Olympus E-M1 Mark II

My Camera

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What would it take to convince you?

I started asking myself that several months into owning and shooting with the E-M1 Mark II. What would it take to convince me that this smaller-sensor flagship could handle not just my travel and personal shooting, but the full load of professional work as well?

I asked myself while I had a review unit shortly after the camera’s release. I asked myself when I subsequently bought my own copy. I asked myself when I took it out on its first job. I asked myself when I stopped taking my X-Pro 2 to work shoots, then to personal shoots. I asked myself when deciding which camera to trust with my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa.

I trusted the E-M1 Mark II as my camera on that trip, and near the end of last year, I licensed a photo to Apple; it was shot on my E-M1 Mark II.

I had my answer.

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 The Grass is Always Greener

I’m a geek, but worse than that: I’m a geek with access. Being a reviewer has its perks, but peace of mind isn’t one of them.

Having the opportunity to play with the latest and greatest stokes the flames of doubt and inadequacy. It makes you second guess every gear decision, seeing it in a broader context against the landscape of other things you’ve tried.

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Take it from someone who’s shot with the best available stuff, from 1”-sensor compacts to medium format systems: there’s always a higher tier to chase. More resolution, more dynamic range, just plain more.

Contemporary photographic culture is steeped in consumerism, a toxic, slippery slope I have fallen down too often myself. I’m opting out of that rat race this year, in an effort to double down on the stuff that will actually improve my output: technique, light, and practise.

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 Not Another Review

Build quality, ergonomics, the requisite here’s-that-spec-sheet-again section…sigh. The world doesn’t really need another “real world” review of a camera, and this isn’t going to be much of one.

Besides, trying to cover everything the E-M1 Mark II does is just daunting—that’s partly why it’s taken me so long to put words down about it to begin with. Especially in light of today’s firmware updates.

I started taking notes for this piece nearly a year ago. Everything from small observations, to requests, to complaints, to compliments have been accumulating ever since.

Over time, I’ll be sharing shorter, more specific pieces about how I have my camera set up, my choice in lenses, and how my PEN-F fits into the equation, and more.

For now, rather than barfing 5,000 words at you, I want to distill things down to the essentials, with a hat tip to Matthew Robertson for the inspiration.

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 What You Need to Know About the E-M1 Mark II

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 My Camera

When I bought my first serious camera—a Canon 5D Mark II—I told myself that this camera’s capabilities far exceeded my own, and that any failure to get an image was the fault of the photographer. I believe that was true then, and with the tremendous leaps in technology that we’ve seen since that time, it’s most certainly true now.

After I left that Canon body behind, lured by the promise of mirrorless, I maintained a dual Fujifilm/Olympus setup for several years. Initially a Fujifilm X100S & Olympus OM-D E-M10, eventually building up to the X-Pro 2 & E-M1 Mark II setup I closed out 2017 with.

I adore the X-Pro 2. It was with me longer than any other camera and is responsible for a great many wonderful memories. It, and the Fujifilm ecosystem in general, helped me become a better photographer.

But maintaining two systems yielded more stress than benefits, especially with the two being more alike than different. That’s why, at the end of last year, I made the difficult decision to consolidate down to a single system for everything.

That system is Micro Four-Thirds.

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It came down to this:

In reality, the decision had been made months before the new year, but I kept both systems because I needed to be absolutely sure. I didn’t want to regret it since my pledge was to stop buying camera gear as part of this effort.

I don’t regret it.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II has earned its way into being my camera of choice. Its most appealing quality isn’t speed, or features, or size, or design…it’s reliability.

I trust it to be ready and able to capture whatever I need it to, in any conditions, and remain unobtrusive when I’m not shooting (after all, “90% of the time we spend with our camera is in-between photographs”, as Danielle Kissinger King put it).

I’m done chasing the best camera. The "best camera” only makes the best photographs in the right hands, and as long as the camera’s capabilities exceed my own, I haven’t earned the right to upgrade. For at least this year, I’m happily settling down to master the tools I already have.

I don’t want better gear, I want better photographs. And that part is on me to accomplish.

 
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