Olympus breathes new life into E-M1 with big v4.0 firmware update, E-M5 II gets new firmware too!


posted Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 9:00 AM EDT


The Olympus E-M5 II and more recent Olympus E-M10 II cameras both introduced a handful of fresh, new features to the OM-D family of the cameras, leaving E-M1 owners undoubtedly feeling a bit left out of the fun. The newer cameras included features like focus bracketing, a silent shooting mode using the electronic shutter and a cool 4K timelapse capability.

Well, fear not E-M1 owners, as Olympus today announced an upcoming major firmware update to bring their flagship OM-D camera back to the forefront of their mirrorless lineup in terms of features and capabilities. The new version 4.0 firmware update is more than just a point release, as it includes a host of new features, shooting modes and settings for both still images and video.

One of the primary new features for the v4.0 firmware is not only the new Focus Bracketing mode from the recent E-M10 II, but also an exclusive new Focus Stacking mode just for the E-M1. The end result of both of these modes is essentially the same, in that multiple shots are composited to create a final image with a very deep depth of field (i.e. larger than f/22) -- fantastic for macro shots! However, while the Focus Bracketing mode leaves you with a bunch of shots (ranging from three frames up to 999) that you then need to process and combine yourself, the Focus Stacking mode does it all in-camera!

With the Focus Stacking mode, the E-M1 can capture eight RAW or JPEG frames each with focus shifted slightly and then composite together a final JPEG file automatically (it will save the individual frames as well). There's a caveat to using Focus Stacking mode, however, and that's lens compatibility. At this time, only the 60mm f/2.8 Macro, 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro and 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro are compatible with Focus Stacking mode.

The E-M1 also gains the Silent Shooting mode introduced on the earlier Mark II OM-D cameras, which is very helpful when photographing sound sensitive subjects, like wildlife, or in other quiet scenarios, such as concerts or stage performances. Sequential shooting is also supported in Silent Mode at up to 11fps, which is great for capturing the decisive moment of that skittish animal. The shutter speed, in both Silent Shot mode and regular shooting modes, gains a big speed boost up to 1/16,000s now as it makes use of its fast electronic shutter. User should take note, though, as the electronic shutter makes rolling shutter artifacts a potential issue for fast-moving subjects.

For video shooters, the E-M1 gets some nice, solid upgrades in that department as well. The camera will now offer in-camera 4K timelapse movie creation, with 4K stills captured at 5 frames per second for a maximum length of 200 seconds, or 999 frames. The camera will then stitch all the individual frames into a single video file. Full HD and HD timelapse resolutions are also supported at 5/10/15 fps for Full HD, or 5/10/15/30 fps for 720p HD.

Additional video features will certainly appeal to the more advanced videographer, as both 24fps (23.96p) and 25p cinematic frame rates are now offered. Furthermore, the E-M1 will offer timecode support, on-screen information overlays (histogram, timecode, audio levels, etc.) during video capture, and cable release support for starting and stopping recording. The E-M1 also gains improved movie image stabilization with no angle of view change as well as smooth, step-less aperture adjustments when using certain lenses (all M.Zuiko Premium primes and the 14-42mm EZ kit lens with subsequent firmware updates).

The E-M1 adds audio syncing and communication with Olympus PCM audio recorders. The camera can generate a quick "slate tone," which adds a simultaneous quick tone to both in-camera audio and the external audio track on the PCM recorder, making the separate audio tracks easy to sync up in post-production.

Lastly, for those Zuiko lenses with physical sliding AF/MF rings (aka "the MF clutch"), users will now have the ability to disable that functionality entirely (as long as the lens' firmware is updated as well). This can prevent confusion out in the field if you accidently slide the ring back and wonder why your lens isn't focusing.

The E-M1 will also offer a very handy feature of Menu Recall, which lets the camera remember the last viewed menu item, making it easier to find you way back after shooting.

Additional features with firmware update:

  • Advanced Focus Peaking (adjustable overlay intensity; black, white, red and yellow colors -- only for stills, not available for video)

  • Improved Anti-shock Mode (5fps Sequential Low burst rate now supported)

  • Simulated Optical Viewfinder

  • Live Composite functionality with updated O.I. Share mobile app


Not to be left out of the update party, the Olympus E-M5 Mark II also gains some additional functionality, including 4K timelapse and the Focus Bracketing feature. However, the E-M5 II will not get the Focus Stacking mode.

The movie features, however, get a small exclusive update not available on other OM-D cameras. For advanced videographers looking for the maximum amount of image control from their E-M5 II footage, the camera will now have a new Flat picture mode, designed specifically for video mode. This new Flat profile offers the maximum amount of dynamic range, in a similar vain to the Panasonic GH4's Cinelike-D Picture Styles, for example. The Flat picture mode has very low contrast with no in-camera color adjustments -- providing the most native file possible, which allows for maximum control for color grading in post.

The E-M5 II also gains the Olympus PCM audio synchronization and slate tone creation option.

Alongside the new camera firmware updates, Olympus also announced version 1.1 of their Olympus Capture desktop companion software for tethered shooting with the E-M1 and E-M5 II. This new version adds an array of additional functionality and tethered control capabilities for a more versatile, professional workflow.

You can now customize the view of the Super Control Panel, adding or removing settings as needed. You can also utilize keystone compensation to correct for perspective distortions.

Image transfer speeds have also been improved. In previous versions, the tethered camera required an SD card. Images would be stored on the memory card and subsequently transfer to the computer. This is no longer the case with v1.1, as you can shoot and transfer shots directly from camera to computer without an SD card.

The new software also provides the ability to configure and control Live Composite, Live Bulb and Live Time shooting modes, as well as see these live images develop on-screen. You can also enable Silent Shot mode and make use of the E-M5 II's High-Res Shot mode. The improved app also gives you full Movie Mode control, including adjusting exposure settings, resolution and, of course, trigger video record start and stop.

Additional features with Olympus Capture v1.1 update:

  • Easier to manage file names and storage destinations

  • Overlay PNG images with transparency atop captured shots

  • Selection of magnification rate in Live View

  • Rec View rotation display

  • Underwater added to finishing modes

  • Support for Live View Boost

  • AF point display during Touch AF display

Both the E-M1 and E-M5 II firmware updates are free upgrades and are slated to become available in November. For more information, visit the Olympus USA Firmware Upgrade microsite.

Olympus E-M1Olympus E-M5 II