Also if you could only keep one of the olympus bodies would it be pen-f or e-m1ii

    Thanks

    1. Well, tough one. The EM1 MKII is a much more responsive, faster, better made/feeling camera over the A7RII. I am a full frame shooter mostly so I used the A7RII more than the Olympus but not because the A7RII was necessarily better. If you do not mind the fact that the Olympus will not allow the shallow DOF situations of full frame, or that the low light/high ISO capabilities are not near full frame then you would love the Olympus. It’s built to a pro level, (em1 II), is fast, and the lenses are gorgeous. The Sony A7RII will be slower, not made as well and have larger lenses but it will also deliver better IQ in low light and good light with more resolution, and give you a little more DR. It’s a give and take no matter which way you go. I like both, and weed both at the same time. Some days I shot with my PEN or EM1 and others the Sony.

  3. Steve,
    Like you, I am a big fan of Olympus and their efforts with m4/3. From my perspective, Olympus, more so than any current manufacturer, is living up to the original ethos upon which Leica was built (more so even than Leica). Back when Leica was introduced, the camera did not have the absolute best image quality available (certainly not compared to the larger formats of the day), and arguably did not have the absolute best lenses (many would have given the nod to Zeiss back then). However, Leica did offer very very good image quality, and very very good glass in a package that was very small (and portable), fast, and very user friendly (by the standards of the time). And those things made all the difference. The subsequent legacy of Leica images have clearly demonstrated that the image quality was “good enough”.

    I see the modern Olympus cameras as upholding this approach, even while Leica has strayed a bit (with their rather massive lenses for their SL camera, etc.). I hope Olympus continues to push forward on these basic qualities.

  4. The two systems (A9 & E-M1 II) each have unique capabilities that are extraordinary. The Olympus is my clear choice for shooting at 600MM (or 840). The Sony simply cannot replicate the Oly IQ as efficiently as you’d have to adapt a EF Sigma or Tamron long lenses and even then the IQ falls short…no thanks. Then I use the Oly+12-100 f4PRO for video as the stabilization is magnificent and crushes the Sony’s. The A9 and A7RII for everything else.

  5. Steve, I love your real-world reviews and enthusiasm for the products you truly love. I’ll admit that the price of the E-M1 Mark II put me off a bit and I seriously considered switching systems instead of upgrading my original E-M1. In the end, the high price of the MII was still the best deal for me especially because of my lens investment. Also, no other brand really fits my needs like Olympus and the m43 system. The pro lenses are amazing and my Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 and Olympus 75mm f/1.8 are more than sufficient for my shallow DOF needs.

    Boy am I glad that I upgraded to this camera! The typical specs sites like DPReveiw don’t really do this camera justice. I think the IQ is markedly better than the original as well as every other new or improved feature. The improved AF tacking plus 18 fps electronic shutter have blow me away. No camera system is perfect but Olympus m43 and the pro lenses are darn close to perfection for my photo and video needs!

    Keep up the good work!

  6. I’d like to give m43 another look. I do miss my GX7, some of my best family and vacation photos were taken with it. And the E-M5ii was packed with some cool long exposure features. Also miss the 40-150 pro. But the price of entry in to the new m43 sensor class is insane right now.

    The mark 2 does look stellar, but there are better systems for $2k IMHO.

  7. I have already e-m1 with 40-150 & 1.4x, the question to you, is it worth it to upgrade the body only for more accurate focus and much better IS. Thank you.

  8. I always enjoy you review and comments as they are based on experience not theory. If I could get out more a 4/3 system would be intriguing and lighter than a large system. Do you still have and shoot the PenF or is it gone? I always thought it was one of the “fun” looking cameras I would like to try and not that costly.

    BTW too bad you didn’t include a shot of you and your mother.

    1. I still own my PEN-F, another one of my faves. It does not get out as much as it should lately though due to the MKII and A9 getting most attention. But it’s a great camera as well. Not as speedy as the others but it is not about speed.

  9. Hi Steve, I recently purchased the M1 Mk2 and I absolutely love using it! For me I use it only for event photography and even in low light I can get great results and the AF is brill. I also use the Fuji XT2 but I prefer now to use the Oly. Much more fun and the stabilisation is sublime especially when shooting video.

  10. Hi Steve, Thanks for your comments. I loved my OM1 mark 1, until I bought my Fuji cameras. Fuji has kept the handling of the camera relatively simple. You can control Aperture , Speed , ISO, and Exposure adjustment, etc with direct controls and if you need more they are relatively easy to find in the simplified menus.
    I don´t argue picture quality etc, but the Olympus is too complicated! You need to refer to the 200+ page manual to find features that you have not used for months, or if you have pressed the wrong button by mistake and get yourself lost..Maybe it´s old age , but I find the Olympus is too complicated, it is a camera/computer far removed from a basic camera.
    It might be a good idea if Olympus modified the software to provide an optional Basic setting, locking off all the unwanted complication and leaving a bare minimum of essential controls. I am computer literate but prefer to separate my camera from my computer. Just my opinion. Thanks for your site.

  11. Well said. Too many reviewers focus on testing the extremes and forget about the real business of making actual photos and prints. I’ve been shooting with my EM1II for a few months now. The new sensor may only be incrementally better than the old one, but it seems to have crossed a significant quality threshold. I am astounded by what this camera can produce when used with care and good glass. Although a Sony with a standard or wide prime can be almost as light, it’s when you need a system, say a fast prime with a couple of pro zooms, that the small form factor of MFT really shines.

    1. Olympus has created a great system, and I love the original OM heritage. The only thing with m4/3 is that you have to be more conscientious of your lighting; the smaller sensor is obviously less forgiving in low, or high dynamic range lighting scenarios.

      Because of this, however, and with more and more manufacturers introducing mirrorless, I do question how long m4/3 can survive in the market, particularly at the price Olympus is now asking. The smaller size and weight when used with larger lenses might not be enough of a reason by itself any longer to keep the system going.

      Hope we get a breakthrough in sensor tech—that could change the game quite considerably and shift the advantage back to Olympus’ system.

      I guess time will tell.

  12. They sure knew how to design houses properly back then!

    Anyway, I’d probably choose this over any 24×36 sensor camera, save for the M which is a completely different system. But I still have a thing for APS-C sensors.

  13. I agree with everything said. 4 years ago I picked up a m43 camera and have yet to be let down. I still shoot Sony…just bought the loxia 50mm..but personally if I had to decide it would be the olympus. The 40-150mm 2.8 and pro fisheye are some of my favorite lenses of all time and I’ve had the zeiss 135mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.4 ZA along with voigtlander, canon, etc. Combination of fun, features and overall IQ.

  14. I purchased the Olympus Pen F when it first came out and a set of primes soon followed (12, 25, 30, 45, 75 lens’s). It is a really, really good system and “totally satisfying” to use.
    I also have the Nikon D810 and a couple of primes but it hardly gets used compared to the Olympus. So your right on the money / Spot on ! Cheers.

  15. My fantastic spouse gave me the EM1 mark2 plus some lenses for Christmas, and it almost immediately became my new wildlife camera, with its astonishing speed and the relatively light weight of its telephotos. I kept my Sony a7rII of course, and its depth of detail is second to none, but the Olympus is unquestiinably more fun to use!

    When the Sony A9 was released, I _almost_ pulled the trigger. But When I looked hard at its specs, I realized my Oly was already giving me the faster speed, better battery life, blazing autofocus, etc, — virtually everything for which I’d buy the A9. I smiled and told splendid spouse to stop worrying — until Sony comes out with an A9r, I’ve got my two dream cameras. The Olympus EM1 Mark 2 and its system of lenses is truly the most astonishing value in photography today, and for any serious photographer enduring the aches and pains of life after 60, it’s a must. Yes, I use my Sony maybe 40% of the time, but only after asking myself “Could the Oly handle this just as well or better?” More than half the time, the answer is YES!

  16. Steve, I came to your site originally for info on Leica cameras and glass. You’re a treasure trove of info there, all of it based on visual results and day to day usage. But my comment is on the MKII. The newer Pro lenses and the weather sealing of the MKII body combine with the Micro 4/3 format’s greater depth of field to make it a wildlife photographer’s dream machine. Especially as that fella runs up on 70 years of age. The light weight, ergonomics, 5-axis stabilization and the 300mm/1.4 converter combine to make the system pretty irresistible. The demonstrated image quality you’ve published here have pretty much sealed the deal. I sold my OM1n and OM2n long ago, but when I sell off my Canon gear, I’ll be investing in an Olympus bag for the long haul. Thanks for pointing me in a better (and easier on my old back) direction.

    1. I came to a similar conclusion on the E-M1 mk2 covering, for now, my fast focus, high frame rate outdoor shooting needs plus long telephotos are smaller/lighter than full frame lenses. However, I would be very tempted by a high resolution A9r.

  17. Steve, I recently traded my Leica SL, SL zoom and the M9 for the M10. I still need an all purpose workhorse camera with the funds I have left over, your reviews convinced to look at the EM1 MKII. Once I held that solid camera with the 12-100mm lens, I knew this combination would work. Almost felt like a little brother to the SL. I am not really interested in any of the other lens.
    I have the 28mm Lux, APO 50mm and 90mm Elmarit to go with my M10 for high ISO needs. I no longer want to be a lens collector.
    And a big thanks for introducing your readers to Ken Hansen. Considering the deals we have done over the years and all by email, a great guy.
    So tomorrow morning I will press your B&HLink and order my new camera.

  18. Looks like a great camera !

    I heard that the OMD EM10 m3 will be announce soon, if this for the same sensor as the EM1 m2 it will be a no brainer for those that can’t afford 2K…

    Great feedback steve,

    Thanks

  19. Love the “macro” shot of the bug on the solitary red/pink flower and surprised by great DOF and smooth bokeh. Thanks for your fab website that keeps me coming back for more!

  20. If you had to pick only one system though, what would it be ?
    m4/3 with its more compact lens (though that 25 1.2 is getting up there in size), near weather-proof build, and amazing IBIS, or the A9, with its full-frame sensor, equally great, though larger lens, less capable IBIS, yet class leading black-out free shooting, exceptional eye-detect AF and more, for an over two-fold hit to the wallet ?

    I think while both these cameras are very good, as is a Fuji XT2 system, they both represent a pretty serious investment for most folks, and as such, probably require a tough choice.

    When I was shooting Sony I also had things like a Panasonic GM1, so its certainly not unheard of to have some gear from multiple brands, BUT, the GM1 I bought for $250, so not a very serious investment.

    If someone already had say some Sony gear, adding a EM1.2 to the line-up is a $2000 proposition, plus glass. Shooting Sony myself I’d love a m4/3 Olympus that could give me live bulb/live time shooting (or Sony to have an app that can do it other than for the A7s) but I can’t really invest too heavily in a second system. Maybe a EM10 mkII or something as they are pretty cheap these days…

    Anyways, back to the point, if you had to stick with only one, for all your shooting needs, Sony or Olympus ?

  21. Hi Steve, can’t agree more – the joy using Oly. I just sold my Fuji X-Pro2 and F2 lenses in exchange with a Pen-F. After reading your enthusiastic review and 2 weeks photographing with one borrowed from my sis. It brings back all the fun. Now, the PEN-F with Pana 20/1.7 is my fav set up after 20+ years in this hobby. Must say your inputs plus others’ fabulous contributions really make this site the most enjoyable one to read during my weekend breaks :)

  22. Thanks for your enthusiasm, Steve! Being with m4/3 since it’s early days (and 4/3 before that), it’s always satisfying to read pro-Olympus posts, no matter who writes them. I guess I’m an Oly fan boy. 🙂

    I do want the OM-D E-M1 MkII Steve, but I own the loveable Pen F. In terms of image quality from the 20Mp sensors, did Olympus manage any appreciable improvements between the Pen F and M1.2?

  23. I’m convinced! I have an Oly OM-D E-M5 that’s a great camera, so the M1 Mark II can only be so much better. With Oly glass and a great body you can’t go wrong.

  24. You briefly mentioned above getting comments or questions about the EM1 MII vs the A9 or the A7RII, I would like to know, if going used: A7RII or EM1 MII? I know you also mentioned that μ 4/3 will have nothing compared to full frame in low light settings too. Love this follow up too btw! Thanks! I’m still using an E-M5 v1 PL 25mm 1.4 as my one and only and looking to upgrade.

  25. Your photographs demonstrate the outstanding image quality possible with micro four thirds cameras like the Oly E-M1 mk2 with good lenses and decent light. I love my mk3 with the PL 100-400 for birding – so fun to shoot hand held and there are lots of other great lenses available too. I also shoot an A7R2 and I’m often shocked at how good the Oly mk2 files can look. Follow-up posts by you on cameras already reviewed are a good idea as the honeymoon period is probably over and it’s good to hear how a camera fares over time compared to more recent releases like the A9 in this case.

  26. Hey Steve, great review as always! Having some brief experience with m4/3 (Lumix G2 with the superb Panny 20mm f/1.7), I certainly saw the advantages of this format in certain conditions, but went to DSLRs and then to the Fujifilm X-System (XT-1, X-Pro 2)) for various reasons…mainly that I found that I wasn’t quite pleased with the ability of the m4/3 format to handle poster print enlargement. However, I am puzzled by one statement you make: “This thing can take massive abuse from rain, sleet, snow, ice and even being dropped. No Panasonic, Fuji or Sony can withstand the kind of abuse this one can.”
    By what criteria or evidence are you using to make that statement, or is it a subjective opinion? Correct me if I’m wrong here, but It’s my understanding that when a manufacturer claims “weather-sealed”, all that really means is that there are o-rings and other gaskets built into areas of the body and/or lens, making it difficult for water or other contaminants to enter the system. Though I haven’t used the latest Panasonic, Sony or Olympus gear, I DO have 3+ years’ experience in the Fujifilm X-System, and can state with a fair amount of certainty that this system is indeed quite robust and weather-sealed (when using a weather-sealed body with a WR lens, of course). So, by what measurement or criterion do you use when you state that this Olympus body/lens is sealed to a higher degree that Fuji, or others? Indeed, there are some (for example, “The Angry Photographer”) who flat out state that weather-sealing is a bunch of BS anyway, so it’s conflicting statements like these that leave me (and no doubt, others) quite confused when asessing the true build quality (or image quality, for that matter!) of camera gear. Thank you sir.

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