Olympus E-M1 II Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins | Posted: 09/21/2016

Body

Olympus has crafted a brand-new metal body for the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. Loaded and ready to shoot -- but without a lens -- it's just slightly (2.7 ounces; 15%) heavier than the original E-M1. Width and depth have also increased by 0.1 and 0.2 inches (3% and 9%, respectively), but height has simultaneously been reduced by 0.1 inches (3%). One reason for the increase in depth, incidentally, is that the E-M1 II has a reprofiled handgrip aimed at improving handling.

Like its predecessor, Olympus says that the E-M1 II is dustproof, splashproof and freezeproof to 14°F / -10°C. But unlike the earlier camera, the company's press materials no longer refer to the E-M1 II as being shockproof.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

Sensor

The heart and soul of the Olympus E-M1 II is a brand-new image sensor that's both higher resolution and faster than that in its predecessor, and yet is described by its maker as also having low power consumption, greater dynamic range and better noise performance. Noise in particular is said to have been improved by around one stop.

On paper, at least, linear resolution has been increased by around 12.5%, with effective sensor resolution climbing from 16.3 to 20.4 megapixels, for a maximum image size of 5,184 x 3,888 pixels. Total pixel count has simultaneously been increased from 16.8 to 21.8 megapixels. Sensor size has also been increased just ever so fractionally, with Olympus citing a 17.4 x 13mm sensor size, up from 17.3 x 13mm in the earlier camera. Like its predecessor, the E-M1 II has a 4:3 aspect ratio.

The Olympus E-M1 II's image sensor is not overlaid with an optical low-pass filter, so per-pixel resolution should be maximized, although this will be at the expense of an increased risk of moiré and false color artifacts. An anti-reflective coating has been applied to the sensor's cover glass.

High-Res Shot mode

If you need even more resolution, you'll be glad to hear that the E-M1 II retains Olympus' clever High-Res Shot mode. It's still going to require a tripod and a relatively static subject, just as does Pentax's competing Pixel Shift Resolution mode.

However, it also shares something else with the latest variant of Pentax's function: Olympus, too, has updated its High-Res Shot algorithms to attempt to detect and correct for moving subjects. These, of course, won't gain the benefit of increased resolution, but then given that they were moving across the image frame, chances are that their sharpness was less critical in the first place.

High-Res Shot mode in the Olympus E-M1 II will yield a 25 or 50-megapixel JPEG, and/or an 80-megapixel raw file for processing on the desktop. (The 25-megapixel JPEG option still generates same 80-megapixel raw file when shooting raw+JPEG).

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

Processor

Paired to the new image sensor is an also-new image processor. In place of the E-M1's TruePic VII chip, the E-M1 Mark II now features a next-generation TruePic VIII processor. Said to be around 3.5 times faster, it sports a dual quad-core design, with one CPU dedicated to autofocus, and the other to image processing.

Performance

The added speed of the E-M1 Mark II's new processor really shows itself in the camera's performance. With focus and exposure locked from the first frame, burst speed tops out at an impressively-swift 15 frames per second. Even with autofocus and autoexposure active between frames, the E-M1 II will still manage a full ten frames per second. And both of those figures are applicable when shooting in raw format at full resolution, using a mechanical shutter.

Switch to an electronic shutter, and you'll be able to manage a truly staggering 60 full-res raw files per second with focus and exposure locked from the first frame. Even with AF and AE active, the electronic shutter will allow as many as 18 frames per second to be captured.

And that's not all: The size of the buffer has been roughly doubled and internal data writing performance has been tripled.

Pro Capture, Anti-Shock Sequential and Silent Sequential modes

One clever way in which Olympus takes advantage of this spectacular level of performance is with a new shooting mode it refers to as Pro Capture. It might not actually make you a pro, but it could certainly help to give you the reflexes of one!

The way in which this is achieved is really quite cool: When you half-press the shutter button, the Olympus E-M1 II will start capturing frames as fast as it can and buffering them. Once 14 frames are in the buffer, each newly-captured frame will be matched by the oldest frame being dropped from the buffer. Once you fully depress the shutter button, the most recent 14 frames will be saved, along with that from the moment the shutter button was pressed. (And if you held it down, those which filled the buffer immediately afterwards.)

Pro Capture mode can operate at 15, 20, 30 or 60 frames per second with an electronic shutter, or 1-10, 15 or 18 frames per second with a mechanical shutter. Even at its maximum rate, you'll be able to reach back in time to almost a quarter-second before you tripped the shutter.

The result is that even if your reflexes missed that crucial moment by a fraction, one of the pre-captured frames should hopefully have preserved it for posterity. (And you'll be able to save your stories of the one that got away for fishing, where they belong.)

Also new are Anti-Shock Sequential and Silent Sequential modes. Anti-Shock Sequential mode aims to reduce vibration from shutter shock, and can capture around 8.5 frames per second. Silent Sequential, meanwhile, allows all available burst capture rates, and avoids noise by using the electronic shutter function rather than the mechanical shutter.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

Sensitivity

By default, the Olympus E-M1 has a sensitivity range of 200 to 25,600 equivalents, identical to that of the original E-M1. The lower end of this range can be extended to ISO 64-equivalent, while there is no expansion function at the upper end of the range.

If you're wondering why sensitivities below ISO 200-equivalent are not available by default, that would be because images at lower sensitivities are being intentionally overexposed at capture. Once finalized, the exposure is then corrected, allowing a longer exposure time but with reduced dynamic range in the highlights. You can do much the same thing yourself in post-processing, and many other cameras (including the original E-M1) also use the same trick to achieve their expanded low sensitivity settings.

The E-M1 II also offers an Auto ISO function, which chooses the sensitivity for you when metering the exposure. This has a default range of ISO 64 to 6400-equivalents, and only the upper end of the range can be manually adjusted. Interestingly, you can't boost that limit beyond ISO 6400-equivalent, although the earlier E-M1 could allow its Auto ISO function to roam all the way to ISO 25,600-equivalent.

Lens mount

Just like the Olympus E-M5 before it, the Olympus E-M1 II features a Micro Four Thirds mount, and will accept Four Thirds and many other lens types via optional adapters. Like the E-M1 before it, the E-M1 II supports Four Thirds lenses much better than earlier OM-D and PEN models, thanks to the presence of on-chip phase detection autofocus. (Lenses that weren't designed for contrast-detection autofocus tend to be quite slow to focus with that system, so the presence of phase-detection AF is a definite boon.)

Focusing

Like the E-M1 before it, the Olympus E-M1 Mark II includes a Dual FAST AF-branded autofocus system. Beyond the name, though, the two differ quite radically.

Where the original E-M1 had just 37 linear phase-detection autofocus points and 81 contrast-detection AF points in normal operation, the E-M1 II has a whopping 121 phase-detect AF points and 121 contrast-detect AF points. And even more impressively, every single one of those 121 PDAF points are cross-types, sensitive to detail on both the horizontal and vertical axes.

Clearly, the fact that one of the camera's two quad-core CPUs is entirely dedicated to autofocus has played a big role in allowing this major increase in focus point density. And it's not just the hardware that's faster, either. For example, Olympus notes that it has created a new subject tracking algorithm that has helped boost continuous autofocus performance, too.

Not only are there many more AF points, but they also cover a significantly greater area of the image frame, and so will allow focusing on subjects further from the center of the frame without the need to recompose your image. In the E-M1, the available AF points covered 60% of the frame height and 55% of the frame width; in the E-M1 II this has been expanded by 81%, with the newer model's AF point coverage now 75% vertically, and 80% horizontally.

Like the E-M1 before it, the Olympus E-M1 II can actually provide even more contrast-detect AF points across the image frame when the extra granularity is needed. In Magnified Frame AF mode, a total of 800+ focus points are available across the entire image frame, the same number as in the earlier camera.

The camera will decide by itself whether to use the phase-detection or contrast-detection AF points, depending upon the lens in use, scene being photographed and camera setup. And to choose which points to use, the touch-screen display can serve double-duty as an AF targeting pad, a function which is called up by double-tapping on the screen.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

As in the E-M1, the Olympus E-M1 Mark II provides a choice of automatic AF point selection, 9-area grouped point selection, and single-point selection. In addition, it also offers up a new five-area cross point selection mode. There's also a Face Detection function with Eye-Detection capability, letting you select whether the camera should focus on the left eye, the right eye, or the eye which is nearer to the camera.

Nor does Olympus stop there. The company also allows you to customize AF tracking sensitivity and to limit your lens' focus range in-camera. And if you prefer manual control, you'll find a new Preset Manual Focus mode in the E-M1 II, as well as one extra magnification level option (3x, in addition the existing 5x, 7x, 10x or 14x zoom) which will give you a closer look at your subject while manually focusing. And like its predecessor, the E-M1 II also retains an AF assist lamp and focus peaking function.

There is one feature subtraction, though. Where the E-M1 could be set to autofocus continuously -- even before the shutter button was half-pressed -- this Full-Time AF mode is no longer available in the E-M1 II.

Stabilization

Olympus has updated the five-axis image stabilization system used in the E-M1 II, which we're told has now reached the limits of current gyro sensor technology. In fact, we understand that the gyro sensors used are so accurate that earth's rotation is now the limiting factor.

Where the previous-generation IS system in the E-M1 had a four-stop corrective ability, the E-M1 II's IS system is said to be good for a 5.5-stop correction. If combined with lens-based IS -- a pairing which Olympus refers to as Synchronous Image Stabilization, or Sync IS for short -- this can be boosted still further to a staggering 6.5-stop correction for yaw, pitch, roll, and both vertical and horizontal translational motion.

It's important to note, though, that the lens type used for CIPA testing has been changed, so we can't necessarily assume that the entirety of that improvement is down to the IS system itself. For the E-M1, Olympus specified its CIPA-compliant IS testing with the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, but for the E-M1 II the figures were instead determined with the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

The E-M1 II's IS system has four operating modes. It can stabilize on both axes, horizontally only, vertically only, or choose between the three as the camera deems appropriate. If using a manual lens or a lens adapter, you can dial in an appropriate focal length manually, or choose from one of ten predefined lens types.

Mechanical image stabilization can also be used for movie capture, unlike some cameras which limit you to digital image stabilization for movies.

Dust

The E-M1 II retains Olympus' Super Sonic Wave Filter dust reduction system, which operates via a piezoelectric element that vibrates the cover glass overlying the sensor to shake dust particles free. They're then captured on an adhesive membrane beneath the imager. We've subjectively found piezoelectric systems like these to be significantly more effective than those using lower-frequency motion from a sensor-shift assembly.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

Viewfinder

Take a glance at the Olympus E-M1 II's electronic viewfinder, and you could be forgiven for thinking that it was unchanged. After all, it still has a high resolution of 2.36-million dots, and a default refresh rate of 120 frames per second which can be boosted to 240 fps if needed.

However, there's one important change in the new finder, and according to Olympus, it makes enough of a difference that some of the Olympus Visionaries who handled pre-production cameras prior to launch queried if it was actually an optical viewfinder.

So what's the change? Well, Olympus has managed to slash the viewfinder latency -- that is, the delay between something happening in the real world, and being shown on the viewfinder -- from 29 to just six milliseconds.

Thanks to a generous 35mm-equivalent magnification of 0.74x, it yields a viewfinder image larger than that of most full-frame DSLRs. And as you'd expect in a camera aimed at enthusiasts and pros, field of view is manufacturer-rated at 100%. There's a diopter correction function, too, which spans a range from -4 to +2 diopters. Eyepoint is 21mm from the viewfinder lens.

One additional viewfinder grid overlay has been added in the E-M1 II for a total of six. It's called "trichotomy", a Rule of Thirds grid.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

Monitor

The E-M1 II's LCD monitor could also look unchanged if you merely glanced at the specs, as it has the same three-inch diagonal, as well as the 1,037,000-dot resolution and capacitive touch-screen overlay found in the original E-M1. There's one very important difference, though, and it's one we're thrilled to see.

In place of the tilt-only display articulation used in the E-M1, the Olympus E-M1 II now has a side-mounted tilt/swivel articulation mechanism. That's a much more versatile choice -- and not because of the potential for selfie shooting, which we rather doubt is a big use-case for this camera. (Although it does now sport a touch control selfie shutter release, as well as touch controls for e-Portrait mode, the custom self-timer, movie controls, movie effects and the E-M1 II's movie teleconverter function.)

The real reason we prefer a tilt/swivel screen over a tilt-only design is that it is useful not only when shooting in landscape orientation over your head or low to the ground, but also in portrait orientation. Tilt-only screens are of no help in this scenario, especially if shooting over your head, leaving you struggling to see an off-angle LCD that's obscured by reflections of the sky above.

And for added bonus points, the tilt/swivel screen can be closed facing inwards, protecting the LCD from minor knocks, scrapes and smudges.

As in the E-M1, there's a +/- 7-step control over both brightness and color available, and two color-tone selections -- vivid or natural -- so you can tune the display to your tastes, as well.

Flash

Like the E-M1 before it, the Olympus E-M1 Mark II forgoes a built-in flash strobe altogether. Instead, Olympus includes an external strobe in the product bundle, and for the E-M1 II it's a different model than was bundled with the earlier camera. In most respects, it represents a better option than the one it replaces, but there is one area in which it isn't as highly-specified.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

The new FL-LM3 strobe replaces the FL-LM2 that shipped with the E-M1. It's a fair bit (0.71 ounces; 65%) heavier, but overall nearly identical in size (0.6 inches taller but 0.6 inches less wide) than the earlier model. Like that strobe it derives its power from the body, and is both dustproof and splashproof, but it now has a more powerful guide number of about nine meters at ISO 100, up from seven meters for the LM2. It also has a tilt/swivel head for bounce flash.

Where the new LM3 strobe trails the earlier LM2 model, though, is in sync speed. Where the FL-LM2 strobe paired with the E-M1 body could sync at 1/320 second, the FL-LM3 and other strobes used on the E-M1 II will be limited to a sync speed of 1/250 second. Super FP-capable strobes can sync at 1/125 to 1/8000 second. And if you're using electronic shutter, you can sync at 1/50 second if you stay below ISO 6400-equivalent, but will be limited to 1/20 second if you raise the sensitivity any higher or enable ISO bracketing.

Flash exposure compensation is available within a range of +/-3EV, in steps of 0.3, 0.5, or 1EV. The E-M1 Mark II also supports four-channel wireless flash with the bundled strobe acting as a master, and off-camera flash strobes configured in up to 4 groups.

Exposure

The Olympus EM-1 II offers shutter speeds ranging from 1/8000 to 60 seconds, set in 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV steps. When using electronic shutter, you can now access a much wider range of 60 to 1/32,000 second, vastly expanded from the 1/8th to 1/16,000-second of the original E-M1.

A Bulb mode is available, and so is a Time mode which defaults to an eight minute exposure, but which allows anywhere up to 30 minutes. The shutter mechanism has a rated lifetime of around 200,000 cycles, but since no rating was provided for the shutter in the original E-M1, we can't say if this is an improvement or not.

Exposure modes include Intelligent Auto, Program (with Program Shift), Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, Manual, Art Filter, Movie and three Custom modes. Interestingly, Olympus has dropped the scene modes from the E-M1 II, presumably reasoning that the camera will mostly be used by experienced shooters.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

Exposures are metered using the image sensor, and are considered as 324 distinct multi-pattern areas. The Digital ESP metering system also provides Center-weighted Average, Spot, Highlight Spot, and Shadow Spot metering modes. It has a working range of -2 to 20 EV at ISO 100 with a 17mm f/2.8 lens.

Exposure compensation is available within a generous +/-5EV range, set in 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV steps. You can bracket exposures, too, with a choice of 2, 3, 5, or 7-frame bracketing in 0.3, 0.7, or 1EV steps. (The largest step size is only available for five frames or less, though.) And bracketing isn't just limited to exposure: you can also bracket ISO sensitivity, white balance, flash, art filters and focus distance.

One change of note on the exposure front is that the E-M1 II can now store four separate custom white balance readings, twice as many as in the E-M1.

Creative

The Olympus E-M1 II also offers a generous selection of creative effects. These include 14 Art Filters, each of which can be coupled with a selection from nine different Art Effects. There are also two in-camera HDR modes, a Time Lapse Movie function and a Multiple Exposure function. All of this is much the same as an E-M1 running on current firmware.

Level gauge

The Olympus E-M1 Mark II retains its predecessor's dual-axis level gauge, which helps ensure both level horizons and parallel verticals -- at least, if that's what you want. Camera tilt can be indicated either in the electronic viewfinder, or the rear-panel LCD.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

Video

Like its predecessor, the Olympus E-M1 II can shoot high-def video. There are some important upgrades in this area, though.

Perhaps most importantly, you're no longer limited to a fixed 30 fps frame rate, something that likely put many videographers off the earlier camera. Nor does resolution top out at Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels). Instead, you can now shoot 4K video (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) at 24, 25 or 30 frames per second, and Full HD or HD (1,280 x 720 pixels) at 24, 25, 30, 50 or 60 frames per second. VGA capture is no longer offered.

4K video has a 102 Mbps bitrate, and Full HD video offers 18, 30, 52 or 202Mbps bit rates, with the highest rate also using ALL-I intraframe instead of IPB interframe compression schemes. (Intraframe video compresses every frame separately; interframe compresses multiple frames based on difference from key frames which are inserted every so often in between.) Finally, HD video has a selection of 10, 14, 26 or 102 Mbps, again with ALL-I compression at the highest rate, and IPB at the lower rates.

There's also a new C4K video mode, which opts for the DCI 4K standard instead of the UHD standard. If you're not familiar with DCI 4K, it's used in the movie industry, and has a slightly wider-aspect 4,096 x 2,160 pixel resolution with a fixed 24 fps framerate. You can now shoot in this format with the E-M1 II, and if you do, you'll find it has a fixed, very high bitrate of 237Mbps to ensure good quality in-camera.

Like its predecessor, the E-M1 II allows automatic, aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual exposure, autofocus both before and during video, and records audio from either an internal stereo or external stereo microphone, complete with optional wind noise reduction. It also adds a 3.5mm headphone jack, though, so unlike the earlier camera you can now monitor your audio.

Movies recorded in MOV format are restricted to 29 minutes in length, and those in AVI format to seven minutes.

There's a new Slow / Quick Movie function in the E-M1 II, which allows you to vary the capture frame rate of video for slow-motion and speed-up effects (audio is not recorded). Available capture multiplication factors vary depending on the current resolution and frame rate selected, ranging from x10 (10x slower capture) to x0.4 (2.5x faster capture), however the fastest capture rate is still capped at 60p for Full HD and HD, 30p for UHD and 24p for C4K. So for example, UHD at 30p with x10 selected will capture frames at 2.997 fps for a speed-up effect when played back, and Full HD at 24p with x0.4 selected will capture at 59.94 fps for a slow-motion effect when played back.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

Wireless communications

Like its predecessor, the Olympus E-M1 Mark II supports Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity. This makes it quick and easy to get your photos and videos off the camera, and onto your smartphone or tablet for sharing on social networks.

Also like the earlier camera, the E-M1 II forgoes an NFC antenna for simple pairing with Android devices, instead opting for a Quick Response code -- a type of two-dimensional barcode -- which is shown on-screen when the camera is ready to pair via Wi-Fi. After installing the free app for Android or iOS devices, you scan this QR code using your smart device's camera. The connection is then configured between both devices for you, automatically. If you don't have a camera on your smart device, of course, you'll need to pair manually.

Once connected, you can not only download movies or images, but also control the camera remotely. As in the E-M1, this includes a live view feed, remote shutter release capability and support for adjusting basic exposure variables, drive modes and focus remotely. Perhaps coolest of all, you can control Time / Bulb exposure remotely, and see the image being built up over time as it's exposed, on the smart device screen.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

Wired connectivity

There are several changes on the wired connectivity front. For one thing, Olympus has dropped the Accessory Port 2 connection formerly found beneath the flash hot shoe, a change which likely contributed to the reduction in the camera's height. And as we've already mentioned, the company has supplemented its existing 3.5mm microphone jack with a 3.5mm headphone jack on which to monitor audio levels during video capture.

But in addition to this, Olympus has also added a new flash sync terminal that presents an alternative to the hot shoe when shooting in the studio. The company has also switched to a faster USB 3.0 SuperSpeed connection in place of the earlier USB 2.0 High Speed, and replaced the earlier camera's multi-function USB/AV/Remote port with a new USB Type-C port. Third-party adapters and cables are available if your computer doesn't already support this new standard, which removes the need to determine cable orientation before plugging in.

This of course means composite AV output has been dropped, however the E-M1 II continues to provide a Micro Type-D HDMI port which now supports clean, uncompressed 4:2:2 video output at up to C4K resolution.

And since the earlier RM-UC1 remote control isn't compatible with a USB Type-C port, Olympus has also added a 2.5mm remote jack compatible with a new, optional RM-CB2 remote control.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

Storage

The Olympus E-M1 Mark II stores images and movies on Secure Digital cards, and in a nice upgrade from its predecessor, now has dual SD card slots. Both are compatible with the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC cards, as well as the higher-speed UHS-I types. One of the two slots is also compatible with UHS-II cards, but the secondary slot still supports only UHS-I.

The dual card slots can be used in several distinct ways, if both are filled with SD cards. You can either choose which card slot to record to, have the camera automatically switch to the second card when the first becomes full, independently record to both cards simultaneously with images sequestered by file type, or record identical files to both cards simultaneously, essentially using one slot as a backup of the other.

The E-M1 II also works with Eye-Fi cards, although obviously the camera has its own wireless connectivity, so there's little reason to use in-card Wi-Fi unless you already own the card. (And if you do, note that Eye-Fi's Endless Mode is not supported.)

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

The E-M1 Mark II's new BLH-1 battery pack (left) compared to the E-M1's BLN-1 battery pack.

Power

The Olympus E-M1 II draws power from a new, proprietary BLH-1 lithium-ion battery pack. The new battery is larger and has 37% greater capacity than the old one, with a CIPA rating of 440 shots per charge (versus 350 for the E-M1), however Olympus doesn't state if that's with the LCD monitor or EVF active. The E-M1 II also has a quick sleep mode which boosts battery life to 950 shots. Olympus also notes that charging is "much faster", although it doesn't say precisely how much.

The E-M1 II ships with a single BLH-1 battery and a dedicated BCH-1 battery charger; in-camera charging is not supported.

A variety of accessory products are offered alongside the E-M1 Mark II and the most popular of these will likely be the HLD-9 Power Battery Holder. (Yes, E-M1 owners will need to upgrade from their existing HLD-7 grips.) This add-on grip mounts on the camera's base, and when attached with batteries installed, yields roughly double the battery life. It also offers a second set of controls for portrait-orientation shooting. The HLD-9 includes a jack for use with the optional AC-5 AC adapter.

Olympus E-M1 Mark II Review -- Product Image

Additional Accessories

Other accessory options that are or will be available alongside the Olympus E-M1 include the FL-900R weatherproof high-intensity flash, STF-8 weatherproof macro flash, RM-CB2 release cable, PT-EP14 underwater case and CBG-12 large-capacity backpack.

 



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