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CAMERA

Review : Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

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3/16/2015 4:50:40 AM

TECH SPECS

Price: $1,998 (with M. Zuiko 14-150mm f/4/0-5.6 lens)

Image sensor: 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds CMOS

Display: 3-inch tiltable touchscreen LCD with 1,037,000 dots; electronic viewfinder with 2,360,000 dots

Shooting speed: Up to 10 frames per second

Connectivity: Wi-Fi

Weight: 469g (body with battery and memory card)


RATING

Features 5/5

Design 4/5

Performance 4/5

Value for money 4/5

Battery life 3/5

Overall 4/5


The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II  is the successor with the E-M5, the first model of the series mirrorless of camera of the OM-D of the company.

 



With the first glance, mark II seems right like its predecessor. But there are several differences in the provision of button:

The mode dial at the top left is now lockable;

  • the power switch has moved from the back of the camera to just under the Mode dial;
  • the HDR/Function 4 button has been added to the top, near the shutter release; and
  • the depth-of-field button has been added to the front.

Two control dials on the top have been moved slightly closer to each other to facilitate quick changes of settings. A rear lever, known as the 2 x 2 control, lets you quickly switch the functions of the two control dials. So, you can use one setting for aperture and shutter; and the other for ISO and exposure compensation.

Overall, the camera handling is fantastic and comes close to that of its OM-D flagship cousin, the E-M1 ($2,598 with 12-40mm f/2.8 lens).

The E-M5 Mark II is supposed to be dustproof, splashproof and even freezeproof down to minus 10 deg C. I must test that one day, when I visit the Arctic circle.

But its magnesium-alloy body certainly feels strong and sturdy. When you hold the camera, it feels as solid as a mid-range DSLR, though it does not have quite the professional feel of the E-M1.

For one thing, the redesigned grip has no room for my fourth finger and pinky. However, the new chunkier thumb rest at the back makes up a little for this deficiency.

The optional HLD-8 vertical grip ($398), consisting of a better grip and battery holder, would be a good option for those with big hands.

Other notable improvements include

  • New Hi Res Shot mode using sensor-shift technology to capture 40-megapixel images;
  • new in-body five-axis image-stabilisation technology;
  • variable-angle 3-inch touchscreen display which can be rotated 180 degrees for selfies;
  • continuous shooting at 10 frames per second;
  • new hot shoe for the bundled FL-LM3 strobe that is rotatable and flippable for bounce flash; and
  • built-in Wi-Fi.

The Hi Res Shot mode is a world first for a mirrorless camera. Olympus said the resulting 40-megapixel images taken in this mode rival those from full-frame DSLRs. The Hi Res Shot mode works by moving the image sensor minutely while the camera shoots eight frames in all and combines all the shots to make the final image.

While these 40-megapixel images do have incredible details, the Hi Res Mode has many limitations. You can use it on only a perfectly still object. Any movement, such as tree branches swaying or people moving about in your field of view, will result in blurred patches in the final picture.

In this mode, it usually takes a second or two to shoot and process a single frame. The maximum exposure is 8sec, and the image sensitivity cannot exceed ISO 1,600. The minimum aperture is f/8.

So, you can only realistically use this mode for product photography.

The new in-body five-axis image-stabilisation technology in E-M5 Mark II is supposed to provide up to five stops of shutter speed.

In layman's terms, this means you can capture action at a shutter speed of 1/8sec without camera shake, which usually requires a speed of 1/125sec. In my tests, I shot five frames at 1/8sec speed, when 1/125sec is usually needed, and it was still possible in three out of five shots to get images that were sharp.

This camera is really quick. It starts up in 1.1sec and shuts down in 1.5sec. Most mirrorless cameras take about 2sec to power up or shut down.

Using the M. Zuiko 14-150mm f/4/0-5.6 kit lens, autofocusing (AF) is quite speedy. It locks on to a focus almost instantaneously in bright sunlight. In dim conditions, it takes, at most, 1.2sec to secure a sharp image with the aid of AF assist light.

AF performance when recording video is also splendid. The camera refocuses quickly, taking less than a second to come to a sharp focus when panned to a new scene.

The camera is able to shoot 11 RAW images in 0.9sec using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 45MB per second.

Image quality is superb, with sharp crisp details and rich saturated colours. As I have noted before, the details are even better with the Hi Res Shot mode. If you have a model who is good at keeping still, or if you are doing a product shoot, you will not need a full-frame DSLR.

Image noise performance is on a par with cameras that use the larger APS-C image sensors. You can hardly see any noise artefacts until ISO 1,600. At ISO 6,400, images are still acceptable for Web use, despite clear detail loss and luminance noise. Anything above ISO 6,400 is not recommended.

Video quality is sublime and stable. The videos have a cinematic feel when you pan or walk with the camera while recording. But the recording picks up a fair amount of ambient audio, though the lens' AF and zoom sounds are not too distracting.

Battery life is average for a mirrorless camera. It took 310 shots on a full charge. But if you are shooting all day, better pack an extra Olympus BLN-1 battery ($99).

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a superb mirrorless camera. Great handling, sharp images and new features, such as the Hi Res Shot mode, are some of its obvious advantages.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a superb mirrorless camera. Great handling, sharp images and new features, such as the Hi Res Shot mode, are some of its obvious advantages.

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