OM-D E-M5 Mark II - Review


2017 Update

After over five years using the MFT system I've sold my entire Olympus Micro Four Thirds Kit and now only use the full frame mirrorless Sony A7RII.

This decision came, since writing this article, after using both systems for a year and a half on client commissions.

Curious as to why? Read this:

Full Frame or Micro Four Thirds?


In February 2015, Olympus invited me to test the new OM-D E-M5 Mark II in Prague at the Olympus Action Factory.

The day started well as I sat on the plane next to landscape photographer Steve Gosling, also an Olympus Ambassador. A very interesting and humble man with bucket loads of experience who didn't mind me picking his brains on pretty much everything.

We arrived in Prague just before lunch and with military precision headed to a disused water treatment station, a historic building with 10km of underground tunnels aka urban exploration heaven. This place was actually used to film some scenes from Mission Impossible.

The afternoon started with the presentation by Olympus of the newest model in their OM-D family, the successor to the modern classic E-M5.

OM-D_E-M5_Mark_II_EZ-M1442EZ_silver_black__ProductTop_000.jpg
OM-D_E-M5_Mark_II_EZ-M4015_II_silver_black__Product_000.jpg

Once handed out a camera we were split into groups and went on to four workshops to test the E-M5 Mark II’s new and improved features.

To be honest Olympus took (what seemed like) a gamble taking us to this location with very low light levels, especially in the dark tunnels. You have to be pretty confident in your product to do that with a big group of reviewers.

I won’t go into features which I do not feel are relevant to urban or street photography but some really got me excited.

Improved Image Stabilisation

It is now possible to easily shoot a sharp 1 second exposure handheld. Really useful if like me you're incapable of not shaking in excitement. Actually I was told that someone in our group nailed a good 4 second exposure handheld but since it was so cold, it may be because they simply froze.

As a whole it is definitely an improvement on something that actually, was already setting the bar really high on previous models.

What this means is you can shoot lower ISO, therefore have less noise in your photos. Pair the camera with a wide aperture lens such as the Zuiko 17mm f1.8 or Zuiko 75mm f1.8 lens and shooting in low light without a tripod becomes a walk in the park!

This is also excellent for those interested in film making (which I'm not really). We shot various scenes of a movie which are being put together at the moment but from what I saw, it’s pretty amazing how stable the image was even from scenes where the cameraman was running after someone.

nicholas-goodden-em5-mk2-b.jpg

Silent Electronic Shutter

Others seemed less interested, well I guess most of them shoot landscapes (hard to scare off a Scottish mountain with the sound of your shutter) and others shoot models who actually need the sound of the shutter as a signal to change pose.

But for street photographers, this is near perfect. Yes... we are indeed the ninjas of the photography world.

I say near perfect as it's indeed not as good on fast moving targets, but if you use it on less hectic subjects, it can allow you to get shots you wouldn't think possible.

The camera has otherwise a hugely improved non-electronic shutter which is how I prefer to shoot that’s a lot quieter then the E-M1 and E-M5. It's ultra smooth!

I've also recently started shooting with the Sony A7RII which I love in many ways but you see compared with the E-M5 MkII the Sony A7RII's shutter noise is a lot louder. (Read my Sony A7RII Review here)

Improved Ergonomics

Olympus has listened and the squidgy buttons of the original EM5 are not anymore on the new model. The entire camera feels even better in the hand than its predecessor with more buttons overall too. It also feels somehow more solid.

nicholas-goodden-em5-mk2.jpg

Fully Rotating screen

I really love that rotating screen on the EM5 Mark II and not for selfies but rather for tricky angles.

OM-D_E-M5_Mark_II_EZ-M1415_II_black__Product_010_v2.jpg

The extra advantage is that you can turn the screen around and flip it back on the camera “reverted” (am I making sense here?)

So you can achieve what Leica has done selling the Leica M Edition 60 without screen for... just a little less money. No but seriously I like the idea of shooting without constantly looking at the screen which is in fact… a distraction.

Shifting Sensor

The 40mp setting is very impressive too but I see very little use in what I shoot. Urban landscapes would require no moving water, birds flying, trees blowing in the wind…

It will be great though for interiors, still life, food or architecture photography for example. Anything which doesn’t involve the slightest movement within the frame since the camera’s sensor shifts by half a pixel, shooting 8 photos in a row combined together to produce the 40mp photo.

We did get to test it for still life and it is indeed mind-blowingly good. (I won't however post any 40mp as all my photos here are in lower res to improve the load speeds. But sure you'll find them doted around the Internet)

omd-em5-mkII.jpg

Finally, if you are a light painting fan, this may just be the best camera to shot that type of photography. The Live Composite setting is just too good (also available on the E-M1 with the latest firmware update). It allows you to keep the camera shooting while adding all your light painting actions without over-exposing them. I'm not even sure how they do that but it works, I tried it first hand.

I’m not going to go further into technicalities since other blogs do technical reviews much better than I do and I recommend you check them out.

All I know is that I left Prague a little heart broken having had to hand it back, wanting that camera, wanting it to replace my E-M1 for more discreet street work so I can instead use the very slightly larger E-M1 for photography jobs.

You may also wish to read my First Hour with the E-M5 Mk2!

Nico