Image Quality

Our latest test scene simulates both daylight and low-light shooting. Pressing the 'lighting' buttons at the top of the widget switches between the two. The daylight scene is manually white balanced to give neutral grays, but the camera is left in its Auto setting for the low-light tests. Raw files are manually corrected. We offer three different viewing sizes: 'Full', 'Print', and 'Comp', with the latter two offering 'normalized' comparisons by using matched viewing sizes. The 'Comp' option chooses the largest-available resolution common to the cameras being compared.

Raw capture on the E-M1 II shows good detail, though not a huge advantage over the original E-M1 (note, the E-M1 suffers from shutter shock until you reach ISO 800 in our comparison as earlier firmware versions did not offer zero-second anti-shock). The E-M1 II is just slightly behind the X-T2 in general, and shows some false color and severe aliasing on white-on-black text due to the lack of an AA filter. Noise performance in low light doesn't show much of an advantage over the E-M1, except perhaps less noise reduction on the Raw file at ISO 6400. Compared to its larger sensor competitors, the E-M1 II shows a noise penalty of about 1EV, which is higher than the 2/3EV you'd expect from sensor size alone.

Moving on to JPEGs, we see pleasing colors as we've come to expect from Olympus - reds look nicely saturated, and yellows show little indication of any green shift. Sharpening isn't terribly aggressive, and could use some refinement. Noise reduction hase improved compared to the E-M1, but isn't quite as effective as Sony's algorithm at either high or low ISO.

Real-world Image Quality

Olympus' 'Natural' profile offers plenty of contrast and punch in JPEGs. Olympus 12-100mm F4 at 26mm equiv. ISO 200, 1/250 sec, F8. Photo by Jeff Keller

Those that like Olympus' JPEG engine have nothing to fear in the Olympus E-M1 II. Even in 'Natural' mode, which is the default we use for out-of-camera JPEGs, files are contrasty and saturated - and possibly over-the-top for some. But in addition to the wide selection of Art filters at your disposal, you have options such as 'Muted' to tone things down some, and you can customize everything from the JPEG tone curve to noise reduction.

Speaking of noise reduction, the system does a good job of balancing noise reduction with detail retention at higher ISO values, with some caveats. Take the below image for example.

Noise reduction default Noise reduction off Adobe Camera Raw beta

Click-through to see the details. Olympus 75mm F1.8, ISO 5000, 1/500 sec, F1.8. Photo by Carey Rose

In the above example, you can see how the default noise reduction does a decent job (especially considering ISO 5000). Detail on the strands of hair and the microphone is retained fairly well, while other 'smoother' areas of the image get a bit splotchy. When re-processed in-camera with the noise filter set to 'off,' things improve slightly. But the Adobe Camera Raw file (which has default chroma noise reduction, and slight luminance noise reduction) is something else, and shows how Olympus doesn't let you turn noise reduction off entirely - though this isn't unique to Olympus. In the Raw-processed file, the splotchiness is gone, replaced by some (in this reviewer's opinion) pleasing grain.