Is the Olympus EM1 MK 2 right for you? Let’s find out!


Olympus EM1 MK 3

Recently Olympus kindly loaned me one of their wonderful EM1 Mk2 micro four thirds cameras, along with the equally wonderful Olympus 7-14mm lens. I had to reluctantly return them which was a great shame!

So is the Olympus EM1 MK 2 right for you? I used the camera on an architectural shoot, and in this post I will tell you how I got on. Spoiler alert – I loved it and got some great images which my client loved so yes – the Olympus EM1 Mk 2 is very much right for me as an architectural photographer, and could well be for you.

I will also tell about the schoolboy error I made which thankfully no one noticed!

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

Before I go on

The links in this post are Amazon Affiliate link s- is you click on a link and buy something I get a commission. You don’t pay any more though – Amazon just makes a little less. Which I am sure they can afford! I have put these links at the end of the post.

Why am I using an Olympus camera?

I bought an Olympus EM10 to get into micro four thirds photography for travel. I wanted smaller gear for taking on my foreign trips. That was the beginning of this.

This rapidly evolved, with me soon moving up to an Olympus EM5 Mk2, which has become my go to travel camera.

I have also used the EM5 Mk 2 on a few commercial shoots, taking the same shots as with my usual camera, the Canon 6D Mk 1. This has been my workhorse camera for a good few years now.

This eveolved further, and this is me writing about a real commercial architectural shoot using the Olympus OM-D EM1 Mk 2 camera.

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

So where did the Olympus EM1 come from?

Olympus operate an excellent scheme called Pro Loan, where they send you some gear to try. I applied for this, and they sent me the following.

  • Olympus EM 1 Mk 2
  • Olympus 7-14mm lens
  • Olympus 12-100mm lens
  • Olympus 40-150mm lens
  • Olympus 25mm lens

Now that is a lot of gear, and excellent that Olympus send you gear to try out! Shame I have to send it back!

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

What do I normally use for my architectural photography work?

I normally use my Canon 6D and Canon 17-40mm lens. This is my go to set up for architectural work. And I tend to use the 17mm end of things for most shots.

So the 7-14mm lens was of immense interest to me.

What are micro four thirds cameras?

Micro four thirds cameras are generally smaller than full frame DSLRs. They have a smaller sensor than full frame cameras like the Canon 6D. And the smaller sensor has a fundamental difference.

My Canon 17-40mm lens gives me 17mm at its widest point.

Micro four thirds cameras have a crop factor of 2x.

What does this mean?

Simple – multiply the crop factor by the focal length and you get the equivalent field of view as a full frame lens.

So the 7-14mm lens is the same as a 14-28mm lens on a full frame camera.

Does this matter?

Yes – I get 14mm with the Olympus camera and lens, and 17mm with the Canon camera and lens. And 3mm is a big difference at the wide end of things, much more so than at the telephoto end of the scale.

400mm vs 403mm – you will barely be able to tell the difference.

But 14mm – 17mm is a big difference!

Are micro four thirds cameras really smaller?

Yes they are, but you lose a lot of this size reduction sticking things like the 7-14mm lens on, which is I think heavier than my 17-40mm lens. Sure it has a wider aperture, but this is little relevance to me.

My ideal lens would be something like a 6-12mm F4 lens by the way – come on Olympus let’s have one of those!

So why bother with micro four thirds?

Well, I now use my micro four thirds gear for travel photography. I have made that switch and am loving it. But can I move my architectural photography over to micro four thirds?

If I can I then I can just have one set of everything and invest my time and money into just the Olympus system.

At the moment I am using my Canon gear for architectural work, and my Olympus gear for everything else.

And I might stick with this, giving me back up options either way if needed. Or I might just make the switch.

If Olympus give me the EM1 Mk 3 and 7-14mm lens i will definitely make the move!!

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

A quick word about the Canon 6D.

Check out the post Is the Canon 6D still worth buying in 2020? The short answer is yes – read this post if you want to find out more about this. Sure you will be buying old technology, but you will still be getting a camera that creates great images day in day out.

But the Canon 6D has its limitations, most of which the Olympus EM1 Mk 2 easily deals with.

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

Before I go – a quick disclaimer.

I have not read the manual for the Olympus EM1. I used the knowledge I have from the EM5 and applied it to this camera. I have taken photos with the camera before – personal travel stuff – but this is me sticking a lens on, a memory card and battery in the camera and going on a commercial shoot!

Ok, back to the shoot – what was it?

I was photographing the newly created changing rooms in a building at the University of Southampton. The photos were taken for the architect and project manager, Kendall Kingscott. The main contractor was Spetisbury Construction.

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

How did I get on?

Pretty good. I really enjoyed using the camera. It felt nice with the 7-14mm lens sat on my Three Legged Thing Corey tripod, which is the tripod I use for travel photography. So yes I do have a slightly more compact set up which is good.

And whilst I had my Peak Design Everday backpack with other stuff in this I all I used.

What settings did I use?

Simple. The same as when I am using my Canon 6D.

  • AV Mode.
  • Aperture mainly F8.
  • ISO200
  • A tripod
  • High resolution mode with an 8 second delay.
  • 7mm focal length

And that was pretty much it.

No faffing, no other bits of kit, just the camera and lens on a tripod with the same settings for every shot.

Focussing area selected with the LCD screen.

Nice and simple.

Why do I work like this?

So I can concentrate on one thing, what I am photographing. The composition.

That is the single most important thing, as I will prove later.

Professional photographers who use ...
Professional photographers who use micro four thirds – really? – Rick McEvoy Photography
University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

What did I like?

The 7-14mm lens.

Well the lens was a dream So wide. Like I said before, 14mm (full frame equivalent) is much wider than 17mm. And I noticed the difference.

But I still used the wider end of things, just zooming in a couple of times to remove stuff I did not want around the edges.

The articulating touch-screen

This is invaluable for me. I can place my camera against a wall with the screen facing me and take shots that I am not able to do with the Canon 6D. Obviously I have the extra field of view of the wider lens, but the screen was brilliant.

And this I did.

I also placed the camera right next to a door frame to get the widest view I could – there is no way I would have been able to see the LCD screen on my Canon 6D doing this.

The EVF (Electronic Viewfinder)

Whilst I use the LCD screen a lot, I still used the viewfinder for final composition, but this is nice and bright as well.

And the fact that you can see the image you have taken in the viewfinder blows me away. Very handy in bright conditions too by the way.

Smaller tripod

I was able to use my Three Legged Thing Corey tripod, which is my travel tripod. And it was just fine. This is a bonus although not critical for architectural work as I only have to carry my gear from the car to the shoot and back! Well not strictly true as I lug the gear around for hours at a time.

So this is good for me.

The top button and controls

There is a button on the top of the camera from which you can select the HDR mode, which I use for internal shots with windows in, and also for external shots with a high dynamic range in the scene. (I did not use them on this shoot, but I did another shoot in the morning where I did – more on this in a future post).

The feel of the camera and the ease of use

Considering I have barely used the camera and did not really know how it worked I found it incredibly easy to use. It felt good and I liked it.

I want one!

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

What did I not like?

I am still adjusting to the smaller size and controls.

Apart from that the only thing that I did not like was that I did not know the camera inside out, which is of course my fault.

There is nothing about this camera that I do not like.

What went wrong

Ok – confession time. When I started selecting the images to edit in Lightroom I noticed that the files were all JPEGs.

I had taken photos before using the EM1, but they were using the HDR mode, and single images. I had set the camera to take JPEG and RAW files.

But on this shoot I was shooting in the High Resolution mode, and in this mode you have to tell the camera again that you want the photos to be captured in RAW.

And I forgot to do this.

Oops!

More on this in processing.

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

Talking of which, what about processing

Processing was fine.

This was the first time in years that I had taken commercial photos in JPEG format only – it was like learning to edit all over again – most odd.

I did not have the white balance option I am used to. So this is what I did.

With the first image I selected a neutral grey and made that the white balance. Then I adjusted the settings in the basic panel, and then did a few more bits of global editing.

And then I synced the lot and checked the results.

Basic editing all done then.

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

University of Southampton B18 Changing Rooms

Getting the lines right

This was where the work was, getting the lines technically correct. In Lightroom I am used to lens profiles that correct distortion. There weren’t any Olympus profiles, so I had to do this manually.

This did not take long, and I am sure there is a fix for this.

Apart from that there was an amount of fiddling around getting everything perfectly vertical and horizontal – very important in my work.

This was made more complicated by the distortion and of course the fact that I was shooting wider than normal – the wider you go the more careful you have to be.

And then it was Photoshop time

I was photographing a major refurbishment project on the day of handover to the client – I only had a two hour slot to get the shots.

I did that, but there was lots to do in Photoshop. Nothing to do with the camera, this was stuff that needed removing to make the shots look shiny and new.

What about the client?

The client loved the images. And what about the fact that I did not take the photos in RAW?

No-one noticed. Of course they didn’t. Now I have been shooting in RAW for years to get the highest image capture quality that I can.

But this was an interesting reality check.

The JPEG files were just fine, and no one could tell the difference. And I have carried out 70 shoots for this client.

So why am I obsessed with full frame cameras and RAW image capture?

Micro four thirds and JPEG worked perfectly well.

Maybe the technology has moved on, but our thoughts and perceptions are from a time long gone? Certainly mine have not!

All interesting stuff.

What about the images?

I took 30 images and processed and issued the 10 images you can see in this post to my client. 10 high resolution JPEG files.

I need GPS

I forgot one other thing. The Olympus EM1 does not have GPS built-in, but I believe that I can add this data using an Olympus app, so more work for me to do there.

It depends how long I can keep this came for I guess!

Links to the gear

Olympus OM-D EM1 Mk 2 camera

Olympus OM-D EM 1 Mk 3 camera

Olympus OM-D EM5 Mk 2 camera

Olympus OM-D EM5 Mk 3 camera

Olympus OM-D EM10 Mk 2 camera

Olympus 7-14mm F2.8 Zuiko Pro lens

Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 Zuiko Pro lens

Three Legged Thing Corey tripod

Peak Design Everday backpack

And you can see a full list of gear on my page imaginatively titled gear!

Don’t forget the video for this blog post

You can check out the video about this post on my You Tube Channel.

Summary

Am I ready to make the switch to micro four thirds cameras from Olympus for my commercial architectural photography work?

Not yet.

Why not?

Well I need to buy some more gear if I am going to use this, namely the EM1 Mk 2 and 7-14mm lens – two bits of kit that I loved using. That is assuming that Olympus want the gear back!

And now there is the even better Mk3.

And what I have works just fine.

So this is what I am going to do.

Continue to practise with my Olympus OM-D EM5 Mk 2 on all my photography work. That means alongside my Canon 6D as well as for personal and travel photography.

I am going to learn how to use the Olympus EM5 Mk 2 properly. Only then can I make the move from Canon to Olympus. I have years and years of taking photos with Canon gear and need to spend time with my Olympus gear until using this is instinctive.

The EM5 took some great images, but there are things about the EM1 that I really like which was a surprise to me.

And I need that 7-14mm lens!

The video

Sorry forgot the video about this post is live on my You Tube Channel.

What’s next on my photography blog?

Lots more good stuff so make sure you subscribe!

Rick McEvoy ABIPP, MCIOB

#OlympusEM1 #olympuscamera #microfourthirds #architecturalphotography #interiorphotography #olympus7-14mm

Rick McEvoy

I am Rick McEvoy, an architectural and construction photographer living and working in the South of England. I create high quality architectural photography and construction photography imagery of the built environment for architects and commercial clients. I do not photograph weddings, families, small people or pets - anything that is alive, moves or might not do as I ask!! I am also the creator of the Photography Explained Podcast, available on all major podcast providers. I have a blog on my website where I write about my work and photography stuff. Rick McEvoy ABIPP, MCIOB

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