Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

Looking for a camera that can handle the real world and not take too much of your luggage up? Olympus lets us play with its second-gen E-M5. Is this the best digital mirrorless yet?

Features

When it comes to mirrorless cameras and the interchangeable ilk, it’s hard to go past the Micro Four Thirds format championed by Olympus and Panasonic. While the two may be rivals, they are the two working the hardest to make the Micro Four Thirds format one of the most successful lens and sensor styles around, providing a small sensor with lenses that work across each of the cameras.

We’ve seen plenty of Panasonic models in this range before, and Panasonic is sure doing what it can to make sure the Micro Four Thirds world caters to 4K Ultra HD video capture, but Olympus is focusing instead on providing a look of something old with the guts of something from today.

The latest generation of the Olympus take on the concept, the Mark II OM-D E-M5 is a second-generation edition of an interchangeable we saw a few years ago, and this new one features a revamped version of the Micro Four Thirds LiveMOS sensor the company has been using on cameras for a few years now, relying on a 16.1 megapixel sensor module without a mirror with a wave filter dust reduction system working in front.

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It’s likely you’ve already worked out from our numbers that this sensor shoots at 16 megapixels, but what you may not know is what it does beyond this, capturing at 16 megapixels in RAW and JPEG, and supporting what essentially amounts to a 40 megapixel image or close to a 64 megapixel image using a special high-resolution mode that can shift the sensor.

Manual modes such as Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and the obviously named “manual” are all supported here, as it is with regular shooting, and you’ll find low-light sensitivity ranges on the camera from ISO 100 to 25600.

There are even scene modes offered, in case manual is a little too advanced for you, with several options, including portrait, landscape, fireworks, beach, macro, and sunset, among others.

Several colour tones and artistic modes are available to the you, as are customised colour profiles you can save for later, handy if you’re used to shooting a specific type of colour mode like monochromatic.

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Images on the camera can be shot at a maximum of 10 frames per second in high-speed mode, though the buffer will only hold a maximum of 16 RAW images when set at this level or 19 JPEGs. A lower setting of 5 frames per second is also available, with the maximum number of frames in this mode set closer to infinite (or until the memory runs out).

Image sizes are also offered beyond that of the RAW and JPEG formats, catering to 3:2, 16:9 widescreen, 1:1 square, 3:4, and the standard 4:3 aspect ratio most cameras rely on.

Video is also capable from the Mark II, recording in either MOV or AVI format, the former of which supports Full HD 1080p (1920×1080) or 720p HD (1280×720) ranging from 24p to 60p, while AVI can handle either 640×480 or 1280×720 in a maximum of 30p.

The Olympus video mode has been designed to take advantage of the Olympus 5 axis sensor found at the top of the camera, stabilising the video almost like a Steadicam would.

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A 3 inch vari-angle OLED touchscreen monitor lets you take a gander at your image and compose them, but a viewfinder can also be found built into this unit providing 100% field of view and 2.36 million dots.

Wireless technology is built into the Mark II camera, too, providing wireless transfer to a smartphone or tablet, as well as camera control from the said device using the Olympus application.

A flash is included with the unit, making up for there being no flash built inside the camera.

The OM-D E-M5 Mark II captures images and video to an SD card.

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Performance

Out of the box and into the hand, and the Olympus design of the Mark II is a sight to behold and to, well, hold.

We’ve always appreciated the style Oly has brought from its traditional cameras, a heritage that the company hopes people haven’t forgotten with the designers merging that older look with a newer feel and improvements in technology.

While the look is that of something old, those looks can be deceiving, because inside this camera is all new guts, so you can leave those ageing rolls of purple film in the fridge.

Our review model was silver and black, retaining the look of the old OM cameras Olympus used to manufacturer back in the 70s, with a feel of something equally historic: metal.

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Not just any metal, either.

Weather-resistant metal, designed to handle a bit of a flogging from the elements.

We say “bit” because that basically translates to “rain” not the hurricane your brain has probably mustered up from out of the blue, but it’s still better than so many of the other bodies we see that aren’t equipped for drizzle.

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