Movie features

The E-M5 II's main, though by no means sole, area of improvement is in its movie-shooting capabilities. Like most brands adding video features, Olympus has included an odd mixture of beginner-friendly features with others that seem more appropriate for someone who's really going to take their time over their footage. The most obvious video-friendly additions are the inclusion of a flip-out screen and an improved version of the company's 5-axis image stabilization.

The company told us it recognises 4K video is the future, but believes that the E-M5 II's appeal will stem from how easy it is to shoot good quality 1080 footage if you have effective image stabilization, and suggested it has amateur videographers in mind. Yet the camera also offers time code, which we'd usually associate with more advance, multi-camera shoots, but doesn't offer any flat picture profiles for users planning on post processing their footage.

Do I always need a tripod? Our first impressions of the E-M5 II's image stabilization might suggest otherwise.

The latest model can capture 1080p video at up to 60 fps with bitrates of up to 52Mbps using IPB compression. Alternatively, it can shoot 24p/25p or 30p footage at up to 77Mbps using All-I compression. The distinction between these two methods is simply one of whether full imformation is retained about every frame (which is better for accurately conveying motion), or only certain frames are retained in full, with others pieced back together from information about whan happens between the complete ones.

Sizes • MOV (H.264)
1920 x 1080 30p/25p/24p Avg. 77 Mbps All-I (A-I)*
1920 x 1080 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p Avg. 52 Mbps (SF)
1920 x 1080 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p Avg. 30 Mbps (F)
1920 x 1080 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p Avg. 18Mbps (A)
1280 x 720 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p (A-I)*
1280 x 720 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p (SF)
1280 x 720 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p (F)
1280 x 720 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p (A)
• AVI (Motion JPEG)
1280 x 720 30p
640 x 480 30p

*UHS-II or UHS-I U3 card recommended
Audio • Linear PCM 16-bit/48kHz
• Stereo audio capture via built-in or optional external mic.
Format AVCHD / MPEG4
Recordable time Approx 29 minutes

These aren't exactly class-leading specifications: Panasonic's GH4 can shoot 4K footage at up to 100Mbps and 1080p All-I footage at 200Mbps. However, they're still pretty competitive for a camera whose primary role isn't to be a video camera: the 77Mbps still puts the M5 II's bitrate ahead of similarly stills-focused peers from Canon, Nikon and Sony.

The E-M5 II also gains a microphone socket, whose gain can be adjusted while recording. The microphone options let you specify separate recording volumes for internal and external mics, sync with an Olympus Voice Recorder and even provide 'phantom power' to an external microphone. You'll also find controls for the camera's headphone monitor level but you'll need to puchase an external accessory to have anywhere to plug a pair in.

But it's the flip-out screen, focus peaking and in-body stabilization that make the E-M5 II's movie capability feel more like a credible feature, rather than an afterthought.

Detail capture

Sadly our initial test still suggests that, despite this climb in bitrate, the footage is still being somewhat undermined by slightly clumsy processing. The output looks a lot like the less expensive E-M10 and some way short of Panasonic's GH4. Look closely at the resolution wedges and you'll see it's only a fraction below the GH4, it's just that its processing doesn't represent that detail as well.

In the real world

We've been very impressed by the way the camera behaves in the real world. We were able to shoot a short video with extensive use of in-body stabilization (including clips shot with a 300mm equivalent lens), and get entirely usable results. To a great extent this capability matters much more to us than the representation of the very finest detail.

Autofocus is slowed down during movie capture, to prevent sudden jumps during recording. The downside of this is that it means the camera can't maintain focus on fast-moving subject during video - it can keep track of where they are quite effectively but the slowed-down focus means it's not able to find focus before the subject has moved. However, the focus does work reasonably well if you're trying to push the camera to re-focus between essentially static subjects. Alternatively, the camera's focus peaking is pretty effective in supporting users manually re-focusing.

The camera does suffer from some rolling shutter, both in 24p and 60p shooting. Very occasionally we have observed a 'jello effect' in which the entire frame seems to get a bit jiggly. It appears to us that this effect may be slightly stronger when sensor-shift and digital image stabilization are combined, leading us to believe that it's due to interaction of rolling shutter and the digital aspect of the image stabilization system. The effect appears to be reduced if stabilization is set to 'sensor-shift only' mode (M-IS 2), so we'd recommend this in situations where there's likely to be a lot of fast movement.

Overall, while it's not a class-leading video camera, its video quality is competitive for its class and its excellent stabilization makes it easier than most to get the best out of.