OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review


Shot on the Sony A6000 edited in Lightroom

I have been using the OM-D E-M5 Mark II extensively for about 2 weeks now. I got it just before going on my trip to Cuba expecting to test it out on the trip. In short, I am very happy with this camera but it’s not perfect. So let’s start there with the cons.


The Grip


Shot on the iPhone 6s Plus

I didn’t like the grip right from the start. My hand is larger than most and it was just too uncomfortable for me. I never felt confident about holding it like I do with other cameras like my Sony A6000. Due to the size and weight of it, I found it to dig into my ring finger most the time, kind of between the side of my nail and the next closest knuckle. I was always worried about dropping it randomly so to make up for that I would hold it more often in my left hand while cupping it from under with the lens. I also found myself mistakenly clicking the button located on the front of the camera. I’m not sure what it would be assigned to on a stock camera since one of the first things I did when I got it was going in and change all the buttons to my liking. I had to key bind it to nothing for a while since I couldn’t find a use for it, it would mess with my shots when I click it by mistake or hand it over to a friend. Whenever I would hand it to a friend I can see them also click it by mistake every time. Now all this being said after about 3 days of handling and use I got used to it. My hands have naturally adapted to the weight and grip of the camera. I don’t notice it anymore. I feel I am nitpicking a bit with this flaw. To be honest I like the camera quite a bit and most of these flaws may come off as nitpicks.

The Menus


Shot on the iPhone 6s Plus

Don’t let me get started on these menus, simply put…they suck. I don’t know who signed off on this but I have made better wireframe layouts for menus in my sleep. I feel the best way they could have went about it is increase separation. Which is how I feel most companies handle their menus. If an item can be placed into a category, simply give it its own dedicated one. What Olympus here seems to be trying to do is lower the amount of clutter but combining things here and there. It looks like there is less clutter but what ends up happening is features you would need fast access to are then hidden away within other menus. One excuse that can be given is this camera has crazy amounts of customization and in the process of that the menus can be “complicated”. I know “complicated” and this is just “messy”. I doubt this will happen but maybe Olympus will come out with a software fix for this.

Micro Four Thirds and 16MP

FullSizeRender (1)

Shot on the iPhone 6s Plus

This is one of the things I was worried about when getting this camera. This is my first M4/3 camera having only used the Panasonic GH4 before this at an event just to try out. I felt it was excellent for video but I didn’t know what to really expect for photography. With my A6000 which is an APS-C sized sensor at 1.5 crop, I would find myself with a lack of light at times. Ending up having to fiddle with the settings and make compromises to my shot to make it work. I also saw 16MP to possibly be a problem due to not allowing me to print larger or crop further. My worry about the lack of light was not that big a deal. It handled really well in dimly lit situations as good if not better than my A6000. If you don’t pixel peep at the individual grains it would give you very solid images in low light. The 16MP, on the other hand, has been a bit to work around. I feel I am more careful with my shots when taking them to make up for the megapixel size so I don’t have to crop into the shot later. It’s not a deal breaker or huge for me. The way I shoot allows me a lot of wiggle room for things like this but it would be a much bigger problem for others. If you expect to do large prints or be cropping in a post a lot I would have to say Micro Four Thirds is not for you. (Only exception being is if you are a product photographer and you plan to take advantage of “High Res Shot”. If it’s not moving it will look brilliant with a 4K shot in the end.)

Little Bits of Annoyance


Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 17mm f1.8 lightly edited in Lightroom

I won’t state all my little annoyances here but there is one that stands out to me and I’m going to talk about here at the end of the Cons mainly because it is maybe the smallest problem the camera has but it is my biggest personal annoyance. Now I do understand that this con might mean nothing to you but coming from a design and media background it makes me wonder if they even bothered testing the camera out properly before release it. Now my little problem with this camera is Focus Peaking turning off when I switch to manual through the lens or when using a vintage lens. Yes, you are probably asking yourself, “Do people really still manually focus in photography?”…Yes they do. Magnification and Focus Peaking work as manual focus aids to allow you to manually focus on your subject more accurately and faster. It may not be as fast as today’s autofocus but I still find it to overall more reliable. Even though I find autofocus to be getting better and better every year.

All that out of the way, Why? Why does this feature that exists as a manual focus aid get turned off automatically when switching to manual through the lens or when using vintage lenses? It works fine when I flip my AF to MF switch but it just loses it mind when any combination of this is done. My A6000 doesn’t do that. This is what makes me think no one tested this out in development enough. This would have been one of the first things I tried if I was working on this camera. It is one of the first things I tried when I got it. I may be coming off as being really pissed about this and its kind of true. I feel the Devil is in the details and it’s such a simple detail that should not have been overlooked. Now there is a workaround for this and it’s not to bad. You can set one of the Function Buttons on the camera as a Focus Peaking on/off button. So when the camera decides to turn it off on its own you just click that button to turn it on again. The button I personally use and recommend is the small round button located on the front of the camera when your ring finger or middle finger meets the grip. The same button I talked about above when we went over the grip. I like this spot a lot since its easy to get to and miss clicking it won’t change any setting that would affect the end result. It’s simply a toggle for focus peaking. If its on and you need it, great. If its off and you need it just click the button once.


The Build

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 7.26.37 PM

Shot on the iPhone 6s Plus

Now, this is debatable, but after a bit of thinking this over I think this may be the best-built camera I have ever used, and I have used many different cameras from Canon, Nikon, and Sony. I’m talking about all of the A7 line and the top Canons and Nikons. I like the build of this more. Let’s just say this, If I were to drop my Sony A6000 on my foot I would be worried about my A6000 maybe breaking. If I dropped my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II on my foot, call an ambulance because I most likely need medical care. The military should have a look at this camera because this is how you should build tanks. The weather sealing, the machining and the quality of parts are as good as it gets for a pro-grade camera.

High Res Shot


Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 17mm f1.8


Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 17mm f1.8 cropped

The OM-D E-M5 Mark II has all the features you expect from mirrorless cameras, focus peaking, magnification, HDR, swivel touchscreen, great amounts of customization, and wifi to name a few, but it also has great new features like High Res Shot. It allows you to take a 4K picture the only catch being subject cant move at all. So things like people are out of the question. Like I said above, product photographers will have a great time with this. The few times I tested it out, I was very surprised by the result. It can also maybe be used for some landscape shots such as waterfalls. Since any kind of movement will blur the image you can get some really cool 4K shallow shots with this feature. I personally have not tried this but in theory, it should work. Having written all this and then taking the pictures you see above I realized there is a lot of potential in using Hight Res Shot for macro photography. Just look at how much you can crop and how close you can get in the second picture.

In Body Stabilization


Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the Canon FD 135mm f3.5 handheld from my room, edited in Lightroom

I’m not much of a video shooter any more but the advantages that IBS brings to photography is excellent as well. I like to use vintage lenses. I own the Canon FD 35mm, 50mm, and 135mm. On the OM-D E-M5 Mark II Micro Four Thirds sensor these focal lengths are all doubled to 70mm, 100mm, and 270mm. These lenses are extremely adorable and shoot amazing images and video. The problem with them is being vintage they have no image stabilization and no autofocus. Now autofocus isn’t a problem with features like magnification and focuses peaking but image stabilization can’t be helped. When you are trying to pull focus and also shoot a stable shot there can be a lot of motion fuzz or blur in the final images. This coming from maybe slightly missing focus and the lack of stabilization. Now with the IBS in the OM-D E-M5 Mark II, there are no problems at all. Sharp clear, bokehlicious images and video all around.

Micro Four Thirds


Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 25mm f1.8 edited on Lightroom

M4/3 might have its limitations when it comes to light and megapixels but it also has its advantages. As stated above all mm based on full frame standards are doubled. For instance, the 50mm becomes a 100mm. Same goes for a lens at say 300mm, it would be an effective 600mm on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II M4/3 body. This allows you to get a ridiculous range while still maintaining a smaller form factor. I have used full frame cameras with some long telephoto zooms and comparing the size and weight of some of those zooms to the M4/3 counterpart is laughable. The size of some of these full frame lenses really seems to be overcompensating for something.

Image Quality


Shot on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the 17mm f1.8 edited in Lightroom

I don’t know what Olympus is doing to get these images to look as good as they do. Maybe unicorn horns or angel tears but the images and colors that come out of the OM-D E-M5 Mark II are simply beautiful. I don’t shoot in jpg, I did when I started photography but I got off it quick after seeing what can be done with RAW shooting. That being said this is a camera I would actually consider shooting in jpg here and there. I probably still won’t because again, even though it gives out excellent images it will still look better after processing in RAW, but damn did I come close a few times to hitting jpg. The colors and sharpness are something special from this camera. Now part of it has a lot to do with the lens I used which in this case the Olympus 17mm 1.8. I picked this lens over the Olympus 25mm 1.8. If you want to know why keep an eye out for my next post “35mm vs 50mm”. Speaking on only on the (35mm) Olympus 17mm 1.8 I have to say its an excellent lens.

This lens teamed up with the OM-D E-M5 Mark II just might be the perfect all around team. The 35mm focal length handles everything really well. For a travel combo, I can’t think of anything better when it comes to primes. The only thing better for an all round use combo/travel combo would be some sort of zoom with the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. Personally I really can’t stand zooms for many reasons I won’t state here. If you are not sure why I don’t like zooms, you are most likely new to photography, just prefer zooms over primes, (Really?) or shoot very different subject matter. (Wildlife for instance) Whatever kind of shooter you might be there is a lens combo that will work well for you and the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. For me personally its some combination of a 35mm 50mm and 100mm prime. I’ll make a separate review on the 17mm 1.8 lenses itself or talk about it on my podcast. Either way, check the bottom of this post for links to related subjects.

Twitter – @DarksterMedia

Instagram – @DarksterMedia/@Darkster

Olympus 17mm 1.8 Lens Review

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