The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II may at first glance look similar to its predecessor, but it's a very different camera underneath. Andy Westlake examines it in fine detail in our Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II review
So how about image quality? Well in 16MP mode the Mark II behaves much the same as other current Olympus models. The TruePic VII processor brings some image-processing advantages compared to the old E-M5, most notably automatic removal of colour fringing due to the lens’s lateral chromatic aberration, but aside from that, the output is much the same as before.
On the plus side, this means you get Olympus’s usual excellent JPEG processing. In its default ‘Natural’ mode the Mark II gives lovely saturated colours that are vibrant but not unrealistic, and its auto white balance tends to the warm side, giving a lift to even the dullest day. Noise reduction is a little heavy-handed by default, though, and personally I turn the ‘Noise Filter’ setting down to maximise detail rendition.
If you’re looking for something a little different, Olympus’s Art Filters offer some attractive alternative image processing options. Personally I’m a fan of the high contrast monochrome ‘Grainy Film’ mode, and the new ‘Vintage’ filters also give some interesting results. Crucially Olympus gives you more control over how the images turn out than many of its competitors, and you can shoot Raw files alongside in case you change your mind.
The 16MP resolution may not sound to great on paper when most APS-C competitors are around the 24MP mark, but it’s important to keep this in context. It’s still plenty enough to make a nice A3 print, which I suspect is the largest most photographers will contemplate. And if you need more, there’s always the 40MP composite mode.
When it comes to high ISO noise, the Mark II also lags a little behind its APS-C competitors when compared like-for-like. I’m perfectly happy shooting it up to ISO 1600, and ISO 3200 at a push, but beyond that image quality clearly suffers, with noise reduction impacting on fine detail and little shadow detail to be seen. With most APS-C models I’d be happy shooting at a stop higher ISO.
If you’re after the very best in resolution or low noise, then, the Mark II may not be for you. But to me the gap against APS-C isn’t huge in practice, and frequently negated by the impressive image stabilisation system, which lets you use longer shutter speeds and lower ISOs. The availability of reasonably affordable fast prime lenses also helps, and lenses like the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8 are so small you can carry them around all day without really noticing.