Olympus has promised a revolution with the launch of its highly specced new flagship, the E-M1 Mark II. We took it out for a spin to find out if it lives up to the hype...
Placing advanced enthusiasts and professional shooters firmly in its sights, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a total overhaul of Olympus’ outgoing flagship, the E-M1. With a launch price that’s almost 50% more than its forebear, it’s clear that it is seen by the brand as more than just another evolutionary update. With internal Cinematic 4K recording, a 60fps full-resolution burst mode and 5-axis image stabilisation, it’s not short of headline-grabbing features that propel it into a new echelon. But with a smaller sensor, can this Micro Four Thirds device truly compete with the full-frame DSLRs and CSCs it’s up against?
Like the PEN-F launched earlier this year, the Mark II is built around a 20.4Mp Live MOS sensor, but this time it’s paired with a new TruePic VIII image processor. This combination offers users a native ISO range of 200-25,600, with an expanded LOW setting equivalent to ISO 64 also available. When shooting JPEGs the camera produced very strong image quality up to a respectable ISO 3200. Beyond this point images remained usable until the top ISO level of 25,600, although the smoothing effects of noise reduction became more apparent with each step up. While this may be a rather average performance for an APS-C or full-frame sensor, it’s very competitive from a Micro Four Thirds device. The Mark II also offers 50MP and 25MP high-res shot modes that capture several images in quick succession and merge them for a higher-resolution file.
With its new mechanical shutter that’s rated for 200,000 actuations, the camera can use shutter speeds of up to 1/8000sec while, with its electronic shutter, a high of 1/32000sec is possible. At 60fps using the electronic shutter and Single AF, the camera has an astonishingly fast full-resolution RAW burst mode that will turn the heads of wildlife and sport shooters. Even with Continuous focusing active, the camera manages an impressive 18fps while, using the mechanical shutter, a respectable 15fps is possible with AFS and 10fps with AFC. Alongside these high-speed options there is also a Pro Capture mode that begins recording a rolling series of frames when the shutter is half-pressed, writing the last 14 files along with the consecutive shots captured upon a full-press. Thanks to the bright 2.36Mp electronic viewfinder that carries a fantastic 120fps refresh rate and a 5 millisecond response time, lag while shooting was imperceptible. The viewfinder is paired with a 3in 1037K-dot multi-angle touchscreen display, that makes composition at unusual angles much easier and allows touch control of menu functions.
Stabilising stills and video footage for shake-free results is a 5-axis system that Olympus claims is the ‘world’s most effective’. When paired with M.Zuiko PRO lenses that feature in-lens stabilisation, it can compensate for up to 6.5 stops of shake, while with other lenses 5.5 stops of compensation is possible. During our testing the dramatic benefit of this feature was apparent. Touting cinematic 4K shooting with a maximum bit rate of 237mbps, the Mark II is also adept at high-quality video capture. With ports for audio in and out as well as HDMI, it’s compatible with a range of accessories. NFC is missing on this device, but remote shooting and file transfer to a smart device is possible via Wi-Fi. The new Li-Ion battery used by the camera will charge in 2 hours and provides enough juice for 440 shots – respectable for a CSC though still substantially less than most DSLRs. The camera has dual SD card slots.
Handling & performance
With a comfortable grip and a metal body, the E-M1 Mark II feels ergonomic and durable – it’s splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof to -10°C. On test, it felt balanced even when combined with telephotos. The camera keeps most settings within easy reach and, while some of the buttons assigned by default were frustrating, there are lots of options for customisation. With 121 cross-type points, we found the Mark II’s hybrid focus system to be fantastically fast in well-lit conditions and very capable in low light. It’s tracking mode is one of the best we’ve seen on a CSC, although it’s still not on par with a pro DSLR.
The E-M1 Mark II is a highly capable device that will appeal to new and even some professional parts of the market. In terms of its image quality at low-medium ISO’s, video and burst shooting capabilities it can go toe-to-toe with virtually any of its competition.
- Resolution: 20.4MP
- Formats: RAW & JPEG
- Sensor: Micro Four Thirds (17.4x13mm)
- ISO: 200-25,600
- Shutter: 1/8000sec-60sec & bulb
- AF system: 121-Point Dual AF
- Burst rate: 15fps using AFS, and 10fps using AFC with mechanical shutter
- Monitor: 3in 1037k-dot touch vari-angle
- Viewfinder: 2.36M-dot EVF
- Video: C4K (4096x2160) at 24fps
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi
- Storage: Dual SD, SDHC and SDXC
- Weight: 574g with battery & SD card
- Dimensions: 134x91x69mm (WxHxD)
- Web: www.olympus.co.uk