Olympus E-M1 II Image Quality


Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Typical saturation levels with very good hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
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-M1 II pushes darker reds and blues by a fair amount and a few other colors by relatively small amounts, but most colors are pretty close to accurate in terms of saturation. Default mean saturation at base ISO of 200 is 111.1% (11.1% oversaturated), which is about average these days. Mean saturation remains fairly stable across the ISO range, except at very high ISOs where it falls to a low of 105.6% at ISO 25,600 (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-M1 II did very well with skin tones, producing pleasant, realistic-looking Caucasian skin tones using Auto or Manual white balance that are just slightly on the warm side. 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-M1 II exhibits very good overall hue accuracy, with a better-than-average Delta-C color error after correction for saturation of only 3.73 at base ISO (the average is about five among cameras we've tested, and lower scores are better), and hue accuracy is quite good across the ISO sensitivity range. The only significant hue shift is cyan towards blue, which is quite common and deliberate to improve the look of blue skies. Hue is "what color" the color is.

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


Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Default Auto white balance was quite warm, but good color balance with Incandescent and Manual white balance settings. About 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-M1 II has a "Keep Warm Color" option for Auto white balance which is On by default. When turned Off, the results were too cool with a cyan tint. Results with the Incandescent setting were not bad, though, just slightly warm and yellow. The Manual setting was very accurate and neutral. The Olympus E-M1 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
Very good color and dynamic range, with good exposure.

Manual White Balance,
+1.0 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Olympus E-M1 II performed well, with nice colors and good exposure. Skin tones were very good if slightly warm with both Auto and Manual white balance settings in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot. The Olympus E-M1 II required +1.0 EV exposure compensation to keep the mannequin's face bright, which is a little higher than average. Default contrast is a bit high as it is on most cameras, but despite the bright appearance there are very few blown highlights in the mannequin's shirt and flowers, which is much better than average. And noise in all but the deepest shadows is quite low for a 4/3" sensor. The Far-field shot has very good exposure at default settings and almost no blown highlights (just a few clipped specular highlights) or lost shadows. Noise in the shadows is low, though there are signs fairly aggressive noise reduction is applied in darker regions. (Note that these shots were taken at ISO 200 as ISO 64 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
~2,700+ lines of strong detail in native resolution JPEG and RAW files.

Strong detail to
~2,700 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,700 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,700 lines horizontal
ACR processed ORF
Strong detail to
~2,700 lines vertical
ACR processed ORF

In-camera JPEGs of our laboratory resolution chart reveals sharp, distinct line patterns up to just over 2,700 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to just over 2,700 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 3,600 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
Over 4,000 lines in High-Res JPEG and RAW files.

Strong detail to
>4,000 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
>4,000 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
>4,000 lines horizontal
Olympus Viewer 3 processed ORF
Strong detail to
>4,000 lines vertical
Olympus Viewer 3 processed ORF

An in-camera 50MP High-Res JPEG of our laboratory resolution chart reveals sharp, distinct lines past the 4,000 line limit of our chart, and of course an Olympus Viewer 3 converted 80MP files also shows resolution past 4,000 lines. And because each color is sampled separately in high-resolution mode there are far fewer false colors, although some color moiré is still present. (Note that Adobe Camera Raw did not support E-M1 II High-Res RAW files as of this writing.)

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

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

Very 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-M1 II captures sharp, crisp images, 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. The halos are a little bright, but at least they are not very thick. 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 areas of the mannequins'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 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds model, and chroma noise is very low. 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.

Native Res RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Olympus E-M1 II does a great job at capturing lots of fine, crisp 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 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.8 (with preliminary support for the E-M1 II) using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp mask applied in Photoshop (350%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

As is often the case, the Adobe Camera Raw conversion contains fine detail superior to the camera's Super Fine JPEG at default settings as can be seen in the mosaic crop and especially in the red-leaf swatch where much of the fine thread pattern is resolved, though it does leave behind a lot more luminance noise at default noise reduction settings. In-camera JPEGs also have more "pop" as well, with higher default contrast, sharpening and saturation. Overall, though, the E-M1 II's JPEG engine does a very good job balancing the detail offered by its 20-megapixel sensor with keeping noise in check, at least at low ISOs. (And its expanded low ISO 64 setting does even better especially in the red-leaf fabric, but at the cost of lower dynamic range.) However as is usually true, additional detail can be extracted when working with RAW files.

High Res mode RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
The Olympus E-M1 II's multi-shot High Res mode produces in-camera 49.9-megpixel JPEGs, but High-Res .ORF files are converted to 80.1-megapixel images. Below, we compare the two at base ISO:

High Res Mode, Base ISO (200)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW Olympus Viewer 3, defaults

As mentioned, Adobe does not yet support Olympus E-M1 II High Res files as of this writing, so above we compare in-camera JPEGs to the output of Olympus Viewer 3 at default settings.

As you can see, the High Res in-camera JPEG and RAW files both offer a lot more detail than the native resolution files in the previous comparison with far fewer aliasing artifacts, but the converted High Res RAW file only offers a modest increase in detail over the in-camera High Res JPEG, and also shows slightly higher noise. The converted High Res RAW file is also a little soft at default settings, so we suggest using a higher sharpening setting or using a lower sharpening setting in Olympus Viewer 3 and then sharpening to taste in Photoshop after the conversion.

ISO & Noise Performance
Excellent high ISO performance for its class.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 64 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600

The Olympus E-M1 II's images are quite clean and detailed at ISOs 64 though 400, though there's a minor increase in noise in the shadows as ISO sensitivity rises within this range. ISO 800 shows a slight drop in overall image quality, but fine detail is still quite strong and noise is well-controlled. 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 shows a more noticeable drop in image quality, with much higher luminance noise, though the grain pattern is quite tight and chroma noise is well-controlled . ISO 6400 is grainier with more noticeable smudging and chroma noise. Image quality drops off rapidly from there, with much higher luma and chroma noise, visible noise reduction and sharpening artifacts, as well as a slight drop in saturation.

Overall, high ISO noise performance is excellent for a Micro Four Thirds camera, and a bit better than the PEN-F's despite the much faster sensor. Noise levels are similar to the E-M1 despite the smaller pixels, with some refinements in noise reduction as well, although default noise processing does appear slightly stronger. 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
Very good dynamic range in JPEGs, and very good low-light performance as well.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

The Olympus E-M1 II did very well with this difficult shot, requiring slightly more than average exposure compensation of +1.0 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

Face Detection. Like most cameras these days, the Olympus E-M1 II has the ability to detect faces, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. As you can see from the examples above, face detection worked well, as the center image with it enabled is much better exposed for the face without having to use any exposure compensation. The Full Auto setting worked even better by choosing Portrait scene mode which selected a larger aperture (f/2) and selected i-Enhance Picture Mode to boost shadows and reduce contrast. An excellent performance under very difficult lighting such as this.

Outdoor Portrait Gradation Comparison



Low Key

High Key

Gradation. Similar to dynamic range optimization systems from other manufacturers, the Olympus E-M1 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 to make 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 to produce 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 highlights, for a much better overall exposure than the Normal setting which was much too dim.

Far-field Gradation Comparison

Above, we can see the Gradation options at work in our Far-field test shot series with similar results. 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:

High Dynamic Range. The Olympus E-M1 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 supported is 4 seconds.

Above, you can see the E-M1 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 it looks a bit dim and flat. You can do much better by using the bracketing mode and combining the images yourself in software. HDR2 mode looks overprocessed and too bright with soft, noisy details. In addition, notice the ghosting to the left of the pillars in the HDR2 shot, which seems to be some kind of a bug since the camera was on a tripod and the self-timer was used; we saw this same behavior in prior models. (Also notice that the HDR images are not cropped compared to the non-HDR image, which implies the camera can't compensate for much camera motion during a sequence. 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.)

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 Olympus E-M1 II dynamic range test results (in orange) to its predecessor, the E-M1 (yellow), as well as to the Nikon D500 (red), a high-performance APS-C DSLR with similar resolution. You can always compare to other models on DxOMark.com.

As you can see from the above graph (click it for a larger version), the Olympus E-M1 II's dynamic range is similar to the E-M1's at most sensitivities, though it is better at very high ISOs. Peak dynamic range is 12.84 EV at base ISO, versus 12.7 EV for its predecessor. They perform pretty much identically up to the ISO 1600 setting, however the E-M1 Mark II does pull ahead at very high ISOs where it manages 7.6 EV versus 6.82 EV at the top ISO, but be aware that the E-M1 II's measured ISO is lower than the E-M1's by over a third of a stop.

Unsurprisingly, the APS-C-sensored Nikon D500's dynamic range bests the Olympus E-M1 II across the board, with the Nikon offering just over a 1.1 EV advantage at base ISO (13.98 EV vs 12.84), as well as significantly better dynamic range at most ISOs.

Bottom line: The Olympus E-M1 II dynamic range is excellent for a Four Thirds sensor, equal to the best tested to date (the Panasonic GH4), though as expected, it's not as good as state-of-the-art APS-C rivals.

Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Olympus E-M1 II for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc

1.3s, f2.8

20s, f2.8

20s, f2.8

1/13s, f2.8

1.3s, f2.8

1.3s, f2.8

1/100s, f2.8

1/6s, f2.8

1/6s, f2.8

Low Light
The Olympus E-M1 II performed quite well in our low light testing, 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 ISO of 25,600 is noisy and is probably best avoided except for very small prints or web images.

White balance was fairly neutral using the Auto setting, just slightly cool at 1 foot-candle but it warmed up slightly at the lower 1/16 foot-candle light level. We didn't notice any issues with fixed-pattern noise or heat blooming, and the only hot or bright pixels detected where when long-frame noise reduction was disabled at base ISO, or at the highest ISO, both of which are not unusual.

LL AF: The Olympus E-M1 II's autofocus system was able to focus on our challenging low-contrast AF target down to -4.3 EV unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, which is quite good. And with our new high-contrast AF target, it could focus down to -6.0 EV which is excellent. The E-M1 II is also equipped with a built-in focus-assist lamp which lets it focus in total darkness, as long as the target is in range and has sufficient contrast.

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 larger pixels and in the case of the E-M1 II, its Hybrid AF system, compact system cameras like the Olympus E-M1 II tend to do much better than point & shoots in dim light, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality
A terrific 30 x 40 inch print at ISO 64/200, a good 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 800, and a nice 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 64 prints look absolutely superb at 30 x 40 inches (except for reduced dynamic range), with super-sharp detail, excellent color renditioning and an amazing amount of three dimensional "pop" to them. These are simply superb prints in every regard.

ISO 200 images also look quite good at 30 x 40 inches. They're not quite as super-crisp as the prints at ISO 64, but still offer an amazing amount of fine detail for this size, with rich colors as well.

ISO 400 yields outstanding prints up to 20 x 30 inches, with terrific detail and only a mild softening in our tricky red-leaf swatch. The 24 x 36 inch prints here are certainly usable as well for wall display purposes and less critical applications, anything but the most critical of printing needs.

ISO 800 shots at 20 x 30 inches come oh-so-close to passing our "good" grade, as there is still a very good degree of fine detail available, but mild softening in the red channel and some apparent noise in flatter areas of our target prevent us from officially calling these "good". You'll be fine for less critical applications, but for your more critical prints we advise a reduction in size to 16 x 20 inches here, which is still a nice size and offers virtually no apparent noise nor artifacts from noise reduction processing.

ISO 1600 prints at 16 x 20 just pass our good seal of approval and offer plenty in the way of fine detail. There is a mild amount of noise in flatter areas and minor issues with softening in a few areas, but it still makes a good overall print. For absolute critical prints here we recommend the 13 x 19's.

ISO 3200 images printed to 11 x 14 inches do pass our good mark, but there is now just a bit more noise apparent in some flatter areas than before such as in the shadows behind the bottles of our Still Life target. These will work for general purpose printing, but for absolutely critical purposes the 8 x 10's are a better option here.

ISO 6400 begins to show signs of noise reduction strain, as is typical for most all cameras below full-frame sensor sizes. Remaining at 8 x 10 inches and below here is a wise call, as larger print sizes simply introduce too much noise and NR artifacts into the equation.

ISO 12,800 delivers a very respectable 5 x 7 inch print for this sensitivity. There is still plenty of fine detail and full color reproduction on hand, and it's a nice size for this ISO and sensor size.

ISO 25,600 prints are just a bit too muted to pass our good grade, but may be fine for less critical applications.

The Olympus E-M1 II delivers solid performance in the print quality department. Expanded ISO 64 and base ISO 200 offer superb results with an incredible amount of detail and pop at 30 x 40 inches. You can expect large print sizes up to a 16 x 20 at ISO 1600, after which the sizes trail off in typical fashion for this sensor size. And it's nice to know that you can even achieve a good 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800, which allows you some ISO freedom for when larger prints are not needed. We recommend avoiding ISO 25,600, as the prints just aren't quite good enough for most purposes, but otherwise the camera does a nice job overall for print quality.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Olympus OM-D E-M1 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-M1 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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