I got a new used camera! An Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII. It’s the old version of Olympus’ current pro model E-M1 MkIII, that came out wayyy back in ye olden days of 2016, but thanks to a firmware update from Olympus at the end of 2019, is now one of the absolute best mirrorless cameras for shooting video. I can nerd out about that later. Combined with other items I already owned, the whole setup is funny looking (at least to this camera nerd).
The E-M1 series has always looked a bit weird to me. They look Olympus’ smaller upper-midrange E-M5 series, but with a giant wart of a grip that is certainly good in the hand and allows the E-M1 to fit a much larger battery, which looks doofily large compared to the rest of the camera.
Here’s the original E-M1 (which has a slightly smaller grip than the later MkII and III) next to the E-M5 II.
Dat battery capacity tho.
The best lens I have for video is my teensy tiny Panasonic 14mm f/2.5, which is a wide angle lens for photos, but for video, there’s a vertical crop from the micro four thirds system’s native 4:3 aspect ratio down to 16:9, and then using the best mode of the camera’s built-in stabilizer adds an additional crop. So a wide angle lens ends up not so wide.
Then there’s my cheap-n-cheerful Takstar SGC-598 shotgun mic which is hyooooj compared to both the camera body and the lens.
Anyway, nerd alert! Here comes a bunch of camera jargon that you can totally disregard unless you’re into that shit.
Olympus has been really excellent at in-body image stabilization for a while now, especially for video. The E-M5 II was the first consumer-grade mirrorless camera whose built-in image stabilization made hand-held footage look like a decent approximation of a steadicam, except without the steadicam rig. The E-M1 II that I now own has an even better stabilizer. The E-M1 III is even better, and the E-M5 III inherited the same setup from the E-M1 II.
What both MkII cameras lacked was decent continuous and tracking autofocus. They were slow to adapt to the subject moving around the scene. But that all changed in December 2019 when Olympus put out a firmware update for the E-M1 II which enabled phase detection autofocus. So instead of a mediocre, hunts-around contrast detect system, it’s an extremely responsive and accurate and grabs focus when something moves or you point it at something new fast. Oh man. Having been used to my old-ass 2012 vintage base model Pen E-PL5's jankity contrast detect system, just playing with the E-M1 II and watching the focus snap dat ass is so satisfying.
The two biggest things for run & gun make things look actually good video are stabilization & autofocus, which the updated E-M1 II nails. On top of that it’s got a mic input with adjustable gain, headphone output, fully articulated selfie-able touchscreen, plenty of manual controls, high bitrate 4k or 1080p recording, dual SD card slots, and dat thiccboi battery. And that’s just what makes it a good video camera, not even touching on the stills.
I played around shooting some test clips which no way in hell am I putting up here, and man, I was impressed with how easy it was to get nice nice looking footage.
Oh, and you can buy an E-M1 II brand new for $1299. But I got this used, decent shape, from a reputable camera shop on ebay for $605! Throw in a Panny 14/2.5 if you don’t have one yet and you can easily slap together the cheapest-ass way to get like pro vlogger level shit capable of being amateur filmmaker if you’re good.