The biggest video news on the E-M5 is the move away from the occasionally confusing AVCHD arrangement that shuffled video files off into an obscure folder structure. The knowledge that it makes it easier to copy video to Blu-ray discs and allowed longer clips to be recorded came as little consolation to users trying to remember where it would have put their video files. Instead the E-M5 saves its video as H.264 MOV files, which are essentially very similar (as they use the same codec), just a lot easier to work with.

The E-M5 can capture 1080i60 video from 30p sensor output - a process called progressive segmented frame, that means it can be edited as if it were 30p footage. However, there are no options to natively record in 24p or at frame rates that are a multiple of 25 for PAL or SECAM TVs. Two compression options are available - 20Mbps fine quality, which limits individual clips to around 22 minutes, or a 17Mbps normal option that lets the camera record up to its 29 minute limit. Claims of improved processing, plus the newer sensor have encouraged Olympus to promise less jagged video output with substantially reduced rolling shutter effect. You can shoot using all exposure modes, including full manual.

There is also control over the sound recording volume, with three selectable volume levels. There's also a wind-cut function (three levels and off). There's no built-in microphone socket but one can be added using the optional SEMA-1 unit that slots into the accessory port (and occupies the hot shoe).

As part of the video, the E-M5 has two special effects over and above the latest Art Filters. The 'Echo' effects - One Shot Echo and Multi Echo - are creative effects that leave an 'echo' of previous frames in the video. Pressing the right-hand button of the four-way controller causes the current frame to be held and gently faded out as the video progresses. Pressing downwards causes each subsequent frame to be held and faded, progressively.

We find it hard to imagine these getting much use but any new creative tool can provide surprises when combined with imagination, so we'll hold our judgement.

Video quality options

Sizes • MOV (AVC H.264)
1920 x 1080i (60i from 30p capture), 20 Mb/s
1920 x 1080i (60i from 30p capture), 17 Mb/s
1280 x 720p (60p from 30p capture), 13 Mb/s
1280 x 720p (60p from 30p capture), 10 Mb/s
• Motion JPEG
1280 x 720p30
640 x 480 (30fps)
Audio Stereo sound (Linear PCM)
Format H.264 / MOV
Max file size per clip 4.0 GB
Recordable time 29:59 minutes

Handling in Video mode

Movie shooting can be initiated from any mode on the camera by pressing the Red record button (or any button you've set to act as 'REC' from the Custom menu). Depending on how you hold the camera, you may find one of the other buttons (or the shutter button) is a more convenient way of starting video, without accidentally inducing a rolling motion at the start of each clip.

When initiated from stills shooting modes, movies are always shot in Program mode, with the camera setting aperture, shutter speed and ISO with no user input. Focus is also switched to whichever focus mode was last used when shooting in Movie mode. The Fn1 button, and any button you've configured to act as AEL, takes on the role of performing an AF acquisition (regardless of what focus mode you're in or how you've configured the Fn1 button). To take any manual control of the camera's settings you need to be in Movie shooting mode.

If you're likely to be shooting video from stills mode, it's worth adding the 16:9 grid overlay to your preview - it's subtle enough to not interfere with stills shooting but useful for showing the extent of the video crop (approximately, depending on IS mode). If you move to movie mode on the mode dial, the preview simply switches to a 16:9 view.

The movie record button is on the right rear shoulder of the camera. If, as some people in the office did, you find this inconvenient, you can configure several other buttons to initiate movie recording.

There's also a choice in the Custom menu to decide whether the camera should stop shooting movies if you try to grab a photo.

In Movie mode, you gain P,A,S and M control, a choice over focus mode and retention of AEL if you've got it assigned to a button. Frustratingly, while nominally offering a very good level of control over video, the camera doesn't allow you to change any exposure settings when you're shooting. The P,A and S modes will adjust to match the camera's metered value, with whatever exposure compensation you've applied before recording. You can apply AEL during recording to over-ride these exposure shifts, but you can't manually decide to adjust aperture or exposure compensation, mid-take.

Image stabilization for movies

The camera's new image stabilization system really comes into its own during movie shooting. Rather than the often disastrous digital stabilization (which tries to adjust the crop used for each frame so that subjects stay in the same position on the screen, but usually results in a shimmery, wobbly mess), the E-M5 continues to use its mechanical IS system. Olympus claims that it will cope with both the high-frequency, low amplitude movement of hand shake and the low frequency, high amplitude movement of walking.

In this following movies, you can see the effect. Both videos are shot one-handed, while walking slowly towards a distant subject (like all the best cinematographers recommend). The first has IS turned off, and both hand shake and walking motion are very apparent. In the second clip, the IS is all-but eliminating hand shake and doing a pretty good job of correcting the walking motion, despite me having a fairly exaggerated gait. With a bit of concentration, or even the simplest of weighted camera support accessories, it should be possible to get consistently steady footage.

Presumably because the sensor can shift left and right, the camera crops slightly further into the sensor if you shoot with IS turned on. It's not a huge difference but it's worth being aware of before you line your shot up perfectly. Sadly the movie IS doesn't appear to be available with non-native lenses. It works with Micro Four Thirds (and adapted Four Thirds lenses), but not lenses from other systems.

Image Stabilization Off

1920 x 1080 60i, H.264 .MOV file, 8 sec, 20.9 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Image Stabilization On

1920 x 1080 60i, H.264 .MOV file, 9 sec, 21.4 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

The more expensive 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens has a mode in which the zoom action is powered by a small motor, to allow smoother and more consistent zooming than most people can achieve my hand. And this, combined with the impressive image stabilization, allows you to continue to get usable footage, even when you're ignoring the usual rules of videography by zooming and walking around.

Beyond the lack of control over exposure during movie shooting, the other minor frustrations we found are that, if 'Movie Effects' are enabled in the Custom menu (i.e. the echo effects described further down this page), they appear over the part of the screen usually given over to showing the shutter speed and aperture. These settings only appear when you change them. The other annoyance is that Super Control Panel isn't available in Movie shooting mode - instead you're stuck with the Live Control interface.

Video image quality

The E-M5's video is pretty good but its limited output options are likely to put off dedicated videographers. There's not too much in the way of rolling shutter and the impressive stabilization system make it easy to capture good chunks of footage, even if you're not primarily a video shooter.

The sound options - with three record levels and three levels of wind noise reduction - are much as you'd expect for this class of camera. The option to add an external mic, via an (optional) adapter extends this capability, albeit in such a way that blocks the hot shoe and prevents the use of a hot-shoe-mounted mic.

The camera can continuously autofocus during movie shooting (from movie mode) but, being based on contrast-detection AF, the result is footage that shimmers and 'breathes' as the camera constantly overshoots and undershoots to confirm that it's still in focus.

Sample video 1

This video shows the effect of panning with the E-M5. Very little rolling shutter is apparent.

1920 x 1080 60i, H.264 .MOV file, 11 sec, 22.7 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 2

This clip shows the exposure automatically shifting as the scene becomes darker. This shift can be avoided in Movie shooting mode but hitting AEL, but is unavoidable if you initiate movie shooting from a stills capture mode.

1920 x 1080 60i, H.264 .MOV file, 13 sec, 32.7 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 3

This video shows both panning and zooming during a single shot, using the 12-50mm powerzoom kit lens. Focus is fixed throughout the clip.

1920 x 1080 60i, H.264 .MOV file, 21 sec, 37.6 MB Click here to download original .MOV file