Image Stabilization

Handheld, in the rain. ISO 200, 2 sec, F5, Olympus 12-100mm F4 lens @ 76mm equiv. Converted from Raw using ACR beta with default sharpening settings. Photo by Jeff Keller.

One of the E-M1 Mark II's biggest selling points is its in-body 5-axis image stabilization system, which is rated to 5.5 stops using the CIPA standard. If you're using the Olympus 12-100mm F4 lens, that number rises to an incredible 6.5 stops (a figure Olympus says is now limited by the rotation of the Earth). That allowed one shaky-handed photographer to take the image you see above with a two second exposure.

You can use the in-body IS with nearly any lens you attach, Micro Four Thirds or not. If you're using something other than MFT then you will have to input the focal length on the camera first.

There are four IS modes for stills and two for videos:

Stills Off Still-IS Off System disabled
S-IS Auto Auto IS Camera detects panning and applies appropriate IS.
S-IS1 All direction IS Forces 5-axis IS
S-IS2 Vertical shake IS Corrects only vertical shake; used for panning in landscape orientation.
S-IS3 Horizontal shake IS Corrects only horizontal shake; used for panning when shooting in portrait orientation.
Movie Off Movie-IS Off System disabled
M-IS1 All direction shake IS Uses both sensor-shift and electronic IS. The field-of-view will be cropped slightly.
M-IS2 All direction shake IS Uses sensor-shift IS only.

The image stabilization in movie mode is just as incredible as the stills result. See for yourself in this comparison:

IS Test

We've tested the E-M1 II using a long and a wide lens, since the challenge of stabilizing these two use-cases is rather different. At long focal lengths, with their narrow fields of view, a small hand movement creates a large displacement of the image: making hand shake very visible. We've tested the E-M1 II's ability to combine sensor-shift and lens-shift IS. This allows more total correction movement than sensor-shift correction alone, which lets it correct for that large image displacement.

Wide-angle lenses, which can be hand-held for longer exposures present a different challenge for IS systems: trying to continuously correct changing motion during relatively long exposures, to provide any further improvement.

Our tests, which compare the IS performance to our ability to hand-hold the lens (rather than to the 1/equivalent focal length rule) tends to result in lower figures than the standard CIPA tests that manufacturers quote. We also test at both wide and long focal lengths, rather than just the ~50mm equivalent focal length.

Our testing suggests that the E-M1 II's stabilization is more effective at long focal lengths than it is for short. With a 24mm equiv. lens fitted, we only saw around 2.5 stops of improvement over what we could hand-hold. However, at 200mm equivalent we saw over five stops of improvement.

Combining in-body and in-lens stabilization – only available with the 12-100mm and 300mm F4 Pro lenses at this point – was slightly better than in-body alone, but not markedly so, at least in this particular test with the 12-100. With the 300mm F4 lens equipped, the advantage of dual IS was easily 6 stops compared to not using IS at all.

Overall it's a very good performance. Even though the IS doesn't seem to offer much improvement for wide-angle shooting, it does appear to perfectly stabilize the occasional shot, which probably explains reports of success at shooting multiple-second shots. You won't get them every time, but if you keep trying, the system will help increase your odds.

High Res Shot

This feature isn't new to Olympus cameras, but the output resolution is now 50MP and enhancements have been made to reduce blur from moving subjects (though it remains best suited for tripod shooting and very still subjects). In High Res mode the camera shifts the sensor eight times, taking a photo in every position, and combines them into a single 50 or 25 Megapixel image. A gigantic 64MB ORF Raw file can be saved, along with a single-shot ~17MB ORI format file that can, theoretically, only be opened in Olympus Viewer. In practice, if you rename it to .ORF, you'll find it's a standard single image Raw file.

50MP High Res Shot mode, ISO 200, 1/125 sec, F4, Olympus 12-100mm, @ 24mm equiv. Photo by Carey Rose.

Aside from all the fringing in the scene (unrelated to High Res Shot mode), the resolution is very impressive. It's not equal to what you'd get from something like a Canon 5DS R, but for a crop-sensor camera the results look great.

50MP High Res Shot mode, ISO 200, 1/100 sec, F5.6, Olympus 12-100mm F4 lens @ 32mm equiv. Photo by Jeff Keller.

Something that Olympus made an effort to improve upon is dealing with moving subjects (especially water) in High Res Shot mode. The results now looks a lot like a long exposure, but you can see some 'braiding' on the Falls above. Most people will probably pass on using High Res Shot mode in these situations, but it's still worth noting that Olympus is working on making it more usable for non-still-lifes.

Pro Capture mode

Pre-buffering photos isn't new to digital cameras, but the Pro Capture feature is a first for Olympus. Briefly: the camera can pre-capture up to 14 photos that were buffered before you press the shutter release button, at frame rates of up to 18 fps (low speed) or 60 fps (high speed). The total number of frames in either mode is 99 (which includes the ~14 that were buffered, plus those shot until you release the shutter button) Pro Capture allows you to, well, capture a moment that you may have otherwise missed due to a delay in pressing the shutter release button.

Pro Capture mode enabled us to get just the shot we wanted. ISO 640, 1/1600 sec, F3.2, Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 lens @ 80mm equiv. Photo by Carey Rose.

There are a few things to note about this mode. For one, it only works with Olympus Micro Four Thirds lenses, which the company says 'requires special control of the lens,' without elaborating. The buffering will end after one minute, so you can't wait too long before pressing the shutter release, and the focus is locked at half-press. Finally, apertures physically smaller than F8 cannot be used.

AF limiter

The E-M1 Mark II allows users to set the focusing range of lenses, with three 'slots' in which to store them. The focus range can be set between 0 and 999.9 meters or feet, though note that these ranges are for all lenses you attach. If assigned you can use the L-Fn button (on the lens barrel) to quickly switch between your AF limiter presets. A photographer might want to use this for situations in which they know exactly where their subjects will be and want to increase acquisition speeds and reduce 'hunting' by the AF system.