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Photographing events with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

This is the first article in a four-part series discussing the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. In future articles, I’ll discuss using the camera for landscapes, portraiture and advertising.

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to win an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, and I’ve since made it my camera of choice. After photographing exclusively with it for nine months, I feel like I’ve got a good grasp of the capabilities of the camera.

I couldn’t be happier with my Olympus system. I now have a second body for backup purposes, plus a plethora of lenses. For this series of articles, Olympus loaned me the 12-100mm f/4 PRO and 17mm f/1.2 PRO lenses to try out in my workflow.

Corporate events, concerts and theatre

My bread and butter is photographing corporate events, and so this was a big factor in my decision-making to switch to the Olympus platform. For me, I needed a camera system that performed well no matter what the lighting situation and had a fast shooting rate. I also desired a system that had a silent shooting mode, as I often shoot a lot of quiet events where I don’t want to interrupt or be a distraction.

The big part of the puzzle for me was finding a camera system that I could rely on for all-day events. While I shoot a lot of smaller, 2-3 hour events, I also shoot some that are 8, 10 and even 12 hours long (and no, they aren’t weddings!). With the camera and my lenses being much smaller, I no longer have as many aches and pains after a long day of shooting.

Low-light capabilities

A lot of photographers think that, just because a camera has a smaller sensor, it can’t shoot well in low light. But that’s becoming less and less the case. I’m easily able to shoot up to ISO 3200 without any degradation in image quality. That said, I rarely need to go above ISO 2000 for my corporate event photography. Sure, there may be some noise present in the images, but it’s not enough to distract a viewer or my client.

I’ve never once gotten a complaint of the quality of an image — in fact, quite the opposite. Many of my clients are surprised that the photos turned out as well as they did, especially if there was no external light available.

Focus

In terms of focusing, the E-M1 Mark II never missed. In theatre and concert photography, that’s important, and I love the fact that I can rely on the built-in image stabilization and autofocus system to get me sharp photographs, no matter what the light is like.

Silent shooting and fast shooting speeds

The silent shooting modes in the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II have really helped me in a lot of my photographs. By default, there’s Sequential Shooting Low and High shooting modes. I always find myself on the low setting, otherwise, I’ll end up with a gazillion photos that I have to import to Lightroom! The low burst, by default, is set to photograph 10 frames per second, but I bring this down to 8 fps. This is plenty for corporate events and even sports, but if I need more, I can go up to the Sequential Shooting High mode for up to 15 fps.

Speaking of shooting speeds, the E-M1 Mark II offers up to 60 frames per second with the Silent Sequential Shooting High mode. I’ve used this for the occasional sports photoshoot I’ve had, as well as some concerts, and it’s performed beautifully. It uses the focus point at the start of the series and retains that for as long as you continue holding down the shutter button.

For focus tracking using C-AF, you can use the Silent Sequential Shooting Low mode, which offers up to 18 frames per second. The image quality is just as great as it was when I was shooting a single photograph, and the focusing is spot-on.

With on-camera flash

Despite the low-light capabilities, I often pair the camera with an on-camera flash. This helps to give the subjects a bit of a pop, separating them from the background. This is especially useful with some of the weird lighting that interior spaces can often have.

The camera’s TTL system works great with my Nissin Di700a speedlight, and there’s always enough light produced. The quality of the images is sharp, with virtually no noise present if used properly.

Gear of choice

In addition to the speedlight I mentioned above, I always have a battery grip on my E-M1 Mark II camera body. While it certainly helps with battery life, I like the ability to photograph vertically without having to strain my arm. In addition to the grip, I usually photograph indoor events with the following lenses:

For outdoor events, I’m planning on adding the 12-100mm f/4 PRO to my arsenal. Because of its fixed f/4 aperture, it’s not quite as fast as my f/2.8 lenses, but it gives me a great option when there’s the sun overhead or a lot of light present. What I love about it is it gives me a broad range of view, making it really versatile and allowing me to shoot an entire event without changing lenses.

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