Olympus Announces 4K Mirrorless Camera

Olympus OMD E M1 Mark II
E M1 Mark II Front View.Credit: Olympus
Olympus announced the refresh to its flagship mirrorless camera and adds full "cinematic" 4096 4K video.

Olympus has long been one of the leaders (along with Panasonic) in the mirrorless Micro 4/3 world, but the Panasonic GH line has always been more popular with filmmakers. With the announcement of today's update to the Olympus flagship OM-D EM1 line, Olympus is bringing in more filmmaking features, including options for "cinema" 4K, or video that is 4096 pixels across.

There is a major limitation with the 4K in this camera that might leave some filmmakers frustrated.

Considering that the competitor camera from Canon, the M5, which lives at a slightly higher price point, still shoots 1080 video, having 4K in this camera is great. The ability to choose between 4096 4K and 3840 4kK (otherwise known as UltraHD) is also much appreciated. However, there is a major limitation with the 4K in this camera that might leave some filmmakers frustrated: Both UHD and C4K are limited to the intraframe compressed IPB codec mode only, and the "all-i" video modes most filmmakers prefer are limited to 1080.

Olympus OMD E M1 Mark II Rear View
OM-D E M1 Mark II Rear ViewCredit: Olympus

All-i video is preferable because it treats every frame as a keyframe. This means that while compression is applied, it's applied to each and every individual frame separately, ignoring the content around it. This creates much larger file sizes (sometimes three times as large as IPB), but they are much easier to edit and tend to create nicer-looking images in situations where the frame content changes moment to moment.

For static interviews or more traditionally captured, tripod-based narrative footage, IPB can be a great method.

IPB compresses groups of frames together; you'll also sometimes hear a similar process mentioned, Long GOP (group of pictures), since a long group of pictures is compared for compression. This can lead to even better-looking pictures than All-I in much smaller file sizes, but it has a few drawbacks. Intraframe/Long GOP recording is sometimes harder for your editing system to handle (requiring conversion to an intermediate codec like DNxHD or ProRes), and with really fast moving footage—handheld action scenes, for instance—you can see compression artifacting. But for static interviews or more traditionally captured, tripod-based narrative footage, IPB can be a great method.

The good news is that the IPB data rate for 4K is 237Mbps, which should be enough bandwidth for very minimal compression and high-quality images. UHD bumps down to 102Mbps, and while it does offer a 30fps mode, I would advise shooting this camera in C4K 24p to take advantage of the bigger bandwidth.

Credit: Olympus
Since lenses are interchangeable through the entire Micro 4/3 range and easily adapted to nearly any other mount, there isn't a tremendous need to stay with a certain brand of camera body through upgrades; even if you have a lot of Panasonic glass, you could easily switch over and still put that previous investment to use.

Like the recent announcements for Panasonic, this camera is slated for an early 2017 release. What do you think: Are the features you see here exciting enough to think about Olympus for the next round? Or are the GH5 features too enticing for any of the competition to feel like a serious contender?

Tech specs

  • 4096 × 2160 (C4K) / 24p / IPB (approx. 237 Mbps)
  • 3840 × 2160 (4K) / 30p, 25p, 24p / IPB (approx. 102 Mbps)
  • Dual SD Card Slots
  • 4/3" Live MOS Sensor
  • 4:3 / 17.4 x 13.0mm
  • 21.8 million actual pixels, 20.4 million effective pixels
  • Built-in 5-axis (yaw/pitch/roll/vertical shift/horizontal shift) sensor-shift image stabilization for movie and stills
  • 64 - 25600 ISO
  • MOV(MPEG-4AVC/H.264), AVI (Motion JPEG) Recording Formats
  • 29 minute MOV record time
  • Micro HDMI (type D)
  • φ3.5 stereo mini jack (plug-in power on/off) input and headphone

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Your Comment

8 Comments

Not sure why it says the Canon M5 is more expensive. For one, the price of this Olympus hasn't been announced, and when it is, it will certainly be more expensive than the M5 ($980 body only). The E-M1, the first gen, cost $1400 new. This will undoubtedly be more.

September 21, 2016 at 2:48PM

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Does it actually matter though? The Canon M5 for video, that is...

September 23, 2016 at 2:40PM

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5 axis sensor stabilisation is a great option for me. And it work with every lens.

I have the em5 mkii and I really like this stuff...

September 21, 2016 at 3:26PM

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Sentry
115

As far as I know. All cameras that use a form of h264, mp4 or avchd are long GOP. All Canon dslr , nikon, most of Sony and also Panasonic too I think. My Samsung nx1 is h265 wich is also long GOP. So what major limitation are we talking about. Pretty standard.

September 22, 2016 at 12:44PM, Edited September 22, 12:44PM

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I hate to beat a dead horse, but I also have an NX1 and I would have really liked to see what the Samsung NX2 would have looked like. *Sigh*

September 22, 2016 at 5:32PM

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Ian Mora
Writer, Director, Editor, Camera Operator
492

AVCHD goes by a lot of different names (brandings), and X-AVC I is one of them. The highest spec 4K 30p version of AVCHD is supposedly going to be the release for the F5, which is 4K 30p intra-frame at 480mb/s.

September 23, 2016 at 2:39PM

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A lil bird told me that its 8 bit 4:2:2

I do hope the AF tracking works during video recording too and as well as proclaimed; and that focus peaking works also during video recording.

September 23, 2016 at 12:27AM

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Mark
81

Will it also shoot in 4KKK (otherwise known as UltraWT)?

September 23, 2016 at 2:32PM, Edited September 23, 2:32PM

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I bought EM1.2 in January 2020 (yes and no regrets).

I need to clear my confusion on which video mode is better to shoot in?

C4K 24p 237 Mbps
OR
UHD 30p 102 Mbps

I shoot mostly slow paced sports, and intuitively 30 fps would give me better results for my type of footage.
However I feel like I'd be missing out on that 237 Mbps bit rate, which is 2.3 times more data based on the file size.

Also DaVinci doesn't seem to even support C4K, so looks like my C4K footage is scaled down to UHD anyway, but not sure about the bit rate being trimmed as well. Definitely it trims the number of lines from 4196 to 3840 which I don't really mind. It would be good to know to what format I should convert 237 Mbps Olympus C4K, so that I can edit it in DaVinci (free version).

I can't find anyone really who could clarify all this and your response will be greatly appreciated,

June 27, 2020 at 1:13PM

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