If you’ve seen my recent social media rants or MegaCon 2016 articles, you know that I ran into a few problems with my Olympus E-M5 Mark II camera. I wanted to share my experience with other Olympus owners (or prospective buyers) with the hope that a little forewarning might help them avoid the same issues. To preface, I take really good care of my equipment. I don’t baby my equipment, as I feel things that I pay a good amount of money for should be able to withstand normal use, but I certainly don’t abuse my gear.
That being said, I had three problems crop up on my E-M5 II in the span of six days. One was a manufacturing/design issue, one involved accidental damage, and the last was probably my fault. Regardless of blame, I’m going to explain how you can avoid falling prey to these same problems:
1. My E-M5’s LCD Screen Fell Off
A couple of days before heading off to the convention, the camera’s LCD screen fell off in my hand. There was no impact, no jarring, no dropping, and no harsh use involved; I literally just opened up the LCD to swivel it, and the entire housing came separated from the hinge and fell off in my hand. Worse yet, when the screen popped off, it unplugged the little ribbon cable inside the housing, rendering the screen dead. This happened on the way to shooting a friend’s gig, so it was horribly timed (although I was able to continue through the night using the EVF).
After getting home, I did a quick Google search and found that I wasn’t the only person to have this problem. It made sense when I realized that Olympus chose to use two tiny screws to hold the LCD to the hinge. Beware! These buggers fall off.
Since the camera was out of warranty and I needed to have it for MegaCon, I tried fixing it myself. (I’ve been soldering and working on electronics since I was about 10 years old, so I normally fix everything myself.) It kills me to say this, but I wasn’t able to pull of the repair.
First of all, I had to break the weather sealing around the LCD panel and the housing, so I was already not too happy. When I got to the PC board on the back of the LCD, I discovered that Olympus made the ribbon cable exactly long enough to reach the connector on the board. Even using precision tools, tweezers, and a magnifying lamp, I couldn’t plug that damned cable back into the housing because if I even left myself 1/8″ between the LCD and the housing, it wouldn’t reach. Absolutely frustrating!
So I gave up on fixing the screen. It wasn’t a huge operational problem since 99% of the time, I had the camera mounted to a Jag35 Field Runner rig with a 7″ field monitor taking place of the LCD anyway.
How to avoid this:
If your camera is still under warranty, you might not want to take preemptive action. If it’s out of warranty, I doubt you want to get into a situation where a simple design flaw ends up costing you $200+ in repairs from Olympus. If I had known about this problem, I would have removed the two tiny screws (one at a time! If the screen comes loose enough for the ribbon cable to unplug, you’re screwed) and put some red Loctite on them. Alternatively, if you don’t want to remove the screws, I’ve heard that putting clear nail polish over the heads of the screws can help keep them from coming loose.
In the image on the right, you can see the innards of the swivel LCD. The orange arrows are pointing to the location of the two screws that fell out. (I had a couple of small screws laying around, so I reattached the housing before taking this picture.) You’ll need to swivel the screen out and rotate it to access these screws from the side of the camera body.
2. The E-M5 HDMI Connector Broke
On our second day at the convention, someone bumped into me on a shuttle bus and I heard a slight “pop” noise come from my rig. I immediately knew that they must have hit the HDMI cable running from the camera to the field monitor. A quick test confirmed that the monitor was no longer getting a signal. That put me two days into a four-day shoot with a broken LCD and no way to use my field monitor. I was fuming.
I was angry at myself for letting someone crash into my camera in the first place, but I couldn’t help but think over and over again how it wouldn’t have been as huge of a problem if the built-in LCD hadn’t fallen off. I ditched the camera for the rest of day two and assessed the damage when we got back to the hotel. Sure enough, it looked like part of the HDMI connection had snapped off inside the camera body.
Thankfully, I was able to temporarily fix the issue by wrapping Gorilla tape around the HDMI cable to hold it tight in the port. The screen still shut off randomly, but I was able to finish out the weekend this way.
How to avoid this:
Don’t let people bump into your camera. I’m usually very careful, but I got into an empty shuttle that became a packed-to-capacity, no-room-to-breath shuttle at the next stop. Additional advice: If you’re going to run a field monitor via the HDMI port, get something like this 90-degree HDMI adapter to at least make it as low profile as possible. The less it sticks out, the less likely it is to get hit.
And carry lots of tape.
1. The Hot Shoe Fell Off
I’m willing to take the blame for this, but the issue is still worth sharing. As shown in this image from my article on how to make an Olympus battery plate for a field monitor, I had a Smallrig top grip attached to the hot shoe. I didn’t use this grip to carry the camera around, but I did use it for low-angle shots (and I still two-handed the rig with my other hand on the shoulder bar). Apparently, that was enough to loosen the hot shoe, causing it to suddenly fall off. I’ve never used a DSLR top grip before, so I’m not sure if it’s just a bad idea in general to use one, but it definitely put the final coffin nail in my E-M5II ownership.
How to avoid this:
I was being cheap by not buying a cage to mount the top grip. I assumed that if I was gentle with its use, the top grip wouldn’t damage the camera. I was wrong. The only recommendation I can make here is to avoid the use of a hot shoe-mounted grip. Use a DSLR cage or a grip that mounts to the rig via a long arm, such as this one.
Since the number of needed repairs exceeded my willingness to bother with it, I no longer own the camera. I sold it for parts, and now I’m the proud owner of a DJI Osmo. (I know, it’s a completely different beast, but I couldn’t resist.) We’ll see how well I get along with this weird, gyroscope-y thing as my A camera until I can afford a Sony A7SII. Should be interesting.
If you’re an E-M5II owner, I hope the above information helps you avoid disaster. Have any questions? Leave them in the comments below!
All opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deck Ape...or anyone else. Arrr!