Recent Acquisition of Olympus EM-5 type 2 Driven by Desire for More Beautiful Handheld Video. Tests Begin.

A new player in the house.

Hot on the heels of my Nikon D810 review I must let you know that I find it impossible (for me) to be a "one system" guy.  It seems like there is always some feature or some combination of features on a different type of camera that are just the perfect complement to the other camera. 

After much consideration I headed over to Precision Camera yesterday. The trip was slow and plodding as the brain trust that is the city of Austin is doing major construction to one of our two major, north/south highways in conjunction with the arrival of an extra 2 million or so people for the SXSW music festival. Observational evidence would suggest that many of the arrivals for the festival are experiencing driving in cars for the first time in their lives....but that would still make them better drivers than many native Texans.

At any rate, I made it to the optical candy store and traded in a bunch of accumulated studio bric-a-brac and duplications and walked out the door with a brand new, black, OMD EM-5 type 2. I also sprung for the HLD-8 battery grip. I made it back to the Starbucks in my neighborhood and sat down, with a cup of coffee, and started piecing the camera together while reading the manual.

As a veteran camera buyer I knew to bring along a charged battery, one of my favorite straps and a nice lens, as well as an SD card. Having the camera outfitted the way you like it makes configuring it much easier. 

It is immediately obvious that the new version of the EM-5 is better built than it's predecessor. It's nice and tight. The dials make sense and I'll probably use the function buttons if I can figure out where to post the sticky notes reminding me what each one is configured for....

This morning I posted a review that called the Nikon D810 the best all around camera in the world so why in the world did I go out and buy a totally different concept of a camera if that's true? 

Here's the best reason I can give you: The Image Stabilization in the new camera is so good and so useful that I would be shortchanging myself as a videographer NOT to have one of these amazing cameras as a premium tool for handheld video. 

I've shot plenty of test with the original OMD EM-5 to know that the I.S. was useful. Even vital for handheld video work. But the thing that kept me from embracing the last version for production work was the video codec. The quality of the files with movement and low light. It's almost as if the in camera processing of the video files cancelled out the benefits of the I.S.

While the new, type two, codec isn't without fault and detractors it's laps ahead of its predecessor and that makes it more than useful for handheld shots. The addition of a dedicated microphone port and a headphone jack, along with manual control for both of these features provided the final tipping point to purchase. 

I am currently producing a video that calls for clean, handheld movements and I'm getting up to speed as quickly as the Basque language Olympus menus allow. Already I am finding that this little package is like getting a video with its own free SteadiCan attached. 

I will be working on a full review to post near the end of next week. Not just video but anything that stands out about the photographic side of the camera as well. 

I am excited about having the fluidity of this camera at my fingertips for real productions. The next step is to see how well the files from the Nikon D810 cut together with the files from the EM5/2. 

I still can't believe the performance of the I.S. in video. Amazing.


  1. Course it might have been a lot cheaper to just stop drinking coffee...

  2. I hope you will try some indoor still life setups with the HD feature. Raw file development is still iffy, but the 40 MPx jpegs in several tests came out great. On close inspection you might find a bit too much sharpening, that's all. NO MOIRE in fabrics.

  3. Hah! 'Basque language Olympus menus'. Truer words were never written.

    I just took a look at the online user manual for the Fuji X100T (renting one next week to sample the Kool-Aid) and found -- for the first time ever -- a digital camera manual laid out in logical, coherent form and written in standard English. It's worth looking at just to prove something like this actually exists!

    I'm looking forward to your experience with the EM-5 II. My need for effective image stabilization, even for stills, is greater than ever.

    And, to my taste, what I've been able to do with the old E-PL1 is more satisfying than other cameras which have followed as closeout, discount pricing has allowed.

    Maybe -- Fuji flirtation aside -- the EM-5 II offers a path for the future.

  4. Scott, I'll give it a try as soon as I get bored playing with the image stabilization in video...

  5. Michael, Belinda is of Basque descent and very much looks the part. Her family name is also Basque. The language? As inscrutable as an Olympus menu....

  6. Clean video out the HDMI. Wanna try the Ninja Star?

  7. Frank. Yes, I would. Can you bring it to coffee next week? Lots to share...

  8. Oh No Kirk...you should have read the review on DPReview first.... LOL

  9. looking forward to your take on em-5 II video

  10. "This morning I posted a review that called the Nikon D810 [...] so why in the world did I go out and buy a totally different concept of a camera [...]?"

    You could always blame SXSW. Being forced to live in the Hipster Capital for more than a week can drive any man slightly bonkers. ;)

    "Course it might have been a lot cheaper to just stop drinking coffee..."

    ...or to simply buy a steadicam, gimbal or monopod for the GH4. :)

    Anyway, congrats and enjoy the new toy, but watch out for street torpedoes aka cellphone zombies with selfie sticks! ;)

  11. I had a play with the II the other night, dial changes are a huge improvement over the original, the electronic silent shutter sounds like it will be interesting to play with as well - might be useful for your theatre shots. I'm refusing to play with one any more it's too tempting.

    Slightly off topic I would love to know your workflow for OMD files, I've been playing with RAW using Olympus Viewer, LR5, DXO 10 and CapturePro. Order of preference for starting point file is Viewer, CapturePro, DXO, LR5. Order of preference for software usability is LR5, CapturePro, DXO, Viewer.

  12. Kirk you may be interested in this:


    It's a metal grip for the EM-5 II with a built in arca swiss tripod mount

  13. Really looking forward to how you find your Panasonic lenses feel and work on the EM5 II, as it meets my needs more than the GH4.

  14. Hi Charlie, I've been using the 35-100mm, the 12-35mm and the 25mm 1.4 for over a year now both on the Panasonic GH series cameras and on the OMD EM-5 cameras. They are sharp and well behaved on both cameras. I assume the Panasonic cameras do more "in camera" correction but it all looks good to me.

  15. Don't get me wrong; I have an Olympus bias, but isn't Panasonic meant to be the daddy, when it comes to moving pictures?

  16. As always, a thoughtful and fun post.

    I've been using an EM5M2 for the past month and really enjoying it, too. (Wish that Quantum or Profoto offered better support.) I shot a flower show with the Oly + Pana 35-100 + Oly 75 1.8 and was really impressed. Also shot the show, for comparison, with a Sony A 7R and A7II. Olympus was as good or better than either Sony and the shooting experience was really fluid and fast. Plus the Oly files look fantastic. I normally shoot raw, but the lack of Lightroom support meant that I can only see view jpegs (so far)--still, really impressive files.

    My only criticism of your post is that it is grossly unfair to describe Oly's menu system as written in Basque. It is written, as should be obvious, in Sanskrit and the order and placement of menu items seems determined by a random number generator or by a sly Panasonic saboteur with an amazing sense of humor seeking to harm Oly sales. Basque would be a breeze by comparison as the logic of the menu system is not evident to anyone not suffering extreme ADD. Luckily, I've placed all of my most used settings on buttons, so as to avoid the menu system.(Mostly). Apple should buy Oly, replace the 'designers" on Oly's menu UX team (and send current members into exile with other UX neanderthals at Microsoft or Google.)

    Ron in Menlo Park

  17. The one feature on the new mk2 id wish they'd port over is that you can now choose to have the gear menu return you to where you started when making adjustments. Nothing worse than testing options, testing, then having to start all over again with the dive.

  18. Hi Kirk,

    I also own a black EM5 II. Really enjoying it. Have the 2 pro lenses and 60mm Macro. Good stuff. Also have the new 14-150 II, but not sure it's worth keeping yet.

    Anyway, curious to see what you think about stills from the EM5 II. I know the amazing D810 is better for that, but the Olympus is generally easier to take along.

  19. I'll be curious to read your review on video. For me the lack of direct manual control in video, 2.5 x crop factor vs the standard 2x and mediocre video could not be overcome by the truly wonderful IBIS. Not being made of money I can't afford to spend that kind of money on a specialist tool.

  20. One thing to be aware of in video mode is moire. There is some but not often. After using the GH4 this takes a little to get used to.

    Here is some video I shot.



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