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Olympus gives new love to E-M1, E-M5 II cameras via firmware updates

In November, Olympus will release new firmware updates for the O-MD E-M1 and O-MD E-M5 Mark II cameras. The updates add new shooting modes, some that were recently introduced in the new O-MD E-M10 Mark II. In addition, Olympus will update the OI Share mobile app and Olympus Capture software for tethering a camera to a computer.

The E-M1 update (version 4.0) adds focus stacking mode, focus bracketing mode, advanced focus peaking, silent mode, improved anti-shock mode, simulated optical viewfinder (S-OVF), 4K time-lapse movie capture, enhanced movie functions, Slate Tone, synchronized PCM audio and video movie recording, MF clutch disabling, and Menu Cursor Position Memory. Olympus says the firmware updates add more functionality and usefulness in its flagship camera without having to release a brand-new model.

Related: Olympus gives entry-level OM-D E-M10 mirrorless camera big upgrades

Focus stacking and focus bracketing are two highlight features that help capture the clearest image possible. Focus stacking, a feature found only in the E-M1 after update, shoots up to eight images in RAW or JPEG. In addition to the images stored on the card, the camera creates one composite JPEG that you can use immediately, without post-editing. Ideal for macro photography, Olympus says the mode lets you achieve greater depth of field at small apertures while keeping more of an object in focus, without diffraction.

Focus bracketing, introduced in the E-M10 II, can shoot up to 999 shots (depending on the lens). With one press of the shutter button, the camera can shoot multiple frames, each with different focus depths. This is useful for macro photography, and photos can be merged in post-editing software to create a photo with large depth of field while using wide apertures. Depending on the lens attached, the camera knows how far to tell the lens to travel (focus). The feature requires a tripod to be effective.

Another E-M10 II feature is the S-OVF, which turns off exposure compensation and white balance to simulate what the naked eye would see. Basically, the electronic viewfinder is pretending to be an optical one. However, Olympus says this has no effect on the actual image quality.

With advanced focus peaking (already available in the E-M5 II) users can adjust the intensity and color of the focus. “Additionally, new 4K Time Lapse Movie captures up to 999 images automatically and combines them in-camera into a stunning 4K file,” Olympus says — also introduced in the E-M10 II.

“Menu Cursor Position Memory further enhances customization by automatically returning to the last menu setting used, meaning less time navigating menus and more time is spent capturing moments,” Olympus says. “Anti-Shock Mode is now easier than ever and automatically switches to the mechanical shutter at speeds 1/320 and faster. And when users are shooting in quiet situations, Silent Mode eliminates all camera sounds for completely silent shooting, perfect for a piano recital or wedding ceremony with shutter speeds up to an amazing 1/16,000th of a second.”

For shooting video, the update lets you pair an Olympus LS-100 PCM audio recorder with the E-M1. A Slate Tone, which marks where the audio and video match up, can be added for easier post-editing syncing. “Users can further optimize their 1080p Full HD Video with additional features, including Movie Image Stabilization with five-axis optical IS and digital IS, 24p/25p frame rate, movie record start with a release cable, support for time code setting and, finally, a movie info display that shows histogram, level gauge, audio level, and time code,” among other features, Olympus says.

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The E-M5 Mark II firmware update (version 2.0) adds some of the aforementioned features. These include focus bracketing S-OVF, 4K time-lapse movie, Slate Tone, synchronized PCM audio and video recording, MF Clutch Disable. There’s also a “Movie-Exclusive Picture Mode Flat that provides for post-production color grading by lowering the contrast to minimize blown-out highlights and loss of detail in shadows.”

OM-D E-M5 Mark II Titanium

OM-D E-M5 Mark II Titanium

For studio photography, the Olympus Capture software (version 1.1) now has an improved, customizable user interface that allows for a smoother, faster workflow. Transfer speeds to a computer (over USB) is four times faster than saving to an SD card. “Features like Keystone Compensation can be utilized from a computer as well by simply connecting the computer and camera body.”

In the OI.Share app for Android and iOS (version 2.6), you can enable and view the Live Composition function in real-time. In this live preview mode, the camera maintains the brightness of stationary objects while recording new light sources, such as star trails and light trails. With the OI.Share update, you can monitor the image’s progress and adjust settings via the mobile app.