Olympus's OM-D E-M5 II is, like its predecessor, a small, attractive and usable 16MP camera. In fact, at first glance it looks relatively unchanged. The most obvious additions are its more advanced movie capabilities and a clever multi-shot 40MP mode, but you have to look a bit more closely to see how much work Olympus has put into this new model.
How do you follow up a classic? A little more time is going to have to pass before the E-M5 can truly wear that mantle but I have little doubt that that's the question Olympus's engineers and product planners have been asking themselves. And, it must be said, it's quite a challenge. Technology has moved forward since the first OM-D was launched but simply bringing the camera up-to-date risks feeling like a let down.
Sure enough, the E-M5 II doesn't feel like as big a step forward as its predecessor was. But how could it be? Cameras such as the Sony's a6000 and a7, and Samsung's NX1 have raised the expected level of capability so far that it would be hard for any new model to represent as much of a breakthrough. Nonetheless, Olympus has probably done as much as it can to move things forward.
Close examination of the camera shows that almost every aspect of its design has been tweaked, refined and polished. Without access to a higher pixel-count sensor, it's not obvious what else Olympus could have added to the Mark II.
Olympus E-M5 II key features
- 16MP Four Thirds CMOS sensor
- 40 MP multi-exposure mode
- 1080/60p shooting and 1080/30p at up to 77Mbps (All-I)
- Improved 5-axis image stabilization in both stills and movie modes
- 10fps continuous shooting, 5fps with AF
- 1/8000th sec maximum shutter speed (1/16000th with electronic shutter)
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Clip-on rotating, bounceable flash
The standout change for stills shooters is likely to be the 40MP multi-shot mode. This uses the camera's sensor-shift system to move the sensor to eight fractionally different positions and create a high-resolution composite image from these eight exposures.
The camera's movie capabilities have also been greatly enhanced, not just with the addition of 1080/60p shooting and an All-I, 77Mbps compression option for 30p capture, but also with the arrival of a series of supporting features. These include focus peaking, uncompressed HDMI output, a mic input socket and timecode, amongst others.
In addition to these new features, the E-M5 II gains a couple of features that have been introduced in Olympus cameras since the original model's introduction. These include a version of the 2x2 control system that first appeared on the E-M1.
|The Super Control Panel
It may not be pretty, but the Super Control Panel gives simple touchscreen access to most of the camera's major settings.
We're pleased to see it as the default control system on the E-M5 II.
Then, on top of all of these changes, the E-M5 II plays host to a couple of minor behavioral changes that we've been hoping for, for some time. The most prominent is that the camera defaults to using the excellent Super Control Panel user interface, right out of the box. Olympus has also stepped away from the 'modal' display modes: finally allowing you to combine a histogram, level guide and highlight and shadow warnings in any combination you like. These are small things but they suggest that Olympus is onboard with the current trend of listening to users and being willing to make small changes.
Disappointingly the changes to the camera, including the higher resolution viewfinder and screen, have had an impact on battery life. The E-M5 II is rated at 310 shots per charge, down from 360 shots for the original camera. This increases to 750 shots per charge in 'Quick Sleep' mode but that involves the camera turning off the screen as soon as you take your eye off it.
|Stabilization (CIPA)||4 Stops||5 Stops||4 Stops|
|Max shutter speed||1/4000||1/8000
(without /with AF)
|9fps / 3.5fps||10fps / 5fps||10fps / 9fps|
|Viewfinder||1.44m dot LCD
|2.36m dot LCD
|2.36m dot LCD
|Max video res/rate||1080/30p||1080/60p||1080/30p|
|Rear screen||Tilt 3.0" OLED
|Battery life (CIPA)||360||310||350|
|Dimensions||121 x 90 x 42mm||124 x 85 x 45mm||130 x 94 x 63mm|
|Compared with the OM-D E-M5||Compared with the OM-D E-M1|
Close comparison of the E-M5 II and its predecessor shows that, while the overall styling is very similar, the two have less in common than you might think. Every face of the camera has been significantly re-worked and features new control points.
Roll your mouse over the right-hand tab and you can see the comparison with the E-M1. It should be immediately apparent how many of the control changes have filtered down from the M5 II's big brother. The E-M1 is a considerably larger, bulkier camera but the two share a great many features and capabilities.
The E-M1 is an impressively quick camera to control, once you've configured and become familiar with its 2x2 control system. The E-M5 II doesn't offer quite the same level of direct control, given the absence of the twin buttons on the left should (that re-purpose the command dials). Its smaller grip and lack of on-sensor phase detection means it's less well suited for use with existing Four Thirds lenses, but in most other respects it's not a significant step down from the E-M1.
Olympus will offer a range of accessories for the E-M5 II, including hand-grips and tripod mounting brackets.
Like its predecessor there's a two-part grip but, for reasons that will become clear, they'll be available separately. The first part (called the HLD-8G) adds a thicker hand grip with a command dial on the top, so that it's still easily accessible. It also features a headphone socket, for monitoring the audio levels during movie recording.
The second part of the grip is the HLD-6P, which adds a second battery compartment and duplicate function buttons and command dials for portrait-orientation shooting. Impressively, this second part is identical to the battery section of the original E-M5's HLD-6 grip, meaning existing owners only need to buy the '8G' part.
A further option will be the L-shaped ECG-2 bracket, which adds a thicker hand grip and Arca-Swiss style tripod mounts along the bottom of the camera and up one side, for portrait-orientation shooting.
As well as grips, Olympus will offer the PT-EP13 underwater housing that will allow the camera to be used with certain lenses down to a depth of around 45m (150ft).
There's also the EE-1 'dot sight.' This is essentially a hotshoe-mounted version of the sight built into the company's SP100 superzoom compact. it's designed to help you aim the camera quickly while focusing on distant, moving subjects where there's a risk of the target disappearing out of frame and you not knowing which direction to move the camera to find it again. The EE-1 contains its own battery, so can be mounted onto any camera with a hotshoe.
If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).
Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.
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