Olympus OM-D E M1 Mark II Review – Real World Video Samples and First Impressions

December 13th, 2016

We live in great times to be independent filmmakers, don’t we? Picking up the right affordable tool for the job has never been so easy. Just look around and see the amount of cameras that we can choose from these days, and this is even before the great Panasonic GH5 takes the market by storm in a few months… at least on paper. While established companies like Canon, Panasonic, Sony and Nikon all have an assortment of photo cameras that can shoot video, newcomers like FUJIFILM and Olympus are now joining the race with quality alternatives.  

olympus-om-d-e-m1-mark-ii

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What has happened? Why are these companies suddenly so eager to produce photo cameras that can shoot hight-quality video?”, the answer can be found in the changing Japanese market. It is only now that local photographers are requesting their beloved companies to implement that feature. If you’ve asked yourself “Why do so many new cameras only seem to come out half-baked in terms of features (for example in the absence of internal Log)?”, then the answer is simple: those professional photographers have no need for it, or even necessarily have an idea what is a Log curve for video. This is one reason why such requests never make it to the companies.

This is exactly what seems to be the case with the new  Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II – a 4K-capable camera with a micro 4/3 sensor that has a lot of potential, but that lacks that important true Log curve feature. Here is the official answer I got when I raised the question to Olympus:

The reason for not having a log mode is that the E-M1 Mark II is concentrating on still images. Movie mode is an add-on in case a photographer would like to make a movie as well. However there is no technical reason not to make a log mode as well when we have demand from the market”

olympus-om-d

But first things first: for me, this is the time to confess that I’m a complete newbie when it comes to Olympus cameras. The reason is simple: up until now, I felt that there was no real reason to test the video capabilities of any of their cameras. True, Olympus always shined when it came to body/lens stabilization, but that feature alone was not enough to get me excited as the video quality coming out of those cameras was simply not good enough… until now. So please hang on and join me, the newbie, while I try to get the best I can out of this camera…

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Review

Olympus Japan was kind enough to supply me the camera and an Olympus ED 12-40mm f/2.8 lens for a short test, while Olympus Europe supported us with a camera and the very impressive Olympus ED 12-100mm f/4 IS for our lab test.

I asked the lovely Mira . if I could join her on one of her journeys, and follow her while filming a short episode for her very popular channel of over 247,000 subscribers. Mira is a young Canadian YouTube blogger who lives near Tokyo, documenting and sharing her life and experiences as a “gaijin” (foreigner), in Japan.

The night before, I made sure to do my homework and study the camera menus and learn about its capabilities. On the surface, it looked rather simple. Head to the Video Menu and set the camera to your desired basic settings mode. Settings like resolution, frame rate, method of stabilisation, “flat” picture profile or not… Here’s where you find all of that.

olympus-om-d-e-m1-mark-ii-video-mode

Olympus OM-D E M1 Mark II Video Mode Menu

In order to dive deeper into the menu, press the camera’s Info button. You will be able to adjust Highlights and Shadow, or the general Picture Mode. (Some picture mode adjustments are not available in “Flat Mode”).

olympus-om-d-e-m1-mark-ii-menu

Olympus OM-D E M1 Mark II “Quick Navigation” Menu

Ready and eager to test the camera, I decided that even the dark(ish) green(ish) EVF which looked completely different to my LCD screen wouldn’t delay me from getting started.

I met Mira the next day and anxiously took my test camera out of the bag, ready to shoot. A few minutes and shutter-pressing attempts later and the camera started recording. Call me mad, but it seemed that the camera wouldn’t start recording when looking at the EVF, but only when moving it away from my eye. Take one, and Mira is out of focus. I was counting on being on Autofocus Mode, as I wanted to jump straight into testing the camera’s famous stabilization system…

Another look at the menus and then at Mira… and still no autofocus. It had vanished, completely gone from my menu system. Those of you familiar with the Olympus camera and lens system can start pointing fingers now and call me a “newbie”. For the rest, I owe an explanation. The Olympus ED 12-40mm f/2.8 I used has a small clutch for changing between manual and autofocus, just as like on the Sony 28-135mm. Obviously the clutch must have moved while travelling to the location, preventing me from changing the focus position back to “auto”. Not being aware of this, I made what Olympus describes as “a common mistake among new users”…

Needless to say, I found myself a bit restricted when following Mira and had to be extra cautious not to lose focus. However, I did get the chance to test the truly impressive capabilities of the stabilisation system, and this WITHOUT the best available lens combination one can get, as the Olympus ED 12-40mm f/2.8 is not a stabilised lens.

We literally only had 2 hours to shoot before sunset and, besides the REC button playing tricks on me, the camera preformed well. Watching the material back at my editing suite, I made the following list:

mira-c-and-johnnie

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II – Our Findings 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II pros (in no particular order):

  • World camera with a variety of resolutions and frame rates up to 60fps.
  • Nice clean video quality with a data rate of up to 237 Mbps in DCI 4K 24p, (In the above video, the average data rate is 86 Mbit/s  (measured with inspector).
  • Outstanding built-in 5-axis Image Stabilization system. When combined with an Olympus IS lens, the level of stabilisation gets even higher.
  • Clean HDMI output.
  • Rolling shutter is well controlled. In our lab test it scored 10ms(!), performing better than the Blackmagic Ursa Mini, Sony FS7 (14ms) and Sony a7SII (25ms).
  • Camera body features mic and headphone jacks.
  • Controlling audio levels while recording is possible.
  • Good touch screen autofocus (although autofocus performance in continues mode is not consistent).
  • Proper manual focus assist, namely peaking and focus magnifying while turning the focus ring.
  • Timecode.
  • Flipped LCD screen.
  • “Picture mode” settings are adjustable. Unwanted profiles can be ticked off from the menu all together.
  • Good built-in audio quality.
  • Good low-light quality up to ISO 3200. ISO 6400 is usable, but please take into account that the overall noise levels in dark areas is more noticeable.
  • Histogram settings – possible.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II cons (in no particular order):

  • Flat Mode, is not really “flat”.
  • No 25p in DCI 4K mode.
  • Very high contrast even in flat mode. You need to dig into the picture menu in order to make it “flatter”…
  • LCD and EVF show very different pictures in terms of look. The EVF has the tendency to be saturated and greener.
  • Eyepiece is stiff and non-removable. It makes it hard to work outdoors.
  • At times, moiré is evident on fine patterns.
  • Digital Convertor – Olympus’s version of digitally magnifying the picture while shooting video – falls short against Sony’s Clear Image Zoom technology.
  • When changing between the 2 available stabilisation modes (M-IS 1/2), expect a significant crop factor in M-IS 1 and a decrease in video quality, as the body stabilisation works together with digital stabilisation.
  • At times, the camera will freeze and become unresponsive. Something to monitor in the near future.
  • No aspect markers (options from 4:3 to 2.35:1 would be valuable).
  • If you are a fan of using “auto white balance”, take in account that the changes in color temperature are sudden and not graduated.
  • Average battery life.

Conclusion: 

The OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a very big step forward for Olympus when it comes to video picture quality! In fact, it is one of the best video-capable photo cameras that I have recently tested. The higher video data rate along with the excellent stabilisation system makes it a valid option as an A-camera working tool. On the other hand, Olympus (like many of the other Japanese camera manufacturers) is very clear about the positioning of that camera. Here is an extract from our mail exchange with them:

It is a stills camera with movie capabilities and not the other way around. Therefore we expect that the user is not that experienced and we would like to support them to get a nice looking movie as much as possible. In case the market is requesting a log mode, we are open to change this in future firmware updates

You will have to agree with me that, in a way, this is a missed opportunity. But since it doesn’t look like it was made intentionally in order to cripple the product, there is still the possibility of change via firmware update and get much more from this wonderful device.

The competition is tough and will probably get even tougher the minute Panasonic announces their final GH5 specifications. As the OM-D E-M1 Mark II will be Olympus’s flagship camera for the next 2-3 years, I do hope that the engineers will consider to “go wild”, and be restricted only by camera hardware when implementing newer functionality and usability with future firmware updates.

A “flat” version of the above video can be looked at/downloaded here:

Camera settings for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Review video: DCI 4K, 24p Edited on Adobe Premiere. Slightly color corrected in Premiere. Audio was slightly treated with audacity.

Not tested: HD video quality, and long shooting periods to determine if the camera overheats.

Music: Art-list1 – 24 by Tomer Ben Ari – Going South

Thank you Mira for helping in executing this video.

Would you like to see Olympus add a Log curve as a picture profile? If you are a European user, would you like to see DCI 4K at 25p? Let us know in the below comment section!

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 Andres Otero
Member
October 30th, 2017

I just both this camera at NY photoplus expo after watching 2 young content creators showcase their work. Everyone agrees the image stabilization is amazing. But I’ve also heard from Olympus reps on site the camera’s processor is so powerful that it’s could do 120fps in 4K and the much desired s-log. So if Olympus wants to campfire the hearts and wallets of more dual content creators as myself, why don’t bring your already amazing camera to the level of the Panasonic GH5 and closer to the SonyA7S? And with the release of the A7sIII, the A7SII price will drop, which means more competition on the mirrowless video market for that price range. Olympus: We want you to enter the video race and be a contender, listen to us users and gives us a firmaré upgrade to makes this camera all it can be already!

 Andres Otero
Member
October 30th, 2017
Reply to  Andres Otero

I apologise for the non sense words the autocorrect crated against my will and can’t seem to be able to edit the previous post on my mobile… “both” was meant to be “bought” and replace “campfire” with “compete” oops

James Whitehouse
James Whitehouse
Member
October 30th, 2017
Reply to  Andres Otero

Is it possible Olympus is prevented from bettering their video specs by Sony, who own them, so that they’re not essentially competing with themselves?

 Andres Otero
Member
October 30th, 2017

Never thought of it, but it would make sense. They will be risking their brand credibility thou. Two brands can compete and share technology. Like iPhones using Samsung screens.

 James Donaldson
James Donaldson
Member
July 5th, 2017

I think it would be good for Olympus fans and the company to do a firmware update to provide a true log profile so the EM1 MKII becomes a more rounded and versatile camera, and while they are at it add Zebra for exposure and false color would be nice too.

 scott kirkpatrick
scott kirkpatrick
Member
July 6th, 2017
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Say, did you ever complete a lab test to complement your E-M1.2 review from back in December. You said this information would be forthcoming in the next week(s). How does the Olympus stack up against the Panasonic GH5?

Member
July 6th, 2017

I have owned both cameras at the same time, the EM1ii and GH5. Used for filmmaking and photography.

I believe the reason why the lab tests were suspended is because Olympus is a sponsor of Cinema5D and the lab tests would have revealed the EM1ii to be extremely poor for video.

There are two things the EM1ii does better than the GH5: 1) IBIS to mimic a tripod and 2) Certain User Interface designs for filmmaking.

Note that I am not saying that the GH5’s IBIS is bad, because it isn’t, it is just different. My ideal camera would have IBIS modes that allow me to manually switch between both versions of IBIS.

Also note that Sync-IS is broken for video as it is made only to keep the camera image absolutely still. If you move even a bit, the image distorts. This is where Panasonic’s IBIS wins hands down as their’s is built for pure motion work.

Image Quality wise, the EM1ii falls apart extremely quickly even with a light contrast adjustment applied. It is that bad. This is what Olympus needs to fix if they want to get into the filmmaking game.

Also the reds appear pink and the color fidelity overall isn’t good at all (grass appears like a clumpy green mess for example).

In terms of LCD overlays, Olympus has the nicest:
1) Audio levels are out of the way (not overlayed over the image like all other cameras do).
2) Battery power is expressed in minutes
3) Focal lengths are always displayed on the screen for native Olympus lenses. For non-native such as Panasonic lenses, the focal length appears when you press any of the buttons of the EM1ii. This feature is great if you are using zoom lenses so you know exactly which focal length you are on

I also love the fact that the controls are separate from video and photo. This is something Sony can learn from. I have an A9 and I am constantly configuring the buttons when I switch between photo/video.

I should mention that the ergonomics of the EM1ii is also superior. It feels the best in my hand. I wish all manufactures would follow their grip design.

It’s sad that Olympus has decided to only provide firmware updates and less camera releases.

I don’t think there is enough horse power under the EM1ii to bring it to the GH5 level at the very least.

 Giovanni Lorini
Member
July 18th, 2017
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Hi Johnnie,
just yesterday I was at Olympus showroom in Tokyo asking for Log, 50/60P in 4K and also very important in my opinion the 10 bit video recording. I think that without 10 bit the log mode is not usable (banding issue). They write all my comments but at the end they say “probably in the new camera”…

James Whitehouse
James Whitehouse
Member
October 30th, 2017
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Johnnie; do Olympus monitor review comments such as this, or do we need to feedback to a specific team? If so, which team/contact would that be?

 Andres Otero
Member
October 30th, 2017

I really hope they do and the Olympus U.S based staff Ive talked to say HQ does, but who knows. T
his former Olympus embassador says the don’t so he dropped them for Sony:
https://petapixel.com/2017/01/20/rant-gave-micro-four-thirds/

James Whitehouse
James Whitehouse
Member
June 8th, 2017

If this had Log and 25p in DCI, I’d definitely consider it alongside GH5 as I prefer Oly bodies for stills. Is the external output over HDMI 10-bit 4:2:2 as some have rumoured?

 Christopher Irion
Christopher Irion
Member
March 20th, 2017

Olympus definitely needs to go to a log for me. I have the GH5 on order and will keep my em-1 mk ll as a second camera
If they can give us that and improve the auto focus with a firmware update. I love the stabilization in this camera and with the battery grip it’s a terrific camera to shoot hand held.
Without these improvements I will sell my em-1 mill body and get a second GH5 to replace it. Please Olympus, this is a great video camera that meets a lot of independent/documentary filmmakers needs but the competition From Panasonic is really stiff.

 scott kirkpatrick
scott kirkpatrick
Member
March 20th, 2017

Here’s another vote for a proper log profile, recording in-camera. Preferably set up so that a standard LUT (e.g. Arri Log-C) will undo it without pushing the highlights out of range. And I see that 30, 25, and 24 fps all work as long as that’s UHD, not DCI. I’d like 4K DCI 30 and 25 but that’s getting close enough.

As Olympus made clear, their market is still photographers who want to get more out of their gear. That describes me. Have M5.2s and the Pro zooms (unstabilized), but this could tempt me to upgrade to M1 v2 and the new 12-100.

Member
March 1st, 2017

Have you done the lab tests yet?

I’m curious to know if this is better than the GH5!

 Evan Bartlett
Evan Bartlett
Member
February 9th, 2017

I’m currently mostly shooting photos on an Olympus Em5 and looking to move towards a new camera to shoot 50/50 video / photos. I love the m43 Olympus system, but the one thing that’s been driving me nuts is the low light performance.

Does the EM1 mk ii fix that, or would you recommend moving to the a6500? If I went the sony route, I’d get an a6500 now with some full frame lenses (28mm, 85mm), and then upgrade to a full frame down the road when I have some money saved up.

 Juan Francisco Calero
Juan Francisco Calero
Member
January 4th, 2017

I totally want a Log profile in the camera.
With that PRO spec, Audio inputs and option of 4K dci 24fps it can be a Fuji X-T2 killer. No log, it will loose sales vs the Fuji.
I shoot a TV show with cars and for me it should be a very useful tool. I expect to forget rigs and gimballs and etc. I think in terms of marketing that video action is an interesting market to explore.

https://vimeo.com/197023502

 Christopher Irion
Christopher Irion
Member
January 2nd, 2017

yes. please- definitely S-log!

Also it would be great to be able to use an assignable button to toggle between
single auto-focus manual SAF/M and CAF then you would have some very nice flexible control.

With the incredible stabilization now possible Olympus needs to understand that for many of us the ability to shoot without a tripod in video is one of the MOST IMPORTANT reasons to go with the EM-1 Mkii.

We just need some of the other video features to be as good or better than the competition. New firmware update before the GH5?

 dean mermell
dean mermell
Member
December 19th, 2016

Hi, great piece on this camera I’ve been considering, I’ve shot a lot with my Em5 mkii and really enjoy the stabilization. I was wondering how the sound was recorded… external mic, dual source,…? Is there much self noise (preamps) in quiet situations? Em5 mkii is pretty bad… thanks!

 dean mermell
dean mermell
Member
December 19th, 2016
Reply to  dean mermell

Ahh, I see your Sennheiser stuff on the gear list. But yes, did you find there’s much self noise with the camera’s preamps?

 the SUBVERSIVE
the SUBVERSIVE
Member
December 19th, 2016

I hope that the rolling shutter results can be an indicative of how good the GH5 can be – since we already know it’s also capable of full sensor readout and 60fps – but Olympus only does it in stills, but nonetheless it’s an electronic shutter, the same used for video and it’s full sensor 60fps.

My biggest question and concern regarding the GH5 is the tracking AF improvements. Everybody else has stepped up, even Fuji and Olympus, Panasonic is the only one yet to adopt PDAF and Panasonic is considerably behind when it comes to tracking AF. I would like to be able to drag my finger through the screen and be able to use it as my focus tool, that way it will be even better than tracking AF, it’s like using MF through the screen, even better than true MF.

It seems that during CES we will get to know more about the GH5, hopefully that’s true.

Member
December 14th, 2016

Are you able to record 4k into both sd cards for dual recording?
Able to change WB during recording?
Able to magnify to check focusing during recording?

Member
December 14th, 2016
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Hi Johnnie thanks for your review and answers. There’s dual sd slots and it seems like it is only dual capable for photo and not video? That will be an important feature to have though. :)

Sergio
Sergio
Member
December 14th, 2016

This video made with E-M5 mkII

https://vimeo.com/178135545

Can’t wait to see whats possible with the E-M1 mkII!

Sergio
Sergio
Member
December 14th, 2016

A log profile would be awesome! Also an option for anamorphic de-squeeze 1.33x and 2x.

 Joerg Wurdak
Joerg Wurdak
Member
December 14th, 2016

It’s always a pleasure to read and watch your reviews. Thanks a lot, great work!
I use Sony gear for video and Olympus gear for photography side by side. Obviously the E-M1 II is a huge step forward for Oly in terms of video. The 4k clip I downloaded looks very good. The E-M1 II seems to be a serious contender for run and gun work when I don’t want to carry tons of gear and quickly want to switch between stills and video. I have always considered the latter as “mission impossible” but this camera might make a difference.
Probably Oly will come up with a log profile and will hopefully provide 25p in C4K. But I am afraid we will never see the full video potential of the E-M1 II, since Oly won’t fight Panasonic. Both companies rely on each other to keep that m43 thing going. The GH5 will retain its lead in the video field while Oly will try to win photo enthusiasts and pros over.

 Tim Shoebridge
Member
December 13th, 2016

Hi Johhnie, What would you say the dynamic range was like to work with? Some of those skies looked like a nightmare to shoot against. That flat image is the most un-flat image I think I’ve seen in a very long time. I hope Olympus do something about it very soon, you are so right about this being a missed opportunity. I wonder if Olympus realise the number of sales they could attract if they were more open minded and embraced video. Even Leica have learned that one.

Eno Popescu
Eno Popescu
Member
December 13th, 2016

Thanks for the review Johnnie.

I’ve just downloaded the original 4K film from vimeo and it looks great. I think keeping mind of its shortcomings, it can be a nice camera for also taking videos.

Member
December 13th, 2016

no more M4/3 for me.

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