Viewfinder and Rear Screen
The E-M5 Mark II inherits the outstanding electronic viewfinder (EVF) from the flagship E-M1. This is a 2.36 million dot finder with generous 0.74x magnification, putting it in line with modern full-frame DSLRs in viewfinder size. The finder is clear, low lag and beautiful to look through. Much like the big clear view in a small body was one of the hallmarks of the original OM series SLRs in the 80s, the big viewfinder in a small body is a wonderful thing to have in the OM-D series, and it’s a noticeable step up from the clear but small finder in the original E-M5.
A similarly large change has occurred on the rear of the camera, as the OLED tilt-screen that appeared on the E-M5 has been replaced with a brand new 1 million dot, fully articulated LCD touch screen on the E-M5 Mark II. The new screen has much better viewing angles and is crisp and clear with good touch response and can be positioned in most any angle. A fully articulating screen is one of those things that I both love and find a bit finicky. When shooting handheld in landscape orientation, I prefer a tilting only screen, as it’s easier and faster to pull out and the image stays in line with the lens axis. A fully articulating screen requires you to pull out the screen, pivot it back and then compose while looking to the side of the camera, which feels awkward to me.
Of course, the massive benefit to a fully articulated screen is in every other position scenario. It’s especially useful when composing vertical shots low to the ground, where tilt-only screens become ultimately useless. It’s also convenient when you need to be to the front or side of the camera. Overall, it’s a net benefit, especially when shooting tripod mounted. The only issue I had with the E-M5 II’s screen was that the access notch to pull the screen out is right next to where your right thumb rests when holding the camera. This makes it sometimes difficult to actually pull out the screen while maintaining a solid grip on the camera. I’d prefer the access notch to be under the camera to be honest, so it could be pulled out quickly from the bottom.
Autofocus and Performance
The E-M5 Mark II controversially doesn’t contain phase-detect autofocus pixels, relying on good old-fashioned contrast detect for everything. On the surface, that sounds like a bad thing. However, I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the autofocus performance of this camera, in both single shot and continuous focus modes.
In single shot mode, Olympus would be hard pressed to improve on the already amazing speed that has been around for a few years. Indeed, it’s among the fastest single shot autofocus of any camera around today. With a fast focusing lens, AF locks nearly instantly in almost any lighting situation. I did have a few odd situations where the camera would think it was in focus when it clearly was way out of focus, but these were quite rare. Overall, there is nothing but speed and exceptional accuracy.
On the continuous autofocus side, I was likewise impressed. Despite lacking phase-detect capabilities, the E-M5 Mark II was able to very competently track moving subjects, even those moving towards the camera, as long as it was at a moderate, person-paced speed. I wouldn’t use the camera for motor sports, but I got a high number of shots in focus with my daughter running at the camera, which is something the original E-M5 could never handle. Accuracy seemed very close to what I was able to achieve using the E-M1, which is quite impressive. It’s still not quite as good as something like the Sony a6000 in continuous autofocus, but for contrast detect, it’s the best I’ve used. The limiting factor is that focus tracking can only be performed at the continuous Low frame rate of 5 frames per second or slower.
As a whole, the E-M5 Mark II is an extremely responsive camera as well. Shutter lag is very short, write times are fairly quick. The camera is capable of 10 frames per second shooting with the mechanical shutter and 11 fps with the electronic shutter (though this carries other compromises), though the buffer will only store 12-14 RAW files in a burst before slowing, so it’s not a camera that will be good for dedicated action shooting, but it’s more than capable for occasional use in those situations.
Overall, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a responsive camera that doesn’t force the shooter to wait on it.
The E-M5 Mark II does not have a built-in pop-up flash, but like its OM-D brethren, features a clip-on accessory flash that’s included with the camera. Unlike the earlier clip-on flashes, however, the E-M5 II’s flash is the best accessory clip on flash that I’ve ever seen. It’s small and relatively low powered, but is one of the only tiny flashes that has full swivel and bounce capability.
While higher ISO and a decently fast aperture is required to make it work well, I was able to get nice exposure while bouncing in my house using ISO 400-800 and f/2.8 or faster. The ability to swivel and bounce turns what is usually an emergency accessory only into something that is truly useful for quality photography.
To be honest, for casual photography, the flash is so small, light and capable that it’s something that I would likely use more than my dedicated flashgun. Of course, if you’re shooting an event, the larger more powerful flashes are going to be much more useful.
21 thoughts on “Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II”
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?
I’m comparing to the E-M1 when I tested it, which was shortly after release.
translated to swedish it says you tested it after you whas released from jaile 🙂
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.
If buying now would you buy the Em1 or the EM5ii?
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?
I also was unable to get the camera to shoot a Hi-Res photo using remote control.
“… 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Just bought omd em5
mkii. Brilliant camera I just upgraded to 2.2. Great review
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?
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
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!
Thank you for a great review. I will hold onto the original OMD EM5 …. Until the iteration with a newer sensor.
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.