Body

Olympus has tried hard not to spoil the E-M5's good looks with this redesign and has generally done a good job of adding to the camera without ruining its appeal. If anything, removing the accessory port from above the viewfinder helps to improve the camera's silhouette. We reckon even photographers too young to have ever shot with a 1980's OM will appreciate the camera's looks.

The Mark II's construction is some of the best we've encountered outside the pro DSLR sphere: an improvement over the original OM-D. Whereas the E-M5 had a metal shell and extensive sealing, the II feels like it's been forged from a single lump of metal. It's only the plasticky buttons on the back and the slightly-too-freely rotating front command dial that take away from this sense of solidity. The good news is that, while the buttons don't feel quite as durable as those of pro-grade DSLR, they're much more responsive than the E-M5's slightly spongy, long-press examples.

The top plate is where most of the changes have taken place. There are more buttons, a locking mode dial and an extra contact in the hotshoe. Even more than its predecessor, it helps to have narrow fingers to operate the camera deftly.

The camera's top plate has been extensively re-arranged, compared with the original E-M5, with the power switch moving to the camera's left shoulder, under the now lockable mode dial. The camera's rear command dial, meanwhile, has been shrunk and shifted to the right, helping create room for two extra function buttons and freeing up space for the 2x2 control switch just beneath them. The only problem with fitting so many buttons on such a small camera is that people with large fingers may find it difficult to operate all the control points.

The two completely new buttons on the camera are the HDR/Fn4 button on the top plate and the depth-of-field button on the front. And, in traditional Olympus style, although only four of the buttons are labeled as 'Fn' buttons, they are by no means the only customizable ones. Between the many customizable buttons and the 2x2 switch (which can perform one of a range of control point function swaps), it should be possible to gain access to just about any setting you might want regular access to on the camera.

The removal of the accessory port is no great loss, since the best two accessories that could be attached to it - an electronic viewfinder and an external microphone adapter - are both already incorporated into the camera itself.


The hotshoe on the E-M5 II is new to this model, featuring an extra contact to allow the use of the included rotating, bounceable FL-LM3 flashgun.

There's one more thing that previous PEN and OM-D models have used the accessory port for, however: providing the power for their clip-on flashes. The E-M5 II's designers have got round this problem by adding an extra electrical contact to the hotshoe itself. This is great for M5 II owners but sadly means that the bounceable/rotating FL-LM3 flash can't be used with any existing Olympus models.

Customization

As mentioned above, the degree of customization on the E-M5 is extensive. Our suggestion for configuring the camera would be to start off by working out which function you're going to apply to the 2x2 switch.

  Switch Position 1 Switch Position 2
Mode 1 Existing dial behavior* Front Dial: ISO, Rear Dial: WB
Mode 2 Existing dial behavior* Front Dial: WB, Rear Dial: ISO
Mode 3 Existing button behavior* [REC] Button: ISO, Fn2: WB
Mode 4 Existing button behavior* [REC] Button: WB, Fn2: ISO
Mode 5 Selected AF mode Second AF mode
Mode 6 Exp mode selected on mode dial Video recording mode

*Existing dial or button behavior includes any customization you may have selected.

Once you've decided which of these functions to use, give some thought to which other functions you want access to and which buttons you find easiest to reach. You may, for instance, find that you want to engage AEL more often than you want to start video recording, and find the position of the [REC] button easier to reach than the AEL/Fn 1 button. In which case it's easy enough to swap the buttons' functions.

       
Fn1 / Fn2 / Fn3 / Fn4 / REC / Preview Down or Right on four-way controller
Available Functions:

*1 These options change the functions of the main command dials
*2 View Selection switches between live view and control panel on the rear LCD or switches between EVF and LCD if the eye detector has been disabled
*3 Behavior of AEL/AFL button can be customized separately
*4 REC can only be applied to one button at a time and must be de-selected before it can be re-applied

Given how many functions the E-M5 II can put at your fingertips, I find myself running out of functions I need access to - especially given how easy it is to change settings using the Super Control Panel. Still, if there are any buttons you find awkward or too cramped to reach, you can always move your most-used functions across to a more easily accessible one.

If the six main custom buttons aren't enough for you, though, you can re-purpose the four way controller (that, by default positions the AF point), so that the 'down' and 'right' directions can also be customized. If you do this then the 'up' direction gains access to exposure adjustment and the 'left' button accesses AF point adjustment mode. We prefer the default arrangement.

Auto ISO

The E-M5 II retains the company's standard Auto ISO system, meaning that you can define the upper and lower limit and have some impact on the threshold at which the camera changes to a higher ISO. As with previous Olympus cameras, the E-M5 II will raise ISO when it hits a shutter speed of 1/equivalent focal length or the user-defined Flash Slow Limit speed (option F2 in the Custom menu), whichever is fastest.

Although you can enable Auto ISO in manual exposure mode (Custom menu E7), you don't have the option to apply exposure compensation, so you can't dictate what brightness level the camera should use Auto ISO to maintain.