Another EM1 II Review : Another star for Olympus

Olympus OM-D EM1 II Review

Online review site Ephotozine has published its complete Olynpus OM-D EM1 II review and once again like everyone else they conclude that the EM1 II Powerhouse is a winner, all be it an expensive one.

Olympus OMD EM1 II Key Features:

  • 20 megapixel Micro Four Thirds CMOS sensor
  • 5-axis Sync IS – sensor and lens based IS for 6.5 stops
  • 200,000 shutter life rating
  • 15fps continuous shooting with mechanical shutter
  • 18fps continuous shooting in raw with C-AF (Silent mode)
  • 60fps continuous shooting in raw with fixed AF (Silent mode)
  • 121 AF points (all-cross type) covering 75% vertically, 80% horizontal
  • TruePix VIII – double quad-core image processor
  • 3inch vari-angle touch-screen, 1037K dots
  • 2360K dot, high-speed (120fps, 6ms) electronic viewfinder, 0.74x magnification
  • ISO200 – ISO25600, Low (ISO64) also available
  • Updated menu system (see below)
  • New battery with fast charging, and 1720mAh rating
  • Improved noise performance by 1 stop
  • 50mp / 25mp high-res shot mode
  • HDR in-camera, Live Time, Live Composite shooting
  • Weather-sealed
  • Dual SD card slots – UHS-II (slot 1)
  • USB3 Type C connection, Wi-Fi

From Ephotozine

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Verdict

“If you want the fastest possible camera then the high price of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II may be justified, as it is, without doubt, an excellent camera, capable of producing excellent images. For those that need or want high-speed shooting, the E-M1 II offers the ability to shoot up to 60fps at full resolution, and offers a Pro-Capture mode to shoot before and after pressing the shutter release button. This gives you even more chance to get shots you would have otherwise missed, giving you a potential edge over other photographers. It also gives you the added disadvantage of having hundreds of shots to go through, as with other cameras capable of shooting hundreds of shots in quick succession.

However, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is the first professional solution to offer 60fps, full-resolution raw-shooting, with up to 49 shots possible. You can take more continuous shots when shooting at lower speeds, and by using JPEG instead of raw. It’s also the fastest stills camera in it’s class, with only the new Panasonic GH5  coming close, offering 6K photo at 30fps with a resolution of 18 megapixels.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II offers excellent handling, with a well-designed camera body with numerous external controls and button. The camera supports UHS-II cards (slot 1 only), is weather-sealed, offers an excellent electronic viewfinder (EVF), and a very good vari-angle touch-screen.

The sensor gives 5.5 stops of image stabilisation when used with the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, or up to 6.5 stops when used with the new 12-100mm lens. This aids both stills photography, as well as video recording, making it possible to record images that would normally need a tripod, as well as record professional looking video without the need to invest additional money in a stabilisation system.

Olympus has been working on the menu system, and we have been asking for this for a while now, so we welcome the news, but we can’t help but feel that they have taken 2 steps forward and 1 step back (or the other way round). The custom settings menu has now been organised into different sections, but the colour coding is now missing, and the layout of options and controls is still as much a mess as it was on previous cameras. There’s built-in help, but this doesn’t always help, and Olympus are a long long way off implementing a menu system as easy to use and navigate as found on cameras like the new Panasonic GH5

You’re also going to need to customise the camera to get it setup so you can quickly access your favourite settings and controls, although thankfully the camera gives numerous customisable buttons and dials.

Olympus has a history of improving cameras over time with firmware updates, with the E-M1 Mark II already this good, we can’t wait to see what future firmware updates will bring. Hopefully, some updates will improve the menu system as well.

Without doubt the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II offers an impressive array of features*, including excellent image quality, a unique 50mp shooting mode, Cine 4K video, excellent 5-axis image stabilisation, up to 60fps continuous shooting, dual SD card slots, weather-sealing, access to a wide variety of Micro Four Thirds lenses, a high resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF), a tilting touch-screen, improved battery life, and more. However, it’s up to you whether you have the budget to spend this much on a camera. If you do, then we think it’s well worth the money.

For those that want to shoot high speed, then the Olympus is excellent, producing excellent image quality, with great JPEG images straight from the camera as well. You can get more out of processing the raw files yourself, but for the most part you shouldn’t need to with this camera, and that will be extremely useful when you’ve got hundred or thousands of images to go through”.

My Take:

I’ve read half a dozen OMD EM1 II reviews so far and they have all concluded that not only is the Olympus’s new Micro Four Third (M43) flagship model currently the best M43 model available but that its a top-end pro focussed camera period.

The new Panasonic Lumix GH5 will trump (by some margin) the EM1 II’s video capacity and maybe offer similar or near identical image performance but I doubt it will be able to match the EM1 II’s overall perfomance and in doing so I’d guess the EM1 II ends up being a more rewarding user experience?

However there is still room for some minor  improvements / tweaks.

I’d love the OM-D EM1 II to possess the Panasonic GH5’s new high resolution EVF (ie 3680 k-dot) after all  it was rumoured that the new EM1 II it would have a more resolute EVF but alas no. The camera still lacks a % battery indicator, WHY. It still lacks a physical AF toggle on the rear ( a very useful feature), Auto ISO remains very basic and the menu system is still typical Olympus, ie extremely comprehensive but cluttered and sometimes confusing but in truth these are relatively minor moans.

All things considered the Olympus OM-D EM1 II is one hell of a camera regardless of its cropped sensor and probably worth its high retail price.

Mark Baynham (January 2017)

 

 

Another Canon EOS M review

Canon EOS M5 : Canon’s best effort yet

Online site Dpreview has published a full review of the Canon EOS M and here’s some of their thoughts:

From DPreview:

“The Canon EOS M5 is, quite frankly, what we’ve been waiting for from Canon since the release of the original EOS M four years ago (which was itself released four years after the first mirrorless ILC: the Panasonic G1). The original EOS M was unabashedly aimed at more entry-level users, offering solid Canon image quality and the ability to adapt EF and EF-S lenses in a nice, svelte package. It was even coat-pocketable when paired with the 22mm F2 pancake prime, which, four years later, is still the only fast-aperture prime in the native lens lineup (the 28mm Macro was a nice addition, but at F3.5, hardly ‘fast’).

The EOS M5 is a big step for Canon, and sends out a signal that they’re going to be taking the mirrorless market more seriously – or perhaps see it as more high-end – than ever before. At first glance, the M5 is quite the package, with Dual Pixel autofocus, a 24MP sensor with better dynamic range than its predecessors, abundant and accessible external controls, a built-in EVF and a mature touchscreen interface. But as impressive as all that sounds, the EOS M5 still has some room for improvement.

Outright image quality in terms of dynamic range and high ISO performance still lag behind competitors, as does the native lens selection, action / burst shooting behavior and performance, Auto ISO control and video specification. That’s a tough pill to swallow when some other cameras can offer a leg up in these areas for substantially less money.

On the other hand, the EOS M5 is impressively usable and approachable, both for Canon newbies and established shooters. It may not capture 4K, but shooting smooth, accurately focused video has never been easier. JPEG colors are still second-to-none, adapted lenses work better than ever, and the camera just feels satisfyingly solid in the hand.

More than anything, the M5 represents Canon’s continued commitment to the EOS M system, which we’re happy to see, and we should reinforce that for folks who think they may want to get into shooting video as well as stills, the EOS M5 will make that far easier than most of the competition. The M5 is, on the whole, a solid and capable camera for a wide variety of photography. Unfortunately, in the broader context of the mirrorless camera market, we can’t help but feel a bit let down by the M5 on the whole, and are already looking forward to seeing what the next EOS M will bring”.

Pros Cons
  • New 24MP sensor offers much-improved dynamic range
  • Dual Pixel autofocus is both quick and accurate
  • Excellent direct controls with good customization options
  • JPEGs offer typically good ‘Canon color’
  • Touchscreen interface is approachable and very well thought-out
  • Improved burst rates of 7 fps with continuous AF and 9 fps with AF locked
  • Solid build quality
  • Adapted EF and EF-S lenses work as well as they do on an EOS 80D in Live View
  • Video image stabilization and autofocus work very well
  • Native lens lineup is sorely lacking
  • No 4K video capture
  • 1080p video capture lacks detail
  • Viewfinder blackout is very long
  • Low light image quality significantly worse than peers
  • Shutter button lacks responsiveness
  • JPEG noise reduction and sharpening are behind the competition
  • Limited buffer for burst shooting
  • Ergonomics may trouble left-eyed shooters
  • Auto ISO almost unusably limited
  • Raw dynamic range still lags behind the competition
  • Auto white balance strays to the cool side by default

 

 

Canon EOS M5: Almost There BUT

Photography Blog UK has published a review of Canon’s latest attempt at a mirrorless camera, the Canon EOS M5, a camera that on paper at least promises to finally be a proper effort from Canon.

From Photography Blog UK:

Canon EOS M5 Review Image

“The Canon EOS M5 feels like the first time the company has really taken compact system cameras seriously. The result is a very nice offering, which if you’re an existing Canon user will probably be particularly appealing. 

Images directly from the EOS M5 are great, and it’s certainly on a par with other compact system cameras in those terms. However, while Canon has made excellent progress with its AF system for this camera, it can still be bested by others out there – the impact of which will vary greatly depending on the type of images you like to take. If you take images mostly of things that don’t move, such as landscapes, still life and macro – and portrait sitters with patience – you won’t find this a problem. However, if you like to photograph sports, wildlife, and possibly even street photography, there are perhaps cameras out there which are better suited to you”. 

There’s a lot to like about the style and setup of the Canon EOS M5. Lots of dials and buttons make it easy to make changes, while the touch sensitive screen is responsive and useful in a variety of different scenarios. The viewfinder is great, if a little oversaturated, and the fact that you can continue to use the touchscreen to set autofocus point while you’re using it makes a lot of sense. 

Ultimately, the biggest problem with the Canon EOS M5 is its price. Over £1000 for a compact system camera puts it in competition with some of the very best cameras on the market – and although it’s very very good, it does feel like you should be getting even more for your money. One glaring omission in the current climate seems to be that 4K video recording is missing – not a huge problem for most people, but somewhat of a surprise in a world where the format is becoming so commonplace. 

Overall, Canon has produced an excellent compact system camera, which takes lovely images and is nice to use. But we can’t help but feel that the camera manufacturer is asking too high a price for this system – hopefully the price will drop in due course. It will also be interested to see where Canon goes next – having made something which competes better with existing offerings on the market, hopefully the EOS M5 will be well received and Canon will continue to build on its success”. 

My Take:

I’ll go a step further with what to me seems to be a glaring “issue” for the Canon EOS M5 other than its price, namely available “M” lenses. It seems Canon will want people to simply buy an EF /EF-S adaptors and fit big and heavy EF/ EF-S  lenses, but what’s the point? The whole idea of a mirrorless / CSC camera is size and portability, Canon’s range of “M” lenses is very limited to say the least and there are any real “stars” to speak of.

As it stands I doubt the likes of Sony, Olympus and Panasonic will be unduly concerned by the presence of the Canon EOS “M”, Canon’s best effort yet in the mirror-less world but still not quite there yet to my mind.

Mark Baynham ( December 2016)

Sony Alpha A6500 : Sony’s best APS-C camera

Sony Alpha A6500 : Sony’s best APS-C effort yet

Online review site has published its final very detailed review and test of Sony’s flagship 24mp APS-C equipped mirror-less range-finder styled camera, the Sony Alpha A6500.

Now the new A6500 has been released not long after the recent A6300 (m a very deecnt camera in its own right) and whilst it has some new features ( ie a redesigned sensor & touch screen) the only really radical change has been in its price because the new camera comes in just short of £1500 (body only).

So so its deserve such a price tag?

Well here’s thoughts and quotes from Dpreview:

Pros:

  • Excellent stills image quality in both JPEG and Raw
  • Impressive buffer depth with buffer countdown 
  • In-body image stablization averages 2.5 stops of added stability 
  • One of the best APS-C cameras at high ISO
  • Flexible Raw files with plenty of dynamic range
  • Impressive autofocus performance and frame coverage
  • Superb video quality
  • Extensive video support features
  • Solid construction
  • Good degree of customization
  • USB charging is convenient
  • 14-bit Raw in most shooting modes
  • 3rd party lens support for phase-detect AF
  • New menus are less cluttered than previous generations’
  • New highlight-weighted metering mode 
  • Eye sensor disengages when the screen is pulled out, EVF won’t switch on
  • Redesigned eyecup slides on and locks in place, no longer prone to falling off

Con’s

  • Touchscreen operation is laggy, feels unrefined 
  • Still no “My Menu” option for clustering most-used menu options
  • Only one top plate control dial
  • Rolling shutter can be distracting in 4K/24p video
  • No Lock-on AF area modes when shooting video
  • Lock-on AF can be unreliable, and no AF behavior customizations exist for stills
  • ‘Live View’ in 8 fps mode shows only static image between captures
  • Cool greens and green yellows can yield displeasing JPEG colors, especially skintones
  • No in-camera Raw conversion option
  • Lack of headphone socket for audio monitoring
  • Drops to 12-bit mode in various modes inc. continuous shooting and silent shutter
  • Risk of overheating limits use for extended recording periods
  • Screen automatically dims when shooting 4K video
  • Lack of included charger makes it hard to keep a spare battery charged
  • Lossy compression of Raw risks occasional artifacts

“The Sony a6500 is not a perfect camera (few are) and it also does not offer a ton of new bells and whistles over the mid-level Sony a6300. But the release of the a6500 is a clear indication that Sony, as a camera maker, is addressing its greatest achilles heel: the overall usability of its cameras. By improving the menus, increasing the buffer and adding a touchscreen, they have successful made this camera much more usable than its lower-priced sibling. But Sony still has a long way to go. Even with a proper touchscreen (which this does not have), the lack of a second top plate control dial on a $1400 MSRP camera is hard to stomach. And Sony’s confusing AF modes and AF area settings are just not acceptable in a camera this high-end. 

Still this is the most powerful and usable Sony APS-C camera to date. It can keep up on the sidelines and in the gymnasium with its DSLR competitors thanks to its excellent AF system and impressive buffer. Its stabilization is by no means class leading, but it works, which is great news for anyone attempting third party lenses (because let’s be real, the E-mount lineup isn’t comprehensive, yet). 

For the money, you get a light-weight, weather-sealed body with excellent still image quality, excellent 4K video quality, a degree of in-body stabilization and the ability to photograph high speed action with ease. And if you take the time to fully customize the camera, you can really make it sing. Simply put, as an all-arounder, its pretty hard to beat what the a6500 offers, but as an engaging artistic tool, the a6500 may still leave some wanting more.”

My Take:

Because its being pitch as a high end camera its only fair to compare the new Sony Alpha A6500 with the likes of say the Fuji X-T2, Olympus OM-D EM1 II and say the Panasonic Lumix GX8.

Of those options the Pansonic GX8 is the most obvious alternative being of a similar body style (ie range-finder like).

On balance I’d prefer any of those three over the A6500 with the Fuji X-T2 being my pragmatic choice.

If pushed to specifically choose a rangefinder style body I’d personally pick the considerably cheaper Panasonic Lumix GX8, a 20mp M43 weather sealed camera that shoots 4k.

I’ve tested the GX8 and was very much impressed with. In fact I’d get the the Panasonic GX8, and pair it with the reasonably performing petite weather sealed Panasonic 12- 60mm zoom and this combined package would still be £600 (yes £600) cheaper than the A6500. That saving buys a camera bag, memory card and even an additional lens? Or If I wanted even better optical quality I’d buy the GX8 body only and look to do a deal to pair it with the excellent Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 zoom.

Sure the A6500 produces slightly superior image quality over the GX8 ( especially at higher ISO’s) and its AF performance is definately snappier but you simply cannot ignore the fact that to get  the most out of the A6500 you will have to pair it with one of Sony- Zeiss’s E-mount lenses like for instance the excellent Zeiss 16-70mm f4 zoom and when you do so you end up with a £2500 kit and that is serious money to say the least.

And then there’s the very obvious elephant in the room in the shape of Sony’s own Sony Alpha A6300 which is maybe prehaps 80% of the A6500 in overall performance but some £500 cheaper.

Therefore if I absolutely demanded top notch APS-C image quality in a portable  rangefinder styled body I’d would get the Sony Alpha A6300 and pair it with the Zeiss 16-70mm f4 for a combined price of around £1700 or maybe a bit less with some negotiation.

In isolation the Sony A6500 is clearly a superb camera, Sony’s best APS-C camera to date but its few persistent weaknesses means that there are cheaper viable alternatives out there for the time being.

Mark Baynham (December 2016)

 

 

Olympus OM-D EM1 II : The wild card of 2016?

Olympus OM-D EM1 Mk2 : The first proper “Pro” M43 Camera?

On-line review site Image Resourcing who conduct extensive and detailed lab and real world testing of cameras and lenses have declared the Olympus OM-D E1 II its ” Camera of the Year – Best Overall”

From Image Resource

“The mighty mirrorless reigns yet again! Following up on the major success of the original, the new Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark 2 offers massive improvements to performance and AF capabilities as well as image quality and ergonomics to take the top spot as our 2016 Camera of the Year”.

“Olympus made a big splash with the original OM-D E-M1 back in 2013 — compact, weather-sealed and packed with technology and horsepower. It was like a mini-DSLR, yet full-featured enough to suit professional and enthusiast photographers, or that was the idea anyway. While the E-M1 was rather groundbreaking in the amount of performance it offered in such a small size, it still fell short in a few areas, namely continuous autofocus, that really prevented it from taking the crown over DSLRs for professional work in areas like sports and wildlife.

Olympus took notice and really pulled out all the stops to pack in an impressive level of performance capabilities into this new model. Sporting a new 20MP sensor, vastly more on-chip AF points and an updated image processor with a *dual* quad-core design, the E-M1 II feels nimble and capable no matter what you’re photographing. With an entire quad core dedicated just to AF and the other to image processing, the camera can just chew through images shot after shot — up to a whopping 60fps with S-AF with RAW! Continuous AF, more importantly, is just fantastic. In our testing, the E-M1 II was able to keep up with moving subjects nearly flawlessly, even at its fastest C-AF burst rate of 18fps.

Factoring in its other qualities, including up to Cinema 4K video recording; dual SD card slots; tons of external, customizable controls; and impressive battery life, the Olympus OM-D EM1 II is the compact, professional-level Micro Four Thirds camera we’ve been waiting for”.

My Take:

This is now the third recently published extensive review of the OM-D EM1 II from respected on-line review / test sources that have heaped praise upon Olympus’s new flagship Micro Four Third ( M43) powerhouse.

Hopes and excitment were raised when the camera was announced in September. It had a spec list and promised performance that appeared to put all other M43 cameras to shame, takes the fight to APS-C mirror-less cameras like the Fuji X-T2 and even made some APS-C DSLR’s look underwhelming.

Eyebrows were really raised a month of so back when its retail price was announced because at around £1800 (body only) the new EM1 II was entering unchartered waters for Olympus for in effect it was being declared a “pro” camera intended for use by both professionals and enthusiasts alike.

Well having read the recent in-depth reviews it appears Olympus’s gamble may have pay off. The OM-D EM1 II is plainly the best M43 yet produced. The cameras, its overall performance (including  image quality, AF performance & general features) are first class.

Whilst outright image quality may still trail by a tiny margin that produced by the very best APS-C rivals, as many photographers will tell you the sign of a truly great camera is not simply just image quality but a whole host of other factors, not least ergonomics, handling, general features and robustness, in this regard the new EM1 II has these other factors in spades.

Finally its no use having a superb camera if its not supported by equally superb lenses and this is where Olympus have been clever.

The list of top-notch M.Zuiko lenses ( both prime and zoom) that can be paired to the OM-D EM1 is extensive and in particular Olympus’s range of high performing “Pro” lenses perfectly complement the new M43 powerhouse.

I’ll confess to having been slightly sceptical at first as to whether the OMD-D EM1 II could walk the walk and talk the talk but now I have been won over, its clearly one hell of a camera and maybe actually justifies its high asking price.

Mark Baynham (December 2016)