It’s hard to believe, but it’s been three years since Olympus resurrected its OM series of cameras, bringing the classic design into a new age with a digital body. We’ve seen a couple more OM-D bodies since, but now seems right for a replacement to the first generation E-M5.
And that new camera will be called… the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II.
Yes, the name is probably a dead giveaway that this is the second generation of this design, with Olympus taking one of its 16 megapixel LiveMOS sensors and reinventing the built-in image stabilisation system, keeping it in the design where the pentaprism of an SLR would normally be, but redoing the hardware and algorithms to make the system work quickly for both images and movies.
How is it reinvented?
While previous stabilisation allowed for one or two stops of difference, the new stabilisation technology will mean up to five stops are possible, meaning you’ll be able to stop a lens down to 1/4 shutter speed from 1/125 and let in more light without picking up on body vibrations (though if you move it, that’s another story).
Shown with the previous model (M5) in video capture, we saw much smoother filmmaking was possible, with the M5 Mark II resembling more the sort of thing you would get if you used a small Steadicam compared to the soft shake the original M5’s stabilisation achieved.
This new image stabilisation system also helps with a new specialist mode, capable of capturing very large “full-frame resolution” images with megapixel counts similar to what studio cameras can do.
“Our pixels are currently 4.6 or 4.7 microns in size,” said Quettfenn Lai, Product Specialist at Olympus Imaging in Australia. Providing context, Lai said that hair is 90 to 100 microns, and that the Olympus ultra-high resolution mode “has the accuracy to shift in 2 to 3 microns in physical length.
“What this means is that we have the ability to do some wizardry with how this camera captures scenes,” said Lai, going on to tell us that the E-M5 Mark II will take a series of up to eight photographs at half pixel offsets, shifting the sensor’s position by half a pixel using the voice coil motor mechanism in that stabilisation technology, an idea which translates into capturing something that is like a panorama, albeit tiny and more detailed. Images captured in this mode are 40 megapixel for a JPEG, while RAW photos can get as high as 64 megapixel, a file format which will create roughly 100MB images.
Printed images shown to us detail just how much more information is shown, with a photo of the Sydney Opera House revealing the tiles on the sails in more detail than most cameras would show us, while keeping everything else in the scene looking sharp, even from afar.
One thing of note is that because this mode relies on very, very, very small sensor shifting, you will need a tripod to use it successfully. That said, we can’t wait to try it with a macro (close-up photography), as this could reveal even more detail in the little world beneath us.
Beyond the image stabilisation, Olympus has also improved there auto-focus and now features 81 focus points, included a silent mode that is very hard for most people to hear, and made the silent mode capable of shooting at a maximum shutter speed of 1/16000 thanks to an electronic shutter.