Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II vs E-M5

February 14, 2015

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and E-M5 side by side

Olympus has announced the OM-D E-M5 II, the successor to the popular E-M5. Many photographers have been waiting for a new replacement. The E-M5 was released on February 8, 2012; so it’s about time for use to have a new camera model to replace the older one. The E-M5 II sits below the E-M1. It signifies Olympus’ commitment to the micro four thirds system and offer enthusiast photographers a complete package to express their creativity through this cameras.

In this article I’ll compare the new OM-D E-M5 II vs the older model for you to understand the differences. We’ll find out whether or not the E-M5 is worth upgrading to the new model, or whether you should stay with your E-M5 or look elsewhere.

Price Difference

The first thing I want to look at his the price. The E-M5 Mark II price is set at ~$1100 for the body only is of writing. The E-M5 (older model) costs around $600 for the body alone without a kit lens.  The E-M5 II is almost two times more expensive than its predecessor. For the price of the E-M5 II you can buy the E-M5 with one or two lenses. That said, until we know all the differences, we can’t really make a smart buying decision.

Body Design

The Olympus E-M5 Mark II body was redesigned. Although it quite resembles the look of the older model nd has a metal construction body, it’s now a bit wider but shorter, it has a newly designed curved grip and a completely new button layout. The movie button is at the top left side, together with the rear dial, Fn2 button, Fn2 button (LV), front dial, HDR button (Fn4)  and shutter button. On the other side at the top you have the mode dial and on/off lever. At the front-left side you have the external flash connector and the AF illuminator lamp.  At the back you have the Fn1 button and the menu navigation button.

Olympus E-M5 II vs E-M5 size comparison

Olympus E-M5 II vs E-M5 size comparison (via camerasize.com)

The button layout seems very dense, especially at the top, but more buttons means faster access to frequently used camera settings, which is what many experienced photographers are looking for in a camera.

The new E-M5 M2 is dustproof and splashproof like its predecessor.  This means that you can use it outdoors in harsh weather conditions without worrying about damaging your camera. Overall, a well-made, good-looking and durable digital camera. It was redesigned to offer improved ergonomics and better button layout, I assume based on user’s feedback.

Other differences includes a nwe 1037K-dots fully articulated touchscreen display compared to the 610K 3-inch tilting one on the E-M5.  The E-M5 Mark II also has a significantly improved 1.48x 2360K-dots electronic viewfinder, compared to the 1.15x 1440K-dots of its predecessor. A very welcomed improvement that I’m sure most of you will appreciate.

Sensor & Stabilization

Another good news is that the E-M5 II features a redesigned image sensor. It’s still is a Micro Four Thirds 16MP image sensor, but it uses a new TruePic VII processor compared to the older TruePic VI found on the E-M5 camera. The E-M5 II has a unique feature though. The camera have a unique shooting mode which can capture 40-megapixel high-resolution images.

Olympus uses an innovative pixel-shift technology, the same one used in its voice-coil motor IS unit. In this mode the camera captures eight image in a sequence. After each capture, the camera moves the sensor by 0.5 pixel and reconstruct all the images into a single 40-megapixel high resolution images. Images with quality that can be compared to one that you get with a full frame camera. One of the downsides of this method is that it takes one second to capture all the images and two second more to construct the 40-megapixel image in-camera. You can capture 4-megapixel images with up to f/8 aperture, 8 seconds shutter minimum shutter speed and up to ISO 1600. So this mode is more suited for subjects which are still, but it’s excellent for capturing very high resolution landscape images. Olympus recommends using a tripod and one of its premium lenses to maximize the potential of this new shooting mode.

Olympus E-M5 Mark II also features an improved version of its built-in sensor-shift image stabilization, with now up to 5 EV stops compensation. The built-in IS is great for capturing low-light images and also when filming videos.

High ISO Comparison – E-M5 II vs E-M5

One of the things that I was eager to see is whether the E-M5 II produces better high ISO images than its predecessor. Luckily imaging resource has already uploaded high ISO sample images of the E-M5 II, so I could compare it to that of the E-M5.

The image quality on both cameras is superb, very sharp with lots of details. Both cameras yield excellent high ISO results with relatively very clean output up to ISO 3200 (including). That said, I was expecting to see some improvements in the E-M5 II high ISO samples due to the new image processor, but to be honest, the amount of image noise looks the same at every ISO level. At ISO 6400 and up I did notice that the images have very slightly less noise, but in conclusion, they both perform the same. So as far as high ISO performance is concerned, you shouldn’t base your buying decision on it.

Performance and Video Function

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 II also offers better performance than its predecessor. You can now shoot at a maximum shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec compared to the 1/4000 sec of the E-M5. The camera offers more exposure, flash and scene modes as well, but the Flash x sync speed stayed the same (1/250 sec). The E-M5 II can now shoot slightly faster at 10 fps in burst mode compared to 9 fps of the E-M5. You also get more flexible exposure compensation mode (±5 vs ±3).

One of the big changes is offered in the movie function.  The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II can now shoot at Full HD  at 30p, 24p and 60p. The E-M5 was locked on 1080i60 (interlaces, not progressive) at full HD resolution. Furthermore, when shooting in 30p or 24p (*NTSC) you have the option to choose between ALL-I or IPB compression.  ALL-I offers the better image quality of the two, although in FHD it records at 77Mbps compared to 52Mbps of the IPB compression. The E-M5 was kind of handicapped when it comes to video recording, and Olympus certainly improved on that.

The improved image stabilization does wonders in video recording, and you can expect professional results out of this camera. You can choose between two IS modes: M-IS1 which is a combination of image sensor shift and electronic image stabilization with multi motion IS or M-IS2 that doesn’t use the electronic image stabilizer which effects the field of view. There is also a time lapse movie as well (1280×720, 10 fps).

The E-M5 II also has a 3.5mm mic input that supports external audio input. The E-M5 doesn’t have a mic input, but it’s compatible with the Olympus SEMA-1 microphone adapter set. The E-M5 II also offers a 81 area contrast-based AF system compared to 35-point of its predecessor.

Other Differences

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 II now features an integrated Wi-Fi that allows remote shooting, geo-tagging and easy sharing of  photos and videos. You’ll need the Olympus Image share app to take advantage of these functions, and it’s available for both iOS and Android mobile devices. With the E-M5 you’ll need to purchase an Eye-Fi connected card to enable the wireless features.

The E-M5 Mark II has 310 shots battery life, which is a bit less compared to the E-M5 that measured 360 shots (CIPA test standard). Non of the cameras has a built-in pop-up flash.


The E-M5 II price isn’t cheap, but all in all it certainly a well-worthy successor to the E-M5. It offers improved body design and ergonomics, it’s shorter, offers slightly faster burst, has much faster maximum shutter speed, improved IS and video recording functions compression and frame recording options. It has a new image processor, better AF sensor, more flexible and higher resolution display, larger and higher-resolution viewfinder, 40MP image capture mode and built-in Wi-Fi.

This is a huge upgrade and the E-M5 II certainly worth the attention of E-M5 owners looking to upgrade to this new camera. If all this isn’t worth upgrading for, I don’t know what is. Indeed, it’s almost double the price of the E-M5, but all in all it’s a more fully features camera, improved in almost every way over the older model.  I love the fact that Olympus put a great deal of attention in improving the video capabilities upon the older model.

I had to say that I did hope that Olympus will also improve the image quality, but the high ISO performance is still excellent even in today’s standards. The 40MP shooting is not a gimmick and can be really useful to capture very high resolution images – great for product photographer, landscapes, etc. It’s one of the most fully features Micro Four Thirds cameras out there, one that can easily offer a good fight to its competitors.

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