Thoughts on my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Having used Nikon for decades, it has taken a while to get used to Olympus and I am still learning, but over time I am becoming more and more impressed with the system. I am still far less fluent, but getting there.

It’s an unusual choice for my main focus of street photography, particularly with the PEN F available which is really geared to that, but in fact it makes a lot of sense. I feel the OM-D E-M1 Mark II was designed with sports and wildlife in mind, perhaps travel, some of the things required for these disciplines are of benefit to me.

Speed - The speed required for sports and wildlife photography, brings huge benefits to street capture - a lot is made of the E-M1’s speed in terms of frames per second. That doesn’t bother me but speed of focus does. Autofocus is fast and accurate, the face / eye recognition is good, although I still don’t quite trust it over the control of single point auto focus. I am definitely moving more to AF than zone focus that I generally used with the original E-M1 and previous cameras.

Ergonomics - The E-M1 has a super grip, probably driven by the need for larger lenses for its core disciplines - I do love Nikon cameras and the D750 has outstanding ergonomics, no criticism whatsoever of Nikon - but the ergonomics of the original E-M1 are close and the Mark 2 brings it to the same or better in my hands. The degree of customisation helps in mimicking some of the controls.

Performance - The weatherproofing of the body which is so important for wildlife photographers is also helpful, although unfortunately most of the prime lenses are not weatherproofed, hopefully over time new lenses will be added and I am looking forward to the forthcoming 17mm f1.2 PRO lens. Battery life seems much better than the original E-M1. Of course the relatively large body compared with other M43 cameras will accommodate a bigger battery, but it is still no heavyweight.

I have had to learn how to get the best out of a different sensor size, I touched on shooting with a wider aperture in a previous article and this has helped - think a normal range of f2 to f5.6 whereas previously I would have typically been f4 to f11. Not only does this help match depth of field to what I was used to, but the Olympus primes’ sweet spot seems to be in this sort of area - they are absolutely excellent wide open, something I have not been used to with anything other than Zeiss or Leica lenses.

The EVF is excellent - I am using this more than the rear screen (which I normally have folded in anyway) and I am so much happier with this than using my Leica X with rear screen and most of the time it is every bit as good as an optical finder and sometimes better.

There is no doubt that I have sacrificed measurable image quality from Nikon but this is irrelevant most of the time, although there is less scope for cropping - I sacrificed aesthetic quality moving from Leica lenses - but now I am using the camera more and better. I originally purchased the E-M1 to replace my Leica X 113 for street photography but the Olympus OM-D cameras have ended up replacing not only this, but also my Nikon D750 for ALL photography.

Whilst I still feel a strong bond to Nikon cameras and will continue to have a small system, the Olympus has the key things I need, including excellent lenses in a small package. Lenses are the most important part of any system. I continue to be surprised by the versatility, it really has covered travel and street well and is now proving its worth with my escapes into landscape photography. 

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