The OM-D EM-1 Mark II is being touted as the camera to “change the game”, offering high-speed shooting for sports, wildlife and action, but while maintaining a small body size.
The camera features a 20 million pixel sensor, whose new design allows for lower power consumption. That's joined by a TruePic VIII processor, which features a double quad-core image processor.
Remarkably, the camera can shoot at 18fps while maintaining continuous autofocus, and a fantastic 60fps if you're happy to set the focus for the first frame. Another exciting new feature is 5-axis image stabilisation, which brings with it an impressive 6.5EV stops of compensation. Olympus claims that this means you can shoot with a wide-angle lens, handheld, for two seconds, and still get a sharp shot.
Other interesting features include 4K video recording, a 50-megapixel High Res Shot mode, better grip, dual SD card slots, improved battery life and a high-resolution electronic viewfinder.
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Outwardly, very little has changed from the previous model, the E-M1. Inside, however, the camera has seen a complete redesign to bring better performance.
The OM-D E-M1 II is a good size and shape, and will be a camera that you’ll be happy to carry around with you all day. Yet it still has a decent amount of weight and bulk to it to make it feel like a serious camera. In addition, the grip has been contoured well to fit the shape of your hand.
On the top of the camera you’ll find some useful dials and buttons to help you change settings on the fly. There’s a mode dial, but also two dials to the front and rear of the camera for changing aperture and/or shutter speed settings (depending on the shooting mode you’re in). Alternatively, by quickly flipping a switch at the back of the camera, you can change these dials to control ISO and white balance, making for a very quick and handy way of working.
The LCD screen is touch-sensitive. You can use it to change the AF point, trigger off the release, and navigate through the quick menu (accessed by pressing the central OK button). Sadly, you can’t navigate through the main menu using touch.
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A new viewfinder offers an extremely bright and clear view of the scene in front of you. It’s been redesigned to keep up with the high-speed shooting - you can now maintain live view even when shooting at 18fps, something that’s pretty incredible for an electronic viewfinder. An eye sensor automatically switches on the viewfinder when you bring the camera to your eye, and you’ll see a very detailed and large view of your subject.
Battery life is also significantly improved. This is facilitated by the inclusion of a much larger battery over the previous model; you’ll find it housed underneath the camera. However, also useful is the ability to keep an eye on battery life via the display, something that was bizarrely missing from previous generations of Olympus compact system cameras.
Although I’ve had only a brief play with the pre-production E-M1 II, it appears to be an extremely powerful and quick camera to use. It was able to lock onto a target at speed, even in slightly lower light conditions. We’ll be looking forward to testing the low-light capabilities in due course.
Focus tracking also appears to work, and, seeing as this camera is designed to appeal to wildlife and sports shooters, it will be interesting to see if it’s up to scratch. Olympus wants to take on the might of Nikon and Canon with this model – so hopes are very high indeed.
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A new feature that’s likely to appeal not only to professional sports/wildlife shooters, but also anybody who’s looking to capture the definitive moment, is the Pro Capture mode. In essence, this captures up to 14 frames before you press the shutter release (so long as the shutter is half-pressed) – so even if you miss the moment by a fraction, you should have a back up ready. This seems to be somewhat in response to Panasonic’s excellent 4K Photo modes, which allow you to extract stills from 4K footage.
However, the benefit with the Olympus’ version is that you can be shooting in RAW and have full-resolution JPEG images available; with 4K extraction you’re limited to 8-megapixel JPEGs. It’s something that will be great to test in reality, but again early indications are promising – and if successful, this is the kind of technology that’s likely to trickle down into more affordable models.
The specs on paper continue to impress, with a new optical image stabilisation system that gives you 6.5 stops of compensation. This should have a positive effect on image quality.
The OM-D E-M1 II has been one of the most exciting new announcements at Photokina. Early indications are that it could be a true competitor to DSLR cameras when it comes to sports, action and wildlife shooting, including a host of revolutionary and evolutionary features to back up the claims.
Image quality is promised to be the best Olympus has ever produced. We’re excited to see if OM-D E-M1 can live up to those claims – and, perhaps, even more excited to see how technologies from this camera impact other models, both inside and outside of Olympus’ range.