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Olympus OM-D E-M5 vs. OM-D E-M5 Mark II - 5 differences you should know

Updated on September 22, 2015
E-M5 vs E-M5 Mark II
E-M5 vs E-M5 Mark II | Source


The Olympus OM-D E-M5 was our first mirrorless camera and it brought about many changes in our lives that we never could have expected.

It was the camera that convinced my fiancé, who is a working events photographer, to sell his Nikon D700 and work exclusively with small MILCs. It also inspired us to create MirrorLessons - The Best Mirrorless Camera Reviews, a website and community dedicated to reviewing and comparing the latest mirrorless cameras.

Although we no longer own the original E-M5, Mathieu continues to use Olympus cameras for his work. He upgraded to the E-M1 last year and had the pleasure of being one of the first to test the brand new E-M5 Mark II, the successor to the original E-M5 which was released nearly three years ago.

Mathieu with his E-M5
Mathieu with his E-M5 | Source

E-M5 versus E-M5 II

Since the original OM-D E-M5 came out in 2012, we've seen the arrival of three other OM-D cameras: the E-M1 in September 2013, the E-M10 in February 2014 and now the E-M5 MkII. Given that nearly three years have passed since the release of the original, you'll find that the E-M5 MkII actually has more in common with the flagship E-M1 that its predecessor, and even manages to supersede it in many ways.

In this article, you'll discover what we feel are the five most significant differences between the E-M5 and the E-M5 MK2. Using this information, you can decide whether you think it is worth upgrading to the newest model. On that note, let's get started!

The new E-M5 II
The new E-M5 II | Source

1. Improved 5-axis stabilisation for stills

The 5-axis stabilisation was already an amazing feature on the original E-M5. If you managed to keep your body steady enough, you could take sharp images down to about a 1/2 second.

Now, on the E-M5 MkII, the 5-axis stabilisation has improved so much that it is quite easy to take sharp images at 1 second, and it is even possible at 2 seconds if you are very still.

Why is 5-axis stabilisation such a great asset for a photographer? Simply, it allows you to take in-focus images in places where the light conditions are poor without having to raise your ISO values too much. This is significant because high ISO performance above 3200 is one of the weaknesses of the Micro Four Thirds system. It will not work for moving subjects however as the shutter speed is too slow and will not capture the action.

A sharp shot taken at two seconds of shutter speed
A sharp shot taken at two seconds of shutter speed | Source

2. 5-axis stabilisation for video

While you had 5-axis stabilisation for stills on the E-M5, you were still limited to 3 axes for video. This didn't really matter as the E-M5's video mode was nothing to write home about, and it worked well enough only for casual filming.

The E-M5 MkII is the first Olympus camera to feature 5-axis stabilisation for video as well. It is so effective that you almost feel as if you're using a SteadyCam to film your footage. This applies to walking along a flat path, up and down a flight or stairs, or even along uneven terrain. The only disadvantage we've found so far is that the sensor can sometimes overcompensate for unexpected or abrupt movements. For example, if you suddenly change direction, the sensor might shift sideways or produce a momentary "jello" effect, both of which are visible in your footage. To resolve this, it is simply a matter of keeping your body as steady as possible.

Below you can see a video where we detail the differences between the stabilisation for video on the E-M5 and E-M5 MkII.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II - 5-axis stabilization for video explained

3. Improved video mode

Olympus users who care about filmmaking have often complained about the video mode on OM-D cameras being sub-standard. They felt it was a waste given the incredible 5-axis stabilisation of the camera, which would essentially allow them to shoot video without any sort of external stabiliser.

Although Olympus didn't grant us the wish of 4K video as many had hoped, it did drastically improve the video features of the new E-M5 MkII. It now has full HD from 24fps up to 60fps, a swivelling touch screen like the Lumix GH4, better compression, slow and fast motion recording, a timecode generator, more advanced audio controls, and much more.

Another nice addition is the clean HDMI output that allows you to record a less compressed video file with 4:2:2 color sampling through an external recorder.

The take-home message here is that the E-M5 II is a serious video camera that could be used even by professionals, whereas the E-M5 was only good for stills.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II - Video footage

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4. High Res Shot mode

Upon hearing that the E-M5 MkII has the same 16MP MOS Four Thirds format sensor as the E-M5, you might have initially heaved a sigh of sadness.

However the E-M5 II hides a trick up its sleeve. By using the brand new High Res Shot mode, you can now create 40MP images in JPG mode and a whopping 64MP image in Raw. To create these high resolution images, the E-M5 II uses shifting sensor technology (the same it uses to stabilise the camera) to slightly move the position of the sensor for each shot. The camera is then able to collect details from the sensor photosites and the micro areas between pixels that would be usually lost to create a high resolution image.

When this mode isn’t activated, the image quality of the E-M5 and E-M5 II is basically the same. There is a slight improvement in high ISO rendering due to the updated TruePic VII Processor.

An example of a High Res Shot
An example of a High Res Shot | Source

5. Electronic shutter with silent and anti-shock modes

A feature Olympus users (particularly street shooters) have been longing for since it became the standard on many mirrorless cameras from Lumix and Sony is a silent shutter. While the shutter of the E-M5 isn’t particularly loud or intrusive, it is audible in very silent situations.

The E-M5 II has both a silent shutter and an anti-shock shutter. The former renders the camera 99% silent and will allow you to shoot at shutter speeds up to 1/16000 of a second. The latter is another term for electronic first curtain shutter. It isn’t as silent as the silent shutter but it reduces camera blur caused by the vibration of the shutter.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 mark II - Hands-On Review

© 2015 Heather B

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