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 (WATCH HERE). 

Here is the list of improvements in the new Firmware 3.0

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

- 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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  1. Thanks for the detailed look at the new firmware, I ran out to my car and grabbed my bag as soon as I saw your article!

    I've had pretty poor hit rate with my E-M1 Mark II and the Panny 100-400 zoom lens, I wonder if I'll see better performance now? I won't know until tomorrow since that lens is currently "benched" due to frustrations.

    1. I have not used the 100-400mm lens, and I cannot comment on that. Maybe the AF performance is lens dependent? That is a possibility.

  2. Features that i would like to see in 4.0:
    * Wifi Tethering
    * Face/Eye detection assigned to customized buttons (one click on/off)
    * Insert black frame (empty photo) or start new folder by single button click (I shoot a lot of panoramas/panographs/stocks - it could help distinguish when one burst ends and new starts)
    * "My menu" can be useful, it seems to be a standard feature in other camera brands

    1. I think wifi-tethering might not be possible. This is very hardware dependent.
      I don't trust the face eye detection thing tho!
      I also want My menu.. but it seems like it may not be possible to implement. Else we are getting it by now.

  3. My menu on Em1X is great, would like to see this. Had a G9 for a while and liked when you viewed images you could go back and fourth from EVF to rear screen without loosing image. Would like to be able to zoom in playback and change image while zoomed. One think I've shared with multiple Olympus reps and support folks: With viewing images and you go to calendar view; be able to delete images on a specific date.
    This 3.0 update AF does appear to be better.

    1. Deleting images from specific date is a great function! I hope Olympus listens

    2. You can change image while zoomed in playback by turning the front knob.

  4. Thanks for this review, Robin. Well, you scared me a bit saying that AF+MF has disappeared from the SCP. In fact, in A1 you can configure whether AF should be pure AF or AF+MF. Which is fine for me, because I usually don't switch between these two but only use AF+MF when I want auto focus. Phew!

    I'm curious if you plan to do a MC-20 review? Please consider - you gear reviews are unsurpassed :)

    Greetings from Germany

    1. I am getting the MC-20 some time next week, so the review will come, but do give me some time to shoot and put everything together!

    2. I'll be excited to see that review as well... I am considering buying it eventually for my 300mm pro lens...


  6. Instant film looks awesome !!!!!!can u show some portraits with the new filter

    1. Maybe I should do a blog article about the new Art Filter. Thanks for showing interest.

  7. S-AF+MF is still directly accessible. It just has to be activated in the main menu (checkbox).

    1. Hah, no worries! Yah the relocation was what I meant.

    2. Hi SAF +MF came up automatically when i put my 40-150 f2.8 lens on. I didnt have to search. Infact I couldnt change it to SAF only.
      Apart from that AF so much faster. I just dont need BBF anymore. Really pleased with the upgrade

  8. The new firmware has lots of improvements, but there are still problems. I am also using cameras like Panasonic GH4, GH5s and I am comparing them. These are some of the missing things and problems in Olympus M1 Mark II and also M1X

    1) Maximum Auto ISO is limited to 6400. Panasonic cameras go to 25600.
    2) When IS is disabled due to accidentally pushing the IS button on the lens, it is difficult to notice on the screen of M1 Mark II and M1X. The camera doesn't show any notification on the screen when IS is disabled. Panasonic cameras show a big red IS disabled warning so it is easy to notice and fix.
    3) It is not possible to use the camera for a long time in a hot environment. The camera is closing itself. In the same hot environment a Panasonic GH4 camera continued working without any problems. Therefore I threw M1 Mark II back to my bag and did the photo session with Panasonic GH4.
    4) Olympus share app is slow to access the photos in the camera. Scrolling is very slow in the app.
    5) Although there is some improvement with this firmware, continuous AF under very low light is still much worse than a good SLR. M1 Mark II could not acquire focus in very low light situations where an SLR acquired focus.
    6) I could not find a way to enter the main menu when the shutter is in the bulb mode.
    7) The live view looks too soft on the screen, which makes it difficult to find out if the focus is correct or not. The screen of Panasonic cameras is sharper, so it is easier to identify out of focus blurry areas on the screen.
    8) The mode dial has a slow response. It takes time to set the new mode after turning the dial.
    9) In the index display mode (thumbnails) of the photo playback menu, there is no slider menu. It takes a long time move to a photo if there are thousands of photos between the requested photo and the currently displayed photo. Panasonic cameras have a touch slider menu in the playback menu, so it is easy to skip thousand of photos with a single touch to the slider.
    10) Panasonic cameras show a "focus mode lever" for MF Assist on screen. However, M1 Mark II and M1X don't show a lever on the screen. When working in darkness at night with Panasonic cameras it is possible to follow the MF distance by looking at the lever on the screen while changing the MF distance. In Olympus cameras, it is necessary to look at the markings on the lens that is very difficult to see when working in a dark environment.
    11) On page 46, the manual of M1 Mark II says "When you are using Sequential Low or Pro Capture Low, live view is displayed. When you are using Sequential High or Pro Capture High, the image shot immediately before is displayed". I would like to have an option to display "the image shot immediately before" when also using Sequential Low or Pro Capture Low. It is very useful for Flash photography, because the photo taken with flash is very different from what you see on live view, so it allows you to see the effect of flash in real time during a long sequential shot with flash. Panasonic GH4 has this functionality as it shows the "the image shot immediately before" in the sequential low mode.

    There are also some hardware related problems that I would like be fixed in the successor models:
    1) The tripod hole under the camera is not at the center of the base. It is too close to the edge. Therefore, the camera is not so stable unless the tripod plate is big enough to cover the bottom of camera grip.
    2) The screen quality like color display, black level is worse than Panasonic cameras. Even old Panasonic models like GH4 have better screen.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, it is very thorough and well written. however I cannot say that I agree with all that you have written as I do have considerable amount of shooting experience shooting with GH4 and G9.

      1) Auto ISO6400.
      You can easily set the limit in E-M1 Mark II, or any other Olympus cameras to whatever limit you desire, even up to 25600. I am not sure why you could not do this. I have been able to do this for every single Olympus cameras I have used.

      2) I agree with you on this one. Olympus should have a warning notification when IS is off.

      3) Where are you located at? I am in Malaysia, it gets to 40 degrees in day time, I have shot in this weather and my E-M1 Mark II (or any other older Olympus cameras) never failed me. Not saying it won't happen, as overheating is a problem for many cameras (Sony is notorious for this) but I have not experienced it on mine, and I can tell Malaysia is not a cool place!

      4) I agree with you. But then again Panasonic App is so unuser friendly, I stopped using it altogether. Not diverting your point, but yes, I want Olympus to improve their wifi and OI Share too.

      5) I don't use C-AF, i use S-AF. So I won't comment on this. S-AF between E-M1 Mark II vs GH5, G9 under low light conditions, E-M1 Mark II wins for me. This can be different depending on your shooting style and techniques. Now with the updated firmware 3, the S-AF got even better

      6) There is a way. I don't have the camera at the time of writing. I went in and out of the menu easily.

      7) I fully disagree with you on this. I have used Olympus screen for my macro shooting, which I do manual focus from time to time. Critical focus is extremely crucial in macro, a miss of 1-2mm means you have entirely out of focus insects. Yet I can nail my focus easily on Olympus screen. I have used Panasonic screens too, no issue here.

      8) WHAT??? really??? Every turn of dials, or buttons on my E-M1 Mark II feels totally instantaneous! Even the lower level cameras such as E-M10 and E-PL9, everything reacts immediately. Something must not be right with your camera? This is definitely not what I experience with the E-M1 Mark II.

      9) I don't have an issue with this, but your concern/feedback is valid. Not going to comment further.

      10) I just focus till my image is clear. Which is quite easily done if you have used the lens enough. Not sure how difficult it can be! But if that lever is that important, I guess it makes a difference for you. I don't see a necessity to request this from Olympus, as there are a lot other more important features/improvements.

      11) Fair and valid request. I don't need this for my own shooting, but I guess it does make a difference for flash users.

      Now, onto your comment on screen color display, black level being worse than Panasonic. I again, have to respectfully disagree with you. To me, at least to my eyes, the color accuracy on Olympus screen is second to none. I have always complained about Panasonic cameras (especially the G9, my most recently used Panasonic camera) that it was difficult for me to tell the color as it is so different from what I actually shot. Heck comparing the screen captured image to real life scene shows a huge enough difference it was jarring.
      GH4/G9 has higher resolution, better "black" displays, yes, but the color accuracy is so badly off, those resolution and black advantage were useless honestly. I'd take slightly lower resolution, with accurate representation of what I see with my eyes being shown on my live view, and my photos reviewed on that screen being as true as possible.

      We obviously have different opinions, but dont worry about it. Some of your suggestions are very valid, and I accept them. But hey we are all different photographers, we have different priorities and preferences. Some things work better here and there, that's why we have choices.

    2. Robin, thanks for the detailed response.

  9. Thanks for a nice review. Further improvement in both af and high-iso «capasity» will always be «needed». Still it is two very importent things that I reslly wish:
    1. Improving the multi-exposure to be up to 9-10/frame
    2. To be able to connect a trigger (third-part) to it, without empty the batteries. It should be able to get in «sleep»-mode when it is not triggered, and wake-up and shoot when trigged.

  10. I would love to see improved shutter count, the E M1X is 400,000 If there is an omd em1 III I'd love a higher shutter count... with the idea of high res photos and shooting multipal shoots for birds, and sports ect. that shutter count matters... at least to me :)

  11. High res is electronic shutter - which is unlimited

  12. Hey, nice reviews and videos, Many thanks for that.

    In reply to Duncan's ISO value issue: the auto ISO does not go further than 6400. This max value cannot be increased. You can however choose a much higher value as stated in the reply.

    The issue that I have is with th C-AF in low light conditions. I have noticed that S-AF works like a charm in even very low light where C-AF simply failes, regardless of the mode i pick in AF Scanner or C-AF sensitivity (both in menu A1).

    Do I miss something?