Olympus Cameras – Then And Now Part 4

In Part 3 I discussed the focusing capabilities of the MkII and covered the AF Limiter. Since writing that, I’ve found the AF Limiter somewhat problematic with my 4/3 lenses. Sometimes it works and at other times it doesn’t, the behaviour can be quite erratic. I also encountered an issue with my 90-250mm lens when set to the wide end, it wouldn’t focus on distant subjects with the MkII, but I have no problems with the MkI. So I tried using the AF Limiter with my other lenses and they too exhibited erratic focusing behaviour when the AF Limiter was engaged. I suspect that there is some incompatibility issues with the the MkII and the 4/3 lenses when using the AF Limiter. Though I’m still perplexed why the 90-250mm is displaying focus issues at the wide end when the focus limiter is not engaged, as I don’t have this issue with the other lenses.

Olympus E-M1 MkII and 90-250mm f2.8 working OK - (source: Grahame)

Olympus E-M1 MkII and 90-250mm f2.8 working OK – (source: Grahame)

Olympus made some major improvements in many areas with the MkII vs the MkI, but they still remain very similar. While I still use both the MkI and MkII, the MkII is the camera that I prefer to pick up and it’s the one that goes with me just about everywhere. It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes the MkII that much more preferable, but much of it is, I think, simply due to handling. The MkII is a tad bigger than the MkI and it feels so much more comfortable in my hand than the MkI. Image quality wise there’s not that big a difference, the extra 4MP gives you a little bit more to work with, but it’s not an earth shattering amount. Camera handling has always been an important aspect for me and I’m so glad that Olympus moved away from their DSLRs like the E-5 to mirrorless and to the form-factor of the E-M1. Despite the large 4/3 lenses, they balance extremely well on the E-M1 and I experience no hand cramping even after hours of use, something that was very common with my E-3 and E-5.

E-5 vs E-M1 MkII (F) - (source: Camera Size)

E-5 vs E-M1 MkII (F) – (source: Camera Size)

E-5 vs E-M1 MkII (T) - (source: Camera Size)

E-5 vs E-M1 MkII (T) – (source: Camera Size)

One major design feature that carries on from the MkI to the MkII is the superb weather sealing. Olympus calls these cameras ‘splash proof’, but I suspect that’s so they don’t get into any legal trouble should someone do something quite silly. That said, I have now used both cameras in constant rain, sometimes for hours on end, proving that they are far from just ‘splash proof’, they are verging on being waterproof. Not as waterproof as my TG-5, but able to handle any rain situation on land. This is one reason why I continue to use these cameras and my older 4/3 lenses, as I have no concerns whatsoever in taking them out in the rain, no matter how heavy the rain. That was also the case with my previous E-1, E-3 and E-5. Even Olympus advertising is pretty clear that the cameras can handle rain etc. Mind you, even I wouldn’t expose such things as the teleconverter, adapter etc to water as shown in the adverts (what were they thinking?)

Olympus Camera Advertising - (source: Olympus Asia)

Olympus Camera Advertising – (source: Olympus Asia)

Olympus Camera Advertising - (source: Olympus Asia)

Olympus Camera Advertising – (source: Olympus Asia)

Olympus Camera Advertising - (source: Olympus Asia)

Olympus Camera Advertising – (source: Olympus Asia)

Video of course has been improved with the MkII, now providing 4K for those that want the higher resolution, but I’m very pleased with the 1080p quality that the MkII produces. Given that the MkI only provides 1080p (which is also quite good quality), that’s what I use with all of my cameras as I like to maintain commonality with the video format for ease of production and post-production. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, 4K is just too much for my computer to handle properly, so 1080p makes things much easier, more reliable and faster. But I also think that the MkI and MkII are predominantly stills cameras, not video cameras and that shows when if comes to the video formats available and throughput speed. Anyone that wants to do serious video using m4/3 should be looking at Panasonic cameras such as the GH5 and now GH5s. Panasonic have a long history in video and it shows, especially with the GH5 that is a favourite with many professional videographers. Mind you, the in-camera image stabilisation of both the MkI and MkII work wonders when hand holding.

Given that most of the features available in the MkI are much the same as with the MkII, I don’t intend to cover those aspects and these can be found in many camera review sites. Things that are the same but different include the MySets, which are personalised settings that allow you to easily switch from one photography style to another. On the MkI, you assigned a MySet to an existing dial setting, but with the MkII, there are three dedicated settings on the main dial for these personalised options. One major change is the provision of an articulated LCD screen on the MkII vs the tilt screen on the MkI, so that videographers have a more functional screen. For many, this is a love/hate relationship, but personally I don’t mind the articulated screen. Having used it now for a while, I do clearly prefer it to the tilt screen and the majority of the time the articulated screen is reversed, so that you don’t see the LCD. That’s how It was with my previous 4/3 cameras, as I just didn’t need to ‘chimp‘ every photograph that I take.

Olympus E-M1 Tilt and Swivel vs Tilt only Screen

Olympus E-M1 Tilt and Swivel vs Tilt only Screen

Probably the only thing about the MkII that annoys me is the fact that auto ISO is restricted to 6400, not the maximum available, as it is with the MkI. I really don’t see why this has been done in what is supposed to be a professional camera. A professional photographer knows what they are doing and accepts the risks involved going to higher ISO levels. But what his restriction does do is slow things down and introduces the potential for errors to happen because higher ISOs have to be set manually. If you forget to change the ISO in a hectic environment, you can mess things up pretty quickly. I’ve never made a mistake with auto ISO settings, but I have made mistake when setting ISO manually (forgetting to go back to base ISO).

Olympus E-M1 MkII ISO Limits

Olympus E-M1 MkII ISO Limits

There are lots of other features that the MkII offers, but they are features that I never or rarely use, so they aren’t important to me and all of this stuff has been covered in various online reviews. The MkI and MkII are both excellent cameras and Olympus has continued to develop and improve on the qualities and capabilities of these cameras. I especially like the fact that Olympus doesn’t deviate significantly from the existing form-factor as they develop each model, as muscle memory comes into play and allows you to pick up older models and use them intuitively. The image quality also keeps on improving and if you want to know how the cameras perform, that will be through the photographs on this blog.