Olympus E-M5 II Review
|Full model name:||Olympus OM-D E-M5 II|
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||200 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/16000 - 60 seconds|
4.9 x 3.3 x 1.8 in.
(124 x 85 x 45 mm)
|Full specs:||Olympus E-M5 II specifications|
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E-M5 II Summary
A follow-up to the first Micro Four Thirds OM-D series camera, the Olympus E-M5 II has a tough act to follow. Absolutely bursting at the seams with the latest technology -- including a unique high resolution mode that takes it far beyond what its sensor should be capable of -- this 16-megapixel shooter doesn't disappoint. We think this could be the best argument yet for the Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera. Find out why in our in-depth Olympus E-M5 II review!Pros
Excellent handling in a compact, weather-sealed body; Crisp, roomy electronic viewfinder; Image quality that can take the fight to APS-C DSLRs; Unique high-res mode lets it bat far above its weight for static scenes; Extremely fast 10 fps burst shooting, Excellent video feature setCons
Control dials are easily bumped; Below-average battery life at default settings; Buffer depths for raw shooters are a bit limited; 16-megapixel sensor resolution feels dated; Weak bundled flash strobePrice and availability
With a body-only list price of US$1,000 or thereabouts, the Olympus E-M5 II went on sale from mid-February 2015 in the US market. Included in the price is a bundled FL-LM3 tilt/swivel flash strobe with a guide number of nine meters at ISO 100. Two standard body colors are available: either black or silver. In addition, there's a limited edition titanium-colored variant, priced at US$1,200 body-only and available from June 2015.Imaging Resource rating
4.5 out of 5.0
Olympus E-M5 II Review
02/05/2015: Exploring the E-M5 II's "High Resolution" mode, Part I
02/26/2015: Field Test Blog Part I: Olympus' enthusiast mirrorless shoots the sights in beautiful Bermuda
02/26/2015: Technical info
02/26/2015: Exploring the E-M5 II's "High Resolution" mode, Part II
03/17/2015: Field Test Blog Part II: It's time for golden hour videos and nighttime shooting
06/24/2015: Image Quality analysis and Conclusion
08/01/2015: Seafaring action with an Olympus underwater housing!
Special update: The Olympus E-M5 II was named Best Enthusiast Mirrorless Camera, as well as earning a Camera of Distinction for Best Overall Camera and New Technology in our 2015 Camera of the Year awards!
In early 2012, Olympus took its Micro Four Thirds lineup into new territory with the E-M5, which reinvented the company's OM film camera brand as an enthusiast and pro-friendly mirrorless camera for the digital age. The followup E-M1 took over the reins as Olympus' pro-friendly flagship some 18 months later, with the E-M5 remaining in the lineup as the enthusiast's go-to choice, offering plenty of creative possibilities and room to grow as a photographer, but with a very affordable pricetag.
Now, three years after the debut of the E-M5, the Olympus E-M5 II arrives, taking the OM-D series back to the forefront with advancements including an uprated, record-making five-stop image stabilization system and a versatile tilt/swivel LCD -- the latter a particularly impressive feat in a dust and splash-proof body. Not that the stabilization system isn't spectacular too. Olympus claims shutter speeds as long as 1/4-second are now hand-holdable.
The Olympus E-M5 II is based around the more powerful image processor used in the E-M1, and the manufacturer-claimed 10 frames per second burst rate of the new model is indeed a little up from that of the original camera's 9 fps spec, albeit not quite as fast as that of the E-M1 with continuous autofocus active (5.0 vs 6.5 fps). (Likely, that difference is due to the lack of on-chip phase detection AF pixels in the E-M5 II, something that the E-M1 does feature. The E-M5 does offer more than twice as many AF areas as its predecessor, though, with an 81-area array.)
Curious to see how the E-M5 II performed in the lab? Check out our full performance test results here.
The already-generous array of controls found on the original E-M5 have been supplemented with several new ones. The existing controls, too, have been reworked for better handling, and the electronic viewfinder has gotten a big boost in resolution and magnification to match that of the E-M1.
Video shooters in particular will be thrilled with some of the changes made in the Olympus E-M5 II. Although the image stabilization system doesn't offer the full five-stop corrective range for video, it's nonetheless impressively steady, and comes coupled with refined exposure and contrast-detection autofocus algorithms tuned specifically for video capture. The result: smoother focus adjustments with barely any perceptible hunting around the point of focus, and a quick reaction to sudden changes in ambient light levels.
The E-M5 II also provides the ability to choose inter or intra-frame compression with up to 77Mbps bit-rates, and to shoot at up to 60 progressive-scan frames per second. And if you want even more control, uncompressed HDMI output is also possible, as is support for timecode. Also new are built-in microphone and headphone jacks -- the latter not in the camera itself, but in the optional HLD-8G accessory grip. No doubt about it: the E-M5 II looks to offer a big step forward over both the E-M5 and E-M1 in the video department.
Video Image Stabilization Comparison
Olympus E-M5 II IBIS vs Panasonic GH4 + 12-35mm lens OIS
Video fans don't get all the love, though! Still photographers, too, have a nice surprise in store. While the sensor resolution of 16 megapixels is unchanged, the E-M5 II can now shoot in a clever resolution-enhancing mode which produces 40-megapixel (39.9MP) JPEGs or 64-megapixel (63.7MP) raw files! How does it do this? Simply put, it takes eight shots in quick succession, with the sensor position adjusted just half a pixel's distance between each shot. All eight frames are then combined into a single image with greatly increased resolution, the catch being that this trick won't work with moving subjects and a tripod is recommended. A free plug-in for Photoshop CS4 or newer will let you open the 64-megapixel raw files.
For more info on the E-M5 II's high resolution mode including sample images, see our detailed writeup.
And there are plenty more feature tweaks throughout, including some more -- such as built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity, a 1/8,000 second high-speed mechanical shutter (up to 1/16,000s in Silent Mode with a fully-electronic shutter), tethered shooting support and focus peaking -- inherited from the E-M1. Others, like a new high-gain live view mode intended for shooting stars, are brand new for this camera. Yet despite all the improvements, the Olympus E-M5 II costs quite a bit less than did its predecessor at launch just three years ago.
Let's take a closer look around the Olympus E-M5 II body, and see what's new!
Olympus E-M5 II Walkaround
Seen from the front, the Olympus E-M5 II looks quite a bit like its predecessor, but there's actually quite a few differences beyond that first glance. For one thing, the top of the hand grip now has a curve towards the lens mount to give your fingers some extra purchase. (By contrast, the E-M5 grip ran vertically for the full height of the camera.)
The AF assist lamp and lens mount release button have also been joined by a couple of new features. Below and just right of the lens mount (as seen from the rear) is a new programmable button that defaults to depth-of-field preview, while just inside of the AF assist lamp is a flash sync terminal, a new addition inherited from the E-M1.
Of course, you could also see the redesigned top-deck controls from in front of the camera, but looking at the top of the E-M5 II makes the changes more obvious.
Perhaps most significantly, the Mode dial now has a central locking button, and sits above the relocated power switch. Jump across the electronic viewfinder hump, and you'll find two additional buttons, both of which can also serve as configurable function buttons. By default, the Function 3 button changes display, something previously achieved with a button on the right side of the viewfinder hump. The new Function 4 button, meanwhile, accesses high dynamic range mode.
To make way for these additions, the rear dial has been moved closer to the right of the camera body, making it a bit easier to reach in the process.
Moving to the rear of the camera, the most obvious change is the Olympus E-M5 II's new side-mounted, tilt/swivel display articulation mechanism. The original E-M5 had a simpler tilting mechanism that we find much less versatile. By contrast, the E-M5 II's display will cover a much greater range of shooting angles -- including selfies -- and can also be closed with the display facing inwards for an extra modicum of protection against minor knocks and scrapes.
The Function1 button, visible just right of the electronic viewfinder, is now surrounded by a switch that allows it to serve multiple functions, just as in the E-M1. And with the Power switch now relocated to the top deck, its location at bottom right is taken over by the rehomed Playback button. Curiously, the speaker grille previously found on the left side of the body now sits inside the thumbgrip, a location that makes it fairly easily-covered when shooting, though this may come in handy for quickly muffling the sound without having to mute the camera.
One last change of note is actually a feature omission: The E-M5 II no longer sports the proprietary Accessory Port that was found beneath the flash hot shoe on the earlier E-M5 and E-M1, meaning that these accessories can no longer be used with the E-M5 II. (But then, with Wi-Fi wireless networking, a high-res viewfinder and an external microphone jack all built in, there's little need for these accessories on the E-M5 II.) You can't see it in any of our current product shots, but there's an extra contact in the E-M5 Mark II's hot shoe to power the new bundled FL-LM3 flash.
Moving to the right side of the camera body, the Olympus E-M5 II looks much like its predecessor. The most obvious differences are the slightly reprofiled handgrip, and the absence of the display button on the side of the viewfinder hump. The right strap lug has also moved a little further forward on the camera for better balance with a lens attached.
The left side, too, is little-changed. As noted previously, the speaker grille that used to sit near the base of the connectivity compartment door has now been relocated to the rear panel. And if you open that compartment door, you'll find one new connector, with the added microphone jack sitting alongside the existing high-definition HDMI and combined USB / standard-definition composite video outputs.
Finally, we come to the base of the camera. Again, things are much as they were in the original E-M5, with the most notable change in the E-M5 II being a rehoming of the tripod mount to the optical center of the lens, where previously it sat just right of center. In the process, it has also moved a bit further forward, sitting very close to the front of the camera. Behind and slightly to one side is the rubber plug that covers the accessory grip connector, and as in the earlier camera, the E-M5 II also has a locking battery compartment cover.
Olympus E-M5 II Field Test Part I
Olympus' enthusiast mirrorless shoots the sights in beautiful Bermuda
As a technology journalist and camera reviewer these last 16 years, I'm fortunate that I get to shoot with a lot of great gear in my line of work. Sometimes, though, finding new and attractive subjects can be a challenge -- especially living as I do in a fairly small East Tennessee town that, for the last couple of weeks, has been coated in an unusually generous and long-lasting layer of snow and ice.
Thankfully, shortly before the near-arctic conditions hit, Olympus invited journalists from a number of print and online publications for a short trip to the British overseas territory of Bermuda, an opportunity for some one-on-one time with its brand-new OM-D E-M5 Mark II compact system camera -- and I was lucky to be among their number. And boy, did Olympus ever have some beautiful locations in store for us, as you can see throughout this report, and in my Olympus E-M5 II gallery!
Want to know if the just-launched Olympus E-M5 II successfully wooed me in Bermuda?
Olympus E-M5 II Field Test Part II
It's time for golden hour videos and nighttime shooting
Recently, I had the pleasure of shooting with the Olympus E-M5 II compact system camera on a whirlwind trip to Bermuda, an experience that became the basis for the first part of my E-M5 II Field Test. (If you've not already read that report, you'll find it here.) With the trip over all too soon, I brought the camera back home with me to Knoxville to wrap things up.
In my first Field Test, I promised that I'd take a look at video capture and high ISO shooting on my return home, as well as trying some more long-exposure photography. A few days ago, I headed to downtown Knoxville, prepped and ready for an evening's shooting.
Now I've tried shooting video and high ISO stills with, the E-M5 II, what did I think?
Olympus E-M5 II Image Quality Comparison
How does this feature-packed beauty stack up where it most counts?
Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Olympus E-M5 II vs. the Olympus E-M5, Olympus E-M1, Panasonic GH4, Nikon D7200 and Sony A7. These models include the E-M5 II's direct predecessor and its most fully-featured sibling, the nearest Micro Four Thirds rival, a similarly-priced APS-C DSLR, and the most affordable full-frame mirrorless camera (which has, of late, been selling at a similar price to that of the E-M5 II).
NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera.
For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Olympus E-M5 II, Olympus E-M5, Olympus E-M1, Panasonic GH4, Nikon D7200 and Sony A7 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them.
Read our Image Quality Comparison!
Exploring the E-M5 II's "High Resolution" mode
How can a 16MP sensor output 40/64-megapixel files?
For photographers interested in shooting high resolution imagery for landscapes, architecture or studio product photography, the E-M5 II comes equipped with a special high resolution mode designed to yield a 40 megapixel JPEG image competitive with those available from 36MP full-frame cameras like the Nikon D810 and Sony A7R, and a 64-megapixel RAW file. Really? A camera with a 16-megapixel sensor is going to somehow output 40/64-megapixel files? From our first briefing on this mode, we've been impatiently waiting to put it to the test in our lab! After all, the Sony A7R was our overall Camera of the Year for 2013, and the Nikon D810 won that honor just last year, so this is a rather bold claim for a Four Thirds camera to make!
Before looking at the results (OK -- go peek if you'd like and then come back here) let's take a quick glance at the mechanics of this feat. It's actually pretty clever; one of those things you wonder why it hadn't been done already, once you learn what they're doing. First and foremost, be advised that you must use a tripod in order to take advantage of this new mode, and your subject(s) must be motionless unless you're deliberately aiming for odd motion blur effects.
Olympus E-M5 II Print Quality
How will your photos look once they're framed on your wall?
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.
Read about the Olympus E-M5 II's Print Quality to see what you can expect at every sensitivity!
Olympus E-M5 II Technical Insights
A look at what's new inside the overhauled enthusiast mirrorless
Olympus has based the OM-D E-M5 II mirrorless camera around a 16.1-megapixel, Four Thirds-format Live MOS image sensor, just as in the original E-M5. It's not the same chip, though -- the company describes it as having been redesigned, and the total pixel count has climbed from 16.9 to 17.2 megapixels.
Output from the new image sensor is handled by a TruePic VII-branded image processor, also an upgrade from the TruePic VI chip used in the original E-M5.
Together, the pairing of sensor and processor allow a manufacturer-claimed performance of 10 frames per second with focus locked from the first frame, or five frames per second with continuous autofocus tracking enabled. Both are noticeably swifter than the manufacturer-claimed 9 fps of the original E-M5 with focus locked, or 4.2 fps with continuous AF.
Want to learn more about the Olympus E-M5 II's technical specifications?
Olympus E-M5 II Conclusion
Could this be the best argument yet for the mirrorless camera?
In early 2012, Olympus ignited a passion for mirrorless cameras in many photographers with the debut of the Olympus E-M5. Resurrecting the company's historic OM-D brandname, the E-M5 positively packed in the features in a compact body that truly delivered on the promise of a mirror-free design. Although it was later bumped from its flagship position by the top-of-the-line E-M1, the E-M5 hs left its successor with some might big shoes to fill.
With the OM-D E-M5 II, Olympus has clearly not shied away from that task. Although its sensor seems quite closely-related to that in its siblings, the E-M5 II has brought some very worthwhile upgrades in other areas. Key among these for many will be its headline-grabbing multi-shot high-resolution mode, which while a bit obscure to enable for the first time is very easy to use and extracts an amazing amount of detail from your subjects. It's a bit of a shame to realize that you're limited only to shooting static scenes from a tripod in this mode, but when your subject is completely still and you've the time to set up your tripod, it really is worth the effort.
Does the Olympus E-M5 II belong on your shopping list?
In the Box
The Olympus E-M5 Mark II U.S. retail package contains the following items:
- Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II body
- Rechargeable Li-ion battery BLN-1
- Battery charger BCN-1
- Flash FL-LM3
- USB cable
- Shoulder strap
- Olympus Viewer 3 CD-ROM
- Instruction manual
- Limited 1-Year Warranty
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. 32GB should be a minimum, and we highly recommend a fast UHS-II card.
- Spare battery BLN-1 for extended shooting sessions
- M.Zuiko lenses, especially the M.Zuiko Pro 12-40mm f/2.8
- Remote cable release RM-UC1
- Medium camera bag
- Micro HDMI cable
Buy the Olympus E-M5 II
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Also has viewfinder