Olympus comes in from the filmmaking wilderness….

Olympus E-M5 Mark II all taped up for covert operations.  Behind is my original E-M5 and the E-M1.

Olympus vf-M5 Mark II all taped and covered up for covert operations. Behind is my original E-M5 and the E-M1.

This one’s long…you might want to settle in…there’s a lot of ground to cover….

This is a kind of review, but more kind of my first impression of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II.  The firmware I shot all these samples with is V0.9 and I have been using several pre-produciton cameras.  It’s very likely performance will improve once they start shipping production units. The images and clips I share with you here will improve as the sensor calibration improves. Mainly I think you’ll see this as improved noise performance and better colour reproduction / matrix.

I’ve been working with Olympus Australia for the past few months on their new E-M5 Mark II camera,  a replacement for their hugely successful E-M5.  This is an important camera for Olympus because it’s a signal of intent.  It shows they are finally moving towards taking video more seriously, seriously enough that they’ve now made a camera that has some pretty unique and compelling features for a cinematographer.

The biggest leaps for me are the fact it can now finally shoot at 24 and 25 fps and it has their next generation image stabiliser that is leaps and bounds ahead of anything else that I’ve seen in stabilised imaging. It’s really that good.

The best way to test any new camera I figure is to actually shoot something with it.  It’s all good and well to point it at some test charts in a studio (which I did as well), but its only when you’re actually using it in the field and trying to get to an end result that you can really say it’s gone through it’s paces.  That’s when you audition not only the image quality, and subjective imaging result but the actual utility of the camera and it’s workflow both on set and off as well learning it’s shortcomings.


George Washingmachine fiddles about while I try to stay dry.

Curiosity is the short film / music clip I chose to do with local musician George Washingmachine for his original track “The moon has left town”.  It’s a very simple romantic chase scenario.

I enlisted two actor friends of mine Ash Ricardo and Ian Meadows and at the last minute I roped in Director / Editor Tony D’Aquino to help me flesh out the scenario and edit this all together !  I’m in pre-production for a feature film called Scare Campaign at the moment in regional Victoria so it’s been really interesting to try and pull this shoot and edit together in Sydney, grade and finish it across two states on a short turnaround !


We shot this over three days last week and in some really terrible weather, but luckily on the final day on the beach the sun came out for us. We had three E-M5 Mark II bodies and they all worked without fail, despite getting literally DRENCHED in rain and sea water and being on all the time.  We had no overheating and no “crashes” or problems with the end footage.


Ian doesn’t look so happy about standing out in the rain. The camera didn’t mind.


All footage was copied at the end of each day onto a Lacie 1TB Thunderbolt drive pair and I took one with me to Victoria and left the other behind in NSW with Tony to edit with.  He was cutting in FCP X as was I.  Luckily Olympus have made it pretty easy to manage roll numbers on the SD cards (YAY !) so I could customise that before we started shooting and it made the conform so much easier. I think in total we shot about 250 GB of rushes from three camera bodies plus stills.  The first two days were really only half days and we didn’t shoot a lot, but the last day was pretty big, with three locations and a late finish.  Final grade was done in Resolve, before I rendered a ProRes 4444 file back out which was then uploaded to Vimeo via FCP X.

One of my first blog postings ever was about my love of Olympus cameras.  In fact it was kind of about how un-cool it was to use Olympus cameras when your day job was as a cinematographer.  That was October 2010, before even the original EM 5.

I also wrote about my impressions of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, their first foray into the m4/3 market.  For a long time the E-M5 was my mainstay on-set camera for the same reasons I liked all of my Olympus cameras….their smaller physical size, less intrusive shooting stance and near indestructibility combined with the remarkable Zuiko Olympus lenses. One of my most favourite personal lenses is the Olympus 45mm F1.8 prime.  It’s a mid range inexpensive prime lens but that lens at F2.2 has some special mojo. (most of the images in the above linked E-M5 review are with this lens)

I currently have a lot of Olympus cameras. I still own three of the legendary E-1 bodies and as recently as last year was shooting with them for timelapse shots on The Ravens.

During the production of the latest Sony / Playmaker series for the ABC,  “Hiding” I also used the OM-D E-M1 as a kind of special effects camera to show a character’s heightened anxiety at being discovered whilst in witness protection.  It wasn’t shooting video, but actually shooting RAW stills with the E-M1 held in close proximity the the actor shooting bursts of frames to capture that mood.  I also did a lot of lens whacking as well to get close ups of documents and photos in a way I could never have done with a motion imaging camera.

So while I’ve always loved my Olympus gear for photography, it’s always kind of let me down in one really important way for my work as a cinematographer….but not any more….


It’s funny how ubiquitous video is now on a DSLR, and m4/3 cameras which are really technically called MILC.  To be fair Olympus have been doing video for a while.  It’s just that it’s never been very well implemented for the needs of more professional users like…errr…me !

The biggest problem with the way Olympus has implemented video up until now is that they’ve only had one frame rate, 30 FPS to choose from (or 60 in some cases as an option), and it’s been highly compressed in a way that’s not very robust for post production.

And that’s made it totally useless for most professional or even indie filmmaking sets because we all shoot at 24 or 25 fps for most narrative drama where sync sound is used.  A camera that only shoots 30 fps isn’t much use on those sets.

The global standard frame rate for nearly 100 years has been 24 FPS….end of story.  A camera that doesn’t shoot 24 FPS isn’t really a camera that will ever find a lot of use with narrative and sync sound motion work.  In 50 hz countries, which is basically everywhere except the US and Japan, we tend to shoot for TV at 25 FPS and for cinema at 24 FPS.  Even in the US the cinema standard is 24 FPS, so having those two frame rates was the most important step Olympus had to take in order to move in this direction.

30 FPS is only good for home movies in the US and Japan.  Even here in Australia where we have 50Hz power, shooting at 30 FPS meant you would always get lights flickering in your shots.  Even for home movies it was pretty hopeless.

24 FPS, 25 FPS 30 FPS

The E-M5 Mark II now shoots 24 (really 23.98) 25 and 30 FPS in an all intra 77 Mbits codec as well as 50 and 60FPS in their older style of codec, IPB, topping out at 50 Mbits.  Big huge tick for introducing industry standard frame rates Olympus !

Any old lens can be stablised !

I already mentioned the image stabiliser and let’s just spell it out again.  It’s freaking amazing.   But there’s more !  One of the the really cool features of this amazing next generation Olympus image stabliser is that it works with any lens you can get on the camera. And the MFT mount allows for lots of lenses to be adapted and I’m usually a fan of older vintage cine lenses. I can now use those lenses with the added benefit of the incredible sensor shift stabilising technology they’ve developed and I think that’s really neat.

Rolling shutter is also something most DSLR’s and hybrid stills video camera shooters are especially sensitive to and to be able to use IS with older lenses means you can great reduce the apparent skew and jello and make use of an almost limitless range of lenses.  It means I can use almost any lens on the camera, and have it stabilised. If you look at the clip Curiosity, I didn’t once use a tripod and for only a few shots  I used a camera stabilising gimbal.

The in camera stabilising means I can keep lens consistency and therefore look consistency on a TV show where I might have a set of primes for the main hero production cinema camera bodies but I can also now have the choice to use an E-M5 Mark II for insert shots and to steal a moment here and there and I get to use the exact same lenses as my full production camera, with the added benefit of incredible image stabilising.

I think that’s really awesome and one of the reasons I like the m4/3 mount so much. It’s an open consortium and there are now so many companies making lenses for this mount, and it can be adapted to almost any already existing lens.  It’s so flexible !


Zeiss 16mm standard lens with Hot Rod MFT–>PL lens adaptor and Arri LW mattebox


In the making of Curiosity, I wanted to do some tracking shots, but we’d deliberately chosen locations where we’d have to shoot as a very low footprint.  Most of the locations didn’t require a permit if you were shooting with a small crew and didn’t have a lot of gear and I wanted to be able to walk in only with what we could carry.


Adjusting the Defy G2 gimbal frame with the Olympus OM-D EM5 Mark II in silver with the Olympus 12mm F2.0 lens fitted.


Why use a Gimbal ?

I have been trying out a Defy g2 Gimbal as well which I used really in place of a dolly / slider.  Now you might be wondering why I’ve used a gimbal when I’ve been raving about the stabiliser being so good on the E-M5 Mark II. I’m glad you asked !

There’s a difference between a hand held shot and a need for a smooth tracking shot.  We were shooting in locations where it wasn’t possible to lay dolly tracks or even sliders so for example across water of on the beach.   I’ve used the Movi before with a larger EPIC package and found it to be good, but very tiring to hold for long periods of times.  What I really loved about the G2 from Defy was that it was much smaller and lighter with the E-M5 Mark II on board AND, it has a terrific little thumb controlled joystick which means you can make small corrections and override the gimbal’s ideas of what you’re wanting to do in terms of framing.  This really simple device makes such a  difference to gimbal moves in my opinion because it allowed me to feather out the moves a little more….I basically fell in love with this gimbal !

So having a gimbal meant we could do some lateral tracking shots while I was up to my waist in water for example at the beach and there’s no way we could have done those any other way.  If I was trying to rely on the IS in the EM5 Mark II alone then it probably would have been almost as good, but the G2 just gave me more assurance for bigger moves.  It also meant I didn’t need to lay tracks or sliders that at best would only give me a small 3 or 4′ foot move at best.

I look at it like this…Don’t expect the IS to allow you to throw away your slider or dolly for tracking shots.  You can get very good hand held tracking results with the IS, and maybe you’ll get lucky and jag a shot on a wider lens that looks like a gimbal / steadicam shot but it’s real advantage and power is in it’s ability to simply hold a static frame still enough that it feels like it’s being operated form a tripod without having to rely on a tripod….

So in my head now philosophically, I know I can rely absolutely on the IS of the E-M5 Mark II for long lens shots where I’m not trying to track, but just to hold a frame.  But if I want to do tracking shots or more than simple shot corrections like pans and tilts, then I can get away with it in certain situations, but I’m still going to get better results with a gimbal or traditional slider or tracks.

So below here’s an example of a shot where I was shooting with a 16mm Zeiss Standard 35mm format lens using a Hot Rod cameras MFT–> PL adaptor…

Note in this instance, I’m using the wordpress video here which does appalling things to the image, but you can download these camera original files at the end of this article and see for yourself.

Using the IS set to mode 1,  which does a combination of sensor shift and digital stabilising, and manually setting  to the focal length of the lens you can get some really great results, BUT you’ll notice on a really big orbiting move like this where I’m moving pretty quickly the IS can ‘jump” once it gets out of range and you’ll see that in the final result.  Now you can get away with it, but you can see how the shot is much better with the Gimbal.

Interestingly in my preliminary testing with the camera, I found it was better to leave the E-M5 Mark II’s IS switched ON even when the camera was on the gimbal.  As great as the Defy G2 gimbal is, it doesn’t take away all the big movements and I could still see a little judder as I moved with the gimbal so to have both on it was really locking down the shot, and to my surprise they didn’t seem to be fighting each other.

The I.S comes in three flavours when shooting video. You can have it set to OFF, then mode 1 which is sensor shift and digital stabilising, with some slight additional crop, but I never saw any when shooting video, and I’m struggling to see any IQ hit in video to be honest. Or if you wish there’s also mode 2 which is sensor shift only with no digital stabilising. In both mode 1 and 2 you can override the default focal length setting which if it’s an Olympus lens is set automatically, and set your own focal length. I actually found that there were some skewing artefacts when shooting on wider lenses, especially below 20mm where on a static frame it could sometimes bend the image, a little bit like what rolling shutter / stabiliser correction looks like in FCP X.  You can see this happening in a few clips of the behind the scenes clip below…

Heres a clip from the Defy G2 gimbal, camera is in IS mode 2 with an Olympus 12mm Lens at F5.6 ISO 200, 1/50th  custom profile of my own setup

Now here’s the same just hand held with a 16mm Zeiss standard lens, same settings..

Shoot Silent.

Taken at an intimate Jazz venue in the middle of a solo using the new silent shutter mode.  Olympus 75mm F1.8 prime at 1250 ISO.

Taken at an intimate Jazz venue in the middle of a solo using the new silent shutter mode. Olympus 75mm F1.8 prime at 1250 ISO.

Olympus have for the first time introduced an electronic shutter option.  This means no more shutter click sound for one thing !

Without a physical shutter mechanism active, this enables me to shoot silently which will be a great boon on set. I’ve always felt for stills photographers on movie an television production  sets because they’re forced to use blimped cameras so they can take photos during a take. The new shutter in this camera is already super quiet, but you now also have the option for totally silent.

The other upside of the electronic shutter is it also allows for a much higher maximum shutter speed of 1/16000 the of a second. Otherwise top shutter speed is a still impressive 1/8000.

It also means a smidgen faster top frame rate is possible at a crazy 11FPS in stills mode.

Now I presume there is some tradeoff in using the electronic shutter and I’m going to guess it means probably increased noise and incised noise probably means less DR. I’m only guessing though based on my knowledge of how sensors work and haven’t really tested it in any kind of scientific or empirical way, and my Olympus contacts haven’t been able to confirm my hypothesis.

Still, it’s wonderful to have this option for sound sensitive environments and I’ve found myself using it more than I thought I would.


Mt Friend Giovanni Lovisetto, a stills photographer, taken o the set of Offspring.  Check out his Canon 5D MK2 in a customised pelican housing blimp used to silence the shutter

My Friend Giovanni Lovisetto, a stills photographer, taken on the set of Offspring. Check out what he’s resting on…his Canon 5D MK2 in a customised pelican housing blimp used to silence the shutter.  Not required any more with an EM5 Mark II


Exposure Tools

Exposure tools in video are minimal but adequate enough.  You have a histogram and you can also get an exposure clipping indicator as well which shows purple in highlight clipping and dark magenta in shadow clipping, but it’s not an indicator that works once you’re rolling, only histogram does.

Peaking is very well implemented, you have a choice of a few colours and even three strengths of sensitivity.  I was able to assign it to the Fn1 button so I could toggle it on and off while I was rolling and it worked well in both the viewfinder and on the screen.

There was one thing that REALLY annoyed the hell out of me.  When in manual mode using Olympus lenses and once you’re rolling, you can’t actually change the exposure using the dials like you would if the camera wasn’t rolling.  Instead, once it’s rolling, you have to access a silly menu on the touch screen and then scroll to an exposure tool and THEN dial it up or down on the touch screen.  It’s insane and totally impractical to do while you’re shooting.  Even the best IS in the world won’t get rid of the jolts as you stab the touch screen trying to quickly get to the right menu to simply close the aperture down !

I’m trying to cut them some slack as it’s their first attempt but I’m screaming loudly right now that the camera in manual mode needs to be able to let you change shutter speed or aperture on the fly using the exact same dials you use when it’s not rolling.  I guess they think it’s a safety feature of some kind to stop you accidentally changing the exposure.

It does have a nifty Auto ISO feature and for a few shots in the clip I put the camera into shutter priority (movie mode) and locked the shutter and let the camera ride the exposure.  In shutter priority mode (Movie) i kept the same shutter speed and it used both Iris and ISO to ride the exposure so I managed a kind of way to change it seamlessly on the fly, but it’s far from ideal.


25mm Zeiss Superspeed with Hot Rod PL–>MFT adaptor and Arri LW mattebox


Sound…Testing one two three…. 

Well.  It has sound.  To be honest I leave that to the sound recordists.  It has VU’s which is welcome always, and it has microphone inputs as well, so no problem to plug a microphone in now.  There is also a headphone jack on the new handgrip, and this is one of the reasons they have had to go with a slightly revised version of the grip.  The bottom part that holds the battery is the same for the E-M5 and you will be able to buy them separately now.


Custom Profile

As the camera is only shooting 8 bit 77 Mbits files, I replicated something I used to do routinely on the 5Dmk2 and went into the custom picture mode and tried to flatten out the image as much as I could in order to try and squeeze every last bit of dynamic range from the shots. Olympus default pictures are actually really good though and there’s a great choice of preset ones, or you can design your own. Plus you can even use a lot of their art filters too.

So in the Olympus custom profile menu I set the contrast to it’s lowest, (-2) and the sharpness to it’s lowest (- 2) and the saturation to -1.  This essentially gave me a “log-ish” images that meant i could try to protect the highlights more.  Interestingly, Olympus have a great cuve editor function as well where you can individually shape the highlight roll -off and shadow detail as well, but I didn’t have a lot of success with actually using it in the field.  I tended to stick with the custom profile I set up instead of trying to tweak each shot.

Really for this to be better, Olympus need to develop their own LOG format and up the bit depth.  10 bit files would make such a huge difference.

Slow Motion

The camera now has not only 24(23.98) 25 and 30 fps, but using a slightly lessor IPB 52 Mbit/s codec it also has 50 and 60 FPS.  Plus in a very convoluted and to my mind illogical contortion of menu language you can also set 3x, 2.5 X to get 8 FPS, and 12 FPS as well.

The camera’s 50 FPS shooting was actually pretty good and there’s a couple of those shots in the edit as you’ll probably notice…I was surprised at how well the lower data rate codec held up.


The E-M5 Mark II takes the same batteries and I had a mix of old orginal batteries and some new ones.  They seemed to last the same amount of time to me. Or maybe even a little longer. I was shooting a lot and using video a lot and always had it on it certainly didn’t seem to me that we were going though them any faster.   I certainly never worried about preserving power and we had ten batteries between three cameras. There’s my scientific analysis


Originally, we wanted to open Curiosity with a shot of Ian swimming from below through the rays of sunshine in the Ocean, but for various reasons we had to shoot on two days that the Weather Bureau posted  “dangerous surf” warnings, so we had to adapt our plans. We were still very keen to try out the awesome and very compact underwater housing, but I dind’t really get to dive with it as we planned.  You can see that we weren’t aware of the warning and were smashed in the behind the scenes video below.   Luckily we decided not to put Ian in the water !


Framing up on Ian’s feet with the OM-D EM5 Mark II in its’s underwater housing.



Taken from inside the underwater housing using the Olympus 9-18 lens. JPEG out of camera.


One of the great things about Olympus is that they’ve always been very well protected from the elements. Even their PRO lenses and they have always been so since the original E1. I can attest to how rugged they are because I’ve always been a little loose with my stills cameras and they’ve always stood up well to the abuse. Yes I may have lost a rubber eyecup here and there but by and large the Olympus gear is close to indestructible.

And their weatherproofing is second to none. We were shooting Ian and Ash at the Maroubra sea pool and the cameras really did get tested.  My assistant Jess was shooting with one camera and tells me her camera body got close to immersed in swell three times.   we didn’t loose a frame and it didn’t skip a beat.

Still, even in difficult surf conditions I managed to get some pretty nice shots I thought. The great thing about the Olympus made housing is that it’s very simple and quick to set up and is super lightweight and small compared to much bigger and clumsier housings for other larger cameras.   The Olympus housing was a breeze to work and shoot with and made it easier to get shots on the surface.  They’ve pretty much made every menu and button accessible too, which is kind of amazing considering the camera has so many custom programable buttons.

One problem I faced when shooting puberty blues was trying to find a way to shoot surfers and dialog scenes in the surf and near the surface. I needed something better and more waterproof than a splash bag but most dive housings are so heavy and cumbersome to use you can’t really get very useable shots just out or just under the water.

I can imagine those shooting surfers will totally love this housing.

We also had some terrible weather on a ferry trip we took across Sydney harbour so again we decided to use the heavy rain and keep shooting.  Ian was a trooper for keeping up the good fight while getting soaked through. It was TEEMING ! But it was no problem at all for the E-M5 Mark II. The biggest problem was keeping the water off the front of the 15-40 F2.8 zoom !



How many K’s is enough ?

I like to think I’m kind of camera agnostic. On a larger narrative TV drama show it’s not unusual for me to have 12 cameras, because I like using different cameras for different jobs. I can now easily see many situations where I can shoot with an EM 5 Mark II for broadcast.

Olympus have reputedly been used in studio films. Oscar winning DOP John Seale ASC ACS apparently used them on the new Mad Max film, Fury Road (along with many other cameras).

If the older 30 fps only 1920 x 1080 Olympus is good enough to use in a 100 million dollar studio film like Fury Road, is it a problem that it’s not a 4K camera ?

It would be fair to think that 4K resolution would be a minimum requirement these days judging by the fact that every store that sells Televisions only seems to sell 4 K televisions.

Like the megapixel race, having more resolution is more of a marketing pursuit than one of any actual usefulness to the end consumer.

How many ways are there to deliver actual 4k content ? Anyone tried YouTube in 4K lately ? While Vimeo have just added 4K, the fact is there is a real problem with delivering 4K content to the end consumer.

Netflix, for only a few select shows is doing it. But guess what…

I know of no TV drama shows that shoot in my part of the world that actually MASTER in 4k and very very few that shoot in 4K.

In fact the most popular cinema camera by far would be the Arri Alexa and guess what the sensor resolution of that 60k+ camera is ?

I think of 4K as mostly being a bigger bucket but there’s not a lot in that bucket because almost none of the Television you watch right now is even mastered in 4K and I would imagine only the Hollywood studio films would be mastering 4K for cinema, even though the majority is shot with “only” 2.7 k sensor imaging.


The green cast is coming from the Tiffen IR ND filters used with the Zeiss Superspeeds. They are terrible and I try to avoid them, but it’s all I could get hold of for this test !


Far more important to me is bit depth and dynamic range. I’ll take those before 4K recording please.

Of course I’m not saying that 4K wouldn’t be really nice to have, but I honestly don’t think it’s a deal breaker to not have 4K because most of the content I shoot is only distributing and delivering as 1920 anyway.

Yes it could be 4k, yes they could have used 10 bit recording and a higher data rate, but look at the upsides. You get the worlds best I.S in a very small and discrete flexible camera that won’t stop in the rain, won’t overheat and allows you to use the brilliant zuiko native lenses or even vintage and top end cinema lenses whilst still retaining that amazing IS technology.

I know that some users like 4K shooting simply because they can get a better still image from the camera. To be honest that’s the dumbest thing to me because it means they will both look terrible. That’s because you have to compromise on shutter speed. So the shutter speed for motion will mean you’re at 1/50 (should be 1/48th) so any still is probably going to have to much motion blur or you shoot your videos with. A higher shutter speed which makes your videos look terrible. Don’t do it !!

The EM 5 Mark II does let you take a RAW still photo while rolling anyway if you want shoot RAW rather than a frame grab but you’re still limited by the shutter speed dilemma.




One thing that’s also very different for Olympus this time out is the flip out articulated screen.  I loved it and found it great for shooting at different heights and even for shooting sideways when I couldn’t get myself in the best position.  On the Ferry I could hold the camera out over the railing and still see the picture.  It’s sharp and bright and I could use it in all but the most glareful of sitations.  Late sunset looking into the sun with water doubling the reflection because difficult but I was able to then switch to the EVF. The EVF too was great and sharp and is apparently the same as the Olympus flagship camera the EM1.

The camera feels nice in the hand and tactile.  I couldn’t imagine it being fun to use without the grip, but my hands are on the larger side.  I love the fact that there are 4 customisable buttons.  I had peaking programmed to Fn1, and there’s a switch as well which I had programmed to switch the dials from Iris and Shutter to Wb and ISO.  So you could very quickly change the camera settings all while you’re looking through the EVF.

HDMI and Clean Feed 

Olympus have done the right thing and provided for a clean HDMI feed ! Yay !  Even better it’s 4:2:2, but I’m 95% sure it’s only 8 bit.  Still, from version 1 they’ve gotten that right I hope.  I say I hope because my V0.9 software didn’t have a functional HDMI for clean feed recording so I couldn’t test it for you.  The new firmware which only JUST came though is now 1.003 and that version my friends added clean feed 4:2:2 at 24 25 and 30 fps.

This means using external lesser compression and higher bit depth recorders we can get much much nicer pictures to grade from !  I can’t wait to test this out and I hope to do that for you really soon now…

When going clean feed over HDMI though, you apparently won’t be able to record internally at the same time.  It’s one or the other.


Rather promisingly, there’s a menu called “timecode”.  Indeed it has timecode, however, it defeats the point if you can’t actually jam sync to it !  I’m hoping I could in the future feed some TC into the microphone input and then “jam” sync the camera so that I can then sync it to another camera that i’ve jam synced and and maybe a lcoation sound recording device !  There are many jam sync sources these days, and some are even doing them as apps on smartphones.  A wee cable and you could be away jam syncing your camera….

It’s like they’ve only halfway done the Timecode, but again, a great step in the right direction that just needs to be finished.  In the meantime, I can simply record TC on the audio track of the camera and then use Resolve’s nifty Aux TC feature where it will detect the TC on the audio track and then re-stripe your file with that TC to do any multicam sync work.

Lenses built for motion work

Some Olympus lenses have this really awesome manual focus capability.  Most auto focus lenses on any camera having the endlessly circulating focus by wire focus knob for manual focus override of the AF.  On some lenses Olympus have designed it so that you can calso pull the whole focus ring back and then it’s in manual focus without having to go into a menu, BUT the cool thing is that it now has HARD STOPS on infinity and minimum focus.

This means you’d have a chance at using a follow focus and doing repeatable focus pulls !  Really brilliant engineering on their behalf and a great function to add to the lenses.  This amazing feature can be found on the 12mm F2.o and their two pro zooms, the 12-50 F2.8 and the 40-150 F2.8.  Nothing beats a manual focus lens for feel when shooting video, but these lenses come close.

The lenses also have a great function button that’s programable.  Iv’e asked Olympus to make it so that I can de-activate the I.S in a single axis.  This way I could pan a shot and hold the button in to de-activate the stabilising in the horizontal axis while I hold in the button and then turn on again for when I let go.  I can then feather the IS for when I need a static frame or if I want to pan deliberately.

One shortcoming of the I.S is that is can sometimes not know what’s an intentional move and whats’s camera shake.  This means you can start to get a bit of “float” in the image, but being able to overide the I.S momentarily in one axis would be a great way to minimise the issue.

Low Light

I did shoot some nice images up to ISO 1600 that were very useable, but I haven’t been able to do any proper low light testing.  Stay tuned for more in the near future.


They’ve gone to a better acquisition codec, using a 77 Mbit/s all-I Intra frame compression. Though the data rate isn’t spectacular it’s a really important architecture change because we’re not using a codec designed for distribution that uses temporal compression. Each frame exists in its own right with the file so it makes it much much better for editing.

Moire and Aliasing

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II doesn’t have an OLPF. Like Blackmagic choose to do with their cameras, this can mean that you’re more likely to be bitten by moire and aliasing. And as expected, I see these issues at play with my footage from the E-M5 Mark II. Is it a deal breaker ? I guess that’s for you to decide. I think the two clips here have a range of good examples of where it might be a problem. My hat and shirt is certainly a good test ! it was interesting shooting in amongst the bricks of the Paddington park aqueduct as I would have expected more aliasing in those shots, given how wide we were and how much fine detail there was.

Personally, I’ve never really found it much of an issue the way many others do.   I’ve been shooting with the Blackmagic cameras for some years now and I can count on one hand the number of times it’s really been a genuine problem in my shooting. I guess it’s a subjective kind of problem and you either hate it or you don’t. I feel a little for Olympus here because they want to make a really nice sharp stills camera and one way to get that apparent sharpness up is to have a low or even no OLPF and that’s the choice they’ve made. Unfortunately aliasing/moire will show up more in video than in stills. In stills it’s usually a pretty simple fix …not so much in motion ..

How’s it look ?

You should be the judge but I’m impressed by the inherent look of the E-M5 MarkII.  The 8 bit files and the dynamic range in video mode are probably it’s biggest hold-backs, but it’s no slouch when you can get the conditions in your favour.  It’s never going to like high contrast and only having 8 bits to work with in the grade certainly doesn’t help the course.  I’m quietly hopeful that with clean HDMI recording this can be greatly improved.  The IS really helps to minimise the perception of the rolling shutter and the motion cadence seems nice.  Olympus are well known for their base look and this should be extended into video.  The default profiles are great for a baked in look, (just like shooting JPEGs) and if you want to shoot for the grade, the custom profile gives you some range to work with.

I will confess I did have some trouble in some situations with Ash’s skin tones, but I feel like it may have been makeup related or perhaps the earlier matrix / colour calibration of the V0.9 camera.  Ian was no problem though so I think it may have just been her make up.

I used the worst IR ND filters ever, the green TIFFEN’s but it was all I was able to access to use in the mattebox on the Zeiss superspeed lenses.  I was usually on a 1.8 (6 stops) and I always shot at 1/50th of a second except for the 50fps scenes which were 1/100th.  Mostly shooting around  T 1.3-2.8

For the Olympus lenses though I had the fantastic Hoya PRO IRND filters and they are very good, very neutral. A little birdy tells me they are the same heritage as the Mitomo True ND filters, which have already proven how truly neutral they are.

In the grade NO SHARPENING was applied and NO NOISE REDUCTION either so you’re getting a fair idea of what it looks like.

Final thoughts

Olympus are officially in the filmmaking game and this is only their first serious effort at making a camera with appeal to those of us that want our stills cameras to also shoot motion. Although the headline specs might not seem all that impressive compared to others at first glance, you should consider the total package and with their IS it starts to become a really interesting camera for certain applications.  There’s certainly nothing else like it.

Olympus have got a lot right. The biggest step was adding frame rates that at least means we can use cameras in professional cine and TV environments. This next generation I.S has to be seen to be believed. It really is that good. Click to the end of the BTS clip below for examples. Adding those frame rates and adding a more robust editorial all intra codec are both great leaps for Olympus to make.

Now many of you would know I’m a big fan of the Blackmagic pocket cinema camera and have been using them for several years. They give me awesome DR and high bit depth files that are still pretty hard to beat in terms of base IQ. But they don’t have sensor IS and you can’t take a decent still with them either . They also don’t have an EVF, nor do they have good exposure tools and an articulated screen and fast AF.  Olympus does get a lot right with their long heritage of making unique cameras that stand proud in their own way.

Am I going to shoot an entire TV series using only one of these ?  No, probably not, but it’s definitely going to have a place in my arsenal of cameras on set. To my camera agnostic thinking I tend to like to have a camera for every situation and I can think of plenty of times where I’d be reaching for the E-M5 Mark II over my usual production camera…getting in a car and shooting from the back seat (or front seat) would be the first, but really anywhere I can’t get a full size production camera like the Alexa and want image stabilised shots.

There’s still plenty to annoy and irritate, but I’m hoping they can address these kinds of things in firmware.  For example 24 FPS is really 23.98 which is fine if you’re in the US and Japan, but once again, in 50 Hz environments we actually use 24 fps that actually is 24 fps.

It really is a problem that you can’t change the exposure once you’re rolling.  That’s a crazy thing to do, and I hope they address this post haste in their next firmware update. A small thing too, but the frame rate being at 24 FPS, means that the ideal flicker free window in my part of the world is 172.8 / 180 deg shutter, but there isn’t any cine mode as such so instead I’m limited to 1/50th of a second for both 25 and 24 fps.  Now it’s pretty close, but it’s not exactly sitting in the flicker free window that we have so there’s a slightly larger chance there may be issue with lighting flicker with certain lights…

So for Olympus this camera is more a toe in the water rather than a headlong dive into the deep waters of cinema cameras, but I for one am very excited to see Olympus at least moving in this direction.  I’m standing up and cheering them on loudly because they have a long and proud tradition of innovation and that’s got to be good for us cinematographers.

Panasonic have had this m4/3 video / stills camera space with their GH series cameras and Olympus certainly have some catching up to do but I can’t wait to see what they bring to the video market of these cameras and I’m really excited for Olympus to be moving in this direction. Olympus have such a long history of making their own path so I’m expecting great things.

I want to thank those who helped me out with this shoot. Our actors Ian Meadows and Ash Ricardo, along with the band, led by George Washingmachine. The track is his own, “The Moon has Left Town”.   Tony D’Aquino for directing and editing  and also Quett from Olympus Australia who nervously watched on as I pretty much attempted to trash his new pre-release cameras.  Quett also shot a lot of the behind the scenes and took a lot of the photos you see here and for download. Thanks also to Jessica Clarke-Nash for assisting me along with Roberto Tarrants.

Here are the Clips.

Firstly, Curiosity.

This is the behind the scenes but it also has some great examples of the I.S working.  All the shots that have crew in them are ungraded out of Quett’s camera.

And here’s some camera original video files along with some RAW stills. You need to download Olympus Viewer to access the RAW files as the updates for other photo processing applications is still to come.  I make these available to you for your evaluation only.  Please do not re-purpose or re-distribute.



About johnbrawley

Director Of Photography striving to create compelling images
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118 Responses to Olympus comes in from the filmmaking wilderness….

  1. Anthony says:

    Great article John.
    Just one thought. Why wouldn’t you adapt the stabilizer gimbal to a steadycam rig? Just remove the sled and add(by adapting)the gimbal to fit on the iso Elastic arm connected to your supportive vest. Could this be the best of both worlds?

  2. Riley says:

    Nice stuff John

    of course you need way more flexibility than me

    I thought of using something like a Flycam C6
    set the camera up straight and level
    turn the system on
    and it should stay that way

    no gyros required !

  3. James says:

    Hi John, thanks so much for sharing your experience with the Mark II!

    Looks like Olympus are on to a winner. I’m very tempted to add this to my bag for wedding filming. So many instances where the IBIS would have been invaluable to grab shots where space and time are a premium.

    Fingers crossed Olympus add the use of dials while rolling. Really needed, especially when running and gunning using the EVF…

    I’m downloading your uncorrected files now to check out the original colours. I’m worried your awesome grade is giving me rose-tinted glasses on the camera’s output =)

    • johnbrawley says:

      Ha, well the files are shot with a custom profile I created which should give you a nice flat image to start with. Theya re shot to grade with, not to look at AS IS…


  4. Pingback: Olympus OM-D E-M5 MarkII Test-Film, Making-Of und Review von John Brawley | Lensfire

  5. jacques_F says:

    Interesting article John, thanks … but a short remark on 4K.

    Do you know that the main real advantage of 4K, is NOT to be able to grab still frames from it, BUT is to provide true 1080p resolution (1100 lp/ph average) when edited in a 1080p timeline, while native Full HD camera can only resolve around 650 to 750 lp/ph typically ?
    And in addition as a secong huge advantage, this editing of 4k source in a 1080p timeline provides panning, zooming and stabilizing capabilities without decreasing quality, things that cannot be realized on a Full HD source !

    Second remark, in video we don’t speak at all of “1920” format but of 1080p which is Full HD (as you mentioned above, “most of the content I shoot is only distributing and delivering as 1920 anyway”) !

    • johnbrawley says:

      I’m of course aware of the Bayer sensor issues with which I think you’re referring. The fact is, most content is “only” shot at HD with sensors that aren’t 4k sensors. Arri alexa being the prime example. And we do have other camera that can capture in those resolutions. I just don’t think 4K trumps other important features like bit depth and dynamic range.

      Post stablising always means a picture crop. This camera already has excellent IS in camera that should hopefully remove the need for post stabilising !!


      • jacques_F says:

        Yes, John.
        I know you are a Cinematographer, but my remark was in reply to what you mentioned that can mislead your readers !
        “” I honestly don’t think it’s a deal breaker to not have 4K because most of the content I shoot is only distributing and delivering as 1920 anyway.
        I know that some users like 4K shooting simply because they can get a better still image from the camera. “”

        Mentioning only that is kind of a shortcut.

        Second, the Olympus product is not in the same league as Ari Alexa, and so getting better 1080p video from a 4k source could be a big plus for better Full HD quality delivery in this budget league.
        So why in 2015, with lots of already existing or new-to-come 4K budget products, not benefit of Editing 4k in a 1080p timeline and distributing and delivering as 1080p ?

        Another and final remark, please don’t speak of a “4K sensor”, there is no real product with a 4K sensor, (apart Pro products or consumer camcorders) , as there is no Still camera to have 1920×1080 sensor so when talking of a still camera the sensor is for sure not a 4K sensor, so better to talk of 4K source and not 4K sensor !

      • johnbrawley says:

        I think it’s just as misleading Jacques to say you need something more than 650 lp/ph for something to be called HD. I’d much rather judge looking at the end picture result and use that rather than any numeric indicator. Image making is so much more than the engineering, resolution and specs and THAT is the point I make when talking about it not being a 4K source.

        I shoot for drama right now using stills, cameras, GoPros and iPhones all the way up to RED and Arri. We deliver a 1920 file and thats the reality. No one really cares what you shot it on, as long as the story telling works and most of the shows I work on have all sorts of images that are technically “wrong” by lot’s of measures.

        There really aren’t any rules and while it would have been nice if the E-M5 made 4k files, it doesn’t and that’s not going to stop me using it.


    • jacques_F says:

      and for sure the best would be to get both 4K and IBIS, perhpas on the EM-1 Mk II ?

      • johnbrawley says:

        I don’t think we’ll see 4K on any current Olympus hardware.


      • jacques_F says:

        John with all the respect I have, you’re not fair and don’t want to recognize that what you write in this article on 4K is a simplistic shotcut to your readers.
        You could have formulate it in a more clever way.
        I am nost discussing that EM-5 MK II is not good enough as it is, It only come 6 years late after the GH2 but not sure with same video quality level (apart IBIS capability).
        Thanks anyway for the exchange.

      • johnbrawley says:

        Jacques I’m happy for you to better explain it than I if you want to and leave your comment here for all to see.

        I also know that overall the camera may not seem to be a great leap over others that already exist, but I think as a package there’s nothing else like it as a camera currently on the market. The IBIS is a big part of that story, but so is weatherproofing, it’s articulated screen, evf etc.


  6. I fell in love with the EM5 the first time I tried it at its debut at a camera show here in the UK. My 5D2 got little use after it arrived but that also meant that not much video was getting shot. For a big trip to NZ last year I wanted video so got a GH4 and also the 5D made way for an A7s. In fact, the EM5 is still there with my son. The GH4 is a camera I admire for its abilities but it doesn’t illicit the same emotional response as the OMD. The Sony is perhaps a little closer but is trickier to stay compact with. I think much of the OMDs spiritual link to the compact SLRs I grew up with in the 80s. On both of the new camera I really miss the IBIS. I was luck that I had a core of Lumix IS zooms before I got the GH4. On longer lenses (like my 60mm macro) it’s a struggle and 4k takes no prisoners.

    The EM5 II isn’t a GH4 killer but I am going to have to try very hard to keep my wallet in my pocket when I see one in store. At least if I succumb to temptation the price is pretty reasonable.

    With regard to exposure, I was watching some of the Olympus launch videos. These implied that they had designed the exposure and AF to be smooth and stepless in video. This included using the exposure comp dial. Was this working on the firmware you had?

    • johnbrawley says:

      They do have an auto exposure mode. I sometimes used this for scenes when I had to do shots with brightness changes like the orbit in the forest around Ash.

      I had it in shutter priority mode, locking the shutter speed so it then uses iris and ISO to control exposure and it “works” as advertised, however, sometimes you might not like the auto exposure choice about where it positions the exposure and you can’t override it while recording and THAT is the issue I have. So while you can bias the auto exposure, once rolling, you’re stuck with what the camera decides is the right exposure. It’s a workaround rather than being the best scenario.


      By the way, the 60 macro with the IS in this camera is super sweet;-)

  7. Ron coker says:

    This is a mighty article. As a carer for 8 MFT cameras I have my eye out for your progress with E-M5 MK II. The Defy G2 would be just the ticket for this camera, Static balance takes time. I find plumbers pipe tongs with gaffer tape padded jaws a help to nip the clamp handles!

  8. sgreszcz says:

    Thank you so much for this detailed analysis. I loved my E-M5 and E-P5, but sold them for Panasonic LX-100 and GX7 as I was frustrated with the poor Olympus video codec. It looks like it might be time to swap the GX7 for the E-M5II as I really miss the IBIS. As a filmmaker, please continue to influence Olympus, if possible, to keep the improvements coming!

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  11. Josh says:

    what do you think of the video quality compared to say the panasonic gx7 or the gh3?

  12. Tom says:

    I have a question from the documentary side of the tracks. Trying to choose between this and the GH 4 for both my own work and to introduce students to light weight documentary production. Trying to avoid dual system sound. Likely package would include a small stabilizer, a tripod, and a three or four head LED kit to travel with. Any thoughts on how this would do — or would you think it more prudent to go with a GH4 and wait until Olympus gets their second crack at some of the issues you mention above.

    Thanks in advance — and if these questions are two open ended or simple minded to answer, I’ll try to reframe.

    • johnbrawley says:

      To be honest for your situation I think the GH4 would probably be the better camera, only because it’s a bit more mature. The option of 4K is nice to have as well as the expandability of the YAGH module should you ever decide to go that option. You miss out on IBIS and have to go with what you can get from optical stabilising instead. I think too, though I haven’t shot with it, the GH4 sound options might be better as well for the moment.


  13. Mr. Kang says:

    I’m sorry, what’s the meaning of “otesoise performance”?

  14. Pingback: Watch, Smile, Watch, Read – Digital Insider

  15. Pingback: First Impressions Of The Brand New Olympus E-M5 Mark II + Where I Think The New Canon 5DS Stands | Noam Kroll

  16. Pingback: The New Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Has Incredible 5-Axis IBIS, But No 4K | 4K Shooters

  17. stupig says:

    Nice film! One thing though – the absence of OLPF has nothing to do with movie moire and aliasing. These artefacts come from insufficient sampling or suboptimal binning. In order to eliminate them, an OLPF designed for 1920×1080 resolution is needed, i.e., at a much lower cut-off frequency than the 16MP sensor requires for still photos.

    • johnbrawley says:

      Of course you are right.

      The problem is that Olympus can’t design an OLPF that will work for both stills and video modes anyway, so they’re stuck a little bit there.

      Even if the sensor wasn’t binning.


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  19. bg davis says:

    Does the EM5-II have anything like the following?
    Lumix GX7 uses sensor crop to increase the effective range (FOV) for long-distance telephoto video (of which I do a lot, for surfing videos taken from shore, with the subjects up to half a mile away). In addition to the 2x FOV multiplier of MFT (compared to FF), the “Extended Tele Converter” mode adds another 2.4x to FHD video. There is absolutely no degradation of IQ, since there is no resampling or compression taking place. The video is simply shot using a 2mp area from the middle of the sensor. So my 300mm lens becomes effectively 300mm x 2 x 2.4.
    If the EM5-II has this, it comes off my wish list and into my pre-order cart.

    • johnbrawley says:

      You should place your order then 🙂

      • sgreszcz says:


        Are you sure that the Olympus Digital Teleconverter works the same as the Panasonic ETC? From my experience using the Original E-M5, E-P5, E-PM2 that the Olympus uses some sort of interpolation in their digital zoom. While this works quite well for the JPEGs upscaled to 16 MP, this results in a lot of artifacts when applied to video (as pixels then need binning and then there is compression). The Panasonic Electronic Teleconverter on my GX7 uses a straight 2x crop of the sensor to give the full 1080p pixels (no binning) which results in a cleaner 2x zoom video image.

        I’m not sure that this has changed with the E-M5II, I would really like to know this. If so shooting with one E-M5 II, and say the 12-40/2.8 lens would give you the equivalent of 24-160 mm in full frame which is quite useful. If a straight crop is used rather than interpolation, the 48-160 mm equivalent range could look quite good with no binning and the great IBIS stabilisation.

      • bg davis says:

        To sgreszcz
        (For some reason there is no “Reply” option directly to sgreszcz.)
        Thanks for adding to the question.
        I do know that although the GX7 has sensor crop zoom (both stills at reduced resolution, and video FHD), the GH3 did not; it’s possible that the EM5-II has it even though the EM5 did not. But like you, I would like to know for sure.

    • sgreszcz says:


      I’m pretty sure the E-M5 (original) had the 2x DTC and it worked in video. I owned one for a couple of years and used it but was not happy with the quality due to the interpolation that worked well with JPEG stills, but made the video look ugly. In fact, my Olympus E-PM2 has the same (I still own it).

      I’m pretty sure even the GH2 had an ETC mode as I remember reading it @ Luminous Landscape and being super-hyped about it: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/panasonic_gh2_11_mode_revealed.shtml

      • bg davis says:

        I should have been more precise: my GH3 has ETC, but only at lower resolution, not 1080p. I learned the hard way when I shot some video using ETC and then found that it was lower res (whatever the next step down is; I call it “HD Lite”). But the GX7 yields FHD, 1080p/60 with ETC. I believe that so far only the GX7 and GH4 can do this in the Panasonic line. I actually sent Luminous Landscape an email regarding their GH3 review to let them know about the reduced resolution with ETC.

    • johnbrawley says:

      So after your post I went and checked the IQ, as I hadn’t shot with it.
      I’m still waiting to hear back from my Olympus contact, but so far from what I can see there is a kid of blurring of the image, but I think it may well be IS related.

      I would say it’s probably NOT what you’re hoping for there. Sorry for not looking into that more, it’s not really a mode I’d considered using.

      There is a chance it may work well in IBIS mode 2 which is sensor only based, rather than Mode 1 which is digital and sensor.


  20. Aaron says:

    I love how the skintones look on the wilderness video. Was that just an in-camera preset?

  21. Pingback: Nimmt Olympus mit der OM-D E-M5 Mark II endlich die Video-Funktion ernst? | Qamara

  22. Larry says:

    Hi John,

    Have you tried what happens when you record past the 29min recording limit? Does it just stop recording or does it continue it on a different file?
    Thanks. This answer would help me a lot.

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  24. Hi John,
    Have you had a chance to try recording to an external recorder. I’m trying to choose between the GH4 and the Mark II, but it seems the Panasonic is a better video camera – but uncompressed video would sway me to stay with Olympus. I want the best-looking documentary I can, but I also got to carry the gear on a motorcycle…

    • johnbrawley says:

      Hi Nigel. I am planning to start testing that this week actually. The GH4 is a pretty compelling camera no doubt. I think you’d have to really value IBIS for it to play.

      • 4K Vs. IBIS + 40MP landscapes. Olympus $500 cheaper. I already have E-M5 & E-M1 and four Zuiko lenses – no Panasonic, therefore none stabilised, and I have lots of Olympus batteries. Add a Atomos and I have an external screen/recorder which I can use on other video gear I can’t fit in on this trip. I HATE unstabilised hand-held video, but I have a feeling there will be times during a motorcycle tour where I won’t have too many choices.
        I look to hear about your results with an external recorder. So far the interwebs is very polarised about the video from the Mark II…

      • johnbrawley says:

        They’re good reasons.

        It’s by far the best video Olympus has ever done. It’s just that Panasonic have decades of video experience to draw on. It’s going to take OLY a while to catch up.

  25. Hi John, just came across this great article. I don’t think we’ve worked together yet but I have worked on many sets where your name has come up in high regard. I thinks it’s great to to see industry DP’s embracing the current line up of new technology cameras. The Olympus certainly seems to be holding its own in the field. I’ve recently started shooting stills on set with the Fujifilm X-T1 using its electronic shutter. The only things I have found to keep an eye out for when shooting in this manner is rolling shutter effects and high speed movement in the opposite direction of panning which results in “broken” objects due to line reading of the sensor.
    All in all its a much lighter and easier system to use than my blimped 5D Mkii kit.
    Thanks for a very informative post, I look forward to seeing more from the Olympus cameras.

    Cheers, Heath

  26. Excellent write-up, John. Thanks very much. I’m starting to become an Olympus believer. AND it’s a very pretty camera.

    • johnbrawley says:

      Cheers Jason. It’s an encouraging step and I’m really more looking forward to seeing how they develop. As it is, the IBIS may be compelling enough to forgive some other shortcomings. JB

  27. Shane says:

    Hi John,

    I have been using the mark 11 and I’m a fan. Handheld shots in tight places it’s simply awsome. Lot of other things to like about it as well. Hopefully they take on your advice and keep improving the platform.

    Just wondering how you went with the field recorder / ProRes testing?

    • johnbrawley says:


      I haven’t yet because there’s a weird thing with the HDMI out.

      To work at 24fps, it’s only supported by the Shogun or Odessey 7Q+.

      And I haven’t been able to source one of those yet. Hopefully in the next few weeks.


  28. urbanj says:

    Hello – thank you for your review! Can you tell me if the IS system makes a ‘humming’ noise that is audible in quiet environments? I tried the Panasonic FZ1000 and the camera sounded like it had darth vader inside of it so I have been hesitant to try another 4/3rds camera even though I really love the specs of the em5ii. I want to shoot video and take stills in sacred environments and I am looking for a camera that is truly silent.

  29. Riley says:

    congratulations on your new position as Olympus Brand Ambassador
    John. May we all grow from this experience

  30. fuzzynormal says:

    Hey John/All,

    Any advice where m5II users for video can go to ask each other some questions? I’m having a go at it, but need some testimony to make sure I’m getting the most out of the camera. Not so much IQ inquires as it is just basic ergonomics, settings, and such.


    • johnbrawley says:

      Hi. I guess the usual forums ? I’m happy to help where I can

      • fuzzynormal says:

        I guess just the best avenue to connect with Olympus for making suggestions on potential firmware improvements to the video on the M5II would be great.

        For instance, focus assist disabled on the movie mode? Very odd considering that a lot of motion picture shooters use manual glass. Why should that feature be readily available for stills but not video?

        Also, exposure adjustment when recording, obviously. Both seem like something that could be implemented in firmware so knowing the best place to send that feedback would be cool.

        I also like your suggestion of on the fly stabilization toggling. That seems a little more advanced to pull off with additional coding, but a nice consideration nonetheless.

  31. johnbrawley says:

    I mapped focus peaking to Fn button 1 and it works great ! Do you meant the zoom-in assist ?


    • fuzzynormal says:

      Yeah. zoom-in-assist. Pop in tight to check focus real quick before rolling.

      My work is almost all run-n-gun, so I’m documenting in real time rather than blocking and setting stuff up. Need quick help like zoom-in-assist as shots bounce along.

      I’ve found zoom-in-assist to be a smooth and wonderful tool on my Canon cams and Panasonic cams, so was a little dismayed that it’s absent from the M5II.

      A workaround I’ve tried is the 2x digital zoom, but 1.) 2x isn’t really enough for me to focus with confidence, and 2.) it’s possible to roll when in that mode (which is horrible for video) and I’ve made that mistake a few times.

      Also, while I do like the focus peaking lines for a lot of shots, (I’ve mapped it to f2) I’m not a huge fan of it in some situations. I’ve found it actually gets in my way a little when trying to grab focus on the wider shots. Nice tool, but it’s not to be trusted as I’ve discovered the hard way. Plus, I’m basically accustomed to working without focus peaking.

      All things considered, it’s a strong camera that really helps me accomplish sequence/montage shooting without a tripod.

      Getting stable shots while hand holding the camera in weird positions and locations is wonderful; can’t do that quickly with a tripod.

      I expected a little usability bumpiness from Olympus; owned a M5 after all. I can take the good with the bad. Just gets frustrating to miss focus on a shot when things start moving fast on location.

      Thanks for the feedback.

  32. johnbrawley says:


    It’s interesting you say you prefer punch in zoom for focus assist because if I was running and gunning, I don’t like those kinds of tools because I can’t really easily do them in the middle of a take. If I’m shooting and rolling, I can use peaking to see where focus is sitting and what I like about this is that i can do it while rolling and still maintain the frame I’m shooting.

    For sure, I guess you would have more precision with punch in though, but I don’t know how I’d go maintaining a handheld frame whilst checking focus like that.

    It’s good to document this kind of feedback though for down the road…


    • fuzzynormal says:

      The type of shooting I do often involves quick sequencing. 5-10 second shots, more or less. So, set focus, grab a wide. Set focus, grab a medium. Set focus, grab a close up.

      As you say, punch in during a shot? Not really a necessity.

      And you are right, if you’re grabbing longer random takes then one really does need to hunt for focus. Peaking can help during this.

      But I’m wary of it. Peaking has let me down a few times (not just on my Olympus camera) when shooting wide exteriors. Say, a building from 25 yards away with lots of signage. Those line/word edges can fool the peaking feature and leave you with a soft shot.

      Anyway, my Canon 7D, 5D, and Panasonic GH/GX series cameras have the punch-in feature and I’d like Olympus to bring it to the EM5II with a future firmware.

      Thanks for you responses!

  33. Sarah says:

    Is that flecky your only tool for shaping light in this clip? Much done in the grade?

    • sarahjof says:

      I’m just curious about what the process would be to light a shot with a low-impact crew and no electrical light sources- unless you’re Stanley Kubrick when is there a case for available light?

  34. Lumixman says:

    Blah, blah, blah…but where is 4k video capability???

  35. Lumixman says:

    Sadly true…but I would love to see Olympus implement 4K! What’s the hardship? Lack of know-how…or just drip-feed technology increments? 4K has been around for a while now.
    As much as I like my GH4’s it is frustrating that Panasonic doesn’t offer internal image stabilization…while Olympus doesn’t offer 4K.

    Maybe the new Sony A7RII is the camera that many (including me) will reluctantly abandon M4/3 for…

    • johnbrawley says:

      4k is important for some, but not all.

      I’m about to start shooting a major series with VFX for a major US network and they don’t want 4K at all.

      The gold standard for cinema cameras, the Alexa, doens’t have a 4K sensor.

      So how important REALLY is 4K ?

      Sure it would be nice to have and I would prefer to have it, but as you’ve said, there are features that are unique to the Olympus like the IBIS.

      Don’t forget too that Sony and Panasonic have decades of history making video cameras.

      This is Olympus’s first pass at it. I think we can cut them some slack for a little while…


      • Riley says:

        “This is Olympus’s first pass at it. I think we can cut them some slack for a little while…”

        yes granted, but if we are talking the next generation of cameras, at the end of their model life whey might be 3-4 years away from here

        “So how important REALLY is 4K ?”

        in the next camera, vital
        there is a clear improvement from what we have to 4k, and it is possibly the only place they can compete with FF cameras on a more or less equal footing. One can always edit video down from 4k and still realise some improvement, but you cannot meaningfully upres back up.

  36. Riley says:

    yes the sensor will be the ultimate quality determinant, but a lot of the issues perceived or real, are just in camera software related. If Olympus desire to fulfil customer needs they have to move very quickly to redress that before the rest of manufacturing fills the gap.

    • johnbrawley says:

      Tell me exactly what you see as needing redress ?


      • Riley says:

        At a minimum they need to use commercially acceptable codecs
        and they need to get into the 4k window,
        …….this may mean properly adopting 16×9 for video with square pixel fit to screen instead of making out 4×3 video might be ‘ok’
        down the chain that means 16×9 viewer and screen

        Something tells me they are going to find that philosophically ‘hard’, but if they want to live in this space at or near the top, thats what they need to do

        Among other things, I do like GH4 approach to make the camera selectable for video or stills oriented. There are a lot of things about GH4 that are very right, not having IS isnt one of them. Although Panasonic thankfully got over that limited capacity battery issue and Olympus would be wise to follow, because its still a bit tight even with a grip

      • johnbrawley says:

        I agree they should be using better codecs.

        But how many true 135 format (FF) 4K cameras are there out there ? They are few and far between and by manufacturers that have a very long history in video.

        4K just isn’t as important to everyone as it might seem to you. I speak from personal experience and from having to deliver to Network. It just isn’t.

        It’s sure NICE to have the option, but it’s not a deal breaker in high end production, as much as it is in lower end.

        You’re really trying to spec out a better video camera and you also have to remember this is a hybrid / bridge camera. There are going to be better solutions out there when you design for one solution. It’s almost impossible for example to design a OLPF that can be optimised for stills and video.

        I actually don’t think Olympus want to live “near the top” as you say. Companies like Blackmagic and Arri are already making excellent cameras that only shoot video. They’re never going to compete.

        But what they can do is continue to innovate technologies like sensor IS and sensor cleaning, things that we still don’t have on those other higher end cinema cameras.

        They can make cameras that aren’t “me too” cameras like they always have, that take great stills, have great colour science are weatherproof more then most and also happen to shoot decent 1920 video.

        Olympus are hear to stay.

        They are a medical company that rely on their imaging devision to innovate through R&D for their medical devision.

        4K is important and they know this. I know they know this from my personal interactions with them.


  37. Riley says:

    I just happen to think the utility of stabilisation is befitting a lot of video user roles, somewhere within the indy film maker, web based photojournalist where they wont provide a crew (as many news fields are going) and yes for the home and family user in their growing field of endeavours.

    And note too that Blackmagic and Arri, or for that matter the GH4 need to spend at a minimum around $1k on bulky 3 axis stabilisation, as well as the former not being all that useful for stills!

    It is that particular niche, where you wouldn’t take a broadcast news video camera and rig as a first choice, or perhaps you just couldn’t afford it, maybe travelling living out of a pack. what about as a you tube marketing asset for users who don’t even know what a matte box is.

    It may well be that it isn’t ‘the top’; but it is a very good solution for an increasingly sizable spectrum of users, that with some work could compete well with the well known GH4. That’s not a bad place to be and it likely exceeds the professional equipment market anyway.

    which would put it at the top 🙂

    • Fuzzynormal says:

      For me, it’s a very practical tool for a specific video client I do a lot of work for, so my testimony about the EM5II is very favorable. It’s not the best IQ on the market, but that really doesn’t matter. Honest.

      If you know what you’re doing with a camera the EM5II is more than capable and it gives you a great feature that allows some productivity.

      Sure, I’d like to change some ergo stuff on the camera, but I’m using it so effectively now that those are just quibbles.

  38. Quoting ” Any old lens can be stablised ! ”

    This gets an arrrrrgh from me – my fav brand used to have Sensor Shift for stills and video, but have disabled it for video in the last few models….. And now Olympus and Sony have implemented close to the same technologies that Pentax have switched off.
    Ahh, well, the SMC primes are still worth the effort 😉

    It’d be nice if there was one camera that had all the features we want, and a company that listened to the users.

  39. gryphon1911 says:

    Lenses with the focus clutch from Olympus:
    12mm f/2
    7-14mm f/2.8
    12-40mm f/2.8
    40-150mm f/2.8
    and the upcoming 300mm f/4

    The 12-50mm f/3.8-6.3 lens does not, although it is weather sealed as are all the other lenses mentioned above.

    I’ve not shot any meaningful video from the Olympus cameras as of yet, just a few small projects. For my online needs and the current client base I have, it is enough. The footage has been really just b-roll stuff or things to supplement the stills I capture during an event and combining them into a presentation video for the client.

    Now, with the EM5 Mk II, I’m adding in some good audio with the Sennheiser AVX and am going to start expanding out into some more meaningful reportage video.

    m43 really gives some of us a very affordable and versatile system to expand from stills into video.

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  47. I am kind of excited about these changes for Olympus. I know since this was written they came out with the EM-10 Mark II which has similar video capabilities as the EM5 Mark II for less money. I just bought the original EM5, on sale from B and H, earlier this summer. I have enjoyed the quality of the photographs a lot, better then my other cameras. I prefer the Olympus stills to Panasonic but Panasonic has had the better video options up until these cameras. The problem is that I am now in the market for another camera! Thanks or the detailed review John!

  48. Jake says:


    with the new firmware v4.0 for e-M1…is it possible to have stabilization at the same level than E-M5 II ? with is1 and is2 ?
    Or is it impossible because sensor built differently and new firm just add options?

    sorry for my english, i’m french

    have a good time


    • johnbrawley says:

      Hello Jake,

      I don’t think the stablization will be as good, simply because I know the technology in the sensor IBIS mechanism is a better “generation”. I don’t think a firmware upgrade will instantly improve what the EM 1 Can do. Still, I’m sure that what is improved is the algorithm of how it works. I don’t yet really know yet though, because I haven’t had a chance to test it out yet !


      • Jake says:


        thx for your answer
        for me stabilization is good for my 20mm 1.7 pana, for my 25mm 1.4 pana
        but on static shoots, it s not perfect with 12mm
        the smallest lateral distance, the image in the background has a bizarre appearance
        a little rolling shutter or jellow effect
        i love the 12mm oly in the city
        bizarre effect because wide angle, more difficult to stabilize for E-M1

        Do you prefer E-M5 II on E-M1 ?

        Me i love E-M1, more buttons less cheap like E-M5
        i m affraid about less quality on movie, even with 77Mbts bitrate

        i shoot ever in Black and White
        do you think stabilization will be better with 12 40 2.8 zoom 2.8 at 12mm ?

        waiting your answers, hope youre fine


      • Jake says:


        after V4.0, stabilization plus for all lenses or plus only for olympus lenses ?

        best regards

  49. johnbrawley says:

    Hello Jake. I would assume the new stabilisation would work for ALL lenses, just like they do now. Some cameras like SONY need to have lens data to work in all axis, but as far as I know, Olympus do not.

    With regards to sensor wobble on your wider, shots, can I suggest you manually override the focal length ? You can do this by using the quicj menu to get to IS sensor mode, and then hit the INFO key and change the focal length to a slightly higher lens. For your 12mm, I suggest 17, 20 or 25mm for example. This should reduce the wobbles but still give you some IS….


    • Jake says:

      tried but no better
      i have a good stabilization with for example lumix 20mm
      but not wonderful with 12mm olympus

  50. Philip Adams says:

    Thanks for the very useful article. I just read that you can adjust the aperture and shutter speed while shooting video if you press the OK button. I haven’t got one yet mainly sue to thinking you couldn’t so thought you might be interested if it works!
    Best, Phil

  51. Jerry says:

    Have you recorded on any uhs-ii card? I am running firmware v2 video onto two brand new Lexar 64gb pro cards and video locks up at 13 or 14 seconds almost all the time. Seems to be a buffering or time code issue as this goes away when I turn off drop frame in time code settings.

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • johnbrawley says:

      Hi Jerry,

      I haven’t had a chance to run the new firmware on the 5 Mark II as yet, so I can’t help. I have been using the Mark 1 though for video and it’s been great to have this functionality added !


  52. kitlaughlin says:

    John, thanks for your review; it really added weight when I was considering whether to buy one.

    A question, if I may: you wrote “Luckily Olympus have made it pretty easy to manage roll numbers on the SD cards (YAY !) so I could customise that before we started shooting and it made the conform so much easier”.

    Can you explain? I use three Panny G6 bodies and the E-M5mkii for my Vimeo on Demand channel, and the G6 bodies do not let you customise the roll numbers (or if they do, please let me know); and because I use ClipWrap, all files from the G6s have the same numbers, 0000.mov, 0001.mov, etc. I put them in their own folders (ACam, BCam, etc.) but setting roll numbers would be lovely!

  53. Rey says:

    Great article ! Thank you I learned lotsI There is a feature I cannot figure out – – How do I shoot stills while concurrently shooting a movie. What are your settings?

    How do you do this? (See your quote below):
    “The EM 5 Mark II does let you take a RAW still photo while rolling anyway if you want shoot RAW rather than a frame grab but you’re still limited by the shutter speed dilemma”

    Thank you

    • johnbrawley says:

      I don’t have the camera in front of me, but in the movie menu from memory you can set this up as a preference. If you still can’t find it I’ll go and look at the menu once I have the camera in front of me.


  54. nistara says:

    Hello JB, thank you for the great article! I was saving up (am a student, so it took time!) to buy the em-5, but was worried about the video quality. Your article helped me decide to go for it, and I recently made a video for a side project on Humingbirds. It’s at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3jRni7ZRg0 if you’re interested.

    Thank you again 🙂

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  56. matthewhbaron says:

    Great review, thanks for doing this and sharing. I’m loving my new em5 and have found your points of strengths and weaknesses spot on. Also, did you mean the 12-50 2.8 Olympus lens? Never heard of a 13-50. Thanks again

  57. Stephen S says:

    At least with the current firmware, you can change the exposure while you’re recording. Press the OK button and it will access that slide-out touch-screen menu. Use the dials to select SS or Fno, or if you’re already on the one you want, you can quickly just press OK a second time. You can then change settings using the dials instead of touching the screen.

  58. kitlaughlin says:

    John, thanks: great review. Did you manage to record HDMI out onto an external recorder? And what were the results like? I ask because this camera is one of the few that can output clean HDMI; I am looking for additional cameras for my ATEM Television Studio switcher; it can take HDMI or SDI out. TIA, KL

  59. Hi John. I hope you are still active here. I recently upgraded from EM-5 to EM-1 Mkii mainly for the 4K video but I also for stills in my stop motion work. In general I really like it, the picture looks great, skin tones are less problematic than the ubiquitous GH5. But i have struck an odd problem which only seems to occur at 25fps. If the camera is panned or tilted quickly there is a kind of tearing flicker that occurs for a moment after. It’s not exposure since my lenses are manual aperture and everything is set to manual. Changing frame rate to 30fps fixes it. Note you kind of need to almost shake the camera to get this effect. I noticed it first when checking an external monitor for lag I’ve heard of some similar problems from some others when zooming and wonder if this is the same and if it is common to all Mkiis? Thanks Gerald

    • johnbrawley says:

      Hi Gerald. Doesn’t sound like anything I’ve seen. Have you got a video example you can upload ? JB

      • Gerald Thompson says:

        Hi thanks for replying. I have uploaded a sample to Vimeo. I also slowed it down a little to get a better look. It looks a bit like the banding you can get from artificial light sources or monitors when offspeed? Except this is shot only with natural daylight of course. The bands look yellowish on close examination and most visible in evenly lit areas. In the second shot it’s more like density flicker. It settles eventually after the movement… Maybe it’s a compression artifact? It is odd it only happened at 25fps not at 30…

  60. Holy crap, that was a beautiful movie. I’ve watched a lot of footage of the E-M5 II, and most of it did not impress me at all. The colors always looked wrong. This looked right.

    Of course, now I have a Panasonic G85, and it stomps all over the E-M5 II for video.

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