Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II Camera Review

June 25, 2019

Hi guys, welcome back to my blog! Today I'll be sharing my review of the Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II camera.



/c1. INTRO

Taking pictures has always been a passion of mine. Ever since before high school, I remember going around the golf club that my family was a member of with my family's compact camera, taking pictures of flowers, trees and the scenery. Over the years, I learned that to get better pictures, you require two things: skill and equipment. Skill can be acquired through experience + helps form the picture in your head, while equipment can help you get the quality picture that you want. For me, one cannot exist without the other.

My personal history with cameras was phone > compact > DSLR. Once I reached DSLR, I explored photography with different lenses. My skill level isn't the best (I still have a lot to learn), and although I think I have a pretty good grasp of product/portrait photography, I'm still learning new things today + learning about travel photography + videography.



/c2. OLYMPUS

Founded 100 years ago in 1919 in Japan, Olympus is a world leader in the optical, electronic, scientific, healthcare and photography industry. A believer in always being at the forefront of high-quality products and performance, Olympus continues to develop revolutionary products in the electronic and precision technology fields. They coined the term "opto-digital technology" and completely integrated traditional optical technology and advanced digital technology, and they're known worldwide as a brand that produces high quality, stylish products, especially digital cameras.

オリンパス株式会社
O L Y M P U S  C O R P O R A T I O N


In November last year, Olympus reached out to me and asked if I would like to try out one of their mirrorless cameras. I actually got it a week before my Osaka trip, but since I was not familiar with Olympus' interface I didn't get to use it much, I only started using it around December for product photography, and once I got the hang of it, I started using it out more for travels and events. I've since then brought it to Bangkok and Bali, and after almost 8 months of using it, I'm ready to share my experience with you guys.

*Just a disclaimer, in no way am I a professional photographer. I'm sharing my experience of using this camera from a blogger's viewpoint. Also, not all pictures in this post are, of course, taken by the OM-D EM-1 since I only had 1 unit to try out. All the sample images, however, were taken by the OM-D EM-1 ^^



/c3. SPECS

Olympus has 2 main camera ranges: the OM-D line and the PEN line. OM-D is a digital version of Olympus' classic 35mm SLR cameras (the OM line) while the Olympus Pen series was the first innovative camera series from Olympus.


Both lines carry micro four thirds digital mirrorless system cameras (meaning mirrorless interchangeable lens digital cameras), but one of the main differences is their appearances. The Pen series looks more retro and timeless while the OM-D series looks more sleek and professional.


I decided to try out the OM-D series as I liked what I saw on their website + the sleek designs really stood out for me.


OM-D EM-1 Mark II


The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is the updated version to their flagship OM-D EM-1. It is described as Olympus' most formidable camera for delivering super high-quality images + for being unbelievable fast.


It has a 20.4 megapixel sensor and features 2 SD card slots, helping you take as many high definition pictures that you want. It can shoot both RAW and JPEG images, as well as shoot high-quality videos in 4k (24fps) and 1080 (60fps) resolution. Click here to see the full specs sheet.


DSLR vs. Mirrorless


You might be wondering, what are the main differences of a DSLR and a Mirrorless camera? Although you can produce images with similar resolutions + you get quite the selection of lenses with both cameras, the main differences are in weight, image quality, viewfinder and battery life.

Mirrorless cameras are usually smaller and lighter due to the absence of a flip-up mirror inside the camera. Its lenses are usually smaller too so you can fit several in your bag when previously you could fit only one with a DSLR. DSLR camera bodies are usually larger and heavier as they need to fit in the mirror and prism inside their bodies.


/c4 . HARDWARE


• BODY AND BUTTONS

I find the build of the OM-D EM-1 to be very sleek and high quality to the touch. It features a magnesium alloy body that doesn't feel plastic-y and feels very luxurious, and the entire camera is weather-sealed (meaning it's splash proof, dustproof and freezeproof)


When I first carried it, I was so surprised by how much lighter it was compared to the DSLRs that I was used to. Online it says that the body weighs 498g by itself and 576g with battery and memory cards included. Compared to the Canon 80d's 730g body weight, it already felt light as a feather.


You can press the button halfway to focus and fully to capture a picture, and when I first tried it out I could really feel the speed and agility of the camera.



• IMAGE PROCESSOR

Before switching to a mirrorless camera I was a bit unsure since I always thought that DSLRs produce the best quality images. I knew that more megapixels a don't equal better pictures, but I just assumed that a DSLR's mirror would be the best way to capture images. Boy was I wrong!

The OM-D E-M1 uses a micro four-thirds system, and compared to most digital compact cameras and many bridge cameras, MFT cameras have better, larger sensors, and interchangeable lenses. They provide far greater control over depth-of-field than compact cameras. The OM-D E-M1 features the True Pic VIII processor built for performance, high speed and sensitivity. I was surprised by how nice the images turned out + how high quality they were, even zoomed in (more on that below). I did not use the High-Res Shot mode, but I read online that this beast can take very high-resolution 40-megapixel JPEGs (39.9MP, 7296 x 5472 pixels) as well as 64-megapixel RAW files (63.7MP or 9216 x 6912 pixels) as well!


This camera is all about fast fast fast, and it also features a new AF system that makes it possible to capture fast-moving subjects. The Dual Fast AF system uses a 121-point AF area, and honestly, that is so much!! The 700D that my brother is using only has 9, while the 80D only has up to 27 AF points. This makes the EM-1 so much better at taking sharp and stable images as it can focus on more points. Being the speedy camera that it is, it is capable of burst rates of 60 fps in Single AF and an incredible 18 fps with C-AF.


• SD CARD

As I mentioned, this camera supports two SD cards. Slot one is UHS-I/II compatible (newer & faster) while slot 2 is UHS-I compatible (normal). I think this feature will be handy especially if you're a travel blogger because you can pop in both SD cards and have a separate SD card for pictures and a separate one for videos. You can also set is so that when your 1st SD card is full, it will automatically use the 2nd SD card.



• SWIVEL SCREEN

This camera comes with a fully articulating LCD display touch screen that can swivel and rotate in any direction you want like any other DSLR. I love it because aside from being able to use it for vlogging/taking videos, you can easily adjust the screen if you're using the touch screen to take pictures.



• VIEWFINDER

If you use a DSLR, you'll know that what you see in the viewfinder isn't what your picture actually looks like. I usually have to adjust my settings on the screen and switch back to the optical viewfinder. This is usually okay if the lighting is stable, but if you shoot with the sun, it can be quite tricky. Mirrorless cameras feature electronic viewfinders that display a more accurate representation of what your final image will look like, making shooting more seamless.

Since this camera's viewfinder is electronic, it isn't always on. It only comes on when it detects your eye on the viewfinder. If it does not, it will switch to the screen. I find that it switches really fast between both modes, but for times that I'm using the screen, I have to be careful not to move my fingers/the strap past the viewfinder or else it will detect it as my eye and switch to EVF.


• BATTERY

DSLRs are usually capable of up to a thousand shots or more on a single battery charge as no power is used if you hold the camera up and look through the viewfinder. Because mirrorless cameras have electronic viewfinders that show you the live view, battery consumption is naturally higher. 

According to Olympus, this camera can last 90 to 150 minutes when used solely for video recording. In my experience when I bring it to events/use it to shoot photos in the studio for my blog, it uses very little energy + can last me a while. When I bring it out to travel, with both video taking + photo taking it can last me a little over half a day. I can't give you an exact time frame, but in Bangkok I used it for pics + vids from 7am to around 3pm one day, while for my Bali trip I used it solely for videos and it lasted me a full day (I took lots of short videos throughout the day and turned it off when I wasn't using it of course).

One thing that I've gotten used with this camera that I need to stop is the sleep mode! When travelling, I noticed that if I leave it on, it will just automatically go to sleep mode and not die at all. I noticed it when I went scuba diving and accidentally left it on in my bag for 2 hours while I went swimming. When I checked up on it, the battery was only reduced by 1-2%! Another instance was when I stored the camera under my desk, and when I took it out a few days later, it was actually still on and had around 50% left. With a Canon 80D, you can't really do this. I made the mistake of leaving my Canon 80D on because I got used to the EM-1's sleep mode, and needless to say, I spent a day with a low batt Canon that day lol.



/c5. LENS

For my lens, I decided to borrow the M.Zuiko ED 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens. I had never tried out a wide lens before and was curious to see how it would work. I also borrowed the M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO, but I later found that since I was comfy with the 7-14mm I didn't really need to borrow both. I gave it back to the Olympus team and focused on using the 7-14mm.


This lens is an ultra wide-angle zoom lens with the highest level in mobility, brightness (max aperture f/2.8), and optical performance. It is lightweight (534g) and can even be attached to a waterproof lens port for use underwater.



/c6. SHOTS

As I mentioned, I'm not a professional photographer and mainly use a camera for product photography (for reviews on my blog), event photography (which needs to be quick/versatile), portrait photography (for ultra vain shots), travel photography and videography for vlogging.

• PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY

The first picture I took was actually of Belif's Aqua Bomb Sleeping Mask. I put it in water and I found that it was super fast! Although my shutter speed was on 250, it felt so much quicker compared to the DSLR I usually use. Under studio lighting, it performed pretty much like any other DSLR I used. It was responsive, fast and lightweight. With the first 2 lenses I tried out, I managed to get these super dope product shots.


The bokeh of the lenses was really good, and it could take that foreground blur effect that I really like:


Even with just the product against a background, the shots come out super nice and crisp, and I really cannot see any difference with a DSLR. It looks exactly the same, if not better. The colours came out pretty nice and vivid as well, and the pics turn out super defined.


The two pics above were taken with natural lighting while the two pics below were taken with studio lighting. 


In product photography, I only really need two things: to be able to see textures clearly + a lens with a nice aperture to highlight certain features. The OM-D EM-1 Mark II combined with the lenses I borrowed work perfectly together, giving me picture perfect product shots.



• EVENT PHOTOGRAPHY

For events, the most important thing for me is to be able to take pictures quickly, be able to shoot in mall/darker lighting + be able to shoot large areas. This camera works super fast and has almost no buffer period when taking pics. Here below is a pic snapped at a Canmake event:


For these kinds of pics, I usually have to do lots of poses to get the perfect shot, and there are usually lots of people waiting in line to snap pics at a certain photo corner/area. This camera works super fast and I don't have to wait for any buffer to check whether or not the picture turned out nice or not.

In events, it's also important to snap pics of products, and the versatile lens + powerful camera can take nice flatlays of product displays easily.


I mentioned before that I borrowed a wide lens since I have not tried it before, and I simply love it! It's great at taking shots of event spaces + making small spaces look big. In this pic below you can see almost every nook and cranny of the Canmake event space (and mind you my lens wasn't even entirely zoomed out):


And here we have a small treatment room at Novu Aesthetics. With a normal DSLR kit lens or a phone, it will be impossible to capture the entire room. With the ultra wide M.Zuiko 7-14mm lens, I didn't even have to step back or anything, the whole was just visible already:


Speaking of Novu Aesthetics, this camera also works well in dark lighting, especially mall lighting. Mall lighting is not known to be the best, and with the other DSLRs I use, I usually have to amp up my ISO to get brighter but grainier pics. With the OM-D EM-1 Mark II + M.Zuiko 7-14mm, the pics come up super bright and clear:


It works well in dark lighting too. Here's some pics snapped at a Body Shop event a few months back. Notice that there is almost no grain!


I think its amazing for events, and I definitely chose it over DSLRs whenever I was out and about because it was so much lighter + could easily fit into my bag.



• PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY

 I don't have that many beauty portraits available that are taken with this camera, solely because my brother usually takes my portraits and he uses his own set of cameras/lenses. Here are some of the rare gems I found:


Although the pictures are nice, I don't have as much experience shooting portraits with this. I'll have to play with it a bit more to have a more definitive opinion. I can say that the pics look pretty good, but I would prefer to explore portrait photography with a different lens than the one I chose.


• TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Unexpectedly, I have the most experience with this camera during my travels. Since my Japan trip, I unexpectedly have been to two more countries and am on my way to my third (Vietnam) in just a few weeks. After trying this camera out in Bangkok and Bali, I think I have a fair grasp of how it works when you bring it for your travels.

First of, the speed of this camera is a huge advantage. You can get so many snaps/pics in so little time. Similar to what I mentioned above about event photography, this camera is great at shooting moments that would have otherwise been gone in the blink of an eye. I also love the colour outcome of the shots!

Here are some shots from when my friends and I visited the Grand Palace in Thailand:


The wide lens definitely came in handy during our trip, and the camera managed to capture a lot of details inside the palace!


Here are some ultra wide shots that would have been impossible without a normal kit lens:


Here are my fave shots from our trip!


From wide to detail shots, it's really versatile and can cater to all your needs.


One thing about this lens that I noticed that it's not very good for capturing OOTD shots with a wide background. The camera is so wide and the lens is too curved that it will end up slightly distorting your body.


But overall it's great at making it look like you're in a big space with no one around you (when in fact the place is actually very small).


It was also great at taking wide shots in Bali! I haven't had the time to edit my Bali pictures yet since I've been so busy at work, but here are two unedited shots below:


The colours are super accurate (yes, the water in Bali is really that teal!) and the photos were quite sharp. This was taken with the camera's JPEG mode, so I can only imagine how much better the quality would be if it were in RAW.

If I use the camera to both take pictures and record videos, I find that it does die on me within a few hours. In Bangkok, I used it for pics + vids from 7am to around 3pm one day, while for my Bali trip I used it solely for videos and it lasted me a full day (I took lots of short videos throughout the day and turned it off when I wasn't using it of course). Thanks to the sleep mode, I can also use it only for pictures the entire day and I find that it lasts quite long. When charging, it does not take long, and it managed to go from 0 to a hundred in just a couple of hours.


• VIDEOGRAPHY
I'm still editing my Bali vlog, but you can click below to check out my Bangkok vlog!


*Remember to like the video and to subscribe to my channel!*

I actually didn't realize it, but I was initially filming in 4K. I only realized after I had done my makeup in the vlog that it was in 4K because I was left with so little SD card space and had to export haha. I switched back to 1080 and did not have any problems at all. The lens really helped capture a lot of the areas that we visited, and the dome shape of it also created lovely light leaks when we were outside.

The camera itself was lightweight, so I did not mind using it to vlog even though it had the wide lens attached to it. It was easy to carry around everywhere and was not a bother at all like a normal DSLR. Overall the quality of the video was nice, and I think the 60fps at 1080 is a really great feature (since even my Canon 80D can only shoot up to 1080 50fps)

I also used it to film this vlog! Although it was shaky in the car (as expected), you can see how it performs in a more natural/laid back setting + how easy it is to bring around and film with one hand.



/c7. ERGONOMICS

I think the feel of the OM-D EM-1 Mark II is really nice, light and premium. The magnesium body definitely feels luxurious, but it still feels lightweight and easy enough to bring around. The buttons are all easily accessible when shooting, and after getting used to it, I find that it's very easy to navigate.



/c8. ACCESSORIES


The camera comes with a lens cover (of course) and a battery charger to help you charge your battery.  The new BCH-1 Rapid Lithium Ion Battery Charger shortens charging time by approximately 50% (compared to the previous version), and I find it to be very straight to the point and easy to use. If you're a vlogger and will use this camera to vlog a lot, I recommend getting a spare battery. If you're like me who only really vlogs from time to time, I think one battery is enough (though having a spare is always helpful)


The strap that it comes with is very sturdy and is attached safely to the camera, allowing you to hang it on your neck while you travel or wrap it around your hand for extra security when shooting.



/c9. APP

One of the best things about this camera is the app and the WiFi function! The Canon 700D has no Wifi function, and even though the 80D does, the OM-D EM-1 Mark II is so much faster. Without compromising the size, it can transfer files from the camera to my phone very quickly, allowing me to share some snaps on my Instastory seamlessly. I no longer have to fiddle with SD card adaptors for my phone!


All you have to do is turn of the camera's Wifi feature and connect your phone to it. You can then access the app:


Aside from transferring pictures, you can also use the app as a wireless remote, allowing you to take group pics/controlling it remotely:



/c10. FINAL THOUGHTS

This camera exceeded all my expectations, and to be honest, I don't think I've yet touched its full capability. I'm pretty simple in my photography and have yet to explore the RAW/High Res shot mode, and I'm definitely looking to explore and play with this camera more.


In terms of build, the OM-D EM-1 Mark II is a beast disguised in an aesthetic black exterior. The magnesium alloy material is light and premium to the touch, and the buttons are all easy to navigate + easy to get accustomed to. The camera overall is very small, light yet absolutely solid like a tank. The fully articulating display is super useful and gives a lot of flexibility (like when vlogging), and the battery life + dual slot memory cards give a lot of convenience to the user as well.

In terms of capability, it is the most powerful camera I've so far come to use in my daily life. From its high-resolution capabilities to its unbelievably fast processor, I think this camera is super responsive, agile and versatile. It's great at stabilising pics + taking clear shots, and I honestly don't believe I've ever been unhappy with any of the shots I took with this camera. It has exceeded the previous cameras I used in terms of megapixels and video quality too.


I had fun with the wide lens, and I'm definitely going to explore more of Olympus' M.Zuiko lenses. The wifi capabilities allow for fast social media sharing and the charge time is quite fast compared to other cameras that I've used.


I am super super happy with this camera, and I think it definitely lives up to the hype. At the start, I was worried because I had no prior experience with mirrorless/micro thirds cameras, but the interface was easy to get used to + the results made me fall in love with it.

In the beginning, I was a bit concerned about switching to a micro four-thirds sensor. I admit that right after the first few clicks I fell in love with it. Its small size, lightness and extreme versatility make this camera a very powerful tool for any type of photography style.

If you're a beginner, although this camera is super easy to use, I would not recommend this. Aside from being quite up there in terms of price, I feel like it's too powerful and you would just not be able to use it to its full capacity. However, if you're an active blogger like me or someone who's interested in photography + has some experience, this camera would be a perfect investment piece. Not only can you elevate your photos, but you can also learn and elevate your skill. As a monster packed with so many features, there's definitely a lot you can learn from and take advantage of. I think this covers all the bases that a blogger needs, and personally, I think that it's a great tool that has brought a lot of convenience to how I take photos.



footnotes

If you've reached this part of the post, thank you so much for dropping by! I hope this post was helpful + insightful, and that my review effectively showed you guys how awesome this camera is. If you're in the market for a new camera or if you'd just like to try this camera out after reading about it, you can drop by any of Olympus' outlets/camera shops near you.

Click here to check out their Instagram and click here to check out their workshops!


A huge thank you the Olympus team for this opportunity to collab! I really enjoyed using the camera + am looking forward to creating more content & memories with it.


See you in my next post!

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