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Mar 28

Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

Image Quality

Ohio Statehouse - Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO @ 25mm, f/5.6, ISO 200

Ohio Statehouse – Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO @ 25mm, f/5.6, ISO 200

Dynamic Range and Color Response

The E-M5 Mark II features the same 16 megapixel 4/3 sized sensor that appeared in the original E-M5, wiht some minor tweaks and software upgrades for processing. As a result, image quality in standard shooting modes is largely similar between the Mark II and the original E-M5, so if you own the first version of the camera (or any recent Olympus Micro 4/3 camera), you have a good idea of the overall image quality. Images contain good color response with a somewhat crisp tonal curve. The dynamic range is quite excellent for a sensor of this size, and provides plenty of latitude for capturing highlights and shadows, even with wide differences in brightness.

Olympus color is something you hear a lot of, and that refers predominantly to the JPEG engine.  Colors in JPEG mode are indeed quite good, with good saturation, but more importantly a natural look that isn’t overcooked.

Noise and Detail

The E-M5 Mark II doesn’t really make any great strides in noise control over previous Micro 4/3 cameras, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, though I am excited for several manufacturers, Olympus included, to start using a more up-to-date sensor.  The E-M5 II produces images with high levels of detail at base ISO and even retains quite good detail at high ISO as well. Of course, with static scenes, the high-resolution mode brings the E-M5 Mark II into a whole other realm in comparison with the competition, though I think I discussed that enough on the previous page.

The E-M5 Mark II has similar noise response to other recent Micro 4/3 cameras. Despite not really improving on the original E-M5 in this department, the camera is still more than capable of producing high quality results at higher sensitivities.  Noise becomes noticeable around ISO 800, but good detail and accurate color are retained all the way to ISO 6400, which yields good images as long as you don’t mind a bit of grain, or you perform careful noise reduction.  ISO 12,800 can be used in a pinch for web display or small prints, but ISO 25,600 becomes too noisy for general use, and a bit of a magenta color cast creeps into the image.

It’s worth noting that the excellent in-body IS can help mitigate the use of higher ISOs on this camera.  And in fact, I found after my time shooting with the camera that I only pushed ISO beyond ISO 800 for a handful of shots, and I didn’t take a single image above ISO 1250 in my natural shooting, aside from some test photos indoors to evaluate ISO performance.  For travel in low light, the IBIS is a big help to image quality. For a full size image of the shot below, click here. Click on the green arrow at the bottom to view at 100%.

Ohio Statehouse - Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro @ 12mm, f/5.6, 1/8s, ISO 800 Click the image to enlarge, click here for a full size image

Ohio Statehouse – Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro @ 12mm, f/5.6, 1/8s, ISO 800
Click the image to enlarge

JPEG Quality

As alluded to earlier, Olympus produces extremely high quality JPEG images.  Along with Fuji, Olympus is right at the top in the camera industry with regards to JPEG quality.  Images are saved with minimal compression, have nice natural colors and contrast.  There is a bit too much smoothing in the noise reduction algorithm when set to default, but adjusting that setting down helps improve the results quite a bit.  Once noise reduction is lowered, JPEGs yield a fair bit more detail and, in my opinion, a more natural looking file that is truly excellent.

Video

As noted in the beginning.  I’m not a videographer, and my experience with video is fairly limited.  I did, of course, take a few test videos, and the improved bit-rate of up to 77 Mbps is apparent in the video quality when compared to the original E-M5.  The camera is capable of 1080p/60p recording and fully manual control, and can output video live via HDMI as well. I also noticed that rolling shutter was pretty well controlled, which was very nice to see.  The image quality is smooth and clean (perhaps a bit too smooth in some instances), and will do well for the average shooter of video.  Unfortunately, in my limited time using video, it didn’t appear I could adjust exposure parameters during recording, which is a fairly important limitation, in my opinion.

The camera’s in-body stabilization is a great help here, though, as video footage appears extremely stable, even when shooting handheld.  It’s really a sort of steadicam look, which will come in very handy for casual video shooters.

Continue: Conclusion and Image Samples

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

19 comments

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  1. benji

    Quality review as always Jordan.

    When you say C-AF is very close to the E-M1, are you meaning the E-M1 with the new v3.0 firmware, or with earlier versions?

    1. Jordan Steele

      I’m comparing to the E-M1 when I tested it, which was shortly after release.

  2. jan

    translated to swedish it says you tested it after you whas released from jaile :-)

  3. Greg

    The HR mode is limited, of course. But is it as limited as some say? Here’s a landscape scenario: a lake, a speedboat, lovely green hills in the background. A light breeze is making the lake heave and the boat is moving. You take the picture in HR mode. The lake has that weird, greasy look and the boat is a smeared disaster. What will you do? In post, take the ORI file, and enlarge is to the same pixel dimensions as your HR file. Select the ORI lake, copy it, lay it on top of the HR file and there it is. A nice lake with a good-looking speedboat. The hills have nice DR and crispness and the big file may be good enough to print large. You could use the same technique to paste over a wind-smeared bush. You won’t be able to use this when shooting a forest in a wind storm but my point is that the usefulness of HR may be broader than some think. Having never used this camera, I’d appreciate critique on my speculation, especially as I probably will buy the camera.

  4. Rob

    If buying now would you buy the Em1 or the EM5ii?

  5. John

    Many thanks for the very informative review. I wonder if you were able to use the WiFi to make High Res exposures? It seemed to me that this would be a great way to minimize camera vibration, but I could not get it to work using the Olympus app on my iPhone. Do you any way this can be done?

    1. Jordan Steele

      I also was unable to get the camera to shoot a Hi-Res photo using remote control.

  6. Hendrik

    “… compose while looking to the side of the camera, which feels awkward to me”
    Absolutely. That is why I returned the Panasonic G1 way back when. I stopped using the fully articulated screen altogether as it was so odd to look beside the camera, jikes.

  7. SN

    Excellent review. I think the mail reason for offering PD auto focus on the EM5II would be to enable the use of the older Four Thirds system lenses on the EM5II. See Robin Wong’s review where he tries out Four Thirds lenses on the EM1. Adding a bigger sensor would have been ideal. I suspect that Olympus will continue to incrementally improve the camera, much like Apple and others do with their products, to get users to upgrade at regular intervals.

  8. Nathan

    Hi there, good work.
    Also, how can I have your original RAW file or JPEG in HiRes mode? It would be create if you can send the files.

    1. Jordan Steele

      Thanks! I’m sorry, but while I occasionally share full size images for my reviews most of the images here are my personal work…I just use the gear I’m reviewing as I would for regular personal shooting to see how it works for me, and I don’t give full size of those away.

  9. SSK

    As always, I appreciate your reviews.

    For my two cents, on the handling, I’ve had an interesting experience with the EM5 MkII. The front dial is positioned on the flat top plate, and I have to shift my grip uncomfortably with the pro lenses. Overall, the MkII feels out of balance with the pro lenses (12-40 and 40-150), but perfect with the smaller primes (20mm, 75mm). This is the reverse of the EM1 – pro lenses feel great, but the small primes feel a little lost on the larger body. The add on grip helps, but it’s an awkward solution. I’m actually trading in my MkII for a used EM1 after “upgrading.”

    Cheers.

    1. Nathan

      Well you know what? I have the original E-M5, it feels good with 75mm with or without the grip, 15/25mm is a bit too small with the add-on grip, 12-40 and 40-150 PRO certainly need the grip for extra handhold position, as well as the shutter button being placed on the right spot, place where your last 3 fingers hold the body and a place where your pointing finger place nicely on the shutter button.
      Totally agree with you when E-M1 with PRO Zoom, the deep grip is fantastic, but not so on the other small primes. To me, E-M1 overal has better ergonomic than the E-M5 with lens over 300g, that is where balance found just right.

  10. Jeffrey Modesto

    Just bought omd em5
    mkii. Brilliant camera I just upgraded to 2.2. Great review

  11. APagliano

    After installing firmware update 2.2 yesterday, the EFV eye sensor only works to shut the display off.
    When I turn the camera on with eye sensor enabled the display works, when i put my eye or a finger in front of the eye sensor the camera switches to the EVF but in no way will it switch back to the displayau5g when i take the eye or the finger away.
    Did anyone else notice this misbehaviour?

    Cheers

  12. APagliano

    Please, excuse me for the typos, I have been too hectic in writing my post.
    The correct message is the following:

    OM-D E-M5 Mark II firmware update 2.2 eye sensor problems.

    After installing firmware update 2.2 yesterday on my Olympus OM-D E-M5, coming from 2.0, the EFV eye sensor only works to shut the display off.

    When I turn the camera on with eye sensor enabled, the display works, when i put my eye or a finger in front of the eye sensor the camera turns the display off and switches to the EVF as expected, but in no way will it switch back to the display view when i take the eye or the finger away.

    Did anyone else notice this misbehaviour?

    Many thanks in advance

    Cheers

  13. G

    Hello, it’s possible to see a comparison between e-m5 II and a6000 image quality? (like a6000 vs a7 II)
    or just your impressions thanks!

  14. Tom Bell

    Thank you for a great review. I will hold onto the original OMD EM5 …. Until the iteration with a newer sensor.

  15. Adita

    Thanks Jordan for creating very good content.
    If you have to choose between EM5 ii or EM1 (old model) in 2017, which one will go with?

    I am planning to buy either of those 2. I checked, both feel good in hands, EM1 feels like pro body and received updates via firmware upgrade.

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