Olympus OM-D E-M5 Video Recording

High-definition video capture is a must-have feature in the latest generation of interchangeable-lens cameras, and essentially all the major manufacturers now provide some form of video capture in their compact system cameras.  The Olympus E-M5's video feature set is quite closely related to that of the recent PEN E-P3, with the most significant difference being its built-in electronic viewfinder which can be used alongside the external microphone accessory (an either/or proposition on the PENs). Also new is a wind noise reduction filter, something that will doubtless prove handy for consumers and some enthusiasts who rely on in-camera audio.

As the flagship Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera, the Olympus M5 includes some more advanced features such as full manual exposure control and optional external microphone support, along with consumer-friendly options such as full-time autofocus and pre-capture video filters. Although it does lack fine-grained audio levels control, built-in microphone connectivity, and the fine-grained control over framerates that are sometimes found on competing models, most non-professional videographers likely won't notice the absence of these features.

Olympus E-M5 Basic Video Specs

  • 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD / 1080i), 1,280 x 720 (720p), and 640 x 480 (VGA) recording
  • AVCHD compression at Full HD and 720p resolutions, or MotionJPEG compression at 720p or below
  • MOV file format for AVCHD, AVI for MotionJPEG
  • 59.94 interlaced fields per second at Full HD, 59.94 frames per second for AVCHD 720p, or 30 frames per second for Motion JPEG
  • Autofocus functions during movie recording, includes tracking function, and is essentially silent with MSC-badged lenses
  • Optional face detection autofocus available, and can even detect and prioritize a specific (left or right) eye on which to focus
  • Manual focus and single autofocus operations also available
  • Auto, shutter/aperture-priority or full manual exposure, set before recording
  • EV adjustment is available in all except Manual exposure mode, set prior to (but not during) recording
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization available, with optional modes that allow vertical or horizontal panning
  • Stereo audio recording via built-in microphones or standard external mics via an optional, hotshoe-mounted accessory connector
  • "Art Filters" can be applied to video, but most adversely affect framerate, sometimes drastically
  • Video recorded with Diorama filter plays back at ~15x normal speed, and has audio disabled
  • Digital tele-converter function adds 2x digital zoom
  • Still image capture is possible during video recording, but splits the video into separate files, with a 4+ second gap between files
  • Still + Video mode snaps still image at the end of video recording

Olympus E-M5 Video: Image Size, Frame Rate, and Encoding

The Olympus E-M5 records at three different video resolutions in two compression formats, with each combination having a fixed frame rate. In AVCHD format, which is available only for high-definition videos, there are two possible frame rates and two compression levels. Full HD (1080i; 1,920 x 1,080 pixel) videos are recorded at 59.94 interlaced fields per second, and 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) videos are recorded at 59.94 progressive-scan frames per second. For each, a choice of Fine or Normal compression is availableIn MotionJPEG format, which is available for 720p or VGA (640 x 480 pixel) resolution, the frame rate is fixed at approximately 30 frames per second. Regardless of the compression and frame rate, the actual data is clocked off the image sensor at 30 frames per second, and some art filters reduce the captured frame rate significantly.

Unless audio capture is disabled, movies include PCM stereo audio. Olympus states only that the audio sampling rate of AVCHD videos is 48kHz, though video players further report a 16-bit sampling rate, and a bit rate of 1,536 Kbps.

The table below shows the specs for various video recording options.

Olympus E-M5 Video Options
AVCHD Format (H.264, .MOV files)
Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate
Average Bit Rate

1,920 x 1,080


59.94 fields per second

20 Mbps
17 Mbps

1,280 x 720


59.94 frames per second

13 Mbps
10 Mbps
M-JPEG Format (MotionJPEG, .AVI files)
Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate
Compression Ratio

1,280 x 720


30 frames per second


640 x 480



As noted above, the Olympus E-M5 offers two video recording formats, although unless you're recording at 720p resolution, the choice of format is made for you. The E-M5's Full HD video is recorded using the newer AVCHD compression format, which is based upon H.264 compression. At VGA resolution, the E-M5 uses the older, less efficient (but easier to decode) MotionJPEG compression type. At 720p resolution, you can choose between the two formats.

Continuous movie recording is limited to approximately 29 minutes regardless of file format, and maximum movie file size is 2GB. Olympus recommends use of at least a Class 6 Secure Digital card to avoid issues with write speeds during video capture.

Here are some examples of video shot with our sample of the Olympus E-M5:

Olympus E-M5: Video Samples
1,920 x 1,080
AVCHD, Interlaced, 60 fields per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
AVCHD, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
Motion JPEG, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
640 x 480
Motion JPEG, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
AVCHD, Interlaced, 60 fields per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
AVCHD, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
Motion JPEG, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
640 x 480
Motion JPEG, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original

Olympus E-M5 Video-Mode Focusing

For a consumer audience used to camcorders that can autofocus during video capture (and who don't necessarily have the time and patience to learn to pull focus manually), full-time autofocus is a pretty critical feature. For a couple of years now, Olympus' PEN-series compact system cameras have offered better-than-average autofocus capabilities when coupled with the company's 'Movie & Still Compatible' (MSC)-badged lenses, which provide fast, near-silent focus drive, thanks to a reduction in the mass of elements that must be moved during AF operation.

For its first digital OM camera, Olympus has further improved the E-M5's autofocusing speed, but the improvements are specific to still imaging. For video, you don't really want fast AF, which would merely distract your viewer. Instead, smooth focus with minimal hunting is important, and although it can take a little while to detect that your subject has moved by itself, the E-M5 will likely please most consumers in this area.

Just as in the earlier PEN E-P3 model, Olympus has missed one trick with the M5's video-mode AF, however. Although the camera has a touch-screen panel, this is disabled during video recording, which to our mind is where Touch AF is at its most useful. In competing cameras, a touch screen can make it a very simple matter to indicate to the camera that you wish to shift the point of focus from one subject to another, with relatively little handling noise and shake caused by a gentle touch on the screen. Unfortunately, this isn't possible with the E-M5. Instead your options are limited to either setting an autofocus point before capture starts with the camera's physical controls, and then keeping your subject under that focus point, or using tracking autofocus to follow a particular subject around the frame.

One function of the E-M5's video focusing that's pretty unusual is the ability to have the camera not only prioritize faces when recognized in a scene, but actually to prioritize focusing on their eyes. You can either let the camera select which eye automatically, or manually select either the left or right eye for focusing.

Olympus E-M5 Video Exposure Control

Olympus E-M5: Aperture Control / Depth-of-Field
1,280 x 720
AVCHD, Progressive, 60 frames per second, f/5.1
Download Original
1,280 x 720
AVCHD, Progressive, 60 frames per second, f/22
Download Original

Some video-capable cameras still offer only fully automatic exposure in movie mode, but the Olympus E-M5 gives you a choice of either Programmed, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority or Manual exposure modes, set before capture starts (but not during capture). As well as allowing direct control of the shutter speed and aperture as appropriate to the exposure mode, the ISO sensitivity which the camera will use can also be directly controlled, but only in Manual exposure mode. In Programmed and Priority modes, +/- 3.0EV of exposure compensation is available, in 1/3 EV steps.

There are, of course, some provisos. The ISO sensitivity range is reduced to ISO 200 to 3,200 equivalents during video capture, and Auto ISO isn't available in Manual mode. The slowest available shutter speed is 1/30 second. It's also worth noting that while Program Shift is available for still imaging, it isn't applicable to video capture.

White balance settings also carry over to video mode, as do the tone/color aspects of the camera's various scene modes.

It's not strictly an exposure control feature, but this seems as good a place as any to mention the Olympus E-M5's Movie + Still recording mode. Selected via the Movie page of the Custom menu, this option snaps a still image at the end of each movie clip: When you press the Movie button the second time, to stop movie recording, the shutter actuates, and the camera captures a full-resolution still frame. We suppose this is could be useful at times, but in our own movies, the action is usually over by the time we're ending a clip, so that's perhaps not the ideal place to capture a still frame. Still, there are times when we'd like to have a high-resolution still image of a video subject available, and this option is much quicker than having to switch back out of Movie mode to capture one.

Perhaps more useful, though, is the ability to capture a still by fully pressing the Shutter button during recording. This does interrupt video capture for around four seconds or more, and the video is spanned across multiple files. The delay between video capture stopping and the still being captured is a good couple of seconds, even when using manual focus, so you'll need to anticipate the crucial moment if your subject isn't static, but it's still likely of more real-world use than the Movie + Still function.

Olympus E-M5 In-Camera Image Adjustment for Movies

Olympus has for some time now made a big deal of their Art Filters in marketing their DSLRs. We know people that like these effects a lot, but confess that we've personally never found them very compelling. With the E-M5, Olympus has again carried the full set of Art Filters over into Movie Mode, so those users who are into such things can take advantage of the same effects in their videos. While a handful of modes--Pop Art, Pale&Light Color, and Light Tone--don't adversely affect the frame rate even at Full HD resolution, most modes have a noticeable impact, and some will cause a drastic reduction in the rate, indicating that the E-M5 doesn't have the processing power to handle the filter in real-time alongside encoding.

The Diorama filter still stands alone as a special case, unique from all other video art filters. While the rest have no effect on audio capture, Diorama videos are recorded without audio. That's because they play back at a much faster frame rate than their capture rate, causing the action to appear greatly accelerated.

Olympus E-M5 Movie-Mode Image Stabilization

Olympus E-M5: Video Image Stabilization
1,280 x 720
Motion JPEG, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original

Where the PEN E-P3 before it disabled its mechanical image stabilization system in favor of purely digital stabilization for video capture, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 instead relies on its sensor shift-type image stabilization system. That's good news, because the P3's digital stabilization was prone to a bizarre, double-axis jello effect that we found much more objectionable than the shake it was supposed to be correcting for. Remembering the earlier model's quirky stabilization, we made sure to test that of the E-M5, and as you can see in the sample above it didn't induce any such effect. (The remaining jello effect you can see is rolling shutter, which is common in interchangeable-lens camera video, and analyzed in its own section further down the page. The video does jerk as you reach the maximum correction possible from the stabilization system, but we saw no sign of exaggerated rolling shutter effects as in the P3.)

The Olympus E-M5's in-body image stabilization system is unusual in being able to correct for motion on five axes. It compensates for yaw, pitch, vertical motion, horizontal motion, and roll, and Olympus says it's capable of up to 5 stops of correction.

The M5's image stabilization system essentially allows any lens attached to it effectively becomes an image-stabilized model. (Note, though, that when using a lens that has its own image stabilization, you have to choose either the camera's IS or that in the lens; they won't work together.) All three IS modes the E-M5 offers are also available while recording movies. The available modes are Off, IS 1 (stabilizer on in both axes), IS 2 (horizontal panning), and IS 3 (vertical panning). As in still-capture mode, you can also set the focal length of the lens explicitly, from 8-1,000mm, for use with non-Micro Four Thirds/Four Thirds system lenses that don't communicate their focal length to the camera.

Olympus E-M5 Video: Audio Recording

Audio recording in movies is optional with the Olympus E-M5. Audio can be turned on or off in the Movie page of the Custom menu, or via the Live Menu, accessible by pressing the OK button on the camera's rear panel. Audio is recorded as 16-bit , 48kHz, 1,536 Kbps stereo PCM. The stereo recording is done either via two microphones, and unlike many cameras that offer almost no separation by placing both ports side-by-side and facing in the same direction, the M5 places them on opposite sides of the viewfinder hump. We don't have an objective way to test this, but it seems that this placement could provide a better stereo effect.

Alternatively, a standard 3.5mm stereo microphone can be attached via a SEMA-1 adapter that connects to the accessory port.

Audio recorded with the camera's internal mic sounded clear, but we do no tests to measure frequency response or sensitivity, so can't comment quantitatively. While we did notice was an audible hiss in audio tracks recorded with the in-camera mic in relatively quiet environments, it seemed rather less noticeable than we're accustomed to on competing models.

Autofocus drive on both available kit lenses--the 14-42mm and 12-50mm--was effectively silent, in that its operation couldn't be heard on the audio track, even with no background noise. The unusual zoom mechanism of the 12-50mm lens is ideal for video capture, offering a choice of both manual zoom if you want direct, rapid control and a near-silent power zoom function if you want to keep noise and camera shake to a minimum. The power zoom function is selected by pushing the zoom ring forwards, which produces an audible clunk, so you won't want to switch between manual and power zoom during capture. When active, power zoom is controlled by slightly turning the (now spring-loaded) zoom ring in either direction, and you can vary from a very slow zoom to a reasonably swift one, although nowhere near the speed possible with manual zoom.

Unlike many of its competitors, the Olympus E-M5 doesn't provide for manual audio level control, although to say that it isn't fine grained would be understating things. There's a choice of three levels: Low, Standard, or High. There's also a wind noise reduction function and you can disable audio capture altogether, too.

Olympus E-M5 Movie Recording / Playback User Interface

Although the Olympus E-M5 has a separate Movie mode accessed via a separate position on the camera's Mode dial, there's a dedicated Movie record button on the top panel. This allows movie capture even when set to one of the still image exposure modes, although confusingly, the exposure mode will be ignored and the movie will be recorded with Program autoexposure, unless you're using the Movie mode position. (You also can't be sure of framing until capture starts unless using the Movie mode on the dial, since no display overlay shows crops for movie capture.)

In Movie mode, you can set the camera to use priority or manual exposure, using an option hidden in the Movie Custom menu or Live Menu. It's not terribly intuitive, but it works. Note though that in movie mode, the same option used to select the exposure mode also selects the art filter modes, and hence it isn't possible to combine art filters with priority or manual exposure.

Since there's a dedicated Movie record button, the Shutter button doesn't start or stop video recording even when in Movie mode: instead, it captures a still image. The separate buttons do make it quicker to jump from capturing stills to movies and vice versa, since you needn't necessarily move the Mode dial unless you need more control over the resulting image or movie than is possible in the current mode. The Movie record button, however, is quite close to the camera's rear, and this coupled with its relatively deep throw and strong spring action compared to the still-image shutter button makes it quite difficult to press without jostling the camera. Indeed, we found ourselves routinely starting video capture early, in anticipation of losing the first couple of seconds of video to steadying the camera.

Setting adjustments in movie mode are mostly made via a Live Menu, which appears down the right side of the LCD when you press the OK button on the camera's back, although a handful of options are placed in a separate page of the Custom menu. Options on the Live Menu for video recording are:

Movie Live Menu Options:
IS Mode
- Off
- IS1 (Normal IS)
- IS2 (Horizontal panning)
- IS3 (Vertical Panning)
Press 'Info' button to set focal length manually
Exposure Mode
- Program Auto
- Aperture Priority
- Shutter Priority
- Manual
- Pop Art
- Soft Focus
- Pale & Light Color
- Light Tone
- Grainy Film
- Pin Hole
- Diorama
- Cross Process
- Gentle Sepia
- Dramatic Tone
- Key Line
Unhelpfully, the various art filters are simply named Art 1, Art 2, etc., in this menu, with no indication as to which is which. You're better off choosing through the Live menu, where names are shown.
White Balance
- Auto
- Sunny
- Shadow
- Cloudy
- Incandescent
- Fluorescent
- Underwater
- Flash
- Custom 1
- Custom 2
- Kelvin (2,000 - 14,000K)
Drive Mode
- Single
- 12 second self-timer
- 2 second self-timer
- Single
- Continuous
- Manual
- Single plus manual focus
- Continuous + Tracking
- Auto
- 200
- 250
- 320
- 400
- 500
- 640
- 800
- 1000
- 1250
- 1600
- 2000
- 2500
- 3200
Options other than Auto only available with Manual exposure. Auto not available for Manual exposure.
Recording Quality
- Full HD F (1,920 x 1,080, AVCHD, Fine)
- Full HD N (1,920 x 1,080, AVCHD, Normal)
- HD F (1,280 x 720, AVCHD, Fine)
- HD N (1,280 x 720, AVCHD, Normal)
- HD (1,280 x 720, Motion JPEG)
- SD (640 x 480, Motion JPEG)
Face Priority
- Face Priority Off
- Face Priority On
- Face & Eye Priority On
- Face & R. Eye Priority On
- Face & L. Eye Priority On
Movie Audio
- Off
- On


Rolling Shutter Artifacts ("Jello Effect")

Olympus E-M5: Rolling Shutter Artifacts
1,920 x 1,080
AVCHD, Interlaced, 60 fields per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
AVCHD, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
Motion JPEG, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
640 x 480
Motion JPEG, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original

Essentially every video capable digital SLR/CSC currently on the market exhibits some level of motion-related distortion called rolling shutter artifacts. These are caused because the image data is captured and then read off the chip sequentially by rows, rather than each frame's data being captured all at once. In the case of the Olympus E-M5, this means that image data for the last row of a given frame is captured and read out as much as 1/30th second after the data for the top row was captured. The effect on moving objects is like that of a focal plane shutter in an SLR, but more pronounced, because the video frame is read out much more slowly than the slit of a focal plane shutter moves across the sensor.

For a camera that scans video frames vertically (as all do that we're aware of), rolling shutter artifacts will be most noticeable for subjects that are moving rapidly side to side, or when the camera itself is being panned horizontally. Verticals in the scene will appear tilted to the right or left, depending on the direction of camera motion. As an example, consider the case of a camera being panned from left to right, with a flagpole or other vertical object in the middle of the scene when recording for a particular frame begins: If the top of the object was centered horizontally when the first line of the video frame is acquired, by the time the last line of the frame has been captured, the bottom of the object will have shifted to somewhere left of center: As a result, the vertical object would appear to be leaning to the right.

The E-M5's rolling shutter artifacts are really minimal in all video modes, and it offers among the best performance we've seen in this area. We also checked at both very fast and relatively slow shutter speeds, and found no dependency of rolling shutter behavior on shutter speed.

Computer Requirements for Viewing HD Video

A typical computer these days has little trouble dealing with still images, but high-definition video can be another matter. Depending on the file format involved, it can take a pretty beefy computer to handle HD-resolution video playback without stuttering or dropping frames. The AVCHD image compression used by the Olympus E-M5 is one of the more compute-intensive formats, and its high maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution means there's a lot of data in each frame to deal with. The net result is that you'll need a reasonably recent computer to play the E-M5's Full HD video files smoothly, and will want a pretty powerful machine for Full HD video editing. When recording at 720p resolution or below, you can opt for Motion JPEG compression, though, which is one of the less compute-intensive formats and should prove easier to edit (albeit less efficient to store.)

You can of course view your movies on a high definition TV via the HDMI output, or a standard-def TV via the combined USB / Video output.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Video: Summary

Shooting in the daytime, the Olypus E-M5 is capable of providing quite clean and detailed video, with excellent detail in areas of subtle contrast. This is shown nicely in the bushy grasses at the beginning of our Full HD day video, which shows excellent detail where a lot of cameras dissolve to mush. Unfortunately, we saw some odd, sharp-edged and quite strong compression artifacts in the face of rapid motion, as in the 1:1 crop of IR wonder-dog Charlotte shown below, from about the six second point in the same video.

Of course, that's a still frame, and the effect isn't quite so visible in a moving video. The situation is also better in the 720p AVCHD mode, and isn't visible at all in Motion JPEG-compressed files.

A bit more disappointing was the M5's night video performance. The results were quite dark, even at the maximum sensitivity of ISO 3,200 equivalent, and even though the noise levels would suggest that there was room to raise the sensitivity higher if the camera allowed it. Of course, we could have shot at full wide angle for a brighter aperture, but we routinely shoot in this manner to provide a fair basis of comparison to other cameras' videos.

The bottom line, though, was that the E-M5 offered pretty decent video performance, with very crisp video, especially in AVCHD / Full HD capture, and with minimal rolling shutter. That, coupled with the advantages of Olympus' near-silent focus and power zoom functions and manual exposure capabilities will make it an interesting camera for many enthusiast videographers.

Buy the Olympus E-M5

Editor's Picks