My Thoughts on the New Olympus EM-1 MkII


Well finally, the new Olympus flagship camera, the OM-D EM-1 Mk II has been officially announced and the web page is up at with all the details. The camera will be available “later this year” and no pricing has been announced yet. I suspect it will start at about $200 more than the original E-M1 did, which was $1399.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-10-25-50-amOlympus is clearly aiming the Mk II at the pro photographers and they seem to have addressed most of the complaints levelled by DSLR-loving pros. Certainly the original E-M1 wasn’t that great if you were a pro shooting action because of it’s poor continuous focus tracking. This has all changed. If speed is what you’re after the Mk II is a speed monster. With full continuous autofocus (C-AF) and autoexposure it shoots 18 RAW frames per second. With autofocus locked (S-AF), it can reach a brain-numbing 60 RAW frames per second. Even with the mechanical shutter, it is capable of 15 fps. It also has a “pro-capture” mode where the camera starts shooting 60 full-res fps when you half press the shutter. When you fully press, the camera keeps the last 14 frames before as well as the 25 frames after you released the shutter. They’ve also doubled the buffer size and tripled the write speed.

Improved specifications
Improved specifications

With it’s 121 on-sensor cross-type phase-detect and contrast-detect (Dual AF) focus points and extremely powerful new quad-core processor, Olympus also promises unprecedentedly fast and accurate focussing and superb subject tracking. It will be interesting to see if reviewers concur with this claim. They’ve also moved the back focus button to a more ergonomic position.

em1-iicPersonally I don’t do much action-tracking so this speed is nice but not a high priority of mine. However, I am certainly interested in the improved battery life. Basically Olympus says that they use new low-power electronics and sensor and this combined with a bigger battery should offer 37% better battery life (about 500 shots) and they say the battery charges 50% faster as well. There is also a new battery grip available which doubles the battery capacity.

Some of the other highlights for me are the improved sensor with 20 megapixels (which is the same pixel count as the Nikon and Canon speed-monster pro/sports cameras) and according to Olympus it provides a 1 stop improvement in noise levels and dynamic range. The sensor is also supposed to have much faster read times not only to support those astounding frame rates but to reduce rolling shutter. The camera supports 4K video (3840 × 2160 / 30p, 25p, 24p / IPB approx. 102 Mbps) and Cinema 4K (4096 × 2160 / 24p / IPB at approx. 237 Mbps). There’s also Full-HD at up to 1080/60P. The full power of the IBIS and autofocus is available when shooting video.

em1-iibOther notable improvements include a vari-angle LCD screen and an improved EVF that runs at 120 fps and has a 6ms response time. It is apparently hard to discern between this EVF and an OVF. There’s dual SD slots including one that is UHS-II compatible. The camera is slightly heavier than the original E-M1 and it is 4mm wider but 4 mm shorter but that is because the EVF hump is shorter. The actual body and grip are a fair bit taller than the original which should help ergonomics. The grip has also grown by 6mm, providing a more solid hold and more room for the bigger battery.

em1-iiaLast but not least on my list of worthy upgrades is the image stabilization. The new IBIS improves on the already market-leading system and provides up to 5.5 stops of compensation and can work with a compatible stabilized lens for up to an unheard of 6.5 stops! Combine the new stabilized 12-100mm f/4.0 pro zoom with this system and its improved noise performance and you have a pretty versatile travel kit!

I wish they had moved the power switch to the right hand side but they’ve continued with the excellent design and position of the original on the left, which is very easy to find without looking, so this is a minor gripe.

All-in-all, this will be a very worthy upgrade and should help bring the benefits of the compact M4/3 system to more pro photographers. For wildlife photographers in particular this new camera combined with the superb 300mm f/4.0 Pro lens (and 1.4x converter) should offer an unbeatable and highly portable combination for those who like to trek off the beaten path without a packing mule. With the outstanding image stabilization not only is this 820mm equivalent super portable but also very easy to shoot handheld.

Well done Olympus. With the Pen F, this new E-M1 MkII and the new pro lenses, you are really breathing new life into the M4/3 system!