Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review

Mirrorless cameras vs dSLR cameras
The micro four third sensor Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark II mirrorless camera accompanied me on a tour of Europe. I found it to be a great travel camera with incredible autofocus performance. See more of my photos here.

This is a review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii. I had a bit of trouble deciding what to title the post though…

You see, after using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii solidly for a month whilst travelling in Europe, I am confident that this little camera is the best travel camera available today.

By best travel camera, I mean a camera that is small, light, weather-proof, tough, fast and of course, takes a great picture. If it’s affordable too, that’s a big plus.

I also could have quite easily titled this review, Best Street Photography Camera. Or Best Second Camera for Pros. Or even, the Best Camera for Parents (who don’t have time to mess around with DSLRs!) You’ll see why…

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olympus om-d e-m5 mark ii review

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii Review – A Quick Summary

Here’s a condensed version of this review. If you are:

a) someone who doesn’t know anything about cameras but wants to take great photos

b) a pro who wants a second camera for travel/street photography/fun (e.g. me).

c) someone who wants arguably the best compact camera for professional photographers

Here is all you need to know:

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii allows you take interesting and creative photos much easier than any other camera I’ve ever used. It makes photography easier and it makes it a lot of fun.

If you have $1,000 to invest in a compact camera that has better functions than any dSLR and excellent image quality, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is the camera to get.

Unless you’re a pro or a serious hobbyist, don’t waste your time with a dSLR, especially if you’re a parent. Trust me on this – a bulky camera will never leave your camera bag.

Save Time – Here’s My Recommendation

If you wanted just one all round lens, I’d go with this body + Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens kit for the most versatility.

As for other lens options, if you’re a prime lens user, I’d recommend the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 to start with, the Olympus 12mm f/2 as a wide angle and the Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 if you want some amazing low light performance.

If you prefer the convenience of zoom lenses, I’d recommend the the amazing Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 and the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 – with those two, you’re pretty much sorted for wide angle all the way through to telephoto.

Click on the images below to be taken to Amazon where you can read lots of reviews of each product:

If you’d prefer to shop with B&H Photo, click the button below to read more reviews on the Olympus OMD-EM-5 Mark II and get the best price there.

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My Experience with Mirrorless Cameras

[For those who don’t know what mirrorless cameras are, or how they compare to dSLRs, here’s a great article by SLR Lounge.]

I wasn’t expecting to like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii. I’ve tried plenty of mirrorless cameras, and they all seem to annoy me, usually in one important aspect – the autofocus.

I own the pseudo range-finder Fujifilm X100S camera, which is extremely popular (especially amongst pros) for its gorgeous looks, a high speed leaf shutter which allows you to do incredible things with flash, and most importantly the incredible image quality you can get straight out of camera.

olympus om-d e-m5 mark ii vs Fujifilm X100s
Left: Olympus OMD-EM5 Mark II | Right: Fujifilm X100S

However, I don’t care what anyone says, the auto focus on the Fuji sucks. I use single point AF, and whilst the Fujifilm X100S keeps up in decent light, it’s still way slower than any dSLR to grab focus.

Then there’s the auto focus for moving subjects…omg. Anyone who says the X100S is great for street photography is obviously shooting things that are static, which in my opinion isn’t real street photography.

The much loved Fujfilm XT-1 has slightly better AF (especially with recent firmware updates), but it’s still nowhere near a dSLR.

I agree completely that these type of mirrorless camera can be used professionally, but only if the subject is static. Wedding Photographers who use the XT-1 are, in my opinion, sacrificing a lot of the story in favour of still shots.

So in summary, I think small mirrorless cameras are great. They’re small and can produce excellent quality images. However, the focus system on any dSLR is usually far better.

That is, until now…

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii

There are a few caveats, but here’s why I think the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is:

  1. the best mirrorless micro 4/3 camera
  2. the best camera for travel photography
  3. the best camera for street photography.

Rather than bore you with an in-depth review of every detail of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, I’ve decided to highlight what are in my opinion the most amazing features of this camera.

Then I’ll round it off with what I didn’t like so much.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 2 review

I’ve included photos I took on my one month family holiday around Europe. Bear in mind that I was always with 3 other people and our baby, so had little time for each shot.

I think this makes the review more realistic, and hopefully shows what you can achieve with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii as a travel camera in an everyday situation.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii – What I liked

1. Size/Weight

Let’s get this one out the way first. Mirrorless cameras are much smaller and lighter than dSLRs. I wouldn’t say they’re ever ‘pocketable’, but you can hang one around your neck or off your wrist all day without any issues (this is what I did).

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii allows you to change lenses. There are lots of lens options available, but I chose the excellent Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 which balances perfectly on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii.

Sticking a heavy zoom on a camera of this size kinda defeats the purpose for me, so I wanted to couple the Olympus with a prime (non-zoomable) lens, and the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 fit the bill perfectly.

The field of view is roughly 35mm which is a perfect all round focal length, and the lens is sharp and fast. It also exhibits some lovely flare.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii

I won’t dwell on lens choice as it’s very subjective, but if you want my advice, invest in the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 and leave it on your Olympus mirrorless camera forever. Just because you can change lenses doesn’t mean you have to ;-)

As for the weight, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii + the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 is 648g (467g + 181g). By comparison, the average dSLR + lens is well over 1kg.

A camera needs to have a certain weight to it, otherwise it feels too much like a toy, and can actually be harder to use. The set up I described above is just right – not too heavy, not too light, and very well balanced in the hand.

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2., Image Quality – JPEG

How a photograph looks is pretty much the most important factor when buying a camera. There are so many cameras that are a pain in the ass to use, but the image quality is so good (or has some intangible quality to it) that we put up with the shortcomings of the camera body.

I own the Fuji X100S and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s very annoying to use. The original X100 was way, way worse, but it still sold like hot cakes. Why? Because the image quality is excellent.

When I got hold of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, I knew that the body would blow the Fuji out of the water. It just felt right in my hands. However, I thought that the image quality would fall short.

I thought that I wouldn’t have the confidence to shoot it in jpeg mode like I do the Fuji, safe in the knowledge that White Balance wouldn’t need correcting in post, and the jpeg colours would be good enough to be usable straight out of camera.

How wrong I was.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 2 review
This looks like it’s been edited but it hasn’t – it’s just a nice pocket of light down an uninteresting street.

Remember, these are JPEGs that are straight out of camera. All I’ve done is added contrast and sharpening in the camera’s settings, and resized them for this site.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 2 review
An alleyway in Lucca, a beautiful little town in Tuscany.

Sure, they lack a bit of punch, but I still think the quality is very good considering there’s zero post processing, which meant zero time spent sitting in front of a computer for me :-)

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 2 review
The Trastevere neighbourhood on the west bank of the Tiber in Rome – highly recommended!

You may think the above photo looks a bit orange, but the afternoon light in Tuscany really is that colour – it’s beautiful. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii nailed the white balance.

3. Image Quality – RAW

I shoot the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii on the RAW + JPEG Fine setting. That way I don’t have to waste my time editing any RAW files if I’m happy with how the JPEG looks, but I still have the RAW files to fall back on should I need to dig deeper into the dynamic range of the file, or fix the white balance.

If you can’t be bothered to mess around with the images on your computer after shooting them, just set the camera to JPEG and you’ll get great looking photos.

However, for those of you who’d like to see what this camera is capable of when you really push the RAW files, below is a test image I shot heavily under exposed (it was basically complete black), then brought back by 4 stops in Lightroom.

Ignore the bottom of the picture – it’s the edge of the wharf I was shooting from.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 2 review

By comparison, here’s the same underexposed -> recovered image with my Nikon D750, a full frame camera costing twice as much:

Nikon D750 raw test

It’s only when you start peeping into the shadow detail that you notice the Olympus’s file struggling, but this is to be expected of a sensor that’s less than half the size (and cost) of the Nikon D750.

That’s the thing with this camera – you often forget that it’s a Micro 4/3 sensor, way smaller than a dSLR’s. The RAW files simply can’t contain as much data in them, so you can’t push and pull them to extremes like you could a full frame camera.

However, if you accept this, the RAW files out of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii are excellent and you can have a lot of fun post processing them in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Here are some snaps from my holiday to give you a bit of an idea of what this camera is capable of.

olympus om-d e-m5 mark ii sample pictures
Singapore Airport where we stopped to get a much needed break from the mammoth flight.
The flare from the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is great!
The flare from the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is great!
I was exposing for the sun in this shot, so had to pull back some detail from the shadows in post
Athens at 7pm – I was exposing for the sun in this shot, so pulled back some detail from the shadows in post.
Being able to preview the exposure on the LCD screen makes hunting for interesting light especially fun
Being able to preview the exposure on the LCD screen makes hunting for interesting light especially fun.
This is Tom who makes his living on a street corner in Athens, selling bicycles made out of wire for 1 Euro!
This is Tom who makes his living on a street corner in Athens, selling bicycles made out of wire for 1 Euro!
Underexposing is a cinch with live exposure preview
Harry gets a telling off! Underexposing is a cinch with live exposure preview
The Olympus actually retains a surprising amount of highlight detail for a small camera. I wasn't interested in that here though
The Olympus retains a surprising amount of highlight detail for a small camera.
The sun shades of the cruise boat on the Bospherus in Istanbul
Shot from the ground – the sun shades of the cruise boat on the Bospherus in Istanbul
Here I tilted the screen 180 degrees and shot backwards
Here I tilted the screen 180 degrees and shot backwards
This is how the camera/lens deals with a heavily backlit portrait
This is how the camera/lens handles a heavily backlit portrait
Exposing for the highlights is so easy on a camera with exposure preview
Exposing for the highlights is so easy on a camera with exposure preview
As the Olympus doesn't need to be shot at your eye, you can get candid photos like this much easier
As the Olympus doesn’t need to be shot at your eye, you can get candid photos like this much easier
An example of the bokeh at f/1.8 of the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens
An example of the awesome bokeh at f/1.8 of the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens
Violinist on the streets of Florence
Violinist on the streets of Florence
Inside the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul
Inside the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul

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4. Flip Out Screen

Flip out (articulated) screens are in my opinion the most under rated feature on cameras today. In fact, the flip out screen on the Nikon D750 was one of the main reasons I got a couple for my wedding photography work.

At first you might think that having a flip out screen is a gimmick, but the more you use one, the more you’ll realise how many creative doors it can open.

Olympus_OMDEM5ii_Review
It’s so easy to take a photo using the flip out screen, even my 1 year old can do it!

The original Olympus OM-D EM-5 had a 90 degree flip out screen, but the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii allows the screen to be flipped and swivelled 180 degrees.

I really don’t want to use the word ‘selfie’, but being able to compose a shot pointing the camera at yourself can be handy, and if you have children it’s especially fun. (See more tips on how to photograph children.)

Olympus OM-D EM-5
My son and I at Lake Vouliagmeni in Athens – the fish in the lake nibble at the dead skin on your body!

Shots like the ones below would have been very awkward without the flip out screen of the Olympus.

The screen encourages you to take photos from unusual angles, allowing you to get very close to the ground for some creative perspectives.

Olympus_OMDEM5ii_Review
The Duomo in Milan – luckily the rain meant the queue was only 1/2 hour rather than 4 hours!
Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 2 review
Istanbul from the Bosphorus River. This shot taken was 1 inch from the water. The weatherproof body of the Olympus helps with splashes.

However, having a flip out screen is only part of the equation of the awesomeness of the the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii!

The other feature that goes hand in hand and makes this camera the best camera for street photography (as well as all kinds of other ‘stealthy photography genres) is…

5. Touch Screen Focus/Shoot

I’m so excited to about this feature! Every time I use it I love the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii a little bit more!

Ross Harvey who uses the original Olympus OM-D EM-5 for street photography showed me this feature in this interview for Shotkit last year.

When you try it in person though, it’ll blow your mind! It really does make every other touch screen camera seem dated in comparison, and also makes the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii very easy to use for anyone.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II
The ice cream vendors in Istanbul put on a show for every customer which consists of snatching the ice cream from your hand until you’re sick of it!

So what do I mean by ‘touch screen focus/shoot’? Well whilst anyone with a mobile phone is familiar with touching the screen to tell the camera where to focus, but the Olympus OMD cameras take this one step further by focusing, exposing and taking the photo all in a millisecond.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’d like to control the exposure, you can of course do this in Manual mode, but just to illustrate how useful this feature is, imagine being outside with the Olympus. You’ve swivelled out the flip screen so you can look down onto it and shoot from the hip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

People around you would think you’re just checking your photos, but little do they knew, you’re composing your shot so that when an interesting subject walks past, you touch them on the screen and BAM! Focus and Shot in less than half a second!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’ve got the sound off (incidentally, the shutter sound effect is gorgeous), your photo was 100% invisible.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II
This was at rush hour on a main road in Istanbul. These cops were very stressed, so I was pretty nervous getting this shot. Luckily the Olympus is silent and fast.

This is pretty much the main reason why I think the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is the best camera for street photography. After all, being invisible is the name of the game if you want to get those decisive moments.

Locals crowd around to buy a grilled fish sandwich with fish freshly caught from the Bosphorus River
Locals crowd around to buy a grilled fish sandwich with fish freshly caught from the Bosphorus River

I’ve interspersed this section with photos I took using this function while I was in Istanbul. Remember that I’m using the equivalent of a 35mm lens, so I’m less than a metre from the subject in most cases, and I didn’t even get in one fist fight! Not even with these kids!! :p

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II Review
Talk to the kids, but shoot from the hip – only one of them knew what I was up to!

Perhaps in the comments other users can let me know if any other camera allows touch to shoot functionality, but I’m pretty confident Olympus was the pioneer back in 2012 when the original Olympus OM-D EM-5 was released.

As a side note, be sure to turn ON the camera’s Exposure Preview in Live Mode. Confusingly, Olympus calls this ‘Live Boost’ and you must set it to OFF.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Shooting with Live View and being able to preview the exposure before you take the shot feels like cheating, and can really help amateurs understand how ISO and Shutter Speed will affect the exposure of their picture.

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6. Auto-Focus

Whether you use the touch screen or the brilliant Electronic View Finder (i.e. looking through the ‘eye hole’ like you would a regular camera), the focus on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is nothing short of amazing.

As I said before, unresponsive and slow auto-focus on a mirrorless camera is a deal breaker for me and many other pros.

In street photography, or when you only have a split-second to take a photo, you don’t want to be waiting for your camera to focus.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 2 review
This old man in Athens told me off for snooping around his car boot sale without buying anything!

With the Fujifilm X100s I was always unsure if I’d got the pic. I’ve heard some say they like this uncertainty as it makes the picture taking process more fun, but to that I say bollocks!

I want my camera to grab focus in a millisecond, take the photo, then I’m on my way whilst you guys have fun trying to get the shot.

A stall vendor of fake goods gets booked in a square in Florence

I’ve tried a few mirrorless cameras in this price range before, but the auto focus on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii demolishes them all.

In fact, the auto focus on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii in good light is just as fast, if not faster than a dSLR, which for such a small camera, I find mindblowing.

7. Face Recognition

Whilst we’re talking about auto-focus, I should mention that the Face Recognition on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is excellent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The focal point selection using the thumbpad is simple and intuitive (you don’t need to press the Up button to engage it – an annoyance of the Fuji X100S), but with Facial Recognition engaged, you don’t even need to touch the thumbpad – focus switches automatically to the subject’s face when you press the shutter button.

This makes it even easier to capture the subject’s face (unnoticed) during street photography. Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 2 review

On small cameras, the fewer the number of button presses needed to take the photo, the better, and with helpful functions like Face Recognition on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, taking a photograph of a person is made so simple.

8. Speed

By this I mean, the number of photos the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii can take in a row in one second.

With silent shutter engaged, being able to shoot off a machine gun-like 10 frames per second without anyone knowing is a lot of fun!

Whilst spray and pray isn’t the aim here, the continuous auto-focus (the camera’s ability to focus continuously on a subject moving towards or away from you) on most mirrorless cameras is still leagues behind dSLRs. That’s one reason why being able to shoot off multiple frames vastly increases the chance of you getting the shot you want.

It’s also useful for shooting large groups of people, where inevitably someone will be blinking. With multiple frames per second, you will vastly increase the likelihood of getting one photo where everyone has their eyes open.

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9. Stabilisation – Photos

The 5 axis stabilisation on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is truly remarkable, allowing you to handhold photos much slower than the reciprocal rule (the reciprocal rule means for example, if you’re using a 50mm lens, setting your shutter speed to any slower than 1/50 will most likely result in a blurry photo if you are hand holding the camera.)

In practice, what this means is that you’ve a way better chance of being able to take an unblurry shot in low light without using a tripod.

It’s the kind of feature that when you return to your trusty dSLR, you’ll wish it had the same thing built in.

Here’s a hand held shot at 1/15th second, which would be impossible with a dSLR:

Olympus_OMDEM5ii_Review

The photo stabilisation worked flawlessly for me, and I found it rather entertaining that whenever it was engaged, you could hear a tiny motor whirring inside the camera.

10. Stabilisation – Movies

Where the stabilisation really comes into its own is during the movie feature. It’s like having a built in steadicam, allowing you to produce movies with gliding movements rather than the usual jarring/bobbing recording typical of such a small cameras.

Looking at the LCD screen whilst recording and walking along is mind blowing – every step you take is muffled into a smooth motion right before your eyes, making you feel like you’re gliding.

Although I rarely ever shoot video on holidays, the stabilisation function on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii made it so much fun (and the output so professional looking), that I found myself hitting the record button between shooting stills more and more often.

I’ll upload a movie to demonstrate this feature soon…

11. Live Exposure

This feature makes long exposure photography much, much easier and whole lot of fun too. Olympus refers to it as Live Time.

In a nutshell, Live Time allows you to see the exposure as the camera is creating it.

What this means in practice is that rather than simply guessing (or calculating) the exposure length required for a low light photo, you can start the exposure (i.e. press the shutter button), then watch on the LCD screen as the photo gradually changes, until the point where you feel happy with how it looks, at which point you can press the shutter button again to take the picture.

It really brings out the magic of photography and will no doubt remind photographers who use film of being in a dark room, watching their pictures come to life.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 2 review
The Ponte Vecchio in Florence | 11 Second exposure @ f/8, ISO 200

It’s a bit like watching a Polaroid become a colour photograph in front of your eyes, except that you’re the one controlling how ‘bright’ the colours are – it’s a lot of fun!!

‘Bulb’ exposure on dSLRs allows you to choose the length of an exposure on the fly, but of course, during the exposure, you’re unable to see how it looks, so it still involves a lot of guesswork.

Using Live Time, long exposure photography techniques like Light Painting and Star Trails are made much easier, giving you a new level of precise visual control that’s simply not possible with dSLR cameras.

12. Megapixel Boost

This is a bit of a gimmick, but being able to take an 40 megapixel photo using a 16 megapixel compact camera is very cool in the right situation.

To be able to create a photo with so much data, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii needs to stitch together a few photos, which means that the subject needs to be completely static for the length of the exposure. This means you’ll mostly be using it for landscape work on a very still day.

I’ll be honest – out of 5,000+ exposures, I only used this feature once, but I’m glad I did. It means that I can make a large print of the below shot of Athens for my wall and be able to see incredible detail.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 2 review
The size of this photo is 7296 x 4864, compared to 4608 x 3072 of the regular files.

Zooming in on the original image (especially on a Retina iMac!) is mind blowing. This screen shot doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark 2 review

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13. Manual Focus

For those rare times when the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii struggles to achieve focus (usually in the dark), it’s great to be able to fall back on a manual focus system that’s executed in the best way I’ve ever seen on a camera.

If the camera starts struggling to focus, I’ll half press the shutter to disengage autofocus, then twist the ring on the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens I’m using. Immediately, Focus Peaking engages (and optionally a 100% zoomed image), that helps me be absolutely sure my subject is in focus.

For those of you who don’t know what Focus Peaking is, when you start to twist the focus ring on your lens, bright white lines start appearing around the edges of anything in focus. Keep turning the ring and the lines will move to other areas that are in focus, and when the lines appear around the thing you want to be in focus, press the shutter button completely and you’ve just got a shot in perfect focus.

Many compact cameras offer Focus Peaking as a feature, but the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii allows you to engage it faster and easier than anything else I’ve used.

When shooting wide open at f/1.8, I’d occasionally use manual focus to make sure I had my son’s eye in focus, or in the photo below, his eye lashes. Yes, it really is that accurate.

Photo by Gold Hat Photography

14. Dials

I love how the dials and shutter button placement on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii mimic all Nikon dSLRs I’ve ever used.

On top of the camera, you have one two dials (wheels) – one controllable with your forefinger, the other with your thumb.

I set the front one to aperture and the rear to exposure compensation, since I shoot in Aperture Priority.

Using the LCD screen, it makes getting the exposure I want very easy – if the picture looks too dark, I roll the rear dial one way, too light the other way.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii

Even though this camera is small and the dials are very close to each other, the placement feels perfect and I can adjust both of them without moving my hand.

Even if you’re a Canon shooter, or more used to dials being placed elsewhere, the layout of the main dials/buttons on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is excellent and you’ll feel like you’re using a larger, professional camera body.

15. Grip

I’ve got big hands (24cm span). The grip on the Nikon Df for example is too small for me. My choice of Nikon over Canon initially was due to ergonomics alone. In short, how a camera feels in the hand is very important to me.

I can only fit 3 fingers and a thumb on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, which would normally rule it out, but due to one small addition, I feel comfortable using this camera and 100% confident that it will never slip out of my hand.

Perched at the top of the Olympus is a curved rubber thumb grip which protrudes out of the camera just enough to provide the perfect ‘ledge’ to support your thumb.

Coupled with a ridge on the front of the camera, I find it very comfortable and secure.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii

If you have gorilla sized hands, or you find it more comfortable to be able to rest all your fingers on the camera, there’s also an external screw-on grip available here which also includes an external mic input for video.

16. Looks

I think the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii looks great. I prefer the look of my Fujifilm X100s, but that’s at the detriment to its ergonomic functionality.

My preference is the Silver/Black body of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, and the black version of the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 – available here.

Olympus_OMDEM5ii_Review

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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii – What I didn’t like

Let’s face it. No camera is perfect. There are always going to be things we don’t like, and here’s the list of the things that pissed me off about the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii:

Menus

I’ve used the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii solidly for one month, shooting well over 5,000 exposures, but the menu still confuses the crap out of me.

Actually, I should say menuS, since there are several, all reachable by different buttons. It’s a bit of a joke really, and something Olympus should be working hard to sort out as their hardware is excellent.

Luckily, once you have your settings dialled in and saved, there’s not much need to go digging around in the menus each time. Also there’s the ability to save your settings, which proves invaluable if you need to reset the camera.

Auto ISO

I rely on auto ISO to save messing around with buttons when I should be capturing a moment. Auto ISO means that the camera will automatically adjust the ISO to ensure enough light is reaching the sensor, rather than slowing down your shutter.

Usually with an Auto ISO feature, the camera allows you to choose a minimum shutter speed, meaning that when the camera descends to that chosen shutter speed, it will start increasing the ISO to allow more light into your exposure.

However, with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, there’s no way to set this minimum shutter speed, meaning that instead of the Auto ISO increasing the ISO for you, it’ll drop the shutter speed first instead.

There is the excellent Image Stabilisation feature to help you achieve a sharp shot despite a slow shutter speed, but nevertheless, it’s a bit annoying when a camera of this quality which can comfortably shoot high ISOs should be favouring a higher ISO over a lower shutter speed.

There is apparently a workaround which involves setting a minimum flash sync speed, but I never got this to work.

Eye Sensor during Playback

Whilst viewing photos during playback, the EVF (viewfinder)’s sensor will activate if you hold your hand too close. What’s happening here is the viewfinder is optionally set up to detect your eye’s presence (i.e., when you want to look through the EVF rather than the LCD screen), but is actually just sensing any object that’s close, like your hand.

This means that whilst browsing my photos, I’d often set off the sensor by mistake, making the camera return to shooting mode.

This is a minor gripe, but nonetheless rather annoying and something I think could be fixed easily in a firmware update. All Olympus needs to do is deactivate the eye sensor during Playback.

Startup Time

As I’m predominantly a dSLR user, I’m used to a camera being ready to shoot the moment you switch it on. However, with MOST non dSLR cameras, this is not the case, in part, I assume, due to the fact that there are LCD screens to activate and other electronics.

The startup time on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is pretty slow, and can become annoying if you’re relying on it to get the shot.

My workaround was to keep the camera turned on constantly, and hold my thumb over the viewfinder sensor, thus deactivating the LCD and preserving battery life. When I wanted to take a pic, I’d just remove my thumb and snap snap, I’d be done.

External Buttons

In general, the button layout on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is fine. I’ve mentioned how I love the dials already, and the thumb pad for focus point selection is easy to use even with the camera to your eye.

What I don’t like is the fact that Olympus has chosen to devote prominent external buttons to what I consider to be useless features.

Useless feature #1 – HDR. Does anyone other than Trey Ratcliffe actually care about HDR anymore?! And even if you do, the iPhone shoots much nicer looking HDR than the Olympus, and can do it using a single exposure (rather than merging several, which is the proper way but means the subject needs to be completely static).

Useless feature #2 – Curves. Is there anyone out there who has ever chosen a curves adjustment before taking a photo?! I might be missing something, but why does this function even exist inside a camera? Curves should stay on your computer, not in your camera!

I should mention that these buttons can be remapped, but this involves digging into the convoluted menu, so I couldn’t be bothered.

Come on Olympus – make at least one of those buttons ISO and you’ll make a lot of pros happy! Or put an ISO button on the back of the camera, and remove those superfluous buttons altogether. Simple is better on small cameras after all.

Continuous Autofocus

It works… sometimes. This is an area most mirrorless cameras that use only Contract Detection struggle, so the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii isn’t the only one.

In simple terms, if a subject is moving fast towards the camera and you try and fire off 10 consecutive shots with the shutter button held down, the Continuous Auto Focus would be lucky to get 5 in focus, even in good light. This is where the Contrast + Phase Detection AF of a dSLR will always win.

I never shoot in Continuous AF though, so this wasn’t an issue for me, but it needs to be mentioned just so you know the limitations of the Auto-Focus on many mirrorless cameras.

Confusing Features

I’ll admit it – even after a month of playing, I couldn’t figure out how to use the Panorama function, nor set up the movie function so it did what I wanted it to. I didn’t understand a lot of the user manual either, but I never was very good with manuals!

Conclusion & Final Recommendations

Despite these small niggles, all in all, I love the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii and think you will too.

In my opinion, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is the best travel camera and best street photography available today.

If you’re a parent looking to buy a camera to take photos of your kids and want all the quality of a dSLR without the bulk, look no further – the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii is the camera for you.

If you’re a working pro like me and you want a smaller camera which has excellent image quality to ‘chuck in the bag’, this is it.

Olympus OM-D EM-10 Mark II

SUPPORT SHOTKIT! CLICK HERE TO GET THE OLYMPUS OMD-EM-5 MARK II FROM B&H PHOTO

Take my advice and buy the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 with it, or get one of the excellent zooms if you’re feeling too lazy to zoom with your feet!

If your budget can’t stretch to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii, I recommend you get its smaller brother, the Olympus OM-D EM-10 Mark II which has just been released. It has all the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark ii’s best features, all packed into a smaller body.

One final recommendation, buy a wrist strap such as this or this. Having a camera dangling around my neck annoys me and makes me look like a tourist, which is why I much prefer a wrist strap with a camera of this size.

Also, you do not need a camera bag! The whole point of having a small camera is that it’s there, ready to shoot at a second’s notice. Fumble around with velcro and clips and the moment’s gone. Trust me on this one!

One last option is to go with this Spider Holster, which, if you wear a belt and tuck your shirt into your trousers, is probably the best carrying system ever invented.

If you’ve read this far, thank you so much! I hope you enjoyed the review and the pics from my hols. Please leave a comment if you have any opinions about this camera, micro 4/3 cameras or anything you like :-)

Review by Sydney Wedding Photographer Mark Condon | www.goldhatphotography.com

BUY OLYMPUS OMD EM5 MARK II

BUY OLYMOUS OMD EM5 MARK II Disclaimer: Olympus did not pay me to write this review, nor do they sponsor me in any way whatsoever. Olympus simply leant me their camera and lens to use for a month and expected nothing in return. All the links in this review are affiliate links. This means that you’ll be getting the best deal on a new Olympus, and you’ll be supporting Shotkit and my time writing this review for you. Thanks for your support!

9 build quality

8 ergonomics & handling

9 viewfinder/screen quality

10 features

9 metering & focus

7 high iso performance

8 image quality

10 Value

The Breakdown

8.8

88 Comments

  • in my brief use I loved it, and I reckon I only used 0.1% of what this camera could do but the speed pick up of the touchscreen shooting was amazing – most loved by my 7 & 4 yr olds who not only could use it but took some worryingly good shots! great camera that I suspect I’ll be getting!

    • haha I nearly posted some of the pics your girls took to show how easy it is to use, but didn’t since they were all of us looking like idiots…!

  • Good review, it mirrors my experience with the camera.

    I would definitely get the optional grip though.

  • Just a quick note, there is direct access to ISO, the lever next to the viewfinder – position 1 is exp comp and f stop on the top dials (thumb and forefinger dials), position 2 is ISO and White Balance using the top dials

    Cheers

    • Hey Brett, thanks for the comment. Yeah I knew about that as that’s how I accessed the ISO, but I still wouldn’t call that ‘direct access’ since it involves more than one movement i.e. you have to flick the switch, then roll the dial, then flick it back again which I forgot to do on numerous occasions!

  • You can reconfigure any of the Fn buttons on the E-M5 II (with some limitations). So if you don’t want a dedicated HDR button, you can re-assign it for something else.

    • Yep I mentioned that in the review Ying, but I still find it slightly annoying that those buttons have an HDR and a Curves logo printed on them.

  • Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the review. Just got my OMD EM5m2 yesterday. A bit curious though, when I started using the camera, I can hear a noise coming from the three holes near the thumb grip. Not too loud, but I was wondering if this is normal? Thank you.

    • Hey Earl! Nice choice in camera purchase ;-) The noise is probably the stabilising motor engaging – I mentioned this in the review under actually. If you are shooting at a fast enough shutter speed, the noise should disappear (since the stabilisation won’t be necessary). Hope that helps!

  • Excellent and thorough review! I appreciate that it was based on your real-world use. Regarding the ding for slow camera start up – Firmware 1.1 improved the start up time. I assume you are using the most up-to-date firmware, but thought I’m mention this anyway.

    • Hi John. Thanks, I’m so glad you found the review useful! Re. the firmware, yes it was the latest version. Hopefully they make further adjustments to make the start up time even quicker in the future! Cheers, Mark

  • The images look nice with great color and detail, but as is a characteristic of the small sensor they lack a certain dimensionality. Things just seem so flat like an iPhone shot. That D750 comparison isn’t really fair considering it’s at infinity and there is nothing that would show fine detail or a great deal of latitude. Still, seems like a great little traveler.

    • Yes I agree, Mark, they do lack a certain something. Highlight and shadow detail is definitely lacking, but as you said, we can’t expect too much of the small sensor.

  • Hey Mark, great review in real world terms. I found you through your comment on my article, in which I was comparing the original OMD EM5 and the GX7.

    Personally, I’ve found the Oly menu cache and overly complicated customization to be a deterrent to a photographer like me, who happens to shoot with different systems at different times, for different purposes. Some really, really like the customization, but I prefer a dedicated ISO button and a dedicated WB button for instance (as opposed to having to program one button or another for those oft-accessed functions), and the current customization on the Pana cams is still vast, and adequate for anything I’ve ever needed to customize. I think if one were to shoot just with an Oly camera, it could largely be ignored once you figured out the UI and set the camera up the way you wanted/needed it to be.

    Regardless, long/short, the micro 4/3 system is in my opinion, the best mirrorless system out right now. It is bested by others in one way or another, but no other mirrorless system can boast the sheer amount of quality optics, nor camera options right now. I feel it is by far the best compromise of image quality and size reduction as well. Add into that the accessibility to professional video features in the Pana GH4, having become a very attractive foray into the 4K world, with the ability to adapt pretty much any lens ever made to them, and the system’s usability becomes even more diverse. That there are two companies dedicated to the format, with much third party support, it is a wonderful option for any photographer from budding hobbiest to pro shooter.

    Cheers,

    Tyson

    • Good points Tyson. Your article made me want to check out the GX7 – I’m kind of hoping it’s not better than the em5 mark 2 or I’d have to amend my review! I’ll be sure to keep following your excellent blog from now on. All the best!

  • Hi Mark,

    Great review thank you for going to such depth, I’ve only had a quick play with this camera but have been lusting over it since it arrived but found most the points relative to my findings, I also find the AF infuriating on my Fuji XE2 camera and have been considering a change to 4:3 but the only thing that is keeping me away is the 4:3 format output of photo. I understand you can change the output in camera but you are cropping parts off the already small sensor.

    The smaller lens options are probably the biggest reason I would pick up the 4:3 over any of the other mirrorless formats. Especially the 17 & 45 primes would make a nice very small combo. Some of the Fuji or Sony alternatives are not far off DSLR size & weight.

    Also I know the vari angle screen is perhaps better for video but for shooting (and selfies?) however just a tilt screen (em10mk2) would be more inconspicuous for “best street camera ever” since its a bit awkward walking around with the screen hanging out the side and then having to pick the focus with your unorthadox left hand. Small things i know.

    Keep up the great work, I love checking in on the new regular site content.

    • Hi Cameron. Thanks for the comments – I agree with you on the 4:3 format output and the screen. I actually included my thoughts on both these aspects in the original review but took them out as it was too long, believe it or not. I’m not a fan of the 4:3 image format either. You are correct about having to crop to achieve a 3:2 format and this isn’t ideal, especially if you want to print large pictures… but let’s face it, who does that anyway?! For web usage and large viewing on your screen, a slight crop doesn’t harm the image much.

      Re. the vari screen, I almost swapped the EM-5 Mark II for the cheaper EM-10 due to the screen alone. The vari-angle screen of the EM-5 Mark II felt over-complicated to me initially, as I found myself using it in its tilted state most often and this necessitates too much folding and twisting. However, having played with the EM-10, I found the screen is a lot stiffer to tilt (perhaps would get easier over time), and being able to shoot ‘backwards’ with the vary-screen of the EM-5 Mark II led to me sticking with that instead. Horses for courses though, and I couldn’t agiee more with your statement about the tilt screen being more inconspicuous.

      Thanks again for a really useful comment – gives us all something more to think about.

  • Just tried this little beauty and my old love for my father’s om1 came out again :)
    I’m an apprentice in wedding photography and I chosed at first sight Fuji since the image quality is such an assurance. Anyway, despite all the difference you mentioned and described so well, there’s something I love in the omd files as well, something intimate and, even if they are “smaller”, they are so good to edit….I’m working on myself to understand if this could be good enough for work too or only for personal use…..such a struggle :)

    Glad you liked Lucca, I’m often there

    Ciao

    • Hey Michele. Thanks for the comment about your experiences with the OMD cameras. That’s interesting that you find a certain something about the Olympus files. And what a coincidence that you visit Lucca often! We love that place :-)

      • Yeah I did, can’t explain technically, probably it’s the smooth contrast and wonderful and well balanced colors expecially for skin tones …I think there is something magic even if they’re not so “wow” talking about depth of field or whatever.
        Cheers :)

  • Hi, I just bought the EM5 Mk 2 about three weeks ago, having gone from a Canon EOS 7D. My reason for changing was that I was not happy with the level of noise on the 7D for anything over about 600 ISO. I admit I am a perfectionist and I examine all my photos at 100 % magnification on the computer. I was convinced by a salesperson and looking at reviews and sample images on the internet that the EM5 Mk 2 was the way to go. I have found that the level of noise is better than the 7D, however I find that detail is lost on any subject that is not high contrast. Taking portraits of people I find that a lot of detail is lost around the eyes, eyelashes, lips etc. In one photograph (admittedly the person was very small in the photograph, the features on his face were wiped out entirely). At 100 % magnification details just seem very soft. Reading the reviews it seems that the camera is capable of great autofocus and detail, so my questions are a) am I being too fussy looking for detail at 100% magnification? If not, then b) what am I doing wrong in that I lose a lot of detail. I understand that you can’t really give me a straight answer without looking at photos I have taken and the image specifications, but I would love the opportunity to send you some photos for your opinion. At this point in time, I would rather go back to the 7D… it created a lot of noise, but the images were sharp even in the fine details. As I am still very new to this camera, I am hoping that the loss of detail is due to not being familiar with the camera yet, and maybe not using the best settings for the conditions (have basically just been experimenting so far).

    • Hi Kirsten. I don’t know what your camera settings are, but I’m assuming you’re using a fast enough shutter speed and the light is good so you can capture as sharp an image as possible. Having said this though, the sensor size of the EM5 Mk2 is smaller than the 7D for starters, so there won’t be as much dynamic range or detail captured in the Olympus. If I were to view my pictures at 100%, they’d be softer than any dSLR I own too. This is somewhat unavoidable with micro 4/3 sensor cameras like the Olympus. I wouldn’t say you’re too fussy to look at 100% (we all like to do it!), but just remember that it’s very unlikely anyone will ever view your images in this way. Most images are shared at web resolution, and the Olympus does just fine for this.

      I don’t think you should go back to the 7D necessarily, but instead, keep both cameras and use them for different situations. The image quality of the 7D will always be better and the files will always retain more detail, but the Olympus is way more portable and imo, more enjoyable to use. I hope that helps!

  • Would love some travel photography tips! All your photos here are great! I just have problems juggling between taking photos and enjoying the place i’m in…

    • Thanks Anthony. Yeah it’s a hard balance sometimes, but I guess my advice would be to have a camera system light enough to have on you at all times and have it in immediate access (i.e. not in a bag, but rather on a strap, or in your hand). Then just devote a few mins every hour or so to take a few snaps that sum up what you’re doing. Other days, leave the camera at home altogether and concentrate on enjoying the moment – you’ll come back to your camera the next day refreshed with a new creative eye.

  • Just ordered the Olympus OMD EM-5 Mark II with the M.Zuiko 17mm/f1.8 lens, your pictures inspired me, so I’m ready to go out and take some nice pictures. How do you think this camera compares to the Fuji XT1? I really liked the color of some of the sample Fuji pictures I found, but the Olympus had more of the convenient filters I wanted. Got the Titanium body with the silver lens, hoping that color combo works :)

    • Nice purchase Vong – you’ll be happy with it. I think that the image quality of the Fuji X cameras is definitely better (or at least the colours have a certain something about them, and I like how Fuji handles the shadows/highlights more.) This is to be expected from a camera with a bigger sensor though. We can’t expect too much from the Micro 4/3 sensor of the OMD EM5 after all. Having said this, I much prefer shooting with the Olympus over the Fuji. As soon as Fuji adds a ‘touch screen to shoot’ option though, I may change my mind!

      • Yes, part of me really loves the color and image quality of the Fuji. But the look, feel, and features of the OM5 m2 is what made my decision, with the hope that its image quality is not too shabby either, thought that is evident in your sample pics. Now, I just need to learn how to take pictures like you!

  • Did you get an opportunity to use the M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 with the EM5 Mark II? I’m thinking of getting this lens as my prime instead of the M.Zuiko 17mm/f1.8 to enjoy the wider angle. I tend to take a lot of indoor group photos where the wider angle helps. I like the larger aperture (1.8) for isolating subjects but does the different from f1.8 to f2.0 make much of a difference between these 2 lenses?

    • Hi Benjamin. Unfortunately the only lens I tried out with this camera was the 17mm. I’m guessing there’s not all that much difference between the f/1.8 and f/2 in terms of speed, but due to the difference in focal length, the bokeh will be quite different. I’d also expect a bit of distortion with the 12mm, so it might not be ideal for a group shot unless you’re planning to fix it in post. If you end up getting it though, be sure to send through any example photos as I’m interested in seeing what it can do.

      One final thing – using high ISO on any Micro 4/3 camera isn’t great, so it’s wise to invest in the quickest lens you can afford.

  • Great shots from your trip! I just recently purchased this camera and first used it for the holidays. What settings would you suggest for candid family gathering type shots…..an example is opening christmas gifts indoors. I’ve read a lot about how this camera’s weak point is focusing on moving subjects for sports….does that include moving people for regular gatherings?

    • Thanks Ethan! For family gatherings indoors, I’d shoot with your aperture wide open to maximise the light coming in to your camera, and so you can use as fast a shutter speed as possible to catch their reactions opening gifts. As for the focusing on sports – I think this must be referring to very fast moving subjects, so this doesn’t apply to regular gatherings. A dSLR will always be best for sports thanks to its superior continuous auto focus, but you should be fine with the Olympus for what you need! Good luck!

    • Thank you Erwin! It’s hard to recommend a small mirrorless camera such as this with limited ISO and dynamic range for professional use without knowing exactly when and how you’ll use it, but in good light, this camera can definitely compete with much more expensive cameras. Just prepare to have a bigger sensor camera to swap to when the light starts disappearing.

  • I’d like to thank you for your review. I had an em-1 before swapping for the x100s. My wife said that she wants a camera that has a zoom and a fast autofocus so she can pick it up amd use it confidently, which she can’t say with the x100s. Anyway, I have read tons of reviews from everywhere on the em5 mk2 and I must say that your review summarizes and even adds to the collective reviews of this camera. I am super impressed with your site and thanks for your keen observations…and your really great photos. Impressed all around. Anyway, I will probably pick up the 17mm (had it with the em1) again with the 12-40 f/2.8. I am so stoked that this camera exists and that I don’t have to wait for another 6 mos fir a camera that fits my needs. Thanks again!

    • Hi Scott, thanks so much for such a kind comment! I’m glad you found the review useful and wish you all the best with the 17mm and zoom lenses you’ve got your eyes on! Hope to see you back on the site soon.

  • Wonderful review. As a father of a 1.5yr old girl, I’m finding my Canon DSLR and all my L Glass is sitting in its bag just like you said, I’m considering selling everything and starting fresh on MFT to reignite my passion of photography for my new lifestyle. What do you think of the Olympus PEN-F?

    • Thanks Chris. Our boy is the same age as your girl, so I feel your pain… I mean, joy! If you use your Canon set up professionally, I’d recommend you hang on to it and get the MFT as well if you have the budget. Their uses are completely different. The Pen-F I’ve never shot with, but judging by the reviews online it’s a solid camera. For me though, I’d still get this Olympus, the smaller EM-10 or the Fuji XT-10. Hope that helps!

  • Wow! Thanks for sharing, very informative. My order will be arriving soon Em5ii w/12-40 pro lens. Two thumbs up!!

  • This is a great review! I have been going back and forth on what camera to purchase next. I have an Olympus Pen EPL7, which I bought mainly for vlogging, but found that with the 25 mm, takes great photos as well. Plus, it’s so light! I wanted to get another camera to use primarily for photographs, so I can keep the Pen for the videos so I don’t have to switch back and forth between video and picture modes. I have had a D700 for about five years now and was wondering if I should trade it in for the D750 (the D810 just seems a bit too pricey for me, especially if I want to take it traveling, not to mention heavy). I started looking at the OMD EM5 Mark II as my additional travel camera, but just not quite sure I want to shelve all my Nikon gear. It’s been a tough decision! I fee like I am leaning towards the Olympus rather than the D750, especially after this great review, since I really want to focus on great quality for traveling, without lugging arond heavy gear. Thanks!

    • Hi Moani! I’m glad you found it useful. Your upgrade path sounds similar to my own! If it makes things more confusing for you, I took both my D750 with this lens and the EM5 on holiday! Having said that, I used the EM5 much, much more! It’s much more fun as a travel camera, and much more convenient too. Good luck!

  • Love the “real world” approach to this review. The shots really capture some great moments! And that’s worth so much more than the most technical breakdown or the best equipment–a camera (and lens) that works well in a given environment is what really counts.
    I realise I’m late to the party here, but I noticed the photo you captioned as “Duomo in Rome”. Isn’t it actually the one in Florence?

    • Hmm could well be, Eric! Nice spot!! Seeing so many things in a short period of time with ‘baby brain’ appears to have fogged my memory of things :p

  • Hi,

    great review, thanks!

    Which camera would you pick for hiking&mountaineering, travelling and casual shooting if this would be your only camera? Had an X100 which i really liked but the AF was to slow sometimes.

    OMD EM5 Mk2 with 12-40 F2.8 + 45 mm F1.8

    OR

    Fuji XT-1 18-55 F2.8-4.0 + 35 mm F2.0

    Thanks! Christoph

    • Thanks Christoph. I’ve shot with both those cameras. If you need the fastest AF, the Olympus wins. If you need the best image quality, the Fuji wins. Tough choice!!

  • Hi Mark, thanks for the nice detailed review! I am an amateur photographer, who is planning on moving from a point and shoot / smartphones to a decent camera. I mainly do landscape photos and portrait photos as my wife and I are travelling at the moment, we would also do some ‘selfies’ and street photos. We maybe doing some videos in the future. So, in short, we are looking for a daily all rounder camera.

    I’d like your opinions if you were to choose between the Olympus E-M5 II vs Sony A6300? As I have been torn between them, and cannot decide which to go for. Many thanks!

    • Thanks Ian! The Sony has legions of fans but I prefer the Olympus purely down to how it feels in my hands. I’d say pick both up and go for the one that fits yours the best.

      • Hey Mark, We actually went into a shop to feel and played for a bit. We have came across another dilemma!

        There were 2 different shops that have recommended us the Fuji X-T10 to be considered. Now my wife and I are divided! She prefers the Fuji X-T10 and I prefer the Olympus EM5 Mk2!

        With the cheaper price, bigger sensor and better color, the Fuji X-T10 is hard to beat. However, I am attracted to the IBIS, fully articulated LCD monitor and cheaper, bigger range of lenses.

        Please help!

        • Hey Ian! It’s a tough one! I actually had the same conundrum with the X-T10 and bought it only to exchange it for the Olympus a week later, believe it or not! The Fujis are great, and I loved the images from the X-T10. However, and this was the deal breaker for me, the AF is leagues behind the Olympus. If you need to photograph fast moving subjects (e.g. kids), you’ll miss 50% more shots with the Fuji than the Olympus, I guarantee it. Hope that helps!

          • Thanks for the quick reply, Mark!

            Would I be correct to interpret your comment as, even though Fuji has a bigger sensor for better picture quality and colour, but with Olympus’s higher class AF + its IBIS for image sharpness, you have chosen the Olympus, because you can always adjust colour in post production to produce the same image quality?

            If I was to also add in the fact that, in Australia at the moment, Fuji is have a $200 cash back promotion, which has made the price of a Fuji X-T10 + 16-50mm to be about $850, whereas the Olympus EM5II + 12-50mm is at $1,280. Would your decision be changed?

            Many thanks!

  • I’ve been on the fence for a while now about purchasing a smaller compact camera solution. Your review has helped me with my decision. So I’ve ordered the E5 mkii with the 17mm 1.8 and 45mm 1.8 lenses

    I have two full frame body’s and a number of primes for my wedding work but I have two toddlers and wanted a camera that takes good pictures and has the function of dslr but without the size & like you said I can never be bothered to lug my dslr and lenes around when we’re just out and about the kids.

    Hope I’m not disappointed still waiting for it to arrive :)

    • ahh I feel the pressure now Graeme :p I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. If your toddlers are anything like mine, you’ll need a camera with fast AF like the Olympus!! Good luck!

    • Thanks for the quick reply, Mark!

      Would I be correct to interpret your comment as, even though Fuji has a bigger sensor for better picture quality and colour, but with Olympus’s higher class AF + its IBIS for image sharpness, you have chosen the Olympus, because you can always adjust colour in post production to produce the same image quality?

      If I was to also add in the fact that, in Australia at the moment, Fuji is have a $200 cash back promotion, which has made the price of a Fuji X-T10 + 16-50mm to be about $850, whereas the Olympus EM5II + 12-50mm is at $1,280. Would your decision be changed?

      Many thanks!

  • Great review. Thanks. I wonder how much bigger the whole system would be if it employed APS-C? If only the sensor was a little bigger this camera would be spot on for what I am after. I am looking to get my first serious camera. D7200 is main competition as research has led me to believe;

    * D7200 would have clearly superior IQ
    * Continuous AF for shooting sports and moving kids much better on D7200
    * Low light performance much better on D7200
    * Same ballpark price as OMD5 MkII

    These 4 factors are important to me, particularly IQ.

    I think the OMD wins in all other areas. It’s weatherproofing, size and ability to be used inconspicuously are huge advantages over the D7200.

    My ultimate goal is pro/enthusiast photography (give me 2 – 3 years). I realise that requires at least a D750 or say A7II in mirrorless (or A7RII). I won’t spend that until I know more.

    So whaddya reckon? D7200 or OMD 5 MkII for me? Maybe another suggestion. Cheers :)

    • Hey Andrew. It’s a bit of a hard comparison since they’re entirely different cameras. To narrow down the variables, just think 1. – do I need a small camera? If yes, the OMD. 2. Do I need the best IQ – if yes, D7200. Good luck!

  • Hi Mark, I like your review and pictures. I sold E-P5 and now I got E-M5ii. I use the same 17mm f1.8 lens for my new E-M5ii. Not sure whether it’s due to different processor and sensor, but the pictures from E-M5ii are not as pleasing (or natural) as those from E-P5. The problem with E-M5ii is that colors (especially with red and blue) are too rich and dense even with the lowest settings for saturation and contrast with muted or portrait picture modes. No problem with video flat picture mode. You pictures look so natural and love the color rendering. I’m curios what kind of setting you have with your E-M5ii. I usually shoot at P mode. Please share your settings and tips with E-M5ii. Thanks!

    • Hi Jung! Thanks for the kind words. I shoot in Aperture priority, almost always wide open at f/1.8. I shoot in RAW, but occasionally when using JPEG, I don’t change any of the settings regarding how the file is processed by the camera. Maybe try shooting in RAW and applying a basic preset on import via LR and see how you go! Good luck!

    • Well, if there was something I noticed immediately, then it was the unreal appearance of these pictures. And I used to have the same problem with my E-M5 mkI when I changed from Panasonic GF2. Pictures from my Pana GF2 looked much more realistic, and I was unable to create realistic look of my E-M5 pics, no matter OOC or Raw. Pics have this strange ‘comic-book’-like appearance. Not to my taste at all.

  • Hi Mark,

    Fantastic detailed review! I am thinking of using this camera with the high resolution setting for landscape photos that I like to print onto large (40″ × 60″) aluminum. Do you think this camera is suitable for this task?

    I do admire the IQ of the Fuji cameras and would you recommend them for the type of work that I like to do?

    Cheers,
    Bill

    • Hey Bill, glad you liked the review. Yes, 40 x 60″ sounds doable – just be sure to keep the camera as steady as possible and use a low ISO and high shutter speed. Fuji has better IQ as the sensor is bigger/better than MFT, but it’s swings and roundabouts. Go with the one that feels best in your hand. Good luck!

  • Hi, I’m considering the em5 mk 2 or em10mk2 or Em1 for using with the new leica 100 to 400 lens. Want a lightweight set up for wildlife/bird photography including some birds in flight so continuous auto focus needs to be good. Which Olympus body will give me the best results with this lens?

    • Hi Stephen, I haven’t used those cameras with the Leica so can’t comment I’m afraid. However, that’s a big zoom, so I’d be going for the biggest camera body to offset the size/weight if I were you. Hope that helps!

  • Hi there!
    So glad I ran across this review! I am an Olympus (PenMini) owner and user for 6 years, sadly I dropped it and have to make a decision to spend money on it to fix it or upgrade to a new camera.
    In short-er ;) I am not a pro by any means. Just a mom who takes thousands of photos (as well as avid Scrapbooker) and has become surprisingly good at capturing moments. I am not great with all the technical jargon. I’d like to start doing lifestyle family photography. (Not pro but to offer families/couples nice photos, capture their lives and memories for them). So to upgrade, in your opinion, would going to this camera or the Sony a6300 be enough? Or should I not waste my time and money and start learning about an actual dslr? One big annoyance about my photos I’ve taken is I do notice I lose some of the sharpness and image quality of I do any editing in Lightroom. I want to improve that aspect. i would so appreciate any feedback :) Meg from Alberta!

    • Hey Meagan! If you were looking for a camera to keep up with your kids, I’d definitely recommend this one. However for professional lifestyle work, I’d recommend investing in a dSLR. I assume you’ll be working mostly during the day, so things like high ISO performance won’t be so relevant to you, meaning you may be able to save a lot of money buying a crop sensor camera rather than full frame. How about starting with one of the dSLRs on this list: http://shotkit.com/best-cameras-500/ Let me know if you need any further advice!

  • Hi Mark!

    I’ve recently decided to make my first “real camera” purchase, and have been scrolling the internet tirelessly trying to decide what’s right for me…which led me to this review! Very helpful, thank you!
    I’m looking for a quality camera with a vintage body, good for travel and everyday thats simplistic… and well suited for an amateur. I had been interested in the Fuijifilm x series until I read this review! Now I feel kind of lost… Do you have any suggestions on a make/model that might be a good fit for me?
    Any insight is appreciated!

    Kind regards,

    Kari

    • Hi Kari! There are so many variables when it comes to choosing a camera and without knowing more about those, it’s hard to make a specific recommendation. However what I will say is that this camera is better if you need fast autofocus (for kids running around etc.), and the similarly price Fuji models have better image quality – but only another photographer would likely be able to notice!

  • “Unless you’re a pro or a serious hobbyist, don’t waste your time with a dSLR” ???? Ummm, the E-M5ii is far from an entry level camera. It’s actually considered as a pro level. The E-M5ii has a long list of pro users from wedding photographers, travel photographers, and National Geographic photographers. I do suggest to anyone that has the E-M5ii to spend the money on the full battery grip. This makes a huge difference in usability of the camera. Plus you gain a few more programmable buttons.

  • Really excellent review, thank you. However I hope I’m coming across as a pedant nit picker, but you should correct a couple of mistakes, I’m only pointing them out because they really stand out in such a good piece of writing!
    Rome is not in Tuscany (one n, not two) but in the region of Lazio. And the duomo is in Milan, not Rome.
    I hope you don’t mind, and thanks for the excellent work

  • Hi Mark, Thank you for an excellent review. I found it very helpful and constructive. Nevertheless, I would like to add a comment about Auto Iso – my apologies if you have covered it somewhere and I missed it! You say that it is not possible to set minimum shutter speed. Strictly speaking you are right but it is possible to limit the range of ISO. If you set the maximum ISO to your choice, say 1600. With reduced light the camera then will use slower shutter speeds rather than push the ISO further. This makes best possible use of the excellent OLY stabilisation in low light. In order to set ISO range – use Gear Menu E and adjust “ISO Auto Set”. Hope that helps?

    • Hey Rob, yep you’re absolutely right! I’d much prefer to set a minimum shutter speed usually, but with the stabilisation, it does help a lot!

  • Great write-up, Mark! This is one of the most useful reviews I’ve seen for the E-M5 Mk II. I love your straightforward, no-nonsense style. I own the original E-M5, so I can appreciate all your pros and cons. I have a couple of comments to make though:

    – That 4-stop underexposure comparison against your Nikon was an eye opener. And correction: the Olympus’ sensor is only 1/4 that of the Nikon’s –not 1/2! That makes it even more amazing!

    – I’m not sure if they’ve tweaked the grip of the Mk II vs the Mk I, but I find it hard to get a good grip on my Mk I model, and I have mid-to-small hands. I find the grip on my old E-P1 is better! That’s why I always have my HLD6 grip attached.

    • Hey Carl, thanks for the kind words. And yes, I stand corrected – you’re quite right about the sensor size! Full frame vs Micros 4/3 indeed. Great to have your feedback!

  • Oh, exactly what I needed. Thank you so much for this review, Mark!

    I’ve wanted to move away from simple point-and-shoots (mostly my phone) for a long time now, and I feel ready for the jump. For the past few weeks, I’ve tried to learn some basics about cameras and lenses to be able to make a good decision. The “problem” for me is always that I need to fall in love with bigger purchases for me to really want to use them (example: my car), so recommendations don’t work too well, but if I can discover an option myself, chances are my eyes will start to glow.
    I considered different cameras, too many of them. The more I learned, the more confused I got about what I really need and want. I was ready to give up for now when I stumbled on the Olympus, and thought, “This could be the ONE.”
    (Wow, this really sounds dramatic, but I’m seriously passionate when it comes to these things …)

    Long story short: I wanted to know what professionals think about this camera, so I checked for sample images and videos and reviews, and then I stumbled across this …

    Again, thank you! I really, really appreciate it.

    • Ah great, I’m glad you found it useful Stef. I intend to write more reviews on cameras meant for amateurs or enthusiasts, but used by pros. The Olympus is definitely one of the better ones.

  • Hi there! I’m planning to buy the cheaper Olympus OM-D EM-10 Mark II because I’m on a budget and would rather buy a lens with the extra money I’ll save. I have no idea about cameras so your post really helps. One thing I’d like to know, do the lenses you mentioned here also work well with the EM10 like it did with the EM5? I’m interested in the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 since you’re recommending it so much. Thanks!

  • In my local retail shop – the om m5 mark ii camera is bundled with a kit lens around 15 to 150mm – I have never owned a camera with detachable lens before – is this worse off than getting two separate lens with different ranges? I am kind of attracted to the idea of just having a single lens.

    Regarding 40mp option, is this difficult to set up and use in reality, or is it ok once I can locate the option from the menu?

    For star trail, someone told me some.lens are not built to take pics of stars and will be damaged in long exposure – is this right and can om camera do it?

    Thanks
    Maria

    • Hi Maria, to answer your questions: 1. One lens is more convenient, but 2 prime lenses (fixed focal length) can give you other creative options and usually the ability to shoot in lower light. 2. Yes it’s easy to use and set up as long as you steady the camera completely. 3. No it’s not true and yes the camera can do it, whatever the lens. Hope that helps!

  • Hi Mark, great article on the Olympus. I purchased a reconditioned unit directly from Olympus when they were offering 20% off. I also purchased the 9-18 Micro 4/3 lens after reading a few reviews as I hike and wanted a wide angle lens. Anyhow I used the lens at Sams Point in NY and wasn’t overly impressed with the results and I am wondering if its just a learning curve or if I would have been better off with the 17 mm 1.8 lens. What are your thoughts on the 9-18? Maybe I just need to spend more time and figure out which settings work. It was a bright sunny day so its possible I need to also purchase the lens hood which I was surprised it didn’t come with one for the cost of that lens.

    • Wow, 20% is a great deal Damon! Hmm well I’d always recommend a prime lens over a zoom. I haven’t handled the 9-18 before, but I’m guessing that if you weren’t impressed with the results, it’s a little soft. Stick it on ebay and save up for the 17mm ;-)

  • Hi Mark,
    I am getting really excited about this camera but do I really have to run out and get an additional lens with it? Is the camera OK as is for a while until I figure out what I really need? I mainly take pics of my kids, travel pics and an upcoming trip to Norway to see the Northern Lights. Let me know your thoughts. Oh and this article was amazing:)
    Meredith

    • Hi Mererith, thanks for the kind words about the review – I’m glad it helped. It’s hard to find the Olympus with a bundled ‘kit’ lens, so yes, you’ll need to invest in one when you purchase the body. All the best on your trip to Norway – the live view long exposure feature on this camera will be perfect for capturing the Northern Lights!

  • Hi Mark,
    Thanks:) Yeah i figured that- but do I need to get any lenses at all to start? Or I have to buy an additional one right away? My apologies- I just didnt know if the body was just that or if I could use it as is- Im new to this!
    Thanks again

    • No problem Meredith. If you buy the ‘body’ it won’t come with a lens, so yes, you need a lens to take photos. Most googd cameras come as just the body, to allow the purchaser more flexibility in choosing exactly the lens they need. Hope that makes sense?

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