The Olympus OM-D E-M5 was the first camera of the Micro Four Thirds compact system or mirrorless cameras in the Olympus OM-D line, and is thus often referred to as the original OM-D. It was differentiated by its built-in electronic viewfinder and more SLR-like style from the compact system cameras of the Olympus Pen series. It was also geared at photographers who were more seasoned than the Olympus Pen or Pen Lite.
As the name suggests, the replacement for the original E-M5 is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and it lies in the Olympus spectrum between the top-end OM-D E-M1 and the lower-level OM-D E-M10.
In the original E-M5, the E-M5 II uses a slightly changed version of the Four Thirds form (17.3 x 13mm) sensor, but the effective number of pixels stands at 16.1 million. It is paired with the E-TruePic M1’s VII processing engine.
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Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Price
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Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Build and Handling
It may be thin, but the OM-D E-M5 Mark II feels very nicely built and is pleasantly sturdy in the hand with its magnesium body. It is both dust- and water-proof, down to -10 degrees C, as well as freeze-proof.
The front finger grip gives a decent buy, but as is always the case, there is just enough room for two fingers. So your little finger is likely to be curled under the camera as your index finger rests on the shutter trigger. There are, however, a few optional grips available which, if you need to, stretch the camera a little. The HLD-8G has a more pronounced front grip for the camera, a more prominent shutter and control dial unlock, as well as a microphone port. Meanwhile, HLF-6P, which attaches with the HLD-8G, produces a second grip with another shutter release button and dial along with a couple of extra custom buttons for use in portrait orientation. In order to prolong firing times, this grip can even hold a charger.
There’s a small but efficient thumb rest on the back of the camera that fits with the front grip to make the camera feel secure in your hand during and during shots. Without the very stiff neckstrap that is offered, I find the camera more convenient to use and hold. This connects to the top front corners of the camera through lugs and when I reached for the shutter release, I noticed it always got in my way.
As stated earlier, in the Olympus OM-D range, the E-M5 II sits between the E-M1 and E-M10 and its control structure is halfway between the two. The Mark II has a few additional buttons on the top-plate as opposed to the original E-M5. For making settings changes and the mode dial, as before, on the left, there was also a rejig to the dial setup of two fairly wide dials on the right. The control button is next to/under the mode dial now.
The mode dial has a lock that can or can not be used if you wish, taking a few cues from the E-M1, and there is a button on the back of the camera that is used to alter the dial-adjusted choices. A mixed blessing is this turn. In the one side, the number of choices that can be easily changed through the dials is doubled, but on the other, you need to note which configuration the switch has to be on to reach the controls you want. You get into the groove of things after you’ve been using the camera for a bit, but you should predict some irritation in the early days.
The cameras are highly versatile, one of the great features of the OM-D range, so you can set them up to fit your tastes. However, discovering and learning all the choices will take quite a while, so it is fair to use the camera in the default arrangement for a while before customizing a few controls to see how you get on.
Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Performance
Noise is very well regulated from ISO 100-6400 to the regular (16Mp) files, although some luminance noise is visible at 100 percent in images taken at the lowest sensitivity settings. Unusually, the JPEG images taken in the normal settings appear very similar to the raw files stored in the Olympus Viewer program supplied with all noise reduction switched off. There is nothing in the way of chroma noise (colored speckling) noticeable even at the highest sensitivity setting, but luminance noise is present at all values.
The ISO 6400 results are pretty good, but stepping up to ISO 12,800 raises the amount of apparent smudging in images displayed at 100% and decreases in color saturation. When scaled to render A3 prints, The pictures still appear a little softer than ISO 200 images but are still passable. ISO 25,600 raises the degree of smudging more, using the highest sensitivity mode, but the gap between these and ISO 12,800 images is barely visible at A3.
The effects of ISO 6400 are very good, but stepping up to ISO 12,800 increases the amount of visible smudging in images viewed at 100% and reduces the saturation of color. These images still look a little bit softer than ISO 200 images when scaled to make A3 prints, but are still passable. ISO 25,600 uses the maximum sensitivity mode to improve the degree of smudging further, but the distance between these and ISO 12,800 images is scarcely visible at A3.
As standard, colors are treated well in Natural Picture mode, but if you are looking for a different treatment to be added to the JPEG files, there is a range of other options such as Vibrant, Subdued, Portrait, Monotone and i-Enhance as well as the Custom and Color Designer options. Ses options are useful when shooting in High Res Shot mode and when concurrently shooting raw and JPEG images.
Although it is possible to add the Art Filter effects when shooting raw files as well as JPEGs, they cannot be used while shooting in High Res Shot mode.
Part of the appeal of the Olympus Image Styles and Art Filters is that by choosing various designs or effects, such as vignetting or frames, the effects can be personalized. The art filters that you like best and then bracket shots can also be picked (ie produce a series of images at different settings with just one press of the shutter release). This implies that you get a set of JPEGs, each with one of your favorite Photo Style and Art Filter effects, in addition to having a ‘clean’ raw file for processing. Also, you can receive a JPEG with the currently chosen image type added.
Although it does not have the Olympus OM-D E-M1 hybrid AF system, the AF system of the E-M5 Mark II is really strong. It gets subjects sharp easily in standard daytime conditions and while it suffered a little bit more than the Canon 5D Mark III I was using at the same time, I was able to get sharp pictures of a band performing in horrible lighting conditions. In the gloomy lighting, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens searched about a little, but in many situations it was always able to lock on to the moving objects and produce good results.
As I was shooting a moving subject, the image stabilization device of the E-M5 Mark II was unable to aid when shooting the band, but it is still very helpful in other dark situations. I have reliably sharp results when shooting with the M Zuiko Optical 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ ED MSC kit lens at 14-17mm, which translates to 28-34mm in full-frame terms, with inspection at 100 percent at 1/6sec. Most of the shots I took at 1/5sec are sharp at 100% as well.
Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Video Performance
The rendering of exposure and color is the same as with stills. There is also lots of clarity in Full-HD footage and low-light output is fine. Olympus did not provide any reason for it, but it is well regulated by the influence of the rotating shutter that often results in the well-known ‘jello’ effect of sloping or wobbling straight lines in images of moving objects or when the camera pans.
We have also discovered that video footage makes a huge difference to the stabilisation system. When turned on, handheld footage looks much smoother and steadier, but as with other (lens-based) stabilization systems, if the videographer is moving and the stabilization is pushed to its maximum level of compensation, when the sensor reaches the end of its travel range, you are likely to see a brief sharp motion. But the outcomes are very impressive if motions are kept smooth on steady-hands.
In short, the stabilization would not allow you to create absolutely smooth footage while walking, and it is still important to have good technique and experience in handling the cameras, but it has a dramatically positive effect.
Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Conclusion
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a highly capable camera that provides flexible and comprehensive power. Its complexity, however, should not be underestimated. There are automated solutions designed for less skilled photographers to use, but they are more suitable for passionate or advanced photographers to use. In the early days, even these users would definitely face a few frustrations as they get to know the camera.
Although the High Res mode has quite a few limitations, it delivers amazing images that provide far more detail than the normal 16Mp files.