Handling notes

As with any camera this complex, it requires a considerable amount of time to learn every feature and tune it to your tastes. Although I'm delighted to see the Super Control Panel finally used as the default interface, I can't escape the feeling that the already over-filled menus can no longer offer an accessible route to configuring the camera. I'm not sure the camera is much harder to pick up and use than any of its peers, but finding all it can do and tailoring it to your needs is a daunting task for anyone who hasn't owned Olympus cameras or spent countless hours studying the user manual.

All of this is not helped by some rather odd menu behavior: everyone who's used the camera complains that options they thought they'd selected hadn't been applied. The only explanation I can come up with is that there's no visual difference between confirming an option ('Ok' button) and cancelling a selection ('Menu' or left button). I can't confirm this suspicion but it's been a common complaint form people who've used the camera.

On top of this, several features, such as High Res mode appear to have been bolted onto the top of an already complex menu system, so the exposure delay modes and choice of file format for that mode is controlled independently of settings for normal stills mode. Another apparent glitch I've encountered so far is that focus peaking seems to switch itself off as soon as you press any other button or enter a menu, so it's worth assigning to an easily-accessible button.

Autofocus performance

Our experience with the camera's autofocus has been mixed. In single-acquisition mode, the EM-5 II is one of the fastest-to-focus cameras we've shot with. This is aided by a lens system almost entirely composed of lenses designed for fast contrast-detection autofocus: meaning there is impressive consistency of performance between lenses.

The E-M5 II features the 81-point AF system that first appeared in the E-M1, allowing greater precision of focus point selection. There are more than 800 points on which the camera can focus if you use the rear touchscreen to specify a target. Furthermore the camera offers eye-focus if it detects a face in the scene, with the option to focus on the left, right or closest eye.

Eye-detection AF is really impressive: the camera is very fast to find and focus on the closest eye, making it easy to rattle off portraits with absolute confidence that the camera will focus in the right place.

This then just leaves you to worry about details such as not choosing an aperture setting with too little depth-of-field.

The rotatable, bounceable flash works nicely in adding a bit of illumination in these dark shooting conditions.

Olympus m.Zuiko 75mm F1.8
ISO 3200, F2.0, 1/20th

Autofocus tracking is really very impressive. With most of the system's lenses, the camera will comfortably track the subject around the scene. It will sometimes get distracted by other subjects but usually finds the correct subject again pretty quickly. Its consistency is increased even further if you use the camera's face detection.

Two key things to note, to get the best performance from the camera's continuous AF. The first is a reminder that the camera won't continuous autofocus when set to maximum (10fps) shooting speed, so you have to use Continuous L mode to get the benefit of its AF capability. More problematically, the default 'release priority' setting for C-AF mode results in a high number of missed shots. Disengaging this setting (Menu/Custom Menu/C/Rls Priority C) will greatly improve the camera's hit-rate without having too much of an impact on frame rate.

With this setting changed, we were able to achieve an impressively high level of images well focused on the correct subject at a frame rate of around 4fps. Local Micro Four Thirds shooter James McDaniel (with whom we collaborated to create a video about the E-M5 II) measured his hit rate at >75% in-focus images, from the 1000+ images he shot of roller derby. Our experiences have been consistent with this.

Click here to watch the video of his experiences.