Andy Westlake puts Olympus’s super-fast mirrorless flagship camera through its paces
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review: Our verdict
It’s unarguable that the E-M1 Mark II is the best camera Olympus has ever made; indeed, it gives the impression of being the best camera the firm could possibly make given current technology. Impeccably built, with a control layout that makes it a pleasure to use, its continuous shooting and autofocus abilities are extraordinary, and its image stabilisation so effective that at times it feels more akin to witchcraft than mere technology. This also makes it a great choice for handheld video shooting, with superb Cinema 4K output. My biggest criticism is, as usual, is with Olympus’s incomprehensible menus, but mercifully you don’t need to use them much.
The problem facing Olympus, however, is whether this all gives a sufficiently coherent narrative for photographers to swallow the £1,850 body-only price. While the E-M1 II has very considerable strengths, will they be sufficient to persuade users to accept the Four Thirds sensor, with its inevitable compromises in image quality? It’s clear that it can’t match its APS-C peers when compared ISO for ISO, and this could be a stumbling block for some buyers. After all, if you’re shooting fast action, then you’ll often need to use higher ISOs to get shutter speeds up. However, it’s important to understand that the E-M1 II is still fully capable of producing files that print beautifully up to A3 in size, even at ISO 3200. At a time when many are happy with 1-in sensor compacts, this may well be good enough. Some of the camera’s greatest strengths, in particular its IS system, are also a direct advantage of its smaller sensor.
The E-M1 II isn’t the only recent camera to look expensive; the huge drop in value of the pound against the yen in 2016 has seen to that. But as a result, the E-M1 II finds itself in the uncomfortable position of costing more than some very capable competitors, such as the Nikon D500, Pentax K-1 or Fujifilm X-T2. But make no mistake, the E-M1 II is a very fine camera too, and doesn’t feel out of place in such exalted company. Anyone looking for a fast, rugged yet lightweight camera, particularly for sports or action, should definitely add it their shortlist.