At last! On the 19th September 2016 Olympus announced the long awaited OM-D E-M1ii.
When the original OM-D E-M1 was launched it was able to quite comfortably replace (and improve upon) so much of what a traditional DSLR offered. This attracted many to make the switch (including me as I waved goodbye to over £10K worth of Canon equipment!). In the time since that camera was released though we've seen Sony and the 'Big Two' in the DSLR market continue to iterate and improve with mark 2's of their own. Us OM-D E-M1 owners were all scouring the rumour sites for possible mentions and specs of the E-M1 mark ii, but Olympus kept us waiting for the official launch to play their hand.
This latest OM-D feels long-overdue for many. But now it's finally here! And we all know what they say about good things coming to those who wait...
Incase you missed it; Olympus streamed the entire launch in rather Apple-esque fashion by talking through each of the new features with an accompanying slide to detail the changes.
If you want to watch the entire presentation just hit play below. Or if you are just looking for a summary of the features packed into the new E-M1ii, then scroll down a little further.
In the announcement presentation Olympus provided two very useful slides. The first showed the new and impressive headline specs of the E-M1ii, with the other then showing how much each area is imroved upon vs the original OM-D E-M1:
It seems that Olympus really have listened to what photographers were asking for. Countless times in the Olympus groups I've heard photographers demanding better AF tracking, two card slots and a bigger EVF.
All of these things find their way into the mark 2 with a series of other very welcome improvements too. In the presentation Olympus of course put a lot of focus (no pun intended) on the E-M1ii's focussing abilities. It was said that as well as being faster and more accurate to focus, thanks largely to the 121 all cross-type on-chip phase detect focus points, that this new mark 2 will also be able to maintain and track focus on a moving subject far, far better than before. I rarely heard any complaints about auto focus with the E-M1, but if there ever was one, this was probably it.
Olympus Pro Service
The topic of the the E-M1ii's focusing system was discussed for quite some time and it was after this that I thought they would draw the announcement to an end. What else could there be to add?
Well, as I've discussed and written about before, it's one thing to have a camera and a system capable of helping you to make professional-grade images, but it's something else entirely to have the support of the manufacturer when it comes to warranty, support and repairs. To this end Olympus announced the launch of their new pro level support plans too:
The E-M1ii and Pro Level Service offerings were not the only announcements today though. I've included some of the other details at the bottom of this post, such as the new battery grip and other accessories.
My Thoughts on the OM-D E-M1ii
In all honesty, in a bid to have this post released in as timely a fashion as possible I had much of it pre-written with the expectation I would just add a few images from the live stream. Much of what I had written still stands, but, the entire presentation - in combination with the E-M1ii's specs and the Pro Service plans - reveal so much more to me than just a new camera. There is a message being sent from Olympus here: Olympus are after the professional market in a big way and not just weddings, portraits, pets, landscapes and wildlife - we're talking top level sports photography too!
The original OM-D E-M1 was a camera ahead of it's time trying to muscle it's way into the world of sports and serious professional photography against a field full of mature DSLRs and big white lenses. Whilst some (myself included) felt it was good enough to seamlessly step into the arena's of wedding and portrait photography and that it was even capable of shooting motor sports with great success, it perhaps didn't ever quite cut it as a top-level sports camera for the professional sports photographer. The omission of dual card slots, limited (or at least a lack of) pro level support and it's ability to track a subject being lesser than that of a DSLR, meant that many pro sports photographers just thought of it as another fad mirrorless camera. This was all despite the original E-M1 having always been widely acknowledged to be the best of all of the mirrorless cameras when it came to auto focusing capabilities - even today! (sorry Fuji Shooters, but it's true!).
However, the E-M1, like every DSLR and mirrorless, had it's limitations. You wouldn't have any trouble convincing many wedding and portrait photographers that the E-M1 was a capable replacement for a DSLR when it came to their work. I certainly felt that it was more it was up to the task and it has proven to be great.
To me at least, as great as the E-M1 was / is, professional sports photography always felt just one step beyond its' reach. Shooting top level team sport events such as football (Soccer) or situations where the subject changed direction and distance rapidly presented the E-M1 with just a little too much to handle. As a result the E-M1 was never largely adopted by professional sports photographers and failed to garner recognition as a true replacement sports photographers' camera, which quite possibly hampered its' bid to be more widely recognised and acknowledged as a professional level camera.
The OM-D E-M1 mark ii now sets out - backed by Olympus PRO service - to take that one final step that it's predecessor arguably couldn't quite make. With it's much improved auto focus system and array of features that any professional sports photographer would demand it appears well placed to do just that! Spec-for-spec the E-M1ii aims to stand toe-to-toe with those big old DSLRs and over-sized white lenses. This is a massively bold move from Olympus. It's something that Sony and Fuji just aren't attempting (or at least they don't appear to be attempting or advertising that this is something they want to achieve). Olympus have set out their stool. Can a camera seen by many professional sports photographers as 'plucky' and 'diminutive' really move in on what has traditionally been the home of those behemoth size camera bodies and lenses?
Even if the OM-D E-M1 mark ii can't do it yet - Olympus are the only company that appear to be trying to take mirrorless cameras in the right direction by attempting to break into that market. With the announcements on offer from Canon and Nikon at Photokina I'm left feeling incredibly un-inspired by those brands and the directions in which they are heading. If we see OM-D's at the next Olympics and pitch-side at Premier League football matches, I can see the perception swinging so heavily that it may just kick start a complete sea change in what it is photographers consider a mirrorless camera capable of being: a truly professional camera suitable for everything from weddings, macro, product, portraits and, the holy-grail; sports photography.
What do you think of the E-M1ii?
Are you going to be buying the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark 2? What do you think of the new model? Can you see this camera taking over in the field of sports photography? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Some more slides from the Olympus OM-D E-M1ii Announcement
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