Olympus’s new camera has a 16-megapixel sensor that moves—when you click the shutter, it shifts laterally and vertically to create a 40-megapixel composite image.
It’s rare to encounter a camera with a feature we’ve never seen before. Autofocus speeds are absurdly fast, stabilization systems are rock-solid, and Wi-Fi features are commonplace. And Olympus’s latest mirrorless model, the OMD E-M5 Mark II, has all those attributes, as well as a weather-sealed body. But its high-resolution shooting mode that moves its 16-megapixel sensor around inside the camera to capture a 40-megapixel shot—that’s truly innovative.
According to Olympus, when you shoot with the OMD E-M5 Mark II in “Hi-Res mode,” its Micro Four-Thirds sensor moves both side to side and up and down during an 8-shot sequence. The processing engine then stitches the eight shots together to build a 40-megapixel composite image in the form of a 64MB RAW file. It’s a pretty ingenious way to create super high-resolution images without affecting the pixel density of the sensor itself.
While the E-M5 Mark II is Olympus’s new midrange interchangeable-lens offering, it matches some features of the flagship OMD E-M1 and even trumps others. The camera has a new five-axis stabilization system designed for both stills and video, and Olympus says it’s audibly quieter than the company’s previous five-axis systems.
The new camera also offers the same resistance to splashes, dust, and freezing temperatures as the E-M1 and similar continuous-shooting speeds: 10fps without autofocus enabled and 5 with AF turned on. Olympus is touting the E-M5 Mark II’s 81-point contrast-detection autofocus system as the “world’s fastest”; according to the company’s in-house tests with their own 18-40mm lens, it locks onto a subject in just 0.044 of a second. That’s really fast, but take it with a spoonful of salt. Whenever a new camera debuts, every manufacturer is quick to claim it’s faster than the others.
Many of the camera’s improvements come in video mode, which captures 1080p footage at a wider selection of frame rates and bitrates—52Mbps at 1080p/60fps and 77Mbps at 1080p/30fps. There’s also a 24fps mode for 1080p video, and the camera has touch-focus abilities on its flip-and-swivel 3-inch touchscreen. It can crank out raw video to an external monitor via HDMI.
Still photographers should be happy with the camera’s core specs and control scheme. The mechanical shutter tops out at 1/8000 of a second, ISO ramps up to 25600. When you’re looking at the screen or through the viewfinder, focus-peaking overlays are available in a range of colors. There are six customizable buttons on the camera body, making it easy to switch between shooting modes with a press (or two) of a button. To go along with the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi, there’s an updated mobile app that supports remote live view while shooting video.
In terms of price, size, and specs, this looks like a camera built squarely to compete with the Fujifilm X-T1. It’s a bit smaller and slightly cheaper: At $1,100 for the body only, it’s a C-note less than Fuji’s superb weather-sealed shooter—and with significantly better video chops.