Olympus E-M5 II debuts with record-setting stabilization system, improvements throughout


posted Thursday, February 5, 2015 at 2:01 AM EDT

Three years after it launched the popular E-M5 mirrorless camera, Olympus is back with a followup -- the Olympus E-M5 II (E-M5 II vs E-M5). Sporting generous upgrades throughout, the new model incorporates many of the features of the subsequent flagship OM-D model, the E-M1, as well as some interesting firsts (E-M5 II vs E-M1).

Key among the changes which take the E-M5 II back to the forefront is an uprated, record-making five-stop image stabilization system said to allow hand-holding to shutter speeds as low as 1/4 second. There's also a new tilt/swivel articulation mechanism for the rear-panel LCD monitor, a versatile addition that's all the more impressive when you consider that this is a dust and splash-proof camera.


Also new is the same, more powerful image processor featured previously in the E-M1, allowing a slight increase in the manufacturer-claimed burst capture rates. The E-M1 still holds the lead thanks to on-chip phase detection autofocus pixels, a feature not found on this new model. While it sticks with contrast-detection only, the E-M5 now offers more than twice as many AF points -- a total of 81 -- as found in its predecessor.

While the sensor resolution of 16 megapixels is unchanged, the E-M5 II can now shoot in a clever resolution-enhancing 40-megapixel mode. Simply put, this 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 final image with greatly increased resolution, the only catch being that this trick won't work with moving subjects. (Want to see how well it compares against a 36-megapixel full-frame camera? Check out our comparison with the Nikon D810 -- you may find yourself surprised!)


Other improvements include new video features such as 77Mbps inter or intra-frame compression, uncompressed HDMI video output, timecode support, external microphone and (with an optional accessory grip) headphone jacks, and refined exposure / contrast-detection autofocus algorithms tuned specifically for video capture. And there are plenty more updates throughout, including 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, focus peaking, and more.

Yet despite all the improvements, the Olympus E-M5 II is slated to cost quite a bit less than did its predecessor at launch just three years ago. With an expected body-only list price of US$1,100 or thereabouts, the Olympus E-M5 II should hit retail from around mid-February in the US market. Two body colors will be available: either black or silver, and a new bundled FL-LM3 tilt/swivel flash strobe is included in the price. Find out much more in our detailed, hands-on Olympus E-M5 II review, complete with sample lab and gallery images, as well as performance results!

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