Olympus e m5 mark ii


Olympus OM-D E-M5 II: Digital Photography Review

Announced Feb 5, 2015

Discuss in the Micro Four Thirds Talk forum

Manufacturer description: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 II interchangeable-lens camera features a compact dustproof, splashproof body, with a familiar, premium design. Packed with 5-axis image stabilization, a 40-megapixel high-resolution shot mode, sophisticated, stunning HD video, integrated Wi-Fi and a variable-angle 3-inch touchscreen, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II makes it easy to get the shot you need, every time. The easy-to-use 2.36 million dot, super-large, high-definition electronic viewfinder has a field of view of 100%, and a viewfinder magnification of 1.48x. The camera is equipped with Adaptive Brightness Technology, which automatically adjusts the backlight brightness in accordance with environmental lighting. The new LV Boost II is convenient for shooting stars, and Creative Control provides complete freedom of control over color, tone, focus, and aspect ratio.

2017 Roundup: Interchangeable Lens Cameras $900-1200

Roundup, Jun 2, 2017

2015 Roundup: Interchangeable Lens Cameras $800-$1200

Roundup, Nov 17, 2015

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II Review

Review, Mar 18, 2015

Body type SLR-style mirrorless
Max resolution 4608 x 3456
Effective pixels 16 megapixels
Sensor size Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
Sensor type CMOS
ISO Auto, 200-25600, expands to 100-25600
Lens mount Micro Four Thirds
Focal length mult.
Articulated LCD Fully articulated
Screen size 3″
Screen dots 1,037,000
Max shutter speed 1/8000 sec
Format MPEG-4, H.264, Motion JPEG
Storage types SD/SDHC/SDXC
USB USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
Weight (inc. batteries) 469 g (1.03 lb / 16.54 oz)
Dimensions 124 x 85 x 45 mm (4.88 x 3.35 x 1.77″)
GPS None

See full specifications

Build quality

Ergonomics & handling

Features

Metering & focus accuracy

Image quality (raw)

Image quality (jpeg)

Low light / high ISO performance

Viewfinder / screen rating

Performance

Movie / video mode

Connectivity

Value

www.dpreview.com

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II ($1,099.99, body only) is the long-awaited follow-up to one of our favorite mirrorless cameras, the E-M5. The Mark II builds on its predecessor's features, adding Wi-Fi, improving image stabilization, and adding an innovative high-resolution image capture mode. It's a fine camera, but its price is not far off from our Editors' Choice Samsung NX1, which doesn't have quite as many bells and whistles, but has 4K video, a more advanced autofocus system, and 15fps burst shooting capability.

Design and ControlsThe E-M5 Mark II is one of the smaller mirrorless cameras in its class. It measures 3.3 by 4.9 by 1.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 14.4 ounces. It's just a little bit larger all around when compared with the original E-M5 (3.5 by 4.8 by 1.6 inches, 15 ounces), due to its vari-angle LCD and deeper handgrip. Even though the grip is more substantial than the original E-M5, it's not as deep as the one that Olympus puts in the E-M1. If you prefer a bigger grip, you can add the HLD-8G ($129); I consider it to be an essential add-on, but your mileage may vary. The E-M5 Mark II is available in silver or black, and like the original version of the camera it is sealed against dust and moisture.

View All 31 Photos in Gallery

Like the E-M1, the E-M5 Mark II omits a built-in flash. It's not compatible with the external pop-up flash that Olympus includes with that model and many of its PEN cameras, as it also omits the standard accessory port that Olympus has used for years. Instead the Mark II ships with a compact external flash with swivel and bounce support that mounts in its hot shoe. It draws power from the shoe as well, but is not compatible with older Olympus cameras as they omit an extra pin that provides power to the flash in their shoes.

Olympus has squeezed a lot of physical controls into the E-M5 Mark II's body. There's a programmable function button on the front plate, as well as a release button that's used when changing lenses. The top plate includes the locking mode dial and power switch to the left of the hot shoe. To the right there are three programmable function buttons—by default Fn2 adjusts highlight and shadow curves, Fn3 toggles the EVF, and Fn4 switches to HDR capture mode. You'll also find a movie record button, dual control dials, and the shutter release button on top.

Rear controls include the 1/2 toggle switch that adjusts the function of the command dials and incorporates the programmable Fn1 button. There's a four-way joystick that's used to move the active focus point around; it has a center OK button that launches an on-screen control panel. The standard play, delete, menu, and info buttons are also located on the rear.

The rear control panel, launched by hitting the OK button, lets you adjust ISO, white balance, JPG output settings, the autofocus mode and area, stabilization settings, flash settings, and the drive mode—all from one place. It's very useful, but the functions that are displayed aren't customizable, which can be limiting depending on what camera settings you adjust most often. There are also some limits to what can be assigned to the Fn buttons. I wanted to assign the Drive Mode to one of the Fn buttons, as it's used to activate the High Res shot mode, but doing so is not an option.

The rear display is a 3-inch LCD with a 921k-dot resolution. It's touch sensitive and mounted on a hinge so it can swing out to the side of the camera and flip all the way forward. It's possible to access certain functions via touch (Wi-Fi is launched in this way), and you can tap to focus or to focus and fire. The feed automatically flips when moving forward, so you can monitor footage in the proper orientation. I found that the screen would sometimes get stuck in the flipped orientation when attempting to point it straight up, requiring me to flip it forward and back again to properly position it.

The EVF is a big upgrade over the original E-M5 in terms of size and resolution. Its magnification is as great as that of the E-M1, as is its 2,360k-dot resolution. By default the camera switches between the EVF and rear LCD automatically via an eye sensor. This proved to be a bit troubling in the field, as there's another default setting that attempts to put the E-M5 into a sleep mode after three seconds of inactivity. I found that the auto sleep mode (accessible via the K page of the custom settings menu) caused a blackout in the finder if I brought it to my eye as the E-M5 was attempting to go to sleep. Disabling the 3-second sleep setting resolved this issue, and I still got plenty of images on a single battery.

Wi-Fi, High Res Shot, and Live CompositeWi-Fi is built in. The setup is identical for iOS and Android devices; you scan a QR code that's displayed on the camera's rear LCD using the free Olympus Image Share app, and that installs a network profile for the SSID that is broadcasted by the E-M5. Once you've connected to that network, you'll be able to transfer JPG images and QuickTime videos to your phone. There's also a GPS function that geotags your photos—you'll need to enable a location log and make sure that your camera's clock is set correctly to make this work.

Remote control is also an option. Your phone or tablet will show the Live View feed and you can choose a focus point and fire the shutter via touch. You'll be able to shoot in any mode, including full manual, and in-camera art filters can be enabled and their effects show on the Live View feed. If you have a power zoom lens attached, you can adjust the focal length via your phone or tablet. The Wi-Fi is easy to use and the remote control is one of the smoother ones we've used, but we do wish it was a little more functional. Samsung mirrorless cameras, including the NX300, have the option of connecting directly to a Wi-Fi network, so you can post images to social networks or email them directly from the camera.

The E-M5's most ballyhooed feature is the High Res shot mode. It makes it possible to capture 40-megapixel JPG or 64-megapixel Raw photos, even though the camera's sensor is a 16-megapixel design. It does so by using the in-camera stabilization system slightly during each of a sequence of eight exposures, and combines them into a single image. There's some cost in storage space—a standard photo averages about three megabytes—High Res JPGs are around 18 megabytes each and Raw images take up about 120 megabytes.

You'll need to find a static subject, mount the camera on a sturdy tripod, and make sure to trigger the camera via a smartphone or enable a self-timer (done via the camera menu) in order to take advantage of this mode. My first efforts were failures, as I hadn't yet enabled a self-timer for this shooting mode. There was just enough vibration to give the background of images an odd, grid-like pixelation. The body does have a PC sync socket to connect to studio strobes, as you can't effectively use a flash with the High Res shot mode.

But when used properly, the High Res mode does deliver images with more detail than was previously realized in the Micro Four Thirds system. You'll have to wait a few seconds for the image to be processed, but I was pretty happy with the results, especially when shooting in Raw. When shooting Raw, color fidelity is strong and details are crisp. JPG output is also sharp, but there is a very slight green cast to images. This is likely due to the interpolation required to create the image; there are more green photosites on a Bayer sensor like the one that the E-M5 uses than there are red and blue. The Olympus plug-in for Adobe Photoshop that is currently required to handle Raw files is doing a better job interpolating the data; the plug-in is free, but it requires a 64-bit version of Adobe Photoshop.

Olympus has also included a pair of special modes that cater to long exposure photography. Live Bulb shows you an exposure on the rear LCD as it develops, taking some of the guesswork out of getting your camera settings correct when capturing long exposure images. Live Composite is a variation, and one that's popular with photographers who are interested in light painting. It works in two stages. An initial exposure captures the scene in front of you, and a second records changes in light. You can use it to capture fireworks in the sky above a city or star trails. Both Live Bulb and Live Composite require the camera to be set to manual mode and are accessible via the shutter speed setting. Live Bulb and Live composite weren't available on the original E-M5, but they are options on the entry-level E-M10 and high-end E-M1.

Another feature that is new to the E-M5 is the ability to set the shutter to an anti-shock mode. Some E-M1 users had noted a degradation in image quality due to the vibration introduced by the shutter, and Olympus added that an electronic first curtain shutter function to the E-M1 via a firmware update to address it. That feature is baked into the E-M5, so if you're concerned about shutter vibration, you can enable it as a camera drive setting.

Performance and Conclusions The OM-D E-M5 Mark II starts and captures an in-focus image in about 0.8-second, which is quite quick for a mirrorless camera. Its autofocus system is solid when locking onto a static subject and firing, doing so in just 0.05-second in bright light, and at a reasonably brisk 0.5-second in very dim conditions. Continuous shooting is available at 10.4fps, but you're limited to 10 Raw+JPG, 11 Raw, or 16 JPG shots before the capture rate slows down.

I also tested continuous autofocus with and without tracking enabled in the lab and in the field. In our field tests, photographing dolphins swimming through water, the reflections of the sunlight in the water were enough to fool the contrast-detect autofocus system, resulting in a few sharp captures and more that were just too out of focus for use. That's a pretty harsh test case, but the E-M5 also struggled when moving toward and away a high-contrast, on-screen timer. The camera started off firing off shots at around 10fps, but all but the first were a tad soft or noticeably out of focus. It slowed to 6.3fps as the buffer started to fill, and at that speed the hit rate was higher, with about half the shots coming in sharply in focus and others just a little bit soft. If you're capturing action that's moving side-to-side and doesn't tax the autofocus system, a high-speed burst will get fine results. But if you're trying to track a subject moving toward or away from the camera, or moving erratically, consider slowing down to a lower shooting rate in order to increase the amount of in-focus shots. If you need better autofocus in a Micro Four Thirds camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is a better choice thanks to its hybrid phase/contrast system. Models that use other lens systems that track effectively include the Samsung NX1, Fujifilm X-T1, and Sony Alpha 6000.

I used Imatest to check and see how the camera handles when shooting at the higher ISO sensitivities that you'll use when working in dim light. When shooting JPG images at default settings the E-M5 keeps noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 6400, which is a good result for a Micro Four Thirds camera. But it's not without some loss of fidelity due to in-camera noise reduction. I took a close look at images from our ISO test sequence on a calibrated NEC MultiSync PA271W display and noticed that there is a bit of smudging of detail at ISO 6400. It's not terrible—I'd still say it's safe to use, especially for Web use. Moving up to ISO 12800 when working with JPG is not recommended, as images are blurry there. At ISO 3200 and ISO 1600 you see some advantage in detail, and at ISO 800 JPG images are crisp to the point where I can't find fault in them.

See How We Test Digital Cameras

You can eke a bit more out of the OM-D E-M5 Mark II if you opt to shoot in Raw. Adobe hasn't yet updated Lightroom to support the camera, so I used the excellent Iridient Developer converter to process images from our test studio. Detail is noticeably stronger at ISO 6400 when compared with JPG, and while noise creeps in at ISO 12800, images are still fairly crisp. The top sensitivity, ISO 25600, is probably a bridge too far when it comes to the Micro Four Thirds sensor size, although you can use it in a pinch. If you're looking for a camera that does a better job at high ISO, consider a mirrorless model with a larger image sensor, like the Fujifilm X-T1; its JPG output runs circles around the Olympus at ISO 12800, but the Fuji is limited to a top setting of ISO 6400 when shooting in Raw.

Olympus opted not to include 4K video support in the E-M5 Mark II. Most cameras still top out at 1080p, so it's not a glaring omission, but there are competing mirrorless models like the Panasonic Gh5 and Samsung NX1 that include it, and it's made its way into compacts like the Panasonic FZ1000 and LX100. That isn't saying that there aren't video improvements in this iteration of the E-M5—there are. The maximum bitrate of 1080p footage has been improved, and the in-body stabilization system does a phenomenal job steadying handheld video, even when using a telephoto lens.

Standard frame rates are supported—24p, 25p, 30p, 50p, and 60p—at up to a 77Mbps bitrate using an ALL-I compression scheme. There's also a 30Mbps IPB mode available if you want to conserve space on your memory card, and the option to send clean, uncompressed footage to a field recorder via HDMI. The E-M5 includes a mic input and on-screen audio level control, but you'll need to invest in the external handgrip in order to monitor audio when rolling footage—it adds a headphone jack for that purpose. The camera includes a proprietary USB connection, the same as our find on other Olympus bodies, and a single memory card slot that supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a solid update to its predecessor, and one that offers many improvements—but we're rating it a bit lower. In the three years since we looked at the original E-M5, the mirrorless camera space has gotten much more competitive. Despite some features that are unique to the E-M5 Mark II, I still think that the E-M1 is a better overall camera, thanks in part to better ergonomics and a more advanced autofocus system. As innovative as the High Res shot mode is, its use case is still limited to static subjects with the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. If resolution in a mirrorless camera is what you need, go with our Editors' Choice for high-end models, the 28-megapixel Samsung NX1, or a full-frame body like the 36-megapixel Sony Alpha 7R. The NX1 is our current favorite among APS-C and Micro Four Thirds models, thanks to its insanely quick autofocus system, 4K video capture capability, and surprisingly reasonable $1,500 price tag.

www.pcmag.com

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review

This is a review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. I had a bit of trouble deciding what to title the post though…

You see, after using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii solidly for a month whilst traveling in Europe, I am confident that this little camera is one of the best travel cameras available today.

By this I mean a camera that is small, light, weather-proof, tough, fast and of course, takes a great picture. If it’s affordable too, that’s a big plus.

Despite the emergence of many other great micro-four-thirds cameras over the years since the release of this, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II continues to be one of my favourites.

Here’s a condensed version of this review. If you are:

a) someone who doesn’t know anything about cameras but wants to take great photos

b) a pro who wants a second camera for travel/street photography/fun (e.g. me).

c) someone who wants arguably the best compact camera for professional photographers

Here is all you need to know:

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii allows you take interesting and creative photos much easier than any other camera I’ve ever used. It makes photography easier and it makes it a lot of fun.

If you have $1,000 to invest in a compact camera that has better functions than any dSLR and excellent image quality, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is the camera to get.

Unless you’re a pro or a serious hobbyist, don’t waste your time with a dSLR, especially if you’re a parent. Trust me on this – a bulky camera will never leave your camera bag.

If you wanted just one all round lens, I’d go with this body + Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens kit for the most versatility.

As for other lens options, if you’re a prime lens user, I’d recommend the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 to start with, the Olympus 12mm f/2 as a wide angle and the Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 if you want some amazing low light performance.

If you prefer the convenience of zoom lenses, I’d recommend the the amazing Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 and the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 – with those two, you’re pretty much sorted for wide angle all the way through to telephoto.

Click on the images below to be taken to Amazon where you can read lots of reviews of each product, or check out more of the best Micro Thirds lenses for my opinion on the best bang for your buck MFT glass ;-)

If you’d prefer to shop with B&H Photo, click the button below to read more reviews on the Olympus OMD-EM-5 Mark II and get the best price there.

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Left: Olympus OMD-EM5 Mark II | Right: Fujifilm X100S

I wasn’t expecting to like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii. I’ve tried plenty of mirrorless cameras, and they all seem to annoy me, usually in one important aspect – the autofocus.

I own the pseudo range-finder Fujifilm X100S camera, which is extremely popular (especially amongst pros) for its gorgeous looks, a high speed leaf shutter which allows you to do incredible things with flash, and most importantly the incredible image quality you can get straight out of camera.

However, I don’t care what anyone says, the auto focus on the Fuji sucks. I use single point AF, and whilst the Fujifilm X100S keeps up in decent light, it’s still way slower than any dSLR to grab focus.

Then there’s the auto focus for moving subjects…omg. Anyone who says the X100S is great for street photography is obviously shooting things that are static, which in my opinion isn’t real street photography.

The much loved Fujfilm XT-1 has slightly better AF (especially with recent firmware updates), but it’s still nowhere near a dSLR.

I agree completely that these type of mirrorless camera can be used professionally, but only if the subject is static. Wedding Photographers who use the XT-1 are, in my opinion, sacrificing a lot of the story in favour of still shots.

So in summary, I think small mirrorless cameras are great. They’re small and can produce excellent quality images. However, the focus system on any dSLR is usually far better.

That is, until now…

There are a few caveats, but here’s why I think the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is:

  1. the best mirrorless micro 4/3 camera
  2. the best camera for travel photography
  3. the best camera for street photography.

Rather than bore you with an in-depth review of every detail of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, I’ve decided to highlight what are in my opinion the most amazing features of this camera.

Then I’ll round it off with what I didn’t like so much.

I’ve included photos I took on my one month family holiday around Europe. Bear in mind that I was always with 3 other people and our baby, so had little time for each shot.

I think this makes the review more realistic, and hopefully shows what you can achieve with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii as a travel camera in an everyday situation.

Let’s get this one out the way first. Mirrorless cameras are much smaller and lighter than dSLRs. I wouldn’t say they’re ever ‘pocketable’, but you can hang one around your neck or off your wrist all day without any issues (this is what I did).

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii allows you to change lenses. There are lots of lens options available, but I chose the excellent Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 which balances perfectly on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii.

Sticking a heavy zoom on a camera of this size kinda defeats the purpose for me, so I wanted to couple the Olympus with a prime (non-zoomable) lens, and the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 fit the bill perfectly.

The field of view is roughly 35mm which is a perfect all round focal length, and the lens is sharp and fast. It also exhibits some lovely flare.

I won’t dwell on lens choice as it’s very subjective, but if you want my advice, invest in the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 and leave it on your Olympus mirrorless camera forever. Just because you can change lenses doesn’t mean you have to ;-)

As for the weight, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii + the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 is 648g (467g + 181g). By comparison, the average dSLR + lens is well over 1kg.

A camera needs to have a certain weight to it, otherwise it feels too much like a toy, and can actually be harder to use. The set up I described above is just right – not too heavy, not too light, and very well balanced in the hand.

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How a photograph looks is pretty much the most important factor when buying a camera. There are so many cameras that are a pain in the ass to use, but the image quality is so good (or has some intangible quality to it) that we put up with the shortcomings of the camera body.

I own the Fuji X100S and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s very annoying to use. The original X100 was way, way worse, but it still sold like hot cakes. Why? Because the image quality is excellent.

When I got hold of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, I knew that the body would blow the Fuji out of the water. It just felt right in my hands. However, I thought that the image quality would fall short.

I thought that I wouldn’t have the confidence to shoot it in jpeg mode like I do the Fuji, safe in the knowledge that White Balance wouldn’t need correcting in post, and the jpeg colours would be good enough to be usable straight out of camera.

How wrong I was.

This looks like it’s been edited but it hasn’t – it’s just a nice pocket of light down an uninteresting street.

Remember, these are JPEGs that are straight out of camera. All I’ve done is added contrast and sharpening in the camera’s settings, and resized them for this site.

An alleyway in Lucca, a beautiful little town in Tuscany.

Sure, they lack a bit of punch, but I still think the quality is very good considering there’s zero post processing, which meant zero time spent sitting in front of a computer for me :-)

The Trastevere neighbourhood on the west bank of the Tiber in Rome – highly recommended!

You may think the above photo looks a bit orange, but the afternoon light in Tuscany really is that colour – it’s beautiful. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii nailed the white balance.

I shoot the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii on the RAW + JPEG Fine setting. That way I don’t have to waste my time editing any RAW files if I’m happy with how the JPEG looks, but I still have the RAW files to fall back on should I need to dig deeper into the dynamic range of the file, or fix the white balance.

If you can’t be bothered to mess around with the images on your computer after shooting them, just set the camera to JPEG and you’ll get great looking photos.

However, for those of you who’d like to see what this camera is capable of when you really push the RAW files, below is a test image I shot heavily under exposed (it was basically complete black), then brought back by 4 stops in Lightroom.

Ignore the bottom of the picture – it’s the edge of the wharf I was shooting from.

By comparison, here’s the same underexposed -> recovered image with my Nikon D750, a full frame camera costing twice as much:

It’s only when you start peeping into the shadow detail that you notice the Olympus’s file struggling, but this is to be expected of a sensor that’s less than half the size (and cost) of the Nikon D750.

That’s the thing with this camera – you often forget that it’s a Micro 4/3 sensor, way smaller than a dSLR’s. The RAW files simply can’t contain as much data in them, so you can’t push and pull them to extremes like you could a full frame camera.

However, if you accept this, the RAW files out of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii are excellent and you can have a lot of fun post processing them in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Here are some snaps from my holiday to give you a bit of an idea of what this camera is capable of.

Singapore Airport where we stopped to get a much needed break from the mammoth flight.

The flare from the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is great!

Athens at 7pm – I was exposing for the sun in this shot, so pulled back some detail from the shadows in post.

Being able to preview the exposure on the LCD screen makes hunting for interesting light especially fun.

This is Tom who makes his living on a street corner in Athens, selling bicycles made out of wire for 1 Euro!

Harry gets a telling off! Underexposing is a cinch with live exposure preview

The Olympus retains a surprising amount of highlight detail for a small camera.

Shot from the ground – the sun shades of the cruise boat on the Bospherus in Istanbul

Here I tilted the screen 180 degrees and shot backwards

This is how the camera/lens handles a heavily backlit portrait

Exposing for the highlights is so easy on a camera with exposure preview

As the Olympus doesn’t need to be shot at your eye, you can get candid photos like this much easier

An example of the awesome bokeh at f/1.8 of the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens

Violinist on the streets of Florence

Inside the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul

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Flip out (articulated) screens are in my opinion the most under rated feature on cameras today. In fact, the flip out screen on the Nikon D750 was one of the main reasons I got a couple for my wedding photography work.

At first you might think that having a flip out screen is a gimmick, but the more you use one, the more you’ll realise how many creative doors it can open.

It’s so easy to take a photo using the flip out screen, even my 1 year old can do it!

The original Olympus OM-D EM-5 had a 90 degree flip out screen, but the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii allows the screen to be flipped and swivelled 180 degrees.

I really don’t want to use the word ‘selfie’, but being able to compose a shot pointing the camera at yourself can be handy, and if you have children it’s especially fun. (See more tips on how to photograph children.)

My son and I at Lake Vouliagmeni in Athens – the fish in the lake nibble at the dead skin on your body!

Shots like the ones below would have been very awkward without the flip out screen of the Olympus.

The screen encourages you to take photos from unusual angles, allowing you to get very close to the ground for some creative perspectives.

The Duomo in Milan – luckily the rain meant the queue was only 1/2 hour rather than 4 hours!

Istanbul from the Bosphorus River. This shot taken was 1 inch from the water. The weatherproof body of the Olympus helps with splashes.

However, having a flip out screen is only part of the equation of the awesomeness of the the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii!

The other feature that goes hand in hand and makes this camera the best camera for street photography (as well as all kinds of other ‘stealthy photography genres) is…

I’m so excited to about this feature! Every time I use it I love the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii a little bit more!

Ross Harvey who uses the original Olympus OM-D EM-5 for street photography showed me this feature in this interview for Shotkit last year.

When you try it in person though, it’ll blow your mind! It really does make every other touch screen camera seem dated in comparison, and also makes the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii very easy to use for anyone.

The ice cream vendors in Istanbul put on a show for every customer which consists of snatching the ice cream from your hand until you’re sick of it!

So what do I mean by ‘touch screen focus/shoot’? Well whilst anyone with a mobile phone is familiar with touching the screen to tell the camera where to focus, but the Olympus OMD cameras take this one step further by focusing, exposing and taking the photo all in a millisecond.

If you’d like to control the exposure, you can of course do this in Manual mode, but just to illustrate how useful this feature is, imagine being outside with the Olympus. You’ve swivelled out the flip screen so you can look down onto it and shoot from the hip.

People around you would think you’re just checking your photos, but little do they knew, you’re composing your shot so that when an interesting subject walks past, you touch them on the screen and BAM! Focus and Shot in less than half a second!

If you’ve got the sound off (incidentally, the shutter sound effect is gorgeous), your photo was 100% invisible.

This was at rush hour on a main road in Istanbul. These cops were very stressed, so I was pretty nervous getting this shot. Luckily the Olympus is silent and fast.

This is pretty much the main reason why I think the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is the best camera for street photography. After all, being invisible is the name of the game if you want to get those decisive moments.

Locals crowd around to buy a grilled fish sandwich with fish freshly caught from the Bosphorus River

I’ve interspersed this section with photos I took using this function while I was in Istanbul. Remember that I’m using the equivalent of a 35mm lens, so I’m less than a metre from the subject in most cases, and I didn’t even get in one fist fight! Not even with these kids!! :p

Talk to the kids, but shoot from the hip – only one of them knew what I was up to!

Perhaps in the comments other users can let me know if any other camera allows touch to shoot functionality, but I’m pretty confident Olympus was the pioneer back in 2012 when the original Olympus OM-D EM-5 was released.

As a side note, be sure to turn ON the camera’s Exposure Preview in Live Mode. Confusingly, Olympus calls this ‘Live Boost’ and you must set it to OFF.

Shooting with Live View and being able to preview the exposure before you take the shot feels like cheating, and can really help amateurs understand how ISO and Shutter Speed will affect the exposure of their picture.

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Whether you use the touch screen or the brilliant Electronic View Finder (i.e. looking through the ‘eye hole’ like you would a regular camera), the focus on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is nothing short of amazing.

As I said before, unresponsive and slow auto-focus on a mirrorless camera is a deal breaker for me and many other pros.

In street photography, or when you only have a split-second to take a photo, you don’t want to be waiting for your camera to focus.

This old man in Athens told me off for snooping around his car boot sale without buying anything!

With the Fujifilm X100s I was always unsure if I’d got the pic. I’ve heard some say they like this uncertainty as it makes the picture taking process more fun, but to that I say bollocks!

I want my camera to grab focus in a millisecond, take the photo, then I’m on my way whilst you guys have fun trying to get the shot.

A stall vendor of fake goods gets booked in a square in Florence

I’ve tried a few mirrorless cameras in this price range before, but the auto focus on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii demolishes them all.

In fact, the auto focus on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii in good light is just as fast, if not faster than a dSLR, which for such a small camera, I find mindblowing.

Whilst we’re talking about auto-focus, I should mention that the Face Recognition on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is excellent.

The focal point selection using the thumbpad is simple and intuitive (you don’t need to press the Up button to engage it – an annoyance of the Fuji X100S), but with Facial Recognition engaged, you don’t even need to touch the thumbpad – focus switches automatically to the subject’s face when you press the shutter button.

This makes it even easier to capture the subject’s face (unnoticed) during street photography.

On small cameras, the fewer the number of button presses needed to take the photo, the better, and with helpful functions like Face Recognition on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, taking a photograph of a person is made so simple.

By this I mean, the number of photos the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii can take in a row in one second.

With silent shutter engaged, being able to shoot off a machine gun-like 10 frames per second without anyone knowing is a lot of fun!

Whilst spray and pray isn’t the aim here, the continuous auto-focus (the camera’s ability to focus continuously on a subject moving towards or away from you) on most mirrorless cameras is still leagues behind dSLRs. That’s one reason why being able to shoot off multiple frames vastly increases the chance of you getting the shot you want.

It’s also useful for shooting large groups of people, where inevitably someone will be blinking. With multiple frames per second, you will vastly increase the likelihood of getting one photo where everyone has their eyes open.

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The 5 axis stabilisation on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is truly remarkable, allowing you to handhold photos much slower than the reciprocal rule (the reciprocal rule means for example, if you’re using a 50mm lens, setting your shutter speed to any slower than 1/50 will most likely result in a blurry photo if you are hand holding the camera.)

In practice, what this means is that you’ve a way better chance of being able to take an unblurry shot in low light without using a tripod.

It’s the kind of feature that when you return to your trusty dSLR, you’ll wish it had the same thing built in.

Here’s a hand held shot at 1/15th second, which would be impossible with a dSLR:

The photo stabilisation worked flawlessly for me, and I found it rather entertaining that whenever it was engaged, you could hear a tiny motor whirring inside the camera.

Where the stabilisation really comes into its own is during the movie feature. It’s like having a built in steadicam, allowing you to produce movies with gliding movements rather than the usual jarring/bobbing recording typical of such a small cameras.

Looking at the LCD screen whilst recording and walking along is mind blowing – every step you take is muffled into a smooth motion right before your eyes, making you feel like you’re gliding.

Although I rarely ever shoot video on holidays, the stabilisation function on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii made it so much fun (and the output so professional looking), that I found myself hitting the record button between shooting stills more and more often.

I’ll upload a movie to demonstrate this feature soon…

This feature makes long exposure photography much, much easier and whole lot of fun too. Olympus refers to it as Live Time.

In a nutshell, Live Time allows you to see the exposure as the camera is creating it.

What this means in practice is that rather than simply guessing (or calculating) the exposure length required for a low light photo, you can start the exposure (i.e. press the shutter button), then watch on the LCD screen as the photo gradually changes, until the point where you feel happy with how it looks, at which point you can press the shutter button again to take the picture.

It really brings out the magic of photography and will no doubt remind photographers who use film of being in a dark room, watching their pictures come to life.

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence | 11 Second exposure @ f/8, ISO 200

It’s a bit like watching a Polaroid become a colour photograph in front of your eyes, except that you’re the one controlling how ‘bright’ the colours are – it’s a lot of fun!!

‘Bulb’ exposure on dSLRs allows you to choose the length of an exposure on the fly, but of course, during the exposure, you’re unable to see how it looks, so it still involves a lot of guesswork.

Using Live Time, long exposure photography techniques like Light Painting and Star Trails are made much easier, giving you a new level of precise visual control that’s simply not possible with dSLR cameras.

This is a bit of a gimmick, but being able to take an 40 megapixel photo using a 16 megapixel compact camera is very cool in the right situation.

To be able to create a photo with so much data, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii needs to stitch together a few photos, which means that the subject needs to be completely static for the length of the exposure. This means you’ll mostly be using it for landscape work on a very still day.

I’ll be honest – out of 5,000+ exposures, I only used this feature once, but I’m glad I did. It means that I can make a large print of the below shot of Athens for my wall and be able to see incredible detail.

The size of this photo is 7296 x 4864, compared to 4608 x 3072 of the regular files.

Zooming in on the original image (especially on a Retina iMac!) is mind blowing. This screen shot doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea.

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For those rare times when the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii struggles to achieve focus (usually in the dark), it’s great to be able to fall back on a manual focus system that’s executed in the best way I’ve ever seen on a camera.

If the camera starts struggling to focus, I’ll half press the shutter to disengage autofocus, then twist the ring on the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens I’m using. Immediately, Focus Peaking engages (and optionally a 100% zoomed image), that helps me be absolutely sure my subject is in focus.

For those of you who don’t know what Focus Peaking is, when you start to twist the focus ring on your lens, bright white lines start appearing around the edges of anything in focus. Keep turning the ring and the lines will move to other areas that are in focus, and when the lines appear around the thing you want to be in focus, press the shutter button completely and you’ve just got a shot in perfect focus.

Many compact cameras offer Focus Peaking as a feature, but the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii allows you to engage it faster and easier than anything else I’ve used.

When shooting wide open at f/1.8, I’d occasionally use manual focus to make sure I had my son’s eye in focus, or in the photo below, his eye lashes. Yes, it really is that accurate.

I love how the dials and shutter button placement on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii mimic all Nikon dSLRs I’ve ever used.

On top of the camera, you have one two dials (wheels) – one controllable with your forefinger, the other with your thumb.

I set the front one to aperture and the rear to exposure compensation, since I shoot in Aperture Priority.

Using the LCD screen, it makes getting the exposure I want very easy – if the picture looks too dark, I roll the rear dial one way, too light the other way.

Even though this camera is small and the dials are very close to each other, the placement feels perfect and I can adjust both of them without moving my hand.

Even if you’re a Canon shooter, or more used to dials being placed elsewhere, the layout of the main dials/buttons on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is excellent and you’ll feel like you’re using a larger, professional camera body.

I’ve got big hands (24cm span). The grip on the Nikon Df for example is too small for me. My choice of Nikon over Canon initially was due to ergonomics alone. In short, how a camera feels in the hand is very important to me.

I can only fit 3 fingers and a thumb on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, which would normally rule it out, but due to one small addition, I feel comfortable using this camera and 100% confident that it will never slip out of my hand.

Perched at the top of the Olympus is a curved rubber thumb grip which protrudes out of the camera just enough to provide the perfect ‘ledge’ to support your thumb.

Coupled with a ridge on the front of the camera, I find it very comfortable and secure.

If you have gorilla sized hands, or you find it more comfortable to be able to rest all your fingers on the camera, there’s also an external screw-on grip available here which also includes an external mic input for video.

I think the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii looks great. I prefer the look of my Fujifilm X100s, but that’s at the detriment to its ergonomic functionality.

My preference is the Silver/Black body of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, and the black version of the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 – available here.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE USER REVIEWS ON THE OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5 MARK II AT AMAZON

Let’s face it. No camera is perfect. There are always going to be things we don’t like, and here’s the list of the things that pissed me off about the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii:

Menus

I’ve used the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii solidly for one month, shooting well over 5,000 exposures, but the menu still confuses the crap out of me.

Actually, I should say menuS, since there are several, all reachable by different buttons. It’s a bit of a joke really, and something Olympus should be working hard to sort out as their hardware is excellent.

Luckily, once you have your settings dialled in and saved, there’s not much need to go digging around in the menus each time. Also there’s the ability to save your settings, which proves invaluable if you need to reset the camera.

Auto ISO

I rely on auto ISO to save messing around with buttons when I should be capturing a moment. Auto ISO means that the camera will automatically adjust the ISO to ensure enough light is reaching the sensor, rather than slowing down your shutter.

Usually with an Auto ISO feature, the camera allows you to choose a minimum shutter speed, meaning that when the camera descends to that chosen shutter speed, it will start increasing the ISO to allow more light into your exposure.

However, with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, there’s no way to set this minimum shutter speed, meaning that instead of the Auto ISO increasing the ISO for you, it’ll drop the shutter speed first instead.

There is the excellent Image Stabilisation feature to help you achieve a sharp shot despite a slow shutter speed, but nevertheless, it’s a bit annoying when a camera of this quality which can comfortably shoot high ISOs should be favouring a higher ISO over a lower shutter speed.

There is apparently a workaround which involves setting a minimum flash sync speed, but I never got this to work.

Eye Sensor during Playback

Whilst viewing photos during playback, the EVF (viewfinder)’s sensor will activate if you hold your hand too close. What’s happening here is the viewfinder is optionally set up to detect your eye’s presence (i.e., when you want to look through the EVF rather than the LCD screen), but is actually just sensing any object that’s close, like your hand.

This means that whilst browsing my photos, I’d often set off the sensor by mistake, making the camera return to shooting mode.

This is a minor gripe, but nonetheless rather annoying and something I think could be fixed easily in a firmware update. All Olympus needs to do is deactivate the eye sensor during Playback.

Startup Time

As I’m predominantly a dSLR user, I’m used to a camera being ready to shoot the moment you switch it on. However, with MOST non dSLR cameras, this is not the case, in part, I assume, due to the fact that there are LCD screens to activate and other electronics.

The startup time on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is pretty slow, and can become annoying if you’re relying on it to get the shot.

My workaround was to keep the camera turned on constantly, and hold my thumb over the viewfinder sensor, thus deactivating the LCD and preserving battery life. When I wanted to take a pic, I’d just remove my thumb and snap snap, I’d be done.

External Buttons

In general, the button layout on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is fine. I’ve mentioned how I love the dials already, and the thumb pad for focus point selection is easy to use even with the camera to your eye.

What I don’t like is the fact that Olympus has chosen to devote prominent external buttons to what I consider to be useless features.

Useless feature #1 – HDR. Does anyone other than Trey Ratcliffe actually care about HDR anymore?! And even if you do, the iPhone shoots much nicer looking HDR than the Olympus, and can do it using a single exposure (rather than merging several, which is the proper way but means the subject needs to be completely static).

Useless feature #2 – Curves. Is there anyone out there who has ever chosen a curves adjustment before taking a photo?! I might be missing something, but why does this function even exist inside a camera? Curves should stay on your computer, not in your camera!

I should mention that these buttons can be remapped, but this involves digging into the convoluted menu, so I couldn’t be bothered.

Come on Olympus – make at least one of those buttons ISO and you’ll make a lot of pros happy! Or put an ISO button on the back of the camera, and remove those superfluous buttons altogether. Simple is better on small cameras after all.

Continuous Autofocus

It works… sometimes. This is an area most mirrorless cameras that use only Contract Detection struggle, so the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii isn’t the only one.

In simple terms, if a subject is moving fast towards the camera and you try and fire off 10 consecutive shots with the shutter button held down, the Continuous Auto Focus would be lucky to get 5 in focus, even in good light. This is where the Contrast + Phase Detection AF of a dSLR will always win.

I never shoot in Continuous AF though, so this wasn’t an issue for me, but it needs to be mentioned just so you know the limitations of the Auto-Focus on many mirrorless cameras.

Confusing Features

I’ll admit it – even after a month of playing, I couldn’t figure out how to use the Panorama function, nor set up the movie function so it did what I wanted it to. I didn’t understand a lot of the user manual either, but I never was very good with manuals!

Despite these small niggles, all in all, I love the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii and think you will too.

In my opinion, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is the best travel camera and best street photography available today.

If you’re a parent looking to buy a camera to take photos of your kids and want all the quality of a dSLR without the bulk, look no further – the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is the camera for you.

If you’re a working pro like me and you want a smaller camera which has excellent image quality to ‘chuck in the bag’, this is it.

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Take my advice and buy the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 with it, or get one of the excellent zooms if you’re feeling too lazy to zoom with your feet!

If your budget can’t stretch to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, I recommend you get its smaller brother, the Olympus OM-D EM-10 Mark II which has just been released. It has all the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii’s best features, all packed into a smaller body.

One final recommendation, buy a wrist strap such as this or this. Having a camera dangling around my neck annoys me and makes me look like a tourist, which is why I much prefer a wrist strap with a camera of this size.

Also, you do not need a camera bag! The whole point of having a small camera is that it’s there, ready to shoot at a second’s notice. Fumble around with velcro and clips and the moment’s gone. Trust me on this one!

One last option is to go with this Spider Holster, which, if you wear a belt and tuck your shirt into your trousers, is probably the best carrying system ever invented.

If you’ve read this far, thank you so much! I hope you enjoyed the review and the pics from my hols. Please leave a comment if you have any opinions about this camera, micro 4/3 cameras or anything you like :-)

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.

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Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II review -

The Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II is a compact mirrorless camera aimed at enthusiasts. Announced in February 2015, it’s the successor to the original OMD EM5 and becomes the fourth model in the OMD series; like all the OMD cameras it’s based on the established Micro Four Thirds standard, providing access to the broadest range of native lenses of any mirrorless system, and like previous OMDs features an electronic viewfinder and built-in stabilization that works with any lens you attach.

Externally the EM5 Mark II shares a great deal with its predecessor with a compact, tough and weather-proof body, but it’s now additionally tested to be freeze-proof. Fans of the higher-end OMD EM1 will be pleased to find a redesigned grip, chunkier control dials and buttons, along with a PC Sync port for connecting to external lighting. Indeed the EM5 Mark II shares a great deal with the EM1, inheriting its excellent XGA OLED viewfinder, 1/8000 shutter and built-in Wifi.

Olympus has improved the response time of the five-axis stabilization system, now claiming five stops versus four on the EM5 and EM1. The movie mode is greatly enhanced with a fully-articulated screen, the choice of 24, 25, 30, 50 or 60p frame rates, 77Mbit/s encoding, support for focus peaking while filming, touch-control of settings and a headphone socket on the optional mini-grip. The mechanical shutter is now much quieter, and for complete silence there’s an electronic shutter option up to 1/16000. Arguably most exciting of all though is the new High Res mode that shifts the sensor slightly over eight shots to generate a single 40 Megapixel image, finally breaking the 16 Megapixel ceiling of Micro Four Thirds, at least for static subjects. It all adds up to one of the most compelling mirrorless cameras to date, so read on to discover if it delivers the goods in practice!

Olympus EM5II header

The EM5 Mark II looks a lot like its predecessor, but feels quite different in your hands. The redesigned front grip curves inwards to meet your middle finger, offering a surprisingly effective boost in purchase. The twin control dials have also been thickened and repositioned, allowing you to easily turn either even when holding the camera one-handed (something that’s also practical given the improved stabilization). The shift of the thumb dial above the thumb rest follows the EM1’s approach and just feels so much better than the original EM5.

The Mark II also swaps the tiny spongey rear buttons of its predecessor with much more tactile and clicky versions which, while not as large as those on the EM1, are again a big step-up from the EM5. It’s these small improvements to ergonomics which make a big difference in day-to-day use. For me the redesigned controls on the EM1 were a triumph over the original EM5, and now the EM5 Mark II enjoys a similar boost in usability and handling. Below you can see the EM5 Mark II on the left and the original EM5 on the right; both cameras are available in black or silver, which do you prefer?

Olympus EM5II vs EM5

I was also impressed to find the EM5 Mark II inheriting the ‘2×2’ lever of the EM1, positioned to the right of the viewfinder. This allows you to assign two different functions to each control dial and quickly switch between them. By default, the two wheels adjust the aperture or shutter in their respective priority modes along with exposure compensation, but by flicking the switch they change their function to adjust, say, the ISO or White Balance instead. Then once you’re done, just flick the switch back to adjust the exposure again. It’s a novel approach which maximises the use of the dials and eliminates the need to push buttons or navigate menus for your most-used settings.Indeed it’s only when you have the EM5 Mark I and Mark II next to each other that you notice exactly how much Olympus has changed. You already know about the thicker finger and thumb wheels, but the mode dial on the upper left side of the body has also been thickened and gains the useful locking button of the EM1, which satisfyingly feels like operating a ballpoint pen. The Mark II also dispenses with the small power lever in the lower right corner of the back and switches it for a larger EM1-style switch on the top left of the upper panel; it’s in the same place as the EM1, but around the mode dial rather than the EM1’s additional buttons.

The Mark II also squeezes more buttons around its body and in true Olympus style everything is customisable. That said I’m pretty happy with the default configuration where the White Balance and ISO are accessible via the main dials with a flick of the 2×2 lever, and the four cross keys directly adjust the AF area (although you can also simply touch the screen to reposition it). I think the only thing I’d reconfigure is the Fn4 button which sets the HDR mode by default, but I’d more frequently access the drive mode settings, particularly the self-timer. If you regularly use non-native manual focus lenses, you may also want to assign focus peaking to one of the buttons as it won’t activate automatically.

Olympus EM5II vs EM1

As you customise the buttons, it’s easy to forget the EM5 Mark II also offers two very usable on-screen menu systems when you press the OK button: the simple Live Control and more sophisticated Live SCP (Super Control Panel), the latter now sensibly set as the default for PASM modes. Live Control super-imposes a scrolling column of settings on the right side of the screen with the relevant options shown in a bar along the bottom; this interface is navigated using the cross keys. Meanwhile the Super Control Panel takes over most of the screen, presenting various options in a grid which you can navigate by touch or using the cross keys. Having the Super Control Panel on the main screen is a great complement to composing with the viewfinder, and, unlike the EM1, I’m pleased to report you can tap the SCP options without having to press OK first. Again the little things that make a big difference.Looking at the dimensions, the Mark II, at 124x85x45mm is a little wider and thicker than its predecessor, but a bit shorter, and only a tad heavier at 469g compared to 425g (both with battery). For the record, the flagship EM1 measures 130x94x63mm, making it larger in every dimension, and at 496g with battery, a tad heavier too. In your hands, the biggest difference with the EM1 is its grip that’s noticeably taller and deeper than the two EM5s. There’s more to wrap your fingers around on the EM1 as standard and the taller height means those with smaller hands won’t leave any digits dangling. In contrast most hands will have a small gap somewhere when gripping the EM5 Mark II, and most little fingers will also be left dangling. Below you can see the EM5 Mark II on the left and the EM1 on the right; again, both cameras are available in black or silver.

But the EM5 Mark II has a solution for those who want more to hold onto. Like the EM5 before it, there’s an innovative optional grip sold in two halves. The HLD-8G boosts the grip, gives your little finger something to hold onto, and provides a duplicate shutter release and front dial, positioned forwards for greater comfort. In a nice upgrade, the HLD-8G also offers a new headphone jack for monitoring movie audio.

Then if you want additional power and portrait controls, you add the second half of the unit, the HLD-8, which accommodates a spare battery. While the HLD-8G is a new accessory that’s unique to the EM5 Mark II, the HLD-8 section is the same as the EM5, so owners of that part can re-use it on the Mark II, so long as they buy the HLD-8G of course.

New to the EM5 Mark II is the optional ECG-2 metal handgrip L-bracket which provides an Arca Swiss dovetail base – great for mounting the camera in the portrait orientation directly over a tripod head – although I wonder if the HLD-8G might have offered a dovetail too, at least for the base. If you want to shoot with the camera underwater, Olympus offers the optional PT-EP13 housing.

Speaking of water, the EM5 Mark II is dust and splashproof, and like the EM1, now tested to be freezeproof too. I don’t believe the Mark II is significantly tougher than its predecessor, it’s just Olympus never officially tested the Mark I for freeze-proofing. Either way, they’re not shallow claims. I’ve used the EM5, EM1 and now the EM5 Mark II in steady drizzle without issue, although you’ll of course need a weather-sealed lens to be protected under these conditions.

Owners of existing OMDs can re-use their BLN-1 battery packs, with Olympus quoting up to 750 shots when using the Quick Sleep power saving mode (enabled as default, but adjustable on the very last custom setting in K ‘Utility’). 750 shots sounds very impressive when you consider the earlier models only squeezed about half that from a full charge, but there are of course caveats.

Quick Sleep can turn-off the backlight after three, five or eight seconds, and put the entire camera to sleep at three to 60 seconds as desired; the default setting is three seconds for both. When enabled, as it is by default, Quick Sleep certainly extends the battery life, but at the cost of a sluggish wakeup time. I found it typically took about four seconds to wakeup from deep sleep with a half-press of the shutter, which proved infuriating at times.

I mostly take photos of landscapes and buildings which aren’t going anywhere, and even I found the slow wakeup frustrating, so I’m expecting more spontaneous portrait, event or street photographers will not appreciate the default configuration. If you prefer an immediate wakeup, you’ll need to disable Quick Sleep from custom menu K and accept a lower battery life than quoted.

In general-use with Quick Sleep disabled, I found the battery icon would begin to flash after shooting about 100 still photos, five minutes of video and a little Wifi use. This is slightly less than I’d get from the original EM5, due perhaps to the improved stabilization, bigger viewfinder and presence of Wifi. I’m not sure what the reasons are, but I would definitely recommend buying a spare battery for the EM5 Mark II, especially as it still can’t be topped-up over USB. Once again though, existing EM5 or EM1 owners can re-use any spares they may have.

There’s still no built-in flash, but like the earlier models, Olympus supplies a small unit with the camera. The new FL-LM3 bundled flash however increases the height of the flashlight itself and now offers a bounce adjustment, making it more useful. It’s certainly handy for fill-ins, but as with the earlier models I found myself leaving it at home more often than not.

Behind a flap on the left side of the body you’ll find a Type-D Micro HDMI port (providing a clean output to monitors or recorders), a combined USB / AV output and a 3.5mm microphone jack, the latter a very welcome addition over the original EM5. Screw-on the optional HLD-8G grip-booster and the camera gains an additional headphone jack, a feature absent on the flagship EM1. I’m also impressed to find Olympus squeezing in a PC-Sync port for external lighting, positioned to the right of the viewfinder head as you face the camera; I honestly thought this would remain a differentiator of the EM1. The EM5 Mark II does however lose the accessory port of earlier models under the hotshoe, but I’m not personally bothered as the camera’s already equipped with a decent viewfinder and microphone jack. The EM5 Mark II also features built-in Wifi and I’ll go into detail about it in a separate section later in the review.

It’s possible to remote control the OMD EM5 Mark II either with a smartphone over Wifi – see later – or with a computer over USB. I’ve pictured the latter above, running the supplied Olympus Capture application on my MacBook Pro, where you can adjust a huge variety of settings, from exposure to focus or picture style. Interestingly when shooting tethered you can’t change the exposure mode without physically turning the dial on the camera, whereas on the smartphone app you can. That said, it’s not much of a hardship to turn the mode dial when the camera’s only at the end of a USB cable.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II viewfinder and screen

The OMD EM5 Mark II is equipped with a large and detailed electronic viewfinder and a fully-articulated 3in touch-screen. The viewfinder employs the same 2.36 million dot LCD panel of the EM1, sporting 1024×768 resolution, compared to the 1.44 million dot panel on the original EM5 which had a resolution of 800×600 pixels. That means a lot more fine detail can be seen during composition, but what makes a bigger difference is the size of the viewfinder image: 0.74x magnification on the EM5 Mark II makes for a considerably larger view than its predecessor and if you’re familiar with the EM5 you’ll find the difference in size and detail astonishing. In terms of scale it’s actually a little larger than a full-frame DSLR viewfinder, and this alone could tempt many EM5 owners into upgrading.

Compared to rivals, the OMD EM5 Mark II’s viewfinder, like the EM1 before it, is amongst the best around, especially as the native shape of Micro Four Thirds images fills the panel and avoids wasting space through letter-boxing. Personally-speaking I feel Fujifilm’s XT1 still enjoys the edge with an even larger viewfinder image that cleverly rotates the shooting information to remain upright when shooting in the tall / portrait orientation. But don’t let that takeaway from the EM5 II / EM1 viewfinder experience which remains highly immersive and pleasurable, and unlike the Fuji, remains cleaner in low light (by slowing its response). When switching from the original EM5 to the EM1, the viewfinder was one of the biggest upgrades for me, so to find the same panel on the Mark II is a delight.

The EM5 Mark II also upgrades its screen panel from the 610k OLED of the original EM5 to the same 1037k LCD of the EM1; the 3in size and 3:2 shape remain the same, so images shot in the native 4:3 aspect ratio are displayed with thin vertical bars down the left and right sides. The screen also remains touch-sensitive, allowing you to tap to reposition the AF area, tap to pull-focus while filming video, swipe through images in playback, drag various sliders (such as magnifying images or adjusting the AF area size) and touch your way round the Super Control Panel, albeit not go as far as tap the characters of your name in the copyright section – to be fair though, the on-screen alpha-numeric grid is too small to tap with much success.

The presence of a touch-screen shouldn’t be taken for granted. Canon and Nikon only offer touchscreens on a couple of select models, while Sony and Fujifilm don’t seem at all interested, leaving Samsung, Panasonic and Olympus flying the flag. I personally find them incredibly useful, especially for repositioning the AF area and pulling-focus while filming, and this functionality keeps drawing me back to Micro Four Thirds. With a screen that can now flip round to face the subject, Olympus has also implemented a Selfie Assist mode on the EM5 II which (if enabled) will present a simple on-screen button to activate a brief self-timer.

Hang on, fold round to face the subject? Yes, the EM5 Mark II becomes the first OMD to swap the traditional vertically-tilting platform for a side-hinged fully-articulated mount which allows the screen to be flipped and twisted to any position, including forward to the subject or back on itself for protection. This eliminates one of the benefits of higher-end Panasonic bodies over the OMD and is a boon for anyone who, like me, shoots tall / portrait aspect shots at high or low angles; after all a screen which tilts vertically only really helps when shooting in the landscape orientation. For example in the image below, I had the camera held high overhead to avoid converging vertical lines. If I had been composing in the landscape orientation, I would have been able to angle a basic vertically-tilting screen down to see what I was doing. But since I was composing in the portrait orientation, a vertically-tilting screen, such as that on the EM1, would have only angled left or right, rather than down. But the fully-articulated screen of the EM5 Mark II allowed me to twist it to the desired angle and capture the shot I was after. So for me the fully-articulated screen becomes one of the most important upgrades over any OMD to date. Coupled with the EM1’s viewfinder, it makes the EM5 Mark II my favourite OMD for composition. Oh yes, and this was captured handheld at half a second thanks to the amazing built-in stabilisation, more of which in a moment.

16 Megapixel, 0.5 secs, f4, 200 ISO, 12-40mm at 12mm (24mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr

Olympus hasn’t skimped on the shooting information either. From the custom menus you can configure the camera to display a variety of different views for the viewfinder and screen, cycled using the INFO button. You can overlay a dual axis leveling gauge, a live histogram, blinking saturated areas, (using levels at the bottom and right side), along with the choice of five different alignment guides. It’s also possible to choose between a wealth of shooting information or a completely clean view.

During playback, you can cycle between a clean image, one with basic shooting information, another with a thumbnail to make room for RGB and brightness histograms along with more detailed shooting information, then one which displays a single large brightness histogram over the full image, another which reveals saturated shadows and highlights, and finally one which can show two different images simultaneously for side-by-side comparison. If you have a portrait shaped image, it’ll also rotate to fill the screen during playback if the camera is turned. Again you can customise which of the display views are shown from the custom menus.

In terms of the main menus, Olympus has opted for an almost identical approach to the EM5 and EM1 before it – so there’s five tabbed options on the left side, with their options displayed to the right. Four out of five of the tabs only need a single screen to display all their options, so there’s no scrolling to worry about. But the fifth option for the Custom Menu certainly does scroll. It gathers no fewer than 113 options (17 more than the EM1 and 27 more than the original EM5) into a bunch of lettered sub-categories, and even as a long term Olympus user, I still find the sheer degree of what you can customize overwhelming at times. The sub-categories at least let you quickly get to approximately where you need to be, and it seems churlish to complain about the number of things you can customize. The options are there if you want them, but equally you can stay clear if preferred! If you’re into customization though you’ll love what you can do with the EM5 II, and it’s one of the most flexible cameras around in this regard. I’ll mention some of the options throughout the review, and I strongly recommend any owner to invest some time in exploring the options available.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II lenses and stabilisation

The Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II employs a Micro Four Thirds sensor and lens mount which, like all OMD and PEN models before it (along with all Panasonic Lumix G cameras), results in a field reduction of two times relative to full-frame systems. So a 25mm lens delivers an equivalent field of view to 50mm on full-frame, and the effective depth of field compared to full-frame is also reduced by two times, so f1.4 will deliver a depth of field equivalent to f2.8 on full-frame.

The Micro Four Thirds mount gives the OMD EM5 Mark II access to the broadest and most established native lens catalogue of all the mirrorless camera systems. At the time of writing, Micro Four Thirds had over 40 lenses available from Panasonic and Olympus along with third parties including Sigma, Tamron, Samyang, Voigtlander and others. So while many rival mirror-less formats are struggling to offer even one lens in every category, Micro Four Thirds typically has two or more options available. Whether it’s Fisheye, ultra wide, fast aperture, macro, super-zoom or good old general-purpose, the Micro Four Thirds catalogue has it covered, and many of them are great quality too – find out more in my Micro Four Thirds lens guide.

Depending on region, you could find the EM5 Mark II available in a variety of lens kits, the most likely being the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 pancake zoom, the 12-50mm f3.5-6.3, the 12-40mm f2.8 or the new 14-150mm f4-5.6 II; note if you want a weatherproof zoom to match the camera’s weatherproof body, you should go for the 12-50mm or 12-40mm. Or of course you could buy it body alone and choose your own lens from the wide catalogue – I like to shoot Micro Four Thirds with a selection of primes including the Olympus 17mm f1.8, Olympus 45mm f1.8 and Lumix 25mm f1.4. Here’s the coverage you can expect from the 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens, which is a really classy option.

Olympus 12-40mm coverage wideOlympus 12-40mm coverage tele
12-40mm at 12mm (24mm equivalent)12-40mm at 40mm (80mm equivalent)

While the 12-40mm is a great lens, I personally found it a little large on the EM5 Mark II. Instead I felt the body was physically best-matched with the smaller primes like the 17mm f1.8.

The EM5 Mark II, like all Olympus Micro Four Thirds bodies, features built-in image stabilisation which works with any lens you attach. Olympus has however enhanced the stabilisation on the Mark II, allowing it to claim five stops of compensation under CIPA conditions, compared to four on the EM1 or original EM5.

I was already very impressed with the stabilization on the EM1, so was very curious to discover if the Mark II had actually improved on it. I started with my usual test, shooting a sequence with and without stabilization at progressively slower shutter speeds. I decided to go with a wide-ish lens to see if I could handhold at a second or even slower with stabilization, so it was on with the 12-40mm at 12mm for a 24mm equivalent field of view. Traditional wisdom would suggest a shutter speed of 1/24 or faster to avoid wobbles when handgolding without stabilization. Three, four and five stops of compensation should let you handhold at 1/6, 1/3 or 1/1.5 respectively.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II with Olympus 12-40mm at 12mm Stabilisation off / on
100% crop, 12mm, 1 sec, 200 ISO, IS off100% crop, 12mm, 1 sec, 200 ISO, IS on

On the conditions of the day I found I needed 1/12 or faster to handhold a steady shot without stabilization enabled. With stabilization enabled, I found I could easily handhold the same result at one second, corresponding to a little under four stops of compensation. You can see 100% crops from the unstabilised and stabilized one second exposures above.

But if I could successfully handhold at one second, how about longer exposures still? I dialed in two seconds and was surprised to find a respectable number of shake-free images; not all of them, but at least a 75% success rate. You can see an example at two seconds below, which represents a little under five stops of compensation on the conditions of the day.

2 seconds handheld, f5.6, 200 ISO, 12-40mm at 12mm (24mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr

I also tried four and even five second exposures, and while most were now shaky, there were a handful which were actually fine. But four to five stops of compensation was certainly attainable with the EM5 Mark II in my tests, confirming that it’s more effective than the models which came before it.

Indeed I’d say the EM5 Mark II’s stabilization is better than any optical system I’ve used, at least with lenses up to 300mm in equivalent focal length – the longest I had to hand. Tests and numbers aside, the thing which really surprised me was how different the EM5 Mark II felt when actually composing. I never felt the need to complain when framing-up with the EM1, but the EM5 Mark II really did deliver what looked and felt like a smoother, more ‘floaty’ experience. For someone like me who isn’t the steadiest photographer around, it’s a real and measurable benefit over the EM1.

Micro Four Thirds is often criticised for having one of the smaller sensors in the mirrorless World, but at lower ISOs it delivers great results. Now with around five stops of stabilised compensation available, the EM5 Mark II makes it possible to shoot handheld at low ISOs even under dim conditions and walk away with a decent result. Just look at that tunnel shot above for example, shot at the base sensitivity and even with the lens closed down a couple of stops. Of course if the subject is in motion, then it will blur at a slow shutter, but I found the ability to shoot city night scenes or dim interiors without relying on a tripod or high ISOs was very liberating.

I’m also delighted to report the full 5-axis stabilization system is also now available when shooting movies. I put this to the test by first making careful handheld pans, followed by more complex moves around the scene, before then walking purposefully and even running with the camera. Here’s one I filmed, walking up and down stairs with the camera, all handheld.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video: low light handheld with 12-40mm / 1080 / 24p / 400 ISO
Download the original file (Registered members of Vimeo only)
In this clip I set the OMD EM5 Mark II to its 1080 / 24p mode and 400 ISO sensitivity. I fitted the camera with the 12-40mm f2.8 lens, set to 12mm f2.8 in Manual exposure mode. This is a handheld clip with me walking down stairs and panning around. It’s a tough test for the stabilisation, but the camera performs admirably, again rendering a steadicam mostly redundant for this kind of footage. I also tried running with the camera and the results were still respectable. It’s great Olympus has allowed the movie mode to exploit the full stabilisation, and also that the quality has improved to a point where the footage is very usable. It may still not be the best around, but it’s a massive improvement over the earlier models and makes the camera a tempting option for videographers.

In each situation the EM5 Mark II soaked-up the bumps and wobbles with ease. It really felt more like filming with a basic Steadicam, only without the bulk, complication, time and expense. Employ some careful technique and you may rarely if ever need to employ a balanced stabilizer. This makes filming with the EM5 Mark II swift and simple, whether you’re shooting holiday videos or small productions.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II autofocusing

Like its predecessor, the OMD EM5 Mark II exclusively employs a contrast-based AF system. Like other recent Micro Four Thirds cameras from both Olympus and Panasonic, the single AF performance is excellent with the camera snapping-onto subjects extremely quickly and confidently, even in low light or at large apertures with a very shallow depth of field. Indeed the EM5 Mark II delivers one of the most responsive AF experiences around in Single AF mode.

The EM5 Mark II’s contrast-based AF system, inherited from the EM1, can pick from a 9×9 array of 81 AF areas which cover most of the frame, an increased number over the 7×5 / 35 area system employed by the original EM5. Like the EM5 you can have the camera automatically choose the most appropriate AF area or pick it yourself either individually or from a zoned group.

As before you can adjust the size of a manually-selected AF area if desired, on the EM5 II between 5x, 7x, 10x or 14x. Like the EM1, you can also reduce the AF area size for pinpoint accuracy, although beware like the models before it the AF system can slow down with smaller AF areas.

Like all OMD cameras, you can alternatively tap the touchscreen to move the AF area wherever you like, again within a region that extends across the entire frame. I personally find this incredibly useful, although I don’t extend that embrace to include the touch-shutter option which also takes a photo with a tap. Still it’s there if you fancy it, and it does at least work well with the screen turned to face you for selfies. You can also adjust the AF area by hand by pressing the four cross keys – this feature is enabled straightaway, so there’s no need to go into a menu first, a bug-bear I have with many rival cameras.

A highlight of the Olympus contrast-based AF system is the face detection which goes beyond the usual framing of a human face to also lock-onto the eye and focus on that. As before you can have the camera go for the left eye, the right eye, or best of all, the nearest eye in the shot. And you know what? It really works. I use the nearest eye detection for all my people shots with Olympus cameras and even when using bright primes with a very shallow depth of field (such as the Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2), it almost always nails it; the only times it misses slightly are when the subject moves or blinks as you take the shot. It’s brilliant for taking shallow depth of field shots of impatient kids too.

So far so good, but as before the contrast-based system struggles when it comes to continuously tracking a subject approaching or receding at speed. To be fair, the EM5 Mark II proved to be fairly successful given subjects approaching at roughly 20 mph such as the vehicle below, but anything faster returned a decreasing hit rate. I should also add the continuous AF only worked at the slower of the two continuous shooting speeds, at 5fps. Put it this way, while the EM5 Mark II will track subjects in fairly leisurely motion, it’s not ideal for sports where the subject is moving towards or away from you quickly.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II Continuous AF with Sequential L mode using 75mm f1.8 at f1.8
Full image above, 100% crop belowFull image above, 100% crop belowFull image above, 100% crop belowFull image above, 100% crop below
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Full image above, 100% crop belowFull image above, 100% crop belowFull image above, 100% crop belowFull image above, 100% crop below

Other manufacturers, most notably Sony, have solved continuous autofocusing on mirrorless cameras by embedding phase detect AF points on the main imaging sensor. The model which does this better than any other in my tests so far is the Alpha A6000 (and the cheaper A5100 which followed it). The A6000 will even continuously autofocus at its top shooting speed of 11fps, which makes it my preferred choice if you’re into shooting fast action.

Olympus has tried embedding phase-detect AF points on the sensor, but so far only on the flagship OMD EM1 – and in my tests it only really made an impact when shooting with legacy Four Thirds lenses, which weren’t particularly quick to start with. This remains one of the major differentiators between the EM1 and EM5 Mark II, and if you have a collection of older Four Thirds lenses, the EM1 will be the preferred choice. A recent firmware update also allows the EM1 to support faster shooting speeds with continuous AF, although I’ve not put it to the test yet.

So returning to the EM5 Mark II, it’ll track slowish subjects, but anything approaching or receding at speed will almost certainly be out of its grasp. It’s a shame as the camera will fire-off bursts of frames very quickly, but if you’re into action and that action is moving quickly, then there’s better options out there.

It is however important to ask yourself just how often you’ll want to track fast subjects. Personally speaking I rarely shoot sports or wildlife, so it’s actually not an issue for me. But I certainly exploit the fast single AF of the Olympus cameras when shooting portraits, especially of my kids. Indeed as I noted earlier, the Olympus Single AF performance is up there with the very best, and if you’re shooting events, weddings, street or portraiture, you’ll really appreciate its speed and accuracy.

If you like to manually focus, or use lenses from other systems, the EM5 Mark II offers a number of tools to make your job easier. First is magnified assistance which can be set to kick-in as soon as you turn the manual focusing ring on native Olympus or Panasonic lenses; once in magnified view you can adjust the magnification to 5x, 7x, 10x or 14x, and also scroll around the frame if required.

The EM5 Mark II also inherits focus peaking from earlier models which surrounds the subject in focus with a highlight (in black or white on the EM5 II), allowing you to quickly identify whether the lens is focused correctly or not. It’s particularly helpful when also working in the magnified view, and it also works fine with third party lenses – I used it with my Samyang 7.5mm fisheye for example, where it provides a useful guide with subjects at very close range. Indeed this is another key feature to tempt EM5 owners into upgrading. Note when using non-native manual focus lenses, you’ll need to assign peaking to one of the function buttons as it won’t start automatically as it does with native ones.

The EM5 Mark II also offers AF / MF hybrid modes where the camera autofocuses with a half-press of the shutter, but allows you to make manual focusing adjustments (again with a magnified view and or peaking if enabled) with a turn of the focusing ring. I found the Single AF + MF mode worked well, using the AF to quickly find the subject before allowing you to fine-tune or confirm if necessary.

It all adds up to a satisfying manual focusing experience, and while peaking is still not available in different colours I am pleased to report Olympus now allows you to use it while filming video – a very useful upgrade over the EM1 which sadly disabled peaking while recording.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II exposure modes

The OMD EM5 Mark II offers nine exposure modes from its dial – the same as the EM1 and one more than the original EM5. There’s the usual PASM modes, along with separate positions for iAUTO, ART filters, Scene presets and Movies, although you can alternatively start filming video in any of the other modes. The new mode over the original EM5 is Photo Story, and I’ll come to it in just a moment.

The OMD EM5 Mark II offers the same mechanical shutter speed range as the EM1, from 60 seconds to 1/8000, the latter double that of the original EM5. 1/8000 is not only useful for freezing fast action, but also for allowing you to use smaller f-numbers (for a shallower depth of field) in bright conditions – I know I regularly bumped-up against the 1/4000 limit of the EM5 when shooting outside with bright primes (even after the addition of 100 ISO), but having a 1/8000 option gives you a useful extra stop of darkening and the chance to open the aperture by another stop without fitting ND filters.

Even better, the EM5 Mark II becomes the first OMD to be equipped with a 100% electronic shutter option which operates in complete silence and at speeds up to 1/16000, giving you another stop of exposure control over the mechanical shutter; the camera uses a 100% electronic shutter when you select Silent from the drive options. The option to shoot in true silence along with having access to even faster shutter speeds is a valuable addition the EM5 Mark II enjoys over its predecessors, including the flagship EM1. It’s also always been a feature that Panasonic has offered over Olympus, but now that differentiator has been eliminated. If you’re wondering why you wouldn’t use it all the time, it’s because electronic shutters can suffer from skewing artefacts when the subject is in fast motion, but if the subject is fairly still or you’re careful to only use it with faster shutter speeds, you’ll manage to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Like the EM1 though, there’s also a variety of Anti Shock options which employ a delay and an electronic first-curtain to reduce the potential impact of the shutter causing unwanted vibrations. The EM5 Mark II also includes the zero second Anti Shock option introduced on an EM1 firmware update which again employs an electronic first-curtain, but without a delay. This is enabled by default on the EM5 Mark II for shutters below 1/320 and should prevent any unexpected and unwanted wobbles.

In terms of the actual mechanical shutter sound, the EM5 Mark II is noticeably quieter than the EM1 and EM5; indeed quite surprisingly so if you’re used to those models. Hold the camera at arm’s length in a romm with some ambient noise and you may hardly hear it at all. For me the quieter mechanical shutter and the option of a completely silent electronic shutter are two major benefits of the EM5 Mark II that are rarely discussed. They’re a highlight if you like to shoot discreetly, and are ideal in peaceful ceremonies.

Moving on, Auto Exposure Bracketing is available on the EM5 Mark II at two, three or five frames at 0.3, 0.7 or 1EV apart, or for seven frames at either 0.3 or 0.7EV apart. Matching the EM1, this is a nice broad and deep range for HDR enthusiasts, although unfortunately you still can’t trigger an entire multi-frame burst with a single press of the shutter release or self-timer. Instead you need to fire each exposure separately. On the upside the built-in Wifi means you can at least trigger each frame remotely using your smartphone rather than having to buy a cable release accessory.

Alternatively you could use the in-camera HDR mode. This offers seven different options, starting with two presets which capture four frames and assemble them in-camera with mild or strong contrast effects; these two modes record a single composite image, but they can include a RAW in addition to a JPEG if desired. The remaining five modes capture multiple frames, but require you to assemble them yourself later. You can choose three or five frames at 2EV or 3EV increments, or seven frames at 2EV only, and again you can record JPEG, RAW or both for each frame.

Regardless which of the seven options you choose though, the drive mode is fixed to Continuous High, forcing the camera to fire-them off in a quick burst. This is fine, but annoyingly it prevents you from implementing the self-timer to avoid camera shake, and it’ll ignore any Anti Shock delays too. Again though you can trigger the burst remotely using your smartphone, and in practice this can work well.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II HDR mode disabledOlympus OMD EM5 Mark II HDR Mode 2
HDR disabled, 75mm (150mm equivalent)HDR Mode 2, 75mm (150mm equivalent)

I should also add the EM5 Mark II offers ISO, White Balance, Flash Level and ART effect bracketing; the latter is a fun way to quickly try out all (or a selected bunch) of the ART filters if you can’t decide which you prefer – you can find out more about the ART filters later.

Sticking with the subject of multiple exposures, the EM5 Mark II also lets you combine two images on a single frame. You can also have the camera adjust the gain and show the first as a ghostly overlay as you line up the second. One file is recorded after the second exposure.

Moving on, the EM5 Mark II inherits the interval timer of the EM1, offering up to 999 frames at intervals from one second to a second shy of 25 (yes, 25) hours, and with an initial delay again up to a second short of 25 hours. You can choose whether to record just the images, or have the camera additionally create a movie from them. Unfortunately like the EM1, the movie encoding for timelapse captures is at a fixed frame rate of 10fps which doesn’t look particularly smooth during playback. Contrast this against the Panasonic Lumix G cameras which offer a variety of frame rates for in-camera timelapse movies up to 25 for a very smooth result, not to mention 4k encoding options too. Of course the EM5 Mark II still records the separate images regardless, so you could always just import them into software later and create a timelapse movie with the desired settings; but it remains a shame the camera can’t create a smoother result itself. Oh, one other quick tip: you’ll need to set the photo aspect ratio to 16:9 if you’d like the camera to subsequently encode a widescreen video.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video: Timelapse using 7-14mm
Download the original file (Registered members of Vimeo only)
The Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II features a built-in interval timer which can assemble the images into a timelapse movie at the end if desired. For this video (at The Chilli Pickle in Brighton) I set the timer to take a photo every second for 300 frames, after which the camera created the video. For some reason, Olympus thinks it’s satisfactory to encode these in-camera timelapse videos at 10fps, which is about half the speed required for nice, smooth motion. In contrast the Panasonic Lumix G cameras with timelapse modes let you choose the frame rate for playback, up to a smooth 25fps, which simply makes the footage look much better; and the latest models also support the generation of timelapse videos in 4k. Of course there’s nothing stopping you from taking the frames the EM5 II captures and encoding them into a smoother and or higher resolution movie using your computer afterwards, but I still think it’s a shame the camera doesn’t offer a smoother frame rate itself – it makes both the timelapse movie and miniature movie modes on the EM5 Mark II less useful than they could have been.

Like the EM1 and EM5 before it, the EM5 Mark II boasts a number of handy and unique options for long exposure fanatics. First is the ability to dial-in a shutter speed as long as 60 seconds, which is often long enough for basic long exposure work without the need for any accessories. Panasonic also offers this on its Lumix G cameras, and I find it invaluable. Here’s a shot I took simply by selecting a 60 second exposure time in Manual; I also used a Lee 3-stop ND filter and a hard grad filter.

60 seconds, f8, 100 ISO, 17mm (34mm equiv), with Lee ND and hard grad filters

Click image to access original at Flickr

Turn the exposure dial beyond 60 seconds in Manual mode and you’ll be offered Bulb followed by Live Time, and new to the EM5 Mark II, Live Comp; I’ll cover each in turn. Bulb works the same as a normal camera in that the shutter stays open for as long as you have the release held down. Live Time is more considerate for those without accessories as it opens the shutter with one press of the release and keeps it open until you press it again – so you don’t need to keep the button held down throughout the entire exposure.

Of course for the best results you’ll not want to actually touch the camera to start and stop a long exposure, but the EM5 Mark II cunningly lets you get around this without the need for additional accessories by first either implementing an Anti Shock delay or self-timer to start the exposure, coupled with a preset exposure length. Again, like the EM1 and EM5 before it, you can set the maximum exposure time to be 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 20, 25 or 30 minutes, after which the camera will automatically end the exposure. This allows you to take very long exposures without the need for a cable release accessory.

What makes the Olympus cameras even more unique though are their Live Bulb and Live Time options which let you take regular peeks at the exposure on the screen as it builds-up to see how it’s getting on. This lets you stop the exposure early if it’s already perfect, or perhaps not going to work out. The interval between updates can be set to 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30 or 60 seconds, and the maximum number of peeks depends on the ISO value: 9, 14, 19 or 24 times for ISOs of 1600, 800, 400 or Low respectively. Once you’ve used up your allocation of peeks, there’ll be no more, regardless of the exposure length. You can find the options to configure this in Custom section E.

During a long exposure, the actual exposure time is displayed like a digital stopwatch whether the Live update is enabled or not. If the Live update is enabled, then the screen will also show the image gradually appearing – like a developing photo – along with a brightness histogram that provides accurate feedback on the tonal range as it builds. The histogram updates its graph for every scheduled peek and it’s great fun to see it gradually move from left to right, filling the shadows, then the mid-tones and finally the highlights during a long exposure. The histogram is useful because the screen – especially when viewed in the typically dark conditions of a long exposure – is not always an accurate representation of the image. If you’re remotely controlling the camera over Wifi you can even view the mid-exposure peeks on your phone’s screen.

The ability to peek at a long exposure while it’s being recorded is innovative, fun and genuinely useful, but in my tests I found it did come at the cost of slightly increased noise levels. That said, the impact is quite minor and it’s also the type of noise that’s effectively reduced in post production if necessary.

When testing the EM5 Mark II though I was more concerned with the impact of disabling noise reduction for long exposures. When enabled, this captures a ‘dark-frame’ following the main exposure which can then be subtracted to eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, hot pixels. Like all long exposure noise reduction systems, the dark frame exposure must match the length of the original exposure, which is fine if you’re only talking a few seconds, but can become an issue for exposures of several minutes. The light can change quickly during dawn and dusk, so it’s frustrating to be kept waiting several minutes for recording a dark frame when you want to be taking more images. Likewise during fireworks events when you could be missing the big explosions as the dark frame is being recorded.

So that’s the dilemma: enable noise reduction for a nice clean image but risk losing the moment, or disable it for the best response but at the cost of quality. Clearly for long exposure fanatics, like myself, the question is how much of a compromise is involved when you disable noise reduction. When I tested the earlier OMD EM1, the answer was a significant compromise in quality. I found enabling noise reduction allowed me to capture nice, clean images at exposures up to two minutes, but disabling it resulted in a plague of hot pixels at exposures longer than 30 seconds. As such, I always enable noise reduction when shooting with the EM1, and just accept the frustration of waiting for the dark frame to be recorded.

The interesting thing though was the original EM5 didn’t seem to suffer as badly as the newer EM1. In my tests I found there was little between my images shot with or without NR, even for exposures up to two minutes in length. I still haven’t got to the bottom of this, but the fact is the EM5 was far preferable to the EM1 for long exposure work if you didn’t want to use noise reduction. So the question then is whether the EM5 Mark II inherits this capability of its predecessor. To find out I made two exposures lasting one minute of Brighton’s West Pier, one with NR enabled, and the other with NR disabled. Here’s 100% crops from shadowy regions of both images with links to the originals; the complete composition can be seen above.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II long exposure noise 60 secs at 100 ISO 100% crops from in-camera JPEG
60 seconds with Noise Reduction enabled. Click for original60 seconds with Noise Reduction disabled. Click for original

I’ve had a good look at both images and even with the levels tweaked to lighten shadow detail, I can’t see a great difference between them. I can however tell you if this was the EM1, the version without noise reduction would be scattered with hot pixels.

So how long can you expose with the EM5 Mark II and still expect fairly clean images? I followed-up the shots above with two additional captures at four minutes and then eight minutes, both with noise reduction disabled. I also used Live Time with the maximum 24 peeks during the exposure, so they represent the worst-case scenario for potential noise.

Below is the eight minute capture (with a link to the four minute version in the caption), and if you look at the original images at 100% you’ll only see a couple of bright hot pixels (but don’t mistake the red one within the pier which is a buoy!). Look carefully, or boost the shadow areas, and a sprinkling of fainter marks emerge. It’s certainly not as clean as a camera with a bigger sensor, but remember this image has been ‘peeked-at’ 24 times during a fairly long exposure, so disabling this feature would present a slightly cleaner file. Also bear in mind this is a JPEG out of camera, so there’s potential for some more advanced clean-up on the RAW version in post afterwards. The bottom line is it’s still considerably superior to what you can achieve with the EM1 if you want to shoot without noise reduction, so for this kind of work the Mark II becomes my preferred choice of the two models.

Live Time 8 minutes, f5.6, 100 ISO, 17mm (34mm equiv), with Lee 3 stop ND & Hard Grad

Click image to access original at Flickr. Four minute version available here

Further extending the Live Time concept on the EM5 Mark II is the new Live Comp mode, which you’ll find after Bulb and Live Time in Manual. This addresses the problem of long exposure photography where one portion could become over-exposed before another has started to register, or even appeared at all. For example when shooting fireworks, you may want to have the background nicely exposed, but it could become over-saturated as you wait for the perfect explosion. The same thing can happen when you’re light-painting. Wouldn’t it be nice to effectively stop one part of the exposure while you wait to complete another part?

Photographers have traditionally done this by taking two or more exposures and compositing them later, but the new Live Comp mode attempts to do this entirely in-camera. First it exposes for the background, then it waits for any new light to appear in the composition. When new light does appear, such as a fireworks explosion or a new light painting, the camera will resume the exposure, but crucially only in the area where the new light is. This allows the frame to record the new area of light, without affecting the existing exposure underneath.

In practice the mode asks you to press the shutter release once for a reference shot, then again to begin the process. The camera then exposes for the desired shutter speed, showing you the image building on the screen. So far, similar like Live Time, except you’ll see the exposure halt on the screen when it reaches the desired brightness. Then even though the clock continues to tick, the camera won’t record anything more until new light appears in the composition. You can actually leave it monitoring the scene for up to three hours, safe in the knowledge it won’t become over-exposed, so long as the initial choice of shutter speed is correct.

Here’s an example of Live Comp used for light painting, which I took at an Olympus event; the artists were Zolaq. The mode was set to a five second cycle at f8 and 100 ISO, and the entire process took about five minutes to complete.

Live Composite mode, 5 sec cycle, f8, 100 ISO, 12-40mm at 12mm (24mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr

Switch the mode dial to SCN and you can choose from 24 different scene presets, three of which are designed for use with additional converter lenses. Of the more unusual options, Handheld Starlight shoots eight frames and combines them into one; I didn’t get a chance to try this in person, but hope to add an example in the future.

One of the other presets is the Panorama mode, but this remains a panorama-assistance option which simply displays guides to help you line up each frame; unfortunately they still need to be stitched in separate software afterwards. Why is it such a challenge for Olympus and Canon to offer stitched panoramas in-camera? Sony and Panasonic have offered it for ages, and it feels very old fashioned to be forced to complete the process on your computer afterwards.

Moving on, the ART position on the dial lets you apply a selection of 14 different filters, and while Olympus may have fallen behind on auto-panoramas, it was one of the first to really dive into in-camera effects. You can choose from Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale Light and Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama (Miniature), Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line and Watercolour, and new to the Mark II, Vintage and Partial Colour. Or as mentioned earlier, opt for the ART Bracketing mode which takes shots with all of them, or a pre-selected bunch. Here’s some of the ART filters in action.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II ART Filter 1: Pop ArtOlympus OMD EM5 Mark II ART Filter 5: Grainy Film
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II ART Filter 6: Pin HoleOlympus OMD EM5 Mark II ART Filter 8: Cross Process
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II ART Filter 10: Dramatic ToneOlympus OMD EM5 Mark II ART Filter 13: Vintage

While going through the ART filters on-screen, you’re shown an example of the effect and pushing the right button expands a bunch of additional options. Yes, the effects are novelties, but the results to me look more mature and well thought out than much of the competition, a sign of Olympus’ experience in this regard. If you choose RAW+JPEG, the ART effect is also only applied to the JPEG file, leaving the RAW untouched as a backup or reference if desired. You can also record video with most of the effects applied, although the processing time incurred will reduce the frame rate. Here’s a video with the Diorama effect applied.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video: Diorama / Miniature ART filter using 17mm f1.8
Download the original file (Registered members of Vimeo only)
In this clip I’ve chosen the Diorama Art mode for a miniature effect and pressed the record button to capture it as a movie. Like other miniature effect modes, this incurs some processing for each frame which prevents real-time capture at smooth frame rates, so when played back the footage is accelerated. So far so good, but unlike the competition, Olympus has chosen to encode the final result at a relatively low frame rate of around 10fps. This is half as fast as it needs to be for smooth-looking motion and there’s no reason not to have encoded the frames at 25 or 30fps instead. Sure the footage would have lasted half as long but the result would have looked smoother and more natural. Unfortunately this is an approach shared with the timelapse movie mode, which also encodes the frames at a low, fixed rate, rather than giving you the choice as Panasonic Lumix G cameras do.

Finally there’s the Photo Story mode which arranges between two and five photos into frames on a single image. A selection of presets let you choose the frame layout, the final aspect ratio of the image, along with the style of the borders and the art filters applied to the photos within. Once you’ve chosen the desired preset, one frame at a time becomes live, allowing you to compose each shot in turn before then letting the EM5 Mark II composite them into a single image.

It may sound a little tacky, but Photo Story, like the ART filters, is a fun way to present a story rather than a single image, and you can even create them on your phone or tablet using the free Olympus app. And if you’re shooting in RAW+ JPEG mode, the Photo Story effect is only applied to the JPEG, while the separate frames which make it up are saved as untouched RAW files, giving you the flexibility of using them without the effect later if desired. Here’s an example I took on Brighton’s Pier using the 45mm f1.8 lens.

Photo Story, 45mm (90mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr

Oh yes, I almost forgot: there’s also iAUTO for foolproof operation and while I can’t see many EM5 Mark II owners using it themselves, it can be useful when handing the camera over to someone else to take a photo with it. The iAUTO mode also offers a number of Live Guides which help you implement certain effects with on-screen controls.

Olympus has also been hard at work looking at clever ways of exploiting electronic composition to present in-camera corrections in real-time. All mirrorless owners are familiar with previewing white balance in real-time, but what about geometric corrections? A firmware update for the EM1 introduced Keystone Compensation which allows you to straighten converging lines either vertically or horizontally, all while you compose the shot. I’m pleased to report the EM5 Mark II inherits this capability, and here’s a handheld before and after comparison to show you how it works in practice. Inevitably there’s some cropping of the image and juggling of pixels, but it’s nice to be able to make these corrections in-camera as you compose.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II Keystone Compensation disabledOlympus OMD EM5 Mark II Keystone Compensation enabled
45mm (90mm equivalent)45mm (90mm equivalent)

Here’s another example where I applied a little Keystone Compensation to straighten the verticals which due to the height of the camera were sloping a little inwards at the top.

1/640, f5, 200 ISO, 17mm (34mm equiv), with Keystone Compensation

Click image to access original at Flickr

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II 40M High Res Shot

Arguably the most unique thing about the OMD EM5 Mark II is its new 40 Megapixel High Resolution Shot mode. This exploits the built-in image stabilization to shift the sensor’s position eight times by a tiny amount, before combining them all into a single, higher resolution image all in-camera.

Hasselblad offered something similar in the past to increase the recording resolution of its Medium Format bodies, but it’s the first time anything like this has been offered in a smaller system camera, and provides Micro Four Thirds with an important boost in detail beyond the native 16 Megapixels without compromising noise levels or dynamic range.

The 40M High Res Shot mode is tagged on the end of the Drive options, although also has a dedicated mention in the second Camera menu page with additional options. These include a chance to delay the shot which is critical if you want to avoid wobble; you can’t deploy the normal self-timer as it’s a separate option on the Drive menu. There’s the chance to record the final image as a single JPEG or a JPEG with a RAW file accompanied by a mysterious ORI file; the latter is actually the first frame in the sequence saved as a RAW file. RAW files currently require software from Olympus to process, although the company also has a Photoshop plugin. Note the file options for the Super High Res mode are independent of the quality set for single frame images, so just because you have RAW set for one doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have RAW set for the other.

During the capture process, the sensor is repositioned eight times around a square. It takes the first shot, shifts right by half a pixel, takes the second, then right again by half a pixel for the third. Then up half a pixel for the fourth, up another half for the fifth, then left by half a pixel for the sixth, left half again for the seventh, then finally down by half a pixel for the eight and final shot. Another way of picturing it is the camera captures a photo at each corner of a square and an additional four in the middle of each side.

The theory is the four images in single pixel increments allow the camera to effectively capture red, green and blue for every pixel, greatly boosting colour resolution (and reducing colour moire), while the four half-pixel increments effectively quadruple the spatial detail.

With a native resolution of 16 Megapixels on the sensor, the 40M mode effectively creates a new RAW file with four times the total pixels: 64 Megapixels in all. But in tests, Olympus feels there’s not actually 64 Megapixels worth of real detail, so reduces it when generating in-camera JPEGs to 40 Megapixels. Normal single frame images from the EM5 Mark II measure 4608×3456 pixels, while 40M JPEGS created in-camera measure 7296×5472 pixels. Single frame RAW files typically weigh-in at about 15MB, while RAW files in the 40M mode weigh-in at around 100MB each, and are accompanied by an additional 15MB ORI file which, again, is the first frame in RAW format. So the two RAW files generated by the 40M mode are essentially eight times bigger than a single RAW frame as you might expect. In-camera JPEGs in the 40M mode typically measure around 18MB compared to around 8MB for a single frame.

The 40M mode switches the camera to an electronic shutter (for speed and stability) and fires its eight shots in just under a second. It then takes about two and a half seconds longer to generate the final composite file. Understandably the camera and subject should be kept still during the capture process. While it is possible to handhold the EM5 Mark II for one second during normal use, its stabilization is disabled during the 40M mode in order to shift the sensor – so hand-holding in the 40M mode is out of the question. Indeed the camera indicates if the camera isn’t sufficiently steady by blinking its 40M icon at you, and it’ll even warn you as you push the shutter release – which is why you should either deploy a delay from the menu or use remote control.

As for the subject, any motion will generate ghostly stitching errors. Cars, people or birds typically appear as eight faint shapes next to each other. The surface of rivers and the Sea looks unnatural with repeating waves rather than a smooth long exposure blur. Suffice it to say portraits are virtually impossible. As such the 40M mode is best-suited for compositions that remain static during the one second capture period: think still life, product photography, buildings, interiors, and of course image reproduction.

There are other caveats too. The maximum exposure (per frame) is eight seconds, which rules out serious long exposure photography. The highest sensitivity is 1600 ISO and the minimum aperture is f8. All three have been set to maximize quality and avoid noise or diffraction. Your optics are also important, with Olympus recommending its primes or pro zooms – so the basic kit zooms are unlikely to deliver sufficient resolution.

To be fair, Olympus has been playing down the feature, stating clearly that it is not for general use. The EM5 Mark II is not a 40 Megapixel camera. It is a 16 Megapixel camera with the chance to generate higher resolution images under the right conditions. But I think they’re being perhaps a little too cautious. I tried the mode in a variety of controlled and less controlled situations with results I think you’ll find impressive even with the limitations. So without further ado, here are 15 comparisons between the new 40M mode and conventional 16 Megapixel single frames.

40M High Res Shot, 1.3 secs, f8, 200 ISO, 40-150mm at 40mm (80mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
My first shot was taken at an official Olympus event where this composition was set up to demonstrate the 40M mode; as such you’ll see this subject on many other reviews. I took this with the 40-150mm PRO zoom at 40mm f8 and the lowest sensitivity of 200 ISO. Just a cursory glance at the 100% crops from the normal 16 Megapixel and 40M files reveals how the latter comfortably out-resolves it. So a great start for the 40M mode, albeit under very controlled interior / studio conditions.

40M High Res Shot, 0.5 secs, f4, 200 ISO, 17mm (34mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
During the same event I decided to try out a wider prime with the same subject, so here’s the EM5 Mark II fitted with the Olympus 17mm f1.8 prime closed to f4. This time I’d say the 40M version is better, but not as decisively so. The hairs on the brush show the biggest difference, with the 40M version resolving them more clearly, but again it’s not a massive difference this time. I wonder if the lens was a limiting factor? I’ll show another with the 17mm in a moment.

40M High Res Shot, 0.4 secs, f5.6, 200 ISO, 12-40mm at 18mm (36mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
Next up a still life of the classic fruit-bowl, this time shot with the 12-40mm f2.8 PRO zoom at 18mm f5.6. I focused on the strawberry stalk and in the crops you can see the 40M version resolving finer hairs and veins. Like the example above though, the difference may not be as great as you hoped, but it is a difference none the less.

40M High Res Shot, 1/15, f5.6, 200 ISO, 17mm (34mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
For my next example I wanted to go outside and try the 40M mode in natural light. First-up, the famous Astronomical Clock in Prague, which is packed with detail. I fitted the Em5 Mark II with the 17mm f1.8 prime, closed to f5.6 for sufficient depth of field across the frame, and kept it steady using a Gorillapod. Here the difference is clear in the crops with the 40MP mode clearly out-resolving the 16 Megapixel single frame. This isn’t interpolation – there is genuinely greater detail present in the 40M version. I think there’s also potential for greater too detail at more diffraction-friendly apertures. I know the 17mm performs best at around f4, but had to close it to f5.6 here to keep the subject sharp across the frame. I do however have some more shots later at optimal apertures, so keep reading! But the bottom line here is the 40M mode is quite usable for outdoor detail shots.

40M High Res Shot, 1/30, f8, 200 ISO, 7-14mm at 7mm (14mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
Next up another still life, this time taken from the Charles Bridge. I used the Lumix 7-14mm at 7mm for a 14mm ultra wide field of view, and again had to close it to f8 for sharpness across the frame. I know this is not ideal for avoiding diffraction on the Micro Four Thirds format, but again it illustrates the balances you’ll need to juggle when shooting in this mode. I used a Gorillapod to position the camera at the bottom of the railing, pointing up. This time I’m not sure there’s significantly greater detail in the 40M version, perhaps because of the resolution of the lens when closed to f8. As I’m discovering, the 40M mode will require careful evaluation of your lenses at various apertures to find optimal settings; some lenses also may not deliver any greater resolution.

40M High Res Shot, 1/125, f4.5, 200 ISO, 7-14mm at 14mm (28mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
Next I kept the 7-14mm fitted for a wide view of the bridge, but set to 14mm this time, while also opening the aperture to a more diffraction-avoiding f4.5. The two pairs of crops reveal the best and worst of the 40M mode. The first pair reveal the additional resolution you could enjoy, especially in fine tiling and railings. Just look at the orange roof in the lower left corner of the first crops and you’ll see them resolved perfectly in the 40M version, but suffering from nasty scaling artefacts on the single frame version. So far so good, but what about the water in the river? The second crop clearly shows how the water blurs into a mess and anything on it, such as birds or boats, will suffer from undesirable ghosting. As expected, this renders the 40M mode of debatable use when water is in the frame, but it could be possible to combine the buildings from the high res composite with a single exposure of the water – using the first RAW frame or a perhaps separate long exposure. After all, there’s not a great deal of resolution in water, especially on a long exposure, so comping multiple images could be an answer.

40M High Res Shot, 1/160, f4, 200 ISO, 75mm (150mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
Another solution for the 40M mode is to avoid any areas with motion in them, so here I shot from the same position as the image above, but switched to the Olympus 75mm f1.8 lens. This is a very sharp lens and here I’ve closed it to f4 for an optimal result. As you’d hope, the 40M version here shows the full potential, with much finer details. I’ve picked out a railing here that’s triggered some moire on the 16 Megapixel single frame, but which is perfectly resolved on the 40M version. The detailing on the wall is also far superior, and the trees, despite some possible motion, aren’t showing undesirable artefacts. So a triumph here for the 40M mode.

40M High Res Shot, 1/125, f5, 200 ISO, 45mm (90mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
If the 40M mode works so well for buildings, how about expansive city views like this one? I shot it with the 45mm f1.8 lens, closed to f5 where I know it performs well. As expected, the 40M version noticeably out-resolves the single frame, most obviously on tiling as seen in the first crop. But the broader the field of view, the more chance there is of motion somewhere. In the second crop I’ve looked at the road where the 40M version shows undesirable blurring on moving vehicles. Meanwhile workmen on the roof in the third crop also reveal blurring. To be fair, the blurring here is not as bad as the swans in the water on the earlier wide view, so I’d still be happy with the result.

40M High Res Shot, 1/3200, f4, 200 ISO, 17mm (34mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
From the cold grey skies of Prague I now take you West to sunny Brighton in the UK! This is my standard test shot and I was curious to see how the EM5 Mark II’s 40M Mode would handle it given the sea and the rotating observation wheel. The answer is as you’d expect. The 40 MP mode has definitely captured finer details in static areas, most notably the old Victorian railings see in the my first row of crops, and it also avoids the colour moire I often see in these areas. The second row of crops show the best and worst of the 40 MP mode: the antenna tower is better-resolved, but the observation wheel in motion has caused undesirable artefacts. Likewise for the sea in the third row, which is blurred in a bad way on the composited version. But the extra detail on the skyline would certainly have me considering it for tighter views which didn’t include the sea.

40M High Res Shot, 0.4 secs, f4, 200 ISO, 12-40mm at 19mm (38mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
Next I moved indoors for an interior test. The tiling in Brighton’s Dome building looks intricate and detailed, but actually doesn’t contain as much fine markings as you’d expect. So the most detailed area is in fact the fire action sign, which as you can see here contains a little extra detail in the 40MP version. It’s not a huge difference, but the text is definitely more legible in the 40MP version.

40M High Res Shot, 1/30, f5.6, 200 ISO, 12-40mm at 12mm (24mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
The main hall at the Dome building came next and here the 40MP mode has definitely resolved finer details in the lighting rigs in the roofing. You’ll also notice the ridges on the lamp shade are more easily resolved on the 40MP version. In the second row of crops I’ve concentrated on the flags promoting the festival. Again there’s more detail in the 40MP version, but unexpected motion has caused one of the pink flags on the right side to move and result in ugly composite artefacts. So even in this composition where I assumed everything would be static, there was still motion present. You really have to be very careful when shooting with the 40MP mode to avoid any motion issues.

40M High Res Shot, 1/60, f5.6, 200 ISO, 12-40mm at 27mm (54mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
To avoid any motion I thought I’d opt for a still-life close-up for my next example. But the surfaces on the Harley Davidson bike didn’t deliver significantly greater detail on the 40MP version here. The biggest difference was when concentrating on pipework or lettering, such as the crop here. So the moral is, your subject may be static, but if the surfaces aren’t that detailed to start with, you’re not going to capture much extra in the 40MP mode.

40M High Res Shot, 1/500, f4, 200 ISO, 12-40mm at 40mm (80mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
Here’s an exterior view of the Brighton Pavilion, a building I assumed would contain plenty of extra detail for the 40MP mode to resolve, but which again proved surprisingly resilient to give any up. In the end, I only really noticed a difference on the moss and plantlife growing on the building itself. Here the 40MP version has resolved greater detail on the textures atop this wall and railing.

40M High Res Shot, 1/320, f4, 200 ISO, 12-40mm at 40mm (80mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
Next-up a macro shot of a plant, a subject which was swaying a little in the breeze, so I assumed it would be an issue for the 40MP mode. But during my capture the plant stayed sufficiently still for the 40MP mode to capture an image free of motion artefacts. That said, the plant almost certainly moved fractionally between taking the 16 and 40MP versions, resulting in one being more in the plane of focus than the other, so some of the extra sharpness you can see could be down to that, but even then I think the 40MP version has resolved finer details.

40M High Res Shot, 4 secs, f8, 100 ISO, 17mm (34mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr
100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
As a long exposure enthusiast I was curious to see how the 40MP mode would handle these demands. Well, first things first, you’re not going to be doing hugely long exposures as the slowest shutter is limited to just eight seconds per frame. But even then I wondered if eight times eight second exposures could still deliver the nice blurring of motion desired by LE photographers. Here’s an example where the conditions allowed me to shoot at a shutter speed of four seconds. The first crops reveals that static subjects, like the pier, are rendered in high detail, but the second crop from the water’s surface sadly shows the undesirable herringbone pattern we’ve seen previously with subjects in motion. This is a result of the composite process, and even with four second exposures, it’s just not at all forgiving on subjects in motion.

40M High Res Shot, 1/60, f1.8, 800 ISO, 45mm (90mm equiv)

Click image to access original at Flickr. Click here for normal 16 Megapixel version.
100% crop from 16 Megapixel single frame100% crop from 40M High Res Shot
I’ll finish my comparisons here with a subject many have described as impossible with the 40M mode: a human portrait. I had the camera mounted on a Gorillapod and asked the model to keep as still as possible during the capture period. I took three shots in the 40M mode with similar results, but have chosen the best here. Looking at the crops I’d say there’s a subtle but visible benefit to the 40M version, especially in the eyelashes and skin. Through good luck and a great model, I’ve managed to avoid most motion artefacts, although again the resolution benefit isn’t anywhere near as great as the static buildings earlier. To be fair, the low light forced me to shoot at 800 ISO which in turn reduces the potential detail, and the wide aperture of f1.8 would also be unforgiving on any motion forward or backward. I’ll try and take another portrait under better light, although again the model will still need to keep perfectly still during the one second capture period as the limiting factor is the sheer speed at which data can be read-off the sensor. If you want eight frames on the EM5 Mark II you’ll need a second to capture them. This does however suggest that quicker data readout on a future sensor could perhaps reduce the capture time to a half or even a quarter of a second, reducing motion issues and opening up the possibility of other subjects including (carefully shot) portraits.

Model: Radka Vachalova, Concept: Patrick Ludolph, Makeup and hair: Nadja Neu.

When Olympus first told me about the new 40M High Res Shot mode, it was careful to manage mine – and other photographer’s – expectations. They recognized and acknowledged the limitations, explaining it was really only for shooting static subjects, ideally in a studio environment, like product photography. Exteriors and portraits were not recommended, but of course that’s exactly what I went and shot with the EM5 Mark II, just to see for myself. If you’ve had a good look at the examples above, and downloaded a few of my original files for comparisons, I think you’d agree that it can actually be quite a powerful tool outside the studio.

It works best with tighter views which allow you to keep any pesky moving subjects out of the frame. I was impressed by the additional resolution and absence of colour moire in fine details on buildings and think I could certainly exploit it in my own travel photography. What does become apparent though is the impact of your technique and settings, not to mention the lenses in question. First you need top quality optics, but secondly you need to be shooting at apertures where diffraction won’t be an issue, and for Micro Four Thirds with an effective 64 Megapixel pixel-pitch, that means larger apertures / small f-numbers typically around f4. I had to close-down further for a sufficient depth of field in some of my shots above, but in turn missed out on some of the ultimate detail that the 40M mode may have captured under more sympathetic settings. This could prove problematic when shooting still life in the studio.

You’ll also have to watch out for moving subjects in compositions which you thought were static. Buildings may not move during the one second capture period, but they almost always have people or vehicles moving around them. Birds flying across a frame can be particularly problematic, which will make seaside photography almost impossible in this mode. Water too proved an issue, and unfortunately the longest exposure of eight seconds rules out sympathetic blurring through smoothing. That’s not to say I’d rule out shots including water in them. The 40MP mode considerately records the first image separately to the rest, allowing you in theory to take certain elements from it – such as water – and composite it with the rest later. You could of course make a separate long exposure altogether for the water and sky, and comp that with the high res version of the buildings. There are certainly workarounds.

I think it’s well worth exploring the possibilities too, as when the subject and settings align, the results can look great. Even when less than ideal settings or optics meant there wasn’t much additional spatial resolution, there was always the benefit of effectively having red, green and blue information for every pixel in the 16 Megapixel array.

Indeed I ended up being more impressed by the subsequent elimination of colour moire than chasing additional detail, and this made me wonder if a simpler implementation in the future could just shift the sensor four times in whole pixel increments rather than eight. After all this would halve the capture time, opening up further subjects possibilities. I do however believe there’s an existing patent on shifting a sensor four times to eliminate the negative impact of a colour filter array, so unless Olympus wants to license it (or is even given the option to), we’re stuck with the eight shot version and its additional attempt to boost resolution. So going forward I hope a sensor with faster readout can be developed, allowing the eight shots to be captured in less than one second. I also believe it could be possible to overlay the pixel shift with stabilization information to perform both simultaneously, perhaps allowing handheld capture in this mode. It’s an exciting technology that I hope to see developed further.

Ultimately I was impressed with the possibilities and once again see how it could work outside of the studio if you’re careful. It’s all about managing expectations, and I hope buyers of the EM5 Mark II fully understand what this mode can and can’t do. Remember this is not a 40 Megapixel camera. It is a 16 Megapixel camera that can generate a 40 Megapixel file by stitching multiple images into one.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II movie mode

In the past Olympus has never been strong with video features, but this is something the company wants to address with the EM5 Mark II. Previously you could only shoot 1080p at 30fps, using modest bit-rates of 20 or 17 Mbit/s. Now the EM5 Mark II offers the choice of 24, 25, 30, 50 or 60p frame rates (regardless of region). All frame rates can be encoded with IPB at up to 52Mbit/s, while the 24, 25 and 30p options can be alternatively encoded in All-intraframe at 77Mbit/s. There’s no 4k though, a limitation attributed to the processor rather than heat which bodes well for future models.

Focus peaking which previously disappeared when filming is now available, and the built-in stabilization is offered with the full 5-axes. Movie makers also benefit from the fully articulated screen, and if they’re using the optional mini-grip, they’ll have a headphone jack to complement the existing microphone input. Taking a leaf from Panasonic, there’s now a popout tray on-screen which offers silent touch control over aperture, shutter and ISO. Meanwhile the HDMI port outputs a clean uncompressed signal for external monitors and recorders (4:2:2 8-bit). The camera will also have a stab at continuous autofocusing while filming and you can tap the screen to pull-focus if desired, although while it is possible to remotely trigger a recording using the smartphone app over Wifi, it’s not possible to pull-focus with your phone’s screen.

OMD EM5 Mk II video crop indicated by outer edge of red frame

When comparing stills with video filmed from a fixed tripod, it appears the EM5 Mark II makes a small crop to the coverage prior to scaling it down to a 1920×1080 frame. I’ve super-imposed a video grab over a normal photo opposite to illustrate this; the outer edge of the red frame indicates the 1080p video coverage.

From my own measurements, it looks like the initial crop is around 4000 pixels wide, from the original width of 4608 pixels. This is then down-sampled to 1920 pixels wide to generate Full HD. My guess-timate of 4000 pixels for the initial crop may not be 100% accurate, but I can tell you it’s definitely not as tight as 3840 pixels, which is a shame as while it would have involved a further reduction in the coverage, it would have allowed a very simple down-sample by exactly two times. I’m no camera engineer, but in my tests I’ve found cameras which employ an integer / whole number for down-sampling, like Canon’s EOS 5D Mark III or Panasonic’s Lumix Gh5 (in its 4k mode), manage to avoid moire, whereas those which employ a fractional factor generally suffer from artefacts. And wouldn’t you know it, while the EM5 Mark II’s video quality is indeed improved from earlier Olympus models, some moire is visible in the clips below.

So now let’s check out a selection of sample movies I filmed with a final production EM5 Mark II.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video 1: handheld pan with 75mm / 1080 / 60p / 200 ISO
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In this first clip I set the OMD EM5 Mark II to its best quality 1080 / 60p mode with Super Fine compression and base 200 ISO sensitivity. I fitted the camera with the very sharp 75mm f1.8 lens, set to f4 in Manual exposure mode and panned across the highly detailed distant city-scape handheld. As the camera moves over the extremely fine details, there’s inevitably some visible moire, but I’ve seen much, much worse, including from the EM5 Mark II’s predecessors. Olympus has done a good job here with the improved scaling and with careful filming it should be possible to avoid most artefacts. Most impressive though is of course the stabilisation which just works effortlessly even when handholding video at a 150mm equivalent focal length. This is the real highlight of filming with the EM5 Mark II.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video 2: tripod with 75mm / 1080 / 60p / 200 ISO
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In this first clip I set the OMD EM5 Mark II to its best quality 1080 / 60p mode with Super Fine compression and base 200 ISO sensitivity. I fitted the camera with the very sharp 75mm f1.8 lens, set to f4.5 in Manual exposure mode. The camera was mounted on a Gorillapod and the video triggered by hand. The static composition manages to avoid most of the moire seen on the previous handheld clip and there’s loads of detail here to pore over.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video 3: tripod with 17mm / 1080 / 50p / 200 ISO
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For my third clip I set the OMD EM5 Mark II to its 1080 / 50p mode and base 200 ISO sensitivity. I fitted the camera with the 17mm f1.8 lens, set to f4 in Manual exposure mode. I had the camera mounted on a Gorillapod here and the static scene again contains lots of detail and no issues with moire to mention.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video 4: low light handheld with 17mm / 1080 / 25p / 800 ISO
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In this clip I set the OMD EM5 Mark II to its 1080 / 25p mode with SuperFine compression and 800 ISO sensitivity. I fitted the camera with the 17mm f1.8 lens, set to f3.2 in Manual exposure mode and panned up to the top of the Cathedral, turned around and panned back down again, all handheld. This sort of thing is a breeze with the EM5 Mark II’s stabilisation, effectively eliminating the need for a steadicam in many situations.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video 5: low light handheld with 45mm / 1080 / 24p / 1600 ISO
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In this clip I set the OMD EM5 Mark II to its 1080 / 24p mode with SuperFine compression and 1600 ISO sensitivity. I fitted the camera with the 45mm f1.8 lens, set to f1.8 in Manual exposure mode and handheld the sequence. This is a really low light video and at f1.8 with no refocusing, it’s inevitable the model sometimes drifts in and out of the focal plane. But considering the conditions I’d say the camera’s done a good job here and it’s very usable footage. The stabilisation also makes it easy to gently pan without ever suffering from undesirable wobbles.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video 6: low light handheld with 12-40mm / 1080 / 24p / 400 ISO
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In this next clip I set the OMD EM5 Mark II to its 1080 / 24p mode and 400 ISO sensitivity. I fitted the camera with the 12-40mm f2.8 lens, set to 12mm f2.8 in Manual exposure mode. This is a handheld clip with me walking down stairs and panning around. It’s a tough test for the stabilisation, but the camera performs admirably, again rendering a steadicam mostly redundant for this kind of footage. I also tried running with the camera and the results were still respectable. It’s great Olympus has allowed the movie mode to exploit the full stabilisation, and also that the quality has improved to a point where the footage is very usable. It may still not be the best around, but it’s a massive improvement over the earlier models and makes the camera a tempting option for videographers.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video 7: Continuous AF / 1080 / 25p
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In my first continuous AF test I panned between a nearby subject and the background using the Lumix 25mm f1.4 lens, opened to f1.4 in Aperture Priority mode. The AF area was fixed over the lens in the foreground at the start of the video. As I panned the camera and rested on a new subject, the EM5 II detected the change and pulled the focus smoothly. As with all contrast-based systems though there was a small amount of hunting at both ends of the refocusing process. The camera then refocused back on the lens in the foreground, although as before there was a bit of a pause before it made the change. At the end when I return to the lens for the second time, the pause is even longer, but it got there eventually. Of course a lot of the success depends on the subject, but I’m not sure I’d use the continuous AF for anything other than casual filming.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video 8: Touchscreen focus-pulling / 1080 / 25p
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In my second continuous AF test I kept the camera still and repositioned the AF area using the touch-screen. The camera certainly refocused on the positioned I tapped both times during the video, but the refocus is excruciatingly slow for some reason, and therefore not particularly useful, at least in this scenario.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video 9: Continuous AF Dolly / 1080 / 25p
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For my third continuous AF test I made a continuous movement towards the subject and away from it again, in what’s known as a ‘Dolly’ move. Look closely and you’ll see the camera isn’t continuously autofocusing, but simply making regular adjustments, but that said it is at least keeping the lens mostly in focus as desired. Keep the motion slow and the EM5 II can do a fair job here, but ultimately you can’t beat a phase-detect AF system for this kind of thing.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample video 10: low light at 800 ISO / 1080 / 25p
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To test the low light capabilities of the OMD EM5 II, I filmed a series of tripod-mounted clips between 800 ISO and the maximum movie sensitivity of 6400 ISO. These were all filmed with the Olympus 17mm f1.8 in Aperture Priority mode. The clip shown above was filmed at 800 ISO; for the higher sensitivities, check out my OMD EM5 II at 1600 ISO, OMD EM5 II at 3200 ISO and OMD EM5 II at 6400 ISO. Below are 100% crops taken from each movie sample for side-by-side comparison.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II movie noise in low light / 1080 / 25p / 100% crops from composition above800 ISO (100% crop)1600 ISO (100% crop)3200 ISO (100% crop)6400 ISO (100% crop)

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II ontinuous shooting

The Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II offers two continuous shooting speeds with the mechanical shutter: High, which shoots at 10fps, and Low, which shoots at 5fps. Olympus quotes a buffer of 16 RAW frames, or unlimited JPEGs at Large Normal size or lower.

To put the camera to the test I used a freshly-formatted UHS-1 card, set the shutter speed to 1/500, the sensitivity to 400 ISO and locked the focus. Starting with the High Speed, I fired-off 14 Large Normal JPEGs in 1.27 seconds for a speed of 11fps. Beyond this, the camera slowed fractionally to 8.3fps, but seemed happy to continue shooting at this speed while memory remained. Switching to RAW let me capture 12 frames in 1.16 seconds for a speed of 10.3fps, after which the rate fell dramtically to around 2.5fps while memory remained.

Setting the camera to Continuous Low, still with the mechanical shutter, let me capture 75 Large Normal JPEGs in 12.57 seconds for a speed of 6.6fps, and the camera seemed happy to keep shooting at this speed while memory remained. Switching the quality to RAW let me capture 15 frames in 2.37 seconds for a speed of 6.3fps, after which the rate dropped again to around 2.5fps.

The OMD EM5 Mark II also offers continuous shooting with the electronic shutter in complete silence. Set to Silent High, I fired-off 88 Large Normal JPEGs in 11.26 seconds, for a speed of 7.8fps. Remember shooting with an electronic shutter can incur rolling shutter artefacts which could skew the image for subjects in motion, or when panning quickly.

In practice the EM5 Mark II shoots at roughly the same speed as the flagship EM1, but there’s two differences. First, the buffer is larger on the EM1, allowing it to capture up to 50 RAW frames in a burst, not to mention larger bunches of JPEGs recorded with milder (Fine or SuperFine) compression before it stalls or slows. Secondly, a firmware update in March 2015 allowed the EM1 to continuously autofocus at its top speed, whereas the EM5 Mark II can only do this at the Lower speed of 5-6fps. I’ve not yet tested how well the EM1 can track at its top speed, but the buffer difference is significant and measurable. Since both models can fire-off bursts at such quick rates, you can burn through the buffer on the EM5 Mark II in a couple of seconds depending on the quality. But the EM1 lets you keep shooting for longer periods at the top speeds and best quality modes. I’ll update this and my EM1 review when I’ve had a chance to retest the continuous AF performance on the flagship model.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II Wifi

The OMD EM5 Mark II features built-in Wifi, a feature that was absent from the original model. The implementation on the Mark II is essentially the same as the EM1 before it and allows you to wirelessly transfer images and remote control the camera using a free app on iOS or Android smartphones, or tag photos with a GPS log, again made by the app on yuor phone.

I regularly use Wifi to copy images onto my phone for quick and easy sharing, especially since I rarely feel the need to post-process them on a computer first. It was a feature I missed on the original EM5, so one that I’m very happy to find on the EM5 Mark II.

To get started, install the free Olympus Share app on your phone or tablet; it’s available for iOS or Android devices and I tested the latter on my Samsung Galaxy S4. Next tap the Wifi icon in the top right corner of the screen (you may need to press the info button to see it), then the EM5 Mark II will display a QR code on-screen.

If the camera and phone have not yet been paired, then simply start the Olympus app and point the phone’s camera at the camera’s screen to scan it – I was amazed how quickly this worked with the app getting the information it needed just as I began to point the phone at the QR code. From this point on the scanning shouldn’t be necessary. Starting the Olympus app will fire-up Wifi and look for the signal from a camera it’s already paired with and simply connect to it. I’d previously been impressed by the touch-pairing of NFC on Panasonic and Sony cameras, but this is as easy and possibly quicker too.

Once connected the app offers four main options: Remote Control, Import Photos, Edit Photo and Add Geotag. I’ll cover each in turn. Tapping Remote Control lets you see a live image from the camera and refocus it by tapping on your phone or tablet’s screen. Impressively you can remotely change the exposure mode between Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, iAUTO, ART and movie without touching the camera’s mode dial. Depending on the selected mode, you can then tap to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO and white balance, along with changing the drive mode, and of course triggering the exposure. If desired you can also dial the shutter speed in Manual all the way to Live Time and if previews are enabled on the camera you can view the peeking during the exposure along with the updated histogram on your handset’s screen.

New to the latest version of the app is the ability to configure a basic interval timer or trigger a movie recording. The interval timer is more like an advanced self-timer, taking no more than ten shots at intervals no greater than 12 seconds, but it’s still a handy update, and you can also configure it to capture bursts or movies instead if preferred. If you choose to record movies remotely with the camera you can’t touch the screen to reposition the AF area or pull-focus – something that is possible on Panasonic Lumix G cameras.

The second option on the app is to Import Photos and pressing it displays a thumbnail view of the card’s contents which you can scroll through. Tapping a photo displays it full-screen, after which you can pinch to zoom-in for a closer look, albeit not at the maximum resolution. If you like what you see you can save the image to your handset by tapping the floppy disk icon, or share it using the sharing icon alongside – of course once it’s saved onto your handset you can also share it later. In the separate settings page you can choose to import images for saving or sharing at 1024×768, 1600×1200, 1920×1440, 2048×1536 or their original resolution – JPEGs only though, not RAW files. It took about 12 seconds to copy an original JPEG measuring 6.6MB from a few inches away.

Choosing Edit Photo lets you perform a number of adjustments on images that have already been copied onto your handset. You can apply Art Filters, superimpose text, logos, even signatures written on your phone’s touchscreen, and play around with composite Photo Story arrangements.

Finally the Add Geotag option does what it says on the tin by tagging photos with positional information recorded by your phone. For this to work, you first need to switch on the Geotag feature from the app, and if desired, change the logging frequency from the default 60 seconds. After that the app will dutifully record your position at the preset intervals until you’re ready to sync them with the images on the camera.

The actual tagging is a very easy process: if it’s enabled the app will actually offer to tag your photos as soon as the phone and camera are next connected over Wifi. The process is fairly quick too, and the app can additionally plot a log on a Google map, although you may need to disconnect from the camera to load the map details from the internet.

In the example above, my Galaxy S4 had a good lock on the GPS satellites and allowed the Olympus app to tag the photo with a very accurate position. But like any other camera which relies on a separate device for collecting positions, it’s at the mercy of that device. If the phone is buried away in a bag or pocket, the accuracy could suffer, and an altogether better solution is to have a device collecting positional information that’s out in the open as you take the photo – namely your camera. I do wish manufacturers would integrate GPS into more cameras, but if we do need to tag via a smartphone, the Olympus solution at least makes it as quick and painless as possible.

Indeed I was impressed by the overall implementation and functionality of the Olympus smartphone app – the remote control really is powerful and useful, and the only way I’d improve it would be to have a more advanced interval timer, touch-focusing during movies and an automatic push from the camera for those wanting to sync or backup images online as they take them. Ultimately though, the implementation is well thought-out and useful, making it a key upgrade for existing EM5 owners who’s only wireless option has been image transfer via an Eye-Fi card (although that does at least let you copy JPEGs and or RAW files to laptops).

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sensor and processing

The Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II is equipped with a 16 Megapixel sensor that’s described as being similar to the original EM5, although details of any differences are not published. The resolution’s certainly the same, as is the absence of an optical low pass filter and the continued absence of embedded phase-detect AF points.

So for yet another generation Olympus has stuck with 16 Megapixels, which continues to rank Micro Four Thirds amongst the lowest resolution of all the current system cameras. Is this a problem? Personally speaking I’m completely at peace with this resolution, having shot most of my personal photography with 16 Megapixel Micro Four Thirds bodies for over three years now. Not once have I wished for higher resolution files or had anyone commenting on their lack of detail – indeed most seem to notice the sharpness in the corners due to excellent optics before anything else. But at the same time I know it proves off-putting for owners of higher resolution models who are considering a switch. It may involve a reduction in ultimate resolution and equally implies this is as far as the format is going in this respect. It’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself, although again if it offers any reassurance, I find the combination of 16 Megapixels and the excellent Micro Four Thirds lens catalogue a very satisfactory combination. Indeed I typically resolve more detail with an OMD fitted with a decent lens than a 24 Megapixel APSC camera fitted with an average lens.

Olympus has at least tried to address the relatively modest resolution with the new 40MP High Res shot mode on the EM5 Mark II, which shifts the sensor eight times and stitches the resulting eight images into one high resolution file. I’ve tested this feature in great detail earlier on this page and when presented with a static subject and a sharp lens, the results can show a noticeable boost in detail. Should the subject move during the capture, there’s some undesirable stitching artefacts, but use it carefully and it can certainly give the EM5 Mark II a useful hike in effective resolution. For general-use though, the EM5 Mark II is a 16 Megapixel camera, so you have to decide for yourself if this is sufficient for your needs.

In terms of image quality options, the EM5 II lets you record JPEG files at one of four quality settings. The clever part is you can configure the quality settings of these four options from a choice of three resolutions (Large, Middle, Small) and four compression levels (Super Fine, Fine, Normal, Basic); so if you like, all four JPEG options could be at, say, the maximum resolution but with different compression levels, or you could go for different resolutions, but all with the mildest compression applied. You can even customise the resolution of the Middle and Small options, with the choice of four for the former and three for the latter. As I’ve said throughout, Olympus doesn’t skimp on the degree of customisation.

Suffice it to say you can also record RAW files with or without an accompany JPEG, although RAW files are always at the maximum resolution and there’s no compression options for them. Using the default settings, Large Fine JPEGs typically measure between 7 and 8MB each, while RAW files weigh-in at around 15MB each.

The native aspect ratio is 4:3, so squarer than the 3:2 shape of most rival formats. You can choose to record in 3:2, 16:9, 1:1 or 3:4 shapes if preferred, although all involve cropping the original image. I’m fond of the 4:3 shape as it’s a close match for the classic 10x8in print size, and also works very well when composing in the portrait orientation.

The Picture Mode menu applies the contrast, sharpness, saturation, gradation and any monochrome filters as a series of presets or custom options. I used the default Natural mode for most of my test shots and found the typical Olympus colour is alive and well – indeed and I found out-of-camera JPEGs from the EM5 Mark II to be extremely satisfying, so much so I rarely processed RAW files unless I wanted to change the white balance, significantly modify the exposure or achieve an unusual effect. The concept of relying on JPEGs may be abhorrent to some enthusiasts for whom RAW seems to be the only option, but Olympus processes them better than most, and if you opt for minimal compression the EM5 II, like its predecessors, simply records great looking images with little or no intervention. You can see a broad range of examples in my OMD EM5 II sample images page.

As with all Live View systems, any image parameters can be previewed immediately on-screen. In terms of White Balance there’s Auto, seven presets, four one-touch options and the ability to manually set the colour temperature from a scale of 2000-14000K. Highlights and shadows can be adjusted using a tone curve, and the Mark II also inherits the Colour Creator option first implemented on the EM1 which uses a cunning on-screen circular interface to adjust satursation and hue. Saturation is represented by a concentric ring which can grow or shrink in diameter, increasing or decreasing the saturation respectively, while hue is adjusted by rotating a marker around the ring’s circumference. It’s quick and fun to make these changes using the twin control dial system, and shows Olympus is thinking about different ways to present the usual adjustments. By default, you can access the tone curves and Colour Creator wheel from Function Button 2, turning the front dial while pushing it to switch between them.

Finally, the sensitivity is available between 200 and 25,600 ISO, with an additional Low option, equivalent to 100 ISO. While the base sensitivity remains 200 ISO – and that’s the best option to record the broadest dynamic range – I welcome the inclusion of a Low option that was missing on the original EM5 firmware. If you’re shooting under bright conditions and want to open the aperture or select slower shutters to blur motion, a lower sensitivity option is always helpful.

Right, that’s enough talk, it’s time to check out my results and comparisons. Check out my Olympus OMD EM5 II quality, Olympus OMD EM5 II noise, Olympus OMD EM5 II sample images or skip straight to my verdict!

Page 2

To compare real-life performance, I shot this scene with the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II and Nikon D5500 within a few moments of each other, using their base sensitivities and taking care to match their vertical field of view. On this page I’m comparing out-of-camera JPEGs using the default settings. I’ll add a RAW comparison once both bodies are supported in Adobe Camera RAW. To make it interesting I’ve included three comparisons on this page using different lenses and quality settings to prove what you expect may not always be the case.

My first comparison here is with the OMD EM5 Mark II fitted with the high-end 12-40mm f2.8 zoom and the D5500 fitted with the DX 18-55mm VR II kit zoom; the lenses were set to f4 and f5.6 respectively for the best quality results on each system. So the first question is which will win in terms of real-life resolving power? A 16 Megapixel camera with a good lens, or a 24 Megapixel camera with an entry-level lens.

Even a cursory glance at my first set of crops below reveals that while the D5500’s 24 Megapixel images may be larger, they don’t actually contain any additional detail over the 16 Megapixel OMD EM5 Mark II. Indeed the crops made from the edges of the frame actually look crisper on the Olympus, even though the squarer aspect ratio means they’re actually made from closer to the edges than the Nikon.

The moral here is the importance of a decent lens, especially for high resolution bodies. To be fair the Olympus 12-40mm is a pro grade zoom so it should easily out-perform an entry-level kit zoom, but even so you’d be surprised how many people assume having more Megapixels is the key to higher image quality.

So the next natural question to ask is what happens when you fit the D5500 with something better quality, a lens that will allow it to enjoy its full resolution. To find out I reshot this scene with the D5500 fitted with the AF-S 50mm f1.8G, a prime lens that delivers excellent results. Scroll down to see how the combination compared.

Scroll down for that next comparison, or see how the noise levels compare in my Olympus OMD EM5 II noise results, or if you’ve seen enough, skip to my Olympus OMD EM5 II sample images or verdict.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II JPEG Using Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 at f4Nikon D5500 JPEG Using Nikkor DX 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 VR II at f5.6

For my second comparison, I reshot the scene with the Nikon D5500 fitted with the AF-S 50mm f1.8G, a high quality, but affordable prime lens. As before the Olympus ODM EM5 II was fitted with the 12-40mm f2.8 pro zoom.

This time the results from the D5500 are visibly crisper and enjoy higher contrast too, along with avoiding most of the edge softness seen in my first comparison above.

Look at the brickwork in the chimney stack on the second row of crops, the wrought-iron railings on the third row and the window frames on the fourth row, and you’ll definitely notice a little extra detail from the D5500 over the EM5 Mark II. But is it the extra you were expecting given the 50% higher pixel count? I’d also say the Olympus better avoids softness at the extremes of the frame, thanks to its slightly smaller sensor being easier to work with optically.

The OMD EM5 II also has an extra trick up its sleeve: by shifting its sensor and combining eight frames, it can effectively boost the resolution to 40 Megapixels. So for my third and final comparison on this page you can see how the EM5 II’s 40 MP mode compares against the native 24 Megapixels of the D5500 when both are equipped with decent lenses.

Scroll down for that next comparison, or see how the noise levels compare in my Olympus OMD EM5 II noise results, or if you’ve seen enough, skip to my Olympus OMD EM5 II sample images or verdict.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II JPEG Using Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 at f4Nikon D5500 JPEG Using Nikkor AF-S 50mm f1.8G at f5.6

For my third and final comparison on this page I reshot the scene using the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II’s new 40 Megapixel High Res Shot mode which shoots eight images, shifting the sensor fractionally between each one, before combining them into one composite image; I’ve included an in-depth report on the first page of my review. Here I’m comparing its output against the 24 Megapixel D5500 when the Nikon is fitted with a decent prime lens.

From the crops below I’d say the 40 MP mode on the Olympus slightly out-resolves the D5500 on most of the crops. You can see it in the signs, the brickwork and the railings, but most notably in the final row which shows a distant transmitter. Here the EM5 II delivers a noticeably superior result thanks in part to its high res mode and a lens which delivers crisp quality right up to the edges.

The 40 MP mode may be the EM5 II’s secret weapon against higher resolution cameras, but it’s not without its limitations. If anything moves during the eight-frame capture, you’ll suffer from ghosting artefacts, and you’d be surprised how many things move even in what appears to be a fairly static scene. This composition, for example, may be a fairly tight 75mm equivalent view of a city skyline, but features numerous vehicles and people in motion. Even awnings blowing in the breeze can cause issues as seen in the first row of crops.

I’ve made a detailed report on the pros and cons of the 40 MP mode in the main review, but if you can use it carefully with the right subject – and the right lens – you can enjoy some great results.

Now let’s see how the noise levels compare in my Olympus OMD EM5 II noise results, or if you’ve seen enough, skip to my Olympus OMD EM5 II sample images or verdict.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II 40 MP JPEG Using Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 at f4Nikon D5500 JPEG Using Nikkor AF-S 50mm f1.8G at f5.6
To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Olympus OMD EM5 II and the Nikon D5500 within a few moments of each other at each of their ISO settings.Both cameras were set to RAW+JPEG with 14 bit set for the D5500. Active D-Lighting was disabled on the D5500 and High ISO Noise Reduction set to the defaults for both bodies. I’m presenting the JPEG results here and will add RAW results once both cameras are supported in Adobe Camera RAW. Note there are comparisons with the Olympus 40MP mode lower on this page.In my first comparison you can see both cameras shooting at their native resolutions: 16 Megapixels for the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II versus 24 Megapixels for the Nikon D5500.With the crops taken from the middle of the frame where there’s no lens issues, both bodies are resolving a high degree of detail, but the D5500 enjoys a visible edge in resolution.This resolution advantage continues as the sensitivity increases – the benefit of a bigger sensor even when there’s more pixels on it. That’s not to say the EM5 Mark II is under-performing, it’s just that the higher resolution of the D5500 is resolving finer detail in this particular composition.In terms of noise and saturation based on these and other samples, I’d say both cameras perform very well up to 800 ISO, with the Olympus beginning to suffer a little more at 1600 ISO and above. As the sensitivity increases beyond 3200 ISO I’d say the larger APS-C sensor of the D5500 gradually gains an advantage of around one stop over the Olympus. But up to 800 ISO the noise levels are similar. I should also note the highly effective built-in stabilization of the Olympus means you’ll rarely need to shoot at high ISOs unless of course you need to freeze action in very low light, so when making comparisons do think carefully about how you’ll use the camera.Scroll down to see how the EM5 Mark II’s 40 Megapixel mode measures up or head over to my Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II sample images or skip to my verdict.
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II JPEG

The Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II offers a new 40 Megapixel High Res mode which captures eight frames, shifting the sensor slightly between each, before combining them into a single higher resolution image. Below I’ve compared the native 16 Megapixel output against the 40MP mode, the latter only available up to 1600 ISO.

The 40MP mode takes about one second to capture its eight images, so any motion which takes place during this process will result in undesirable artefacts. It therefore works best with still-life subjects like this composition, and it’s easy to see the additional detail captured. While it’s not obvious in this example, the 40MP mode also reduces colour moire that can plague very fine detail in normal pictures on any camera that employs a traditional Bayer colour filter array.

As the sensitivity increases, the 40MP mode remains clean, although since you’ll ideally need to shoot from a tripod, you may as well choose the lower ISO values. Below I’ve made one final comparison between the 40MP mode and the native 24 Megapixel output from the Nikon D5500.

Once again I’ll be updating these noise results with RAW comparisons when the EM5 Mark II is supported by Adobe Camera RAW, but in the meantime check out my Olympus OMD EM5 II sample images or skip to my verdict.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II JPEG Native 16 MegapixelOlympus OMD EM5 Mark II JPEG 40 Megapixel mode

In my final comparison here I’ve pitched the 40 Megapixel composite mode of the EM5 Mark II against the native 24 Megapixel output of the Nikon D5500. From the subject below, I’d say the Olympus is resolving slightly more detail, and as noted above, can also better-avoid colour moire in the finest details.

Of course the downside is the 40MP mode requires the entire subject to remain static during the capture process, which rules out most situations. But in a controlled studio or reproduction environment, it can work very well.

Once again I’ll be updating these noise results with RAW comparisons when the EM5 Mark II is supported by Adobe Camera RAW, but in the meantime check out my Olympus OMD EM5 II sample images or skip to my verdict.

Nikon D5500 Native 24 MegapixelOlympus OMD EM5 Mark II JPEG 40 Megapixel mode

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It's not a gimmick, it's magic: This 16MP Olympus shoots impressive 40MP stills

“Existing Olympus Micro Four Thirds owners should upgrade to the E-M5 Mark II, while new buyers should put it on the shortlist. It’s that excellent.”
  • High-quality stills and videos
  • Five-axis image stabilization
  • Superb high ISO handling
  • 40-megapixel photo mode
  • Highly customizable
  • Menu system and controls slightly clunky to use
  • Flash not built in
  • No 4K support

Olympus has enhanced its popular 16-megapixel, weather-resistant OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds (MFT) mirrorless camera with an excellent new edition that shoots better video, and has a special 40-megapixel still photo setting, Wi-Fi, and a number of other goodies. With a list price of more than $2,000 if you include a 12-40mm lens (the camera is sold body-only for $1,099), however, we have to ask ourselves: Do the new features justify the price? We think so, but the price puts it in competition with many heavy-hitting cameras from other brands.

Features and design

We have to take issue with Olympus for the Mark II designation: We’re getting tired of all the new Mark IIs and IIIs arriving from Sony, Canon, and others. Compared to its predecessor, there’s definitely a lot more to this new camera than a simple Mark II designation. Olympus should have given it a new name, like M6 perhaps.

The E-M5 Mark II looks similar to the original, but there are some big changes – particularly along the top deck, and especially the imaging innards (more in the Performance section below). Design wise, it looks like a classic interchangeable lens camera (ILC) and is available in all-black or silver-black configurations (our review sample was all-black). The body has a nice textured finish and a large thumb-rest on the back. We found the grip a bit small (short) but you have to do your own hands-on.

The unit measures 4.9 x 3.4 x 1.8 inches and weighs slightly more than a pound (body only, with battery). We’ll talk more about the glass in the Performance section below, but the $999 M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro (constant aperture, 3.3x zoom) lens Olympus provided for this review is a beauty, ranking up there with some of the better ones available from Fujifilm and others. Overall, the Mark II feels solid and sturdy, even though it was a bit tight for this reviewer’s hands.

The key feature on the front is the Olympus Micro Four Thirds mount. Olympus has close to two dozen prime and zoom options, ranging from the affordable to the seriously-priced M.Zuiko Pro series. Third-party choices are available as well, so, if you’re buying your first Olympus ILS, you have a good selection to choose from. Also on the front is an AF Assist lamp to help focusing, a covered external flash jack, depth-of-field preview, and lens-release buttons.

The 40MP images are nice and sharp, as long as the camera and photo subject are stable.

Speaking of that flash jack, the Mark II does not have built-in flash. Olympus supplies the FL-LM3 unit that attaches via the hot shoe. As a nice touch, the head rotates for more creative choices. We kept it attached at all times, which made the outfit look clunky, but it’s the rare camera you’re buying just for looks.

The reconfigured top is rather clunky too. It’s packed with more buttons than the original and the jog wheels have been repositioned. We found the small buttons difficult to maneuver, but we imagine an owner would get used to it over time. Starting on the far left is the locking main mode dial with the wedged-in power lever next to it, as well as stereo mics. Near the hot shoe are HDR/FN4 and Live View/FN3 keys, two jog wheels, one with the shutter, a movie key, and the FN2 button; FNs are programmable function buttons. That’s a lot of controls packed into a small space but the camera offers a lot of customization, so get ready to delve into the owner’s manual to make the most of it.

On the back are the 2.36-million-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) with diopter control, and a vari-angle 3-inch touchscreen LCD (rated 1.04 million dots); both are improved over the original E-M5’s. The older LCD could only tilt, while this one can swing outward from the body, making it more like a camcorder. This comes in handy since the Mark II also has improved movie quality (1080/60p versus 30p). The screen has some reflectivity issues in bright sunshine, so we had to use the EVF in those instances – a bummer when you are shooting movies. There’s a three-pinhole speaker here as well.

Other controls are the usual buttons surrounding a four-way controller with center OK button. There’s also the Function 1 button and a lever to adjust the parameters by turning the jog wheels (white balance, ISO, exposure compensation).

On the right side is the SD card compartment. We recommend using an UHS-1 card for best performance. The left side has mic, HDMI, and USB/AV-out connections; the mic and headphone jacks are new for the Mark II, which are important contributors to the camera’s improved video chops. The bottom has the battery compartment; the power supply is good for 310 shots, a bit below average for mirrorless cameras.

Since the Mark II has built-in Wi-Fi – not found on the E-M5 – you can transfer images to a smartphone (iOS or Android) for light editing or uploading to social networks, or operate the camera remotely. Download the Olympus Image Share app, and follow the instructions and scan the QR code that pops up on the LCD. The pairing is relatively simple, and we found it to be better than the average camera app.

What’s in the box

The box includes the camera body, the add-on flash, various caps and covers, a strap, the battery, and charger with AC cord. Olympus also supplies a printed basic manual, and the full manual is on the supplied CD. The disc also has Olympus Viewer 3 software (Windows/Mac) for handling RAW files.

Warranty

Olympus offers a limited one-year warranty for parts and labor.

Performance and use

The E-M5 Mark II uses a 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor. Olympus claims it has been redesigned, but it’s still only 16 megapixels – a figure that seems rather quaint in this era of larger, 24MP APS-C sensors found in competing (and some lower priced) mirrorless and DSLR cameras. One of our favorite models of 2014 is the still-available Sony A6000, which uses a 24MP APS-C sensor and costs $649 (body only). From a purely specs-on-paper view, the Mark II has some serious competition, and that’s not even taking into consideration cameras from Fujifilm and Samsung. Even with this “deficiency,” megapixels aren’t everything, and the OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a very capable camera.

  • 1. Hi-Res
  • 3. Special Effect

We used the Mark II over the course of several weeks in our Southwest locale. One of the most intriguing new features is a 40MP photo setting called Hi-Res Shot, which we jumped into immediately. Of course, this isn’t like the Canon EOS 5DS with its 50MP full-frame sensor. Here, Olympus uses sensor shifting to combine eight images to create the 40MP file. Olympus recommends using a tripod since it takes a few seconds to capture the frames. We did so, shooting a desert floral arrangement. First, we did it handheld, just to see if the five-axis image stabilization system could handle the job. It couldn’t, so we then used a Gitzo tripod (see sample). We were quite impressed by this feat. The images we shot were nice and sharp. However, shots of flowers – when a gentle breeze hit – were blurry. It shows that not only does the camera need to be stable, but so do the objects and subjects being photographed. If you want to take advantage of Hi-Res Shot, be prepared to carry around a tripod or find something stable to rest the camera on.

You have to move out of iAuto to use the Hi-Res setting. On the mode dial you’ll also find PASM, Movie, Photo Story (which combines several images), Scene, and Art. There are 19 Scene options and 15 art effects; we’ve always been partial to Dramatic Tone but your choices abound. High Dynamic Range, or HDR, is also available through the menu system. Speaking of which, we find the Olympus menu a bit clunky and not intuitive. Again, like the controls, we’re sure first-time owners will get used to the system eventually.

Overall the camera is very responsive with 5- and 10-frames-per-second burst shooting, plus it grabs focus very quickly. The five-axis image stabilization is excellent, on par with the more-expensive Sony A7 (another) Mark II. We were impressed with the 16MP images despite the smaller Micro Four Thirds chip. Colors were right on target, as was exposure and white balance. We have to give credit to that M.Zuiko lens, which ranks up there with big-name competitors. We achieved beautiful bokeh (blurred backgrounds) and, as we said, colors were rich and nicely saturated.

The Mark II shoots 1080/60p videos versus 30p for the older model. Movie quality is as good as the stills. The five-axis IS really helps with handheld panning and results are quite smooth. Some may knock the camera for not offering 4K video like some Panasonic Micro Four Thirds models, as well as new mirrorless models from Sony and Samsung. Olympus told us that it doesn’t think 4K is ready with consumers yet, so it decided to strengthen Full HD recording. We agree, but we expect the next version to support 4K in some form, since 4K HDTVs should become more common.

The camera has a native ISO range of 100 to 25,600. Olympus is to be commended here: Noise is kept well under control to 8,000 and even the max setting is usable at smaller sizes. In terms of digital noise handling, this model is definitely one of the better mirrorless performers, and even holds up to larger-chip competitors.

Conclusion

The new E-M5 Mark II is an excellent camera, and deserves an Editors’ Choice award. There are very few flaws, and the combo of the body and the M.Zuiko Pro lens is a beauty. If you’re an existing Olympus MFT user, it’s a terrific upgrade. If you weren’t fans of Olympus mirrorless cameras before, the Mark II will change your mind. Unfortunately, the body-and-lens combo puts the camera in the $2,000 category, and there’s a lot of competition in that mirrorless space from Fujifilm, Samsung, and Sony, and that’s not counting traditional Canon and Nikon DSLRs. But this is a good problem to confront: Olympus fans will be thrilled with the Mark II and other photographers should put it on their shortlist.

Highs

  • High-quality stills and videos
  • Five-axis image stabilization
  • Superb high ISO handling
  • 40-megapixel photo mode
  • Highly customizable

Lows

  • Menu system and controls slightly clunky to use
  • Flash not built in
  • No 4K support
Editors' Recommendations

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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

  • Camera reviews
  • Best mirrorless CSC
  • Best camera

• NEW: Olympus has issued an OM-D E-M5 II firmware update, and you can find out how to download and install it at this Olympus firmware web page. At first glance the OM-D E-M5 II firmware update 1.1 looks relatively minor, with just three changes, but two of them are actually quite important.

Most significantly, Olympus has addressed the issue of noise appearing in some High Res Shot images. We did notice this if there was some movement in the subject between frames.

Olympus has improved the speed at which information is displayed when you first switch the camera on. The third enhancement is to audio added to movie files created with the My Clips editing feature – the audio can now be faded in and out.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 was the first camera in Olympus's OM-D line of Micro Four Thirds compact system or mirrorless cameras, and hence it is sometimes referred to as the original OM-D. Its built-in electronic viewfinder and more SLR-like design distinguished it from the Olympus Pen series of compact system cameras. It was also aimed at more experienced photographers than the Olympus Pen or Pen Lite.

As the name suggests, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is the replacement for the original E-M5 and it sits between the top-end OM-D E-M1 and the lower-level OM-D E-M10 in the Olympus range.

The E-M5 II uses a slightly modified version of the Four Thirds type (17.3 x 13mm) sensor in the original E-M5 but the effective pixel count remains at 16.1 million. It is coupled with the TruePic VII processing engine of the E-M1.

Inside the E-M5 II is a modified version of Olympus's 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor and an enhanced 5-axis anti-shake system.

The new camera brings a small collection of significant upgrades on the original model. For many the most important of these is its ability to create 40 million pixel JPEG images or 64Mp raw files automatically in its High Res Shot mode. It does this by taking a sequence of 8 images in quick succession and using the upgraded Image Stabilizer to shift the sensor by a tiny amount between shots. The camera then combines these images into a 40Mp composite.

Olympus is working on speeding up the process of producing these high-res images, but for now it takes around 1 second to capture the images and 2.5 seconds to merge them together. This makes the High Res Shot mode a tripod-only feature that's designed for use with motionless subjects.

It's worth noting that although the original E-M5 has an excellent 5-axis sensor-shifting image stabilisation system, Olympus says that this has been improved for the Mark II camera. The manufacturer claims that it offers an extension in the safe hand-holdable shutter speed of up to 5EV. That's the difference between 1/500sec and 1/15sec.

Despite their close connection, both Olympus and Sony are adamant that they use their own stabilization systems and the stabilizer in the Sony Alpha 7 II is not the same as the one in any of Olympus's cameras.

Another significant upgrade brought by the Mark II camera is the introduction of a vari-angle screen. In the past Olympus has favoured tilting screens, so this is a significant step forward that makes it easier to compose images at a range of angles in upright or landscape format. As before, the screen is touch-sensitive and measures 3-inches across the diagonal, but its resolution has been boosted from 610,000-dots to 1,037,000-dots. However, it's an LCD rather than an OLED screen.

The electronic viewfinder (EVF), which shows 100% of the scene, has also been improved and has 2,360,000 dots rather than the 1,440,000 dots of the original E-M5's.

Current page: Introduction and features

Next Page Video and exposure innovations

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