This is not just any old Olympus OM EM5 II review. I have written this review after having spent nearly a year using this camera for travel, landscape and portrait photography. In this review I will tell you what is great and not so great about this small but powerful camera. So lets crack on and get into the review. If you are looking at higher end Micro 4/3 cameras then you might like my comparison of the Olympus OMD EM1 ii vs Panasonic GH5
Olympus OMD EM 5 II review – Build Quality and Handling
Let’s start with the build quality and handling of the EM5 II because for me in these days where almost all cameras produce high quality results I find myself more and more concerned with how a camera feels and handles.
The OMD EM5 II is a very well built little camera. It is constructed of a magnesium alloy body and is fully weather sealed. I have used it in everything from tropical rain to sub zero temperatures and it has functioned faultlessly.
The body weighing in at 469g feels dense and solid. Unlike Fuji cameras which often have a slightly hollow feeling. It is a little larger and heavier than the Mk I at 124x85x45mm but I also find it more comfortable to hold. This is thanks in part to the thumb rest (which extends out a little further) and the increased grip size on the front.
The buttons on the camera also lose the slightly spongy feeling of the mark 1 and as a result give better tactile feedback when in use.
The dials on the mk II are larger and the power switch has been re-positioned to the top left of the camera a la the EM1.
The 3 Inch fully articulated LCD screen feels robust and not in danger of snapping off or becoming a weak point. Let’s not forget that this little camera is weather sealed against dust, water and it is also now tested to be freeze-proof.
The only issue I have had in the handling department with the Olympus OMD EM5 II is the tendency for the rubber viewfinder eye piece to get knocked off when taking it in and out of my bag. So I would advise that you keep an eye on it to make sure you don’t lose it.
I would also mention that in its default state the startup time can be slow. It can also be tedious when the eye sensor is turned on and you switch between the LCD and EVF. I personally turn off the eye sensor and shoot only through the EVF. Leaving the LCD for reviewing images. This greatly speeds up operation of the camera.
I like the modular nature of the OMD EM5 II. What do I mean by this? Well I would advise any owner to at least pick up the HLD8G part of the battery grip because it really adds to the handling of the camera when using larger lenses. I find that with the HLD8G grip added the camera handles very similarly to my old EM1. It feels just right with larger lenses like the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro attached. Of course with this combination you now have a very well weather sealed camera and lens combination that can take in just about any climate.
But of course you also have the choice to go small and light when you wish by removing the grip and using smaller prime lenses like the 25mm 1.8.
Olympus OMD EM5 II Review – Features
- 16mp Micro 4/3 sensor
- In-built 5 axis image stabilisation
- 40mp Hi res mode
- 1080/60p shooting and 1080/30p at up to 77Mbps (All-I)
- 1/8000th sec maximum shutter speed (1/16000th with electronic shutter)
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Live Bulb and Live time for easy long exposure photography
Let’s talk about that 16mp sensor because some may feel it is lacking compared to many competitors today where they are regularly offering 20-24mp on larger APS-C sensors.
While the 16mp sensor doesn’t quite keep up with competition anymore it is still perfectly capable of giving detailed images that can easily be used for everything from social media to prints up to 30×20″ with proper technique.
Dynamic range is on par with larger APS-C sensor offerings from Fuji and Nikon (see my Micro 4/3 vs APS-C comparison here).
Up to ISO 3200 is perfectly usable and the grain from noise is not unsightly.
Below are a couple of samples from shots taken at ISO 3200. Test charts don’t really give you a clear idea of real world noise performance. I find that the real test is shooting portraits and seeing how the camera does with skin tones. Both of these are 100% crops.
Olympus also offers a Hi Res mode which gives 40mp files that both improve the detail and colour accuracy of the images. It is an incredible feat. However the caveat is that you really need to lock your camera down on a solid tripod and have minimal to no movement within the scene. It is workable with landscape images and is certainly very useful for studio product and architectural photography.
The image stabilisation within the EM5 II is one of the standout features of this camera. At 24mm I can comfortably hand hold shots at 1 second which has several benefits. Firstly it allows you to lower the shutter speed and keep the ISO low, resulting in better quality photos with less noise. This somewhat negates the benefits of larger sensor cameras if your subjects are stationary.
Secondly it allows you to feel comfortable heading out with your camera without a tripod.
The 1/8000 of a second fastest mechanical shutter speed means that even using fast prime lenses in broad daylight is usually not an issue.
Video has been improved on the EM5 II over the original and the quality is decent enough for travel use and V-Logging. You can even shoot time lapse and slow motion in camera. However the video image is nowhere near as sharp as that given by recent Panasonic cameras.
Here is a quick video I put together using the OMD EM5II and GH5. The scenes up to the vegetables being chopped are all shot on the EM5 II
I also find myself using the handy Olympus Viewer app to transfer images from the camera to my phone for quick uploading to social media. Unlike Fuji there is no 30 picture transfer limit. The app is simple and functional, allowing you to also leave your shutter release at home as you can trigger the camera from it.
The viewfinder on the EM5 II is taken directly from the EM1 and is larger than the one found on the Olympus Pen F for example. It is not the largest EVF in the world, with those from the Fuji XT2 and Panasonic GH5 offering a better experience. However it is large enough to manually focus lenses and see all the details that you will need to capture the moment.
With really useful tools in camera such as Live Bulb and Live Time you can capture long exposures while being given a preview on the LCD screen as the image builds. This is one of the standout features of Olympus cameras at the moment and genuinely useful.
Olympus OMD EM5 II Review – Verdict
So why am I reviewing the Olympus OMD EM5 II when it has been out for a couple of years now and its replacement is expected in a few months time.
Well in this day and age with companies constantly bombarding us with their marketing telling us that we need the latest and greatest in order to be good photographers, compete with everyone else etc, I wanted to show that this 2 year old small sensored camera is still perfectly capable of producing professional quality results in a small package with all the features you are likely to ever need.
It can now be bought for around £600 in the UK from some suppliers such as Cotswold Cameras and at that price it is an absolute steal.
If you are trying to decide between the Olympus OMD EM5 II and the Olympus Pen F then check out my comparison here
And if you are going to do any shopping on Amazon UK or Amazon US then please do click through my links as I will earn a small commission and it wont cost you a penny more.