Surprise, or not really a surprise to many, I have just purchased the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II! Which colour you asked? This time, a SILVER one.
Yes, I know this is a direct contradiction to my previous blog entry about not upgrading your gear. Please hear me out first.
My trusty workhorse, the now aging OM-D E-M5 (original, first version) is dying. If you know me well and have seen the way I use my gear, you would actually be amazed that how the E-M5 has taken the torture, beating and excessive use over the years, and still survived. In case you did not know, I did not buy the E-M5 new, when I got it two years ago, it was a used unit, which also contributed to the shortened life. I cannot say that the camera can survive a full rigorous photography assignment, and that lack of confidence drove me to the option of purchasing a new camera.
That is the point: I do take in photography jobs from time to time (so that I can eat some fancy food and buy that new lens) and I need to replace the dying camera. Instead of spending money for repair and service, I thought it is time to put the battle-scarred E-M5 to rest, and invest in a new camera. I was deciding between the E-M1 and E-M10 Mark II and went with the cheaper version: I do not need weather sealing for my photography shooting, and the E-M10 Mark II proved to be more than sufficient for my photography needs after many rounds of using it in my review sessions as well as casual shooting with it. With all the latest Olympus specific features, 5-Axis Image Stabilization, large Electronic Viewfinder, super fast AF, and very, very low entry price point, it is difficult for me to look elsewhere. Also, this may not be something entirely unpredictable, I have sold off the Fujifilm X100 which I did come to love, but I cannot justify keeping too many cameras.
My current gear list?
Main camera: The new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Silver
Secondary Camera: The suspected stolen Olympus PEN E-P5 Silver (no one claimed from me, so I am keeping it)
Lenses: M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens (I use this mainly for 2 purposes, the 12mm wide angle, as well as the special macro mode), 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8.
Flash: Olympus FL-50R and FL-36R
What was the first thing I did with the new E-M10 Mark II? I brought it along with all the above gear list to a wedding shoot.
Photographs are shown with permission from Yew Hoong and Chia Ching, the newly weds. Take note that the following photos are preliminary edits.
Since I shot weddings mostly with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 over the years I shall do a quick comparison between the old E-M5 and the new E-M10 Mark II. I understand that there really is no point in doing so practically, since the E-M10 mark II is released 3 years later than the E-M5. Nonetheless, I do think the improvements are significant, and the information I am sharing here may be useful to some readers who are considering to make the jump from the older E-M5 to either the new E-M5 Mark II or the E-M10 Mark II.
1) Improved Autofocus
The first and most important improvement using the new E-M10 Mark II, is the much improved autofocus system. The E-M5 was by no means slow, it was superbly fast and reliable and I have shot many wedding assignments and other photography jobs with it, with high hit rate. The AF was improved firstly in E-M1, which was a jump up from the E-M5, offering 81 focusing points instead of 35, and the AF response was generally faster. This same improved AF speed and reliability is built into the E-M10 Mark II. Focusing was almost always instantaneous, and rarely do I have a miss-focused shot. You have no idea how crucial AF is for a wedding shoot, everything is always, always moving and nothing stays static for too long. Having a camera system that quickly responds to the half-press of the shutter button to acquire focus made the job so much easier: I do not have to worry about focusing at all and just focus on capturing moments.
2) Better JPEG Engine: Truepic 7 vs Truepic 6
My image processing workflow depends largely on the default image processing engine of the camera. For wedding shoots in Malaysia, the photographers are usually required to do a Same Day Edit photo slideshow of images taken during the morning wedding ceremony to be presented during the dinner reception. Typically the photographers will only have a few hours to complete the slideshow of a few hundred photographs. There really is no time to sit down and process images one by one, and the out of camera output is extremely crucial here. I shot JPEG + RAW and used the JPEG for the slideshow. E-M10 Mark II JPEG files are so much easier to work with, having more optimized output in comparison with the older JPEG files from the E-M5. The new image processing engine, similarly found in E-M5 Mark II and E-M1, is noticeably superior, rendering the signature true to life Olympus colors, optimized sharpness and incredible dynamic range (you can see many scenes with direct, harsh morning sunlight). Very little needs to be done to the photos before I throw them into the slideshow, just some minor cropping, levelling and perhaps brightness/contrast adjustments. The images you are seeing here in this blog entry? Mostly almost straight out of camera.
3) Overall Better Handling
Ergonomics and handling on the E-M5 was good, though I do admit that using it for longer hours, I did wish that it has a beefier grip like the E-M1. I did not purchase the HLD-6 battery grip, but I had a third party add on grip instead. Strangely, I would expect similar experience with the E-M10 Mark II since the camera is smaller and lighter than the E-M5. That was not the case. I found shooting with the E-M10 Mark II to be more comfortable and easier to handle than the E-M5. Besides the E-M1, I think the E-M10 Mark II has got the best ergonomics for all Olympus cameras. The hand-holding felt just right in hand (enhanced with the ECG-3 hand grip of course), Furthermore, I especially like the more rugged, raised dual control dials (front and back), which was positioned at exactly where the fingers could reach quickly. The rough texture on the dial was an improvement over the smoother finish from the E-M5. Clearly a lot of thought was put into designing the camera, based on feedback from users using the E-M5 and E-M10 (first version).
4) Larger, Higher Resolution Electronic Viewfinder
I have my list of complains in the E-M5's EVF, and the main one being the different color profile, not consistent with the OLED display at the back of the camera panel. While this problem was fixed in the E-M1 (both EVF and camera monitor panel were LCD), the E-M10 Mark II has OLED EVF. I still think the best EVF for Olympus is in the E-M1, but the new EVF in E-M10 Mark II is a big step up from the E-M5. The high resolution and high refresh rate rendered very smooth looking view, with no lag. While the color can still be improved (you can read my original complain in my E-M10 Mark II review), the higher resolution was a big welcome.
Micro Four Thirds System vs DSLR: A Game of False Perception
I think the biggest concern when shooting wedding with a Micro Four thirds system in Malaysia, is the kind of look and judgemental comments from the clients or their guests about small and "less-serious" looking cameras. It has been built into the mentality of the locals here that bigger camera is better, and DSLR is the work camera for anything professional and serious. Often, those who use smaller camera formats such as Micro Four Thirds will be looked down, and their photography skills in question.
Thankfully, I have never encountered such situation yet. Most of my clients come to me from two sources: either through recommendation of family and friends, or through direct correspondence via this blog. Those seeking me through this blog are mostly familiar with my work and my shooting style, and have hired me for that. They know well what kind of photographs they will be receiving and no doubt, having thousands of blog entries in this blog helped assured that. In my many jobs I have shot, I was never questioned, and clients have been happy and satisfied.
The way I see it, the Olympus OM-D system is more than capable for shooting weddings. Too many wedding photographers have been too comfortable with the DSLR system, and being in the comfort zone, it was easy to just continue using something so familiar. There is absolutely nothing wrong in that, and there is no need for a change if you do not see a need to. I have known several respectable, highly successful wedding photographers in Malaysia who still use a 5 years old DSLR and produce incredible, beautiful photographs.
The problem lies with the game of perception: how do you convince your clients that you are good enough, and that your gear does not define you? There is no easy answer to that. For me, I have sufficient body of work to show, and my own unique style of shooting, which is rare these days considering many, many wedding photographers are following the trend of "overcooking" their photographs. I show my wedding photos as naturally as possible, results looking true to life, and that is my strongest selling point.
I was sure glad the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II made it into my collection of gear. The wedding shoot was a success, the slideshow shown during the wedding reception was a hit, and I am receiving thumbs up from the newly weds! Yes, the camera performed well, and shooting with it was an improved experience from my older E-M5.
I think the question of which camera to upgrade from E-M5 was a simple one to answer: choosing between E-M5 Mark II and E-M10 Mark II (simplifying choices by the two latest Olympus camera OM-D bodies), the deciding factor comes down to weather-sealing. To some photographers, this is a must have feature due to the nature of their work and photography shoots, then the answer is obvious: E-M5 Mark II. If you are like me, afraid of the rain and not really an adventurous kind of guy, just staying within the boundaries of the concrete jungle most of the time, why spend more money for weather sealing? Save it up and fund for that next lens purchase!
To Yew Hoong and Chia Ching, congratulations! We shall be catching up soon.