Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II - Best Value Olympus Camera

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Side Note: No I don't have the newly launched E-P7 and 8-25mm lens. I was not informed about the launch and found out the same time as everyone else.

It has been 5 years since I reviewed the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and today I still actively shoot with the camera. I personally believe that it is the best value Olympus camera out there at the moment, and arguably the best value Micro Four Thirds camera for professional use. You may choose to disagree of course. I have been shooting professionally with E-M1 Mark II as my main workhorse since 2017, the year I left Olympus Malaysia and became a full time photographer, and I have also shot countless personal shutter therapy sessions with my E-M1 Mark II. I want to share my thoughts on why I think E-M1 Mark II is still a great recommendation for anyone who wants to get into Micro Four Thirds system, or those who want to upgrade to something more serious from entry level camera systems. 

Of course I have also made a video discussing the exact same topic, you can find the video here (click). 

E-M1 Mark II is fully weather-sealed. The splash-proof is important for me, as I do shoot in rain. 

Best served with a cup of overpriced coffee

IMAGE QUALITY
E-M1 Mark II shares the exact same image sensor as E-M1X and E-M1 Mark III. While E-M1 Mark II was launched 5 years ago, it still produces the exact same image quality as the latest flagship cameras from Olympus. The same image sensor renders the exact similar 20MP resolution, high ISO performance, dynamic range capability and color reproduction. You do not gain anything more or get better image quality even if you get the latest and greatest from Olympus - this fact places the E-M1 Mark II from 2016 in a very interesting position, you can still achieve the best possible image quality Olympus has to offer without upgrading to their latest offerings. 

E-M1 Mark II's image quality is more than good enough for me and what I do. I understand many photographers would spend more money to get the best of the best, and you don't have to justify how you spend your money. I do wedding photography, portraits, event coverage and lifestyle products, all do not require crazy high megapixel count, in fact 20MP is more than sufficient for all that I do. I have never encountered a situation where dynamic range was not enough, or shooting in too dark of a situation where high ISO is a problem. I use PRO lenses, as well as F1.8/F1.2 lenses which allow me to gather more light and shoot better in darker environment. I also do flash photography, and will bring in extra lights if needed. I have done exhibitions (printed images as tall as 6feet), published my work in local magazines and believe me, you can do plenty with that E-M1 Mark II if you know what you are doing. My clients have been happy with my deliveries over the years (if not why did they keep coming back?). That's all that matters - the camera gets the job done effectively. 

HANDLING
Image quality is not everything. An important factor to consider is camera handling. To me, handling either makes or breaks the camera, and a lot of photographers don't talk about this in their reviews. No matter how amazing your camera is, shooting 10,000MP, ISO2billion and has 55 stops EV dynamic range, if it can't fit your hands well, and you don't feel comfortable using the camera for longer shooting duration, you won't enjoy using the camera, and you won't be able to work with it effectively. 

This may be subjective, but I personally believe E-M1 Mark II has the best handling of all cameras today. I have tried as many cameras as I can from all camps. Obviously I have not tried everything, but I do have access to most cameras from the connections of photography friends in my network, which is not small by the way. The beefy grip fits my fingers perfectly, there is a thumb-resting area and the camera just feels right and comfortable in hand. Yet the camera is still quite small in size, striking the right balance of not being too small and light, in case you need to handle larger lenses, eg the longer telephoto PRO lenses. I cannot say the same for 99% of other cameras out there in the market, there is just something wrong or off in most ergonomics or designs, even from some of the highly regarded cameras out there from other camps. I acknowledge that we may have different hand shapes, sizes, finger lengths, etc but to me, E-M1 Mark II suits me the best. 

Fits my hands perfectly. Best used with PRO lenses. 

The design does scream serious business. OM-D flagships do have the PRO look, which is important to me as a professional working photographer. 

If coffee is not available, hot chocolate will do too. 

5-AXIS IMAGE STABILIZATION
When my ex-colleague told me that he could hand-hold the E-M1 Mark II (not launched at that time) down to about 5 seconds shutter speed, and get away with sharp images, I did not believe him. I was still working for Olympus when the E-M1 Mark II was released, that was the last product launched by the company before I left. Then when I finally tried the camera myself and actually could stabilize my shots using just hands down to 5 seconds, it blew my mind! What trickery was this? 

I am not saying that you can shoot all your shots at crazy shutter speeds. That's not what I am trying to imply. The 5-Axis Image Stabilization helps significantly in boosting your confidence in getting blur-free images. It mitigates most hand-shakes when shooting the camera without tripod, and it is super effective. You can shoot at 1/10 second, half a second shutter speeds, which are traditionally dangerous and will get you soft images, without having to think twice now thanks to the 5-Axis IS. That opens up a whole world of shooting possibilities, that you may not have to use tripods or monopods in a lot of situations that you normally do. You do not have to constantly worry if you will blur your shots accidentally, your camera will take care of that, and you just focus on getting the right composition, lighting and moment! Less problems to worry about, thanks to the 5-Axis IS. 

E-M1 Mark III and E-M1X have made even more improvements when it comes to 5-Axis IS, but I found that the E-M1 Mark II is already so good, it made a huge difference in my photography. E-M1 Mark II's 5-Axis IS is significantly better than the older E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II by miles. If you have used these cameras you will agree with me that the improvement is quite noticeable and made a huge difference in real life shooting. 

RELIABILITY
The last important point I want to talk about, having used the E-M1 Mark II for 5 years now is reliability. Some would argue that this is actually the most important point to talk about. I would not disagree. 

There is a difference between a working, professional photographer that earns a living from his shoots, versus an enthusiast or hobbyist shooting just for fun. When you are on a job, you don't want your camera to fail. There will be dire consequences. Of course we carry backups to our cameras, and also backups to our backups just in case. The reliability of our equipment - how rugged, the build quality, shooting in harsh conditions, how far we can push the equipment, all this matter more if you are getting paid to shoot. The last thing you want to think and worry about is having your camera or lens fail in the middle of the shoot. 

The E-M1 Mark II is built like a tank, the body is made of magnesium alloy. I need to move fast and I cannot think too much about cameras bumping into another person or a table along the way. I need a solidly constructed camera body to do my job, not something fragile that I have to babysit all the time. It should be able to survive dents, knocks and even mild falls with not much to worry about. 

The full weather-sealing has saved me multiple times over. I have had several jobs outdoor, shooting events (product launch, building openings, sports/family day for companies) where it suddenly rained. I cannot just go to my clients and say "oh sorry, it is raining, I have to stop shooting because my camera cannot survive the rain". Thankfully my E-M1 Mark II (my backups E-M1 bodies) is weather-sealed and can handle the rain, also I have PRO lenses which were all weather sealed as well. Rain or shine the shoot must go on. 

I cannot say the same about cameras from other brands. I have seen flagships from other camera camps fail in the rain, while I was still clicking away with my E-M1 Mark II (and before that, E-M1). The level of weather-sealing Olympus implemented in their OM-D system and PRO lenses is of another level!

Do you have E-M1 Mark II yourself? Share your experience!

E-M1 Mark II is so small, yet it takes big pictures!

Looking at the asking price of E-M1 Mark II now, it is about half of the retail price when it was launched. Yet the E-M1 Mark II delivers the same image output as the latest and greatest flagships from Olympus, offers great handling, solid build, reliability and powerful image stabilization. E-M1 Mark II has never failed me over the past 5 years and have delivered fantastic results over and over again. It is an easy recommendation to any one who looks to upgrade to a better camera body but not necessarily want to splurge on the most expensive newest camera. You can't go wrong with E-M1 Mark II. 

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11 comments:

  1. I completely agree. I got a used E-M1 MkII last year and I believe it is the most comfortable camera I've ever held. It fits my hand perfectly and my fingers just fall right on the controls. Ive had Panasonics, Fujis, Canons and Sonys (the last two were full frame). This one just makes me want to hold it. (the Sony was the worst at that). And as to capabilities, it is excellent.

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    1. And when I say that people say I am biased, an Olympus fanatic, and I hate full frame cameras. Go figure.

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  2. Yes, the best MFT deal at the moment!
    https://photodanielm.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-pro-ergonomik-camera-olympus-om-d-e.html
    Best regards, Daniel M

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  3. Quite a lot of praise Robin.
    I believe you.

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  4. I bought and soon sold the original E-M1, having been slightly disappointed with its single point autofocus reliability when used in conjunction with my much loved Four Thirds lenses. And as you say, how a camera actually feels in the hand is very important and in this respect it also came as something of a shock to me how small the camera was in relation to the generally more hefty lenses of the former system. I can see from your description and the above photos however that the grip on version ii is a marked improvement and my understanding is that the autofocus is also much improved. With this in mind, I may yet buy a copy of the camera while stocks last, in order to see my 50mm f/2 macro and 11-22mm f/2.8-3.5 on a newer sensor. I doubt whether I'll bond with it quite as well as my E-3, but the features are impressive and your own excellent imagery proves time after time that Olympus cameras can deliver beautiful results. Thank you for your reassuring review and my best wishes to you at this incredibly difficult time.

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    1. Well, why not give it a try? mount those lenses and see the AF performance on E-M1 Mark II. I am sure a lot of people do have the camera, or you can go to a local camera store and try it and see if the AF performance is good enough for your lenses.

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  5. When it's hot and you shoot macro of insects and plants you have to lie down get up, kneel, squat and clamber over fences etc. there is no better camera than a micro 4/3rds because it is so light and manouveurable. The EM1 Mk2 is a pleasure to hold and it has every feature you could want as a macro photographer. The 60mm macro is a great lens though one could do with a bit more reach to avoid scaring the more 'flighty' of subjects. With the right extension rings and a teleconverter you can have the best of all worlds. I will not be buying another camera until something as small and neat as the EM1 Mk2 arrives but with a global shutter. Top camera for active macro shooting and now fantastic value for money!

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    1. Not sure how close we are to getting global shutter though! Suddenly the hype and noise about possibility of global shutter is gone.

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  6. Is my favourite camera too. An, EPL-1, EM5, EM1, EM1 mk ii, and an EM5 mk iii… full frame snd medium format as well…

    It’s the EM1 mk ii that is always my go to camera.

    I only use the 5 when I have to carry it for a week walking in the bush.

    Agree Robin… smiles

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