With its small Micro 4/3 sensor, Olympus seemed to have shot itself in the foot in front of the large sensors of the competition, more efficient in pure image quality as in rising in high sensitivities. But a few years later, technical progress and the mastery of Olympus have enabled the brand – and the Micro 4/3 standard in general – to fare well by transforming this weakness into strength. How? ‘Or’ What ? By taking advantage of the fact that the smaller a sensor, the faster it is.

Speed ​​is thus the key argument of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, the last flagship of Olympus. With him, the brand wants to prove that the size of the sensor or the megapixels do not do while tackling head-on to one of the last pre-square of SLRs: the action photo.

Compared to the first OM-D E-M1 Mark of the name, the Mark II version is a bit overweight: wider, a little heavier, this new version is also more comfortable. It becomes the mini reflex that we expected so much – the OM-D E-M1 released in 2013 was, for its part, a little small and the addition of the grip significantly improved its grip for our western hands.

This increase in volume is welcome: the pros optics no longer unbalance the housing as much, the integrated battery is larger (and therefore more enduring) and Olympus took advantage of the space saving to reinforce the animal’s resistance by shielding the cabin and seals sealing.

On the screen side, the slab which tilted vertically gives way to a hinged screen on the side. Appreciable, this evolution has two sides: it adds a manipulation to who wants to quickly fit flush with the ground or at arm’s length (move the screen away from the body of the box, then turn it over) and limits access to the headphone and microphone sockets , which is strange for a device as competent in video. Because yes, put it in your little tablets: Olympus has finally released a credible video device (read below).

Small sensor: make weakness a strength

What is the point of a camera that outputs 18 to 60 frames per second and focuses at the speed of lightning? Sports and action photography. This is where the “weakness” of the Micro 4/3 sensor comes into play: if the small surface area of ​​the Micro 4/3 sensors handicaps them in the rise in density of photosites (image quality, rise in ISO, etc. ), this feature offers serious advantages in terms of speed. Because the more a sensor is physically large (and rich in pixels), the more time it takes to read the information it produces. And to the image capture, there is that of the “emptying” of information, the resetting of information of each of the photosites, etc.

Small in size (18mm x 13.5mm) and limited to “only” 20 Mpix, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s sensor turns out to be a speed bully. As well in AF speed, so fast that it is almost impossible for us to measure it, as in terms of reading the data. It is thus capable of delivering 18 fps in RAW in high burst mode with continuous AF, or even 60 fps in a high rate mode. In the field of speed, we must pay as much homage to the sensor, admittedly fast, as to the image processor, capable of digesting such a large data flow.

Even at 18 frames per second, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II already surpasses the Nikon D5 and other Canon EOS 1DX Mk II, professional full-frame SLRs at 7,000 euros bare body. If these devices also meet other needs (AF accuracy, optical compatibility, resistances, etc.), the general performance of the new flagship of Olympus shows that the brand has skillfully transformed a weakness into a serious advantage.

High level AF and tracking

Olympus was already the best performing brand in the world of hybrids in terms of AF with monitoring of the subject. With the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Olympus not only catches up, but also allows itself to overcome expert reflex cameras! The trigger is simply instantaneous, whether in single AF or continuous AF, far exceeding the promises of a Sony A6500 for example (review to come). Not that the latter is soft, it’s just that the E-M1 Mark II is on steroids.

In terms of monitoring the subject, Olympus’ progress is impressive: on targets as mobile as raptors, the waste rate is low once you have chosen the right shooting modes.

Because this box is not a magic wand: you have to know how to master the mysteries of AF modes in order to get their quintessence. But once the right function and the right mode selected, the results are there: the performance of development and subject tracking are already in the top of what the world of photography offers, hybrids and reflex top of the range combined. Once again, Olympus turns weakness into strength: the small sensor offers a wider area of ​​sharpness than the large full-frame sensors, which makes it easier for the focusing processor to adjust the sharpness.

Olympus still has a long way to go to guarantee the same level of precision in sport AF as Canon and Nikon, the category champions with their 1Dx Mark II and D5. But in addition to the price difference, the recent history of Olympus hybrids has proven that the brand is committed to bringing its enclosures to life and evolving through firmware updates. Updates which should, in the months and years to come, further reduce the gap between this “small” case at € 2,000 and its competitors at € 7,000.

Video: successful jump into the world of 4K

The first EM-1 was not a cador of the animated image since it was limited to Full HD video encoded in a barely drinkable way, all without too many options. If Olympus can not yet pretend to screw Sony or Panasonic for this first shot, this E-M1 Mark II now offers a video mode capable of making the eyes of videographers. Namely a 4K mode offering a data rate up to 237 Mbit / s which gives a good latitude of work in post-production. The encoding of the 4K part is immeasurably superior to all that Olympus has proposed so far, even if the Full HD mode is not unforgettable.

To this new very good quality 4K mode, Olympus adds a second advantage: an impressive sensor stabilization. Very powerful in photo, the 5-axis stabilization of the sensor is simply essential in video since it allows filming while walking while giving the impression that the camera is stabilized by a (small) steadycam

Exemplary stabilization

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