Olympus E-M5 II Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Realistic colors with very good hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
100
200
400
800
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to compare ISOs and click for a larger version.

Saturation. The Olympus E-M5 II pushes darker reds by a fair amount and a few other colors by a small amount, but most colors are pretty close to accurate in terms of saturation. Default mean saturation at base ISO of 200 is 105.8% (5.8% oversaturated), which is a bit lower than average but still higher than actual. Mean saturation remains fairly stable across the ISO range, except at ISOs 12,800 and 25,600 where it falls off noticeably to 103.4% and 98.9% respectively (likely in an attempt to help control chroma noise). Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than what's found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Olympus E-M5 II did very well here when white balance was matched to the lighting, producing pleasant Caucasian skin tones, just slightly on the warm side and not as pinkish as the E-M5. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Olympus E-M5 II exhibits very good overall hue accuracy, with a better-than-average Delta-C color error after correction for saturation of only 3.94 at base ISO. And hue accuracy is good across the ISO sensitivity range. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto white balance struggled, but good color balance with Incandescent and Manual white balance settings. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto, Keep Warm Color On (default)
+0.3 EV
Auto, Keep Warm Color Off
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was much too warm and orange with the default Auto white balance setting. The E-M5 II has a "Keep Warm Color" option for Auto white balance which is On by default. When turned Off, the results were decidedly cool with a cyan tint. Results with the Incandescent setting were not bad, though, just slightly cool and cyan. The Manual setting was quite good, just a touch on the warm side. The Olympus E-M5 II required an average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +0.3 EV. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Realistic looking colors overall, with good exposure.

Manual White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Olympus E-M5 II performed well, with natural colors and good exposure. Skin tones are good but slightly warm and yellow with the Auto white balance setting in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, so we preferred Manual white balance for is slightly pinker rendering. However skin tones are not overly pink as they were from the E-M5. The Olympus E-M5 II required an average amount of positive exposure compensation (+0.7 EV) to keep the mannequin's eyes relatively bright. Default contrast is a bit high as it is on most cameras, but despite the bright appearance in some areas there are very few blown highlights in the mannequin's shirt and flowers, which is much better than average. And there are few lost shadows as well. The Far-field shot has very good exposure at default settings and almost no blown highlights or lost shadows. Noise in the shadows is fairly low, though there is aggressive noise reduction applied in darker regions. (Note that these shots were taken at ISO 200 as ISO 100 is an extended setting with inferior dynamic range.)

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Native Resolution
~2,400 lines of strong detail in native resolution JPEG and RAW files.

Strong detail to
~2,400 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,400 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,400 lines horizontal
ACR processed ORF
Strong detail to
~2,400 lines vertical
ACR processed ORF

In-camera JPEGs of our laboratory resolution chart reveals sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,400 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and about 2,400 lines in the vertical direction, although some fairly strong aliasing is visible well before those limits. Complete extinction of the pattern doesn't occur until about 3,200 to 3,400 lines. Adobe Camera Raw wasn't really able to extract more resolution here but generated far less luminance aliasing, though false colors and color moiré are much more apparent past the limits of resolution. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

High-Res Mode Resolution
~3,650 to ~3,700 lines in High-Res JPEGs, over 4,000 lines in High-Res RAW files.

Strong detail to
~3,700 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~3,650 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
>4,000 lines horizontal
Olympus Plug-in processed ORF
Strong detail to
>4,000 lines vertical
Olympus Plug-in processed ORF

An in-camera 40MP High-Res JPEG of our laboratory resolution chart reveals sharp, distinct lines down to about 3,700 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 3,650 lines the vertical direction. While lines begin to fade and merge at those limits, there's only minor luminance moiré, and almost no false colors because all colors in the color filter array are sampled at each pixel location, eliminating the need for standard Bayer color interpolation. Complete extinction of the pattern doesn't occur before the 4,000 line limit of our chart.

Adobe Camera Raw 8.8 supports the E-M5 II's High-Res RAW files, but it produced some denticulated or "toothed"edge artifacts when converting the 64MP file which muddled rendering of the closely spaced fine lines too much, so we decided to use the Olympus plug-in at default settings to convert the ORF file which produced far fewer artifacts. With the plug-in conversion shown above, there's some aliasing at the same resolution as the 40MP in-camera JPEGs, however we do see better definition and more distinct lines all the way to the 4,000 line limit of our chart. We wouldn't call it "strong" detail at 4,000 lines, but if you ignore the minor variations in line width and fading, it's easy to see that all of the lines in the pattern are resolved at the limit of our chart. (We really need to update our resolution chart, but this is the highest resolution version currently available from our supplier Applied Image Inc., so we may have to resort to another type of chart or start shooting the current chart from farther away and then multiplying the observed values.)

See our Exploring the E-M5 II's "High Resolution" mode page for more on the E-M5 II's new high-res mode.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Very sharp images though edge-enhancement artifacts on high-contrast subjects are visible. Mild noise suppression visible in the shadows.

Good definition of high-contrast
elements but with some visible
sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Sharpness. The Olympus E-M5 II captures very sharp images overall, though as is usually the case for most manufacturers, edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as sharpening halos around the lines and lettering in the crop above left when default settings are used. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows fairly mild noise suppression artifacts in the darkest areas of the model's hair as base ISO, smudging individual strands together when contrast between them is low, though quite a few individual strands remain visible. Overall detail is very good for a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds model. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Olympus E-M5 II does a great job at capturing lots of fine detail in its JPEGs, but more detail can often be obtained by carefully processing RAW files, while at the same time reducing sharpening artifacts. Take a look below, to see what we mean:

Base ISO (200)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare an in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 8.8 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

As you can see, the Adobe Camera Raw conversion contains fine detail superior to the camera's Super Fine JPEG at default settings, especially in the red-leaf swatch where much of the thread pattern is resolved, though it does leave behind more noise at default noise reduction settings. Out of camera JPEGs also have more "pop," with higher contrast, sharpening and saturation. Still, the E-M5 II's JPEG engine does a very good job capturing most of the detail offered by its 16-megapixel sensor, at least at low ISOs. (And its expanded ISO 100 setting does even better, but at the cost of lower dynamic range.)

ISO & Noise Performance
Very good high ISO performance for its class.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600

The Olympus E-M5 II's images are quite clean and detailed at ISOs 100 though 400, though there's a minor increase in noise in the shadows as ISO rise within this range. ISO 800 shows a slight drop in overall image quality, but fine detail is still quite strong. At ISO 1600, we see some moderate detail loss due to stronger noise and noise reduction efforts, as well as more visible chroma noise in the shadows, but fine detail is still pretty good. ISO 3200 is the first step in sensitivity where image quality suffers a noticeable drop with much stronger blurring of fine detail. Image quality drops off rapidly at ISO 6400 and above, with stronger noise, visible noise reduction and sharpening artifacts, as well as a shift in color towards green and a drop in saturation.

Overall, though, high ISO noise performance nearly matches the best we've seen from a Micro Four Thirds model thus far, and even competes well with some APS-C rivals. As always, see the Print Quality section below for maximum recommended print sizes at each ISO.

Note that we now shoot this series at f/8 instead of f/4, for increased depth of field (at f/4, it was very difficult to focus for maximum sharpness in the crop area while maintaining consistent focus between models).

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
High resolution with very good dynamic range. Very good low-light performance as well.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight
The Olympus E-M5 II did very well with this difficult shot, requiring the average amount of exposure compensation (+0.7 EV) to keep the mannequin's face bright in this harsh lighting. As mentioned previously, despite the bright appearance of the mannequin's shirt, dynamic range is surprisingly good, with very few highlights blown and good detail in the shadows as well, though very deep shadows do exhibit fairly strong noise reduction and blotchy coloration. Still, performance here is well above average, particularly for a Micro Four Thirds model.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)


Face Detection
Off at 0 EV
Aperture priority, f/8
On at 0 EV
Aperture priority, f/8
Full Auto
f/2

Face Detection. Like most cameras these days, the Olympus E-M5 II has the ability to detect faces, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. As you can see from the examples above, it worked well, as the center image with face detection enabled is much better exposed for the face without having to use exposure compensation. The Full Auto setting worked even better by choosing Portrait scene mode which selected a larger aperture (f/2) and applied i-Enhance and Auto Gradation to reduce strong shadows and highlights. An excellent performance under very difficult lighting such as this.


Outdoor Portrait Gradation Comparison
Gradation


Normal
(Default)



Auto


Low Key


High Key

Gradation. Similar to dynamic range optimization systems from other manufacturers, the Olympus E-M5 II's Gradation setting applies local contrast adjustments in an attempt to preserve shadow detail and prevent highlight clipping with the Auto setting. Above are examples of the Normal (default), Auto, Low Key and High Key settings applied to our "Sunlit" Portrait shot with no exposure compensation. Mouse over the links to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to visit the full resolution image.

As you can see, the Low Key setting applies Gradation for making subjects darker (in the thumbnail and histogram above, you can see that the camera shifted levels to the left, darkening the image dramatically), while the High Key setting does the opposite for brighter images (shifting levels to the right so that lighter tones are blown, but darker ones are opened up). The Auto setting did a good job here, boosting shadows and midtones without blowing many highlights, for a much better overall exposure.


Far-field Gradation Comparison

Above, we can see the Gradation options at work in our Far-field test shot series. Mouse over the links to load the associated thumbnail, and click on the links to visit the full resolution image.



High Dynamic Range
HDR setting:
Off

High Dynamic Range. The E-M5 II's in-camera HDR feature works by combining four shots at different exposures. Two strength settings are available: HDR1 and HDR2, with the later providing a more extreme result. ISO is fixed to 200, and slowest shutter speed is 1 second (4 seconds total).

Above, you can see the E-M5 II's in-camera HDR mode at work with our Far-field shot. HDR1 did a pretty good job brightening shadows and toning down highlights, though you can probably do better by using the bracketing mode and combining the images yourself in software. HDR2 mode looked overprocessed and was too bright with blown-out highlights as well as soft details and more visible noise.

Notice that the HDR images are not cropped compared to the non-HDR image, which can imply the camera does not microalign the source images, or at least can't compensate for much camera motion. This is pretty much confirmed by the user manual which says to use a tripod for HDR shots, potentially making this mode less useful than those offered by some other manufacturers, however we found we were able to capture some HDR images hand-held with no alignment issues.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
A key parameter in a digital camera is its Dynamic Range, the range of brightness that can be faithfully recorded. At the upper end of the tonal scale, dynamic range is dictated by the point at which the RGB data "saturates" at values of 255, 255, 255. At the lower end of the tonal scale, dynamic range is determined by the point at which there ceases to be any useful difference between adjacent tonal steps. Note the use of the qualifier "useful" in there: While it's tempting to evaluate dynamic range as the maximum number of tonal steps that can be discerned at all, that measure of dynamic range has very little relevance to real-world photography. What we care about as photographers is how much detail we can pull out of the shadows before image noise becomes too objectionable. This, of course, is a very subjective matter, and will vary with the application and even the subject matter in question. (Noise will be much more visible in subjects with large areas of flat tints and subtle shading than it would in subjects with strong, highly contrasting surface texture.)

While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we compare the Olympus E-M5 II's dynamic range to its predecessor, the E-M5, as well as to a popular APS-C competitor, the Sony A6000.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger image), the Olympus E-M5 II's dynamic range is very similar to the E-M5's, ranging from 12.4 EV at base ISO to 6.7 EV at maximum ISO. This is only a very slight improvement, and well within the margin of error for this test.

The Sony A6000 does have a noticeable advantage at both base ISO (about 13.1 vs 12.4 EV) and high ISOs (for example, about 7.5 vs 6.7 EV at ISO 12,800), but they are otherwise fairly close, which is remarkable given the E-M5 II's smaller Four Thirds sensor.

Bottom line: Although it hasn't improved significantly from its predecessor, the E-M5 Mark II offers excellent dynamic range for a Micro Four Thirds camera.

Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Olympus E-M5 II for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16fc
No NR
ISO
200
Click to see EM52LL002003.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see EM52LL002007.JPG
15s, f2.8
Click to see EM52LL002007XNR.JPG
15s, f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see EM52LL032003.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see EM52LL032007.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see EM52LL032007XNR.JPG
1s, f2.8
ISO
25600
Click to see EM52LL256003.JPG
1/125s, f2.8
Click to see EM52LL256007.JPG
1/8s, f2.8
Click to see EM52LL256007XNR.JPG
1/8s, f2.8

Low Light
The Olympus E-M5 II performed quite well in low lighting, capturing bright exposures at the lowest light level we test (1/16 foot-candle), even at base ISO. Noise is low at ISO 200 and well-controlled at ISO 3200, though the top ISO 25,600 is noisy and is probably best avoided except for small prints or web images. We didn't notice any significant issues with pattern noise, heat blooming or hot pixels.

White balance was fairly neutral using the Auto setting, just slightly cool.

The camera's autofocus system was able to focus on our subject down to below the 1/16 foot-candle light level unassisted with an f/2.8 lens (albeit slowly), which is excellent, and in total darkness with the aid of its focus assist lamp.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Thanks to their phase-detect AF systems, digital SLRs tend to do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. The E-M5 II uses contrast-detect autofocus as is found in most point & shoot cameras, so its low-light focusing ability is less than that of most SLRs with phase-detect systems. That said, though, the larger, more sensitive pixels of the E-M5 II's sensor do better under dim lighting than do the tiny pixels of most point & shoots, (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

Output Quality

Print Quality
Excellent prints up to 24 x 36 inches at base ISO and extended low ISO 100; impressively large 30 x 40 inches and larger for the special High-Res Mode at ISO 200; at ISO 1600, the camera produces a nice 16 x 20 inch print; and acceptable prints are viable all the way up to ISO 25,600 topping out at 4 x 6 inches.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISO 100/200 images both display excellent detail and vibrant colors, and can be used for prints up to 24 x 36 inches. The 16MP Four Thirds sensor is pushed to the limit at this print size, and you can see some minor pixelation upon very close inspection, however at a normal viewing distance for such a large print, the resolution is more than capable.

High-Res Mode, ISO 200: As expected, the extra detail captured by the E-M5 Mark II's High-Res Mode allows for some very impressive prints. At ISO 200, 24 x 36 inch prints are no sweat and look fantastic. We'd go further and say prints at 30 x 40 inches and larger are definitely suitable, with tons of fine detail and practically zero pixelation, even at close inspection.

ISO 400/800 both look very similar and make fantastic prints up to 20 x 30 inches. ISO 400 shows crisp fine details and vibrant colors. While ISO 800 displays perhaps a hint more luminance noise in the shadows, it doesn't affect the print size capabilities at this ISO.

ISO 1600 prints look great up to 16 x 20 inches. Higher contrast fine detail still looks really nice, as do colors, however, lower contrast detail is softened somewhat by noise and noise reduction processing.

ISO 3200 images are capable of producing nice 13 x 19 inch prints, with 11 x 14 prints looking even better. Visible luminance noise is still well-controlled, but NR processing does reduce fine detail further.

ISO 6400 prints look great up to 8 x 10, and still display a good amount of detail with pleasing colors.

ISO 12,800 images start to look a bit soft in terms of fine detail at close inspection, however prints up to 5 x 7 inches are still acceptable.

ISO 25,600 prints display noticeable noise and noise reduction processing, which makes any prints larger than 4 x 6 inches too soft and too low on detail to get the acceptable mark from us.

The new Olympus E-M5 Mark II maintains the high marks we gave its predecessor when it comes to print quality performance. We're able to push the 16-megapixel sensor to the limit and still get some excellent large and wall-mountable prints from this compact, Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera. At base ISO and the expanded low ISO 100 setting, the E-M5 II manages excellent prints up to 24 x 36 inches. With the new High-Res Mode introduced on this camera, however, the resulting files let us really crank up the print size, with superb prints up to 30 x 40 inches and larger. At the mid-range on the ISO scale, such as ISO 1600-3200, the camera produces very nice 16 x 20 and 13 x 19 inch prints, respectively. Finally, even at the extreme ISO sensitivities, the E-M5 Mark II still manages to produce usable prints, with an acceptable 5 x 7 inch print at ISO 12,800 and a 4 x 6 at ISO 25,600.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Olympus OM-D E-M5 II Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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