Thursday, July 9, 2015

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II - Gear Review

It's always good to have a supportive spouse when you are a nerd photographer gear junkie!  lol
Seriously, though - I recently was the proud recipient of a brand spanking new silver Olympus OMD EM5 Mk II.
© Olympus America

Got the green light to get it as a birthday present.

Enough with the backstory, lets get to what you are here for, which is the gear review!!

As always, I shoot to the real world and to what I prefer and not to MTF charts, or spec tests.  None of that means anything to me if the overall experience of the camera doesn't work for me.

Olympus 25/1.8
1/60, f/1.8, ISO 400
First thing I noticed was the build quality.  Again, as with all the other OMD bodies, it is top notch.  Feels very solid and has a nice weight too it without feeling too heavy.  The grip on the right hand side is a bit more prominent than the previous EM5.  The texture of the outer casing feels more grippy as well.  It's almost like a leatherette instead of the textured metal like on the original EM5.

Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO
1/80, f/5, ISO 800 @ 40mm
The extra buttons and the placement of the buttons is on the body are pleasing for me as well.  The jury is still out on the fully articulating screen.  I'm kind of liking the ability to spin it completely around and protect it - it just takes a little bit to get used to in comparison to the tilt only of the previous OMD offerings.
If you just need to tilt it, it can get a bit fiddly, but having the ability to articulate the screen is better than not at all.

Overall, I'm really liking the feel and workings of the camera.
Olympus 40-150/4-5.6R
1/200, f/5.2, ISO 800 @ 111mm
The front and rear dials are a lot thicker, which makes turning them much easier and the shutter release feels more "old school" to me than the other OMD cameras.  It just reminds me of the old film cameras like the Yashica Electro.

Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO
1/200, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 40mm
Image Quality
Not a whole lot to report here that you don't already know.  The sensor has not really changed much from the other iterations of hte OMD, so if you liked what you saw from the previous OMD cameras, you'll be getting that here again.  The IBIS works great and is very smooth in operation.  I'm not one to shoot test images.  I just know that it works when I need it to and it works well.
Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 II
1/2000, f/5.7, ISO 250 @156mm
I've taken to running the JPG engine with a -1 sharpness and putting the noise reduction on low.  I found even the basic settings are a little too aggressive for me, which could cause higher base ISO noise and artifacting.  Adding a little extra sharpening and noise reduction in post works wonders on the files.

AF Speed
Still using the same contrast detect AF, which works fast and sure in most situations.  Not your best option for tracking moving subjects.  If you want that kind of performance, you'll want to look at the EM1/GH4(no phase detect, but uses Depth From Defocus - DFD technology) with phase detect AF or a DSLR.

With that being said, action is possible with a little planning and using the S-AF mode, as seen below with this surfing image.
Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 II
1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 500 @ 300mm
Hi Res Mode
As you've probably already read in other places - you need to use this mode on a tripod and with a scene that has no movement in it to prevent artifacting.  You do get the ability to pull a 64MP RAW or 40MP jpg file with enhanced resolution, truer color rendering.  There are plenty of other places that have done extensive head to head images of a standard 16MP capture versus the hi res mode equivalent.

Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 II
1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 124mm
I can see this being of use to product and still life photographers as well as urban exploration or cityscape captures.

Olympus 12-40/2.8 PRO
Hi-Res Mode
1/400, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 40mm
Video Recording
You have a lot more options here than you did in the past.  I'm not a heavy video user, and am actually just getting into it.  For me, right now, the options are adequate.

Below, you'll find some test videos at some of the different modes.

Other Misc. Items Of Note
With the EM5, your top shutter speed was 1/4000.  The Mark II gives you 1/8000 and it also has silent shutter mode which is electronic first/second curtain shutter.  Not only do you get the silent operation, but you also get 1/16000 of a second shutter speed.  Some limitations can be artifacts present themselves in fast moving subjects as well as issues with fluorescent lights or monitor refresh rates.  You also lose the ability to use flash with the electronic shutter.

Shutter shock mode is available as an option in the drive mode, so no menu diving to activate it.
Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7
1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 800 @ 300mm
The mechanical shutter is noticeably more quiet than the EM5 or the EM1.  Not that those shutters were loud, but the Mark II is a definite improvement.  As with everything, we need context. The shutters on my Nikon D300/D700 sound like pistol fire in comparison, especially when shooting a wedding in a quiet church.

The EVF is the same as what you'll find on the EM1, so definitely some visual goodness.  Also present is the built in Wifi that can be used with the OI Share app.

Same as the previous EM5, you get the weather sealing, the touch screen.

The supplied, detachable flash unit is another surprise.  Unlike the flashes that came with the original EM5 and EM1, this flag has a fully articulating head. It can be turned, angled for bounce.  Yes, it only has a guide number of 9, but if you need/want that little pop for inside during a party, this could do the trick.  Much more versatility than the older style included flash.

Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 II
1/2000, f/5.7, ISO 250 @ 156mm
Now, the big it worth the upgrade.  I like the extras that the Mark II brings to the table, and I'm still experimenting with the viability of the hi res mode.  I appreciate all the improvements that the new body offers and I'm having as much fun shooting it as I did the original EM5.
I'd say if you are pressed for cash or on the fence, stay with the original EM5.  Otherwise, feel free to take the plunge and pick up a Mark II.

Another thing that this camera reminds me of is the feeling I get when I shoot with the Nikon Df.  The feel, the look, the responsiveness - especially when shooting with prime lenses just makes me want to keep shooting with it.   While the Df still is the supreme stills shooter for me, the EM5 Mk II has solidified itself to the #2 spot.

Olympus 75-300/4.8-6.7 II
1/2000, f/6.5, ISO 400 @ 258mm
The EM1, while a fantastic camera, feels more like a professional tool I would and do use for paying jobs.  It is in the same position as the Nikon D300/D700 are for me.  They are tools with a purpose for making money, while the Df and EM5 Mk II feel like tools I can use to create art and express myself.  It might sound dumb, but it is just the way I think and feel about the whole thing.