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Date: 21/09/2016 | By: Mathieu

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Hands-On and First Impressions


Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Hands-On and First Impressions

First of all, we apologise for the delay in our live blogging. We have been having serious issues with the Wifi connection at our hotel and we spent the first two days running around Koelnmesse with little time to take advantage of the press lounge. Anyway, between the Photokina lounge, McDonald’s and the hotel’s poor wifi, we’ve finally been able to start sharing our first impressions from the event. And there was only one camera we could start with: the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II!

Update: check out our extended second impressions review with continuous AF tests and much more!

In the hands-on video below, you will find all the most important information plus a few extra clues we gathered from our interview with Olympus that will be online soon.

Important note: in the video I stated that the max. speed with C-AF and mechanical shutter is 15fps which is incorrect. It is 10fps instead.


Our first impressions in a nutshell:

  • The design of the E-M1 II is very similar with a few tweaks. The feeling when holding the camera is very familiar but the newly designed grip is very comfortable.
  • The new autofocus system is promising. The continuous shooting speeds are impressive considering that you can shoot high resolution RAW files (buffer performance has yet to be seen). However bear in mind that at 18fps and 60fps, you are working with the electronic shutter, and as such, we were told that rolling shutter is still present, although improved (new info about this can be found here).
  • There are new AF settings in the menu. I shared some screenshots and explanations here.
  • The 20MP sensor is said to be new and designed especially for the camera. There should be 1 stop of improvement to the dynamic range in comparison to the old E-M1. It is a welcome improvement but I don’t expect miracles in comparison to the latest Micro Four Thirds cameras.
  • The menu has a new design (mostly monochrome and minimalistic) but the way all the settings are organised looks very similar to the old menu. I am still not sure if I like it or not; I guess it’s too soon to say.
  • I am very curious to test the new battery BLH-1 as it should provide 40% more juice than the previous BLN-1. The new camera shouldn’t consume more power than the original E-M1. There is a new battery grip too.
  • 4K video is not news but the AF capabilities combined with the 5-axis stabilisation and Sync IS makes this camera very tempting. Just re-watch the video below and recall that the E-M1 II can do better (the sensor shift hardware is new). The new 12-100mm f/4 has IS, and more lenses should follow suit in the future which makes perfect sense.


  • High Res Shot at 50MP (80MP RAW): hand-held HRS is still not possible but the new TruePic VIII processor should be able to get rid of small artefacts when elements move in the background (water flowing, leaves on a tree, etc.). If that’s for real, this mode should become much more interesting for landscape photography. Olympus also told us in the interview that the ultimate goal is to achieve this feature hand-held. I still find it hard to believe that something like that can be possible, but to quote a famous TV show: “I want to believe!”.
  • The price has not yet been announced but we were told to expect a higher price than the original E-M1 launched three years ago. Hopefully the difference won’t be too big. The camera is expected by the end of the year, and final production samples should be ready in November.
  • The new Pro service will be available in 17 European countries. In the US and Asia there are similar options too but ran independently.

Coverage of the new lenses is coming soon. You can also check out this new article about the E-M1 II. In the meantime, enjoy some product shots. I am going to get myself a big cup of coffee but you are welcome to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Additional reads:

You can find out when the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II becomes available on B&H Photo here!

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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • RakSiam

    Thanks for the availability and price info. I had not seen that reported anywhere else. Guess I will wait a while for Oly to knock the price down (like they always do)…

  • Juurikas

    Otherwise nice Mark 2 (improved version of E-M1) but the rear display is just terrible decision, should have been staid as tilting one.

  • Juurikas

    Olympus specs say 1/50 is sync speed. So about 3x faster.

    btw, same time sync speed with mechanical is reduced from 1/320 to 1/250

  • Mathieu

    Too large and “DSLRish” for me 😀 😀

  • Dieter Helmut

    Matthieu: I agree with Scott, after all it’s Mirrorlessons not Mirror-lesslessons :). So how about a lesson on SLT? The A99II seems like quite a compelling new camera. What say you?

  • Scott

    Perhaps you can do a piece on “Hybrid Mirrorless”? BE THE FIRST! Lloyd describes it, but hasn’t covered it to any degree…YET 😉 This way you’ll be able to cover the A99 II and still remain true to this sites mantra. A spirited debate on the topic couldn’t hurt your traffic either 😉

  • Pix_Boy

    This is going to be a very hard wait, I’m guessing realistically it will be early 2017 for this to be available on mass!
    Thank you for the report

  • zensu

    Thanks Mathieu for clearing up some issues I was concerned about. I look forward to you and Heather getting your hands on a production model of the new E-M1 mkII and share your impressions with us on these new features. So far It looks good but I want to know more about this camera before I make a decision about upgrading.

  • Paniko
  • Paniko

    Thank you!

  • Tony Rogers

    Can I just point out that E-M1 II with mechanical shutter can do 15 fps with AF/AE locked at the first frame and 10 fps with C-AF/AE (or 8.5 fps with anti-shock). Read the spec!

    BTW thanks for the video!

  • cryssy

    Hey @matmirrorlessons:disqus can you tell us what is the flash sync time with silent shutter? I want to make an idea about usability (distortion) of silent shutter, if they made some progress. On the M1 was 1/13s, on M5II is 1/20s. In announcement specs they say sensor readout speed is 3 times faster.

  • Mathieu

    They told us by the end of the year. Final production samples should be ready by November.

  • Robert Moore

    Unless something untoward rears its head as soon as the M1ii is available I’ll be selling my current everyday everywhere carry the GX8. GH5 was a no-show at Photokina and happily all my Lumix lenses will work with the Oly. I hoped for hybrid AF in a GH5, the Oly M1 had it and in the M1ii it will be better. I do have one Oly lens, the 40-150/2.8 so that makes me kinda legit. The better half has all the Oly Pro lenses and promises to let me use them on occasion when I add the new Olympus.
    Thanks for being there Mat and your initial thoughts.
    Now what about a possible release date??????

  • NeroMetalliko

    Many thanks for all the information you are providing, I really appreciate it.

    It would be great if you could try to investigate regarding the exposure compensation in M mode using auto ISO and maybe report back here, if you can.

    I know, I already asked you yesterday, but it’s a very important feature in my opinion and I’m not able to find this information elsewhere…

    Thanks again in advance,

    Andrea :)

  • Dharma

    Thanks for your swift reply.

  • Mathieu

    Birds will be one of my main focus when I receive the camera.

  • Mathieu

    You can save personal settings to C1-C3 to instantly recall them when you need to. For example you can save settings related to continuous AF so that you just need to turn one dial to set them quickly.

  • Dharma

    I like the cautious first review after a super sales and marketing pitch and a 15 minutes hands-on of a camera that’s not ready for sale yet. I think there are quite promissing improvements, but I’m not ready to pre order this camera without proper reviews of the real thing.
    As I don’t own a Pen F, I’m not familiar with the C1-C4, is the C1-C3 on the E-M1mkII an improvement, or rather what are the benefits of these settings?

  • Mark Chan

    Hi, Love that someone is out there holding and commenting on this camera!

    Appreciate the statement on E-shutter for the insane FPS.

    A few questions if you can look into them:

    1. what is the bit rate of the video – if 10bit it would be superb!
    2. Does the C-AF work as well DURING video recording and do the honeycomb signaling focus show up then also?
    3. does focus peaking work DURING recording?
    4. Any cookies from olympus?


  • David Dornblaser

    Thanks, Mathieu, for your review.

  • Ziggy

    Thanks for a great run-down. As someone looking for a compact kit for bird photography this new model looks very promising. How the new AF performs in practice will be of great interest.

  • Mathieu

    Possibly. In a way it’s hard to think that Olympus would push these impressive continuous shooting speeds and hope that no one remembers what rolling shutter is. Perhaps there is an improvement. But when I asked that specific question, I didn’t get a “we have improved it” or “it’s less visible than before” as an answer. That’s why it’s difficult to get definite answers at these events. So until the contrary is proven, I prefer to remember that electronic shutter might not be the best for certain action sequences.

  • Mathieu

    Should get an answer tomorrow 😉

  • Mathieu

    My image doesn’t reflect an eventual crop on the sensor, it just there to show the difference between the two formats. I should be able to find out about crop tomorrow.

  • Mathieu

    Thanks for the link. I’m glad it’s not just for the European market.

  • Mathieu

    Rolling shutter only affects electronic shutters. I am not stressing anything, I am just giving more information 😉

  • Boston C

    R.S. must have been improved, since now the full-sensor readout takes less than 1/2 the time as before, R.S. would be 1/2 as bad.

  • Paniko

    Great report! Did you had the chance to ask if the USB-C port is a recharging one also? Thanks!

  • lunic

    Thanks for video. One thing curious is about cropping in 4K movie – your video shows coverage of still photo (4:3 ratio) and video (C4K and 4K) in one image. According to that image, cropping looks minimal, unlike current Panasonic 4K m4/3s like GH4 or GX8. Is that image (or technical details that you used to make that image) confirmed by Olympus?

  • SpecFoto

    But why no mention of the 50% improvement in the mechanical shutter FPS? Instead you led off the oh-so-important info on the new AF with a negative about the e-shutter. Also no mention of the 2 card slots or the 80%/75% screen coverage (horizontal/vertical) with the all cross type sensors. Two big improvements for this camera. Normally your reviews are so spot on. I shoot M43 and Nikon FF. Due to the lousy EM1 C-AF for high action shots, mostly BIF, I was seriously considering adding a D500 to my Nikon gear. Now I am willing to wait for a full review on the EM1 MarkII from experienced Oly reviewers like ……, Heather ☺. ( I anxiously await your full review,)

    Olympus USA link on the new Pro Advantage service announced Monday. It covers other bodies and lenses as well.

  • HammeredToast



  • SpecFoto

    But why no mention of the 50% improvement in FPS with the mechanical shutter? Instead you lead with a potential problem. Also, no mention of the 2 card slots and 75% and 80% (horizontal and vertical) coverage of the screen with all cross type sensors, 2 big plus’s for this camera.

    Olympus USA Pro Service link:

  • Petko Popadiyski

    Rolling shutter is a problem for both mechanical and electronic shutters. And I guess Electronic sensor readout is faster than the mechanical shutter. Why do you stress that the electronic rolling shutter is worse?

  • Mathieu

    I don’t understand where you see all this negativity, unless you consider adding more information about a camera that has been announced a negative behaviour.

    – 18fps in continuous AF with a fast subject can create distortion if you use an electronic shutter. It’s a fact. Many people didn’t get that 18fps was with the E-shutter.
    – I don’t expect a huge difference in IQ, but I’ll be happy to be proven wrong after a side by side comparison
    – High res shot hand held won’t be in the final release of the E-M1 II. It’s a final goal the company has concerning this feature but they told us it’s a long way to go.
    – We were told that the price would be higher by Olympus managers.
    – do you have the link about the US pro support?

  • SpecFoto

    Mathieu, In reading your “nutshell” impressions I am bothered by your negativity towards Olympus. What did Olympus not buy you dinner after the pre-announcement presentation?

    Instead of saying that Olympus improved the mechanical shutter AF to 15 FPS vs. the EM1 10FPS, a remarkable achievement, given that the new Fuji XT2 needs a huge bulky battery grip and 2 extra batteries to just achieve 14 FPS, you had to say that that camera has rolling shutter problems. Yes rolling shutter is a problem with all electronic shutters, but did you actually experience it?

    The newly designed 20.4 MP sensor is not just an upgrade, Olympus has stated it was designed specifically for this camera and has 1 stop of raw improvement over the existing EM1. The Pen F certainly does not have 1 stop of improvement over the EM1, but you say you don’t expect it to be different than any of the latest other M43 cameras?

    The new battery is 40% larger and I read Olympus is expecting the CIPA standard to be over 500 shots per charge vs. the 300 something range now. Yet, you say in the real world this won’t be relevant?

    Did Olympus say in your interview that Hi Res shot hand held is not to be in the final release?

    Olympus USA released details of the Pro Service via email on the same day as the announcement at Photokina. It is $99 per year and includes 2 free cleanings.

    Maybe next time let Heather do the write ups on Olympus?

  • starfish

    that’d be exciting indeed, still a bit sceptical for now but happy to give it a chance, that’d indeed put it close to a current APSC model

  • Mathieu

    It’s hard to tell for now because I had the chance to see and try the camera for like 15 minutes in total. The AF system in general seem notably improved and I saw new AF settings in the menu as well.
    As for rolling shutter, in my interview with one of the Japanese manager, they confirm that it still there but I am not sure it is improved in comparison to the E-M1. It is possible than the new TruePic VIII processor make things better.

  • vervy1

    Thanks. Is the rollig shutter better at all than with the EM1 for electronic shutter? Also, does the C-AF feel like its improved over the EM1? I could never reliably use it, while wit my 8 year old Canon 7D I was spot on 99% of the time.

  • Boston C

    Thx for the more in depth reporting. Re. handheld Hi Res Shot, in Jan 2015 Setsuya Kataoka, an top Olympus manager, in his DPR interview said “he expected the R&D team to make
    rapid progress in the development of the High Res Shot feature and that in time Olympus will be able to create a system will take less than 1/60sec instead of the current time of about one second. ”
    I said then it’s impossible within 3-4 yrs, to get high enough fps at a minimum of 480fps as required for the 1/60 sec High Res shot.
    It took 1.5yrs to double the sensor readout speed, from 30fps to 60. At that doubling rate, it’ll be another 4.5 yrs to reach 480fps, prob EM1 Mark IV will be it. Hope the mkt is still there then.

  • Mathieu

    The internal codec is 8bit 4:2:0. The HDMI output is 4:2:2 8bit.
    As for the crop in 4K video, I’ll double check.

  • Mathieu

    1) I don’t think so but I’ll double check for you.
    2) 15fps with continuous AF.

  • dansmith

    1) Is the BLN-H the same size as the BLN used fo rthe EM1? I have 6 old batteries,
    2) They were supposed to “greatly improve” the rolling shutter. What is the fastest rate shooting raw using mechanical shutter?

  • NeroMetalliko

    Hello, could you check/investigate if there is/will be the possibility to do exposure compensation in Manual mode with auto ISO? PEN F can do it but in the EM1-II there is not the additional dedicated EC dial so I’m really worrying…

  • Frank

    Can’t wait for you to get your hand on this for testing.

  • Tron

    Any chance you can find out if there is a crop in 4K video mode vs. scaled to the full width of the sensor? Also, is it 8 bit 4:2:2 or 4:2:0? Is the HDMI out 10 bit or 8 bit? Thank you.

  • Scott

    Ok, but to be fair, it does not have a conventional mirror box like a DSLR :)
    …and the debate continues… 😉

  • Mathieu


  • starfish

    I couldn’t find it, is the 1 stop improvement on jpegs or raw?

  • Mathieu

    Not sure about the A99 II as it is not really mirrorless 😀
    I’ll try to see it at the Sony booth tough.

  • Mathieu

    Yes. You can see an image of it in the article (the last on the left).

  • Tripster789

    Does the Super Control Panel (Menu) still exist? Or ist it gone with the new menu style? Would be a bummer because the SCP was really great.

  • Scott

    Great report on the E-M1 MKII Mathieu. Looks like a winner! Any plans to do a hands on with the A99 MKII? Thank you!

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