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Olympus OM-D E-M1 MARK II Review

November 23 2016

by Philip Northeast

The  OM-D E-M1 MARK II is the new flagship from Olympus.  The new camera has  a 20.4 megapixel Live MOS sensor,  more than its predecessor. Olympus are promoting  the benefits  of  its speed and compact size.

The digital sensor is still the  slightly quirky four thirds format and is considerably smaller than a full frame sensor,  with a crop factor of two.  The smaller sensor and mirrorless design allows Olympus to produce a compact camera body and lenses making it easier to carry.  While the camera is classified as  mirrorless, it does have an electronic viewfinder. This has advantages when photographing with telephoto lenses or  in low light conditions of being able to hold the camera securely and minimise camera shake.

Olympus camera body from the front with lens attached

OM-D E-M1 Mark II Olympus front view

The  Olympus  OM-D E-M1 MARK II has the five-axis sensor shift Image Stabilisation system to reduce the effect of camera shake. Some of the new Zuiko telephoto lenses also have Image Stabilisation in the lens. Olympus say they work with in conjunction with the system in the camera body to produce even greater stabilisation.

Fast autofocus for mirrorless cameras was an issue due to the lack of space in the camera body.  Normal DSLRs use part the mirror box space for an Autofocus sensor array. In a mirrorless camera,  especially the Olympus where the aim is small size, there is nowhere to put one. The Olympus answer is to include the AF sensors in the image sensor chip.

In the Olympus  OM-D E-M1 MARK II  there are 121 points of cross-type on-chip phase detection and contrast detection for the AF system.

Sensor Noise Test

In the DxOMark lab the new Olympus acquitted itself well against a leading APS-C  camera, the Nikon D7200, with comparable noise performance. Naturally, against the much larger sensor on a full frame DSLR it has  slightly more digital noise, but horribly so.

lab test graph

The Olympus in the DxOMark noise test compared to a Nikon D7200 and a full frame Pentax K1


Fast shooting

In continuous shooting mode the  OM-D E-M1 MARK II uses the electronic shutter to capture full-resolution RAW images  up to  60 frames per second with  AF and AE locked, and up to 18 frames per second with continuous AF and AE tracking. This underlines the continual advances in camera processing power and speed in reading the image information from the digital sensor.

back view of the camera

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II rear view

Pro capture mode

This mode further illustrates  the processing power of the OM-D E-M1 MARK II. In this mode when the shutter button is half depressed  the camera starts taking a continuous stream of photos and stores them in a temporary 14 shot buffer. When the shutter is fully pressed that photo and the last 14 images are permanently recorded. So you can take the photo just after the event happened,  great for capturing unexpected action photos.

Pixel Shift High Resolution

This combines two of the main strengths of the Olympus  OM-D E-M1 MARK II, the on board processing power and the in-camera Image Stabilisation system. A higher resolution image is created by using the 5-Axis Image Stabilisation System to precisely shift the sensor in half-pixel increments while capturing a total of eight shots. The camera then automatically combines the shots into a single 50-megapixel equivalent ultra-high resolution image.

Focus stacking and bracketing

In the stacking mode the camera takes 8 shots at different focus points and  combines them into one image with exceptional depth of field. Ideal for macro photography, although only some Ziuko lenses are compatible with this function. Focus bracketing is similar except the individual shots are saved for external processing.

Lenses compatible with Focus Stacking Mode:

M.ZUIKO Digital ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO,

M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm f1.8 Fisheye PRO,

M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO,

M.ZUIKO Digital ED 40-150mm f2.8 PRO,

M.ZUIKO Digital ED 300mm f4.0 IS PRO,

M.ZUIKO Digital ED 30mm f3.5 Macro

M.ZUIKO Digital ED 60mm f2.8 Macro.

4K video

Not all DSLRs have  this high quality video capability, they mostly make do with HD video. So if you want a compact DSLR style camera with professional standard video then the Olympus is a contender.

top of the camera

Top view of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II


The major drawback for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 MARK II is the odd size digital sensor. The four thirds sensor is half the size of  the increasingly common full frame sensors in other top of the range DSLR format cameras. Olympus have compensated by packing a load of technology into a compact easy to carry package.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Camera

Body Only

$1,999.99 with free shipping (to most US states)

Available early December 2016 from Adorama 


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