Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Full Review - Joshua Waller reviews the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, with improved IS, 40 megapixel mode, and overhauled camera design, is the Mark II enough of an update to justify buying?
Introduced nearly three years ago, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 introduced classic SLR styling to a mirrorless compact system camera*. This retro design not only reminded people of classic film cameras of years gone by, such as the Olympus OM-1, but also challenged the perception that you needed a large and bulky Digital SLR to be a photographer.
Olympus OM and Olympus OM-D - *Most have dropped the term “Mirrorless” as this gives people (unfamiliar with DSLRs and camera technology) the impression that something is missing, so most people are now standardising on Compact System Camera (CSC).
Since then numerous companies have followed Olympus' lead, with Sony and Fujifilm releasing SLR-styled compact system cameras, the Sony Alpha A7 and Fujifilm X-T1. The original E-M5 was considered by some to be too small, and lacking in grip, and was followed by the E-M1 which features a larger body, giving more grip, amongst other features including a larger electronic viewfinder.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 was not just a "sea-change" in terms of design and size, but also in features, offering a weather-sealed body (and weather-sealed kit lens), 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilisation, a tilting touch-screen, 9fps continuous shooting, plus impressive noise performance from a Micro Four Thirds sensor. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is also the most popular CSC on flickr.
The E-M5 also benefitted from being part of the Micro Four Thirds system, giving it access to a large range of lenses from Olympus, Panasonic and others. Micro Four Thirds users have continued to benefit from access to the largest range of lenses available for a mirrorless camera system, as one of the first mirrorless camera systems available.
The use of a relatively small Micro Four Thirds sensor (in relation to the larger APS-C or Full-Frame sensor), has allowed the development of smaller lenses and camera bodies, something which other mirrorless cameras do not always get the benefit of. Some may have wished for a larger sensor in the camera, but this would mean re-designing all lenses, and losing full access to the vast array of lenses currently available, as Sony's recent introduction of Full-Frame Sony E-Mount cameras has demonstrated. However, the use of a Micro Four Thirds sensor has meant that the cameras have always been limited to producing 16 megapixel images, leaving some Micro Four Thirds users somewhat jealous of the high resolution images possible with other camera systems, until now, with the introduction of the new:
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
The E-M5 Mark II offers the ability to shoot 40 megapixel images, from a 16 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, and has been improved in a number of key areas in response to customer feedback on the previous Olympus OM-D cameras. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is available now priced at £1100 with the 12-50mm weather-sealed kit lens, or £899 body only, which is £100 less than the E-M5 (Mark I) price when it was first introduced. The E-M5 Mark II will also be available for £1249.99 with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-150mm 1:4.0-5.6 II weather-sealed lens. The new 14-150mm II lens is a weather-sealed super zoom lens and is optically the same as the previous version, but benefits from the new ZERO coating technology.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 II now features a vari-angle touch-screen, along with an improved grip and updated dials and button layout. There is a pre-order offer for UK orders, which includes a free 3 years additional warranty (5yr in total), plus a free OM-D messenger bag. On top of this registering the camera gives an additional 6 months, when registered via the MyOlympus online platform, making it possible to have an impressive 5.5 year warranty!
Designed to be compact, lightweight, and featuring high image quality like the original E-M5, Olympus say that everything has been improved on the E-M5 Mark II, with what is said to be the ultimate image stabilisation system, combined with excellent mobility thanks to the all-weather body and lenses.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Features
Olympus claim to have the World's best IS (Image Stabilisation) system, which also helps to give Fast AF, and good low-light performance, as well as compensating for rolling shakes. The 5 axis VCM (Voice Coil Motor) IS system makes it possible to shoot sharp shots at shutter speeds as low as 1/4s. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 and E-M1 feature 4 stops of image stabilisation, which is now 5 stops on the E-M5 Mark II. The sensor shift images stabilisation works with any lens, and has a faster detection system than in the previous cameras.
The E-M5 Mark II has improved weather-sealing, which is measured to IPX1 standards, with the camera now also being freezeproof (compared to the E-M5) down to -10, in addition to dustproof, and splashproof. The camera is bundled with a new flash, the FL-LM3, that offers bounce and swivel.
Olympus claims the E-M5 Mark II features the "World's shortest shooting time lag" with FAST AF (According to CIPA standards), a quicker 1/8000s mechanical shutter, as well as new 1/16000 electronic shutter allowing silent shooting. There is a new Anti-shock mode (electronic first curtain shutter) designed to reduce shutter shock and it is also compatible with sequential shooting.
Built in Wi-Fi is a feature that was noticeably missing from the original E-M5, and has now been added to the E-M5 Mark II. This can be used with Android and iOS devices, using the O.I. Share app, for remote shooting, easy image sharing, adding GPS information, or editing photos. The app features easy QR Code connection, as well as the option to apply art filters to photos. O.I share gives access to P/A/S/M shooting modes, shutter / aperture settings, as well as WB, exposure compensation, and ISO settings. The remote control app also supports the Olympus Live Bulb and Live Time features so you can see the photo exposure on the smartphone or tablet device.
16mp Micro Four Thirds sensor
40mp high-resolution multi-shot mode
5-axis IS (sensor shift), 5-stops according to CIPA standard
3inch Vari-angle touch screen (1040k dots, same as E-M1)
2.36 million dot High-Resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF), 0.74x magnification same as E-M1
1/8000s mechanical shutter speed, 1/16000s electronic available
10fps continuous shooting, 5fps with continuous AF
Wi-Fi built in – works with O.I. Share
SSWF dust reduction system
New bundled flash, higher plus bounce and turns
Microphone socket, Flash sync-socket
Headphone socket (with 1st part of 2 part HLD-8 power battery holder)
750 shot battery life, with "Quick Sleep Mode ON"
40 megapixel High Res Shots - The new 5-axis IS system enables this new high-res mode, using 8 shots combined, and is ideal for static subjects. It uses the sensor-shift image stabilisation system to move the sensor at a subpixel level, much like the Hasselblad 200ms multi-shot feature. It takes 1 second to take a shot (plus exposure time), then 2 and a half seconds to process the images, with both the 40 megapixel JPEG saved along with RAW files. The image quality from the camera when using in the 40 megapixel multi-shot mode is said to be better than current full-frame Digital SLRs. Olympus say that their lenses are also good enough for this new high-resolution mode thanks to good edge to edge sharpness. Architecture, Landscapes, Still life, and other static subjects would be ideal for this mode, as you have to use a tripod when using this feature. Olympus has provided the following video to explain how this works:
The new image stabilisation system has made it possible for the new high-res mode, and because of this, it's not possible to add this features to previous Olympus OM-D cameras, as they have a different (albeit similar) image stabilisation system. Image quality is said to be improved, and the camera uses a very similar sensor as the E-M5 - however the camera benefits from the latest image processor as featured in the Olympus OM-D E-M1.
Improved Video - Video has been noticeably improved on the E-M5 Mark II, with 5-axis IS, improved 77Mbps encoding, plus all the video frame rates you could want including 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, and 24p frame rates (all of these are selectable despite what region you are in). Other options include ALL-I, clean uncompressed 4:2:2 8bit HDMI output, a microphone in socket, and headphone in socket with the first part of the HLD-8 power battery grip. You can also control aperture and focus peaking while filming. Focus peaking has been improved with new colour options, and the option to adjust the depth of focus peaking. Olympus say the developments have come from listening to customers, and timecode is built-in. The camera lets you use the touch-screen to make adjustments silently.
Handheld video recording on the E-M5 (and E-M1) was impressive when first introduced, thanks to the 5-axis image stabilisation, correcting yaw/pitch/roll/vertical shift/horizontal shift movements, and the E-M5 Mark II has improved image stabilisation that allows you to shoot stable, cinema-like movies without the use of a tripod, with the IS system said to be as effective as using a gyro rig, or Steadicam style solution.
The E-M5 Mark II uses the same battery as E-M1 and E-M5, but with a new power management mode, is said to be able to give up to 750 shots, just with the one battery, an impressive increase in shots possible compared to the 310 shots normally.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Handling
There is now an improved grip on the camera, which should make using the camera more comfortable without the addition of the optional grip. However, if you plan on shooting with larger lenses, or simply prefer additional grip, then there is further grip available with the optional 2 part grip. On the back of the camera is a large thumb grip, making it possible to get a secure hold on the camera. The 3inch vari-angle touch-screen can be hidden away for extra protection and to avoid scratching the screen, and looks great in use with a bright and clear display.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Vs OM-D E-M5 MKII Front
The design has been updated with a taller triangular pyramid on top of the camera, making the camera look even more like the original Olympus OM film SLRs, particularly in silver and black. However thanks to the removable of the accessory port, the camera is actually shorter than the E-M5, measuring 85mm instead of 89.6mm. The width is lightly longer at 123.7mm compared to 121mm on the E-M5, and the depth is also slightly increased at 44.5mm compared to 41.9mm on the E-M5. The weight of the camera has also increased slightly, with the body (only) weighing 417g compared to 373g for the original E-M5.
The camera features a large number of customisable function buttons on top, as well as inheriting the control switch on the rear first introduced with the Olympus PEN E-P5. This lets you use the front and rear control wheels in the default way, adjusting aperture and shutter (in the relevant A/S/M mode, or exposure compensation in P and other modes), or when the switch is flicked down the front and rear control wheel can now set ISO and WB, or be customised to change any setting you want. On the front is a function button next to the lens, and this can also be customised. In addition to the Fn (Function) buttons, you can also customise the down and right buttons on the rear of the camera if you want to.
The larger electronic viewfinder has resulted in a redesigned, and larger, rubber eye-surround (the EP-15), which is removable and replaceable with an even larger version if you prefer. Care needs to be taken not to lose the eye-cup surround if it comes off, (much the same as other Digital SLRs), however we didn't have any problems when we were testing the camera, and the eye-cup was more difficult to remove than the eye-cup on the original E-M1.
The buttons on the camera feel noticeably better than on the E-M5, whilst remaining weather-sealed, with better spacing on the rear of the camera. The on/off button is now in the same position as the E-M1, and the two command wheels on the top of the camera have been improved to be textured chunky dials. The main mode dial of the E-M5 Mark II is now lockable with a button in the middle, this can be left switched off so you can turn the mode dial, or alternatively pressed in to lock the mode dial in position. The hot-shoe has been updated, and now has an additional pin (electronic contact) to support the new flash unit.
The bottom of the camera has seen some changed also, with the tripod socket now in line with the centre of the lens, although it has also been moved further forwards.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has been upgraded, and is now a 2.36million dot unit, as featured in the E-M1, giving a quick refresh rate, and a high-resolution view, making the camera enjoyable to shoot with. The camera has a new, quieter shutter, as well as 10fps continuous shooting, which you can see in the video below. When shooting with a lens the shutter is very quiet, noticeably quieter than the E-M5 shutter, which was already quite quiet. For complete silence, the camera now features an electronic shutter option. The shutter is much quieter when the lens is attached to the camera, as can be seen in this video.
There are 81 focus points that cover a wide area of the screen, the size of the focus points can be adjusted, and the focus point can also be set using the touch-screen. You can also select a group. There are continuous AF and tracking AF options, as well as manual focus aids including a magnified view, along with focus peaking. Face detection is included and can be set to give priority to the closest eye, or the left or right eye, depending on your preference.
Menus - The Olympus OM-D and PEN menus have long been criticised for being overly complicated and long winded, and this is also true with the E-M5 Mark II, with even more options and settings to choose from. However, having more options is preferable than having a camera with limited options, for example in previous Olympus cameras there have been very few video options. The menu system is split into five main areas, with the custom settings featuring a further 11 sections, each is colour coded, and the menu system has built in help that can be activated by pressing the info button. Once you get used to where options are, then the menus become fairly straightforward to use, and the use of the Super Control Panel (SCP) can make changing more common settings much easier. The ability to customise the many function buttons and external controls also helps. The SCP was available on the E-M5, but had to be enabled in one of the sub menus.
Wi-Fi connectivity - Built-in Wi-Fi gives the ability to use a smartphone for remote shutter release, and setting up the connection is very easy as you simply need to scan a QR code on the camera screen using the O.I.Share app (available for iOS and Android devices). You can download and share images, apply art filters and other effects, as well as use the app to geo-tag images. You can use the touch-screen of the phone to set the focus point, as well as take photos, as there are a number of time-lapse options available as well.
Battery life - Battery life is rated at 310 shots according to Olympus / CIPA standards, although up to 750 shots are said to be possible, with "Quick Sleep Mode ON". If you use the High-res shot mode, as well as the built in Wi-Fi, then you battery life is likely to be shorter, so a spare battery is recommended.
Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot without Flash
Shot to Shot with Flash
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
10fps (18 shots)
Followed by 8fps for 1s, then 7fps for 1s
Continuous Shooting - Flash
Continuous Shooting - RAW
10fps (12 shots)
Focus and shutter response are both very quick. Switch on time, and shot to shot time is good, and continuous shooting is good shooting at 10fps with the mechanical shutter. Using the silent continuous shooting mode (which uses the electronic shutter), it's possible to shoot at 11fps, with image stabilisation switched off. It's possible to shoot at 5-6fps with continuous AF active.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Performance
The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Sample Photos
Sample photos - The camera is capable of taking images with very good levels of detail, extremely pleasing colour saturation, and the camera has reliable exposure. The built in image stabilisation system is extremely effective, and lets you take photos at slower shutter speeds than expected. The provided flash can be a little harsh when pointed forwards with close subjects, but works effectively when used as a bounce flash, producing flattering results, with no signs of red-eye.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Lens test images
Lens test images - Image quality is good, with the camera producing high quality JPEG images straight from the camera. Detail is good, whether shooting at the wide or telephoto end of the lens, and there is minimal distortion with the camera correcting images in-camera. Macro performance is very good with the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens with the camera able to focus on subjects very close to the lens. The lens was also resistant to flare, unless a very bright light source was in the frame.
Dynamic range is good, even in harsh conditions. For extended dynamic range, the camera features an automatic HDR mode, and the camera combines a number of photos taken at different exposures, and can be used handheld (although a tripod is recommended). There are two modes, one more natural, the other more dramatic, as shown above. There are numerous exposure bracketing options, so that you can combine the images yourself, as well as adjust the shooting settings.
Image stabilisation - It was possible to shoot sharp shots, handheld, with almost every shot sharp down to shutter speeds as slow as 1/6th second. Beyond this, it was possible to shoot at 1/5th and 1/4th of a second when supporting the camera more securely with good technique. Compared to the E-M5, it was possible to shoot at similar shutter speeds, with a similar level of sharp results.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Other sample images
The Olympus High-Res mode shoots multi-image shots in camera, that become 40 megapixel images, thanks to the unique sensor shift system, that is able to move the sensor at a subpixel level. This results in a 40 megapixel JPEG image that is around 18MB, compared to the 8MB of a normal 16 megapixel image. You can view the full-size JPEG images above, simply click "High-res" to view the full-size originals straight from the camera.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II ISO
The ISO range available when shooting in the high-res (40 megapixel) mode is ISO100 (Low) to ISO1600, and examples can be seen above taken in our studio. The full ISO range is available in the normal 16 megapixel mode, and examples are shown below. Noise performance at ISO100 to ISO800 is excellent, with the ISO1600 showing a slight increase in noise, however detail is excellent and noise is minimal, with very little difference between the 16 megapixel mode and 40 megapixel mode, with perhaps the slightest noise increase visible in the high-res mode, with a very slight decrease on chroma (coloured) noise.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - For the lowest noise and best detail possible we would recommend using ISO100 to ISO800, as images have low levels of noise and good levels of detail. For lower light situations ISO1600 to ISO3200 still provides good results, although noise increases and detail is reduced. At ISO6400 to ISO25600 noise levels become strong and we would recommend avoiding this setting if possible, although results may still be useful if resized and used on the web. The camera does a good job handling noise, even at ISO25600, with slightly better detail than the E-PL7, and E-M10. The results from the E-M5 Mark II and E-M1 are very similar, although performance up to ISO12800 is respectable on both.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II White-balance test images
We've taken our white balance studio images, in the 40 megapixel mode to show the additional detail available in this mode. The 40 megapixel JPEG images are roughly 18MB when saves as JPEG images, or 99MB+ when saved as RAW files. Alternative digital cameras that shoot at roughly 40 megapixels, includes the 36 megapixel Nikon D810, and 50 megapixel Pentax 645Z where you can view the same shots taken in our studio.
White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under tungsten and fluorescent lighting, often producing better results than using the presets. The camera has an option to "Keep warm colour" when using auto white balance under tungsten lighting, which can be useful for capturing the mood of a scene. The fluorescent preset gives a magenta colour cast.
40 megapixel High-res mode - In detail:
There are some limitations or things you need to know when shooting in the high-res mode, you need to shoot with a tripod or with the camera in a fixed position, and need to be shooting static subjects (ideally). The ISO range is limited to ISO100-ISO1600, there are also limits to the aperture range available, with the smallest aperture available f/8.0, and 8 seconds is the slowest shutter speed available. However, you can still use the high-res mode when shooting with legacy lenses, for example with an adapter, so you could use a much smaller aperture, such as f/16, providing the legacy lens has manual control of the aperture.
The manual for the E-M5 Mark II is rather limited in shooting using the High-res mode, and an extended guide would be a useful thing for Olympus to provide.
Tree Murel 16mp | 1/250 sec | f/5.6 | 12.0 mm | ISO 200
Using the Olympus High-res raw tool to open images in Photoshop, produces a 6912x9216 image (63.7megapixel image!), and this benefits from additional sharpening, compared to the 40 megapixel JPEG image straight from the camera. The high-res files can also help avoid moire, which can be visible in 16 megapixel images, as demonstrated below:
1000wide 16mp (Cropped)
1000wide 40mp (Cropped)
1000wide 64mp (Cropped)
Wide 40mp | 1/200 sec | f/8.0 | 12.0 mm | ISO 200
There are other limitations: You can't use the HDR mode for example. Any movement, such as people or trees moving, will be picked up by the camera and will cause imaging artefacts to appear in the image, as shown below:
Olympus OM-D E-M5 II 1000wide 40mp Mode Moving Subjects
Night 16mp | 10 sec | f/8.0 | 40.0 mm | ISO 100
100% actual pixels view:
1000wide 16mp Night (Cropped)
1000wide 40mp Night (Cropped)
1000wide 64mp Night (Cropped)
There are options in the high-res menu for the flash, letting you set a flash recharge time delay. The manual (and built in help) says this isn't necessary with an Olympus flash, as the camera will automatically wait for the flash to be ready before taking the next shot. The high-res mode uses an electronic shutter, and therefore you can't hear the (mechanical) shutter sound.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Digital filters
Digital Filters - There are now 14 different art filters, each with different options, including Vintage and selective colour. The photo story mode has been updated to include five different framing modes, each of these has additional options as well. The camera saves the raw file along with the edited JPEG, so that you can always go back to the original photo(s) if you don't like the effect.
Video - Video is another area of the E-M5 Mark II that has been significantly updated, and when compared to the E-M5, the E-M5 Mark II has 14 video options compared to 6 video options. Video is recorded at FullHD, with stereo sound, with built-in stereo microphones, and an example recorded using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is shown below. We've also got a number of videos on our YouTube channel, with an example showing how effective the image stabilisation system is here. Image stabilisation is impressive, video quality is very good, and audio quality was also impressive.
Video options include 60, 50, 30, 25 and 24fps frame rates. Further options include timecode settings, along with microphone and headphone options, volume limiter, wind noise reduction, plug-in mic power (on/off), PCM recorder link, plus Normal, Fine, Super Fine, and All-Intra compression options. Another video can be found here - recorded at 60fps, along with a low-light video recorded hand-held. Effects include colour / art fade, old film, multi echo, one shot echo and movie tele-converter, with an example found here. You can also adjust settings silently using the touch screen, as well as set the focus point. The ISO range available is ISO200 to ISO6400.
Value for Money
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is available for £899 (RRP) body only, which is £100 less than the price of the E-M5 (RRP) when it was first introduced 3 years ago. Since then, the mirrorless or CSC market has expanded greatly, with more competition than ever. The inclusion of the bounce-flash adds additional value. Alternative cameras with built in electronic viewfinders:
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a compelling camera, with a range of features to suit all aspects of photography, from the video enthusiast, who will benefit from the 5-axis image stabilisation and improved video options, or someone looking for high resolution (stills) photography, the 40 megapixel mode will be very appealing, and the camera is much cheaper than any alternative 36mp+ camera. The camera produces excellent images when shooting in the usual 16 megapixel mode, with an abundance of options and settings available, and then for the moments when a very high resolution (40-64 megapixel) image is required, then the E-M5 Mark II gives the ability to capture it, although only when using a tripod. For macro, close-up, still-life, product shots, landscape, and architecture photography the 40 megapixel mode is excellent (very impressive), although being aware of the limitations is important (as detailed above).
For those looking for high speed shooting the 10-11fps continuous shooting is very good. The electronic viewfinder is excellent, being as large as the E-M1, and the same high resolution as other cameras available. The vari-angle touch-screen is very clear and bright.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II takes the best from the Olympus OM-D E-M5, E-M10, and E-M1, improves them in some areas, as well as adding impressive and innovative new features, giving a digital camera well beyond what is expected at this price point. However, what good is having an all-singing, all-dancing camera, without the lenses to back it up? Thankfully, this is one area where the Micro Four Thirds system really shines, with a large range of lenses already available from Olympus, Panasonic, Sigma and others, along with an ever increasing range of new lenses being released and planned for the future.
The O-MD E-M5 Mark II is, without doubt, a worthy successor to the E-M5, and surpasses all of my expectations, providing excellent image quality in a well-built and stylish compact system camera. All that's left is for me is to pull my bank card out of my wallet so I can buy it, once I've decided whether to go for the black or the silver version! Something that hasn't happened since the original E-M5, some three years ago...
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Pros
40 megapixel high-resolution shooting mode
5.5 year warranty! (UK Offer)
Excellent image quality
Compact weather-sealed metal body
5-axis image stabilisation system
10-11fps continuous shooting
Dual-axis electronic level
High resolution electronic viewfinder
Improved vari-angle 3inch touch-screen
Improved full HD video recording
Improved noise performance
In camera HDR preview and creation Livetime, Livecomp modes
Built in Wi-Fi
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Cons
High res shooting mode requires a tripod and can't be hand-held
Menu system due a refresh
No auto panoramic stitching built in
Accessory port removed
Short battery life (on default settings)
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II improves on the original, and introduces an innovative high res mode to deliver impressive images, thanks to the excellent 5-axis image stabilisation system.