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
We’d hope to get a lot for our money from a £900 camera, but the E-M5 Mark II almost redefines the phrase ‘fully-featured’; indeed it’s simply not possible to cover everything here (if you’d like to explore in depth, we put together an exhaustive guide to the 57 differences between this camera and its predecessor). But let’s start with the basics. The camera offers a standard sensitivity range of ISO 200-25600, with an extended ISO100 option also available (but more likely to clip highlight detail). Shutter speeds range from 60 sec to 1/8000 sec – good for shooting with fast lenses in bright light – and there’s a completely silent electronic shutter option with a 1/16,000sec top speed. At the other end of the scale, Olympus’s unique Live Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite modes take the guesswork out of long-exposure shooting, giving an on-screen update of how the image is developing.
Naturally Olympus’s 5-axis in-body image stabilisation is on-board; it works with all lenses, including manual focus optics on mount adapters. It does an exceptional job for both stills and video, giving sharp images at implausibly slow shutter speeds, and bringing an almost Steadicam-like quality to handheld video. For example I was able to get sharp shots using a shutter speed of 1/6sec with a 60mm lens – more than four stops slower than I’d usually expect to get away with.
Continuous shooting is available at 10 frames-per-second, or 5 frames-per-second with continuous AF and a live view display between frames. The buffer is sufficient for capturing 16 RAW frames before the camera slows down. The Mark II also features a highly customisable self-timer and built-in intervalometer, which it can use to create in-camera timelapse movies.
Other features include the obligatory built-in Wi-Fi, for image sharing and remote control of the camera. There’s also a large set of image-processing ‘Art Filters’ for looks such as Toy Camera and Grainy Film. While these aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, Olympus’s are unusually well-judged, and critically allow you to record a raw file alongside your filtered JPEG in case you change your mind later. In-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR) shooting and a double exposure mode are also available, but surprisingly there’s no automated in-camera panorama stitching mode.
The hotshot accepts Four Thirds-dedicated Olympus, Panasonic and third party flashes, as well as the small unit that comes in the box. A small, easily-losable cover on the front of the camera unscrews to reveal a standard coaxial PC sync socket for use with studio flash systems.
I also have to mention the FL-LM3 flash that comes in the box. While it’s not especially high-powered, with a guide number of 12.9m at ISO 200, it has a fully articulated head, allowing the light to be bounced off a ceiling for a more flattering effect indoors. Using a fast lens and relatively high ISO, this works genuinely well. It’s also splashproof and can act as a wireless controller for off-camera flash setups. Overall it has to be the most useful flash unit that comes supplied with any camera.
Arguably the most comprehensive changes have been made to movie shooting, where the Mark II looks like a far more serious tool them previous OM-Ds. There’s no 4K, but Full HD recording is on offer at choice of frame rates up to 60fps. The bit-rate is much higher (up to 77 MBPs) for better-quality footage, sound-recording options have been expanded, and clean HDMI can be output to an external recorder. A full set of touchscreen-based controls have also been added, including the ability to pull focus from one subject to another just by touching the screen. Combined with the remarkable image stabilisation and Olympus’s traditionally-excellent colour output, this makes the E-M5 Mark II a really interesting option for movie makers who don’t want to be encumbered by stabilisation rigs, or spend ages on post-processing.