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Olympus E-M5 Mark II puts focus on movie stabilization, 40-megapixel photos

Highlighting the camera’s movie-capture prowess with 5-axis image stabilization, Olympus is introducing its newest flagship, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. Using a redesigned 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, the E-M5 Mark II is a premium mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that’s dustproof, freezeproof, and splashproof.

Successor to the E-M5 introduced in 2012 (a Digital Trends Editors’ Choice), Olympus says the camera has the world’s most sophisticated image stabilization system. The 5-axis, which is used in the E-M1 and E-M5, compensates for horizontal and vertical sensor shifts, as well as pitch, yaw, and roll movements. The company says it “can capture sharp images at shutter speeds as low as 1/4-second without the use of a tripod.” Like Sony’s new A7 Mark II, you can preview the stabilization in live view through the 3-inch, vari-angle touchscreen (rated 1.04-million dots) or electronic viewfinder (rated 2.36-million dots), by pressing halfway on the shutter button.

The camera also has an improved autofocus system (Olympus is claiming world’s fastest), 10-frames-per-second burst shooting, and 1,8000th shutter. TruePic VII image processing is another upgrade. Compared to the old E-M5, Mark II has a shorter shooting time lag.

While the E-M5 Mark II takes 16-megapixel shots natively, the camera has a featured called 40-Megapixel High-Resolution Shot to create even larger images. It achieves this by shifting the sensor by 0.5-pixel steps; as it moves, an image is captured. All the images are combined in-camera to create that 40-megapixel images. However, to do this you’ll need to stabilized the camera on a tripod (the 5-axis stabilization won’t work) and employ a M.Zuiko Digital Pro or M.Zuiko Premium lens, Olympus recommends.

Olympus is also positioning the E-M5 Mark II for videography, saying that more photographers today are shooting video. The camera can shoot up to Full HD 1080 at 60p. Olympus says it decided not to pursue 4K at this time, due to the format’s infancy (4K is a bit premature right now due to the lack of output, Olympus says), but adds that it’ll be ready with an offering when consumers are. The company pointed out that 1080/60p is more fluid than 4K/30p.

Olympus says the 5-axis image stabilization, coupled with electronic stabilization, is powerful enough that you won’t need to use a stabilizing accessory or tripod to create smooth videos. At a press preview during 2015 International CES, Olympus showed footage shot with the E-M5 Mark II against other high-end 4K cameras from competitors. We’ll take Olympus’ word for it, but the smooth footage versus the wobbly ones from the completion, clearly demonstrates the advantage of the 5-axis system. Image exposure transitions smoothly from light to dark.

The camera supports other video frame rates, and can achieve a high bitrate of 77 Mbps when set to 30p. You can use an external mic, and monitor audio via the headphone jack in the optional external grip. Other features include focus peaking, adjustable settings while recording (AF-point selection, exposure, electronic zoom and Movie Tele-converter, microphone sensitivity, and headphone volume). Olympus’ Art Filters (Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale and Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line and Watercolor) can also be applied during recording.

With either Android or iOS devices, you can remotely control the camera via Wi-Fi, as well as apply the aforementioned Art Filters. Of course, you can transfer images and share them to your social networks of choice.

The camera doesn’t have a flash built-in, but comes bundled with one that’s also dustproof and splashproof. Optional accessories include several powered and non-powered grips, a dot sight accessory to help with shooting faraway objects (first introduced in the Stylus 1), and cases.

Coming in black or silver, the E-M5 Mark II is available this month for $1,100 body only.

Olympus also announced several other items. The company is adding a new M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 II (28-300mm, 35mm equivalent) lens. Dustproof and splashproof, and coated to protect against scratches, the lens is an upgrade to a similar glass from 2010. Olympus says the lens is “perfect for capturing any type of scene, from portraiture to travel photography featuring a wide variety of subjects. The lens can capture subjects at all zoom ranges from a closest shooting distance of 20 inches (approx. 13 inches from the end of the lens). A maximum shooting magnification of 0.22x (35mm equivalent: 0.44x) is possible with close-up photography.“ Internal focusing system uses a silent motor for quiet and speedy performance. The lens will go on sale in March, for $600.

The company is developing a M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f1.8 Fisheye Pro lens (16mm, 35mm equivalent). Also weatherproof, the lens will feature an underwater lens port that lets it go down to 147 feet of water when used with the E-M5 Mark II and underwater case. No pricing yet, but Olympus is shooting for a summer 2015 release.

Finally, a new firmware update is available for the OM-D E-M1 that adds new features. “With the introduction of new firmware Version 3.0, the weather-resistant camera is now capable of an impressive maximum 9 fps in the C-AF sequential shooting mode when using a Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds lens, improving the ability to capture moving subjects,” Olympus sas.

The company adds: “The newest firmware upgrade features an enhanced algorithm for phase-detection, raising the former C-AF sequential shooting speed of 6.5 fps to a maximum high speed of 9 fps. With this update, AF tracking performance is improved when using continuous-AF (C-AF) Sequential H mode. When set to C-AF, 37-point on-chip phase detection AF is used. Now, when capturing a quick-moving subject, photographers never need to miss the shot. A maximum 10 fps remains available when set to single-AF (S-AF) Sequential H mode.”

Les Shu
Former Digital Trends Contributor
I am formerly a senior editor at Digital Trends. I bring with me more than a decade of tech and lifestyle journalism…
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