- Sensor: 16mp four thirds sensor with no AA filter
- Image Processor: True Pic 7
- LCD Screen: 3” 1,037,000 dot articulated LCD touch screen
- Weight: 469g/1.03lbs Memory: Single SD card slot
- Weather Sealing: Yes
- WIFI: Y
- EVF: 2.36 million dot Electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage and 1.48x magnification
- Image Stabilization: In body 5 axis image stabilization ISO: 200-6400 (expandable to a low of 50 and a high of 25,600)
- Shutter: 60 seconds to 1/8000
- Framerate: Up to 10 frames per second when shooting jpeg, with image stabilization turned off, but the buffer on this camera is awful, which I’ll discuss later.
Other photo features include:
- Built in HDR
- 40MP high resolution mode
- Time lapse mode with in body movie creation
- Live Composition mode
- Keystone compensation and
- Live bulb mode image preview and more.
This little camera has a pretty amazing feature set for photos. Now traditionally Olympus hasn’t been super strong on the video front. In terms of mirrorless cameras, Panasonic and Sony have been the real standouts in video, while Olympus and Fuji have lagged pretty significantly behind.
On the EM5 II we can see that Olympus is starting to take video more seriously, which I cover later in the video. For now, let’s start with the body and design of this camera.
BODY & DESIGN
This little camera is rock solid, and it’s a real looker.
Of course, how a camera looks has nothing to do with it’s performance as an image making device, but we’d all be lying if we said the looks didn’t matter.
So the camera looks great, but the charger is crap.
Now to be fair, Olympus isn’t the only company guilty of this. I’ve seen the same crap chargers from Fuji, Pentax and other camera manufacturers.
Back to the body. It’s a magnesium alloy body that is dust, splash and freeze proof down to 14 degrees fahrenheit.
The body weighs just barely over a pound, and as a mirrorless micro 4/3 camera, it’s a compact little camera.
Despite it’s size, it is very easy to hold and operate. This camera is loaded with customizability.
On the front of the camera you’ve got a nicely sized finger grip that makes holding the camera very comfortable. A customizable function button, a pc sync port and the lens release button.
On the top we have the mode dial, with a plunger lock switch that I love. In my opinion, this is how all physical dials with locks should operate.
Also on top: the power switch, flash hot shoe, (the EM5 II comes with an accessory flash).
To the right of the hot shoe are four customizable buttons, two control dials and the shutter button.
The function 4 button is labeled HDR, which is its default feature.
The function 3 button’s default is to activate the super control panel, which is a quick menu.
The function 4 button’s default is a multifunction button that allows you to access the shadow/highlight, color, aspect ratio controls and the magnify option.
And the record button records by default but can also be customized.
By default when in manual mode, the front dial controls the shutter speed and the rear dial controls the aperture.
On the back you have the fully articulated LCD touchscreen, the electronic viewfinder, the viewfinder diopter, another customizable function button, a customizable lever switch, and the standard menu, info, ok, image review and delete buttons and a directional pad.
And if you have the 12-40mm f2.8 pro lens, you’ve got one more customizable function button right on the barrel of the lens.
So this camera has 7 customizable buttons, one customizable lever switch, and on top of that you can customize how the control dials work. You can change which of the dials controls aperture and shutter speed, and which direction you spin the dial to customize how you change your aperture and shutter speed.
Oh, and there’s a very nice thumb grip on the back of the camera, and two very sturdy lugs for attaching your camera strap of choice.
All in all, this is an amazingly designed camera and I don’t know if there is another camera out there that offers as much customization as this one does.
The biggest drawback to the design of this camera is that the control dials are very easy to move accidentally, making it too easy to change your aperture and shutter speed without realizing it.
Despite the issue of the dials, I love the design of this camera. I love how it feels in my hands, and I love how intuitive it is to work with once you customize it to fit your style.
So shooting with this thing is delightful, and the images it produces are just as delightful.
Lots of people still worry about micro four thirds cameras because of the smaller sensor.
In the world of sensor sizes, the four thirds sensor is the APS-C sensors little brother. To some people that immediately means poor low light performance, an inability to get shallow depth of field, and questionable image quality.
That’s just not the case.
Here’s an example. This is one of the first photos I took with the EM5 II and it’s great. Super shallow depth of field at f2.8, beautiful colors and sharp details. Here’s another with some fine details to show the sharpness, which of course is as much about the 12-40mm f2.8 pro lens as it is the camera itself, and as you can see, the details are really fantastic.
click to see the full resolution image on flickr
And this camera is no slouch in ISO performance either. Yes, being a four thirds sensor it’s ISO range is more limited than some cameras, with a base ISO of 200 and a max native ISO of 6400.
And you’ve already seen a couple of shots at ISO 200, so we’ll just skip right to ISO 6400 and see how it looks.
Which is not bad at all, in fact I think it’s pretty great. Is it noisy? Certainly. It’s ISO 6400. It should be noisy, but in my opinion that noise isn’t bad at all. The noise is quite pleasing and the overall quality in my opinion is great. You can also expand the ISO to 12800 and 25600.
click to see the full resolution image on flickr
And as you can see here, as 12,800 it’s really not bad. The noise is significantly more pronounced, but it’s hardly terrible and If I had to I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot this camera at 12800.
But 25600 is another story.
At 25,600, there’s some pretty serious image degradation, which is to be expected from an expanded ISO setting, but overall, the image quality from the EM5 II is fantastic, and I don’t find the 16 megapixels to be a limiting factor.
I’ve successfully printed beautiful 20×30 inch prints from 8 megapixel images, so for my purposes 16 megapixels is just fine.
Certainly if you were shooting billboards or other work that required enormous prints 16 megapixels could be limiting, but that brings us to the 40 megapixel high resolution mode. This mode is pretty cool. It has its limits, but despite that it’s a great option to have.
What this mode does is use the sensor stabilization system to take eight photos, shifting the image sensor for each photo, and then joining them all together to create a single 40 megapixel photo. And in my testing, this is pretty fantastic.
You’ve got to use this under the right conditions though, because this is a sequence of eight photos stitched together, so you’ll want to be using a tripod, and shooting moving subjects isn’t going to work out so well.
click to see the full resolution image on flickr
As you can see here when shooting in the field the wind blowing the trees introduces ghosting/blurring, so moving subjects are a no go for this. However in the studio, the results were fantastic.
click to see the full resolution image on flickr
This is the studio test, and I didn’t shoot this photo with flash, but if you’re shooting an inanimate/unmoving object, you can use flash. One of the cool things is that you can set the “charge time” between each of the eight shots to give your lights a chance to recharge.
And the results are fantastic. I am really impressed with this. The detail and resolution is just stunning!
The 16 megapixel images you get natively from the EM5 II will give you 10 x 15 inch prints. With the 40 megapixel high mode, the image will print without upscaling at 16 x 24 inches.
What’s even better is that Olympus is working to make this mode usable while hand holding the camera, and what really excites me is the potential to someday use this while shooting portraits!
One of the very cool things that Olympus has is the in body image stabilization. Not only does it allow for the 40 megapixel high resolution mode, but it gives you 5 axis image stabilization with any lens you put on the camera.
This is pretty fantastic. Image stabilization is great for shooting longer shutter speeds to give you sharp photos, allowing you to shoot below the reciprocal rule shutter speed for your lens.
In other words, without image stabilization, with a 50mm lens you’d need to shoot at around 1/50 in order to handhold the camera and get a sharp photo.
The OMD EM5 II claims up to 5 stops of image stabilization, meaning that with a 50mm lens, you are supposed to be able to shoot with a 1 second shutter speed and still get a sharp photo.
In my testing, I was able to shoot at 1/2 of a second and get great stabilization with the lens zoomed to 40mm, but I wasn’t able to get a sharp photo with a one second shutter speed.
However even though I couldn’t get a sharp hand held shot at one second, you can definitely see the difference the stabilization makes.
And to be fair, I may not have the steadiest hands. Other EM5 II shooters out there have claimed successfully sharp photos with one second shutter speeds, so the effectiveness of the stabilization will vary depending on how steady a shooter you are.
Okay, let’s look at the Auto Focus performance.
The EM5 II has on sensor contrast detect auto focus with 81 focus points that cover the majority of the frame.
Choosing a focus point is nice and easy. just hit any one of the directional pad buttons and it brings up the focus point selector grid.
You can then use the directional pad or the two control dials to select your desired focus point. When using the control dials, the front dial moves the focus point horizontally and the back dial moves it vertically.
I found the focus to be fast and accurate, with a tendency to miss the focus target.
The upside to when it misses focus is that it misses spectacularly, so when you’re looking through the viewfinder it’s very obvious that you need to try to achieve proper focus again.
The tracking focus was pretty average, which is not bad at all when you consider that one of the challenges mirrorless cameras have been facing is the general superiority of DSLR focus systems with their dedicated auto focus modules.
So when I say that it was pretty average, that’s praise and not criticism, because generally speaking, the EM5 II performed as well as all the DSLRs I’ve ever shot with and tested when it comes to tracking a moving subject.
Here’s an example sequence, made doubly more difficult by being a terribly lit situation, with a moving subject and a slowish shutter speed of 1/50, and the camera handled it quite admirably.
And overall, I was very happy with the auto focus performance of the EM5 II, both in good lighting and in low light situations I found it reliable to use.
Since we’re talking about focus, I also want to take a moment to mention the focus peaking that you can use to assist manual focusing with any lens you put on the camera.
You can set the peaking color to red, yellow, white or black, and then in the viewfinder as you rotate the focus ring of the lens, you’ll see the area of the scene highlighted with the peaking color to indicate that it’s in focus.
In short, it’s fantastic, and I was immediately shooting in manual focus in all kinds of lighting situations and getting great photos with manual focus.
Being a mirrorless camera, before we move on I need to talk about the electronic viewfinder.
It’s big, with a 1.48 times magnification, it’s nice and big, which is beautiful, and it’s fast.
There is a tiny bit of lag in the viewfinder when you move the camera, especially if you’re whipping the camera around, but for normal users, but it’s not bad at all,
In short, I love it. I Love everything about this viewfinder. It’s big, it allows you to see in the dark, it helps you manually focus like a champ, it gives you all the information you want and need in the viewfinder, I flat out have no complaints about the viewfinder. I think it’s great.
Real quick I want to address the burst rate that I mentioned earlier. This camera is rated for up to 10 frames per second when shooting without image stabilization, and that’s a pretty good frame rate, beating out a lot of modern cameras.
However, that framerate is only so helpful when you have as pathetic a buffer as you do on this camera, which can only hold about 15 JPEGs before it slows down the camera.
So, I wouldn’t recommend this camera for serious sports shooting.
Okay, we’re nearing the finish line here! The EM5 II is a camera where you can see that Olympus is starting to take video a bit more seriously.
Let’s look at the specs:
- Resolution: Full 1080p HD and 720p HD video, both capable of recording at 60, 50, 30, 25 and 24 frames per second.
- IS: Full 5 axis image stabilization available
- mic: stereo
- Mic Input: Yes with manual levels control Full Manual: Yes, with shutter locked to prevent shooting at slower than the frame rate
So first, the stabilization. Five axis image stabilization while shooting video is amazing, and as you can see here in this video where I walked across my yard, the stabilization is fantastic.
[iframe id=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/jqM3hZ8poNc” align=”center” mode=”lazyload” maxwidth=”700px”]
It’s of course not 100% perfectly smooth, but it is nothing short of amazing, especially when you compare it to the same video shot without stabilization.
And as to the quality of the video and the sound in general, I’ll let you judge for yourself, as I’ve been recording this entire section on the video capabilities of the EM5 ii with the EM5 ii in full 1080p at 30 frames per second.
Finally, I want to talk about a few other things that don’t categorize nicely.
First, the built in wifi and the app.
In short, it’s great. In fact, I think what Olympus did was pretty brilliant. When you activate the WiFi on the camera, you get this QR code on the LCD screen with instructions to scan the code with the free Olympus share app.
When you scan that code, it automatically configures the phone to be able to connect to the camera’s wifi network.
On the iPhone you’re prompted to accept the network credentials, and once you do that, you just go to your WiFi settings and connect to the EM5 II network.
So I went through this setup, and it worked flawlessly. After setting up the WiFi network and connecting to it, I launched the app and I was immediately able to browse and download photos, control the camera remotely, geotag photos using the phone’s GPS data and a whole lot more!
When using the app to control the camera you can set the shooting mode, anything from full manual to movie mode and back again.
While in full manual mode, you have control over aperture, ISO, shutter speed, white balance and drive mode,
And you can touch the live preview of the image on the phone screen to focus the camera, and of course you have the shutter button to actually take the photo.
When you switch the app to video mode you have control over your Aperture and Shutter Speed, but oddly enough, you can’t change the ISO. Instead it inherits the ISO setting from whatever it was last set to in Manual mode.
This is kind of odd, because you can change the ISO by going to manual mode and changing it and then going back to movie mode, but you can’t change it directly in movie mode.
The best feature of the app is the live bulb mode. When I tried this out, I was SUPER excited!
Live bulb is a variation on bulb mode.
Traditionally in bulb mode you press and hold the shutter for as long as you want to take the photo, and when you let off the shutter button to finish the photo, you get to see the result.
With live bulb mode on the smartphone app, you put the camera in live bulb for the shutter speed, set your Aperture and ISO, and any other settings,
and then you press and hold the shutter button.
While you’re holding the button, on your smartphone you see the photo as it’s being exposed, allowing you to know exactly what the photo will look like!
As you watch it develop, when you like the exposure you just let go of the shutter button and you’ve got the photo!
All in all, this app and the WiFi on the EM5 II is extremely well done. The worst problem the app has is that odd inability to directly change the ISO in movie mode, but outside of that, It was pure joy to use this app.
And with the app, you can only download photos from the camera that are saved as jpegs, so if you’re a RAW shooter like I am, you’ll need to set the camera to shoot in RAW + JPEG if you want to be able to download the images to your smartphone.
All in all, I think the OMD EM5 II is a fantastic camera. And I mean really fantastic. So much so that I’m going to buy one.
I could stop there, but let’s go a little deeper.
The camera produces fantastic images, and performs great in low light.
Is it the best camera in the world for shooting low light? No, but it performs really well, with very good high ISO performance aided by pretty amazing 5 axis in body image stabilization.
It has a fantastic electronic viewfinder that I love using, it’s packed full of features like wifi, live bulb mode, live composition mode and built in HDR, and is fully customizable.
It has a distinct advantage over DLSRs in size and weight, and a full featured video mode with full 5 axis in body stabilization which makes for fantastic handheld video shooting.
Where the EM5 II falters is in burst shooting. The 10 frames per second looks good on paper, but the weak camera buffer means you only get around 15 shots off before the frame rate drops dramatically.
Aside from the weak buffer, I love this camera, and overall, it equals or betters comparably priced mirrorless and DSLR cameras.
The thing I love most about the EM5 II, is that it’s the kind of camera that will mold itself to you and your shooting style, rather than forcing you to conform to the designers’ and manufacturer’s ideas of how you should shoot.
Bottom line, I highly recommend this camera. If you’re considering it, do yourself a favor and buy it.
Your camera is an amazing tool, but it’s no good to you if you don’t know how to use it!
If you want to take control of your camera and use it to take amazing photos like a pro, check out my Guide to Shooting in Manual Mode video course.