Field Test: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Here's a Field Test I've been excited to start writing after I got my hands on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, thanks to the guys over at Olympus and Harrison Cameras in Sheffield, UK. Honestly, as you'll probably gauge from below, this awesome 4/3 mirrorless camera as a host of shooting abilities and uses...I really only touched the surface with giving this camera a proper field test. 

For anyone who follows the Creative Resources & Advice Blog and my wedding photography religiously, you are all probably aware that I shoot 90% of the time with my trusty Nikon D750 Bodies and also a few Instax cameras for good measure. Although my work doesn't feature many photographs captured on mirrorless cameras, I've been testing and working with them for a few months now. Before we jump into Olympus, there's no doubting Fuji and their X Series have really taken the mirrorless game by storm and credit to them for creating some truly awesome cameras.  There are more and more photographers and especially wedding photographers who have taken the move over to mirrorless bodies and there are some very strong arguments for more to follow and leave their DSLR bodies behind. As always, the field test is based on why I think this camera rocks, what could be improved or who should get their hands on one, if you're looking for a data sheet of facts and figures.. or one of those 'unboxing Youtube videos' ..zzzzz Step away! 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

To put the Mark II through its paces we headed over to Hull which is currently the UK's City of Culture. We heard through the grape vine this Olympus is a perfect camera (amongst a host of other genres) for photographers who love street photography, so the UK City of Culture seemed the perfect place. This camera is engineered specially for professional photographers, the E-M1 Mark II is a complete camera system that takes speed, performance and imaging to a new level of power. It boasts some impressive high speed performance, reliability, image quality and extensive range of lenses available to maximise the 20.4M Live MOS sensor. But enough numbers and figures, here's what we loved after field testing the camera in Hull. 

Auto Focusing, 60fps (wow) & Flip Out Screen

Ok, so although the list isn't in a particular order, although the Auto Focusing on the Mark II is certainly up there, wow, it's amazing. For me I've had a mixed experience when focusing & shooting with mirrorless bodies and it took me while to convince myself to use the touch screen focusing abilities that many of the mirrorless cameras utilise. The high-speed autofocus (AF) system built into the E-M1 Mark II has been developed to capture split-second moments with precision. Thanks to a range of advanced features, you have a clear eye on your subject at all times. Whether you're looking through the Mark II's viewfinder or using the touch screen, the focusing is not only pinch sharp but also insanely fast, it's leagues ahead of some of the DSLR bodies I used when I'm capturing weddings... we only touched the surface with the shots we captured whilst testing this camera out and already we could tell it is the perfect camera for street photographers. The single auto focus allows you to choose exactly when sequential shooting should set in with Single AF (S-AF). As long as the AF/AE function is locked in, the E-M1 Mark II will take up to 60fps while you follow any fast-moving subject with the Electronic Viewfinder and all the images are captured in full resolution RAW format. Whilst the continuous autofocus allows you to keep shooting care free . The AF/AE tracking function keeps an eye on the subject at all times to give you up to 18fps whenever you notice that the moment is right and again all the images are captured in full resolution RAW format. There's also a clever system on the Mark II called "Pro Capture", which tells the camera to start shooting the moment you press the shutter release button down halfway, with a buffer that can be set to capture up to 14 frames in full resolution. The moment the button is pressed down fully, non-stop shooting begins. Because you have the chance to go back in time, by up to 14 frames, you get the exact moment you want to capture without any lag.

For anyone who needs some more clarification on the touch screen capabilities, consider when you press the screen on your iPhone to focus an image, well you touch the screen on the Mark II, it not only focuses but also exposes and takes the shot before your finger has barely touched the screen... it's leagues ahead of anything currently on the market. The capabilities of the flip out screen and the way it can be turned and swivelled to almost any position means you can put the camera by your hip and point the screen towards your face... if you really want to go incognito with your street photography, barely anyone will realise you’re snapping away. The flip out screen which I've personally become very accustomed to whilst using my Nikon d750 bodies is perfect, and anyone who says these are gimmicky need to wake up to reality and the uses they have.. but we'll leave that to another blog post. 

Compact Size & Robust Construction

One thing that is fairly obvious from the mirrorless camera range and in a lot of photographers’ eyes an advantage, is the smaller size and lightweight bodies compared to most DSLRs. They're the perfect camera to have on you all day, throw in your bag or hang from your neck, even with the super-telephoto M.ZUIKO Pro lens attached, the E-M1 Mark II is more compact and lightweight than most DSLR cameras which provides you with easy hand-held shooting with more freedom. There's a fine line when it comes to weight of camera bodies, some are too light and feel almost like a toy but the Mark II has that perfect balance which still convinces you it's a professional camera and not something cheap and lightweight. The construction of the E-M1 Mark II is also sealed which makes the splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof down to –10°C. So you can keep shooting in any weather and any environment. I would feel more than comfortable using this camera outside in bad weather conditions, in fact, it's a shame it didn't rain in Hull so we could really put it through its paces! 

Live Composite & Live Bulb Mode

The E-M1 Mark II comes with a Live Composite mode, once you press the shutter down the camera allows you to view the image build up on the LCD as the picture is being taken, perfect for ensuring your exposure is precise in bulb mode, once you're happy with the exposure you simply just press the shutter and complete the process. I seriously like this feature and it really gives the E-M1 Mark II and big advantage over the DSLR's when it comes to shooting things like star trails, Northern Lights and light paintings. Unlike DSLR bodies which require huge guess work and time consuming mistakes, the Mark II gives the photographer back that visual control and it's almost reminiscent of watching your prints come to life in the darkroom.

Pro Capture

I'm not sure if you use the Apple iPhones 'LIVE' mode which takes a series of still images/video before and after you press the shutter on your phone, but if you do, you might like the Pro Capture Olympus have added to the Mark II. But there's more to this awesome feature than just gimmicks. In Pro Capture the Mark II starts shooting the moment you press the shutter release button down halfway, with a buffer that can be set to capture up to 14 frames in full resolution. The moment the button is pressed down fully, non-stop shooting begins. Because you have the chance to go back in time, by up to 14 frames, you get the exact moment you want to capture without any lag... this is a serious game changer for me and I imagine many sports and wildlife photographers too! 

Some Added Extras That Rock

4K VIDEO: Compatible with 4K (3840 x 2160) and C4K (4096 x 2160), the E-M1 Mark II is also ideal for authentic movie production. With an option of a 30P or 24P frame rate, with a max bit rate of 237Mbps, you are able to record in the digital cinema standard for 4K.

Focus Bracketing and Stacking: Especially useful for macro shooting, this feature lets you take several photos of the subject and then stack them to create a single image with edge-to-edge clarity.

Silent Shutter mode: Shutter noise and all electronic sounds can now be shut off to deliver completely silent shooting. This enables you to capture wildlife such as birds without making a sound.

Live Composite and Live Bulb modes: Shoot beautiful night-time and low-light compositions with the Live Composite and Live Bulb modes. You can see the image build up on the LCD as the picture is taken – giving you full freedom of exposure adjustment.

20.4M Live MOS sensor and 50M High Res: This new high-speed, low-consumption sensor boosts pixel optics to deliver rich gradations and improved image quality, also for high-sensitivity shooting. This is complemented by the anti-reflective AR Coating to reduce flaring and ghosting directly on the sensor. For even higher resolution, there’s 50M High Res Shot: eight shots are combined to generate a single high-res photo equal to 50M.

5-Axis Image Stabilisation: Re-developed exclusively for the E-M1 Mark II, the image stabilisation mechanism provides up to 6.5 shutter speed steps of correction* performance for reliable camera-shake compensation. This revolutionary IS system is now the perfect match for E-M1 Mark II’s video capabilities and makes the E-M1 Mark II ideal for handheld shooting in any lighting as well as handheld filmmaking.

Specs

SENSORS RESOLUTION 20.4mp

IMAGE STABILISATION Built-in 5 Axis

ELECTRONIC VIEWFINDER 2.36M dots

IMAGE SENSOR 4/3" Live MOS Sensor with effective 20.4 million pixel 50 MP High Res shot

FOCUSING SYSTEM 121-point all cross-type phase detection and contrast AF True Pic VIII high-speed AF processor

SHUTTER SPEED 1/32000 - 60sec, Live-Composite, Live BulbFINDER

RESOLUTION: 2.36M dots Field of view: 100% Magnification up to 1.48x

LCD 3inch vari-angle Monitor, 1037k dots 285dpi

SEQUENTIAL SHOOTING up to 60fps

ISO Low - 25,600

RELIABILITY Dual SD card slot

Street Photography Captured with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Snapped by Jonathan Peach & Luke Holroyd


If you’ve read this far, thank you so much! I hope you enjoyed the review and the snaps we captured in Hull. Please leave your comments and experiences below. Big thanks to Olympus UK, Harrisons Cameras and Jonathan Peach Photography for all the help on this blog post!