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Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II: Sport Shooter’s Dream?

See my Micro 4/3 wish list at B&H Photo.

Back in February I wrote about the Sony A6300 autofocus as while perhaps not being viable for sports shooters yet:

This is not just a warning shot across the bow to CaNikon, it’s a laser-drilled hole just above waterline: the technology pieces could come together within a year to blow CaNikon out of the water even in their prized sports-shooter market

I got some push-back on the focus tracking front (because of phase and contrast detect autofocus differences), which I largely agreed with, but I was talking about the writing on the wall, not a specific camera that has come and yawn more or less.

So how about sixty (60) frames per second for sports shooting? Or a “slow” 18 fps with AF tracking? With both phase and contrast-detect AF, thus neatly sidestepping the DSLR AF advantage, at least in theory?

Along comes the $TBD Olympus E-M1 Mark II with some nifty claims that no DSLR can even remotely approach. Could this shake up the sports-shooter market? It seems to me that if the focus tracking works as claimed, the image that gets the “big sale” is the one that gets exactly the right moment. From my novice (sports shooter) point of view, that seems game changing, that is, something that might make CaNikon break into a cold sweat because this isn’t the final story—it will only get better, and in favor of mirrorless.

THE WORLD’S FASTEST*

*Sequential shooting speed as of 9/2016, using the E-M1 Mark II electronic shutter in S-AF Mode.

Experience sequential shooting speeds that far surpass those of DSLR cameras. Using its advanced silent electronic shutter, the E-M1 Mark II captures 20 MP RAW image files at up to an astonishing 60 fps in S-AF Mode and 18 fps in C-AF Tracking Mode. Or, use the E-M1 Mark II’s high-speed mechanical shutter to shoot full resolution photos at a blazing 15 fps in S-AF Mode, far surpassing other cameras in its class. Thanks to cutting-edge processing speeds, even fast-moving subjects are captured in stunning detail.

LAG-FREE PHOTOGRAPHY

Capturing precise moments often proves to be difficult, especially when your subject is in motion. The E-M1 Mark II’s Pro Capture Mode ensures that you catch the exact moment you want without any lag. Pro Capture starts taking and buffering a running series of full resolution JPEG / RAW images as soon as you press the shutter release button halfway. Fully press the shutter button to instantly record an image plus up to 14 previous frames. Keep the shutter button fully depressed to continue shooting. With Pro Capture’s silent electronic shutter and high speed sequential shooting, you’ll capture once-in-a-lifetime images in no time.

AF SPEED & ACCURACY LIKE NEVER BEFORE

The high-speed autofocus built into the E-M1 Mark II captures split-second moments with precision and ease. Its Dual FAST AF system boasts an outstanding 121 points of On-Chip Phase Detection plus Contrast Detection AF. Every point of On-Chip Phase Detection is cross-type, facilitating detection of vertical and horizontal lines for superior accuracy. Four AF Target Modes – All Point, Single Point, 9-Point Group, and 5-Point Cross – can be easily switched with a single button press. Plus, the new Subject Tracking Cluster Display lets you easily focus on moving subjects using the camera’s C-AF Tracking.

Roy P has thoughts on the Olympus E-M1 Mark II, Sony RX10, Canon:

Unfortunately, they sat on their butts for 3+ years. There was no excuse for Olympus to not come out with a MFT camera for sports photographers, even with less capabilities. The 300mm f/4 and the Leicasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 could have been leveraged to provide a very useful solution.

In spite of this, ultimately, I think the lenses will drive the use cases. I just got back from 11 days in Kenya. The Canon 200-400 with the internal 1.4x was indispensable. It’s so dusty out there that you really don’t want any lens that doesn’t have internal zoom.

Also, at higher shutter speeds, the ISO climbs up very quickly. Even in reasonable light, if you have animals in shade, you end up frequently shooting at ISO 3200-6400 at f/4 or f/5.6. You really need a FF sensor.

The MFT should be a fun camera for birds in flight in good lighting, and it could be good for sports in very good light. But I’m not sure it can be a general purpose action / sports solution.

The Sony A99 is supposed to be for sports / action photography that has both a high RAW frame rate, but also has no buffer size limits. Problem is, Sony has no long lenses, but they could quickly and trivially modify their A-mount lenses to E-mount by just extending the lenses and putting on an E mount. Maybe we will see E-mount 300mm f/2.8, 400mm f/2.8, 70-400mm f/4.5-5.6, 500mm f/4, etc.

I think all this will finally get Canon and Nikon to jettison the DSLR and go 100% mirrorless. I suspect the 1DX-III and D6 will both be mirrorless. The new Hassleblad MF is mirrorless. I think Leica is quietly putting the M line on a “Living Dead” track, and transitioning to mirrorless. Maybe the next S body will be a 60 or 80 MP mirrorless, too – if only Leica can find someone who can build a sensor for them!

At any rate, my vision for the world is, in 2-3 years, there will be only mirrorless cameras, and it would be no longer even necessary to use the mirrorless adjective – it will be just cameras. So the decision will again become a matter of lenses and use cases!

...

For my Kenya trip, I took my Canon 1DX-II, 5DS R, Sony A7R-II and RX10-III. A couple of months ago, I made a trip to Svalbard / Arctic, and I had taken the same gear on that trip as well.

To my surprise, on both trips, I ended up using the Sony RX10-III a great deal more than I had expected. In good lighting, the 1” stacked CMOS sensor with the Zeiss lens delivers an IQ that comes very close to any high end DSLR. Its AF acquisition for moving subjects is nowhere near a Canon 5DS R or 1DX-II, but for static subjects, the RX10-III performs surprisingly well, considering its tiny sensor

The body of the RX10-III is nearly the size of a DSLR. I can easily see Sony adding a little more beef to the build of this camera, perhaps stick a bigger or two batteries into it, and with more electronics, make this a competent sports / action camera. It has a 24-600mm equivalent reach, which is very handy.

Sony also has a popular APS-C camera in the A6300, and of course, a range of FF cameras. Fuji also has an APS-C camera. So one of the problems for the MTF format is, it’s getting squeezed from below by the 1” format below (Sony RX10-III, RX100-IV), and APS-C from above (Sony A6300, Fuji). It’s a tough spot to be in.

Olympus as a company also had financial and accounting troubles that it is still struggling with. In the meantime, Panasonic, which has a lot of resources, has not really been aggressive with its MFT system, apart from introducing the Leica 100-400 a year ago. The Panaxonic Lumix LM-100 is a brilliant camera, but they have just let it languish at 12MP for 4+ years now. If Panasonic puts out a 20MP version of the LX100, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. But they have not done anything new or exciting on the MFT front, which is a red flag.

So those are some concerns for anyone considering making a bet on the Micro Four Thirds… I don’t know where this format going, long term.

DIGLLOYD: I would say that the Olympus E-M1 Mark II deserves a chance at this game and may perform better than expected on the noise front, etc.

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