Olympus debuts new 2x teleconverter, plus software updates for E-M1 II, E-M1X and Olympus Workspace
posted Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at 1:00 AM EST
It's a good day to be an OM-D owner, as Olympus has just announced a handful of new goodies! The sole physical new product is a new 2.0x teleconverter for their current two Zuiko Pro telephoto lenses, as well as their upcoming 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25x PRO lens. On the software side of things, there are firmware updates now available for both the E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X cameras, plus a new version of refreshed Olympus Workspace desktop image processing and tethering software.
When Olympus debuted their first Zuiko Pro telephoto zoom back in 2014, the 40-150mm f/2.8, they also introduced a small 1.4x teleconverter to go along with it. They have now followed that up with another teleconverter, this time of the longer 2.0x variety. Initially mentioned back in January as part of the development announcement for the upcoming 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25x PRO lens, the new MC-20 2.0x teleconverter enables a full 2x multiplier for Zuiko Pro telephoto lenses. Much like the MC-14 1.4x teleconverter, this compact, weather-sealed 2x TC is compatible with the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro and 300mm f/4 IS Pro lenses as well as the future 150-400mm lens.
As is typical when adding teleconverters to lenses, these additional optics give you some additional focal length reach, but at the cost of light-gathering potential. The 1.4x TC costs 1-stop on your lens' maximum aperture, whereas the new 2.0x TC will drop it by two stops. With the new MC-20 attached, the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 will turn into an 80-300mm-eq. zoom with a maximum aperture of f/5.6, whereas the longer 300mm f/4 prime with transform into a shockingly-long 1200mm-eq. ultra-telephoto but with a fairly dim f/8 max aperture.
[Click here for Gallery Images shot with the MC-20]
Nonetheless, if you need some extra reach with your existing Olympus telephoto lenses, a teleconverter is a simple way to add a lot more versatility. And of course the entire rig is weather-sealed.
Much like the 1.4x TC, the Olympus MC-20 is very small and very compact, though it is, understandably, a bit longer than the 1.4x. The 2x TC uses a total of 9 optical elements, including 1 HR lens element, situated into 4 groups. The HR element helps combat various aberrations, such as chromatic aberration, and the use of ZERO coatings on the lens elements helps fight ghosting and flare. The MC-20 is also fully weather-sealed against the elements, much like Zuiko Pro lenses, and despite the additional optics and electronics introduced with the teleconverter, Olympus claims that photographers shouldn't experience any significant drop in autofocus performance. In our earlier MC-14 1.4x TC review, we didn't experience any noticeable drop in AF speed or performance -- nor any negative impact to image quality -- so we have high expectations here for the new 2x TC.
As mentioned, the MC-20 2x teleconverter is compatible with the following lenses:
- M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO
- M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO
- M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO (coming in 2020)
The MC-20 has a suggested retail price of $429.99 USD and $559.99 CAD.
Images captured with the MC-20 are now live on our MC-20 Gallery Page
[E-M1 II sample used for capture has the new firmware v3.0 installed]
Firmware Updates for E-M1 II & E-M1X
E-M1 Mark II Firmware Version 3.0
With the latest firmware update for the smaller of the two flagship OM-D cameras, the E-M1 Mark II gains a number of performance improvements and new features that were originally only available on the E-M1X.
One of the major areas of improvement has been autofocus-related performance and feature updates. With v3.0, the E-M1 II now utilizes the new AF algorithm from the E-M1X, which Olympus claims should improve performance with demanding, fast-paced subjects. AF Tracking performance is said to have been improved, and the E-M1 II now actively uses the phase-detection pixels during video recording for better video AF. Single-shot AF has also been improved thanks to the new AF algorithm, with Olympus claiming better subject recognition and less AF errors where the focus shifts to the background. There's also now the ability to have real-time manual focus override during C-AF with a new C-AF + MF focusing mode.
In addition there are new AF settings available, including the new 25-point AF Grouping option -- you now have three AF Group options: 5-point, 9-point and 25-point groups. To go along with the Group AF Target options, you now also have C-AF Center Priority mode. When using C-AF Center Priority with any of the multi-point Group AF Target modes, the AF system is biased towards the central AF point and the peripheral AF points are only used as "helper points" when AF can't be achieved with the center point.
Firmware v3.0 also increases the E-M1 II's low-light AF sensitivity. When using an f/1.2 lens, the light level limit for autofocus is lowered down to an impressive -6EV.
There is also a new in-camera image processing setting called Low ISO Processing (Detail Priority), another feature originally included on the E-M1X. The default setting for Low ISO Processing is Drive Priority, but the new Detail Priority option, in a sense, runs noise reduction processing twice on mid-range ISO shots, such as ISO 800, for better detail resolution (at the expense of sequential shooting speed). Olympus also says higher ISO image quality has been improved by approximately one-third of a stop.
Other new feature additions include Anti-flicker shooting; OM-Log400 picture style for video recording; a new Frame Rate Priority option for Live View Boost provides a more comfortable screen brightness in dark environments; the ability to select 3-15 shots for Focus Stacking as well as displaying Guide Lines indicating post-shot cropping; a new ISO 100 option for extended low ISOs; new Instant Film Art Filter added. Photographers can now also instantly begin looking at images in Playback mode while the camera continues to buffer images to the memory card.
E-M1X Firmware Version 1.1
Compared to the feature improvements to the E-M1 II, which brought over a lot of the E-M1X's existing features, the new v1.1 firmware for the E-M1X is rather light. The primary improvement here is support for a new function in the latest version of Olympus Workspace desktop software. Firmware version 1.1 enables supports for USB RAW Data Edit mode, which gives E-M1X owners faster RAW processing within Olympus Workspace by harnessing the RAW processing power of the camera's imaging processors. You can connect the camera via USB to your computer and the Olympus Workspace software will offload the raw processing tasks over to the camera's processor, which is tailor-made for image processing, rather than using your computer's processor.
Olympus Workspace Version 1.1
As mentioned above, one of the new features of the v1.1 of Olympus Workspace is USB RAW Data Edit mode. Both the E-M1 Mark II, running v3.0 firmware, and the E-M1X running v1.1 firmware, support the ability to tether via USB to an owner's computer and offload the RAW processing functionality over to the connected camera rather than using the owners Mac or PC CPU. Similar to Fujifilm's implementation of X RAW STUDIO, the connected camera's processing is inherently designed for efficiently processing raw data into image files, much more so than a typical computer's CPU(s).
In addition to the new raw processing feature, users now have the ability to composite Focus Stacked shots directly within Olympus Workspace. In prior versions, when using Focus Bracketing, photographers needed to use third-party software to build the stacked composite shots. Now, you have this function built-in directly to Olympus Workspace, with the ability to composite up to 999 image/frames. RAW images can also be composited, not just JPEGs.
Lastly, a new Lighten Composite function has been added, which lets you create images similar to Live Composite mode. There's also a new Darken Composite option.
For more information on the new firmware updates and the new Olympus Workspace update, please check Olympus's software site.