Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Performance starts with image quality, which is the criteria used as the foundation of our digital camera ratings. Ergonomic issues may get in the way, but in the end, image quality counts the most. For an ILC, image quality greatly depends on the lens used. While color, noise, exposure and dynamic-range are properties of a camera, distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are properties of the lens. Sharpness and contrast depend on the weakest link. That is, a camera cannot capture more details than a lens lets through. Conversely, it is quite possible for a lens to transmit more details than a sensor can capture.
Image Noise & Details
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II delivers very good image quality. It matches closely that of its predecessor with a possibly slightly stronger anti-alias filter. It cannot extract as much sharpness from lenses as its higher-end sibling yet it is less prone to moire artifacts. The new Super-Resolution mode offers another means of increasing image-details which works for completely still subjects.
Image noise is extremely low until ISO 800 and barely there at 1600 where it remains usable for relatively large prints. ISO 3200 shows visible noise with has a slight effect on the finest details. At ISO 6400, fine details get eaten by noise and maximum print size is affected. On 12" x 9" prints, ISO 6400 remains extremely usable with fine noise only visible upon close inspection.
ISO 12800 shows significant noise with fine details gone. This makes noisy mid-size prints, yet completely usable 4" x 6" ones. ISO 25600 is not that usable, except for small emergency prints.
There are three levels of noise-reduction available. NR can also be turned off entirely which avoids increased softness at high sensitivities. Best results are obtained with the NR Off and Sharpness at +1. Anything higher shows clear sharpening artifacts on this camera.
Upon close inspection, Super-Resolution images look quite soft yet they allow for moderately larger prints. These compare reasonably to the output of a 24 MP camera which is still a 50% increase over the E-M5 Mark II's native resolution. Noise characteristics are well-maintained even at 40 megapixels, making very large prints usable throughout the entire ISO 100-1600 sensitivity range.
Color & White Balance
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II struggles with color accuracy. There are lots of Picture Modes but none produce realistic colors across the spectrum. The most realistic colors are obtained in Natural style with Saturation dialed down to -1. The red channel remains too high regardless of settings. This is obviously avoidable for those who shoot RAW.
Automatic While-Balance is excellent. It deals well with a variety of conditions including typical indoor lighting. There are tons of options for the rare cases when AWB has difficulty or to get consistent colors between shots. Custom WB is easy to use on this camera and renders whites perfectly neutral.
This digital camera has an excellent multi-segment metering system. It is overexposes only when rather small and bright highlights are present in the scene. Generally, exposures come out perfectly usable without needing any exposure-compensation. Low contrast scenes are exposed towards the mid-tone which makes them look natural.
It is important to know that the LCD clips extreme highlights which may still be correctly captured. This happens when adjusting the highlight tone-curve too. Differences are barely noticeable on the LCD but images are in fact captured differently. Changes to the shadow tone-curve are much easier to see. When in doubt, the Playback histogram must be checked. The Live-Histogram is only truly accurate in M mode.
The OM-D E-M5 Mark II has a fast Contrast-Detect autofocus system. Its autofocus speed compares to a mid-range DSLR in good light and is just a little slower in low-light. Focusing accuracy is extremely high. Plus, unlike Phase-Detect AF used in DSLRs, Contrast-Detect AF never suffers from front or back focus issues, which is why no calibration is needed.
With typical Micro Four-Thirds lenses, focus is done via a fly-by-wire ring around the lens-barrel. The E-M5 Mark II keeps up well with no perceptible lag. In DMF mode, a slight turn of the focus-ring shift into manual focus. Because the ring is fly-by-wire, the E-M5 Mark II can reverse the direction to adjust focus. There are several lenses now with mechanical focus-rings and the rotation on those cannot be reversed.
The E-M5 Mark II is quick and responsive. Buttons, dials and the Eye-Start sensor all respond instantly. Olympus boosted the continuous drive to 10 FPS with autofocus or 5 FPS without. At 5 FPS, the E-M5 Mark II can even shoot until the memory-card fills up. A few functions take a while to process though. During Super-Resolution capture, the camera shows the first exposure while the following ones are being captured.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II rarely holds back the photographer. The following measurements characterize its performance:
- Power-On: 1 second. Average.
- Power-On to First-Shot: 1½s. Good.
- Autofocus: ¼s on good to moderate light. Rarely more than ½s, even in low light. Excellent.
- Shutter-lag: Nearly instant with around ¼s blackout. Very good.
- Shot-to-shot: Under ¾s. Much faster then the average mirrorless.
- Playback: ½s to enter, instant to exit. Excellent.
- Power-Off: Nearly instant second. Very good.
- Video: 1s to start, instant to stop. Slow.
Overall, the E-M5 Mark II turns in a solid performance. It does particularly well where it counts most: shutter-lag, autofocus and shot-to-shot speed. For video, it starts recording one second too late. This is the one regression compared to the original E-M5 which is unfortunate for videographers. The 10 FPS continuous drive works incredibly well though. The camera even manages to keep the EVF or LCD updated with the latest frame, making it usable for action photography.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is powered by a proprietary Lithium-Ion battery which provides 360-shots per charge with 50% flash using the supplied add-on flash which is powered by the camera. This is below average among mirrorless yet should be enough for a day of casual shooting. For professionals, additional batteries are highly recommended.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a refinement of its predecessor, improving in many areas while tweaking the interface and slipping on very few aspects. Existing E-M5 owners have nothing to worry about. Coming up from another class of mirrorless though, the E-M5 Mark II is a serious step up. This is a professional camera with a huge feature-set and complexity to match.
Images from this mirrorless are high-quality. Noise is very low until ISO 1600 and images remain usable until ISO 12800 for small prints. The new Super-Resolution mode allows for huge prints, comparable to larger and heavier digital cameras. ISO 100-1600 are quite usable even at 40 MP, only requiring a completely still scene to capture 8 exposures that match. Dynamic-range is good and the HDR mode produces images of high-contrast scenes with stunning clarity.
Metering from the OM-D E-M5 Mark II is excellent and automatic white-balance is highly reliable. Color accuracy could be improved yet is not so that far off after some adjustment. This mirrorless offers tremendous flexibility in tonality rendition thanks to independently adjustable shadow and highlight curves. The same control and flexibility is offered for video too.
The E-M5 Mark II is remarkably quick. The Contrast-Detect AF system remains fast even in moderately low-light and the camera responds to controls without delay. Video performance falters though with a one second recording delay. There is also an unusual 8 second limit when recording 1080p at 60 FPS.
This latest Olympus mirrorless delivers a solid performance and demonstrates the capabilities of the Micro Four-Thirds system. It pairs itself well with any high-end M.Zuiko lens to provide an excellent balance between performance and size.
Olympus E-M5 Mark II Highlights
Sensor-Size: 17 x 13mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|16 Megapixels Mirrorless||ISO 100-25600|
|Micro Four-Thirds Mount|
|5-Axis Built-in Stabilization, 5-Stop Improvement||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|0.50" Built-in EVF 2.4 Megapixels (0.74X)||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|Automatic Eye-Start sensor||Spot-Metering|
|2 Axis Digital Level||Hot-Shoe|
|Weatherproof down to -10C||Stereo audio input|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|10 FPS Drive, 19 Images||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|1920x1080 @ 60 FPS Video Recording|
|3" LCD 1 Megapixels|
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