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Hands-On Video: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is the latest flagship camera from the company that pioneered mirrorless photography. Faster to focus, faster to capture and more capable in challenging lighting situations, the Mark II raises the bar.

The Micro Four Thirds market has always been designed to appeal to the photographer looking for an ideal combination of size and performance. The OM-D E-M1 Mark II is the latest and greatest camera from Olympus and is packed full of features to appeal to the professional and the amateur alike.

Outdoor photographers, looking to shave weight on already-heavy backpacks, were particularly fond of compact mirrorless cameras. Several features stand out for the outdoor shooter with this new camera.

First is weather sealing, the camera has been run under waterfalls and placed under faucets and keeps going. (We don’t advise this, we’ve just seen it done.) That’s particularly of interest to photographers that tend to get stuck out in variable weather conditions.

The small size of the sensor (relative to APS-C or Full Frame) give it an edge for the wildlife shooter that wants to use long glass to capture distant animals. The longest telephoto lenses for the Olympus system are a fraction of the size and weight of the pro SLR systems on the market.

Olympus is particularly proud of the five-axis stabilization system, which can function in tandem with lens stabilziation for up to 6.5 stops of vibration reduction, according to the company.

At the launch event, I heard several photographers commenting that in-camera stabilization will “put an end to those three legged things.” I doubt the tripod will disappear any time soon, especially for landscape photographers, but the in-camera stabilization does make it easier to travel without a tripod for quick trips into the woods.

While not perfect for every photographer, the diminutive Micro Four Thirds sensor allows for incredibly compact cameras. The OM-D E-M1 Mark II packs the more features into a small body than ever before, and the camera sets some performance records. For example, the Mark II can capture images with electronic shutter at 60fps. The company claims they’ve engineered away the optical distortion that can come from using an electronic shutter at high speed—something we’ll verify more when shipping review units are available.

The camera also has an impressive “pro capture” mode that functions in practice like the High-Speed Video settings on the Sony RX100 system. In this shooting mode, the camera is buffering images while pre-focus occurs, and the Mark II will save the 14 shots captured prior to the triggering of the shutter release This capture mode gives sports photographers the opportunity to capture moments they might otherwise have missed.

There is also 4K capture, WiFi connectivity, a five-axis stabilization system, and a 50MP stacked image mode, among other pro features.

That’s good news for Olympus, as the previous systems have been praised for their portability, but the AF systems have been an issue for many photographers capturing images of fast-moving subjects. Even the Olympus representatives at the camera’s launch talked about the improvements in the OM-D E-M1 Mark II being more practical than the predecessors for some types of photography. On a scatter chart, the speakers pointed out the variety of things that mirrorless cameras in general, and Olympus cameras specifically, are good at capturing.

When Olympus jumpstarted the mirrorless revolution with the E-P1 camera in 2009, the system had advantages in size over DSLRs, but was not on par with pro cameras regarding performance and image quality. That wasn’t a secret; it was something that was in inherent issue with the new technology. By contrast, Olympus seems to feel they’ve brought their Micro Four Thirds cameras to an even level with pro DSLRs, thanks to the Mark II.

In this video, I give a quick overview of some of the key points discussed by Olympus marketing, and my first impressions when holding and using the camera. We will be doing a full review of the camera when press units become available, likely the end of December 2016.

Apologies for the background noise in the video—to get a quieter spot I’d have needed to record the video from my car in the parking garage.