Andy Westlake puts Olympus’s super-fast mirrorless flagship camera through its paces

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Features:
Build/Handling:
Metering:
Autofocus:
AWB Colour:
Dynamic Range:
Image quality:
LCD viewfinder:

Pros:

  • + Extraordinary in-body image stabilisation system allows handholding at unprecedented shutter speeds
  • + Class-leading continuous shooting performance
  • + Impressive continuous autofocus and tracking
  • + Superb build quality and handling

Cons:

  • - Menus and configuration hugely over-complicated
  • - Image quality lags behind APS-C peers
  • - High price compared to its closest rivals

Product:

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review

Manufacturer:

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Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review: Our verdict

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

The E-M1 Mark II resembles its predecessor with an essentially identical layout

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 E-M1 II's colour rendition is typically warm, saturated and very attractive

The E-M1 II’s colour rendition is typically warm, saturated and very attractive

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.

TESTBENCH GOLD 5

See also our Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II image samples gallery 

Details

Sensor:20-million-pixel Four Thirds CMOS
Output size:5184 x 3188
Lens mount:Micro Four Thirds
Focal length magnification:2x
Shutter speeds (mechanical):60sec - 1/8000sec + Bulb
Shutter speeds (electronic):60sec - 1/32000sec + Bulb
ISO sensitivity:ISO 200-25,600 (standard), extendable to ISO 64
Exposure modes:PASM, iAuto, Art, Movie
Metering modes:Pattern, centre weighted, spot, spot highlight, spot shadow
Exposure compensation:+/-5EV in 1/3 EV steps
Continuous shooting (mechanical shutter):15fps (focus fixed); 10fps with AF
Continuous shooting (electronic shutter):60fps (focus fixed); 18fps with AF
Screen:3in 1.-037-million-dot fully-articulated touschscreen
Viewfinder:2.36-million-dot, 0.74x magnification
AF points:121-point
Video:Cinema 4K (4094 x 2160) 25fps 237Mbps
External mic:3.5mm stereo
Memory card:2x SD, SDHC, SDXC (1 UHS-II compatible)
Power:BLH-1 Li-ion, 1720 mAh
Battery life:440 shots
Dimensions:134 x 91 x 67 mm
Weight:574g (including battery and card)
  1. 1. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review
  2. 2. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Review: Features
  3. 3. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Review: Build and handling
  4. 4. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review: Viewfinder and screen
  5. 5. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Review: Autofocus
  6. 6. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review: 5-axis in-body IS
  7. 7. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review: High-resolution composite mode
  8. 8. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review: Video
  9. 9. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review: Performance
  10. 10. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review: Image quality
  11. 11. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review: Our verdict
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