Firmware 3.0 for Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Olympus has a few announcements today - a minor update for E-M1X firmware to version 1.1, quite a significant rework of E-M1 Mark II's firmware to version 3.0 and a few new features in Olympus Workspace. I was informed by Olympus Malaysia that all these items are available for download immediately after the worldwide announcement. In this particular blog entry, I am exploring the new Firmware 3.0 for Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, which happens to be my workhorse that I use for commercial shoots as well as personal projects.

For those of you who prefer watching a video over reading a lengthy article, here is one of me quickly going through the main improvements in the new Firmware 3.0 for E-M1 Mark II.


Here is the list of improvements in the new Firmware 3.0

1) E-M1X AF ALGORITHM PORTED OVER TO E-M1 MARK II
Improvements of AF in E-M1 Mark II
- new algorithm for both S-AF and C-AF
- improved C-AF for movie recording
- low light AF down to -6EV with F1.2 PRO lens
- new 25 AF point grouping with C-AF Center priority
- C-AF + MF added
Olympus has refreshed their AF system in the latest E-M1X and I have claimed numerous improvements on AF performance in my review article here (click). Both S-AF and C-AF performance, in terms of focusing speed and accuracy have been enhanced. I particularly noticed better AF when dealing with messy background or backlit situations. AF improvement is made for both stills and video recording. C-AF in E-M1X's video, according to DPReview's own review, is the best for any Micro Four Thirds camera. This same AF for video is now applicable for E-M1 Mark II too. Additionally, in extreme low light environment, the E-M1 Mark II now is able to perform AF effectively down to -6EV light levels, with the use of F1.2 PRO lenses. I also notice improvements of focusing in low light using F1.8 prime lenses.

Since we are on the topic of AF, one minor change that I did not like happening, was the relocation of S-AF + MF option to the menu. Previously, S-AF + MF can be activated via the super control panel. Unfortunately, now you need to dive deep into the labyrinth menu to get it turned on. Also, there is no customizable shortcut for this important feature. This was not an issue for E-M1X, because I can rearrange the entire menu in "My Menu" setup. Now when I do heavy macro shooting, switching the S-AF + MF on and off will be problematic.

2) HIGH ISO IMPROVEMENT 1/3 EV STEPS IN JPEG SHOOTING
Olympus claims about 1/3 EV Steps improvement when shooting high ISO with the new Firmware 3.0. This is only applicable for JPEG files, so if you are a JPEG shooter or do rely on straight out of camera JPEGs for quick delivery, the minor bump in high ISO shooting is surely a benefit. I can't say that 1/3EV improvement makes a significant difference, but I also must acknowledge that E-M1 Mark II was released in 2016, and in 2019, any new refresh or enhancement is definitely a welcome.

3) ISO L64 AND L100 FOR DETAIL PROCESSING PRIORITY
Instead of just the mysterious ISO LOW, now the new Firmware 3.0 has low ISO expansion to two settings - ISO L64 abd L100. Olympus also mentioned that when these settings are engaged, the camera will prioritize processing more optimized detail capture for the image. I personally will still stay with ISO200 most of the time, as ISO200 is the true native base ISO for E-M1 Mark II, hence granting me the best dynamic range. To me, better dynamic range is more crucial than additional details or sharpness. I have shot extensively over the years with ISO200 and was already very happy with what the E-M1 Mark II can deliver.



4) NEW USB RAW DATA EDIT USING OLYMPUS WORKSPACE
Olympus introduced USB RAW Data Edit in both E-M1X and E-M1 Mark II in latest firmware updates, allowing faster RAW processing using Olympus Workspace. . The raw processing utilizes the Truepic 8 engine inside the camera for faster operation, having the camera connected via USB cable to the PC while running Olympus Workspace.. I personally have not tested this, as the new Olympus Workspace was not available yet at the time of this writing.

5) OM-LOG400 PROFILE ADDED FOR VIDEO RECORDING
For those doing heavy video shooting, the new OM-LOG400 profile as found in E-M1X is now available for E-M1 Mark II. This profile is surely more advantageous when it comes to maximizing dynamic range captured in the video file, as well as offering better flexibility for post-production video work. I am no video expert, I rarely do any video-centric work, so I shall not add any further comments.

6) NO CAMERA FREEZE DURING "BUSY WRITING TO SD CARD"
Previously, the camera locks up or freezes after long burst sequential shooting, allowing the camera to clear the buffer. While the camera is writing to the card, shooting can still be resumed as long as the buffer is not full, but the previous firmware disallow any changes to camera settings or adjustments. The new Firmware 3.0 allows changes of any settings in the camera while the it is busy writing to the card, as well as previewing previously recorded images.

7) OTHER FEATURES AND IMPROVEMENTS IN FIRMWARE 3.0
- Anti-flicker shooting added
- Frame rate priority for Live View Boost On2
- From 3 to 15 shots can be selected in Focus Stacking and guide lines have been added to the shooting area
- Quick image selection added
- Instant Film added to Art Filter

Here are some samples taken with the new Art Filter, INSTANT FILM





I applaud Olympus for providing such a significant update for E-M1 Mark II. After all, this camera has been around since 2016, with the updated and reworked camera features, the new Firmware 3.0 brings E-M1 Mark II closer to E-M1X especially when it comes to AF improvement, which to me is a critical upgrade. This will directly affect the camera performance across all shooting scenarios.

What are our thoughts on the new Firmware 3.0 for E-M1 Mark II? What other features would you like to have added into the coming Firmware 4.0, if Olympus plans to make it happen down the road? I want to hear from you!

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is available from B&H

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REPOST - My Street Photography Flow Chart

Originally published on 25 October 2015.

So, I thought it would be cool to produce a workflow chart to show my street shooting processes. The chart is quite self-explanatory.

MY STREET SHOOTING WORKFLOW 

If you want to read in full detail about 'How I Approach my Street Portraits" please read the lengthy blog entry I have written here (click) 

Everyone Needs A Little Bit Of Hipster Food Sometimes

I am not exactly a big fan of overpriced cafe food, since Malaysia has abundance of amazing and delicious local and much lower priced food available everywhere. We have so many choices sometimes we just don't know what to choose, and the most commonly asked question, possibly in Malaysia is "what are we doing to eat?" when we are out and about with friends or family. However, I must admit that the trendy, overpriced, hipster restaurants do get more and more popularity, and I am one of the customers drawn to them. Not so much of me liking the food or supporting the trend, but hey, sometimes you just want something a little bit more fancy and have an excuse to splurge.



The images were shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO lens.

I particularly love food that is colorful and has a lot of texture. I guess, the plus side of eating this bowl of hipster something something, it is healthy-ish.


Sometimes Stop Moving Can Be A Good Thing

When I am shooting on the street, I am constantly on the move. This is probably due to the idea that not staying in one spot for too long will make you less of a target to bag-snatching thieves or daylight robbery, which can happen in Kuala Lumpur streets from time to time. When I am out and about shooting on my own, which I do quite frequently when I need to get some serious shots done, I consciously move all the time. However, I have also learned that slowing down the pace and taking some time to really look at how certain scenes change can benefit the outcome of photographs shown in a series.




Images were shot on Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens

On one fine evening, I was walking along Bukit Bintang streets with a group of friends. Since we have the number, we were less afraid about being mugged or jumped at unexpectedly. Safety in numbers and all. We decided to make a pit stop at one corner after a long walk to take a short breather and everyone started chatting away. In the midst of the dramatic conversation about bokeh, Fujifilm, Ricoh GR3 and street photography, I noticed the light in the sky changing and I thought to myself, wow, what a splendid sunset it was. I took several photographs within a span of 15 minutes. I would have waited till it was completely dark, but everyone got too hungry and we decided to call it a day and went to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

I Will Be Conducting a Photography Workshop with OBSCURA Festival of Photography in July 2019

I am super thrilled to share this news with all you beautiful people, I have been invited by OBSCURA Festival of Photography to conduct an official workshop! This workshop will take place in the beautiful island of Penang, Malaysia on the weekend of 27-28 July 2019. Yes, it is a 2-day intensive workshop covering many topics from conceptual planning, theme selection to actual sharing of shooting techniques and execution on the street and final review and editing process. We will roam the streets of beautiful Georgetown, Penang together with our cameras and we will do shutter therapy to our hearts' content! Then we will come back with the photos, edit them and share them in a comment and critique session so we all can learn and grow together.



Details of the workshop here:

CULTURAL AWARENESS & PLACE MAPPING : STREET PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP with ROBIN WONG

Date: 27 to 28 July 2019 
Full timetable to be announced soon
Location: Georgetown, Penang

Fees: RM400/USD100
Available slots: Limited to only 15 slots, so hurry up and register!

Official OBSCURA Festival Workshop Page (CLICK) for registration


How is this workshop different from my other photowalks, outings and events I have conducted previously, either for Olympus or on my own? While most of my events were mostly completed within 3-4 hours within a session, the OBSCURA Festival's coming workshop will be a lot more intensive, covering more ground. We will have a lot more open discussion, and not only we get to shoot together, but we will come back together and look at each other's photos and share our comments. I will be more hands-on in guiding from conceptualizing thought process and workflow of street photography to the actual demonstration on some advanced composition as well as shooting technique execution. Basically, you get a lot out of me from this workshop, and yes we will get to drink lots of coffee together too. 

Who is this workshop for? Basically anyone interested in street photography and want to take it to the next level. Learning together in a class, during the prestigious OBSCURA Festival can not be more inspiring! It will be fun having shutter therapy together with you in the awesome city of Penang. 

Do sign up early before the slots run out! See you in Penang.