Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
 
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If you’re already a fan of the Micro Four Thirds take on the mirrorless camera then, right now, you’ve never had it quite so good. The ‘in-house’ rivalry between chief proponents Olympus and Panasonic is delivering some truly fine products. If you’re thinking 
of making the move to mirrorless – and, frankly, it’s getting harder to resist – the MFT route is looking like a good one. The smaller sensor is really no longer an issue, but the smaller hardware delivers real benefits… MFT is arguably the best interpretation of the mirrorless concept that there is.
 
However, it’s the D-SLR that’s everybody’s target right now and, in particular, the higher-end models – or, more specifically, their users who have been, traditionally, a bit of a conservative bunch when it comes to the reflex mirror and optical viewfinder. Olympus knows this well… which is why the OM-D cameras look so much like neat little classic reflex cameras, harking back to the glory days of its much-loved 35mm OM System. Back in 2013, the original E-M1 was the first mirrorless camera to make a serious pitch for the enthusiast-level – or even professional – D-SLR user and the momentum here has since gathered with the likes of Fujifilm’s ‘APS-C’ format X-T1/X-T2 models and, of course, Sony’s A7 full-35mm line-up. Time for Olympus to up the ante again.
 
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
 
The Mark II version of the E-M1 still looks very much like an OM System camera – the lower-profile EVF housing is pure OM-4 – and there’s still the OM-style power lever, but there’s been a bit of a departure with the addition of a much more substantial handgrip as part of a taller bodyshell overall. The bigger grip makes the Mark II look bulkier than its predecessors, but if you compare the actual dimensions, there’s very little difference. It’s a little heavier, but still a featherweight compared to the D-SLRs with which it can comfortably compete – such as Nikon’s D500 and the Pentax K-1. It’s in this league not just because of its extensive capabilities, but also its price which has definitely bulked up, but then Olympus has added so much more to the Mark II it probably actually deserves a new model number. It’s a whole lot more than a mere upgrade.
 
The taller grip makes for much more comfortable handling especially with bigger lenses such as the new M.Zuiko Digital PRO Series 12-100mm f4.0 IS zoom (equivalent to 24-200mm) which launched along with the Mark II. The body comprises a mixture of magnesium alloy and aluminium components, fully sealed against the intrusion of dust and moisture, and insulated to enable operation in subzero temperatures down to -10 degrees Celsius. The main dial and the front/rear control wheels have been reshaped for improved ergonomics and the monitor screen – still a 7.62 cm TFT LCD panel – is now adjustable for swing as well as tilt. As before, it also provides extensive touchscreen operations so the E-M1 Mark II again offers various methods of controllability via its external controls, menu system and the monitor-based ‘Super Control Panel’. In other words, both traditionalists and progressives are catered for, or you can mix-and-match for whichever combination delivers the best efficiencies and comfort. As before, there’s extensive scope for customisation and not just of the external controls (nearly all of them too), but also the displays in both the EVF and the monitor screen (more about this shortly). 
 
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
 
Take A Card
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is largely unchanged from the previous model so it’s still an LCD panel with a resolution of 2.36 megadots and a magnification of 0.74x (35mm equivalent). However, the refresh rate has been doubled to 120 fps and Olympus says the latency is now only six milliseconds (down from ten). It’s adjustable for brightness and colour temperature, plus there’s the option of a ‘Simulated Optical Viewfinder’ (S-OVF) display which essentially extends the dynamic range to replicate the look of an optical finder. S-OVF also operates like an optical finder so it includes only the traditional read-outs (exposure settings, etc.) and doesn’t provide any digital previewing capabilities, but of course, the live view feed to the monitor screen is still available for this. A proximity sensor set in the EVF’s eyepiece enables automatic switching between viewfinder and monitor.
 
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II The E-M1 II steps up to dual memory card slots which occupy their own compartment in the side of the handgrip. These are for SD format devices and both slots support the UHS-I speed types, but only Slot 1 has UHS-II speed support. The file management options include automatic overflow when one card is filled, the assignment of specific file types to the individual slots or the simultaneous recording of files to both slots for back-up purposes.
 
The Mark II also has a bigger battery with a little over 35 percent more capacity, enabling up to 440 shots per charge which can be more than doubled if you make use of the camera’s various ‘Sleep’ energy-saving settings. The battery power icon is now accompanied by a very useful read-out of the remaining power level as a percentage value. There’s an optional vertical grip battery holder – the HLD-9 – which takes a second battery pack to give an extended shooting range and, of course, replicates all the key right-hand controls including the front/back input wheels.
 
Turbo Charged
On the inside, the E-M1 Mark II is essentially an all-new camera, starting with its 21.8 megapixels ‘Live MOS’ sensor which has an effective pixel count of 20.4 million, giving a maximum image size of 5184x3888 pixels. To optimise the available resolution, there’s no optical low-pass filter (OLPF) and the noise reduction processing has been enhanced to allow a native sensitivity range equivalent to ISO 200 to 25,600 (with a short extension down to ISO 64).
 
The new sensor is mated with Olympus’s latest generation ‘TruePic VIII’ high-speed image processor which really turbocharges this camera’s key operations via its dual quad-core design, Consequently, 4K video recording is possible – in the higher Cinema 4K resolution of 4096x2060 pixels – at 24 fps with a massive bit rate of 237 Mbps. Olympus has given videographers as much to celebrate with the E-M1 II as photographers and the rest of its extensive video capabilities are covered in the Making Movies panels.
 
For still photography, the new processor delivers the possibility of continuous shooting at a blistering 60 fps when using the camera’s sensor-based shutter, and as fast as 18 fps with AF/AE adjustment between frames. When using the conventional focal plane shutter, the fastest continuous shooting speed is still a snappy 15 fps and full AF/AE adjustment is available at 10 fps. Interestingly, Olympus has added a ‘Pro Capture’ mode – available when using the sensor shutter – which starts buffering frames the moment the shutter release button is pressed to its half-way position with the idea being that you’re less likely to miss the decisive frame when shooting an action sequence. Pre-capture will continue while the shutter release is held at the half-way position, but it’s a rolling sequence so only the last 14 frames will actually be recorded once the button is depressed all the way.
 
There’s the choice of ‘Pro Capture H’ (at up to 60 fps with the AF fixed to the first frame) or ‘Pro Capture L’ (at up to 18 fps with continuous AF adjustment) modes, and you can set a frame limit of up to 99. You can also specify the number of pre-release frames, 
but 14 doesn’t represent a very long time – especially at 60 fps – so this is probably best left at the maximum.
 
If you’re familiar with Panasonic’s later Lumix G cameras, you’ll realise this looks a lot like how the ‘4K Photo’ modes work, except at the E-M1 II’s full resolution (although ‘6K Photo’ on the GH5 delivers close to 19 MP frames). The limitations are a minimum aperture of f8.0 and you have to use an Olympus M.Zuiko Digital lens.
 
Shifting Up
Image stabilisation is via sensor shift with five-axis correction for up to 5.5 stops of camera shake, but up to 6.5 stops with the aforementioned 12-100mm f4.0 PRO lens as it incorporates an optical stabiliser to provide additional assistance (as does the 300mm f4.0 PRO supertelephoto). There’s a choice of modes for panning or the system can be 
left to detect the camera movement and set the appropriate correction automatically.
 
As with the E-M5 Mark II, sensor shifting delivers another feature called ‘High Res Shot’ which builds up the image resolution via multiple captures made with both half-pixel and full-pixel shifts. ‘High Res Shot’ captures a series of eight images with the sensor shifted in one-pixel increments for the first four – so that all colours are captured at each position, cancelling out the effects of the Bayer pattern filter – and half-pixel increments for the next four. The eight exposures are then combined in-camera which takes a couple of seconds to complete. There’s the option of creating 25 MP JPEGs sized at 5760x4320 pixels or, more interestingly, 50 MP ones at 8160x6120 pixels. RAW images made with ‘High Res Shot’ increase the resolution to 80 megapixels and are 10,368x7776 pixels in size. It’s still a requirement that the camera be mounted on a tripod and the subject is largely static in nature – obviously in-camera image stabilisation isn’t available – but Olympus is working on the HRS processing to better deal with certain types of movement such as water which extends the facility’s usefulness for landscape photography in particular. 
 
(c) Paul Burrows 2017
 
Getting Set 
As is the case across the OM-D range, the E-M1 Mark II offers a bewildering choice of JPEG capture options – four resolution levels, seven resolution settings and five aspect ratios. Four settings are configurable in the main shooting menu, created from the custom menu which provides a selection of four medium image sizes and two small sizes to accompany the largest size. If you then change the aspect ratio – back in the main shooting menu – all the preselected image sizes change accordingly. There are two RAW+JPEG settings which are automatically configured from however you set up your first two JPEG quality modes. 
 
There probably isn’t a better way of doing all this, but the toing-and-froing between menus seems a bit unnecessary and, in fact, is a characteristic of all the Mark II’s set-up procedures partly because it offers so much choice in everything, but partly because Olympus’s approach is ‘opt in’ rather than ‘opt out’ so if you want a particular feature or element of a display, you’re going to have to find it and tick the box to activate it.
 
Test images (c) Paul Burrows 2017
 
For example, there are 14 ‘Art Filter’ special effects – some with variations and all of them adjustable – which can be combined with one of nine ‘Art Effects’, a number of them also adjustable. You can then add these – with the main variations – to the nine ‘Picture Mode’ presets plus the ‘Colour Creator’ setting and, in ‘Art Effect’ bracketing, end up with a total of 37 versions of a JPEG image! The ‘Colour Creator’ function has appeared on all the OM-D models so far and, when selected, the front input wheel adjusts the hue while the rear wheel varies the saturation. There’s also a ‘Highlight & Shadow’ control which allows you to adjust the brightness of the highlights and/or the shadows around a central point. Again, the front wheel tweaks the highlights while the rear dial works on the shadows.
 
The colour ‘Picture Mode’ presets have adjustable parameters for sharpness, contrast, colour saturation and tonal gradation which can be set to Normal, Auto, High Key or Low Key. The Monotone ‘Picture Mode’ is adjustable for contrast, sharpness and gradation, plus there’s a set of contrast control filters (yellow, orange, red and green) and a choice of toning effects (sepia, blue, purple or green). Just one modified ‘Picture Mode’ can be stored as a custom preset. In addition to the ‘Art Filter’ bracketing, there are auto bracketing modes for exposure, flash, sensitivity, white balance and focus. Similar to what’s offered on the latest Lumix G bodies, the focus bracketing can be programmed for sequences of up to 999 shots with adjustable focus steps – a.k.a. the “focus differential” – from narrow to wide. Alternatively, there’s a focus stacking function – only available with selected M.Zuiko Digital lenses – which captures eight images at different focusing points which are then combined into a single JPEG frame.
 
As before, the Mark II has an intervalometer for creating time-lapse sequences and multi-shot HDR capture. The intervalometer allows for up to 999 frames to be recorded at intervals of up to 24 hours. HDR capture can be via two auto modes which record four frames at two different amounts of exposure variation to give either “high contrast” or “super-high” contrast. Alternatively, there’s a choice of presets – three, five or seven frames at +/-2.0 EV; and either three or five frames at +/-3.0 EV. Multiple exposures – still only double exposures – can be made with the option of an ‘Auto Gain’ exposure adjustment. There’s also ‘Keystone Compensation’ for in-camera perspective control (in both the vertical and horizontal planes); ‘Live Composite’ shooting which combines a reference background exposure with subsequent multiple exposures that only record any changes to bright light sources (such as stars) and can be monitored in real-time; and Live Bulb/Time shooting which again allows you to see the exposure progressing in the monitor screen (with the option of a histogram for assistance). Particularly useful for long exposures, but also when using longer lenses, is the ‘Anti Shock’ mode which switches the camera to ‘electronic first curtain shutter’ operation and allows for a delay time to be set (up to 30 second) so all physical vibrations can die away before the exposure commences. You’re limited to a top shutter speed of 1/320 second here, but obviously this is unlikely to be an issue when making long exposures. The delay timer is also available when shooting with the sensor shutter alone, in which case the speed range is 60-1/32,000 second. Even with mirrorless cameras vibration is being recognised as a key issue, especially with pixel densities on the increase.
 
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
 
Focusing On Autofocus
Autofocus is the latest battlefield in mirrorless versus D-SLR (and possibly the latter’s last bastion) so a lot of effort is going into improving the performance of sensor-based systems. Fujifilm has made big leaps forward here – with the X-T2 in particular – and so now has Olympus as the E-M1 Mark II has a new hybrid contrast/phase-detection system which uses 121 cross-type points (with either method of measurement). This 11x11 points pattern gives increased frame coverage (close to 80 percent overall), and the camera automatically switches between contrast-detection and phase-detection as actually demanded 
by the subject type and the lighting conditions. 
 
One of the dual quad-core processors is entirely devoted to crunching the AF numbers during continuous shooting – which is pretty demanding at 18 fps – and ensure more accurate subject tracking. There’s a new control algorithm for tracking too, plus a manual adjustment for the ‘C-AF Lock’ which ranges from +2 ‘Loose’ to -2 ‘Tight’. This is essentially the same as Nikon’s ‘Lock On’ for focus tracking and determines whether the continuous AF stays focused on the subject when there’s an interruption caused by an obstacle or refocuses. As with the recent upgrade to Nikon’s focus tracking, the Olympus system can determine whether a subject’s movement is at a constant speed or more erratic. 
 
There’s also an ‘AF Limiter’ facility which enables the focusing range to be preset in the camera – between zero and 999.9 metres – and this will then apply to the attached lens. Up to three ranges can be set and stored, and it’s another option for speeding up the AF operation if you don’t need the full focusing range of a lens.
 
Switching between single-shot and continuous AF operation is performed manually, with a full-time override available for the former when the focusing mode is set to ‘S-AF+MF’. Point selection is either automatic or manual with selectivity varied via a choice of two ‘Group Target’ settings which employ clusters of five points (in a + pattern) or nine (in a 3x3 pattern). Similarly to Panasonic’s latest Lumix G models, you can now use the touchscreen monitor to select an AF point/area while still looking through the viewfinder. Olympus calls this the ‘AF Targeting Pad’ and it can be switched off.
 
Face detection AF can be fine-tuned to focus on either the left or right eye or whichever one is nearest the camera. Finer focusing is available when using the ‘Zoom AF’ mode which magnifies the image by 3x, 5x, 7x, 10x or 14x. A ‘Super Spot AF’ mode does the same thing, but at the centre of the frame only.
 
Manual focusing is assisted by a magnified image (again up to 14x) and/or a focus peaking display which can be set to red, yellow, black or white; and at low, normal or high intensity. Curiously, focus peaking is switched on or off in one section of the custom menu, but configured in another.
 
Into The Light
Exposure control is based on the 324-point ‘Digital ESP’ multi-zone metering which is currently used across the OM-D range. There’s the choice of centre-weighted average or spot measurements, the latter maintaining the Olympus tradition of being adjustable for either the highlights or the shadows. 
 
The auto exposure control modes are backed by an AE lock, up to +/-5.0 EV of compensation and, of course, auto bracketing which can be applied over sequences of two, three or five frames with adjustments of up to +/-1.0 EV, or over seven frames with a variation of up to +/-0.7 EV. As before, all the exposure-related adjustments can be 
preset to be made in 0.3, 0.7 or full-stop increments. 
 
As noted previously, there’s the option of using a conventional focal plane shutter – with a speed range of 60-1/8000 second – the hybrid ‘electronic first curtain shutter’ – which commences the exposure from the sensor – or a fully-sensor based shutter. This last option is fully silent as well as free from any mechanically-induced vibrations. The so-called ‘mechanical shutter’ – although, of course, it’s fully electronically controlled – is rated for 200,000 cycles.
 
The E-M1 Mark II lacks a built-in flash, but as before, is bundled with a neat little on-camera unit which is also weather-proofed. It’s called the FL-LM3 and it has a metric guide number of 12.9 (at ISO 200) and a flash output angle equivalent to a 12 (i.e. 24mm) lens. It also has a tilt/bounce head and can serve as the optical controller for a wireless TTL flash set-up using the more powerful Olympus FL Series flash units.
 
Sensibly, the E-M1 Mark II is stripped of its predecessor’s subject modes, but it retains the ‘iAUTO’ point-and-shoot option which performs automatic scene mode selection as well as a wide range of other adjustments. A series of basic manual overrides called ‘Live Guides’ are available in ‘iAUTO’ and provide some control over colour saturation, colour balance, brightness, background blur and the blurring/freezing of moving subjects. These are accessed via a touch tab on the monitor display and the adjustments are applied via touch-operated slider-type controls.
 
The control options for white balance are unchanged from the previous model. The auto correction has a ‘Keep Warm Colour’ option for use when shooting under tungsten lighting, but this needs to be preset in the custom menu. There are seven lighting presets (including for underwater) and provisions for storing up to four custom measurements. All have fine-tuning, set using slider-type controls for the amber-to-blue and green-to-magenta colour ranges. Manual colour temperatures can be selected over a range of 2000 to 14,000 degrees Kelvin. White balance bracketing is performed over a sequence of three frames and in either the amber-to-blue or green-to-magenta colour ranges.
 
In The Hand
The basic controllability of the E-M1 Mark II centres around its main mode dial, front and rear input wheels, a multi-function selector (similar to the arrangement on Nikon’s D500) and a four-way navigator on the rear panel which Olympus calls the “arrow pad”. However, as noted earlier, there’s huge scope for customisation of just about all the external controls, including, as on the previous model, a nifty lever on the camera back which allows for quick switching between input wheel operations – from the default exposure adjustments to ISO (front) and white balance (rear).
 
An alternative modus operandi is the ‘Super Control Panel’ which is available as a stand-alone display in the monitor or is superimposed over the live view image, and provides direct access to a huge selection of capture-related functions. There’s also a ‘Live Control’ screen which isn’t quite as comprehensive as the SCP – although it still provides direct access to all the important capture functions – but leaves the main image area clear. The function icons are arranged along the right-hand edge of the frame with the available settings along the bottom edge. Touch control is available with the SCP panels, but not the LC screen which is navigated conventionally using the four-way keypad.
 
If you suffer from choice stress, the E-M1 Mark II is going to challenge you to stay calm. These control screens, for example, have to be individually activated for the camera’s main operating modes – namely ‘PASM’, iAUTO and the ‘Art Filters’ – which means accessing a sub-submenu, and this is the way all things can be switched on or off. You want only four thumbnails on a page? Fine, you tick that box only. You want the options of nine, 25 or 100 thumbnail pages? Then you’ll need to tick these boxes as well, and so it goes on over all aspects of the camera’s control. This means a pretty complex menu system, in particular the Custom Menu which is dauntingly extensive and covers a total of 20 pages. There’s been a redesign here, with the chapters labelled ‘A’ to ‘J’ – as per the function sets – and continuous scrolling between them and the pages which makes for fast navigation, but there’s still a lot here that would be more logical to include in the Shooting Menu which is only two pages. As it is, a lot has to preset in the Custom Menu in order to configure the Shooting Menu. Canon employed a similar design in its D-SLRs for many years, before trimming down its way-too-long custom menus by moving many items to other pages. For instance, the E-M1 Mark II could well do with a dedicated menu page for the various focusing-related settings.
 
Having said all this, many users will set up the camera the way they want it and never need to venture back into the depths of the Custom Menu – especially as you can create and store three camera set-ups, then selectable from the main mode dial as C1, C2 or C3 – and Olympus’s approach means you can personalise absolutely every element of shooting, the displays and playback.
 
Talking of displays, the live view screen – in both the monitor and the EVF – can be configured with a real-time histogram, dual-axis level indicators, highlight and shadow warnings and a superimposed grid (from a choice of five). You won’t be surprised to learn that you can do this separately for the monitor and viewfinder… and there’s a choice of two custom set-ups for each. Furthermore, the highlight and shadow warnings have adjustable thresholds and the real-time histogram includes an internal section – displayed in green – which shows the brightness values within the selected focusing point or cluster of points.
The review/replay screens can also be configured to include a thumbnail image with a full set of histograms (i.e. brightness and RGB channels), a larger brightness histogram superimposed over the image, highlight and shadow warnings and a ‘Light Box’ display for the side-by-side comparison of two images complete with zooming for closer scrutiny. 
Touch controls are available for browsing, zooming and scrolling through the thumbnails. The in-camera editing functions comprise Shadow Adjust (i.e. dynamic range), Red-Eye Fix, Trim Aspect, B&W, Sepia, Saturation, Resize, e-Portrait and RAW-to-JPEG conversion. The ‘Art Filter’ special effects aren’t available post-capture. 
 
Speed And Performance
The E-M1 Mark II is all about speed and there are no fewer than seven drive modes, depending on the shutter type plus the anti-shock and silent shooting options. Additionally, you can configure the high and low speed settings to a selected frame rate if you don’t need the top speeds.
 
With our reference SD memory card – Lexar’s 128 GB SDXC UHS-II/U3 (Speed Class 3) ‘2000x’ device – loaded in the speed-compatible Slot 1, we firstly timed the camera with the focal plane shutter operating. Here the E-M1 II captured a burst of 50 JPEG/large/superfine images in 3.382 seconds which represents a shooting speed of 14.8 fps… as close to the quoted 15 fps as really makes no difference. At this speed, the shutter makes a whirring sound which is actually quite low because, of course, there isn’t a reflex mirror clattering up and down.
 
Timing the silent shutter operation was a bit of a challenge as our custom-built timing rig works on sound – i.e. it stops the timer when the continuous shutter noise either stops completely or there’s a slight pause. 
 
The E-M1 II’s silent shooting is truly totally silent so we had to do a set-up modification which revealed that 68 frames were captured in 1.157 seconds, giving a shooting speed of 58.7 fps. Impressive. It should be noted that the EVF can’t keep up with this either, so the first frame is all you see and it’s also hard to know when the camera has stopped shooting as there’s no frames-remaining counter for the buffer such as Nikon provides with its high-end D-SLRs. However, in both cases, the buffer subsequently emptied extremely quickly and, with the focal plane shutter, the camera will go on shooting, but at a slower rate. With the high-speed silent shooting, the camera stops when the buffer is full, but it empties so quickly with an UHS-II speed card, you’re ready to go again almost immediately. The test files averaged around 14.6 MB in size and just these two timing trials alone accumulated 1.6 GB of data. 
 
While still on the subject of speed, the autofocusing is also impressive in both its response time and its tracking accuracy, even with fast-approaching subjects. Ten-frames-per-second with continuous AF adjustment definitely puts the E-M1 II in the big league as far as sports-orientated D-SLRs are concerned and it joins the Fujifilm X-T2 in offering a viable mirrorless alternative for high-speed action photography. Of course, 18 fps with continuous AF is available if you use the sensor-based shutter, albeit with the risk of some rolling shutter effects when panning quickly. What’s important to note here though, is that the AF tracking is good enough to work reliably at 18 fps, delivering a very high proportion of pin-sharp frames from a sequence. There’s definitely scope for Olympus to offer more flexibility with fine-tuning tracking via, like Canon, scenario-based control over the type of movement, the sensitivity and the point-switching speed. Like the X-T2 too, the E-M1 II feels strong enough to deal with the wear and tear that’s inevitable in sports and action photography where getting the shot always takes precedence over babying the gear.
 
While the increase in resolution over the previous model is fairly modest, there are other factors to consider when it comes to image quality, including advances in the newer sensor’s design, the way that data is handled both off the sensor and downstream. Consequently, the E-M1 Mark II delivers a number of improvements in IQ, most noticeably to the definition, detailing and dynamic range. Superfine quality JPEGs have bags of crisply resolved information with silky smooth tonal gradations and pleasing colour reproduction across the spectrum. Of course, there’s plenty of scope for adjusting colour, contrast and sharpness via the ‘Picture Mode’ presets, but the starting point is a good one. Noise characteristics aren’t a lot different from the previous model – remember that the pixels are actually smaller on the new sensor and some are being used for autofocusing – but everything still holds together well up to ISO 3200. From ISO 6400 onwards, there’s a progressive softening of details and an increase in graininess, but overall the E-M1 II’s low light performance is as good as it gets in the Micro Four Thirds world and on a par with the best in the ‘APS-C’ format.
 
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Making Movies
As the Olympus Micro Four Thirds flagship, the E-M1 Mark II has the unenviable task of taking on Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 in the video arena and, like its predecessor, this camera is seriously orientated towards pro cinematographers. In fact, if you want a mirrorless camera solely for making videos, the GH5 essentially offers everything you’d find on a pro-level camcorder. That said, Olympus has followed on from the E-M5 II which has been popular in the video world, equipping the E-M1 II with an impressive suite of high-end features and capabilities.

For starters it records 4K video in either the pro-orientated Cinema 4K resolution of 4096x2160 pixels at 24 fps – giving a massive bit rate of 237 Mbps – or in the Ultra HD resolution of 3840x2160 pixels at either 25 or 24 fps (PAL standard, but the NTSC speeds are available too). Full HD 1080p can be recorded at 25 fps or 24 fps with the options of inter-frame (IPB) compression or intra-frame (ALL-I) compression to optimise image quality. Full HD can also be recorded at 50 fps with, logically, IPB compression, but there are 
no faster speeds to creating slow-mo footage. Automatic partitioning of files at the 4.0 GB size allows for recording clip times of up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds, theoretically at least. You can also make time-lapse movies in 4K, FHD or HD.

Built-in stereo microphones are supplemented with a stereo audio input and there’s also a stereo audio output for connecting headphones. Both are standard 3.5 mm stereo minijack connections. Sound levels can be adjusted manually and there’s a built-in attenuator for shooting in very noisy locations. The wind-cut filter can be set to Low, Standard or High. You can also adjust the levels sent to the headphones. Additional electronic stabilisation – which shifts the image across the sensor slightly – is available when shooting video and, as with the E-M5 II, makes for remarkably smooth hand-held shooting. The electronic stabilisation results in a crop of the image – made prior to downsampling – so there’s the option of just using the sensor-shift IS which maintains the full horizontal frame coverage. An uncompressed and ‘clean’ video feed (8-bit, 4:2:2 colour) is available at the camera’s HDMI terminal for recording to external devices with the option of adding the info displays when feeding to an external monitor. There’s time-coding, a flat ‘Movie Picture Mode’ profile for footage which will be colour graded in post-production, and a slate-tone marker for synchronising sound and vision. 

You can use continuous AF with tracking, all the ‘PASM’ exposure modes, the ‘Picture Mode’ presets (if the flat profile isn’t selected), most of the ‘Art Filter’ effects, a choice of four ‘Movie Effects’ (called Art Fade, One Shot Echo, Multi Echo and Old Film), the Highlight/Shadow control, lens vignetting correction, the grid guides, the real-time histogram display and the focus peaking display in a choice of colours. Auto ISO adjustment is available with the auto and semi-auto exposure modes, but not manual.

Touch controls are available for AF point selection, pull focusing, exposure adjustment, audio recording levels, headphone levels and power zooming. This eliminates any operational noise, but you still need a light touch to avoid creating any noticeable vibrations in the image.

Olympus really has stepped up a good few rungs with this camera’s video capabilities and the performance in the 4K resolutions is truly excellent, ably assisted by the effective stabilisation, reliable autofocusing and surprisingly good sound quality from the built-in mics. The E-M1 Mark II is still primarily designed for photographers, so that it’s also a pretty handy video camera – even for more serious productions – is a big bonus.
 
The Verdict
Is this the best mirrorless camera you can buy right now? The competition for that crown is really hotting up with the likes of the X-T2, Lumix GH5 and Sony’s A7R II, but let’s say the E-M1 Mark II easily gets a seat at the top table. 
 
Its predecessor was the first serious attempt at luring higher-end users away from D-SLRs, but the Mark II model is a much more compelling argument, primarily because of its far superior AF system – now definitely in the D-SLR big league – and its remarkable high-speed shooting capabilities. To this can be added the distinctive ‘OM’ characteristics of the styling and handling… it’s a real toss-up as to which is the prettier camera between this and the X-T2. The sometimes clumsy interface is still a flaw – the menu system really does need a complete overhaul – but regular users will surely get used to it and, after initial set-up, it shouldn’t trip you up again. Certainly in the field, the E-M1 II’s operability is both efficient and comfortable. The price has gone up quite a bit, but you’re getting a lot more for your money too. The X-T2 is a little cheaper, but the Olympus has a number of extras to make up for this, plus it’s significantly more capable in the video department.
 
When we reviewed the Nikon D500 we concluded it was the D-SLR brigade’s best weapon against the mirrorless assault on the high-end of the category; being compact, fast and with class-leading autofocusing. The E-M1 Mark II is more compact, faster and has class-leading autofocusing too. Game over. 
 
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
 
Click for magazine pages as PDFOlympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II 
Price: $2799 body only. $3699 with M.Zuiko Digital 12-40mm f2.8 PRO zoom.
Type: Fully automatic, interchangeable lens digital camera with Micro Four Thirds System bayonet lens mount.
 
Focusing: Automatic hybrid system using contrast-detection and phase-difference detection via imaging sensor with 121 focusing points for each (all cross types). Focus points may be selected manually or automatically by the camera. Group Target area modes with either five- or nine-point clusters. Manual switching between one-shot and continuous AF modes. Face/eye detection and auto tracking. Continuous manual override available with single-shot mode. In-camera AF limiter (three settings). Low light/contrast assist via built-in illuminators. Focus assist via magnified image (3x/5x/7x/10x/14x) and focus peaking display (Red, Yellow, White or Black; High, Normal or Low intensity).

Metering: 324-point ‘Digital ESP’ (i.e. multi-zone), centre-weighted average, spot (2.0%) with highlight/shadow bias, and TTL flash. Metering range is EV -2.0 to 20 (ISO 100/f2.8).

Exposure Modes: Continuously-variable program with shift, shutter-priority auto, aperture-priority auto, metered manual, TTL auto flash and TTL flash. iAUTO fully automatic control with auto scene mode selection.
 
Shutter: Electronic, vertical travel, metal blades, 60-1/8000 second plus B (up to 30 minutes). Flash sync to 1/320 second. Sensor shutter has a speed range of 60-32,000 second. Exposure compensation up to +/-5.0 EV in 1/3, ½ or full stop increments.
Viewfinder: EVF with 2.36 megadots resolution, 100 percent coverage and 0.74x magnification (35mm equivalent). Adjustable for brightness and colour balance. 7.62 cm LCD TFT monitor panel with 1.04 megadots resolution, tilt/swing adjustments and touch screen controls. Auto/manual switching between EVF and monitor screen.

Flash: No built-in flash. External flash units connect via hotshoe or PC terminal. Compact FL-LM3 accessory flash unit supplied; GN is 12.9 (ISO 200) with 12mm coverage (equivalent to 24mm). Auto, fill-in, red-eye reduction, slow-speed sync, second curtain sync and wireless commander modes. Manual control down to 1/64.
 
Additional Features: Magnesium alloy bodyshell sealed against dust and moisture and with insulation for operation down to -10 degrees Celsius, AE/AF lock, auto exposure bracketing (over two, three, five or seven frames), depth-of-field preview, programmable self-timer (2 and 12 second delays, 1 to 10 frames, variable interval times), audible signals, auto power-off, hard-wired remote triggering.
 
DIGITAL SECTION
Sensor: 21.8 million (total) pixels Live MOS with 17.4x13.0 mm imaging area and 4:3 aspect ratio. No low-pass filter. Sensitivity equivalent to ISO 200-25,600 (extendable 
to ISO 64).
 
Focal Length Magnification: 1.97x.
 
Formats/Resolution: Four JPEG compression settings, RAW output (12-bit lossless compression) and RAW+JPEG capture. Seven resolution settings (four available at any one time) at 4:3 aspect ratio; 5184x3888, 3200x2400, 2560x1920, 1920x1440, 1600x1200, 1280x960 and 1024x768 pixels. Seven resolution settings (four available at any one time) at 3:2 aspect ratio; 5184x3456, 3216x2144, 2544x1696, 1920x1280, 1584x1056, 1296x864 and 1008x672 pixels. Seven resolution settings (four available at any one time) at 16:9 aspect ratio; 5184x2920, 3200x1800, 2560x1440, 1920x1080, 1536x864, 1280x720 and 1024x576 pixels. Seven resolution settings (four available at any one time) at 1:1 aspect ratio; 3888x3888, 2400x2400, 1920x1920, 1440x1440, 1216x1216, 960x960 and 768x768 pixels. Seven resolution settings (four available at any one time) at 3:4 aspect ratio; 2912x3888, 1824x2432, 1440x1920, 1104x1472, 864x1152, 720x960 and 576x768 pixels. 24-bit RGB colour for JPEGs, 36-bit RGB colour for RAW files. RAW files captured at 5184x3888 pixels.
 
Video Recording: Cinema 4K at 4096x2160 pixels and 24 fps, 16:9 aspect ratio, MOV format with MPEG-4/H.264 AVC compression (IPB). UHD at 3840x2160 pixels and 25 or 24 fps, 16:9 aspect ratio, MOV format with MPEG-4/H.264 AVC compression (IPB). Full HD at 1920x1080 pixels and 50, 25 or 24 fps; 16:9 aspect ratio, MOV format with MPEG-4/H.264 AVC compression (IPB or ALL-I). Superfine, fine and normal quality modes. HD at 1280x720 pixels and 50, 25 or 24 fps; 16:9 aspect ratio, MOV format with MPEG-4/H.264 AVC compression (IPB or ALL-I). Superfine, fine and normal image quality modes. HD at 1280x720 pixels and 30 fps; 16:9 aspect ratio, AVI format with Motion JPEG compression. Stereo microphones with auto/manual adjustable levels, wind filter and attenuator. Stereo audio input and output. Time code support and slate tone. Uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 colour output via HDMI connection (4K/2K).
 
Recording Media: Dual slots for SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards with UHS-I support. Slot 1 has UHS-II support.
 
Continuous Still Shooting: Up to 117 frames at up to 15.0 fps (JPEG/large/super fine) or up to 84 RAW frames. Up to 60 fps with the sensor shutter and silent shooting (18 fps with continuous AF adjustment). Up to 8.5 fps with ‘Anti-Shock’ sequential shooting. ‘Pro Capture’ mode pre-captures up to 14 frames prior to full shutter release.
 
White Balance: TTL measurement via image sensor. Auto measurement, auto warm, seven presets and four custom settings. White balance compensation (amber-to-blue and/or green-to-magenta) in all presets plus white balance bracketing over three frames. Manual colour temperature setting from 2000 to 14,000 degrees Kelvin.
 
Interfaces: USB 3.0 (Type C), micro HDMI (Type D), 3.5 mm stereo audio input, 3.5 mm stereo audio output, 2.5 mm remote input.
 
Additional Digital Features: Five-axis sensor-shift image stabilisation, sensor cleaning, Adobe RGB or sRGB colour space, flicker detection, focus stacking (eight shots), long exposure noise reduction, high ISO noise filter, ‘Keystone Compensation’ digital perspective control, eight ‘Picture Modes’ (i-Enhance, Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait, Monotone, e-Portrait, Underwater), one user-defined ‘Picture Mode’, adjustable ‘Picture Mode’ adjustments (Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation and Gradation – Auto, Normal, Low-Key, High-Key), Monochrome mode has four contrast filters and four toning effects, ‘Colour Creator’ function, ‘Highlight/Shadow’ function, 14 ‘Art Filter’ adjustable effects applied 
at capture (Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line, Watercolour, 
Partial Colour and Vintage), nine ‘Art Effects’ (Soft Focus, Pin Hole, White Edge, Frame, 
Star Light, Blur, Shade, B&W, Picture Tone), four ‘Movie Effects’ (Multi Echo, One Shot Echo, Art Fade and Old Film), multiple exposure facility (with auto exposure adjustment), ‘Live Composite’ function, ‘Live Bulb/Live Time’ modes, anti-shock shooting, intervalometer (up to 999 frames) and 4K time-lapse movie clips, multi-shot HDR capture, HDR bracketing, multi-shot ‘High Res’ capture (25 or 50 MP resolution via pixel shift), auto bracketing modes (AE, WB, ISO, flash, focus and ‘Art Filters’), panorama mode, ‘Super Control Panel’ screen, real-time histogram display, guide grids (choice of five), dual-axis level indicator, highlight and shadow alerts (adjustable thresholds via histogram), adjustable image display time, auto image rotation, slide show (with a choice of music and transitions), playback zoom (up to 14x), 4/9/25/100/Calendar thumbnail displays (also available in slide show mode), ‘Lightbox’ side-by-side comparison display, in-camera editing functions (Gradation, Red-Eye Fix, Aspect, B&W, Sepia, Saturation, e-Portrait and Resize), in-camera RAW-to-JPEG conversion, in-camera RAW image overlay, copyright info, silent shooting, DPOF and PictBridge support, built-in WiFi, tethered shooting option.
 
Power: One 7.4 volt/1720 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (BLH-1 type). Optional HLD-9 vertical grip holds an additional BLH-1 pack.
 
Dimensions (WxHxD): body only = 134.1x90.9x68.9 mm.
 
Weight: body only = 498 grams (without battery pack or memory card).