Saturday, February 7, 2015

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II - lone standout in another boring bunch of camera announcements

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

With the recent spate of new camera announcements, one might have expected something new from the major manufacturers on the video front.

Not so fast.

Yes, Canon now offers a new super high resolution full frame still camera to compete with the Sony A7r - but it offers nothing new for video.

There's a new version of the mirrorless Canon EOS M - but they won't be selling it in the States.

Samsung has announced the NX500, a new 4K mirrorless NX-1 "mini me" for a great price - but they've stripped the NX1 not only of its viewfinder and headphone jack  - but also its microphone input. Fail.

And the new Canon T6i has now caught up with 2013-era still/video cameras, adding wi-fi and fast video autofocus (but still no 1080/60p - and, of course, no headphone jack).

In my view, the only recent announcement that might be exciting for filmmakers is the new $1099.99 list Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. With its 5-axis stabilization, new fully articulated LCD, 1080/24p/60p, 50mbps bit rate and headphone jack, Olympus finally appears to be taking video seriously.

The handheld walking clip at 9:10 in The Camera Store's review of the E-M5 Mark II is very impressive:

Except for the 30 minute continuous clip length limit, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II is now very competitive with the Panasonic GH3 for videography and filmmaking. Links for pre-ordering the silver (or black) Mark II are up now at Amazon and Adorama.

Unfortunately for Olympus, the GH3 is a two year old camera and the street price is now below $800. In my view, Oly is going to have to step up its game just a little more to catch Panasonic in the hybrid still/video race.

My suggestion - a 4K version of this camera (with 5-axis stabilization) that lifts the 30 minute continuous recording limit.  Such a camera would certainly give Panasonic's GH4 a run for its money. OM-D EM1 Mark II, anyone?

All of that said, despite the good news from Olympus, the other major manufacturers don't seem interested in fixing the problems that still bedevil video-capable large sensor interchangeable lens cameras in 2015, e.g. weak codecs (no in-camera RAW), rolling shutter, no XLR inputs, the lack of built in stabilization, no affordable power zooms and no built-in NDs.

The Blackmagic URSA comes close, but it has no stabilization, no NDs and it's a 20 lb. camera.  The JVC GY-LS300 looks like it produces high quality, gradeable 4K video - but it lacks internally recorded RAW and a global shutter (as does the Sony PXW-FS7).

What we need is a "usable" (10 lbs or less) Blackmagic Camera with a viewfinder, stabilization and compatibility with Panasonic power zooms - or an affordable Canon Cinema EOS camera with RAW, a global shutter and a power zoom - or something like the FS7 from Sony with RAW and a global shutter.

Perhaps we'll see some progress at NAB.  I hope I can convince the Board Chair here at HCR to let me go this year :)

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