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Cameras

Olympus E-M5 Mark II aggressively targets your $1,100

After 3 long years Olympus overhauls its midrange interchangeable-lens camera with significantly better movie-recording features and performance improvements.

Now playing: Watch this: Olympus beefs up the OM-D E-M5 Mark II
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I don't think there has ever been a broader selection of cameras in that action/enthusiast segment between $1,000 and $1,800 (comparable to models between £830 to £1,300 and AU$1,150 to AU$2,000). With Olympus' replacement for its 3-year-old OM-D E-M5, it not only joins the "Mark II" club, but chooses the E-M5 Mark II as the bearer of its newest technology. With the E-M5 M2, the company takes aim at a laundry list of cameras: the Canon EOS 70D , Nikon D7100 and Pentax K-3 dSLRs (all pretty old, from 2013); the Sony Alpha 77 II SLT; and the Fufjilm X-T1 , Panasonic Lumix GH4 and Samsung NX1 mirrorless models. Not to mention its own OM-D E-M1 .

m14-150-2blkstand.jpg
The updated 14-150mm lens. Olympus

In the US we'll only see a body-only official configuration, which will run $1,100 (AU$1,300, £900). Elsewhere, there will be three official kits: the AU$1,600 Weatherproof kit w/ the 12-50mm lens, the AU$2,100/£1,500 Pro kit with the 12-40mm f2.8 lens and the AU$1,800 Adventure kit with the new 14-150mm f3.5-5.6 II lens.

The new lens replaces the way outdated version, updating with the company's current design and build, including the useful pull-back manual-focus collar, and with a closer minimum focusing distance of about 13 inches (.33m) from the front on the lens. Olympus will also offer the PRF-D58 Pro for it, a protective filter comprised of "double-sided, multi-coating and blackened glass edges to suppress ghosting and lens flare" The 14-150mm lens is roughly the same size, weight and price of its predecessor -- it will be available standalone for about $600 (AU$800, £550) starting in March.

What's new

  • Improved video features. Branding the more 2015-era movie feature set as "OM-D Movie", Olympus has made a host of serious improvements that debut with the E-M5 M2. An All-I codec and a 77Mbps maximum bitrate for 1080/30p top the list for improved quality, along with the 4 key time-code options (drop/non-drop and record run/free run) for people who want to synchronize multiple cameras. It will also support clean HDMI out at YCC 4:2:2. Keep in mind that Olympus assumes that people won't be grading (exposure and color retouching) the footage from the camera. While the camera supports headphones , the connector is actually on the optional grip. Olympus also touts the camera as optimized for handheld shooting, since it incorporates the 5-axis image stabilization that the company introduced several years ago. In addition, there's a new faster/slower playback mode.
  • Design enhancements. It upgrades to the same electronic viewfinder found on the E-M1 and incorporates a lot more direct-access controls on the top and a mode lever like the E-M1's, plus a slightly bigger grip; the latter unfortunately still isn't as substantial as the one on the E-M1. The camera is now rated to operate at temperatures down to 14°/-10°C compared to its predecessor's 32°/0°C rating. Olympus replaces the tilting touchscreen with a higher resolution articulated version. Like its predecessor, the E-M5 M2 ships with a bundled flash. However, Olympus has beefed-up the flash unit (the FL-LM3), making it one of the nicer on-camera/bundled flashes available. While it offers the same power output, it can now tilt and swivel.
  • Improved performance. The E-M5 M2 uses the 81-area contrast autofocus found in the E-M1, though sadly it doesn't use the hybrid phase detection/contrast AF system of that camera. A bump up to the TruePic VII processor helps it gain about 1.5 frames per second for continuous-shooting with autofocus, to 5fps, but it can theoretically handle an unlimited raw sequence at that rate as long as you've got a fast-enough card.
  • New features. In a step-up from the E-M5, the M2 incorporates Wi-Fi. It also introduces a new 40-megapixel High-Resolution Shot mode, designed for use on a tripod, which uses the camera's sensor-shift capability to capture 8 half-pixel shifted images and combines them into a single shot.

Olympus also announced a bevy of accessories to go with the new body. The most notable:

  • HLD-8G: Hand grip (price & availability TBA). Probably a recommended accessory, especially if you plan to use full Four-Thirds mount lenses. This is also the grip you'll need if you want to use headphones .
  • HLD-6P: Battery grip (price & availability TBA).
  • ECG-2: Metal External grip (price & availability TBA). This bigger grip includes plate for use with an Arca-Swiss mount tripod.
  • EE-1: External Dot Sight. An add-on sight light the one built into the SP-100 , this should be a boon to telephoto devotees. $130 (£87, AU$166 directly converted; actual prices TBA), May 2015.
  • PT-EP13: Underwater housing, rated to 100 ft (45m), and supports use with the 9-18mm, 14-42mm, 45mm and 60mm macro lenses. $1,000 (£666, $AU1,278 directly converted; actual prices TBA, February 2015)

My take

The E-M1 is a lot more expensive and seem to only retain the performance advantage because of the hybrid autofocus system and better burst speed. However, it's also three years old and I wouldn't be surprised if Olympus decided to rev that model later this year, despite frequent, substantial firmware updates. (Version 3, which bumps the continuous-shooting with autofocus up to 9fps should be available this month here.)

It still has some drawbacks compared to its dSLR competition -- the autofocus system likely still can't keep with theirs, and its continuous-shooting performance with AF will likely fall short as well. Plus, in general, the mirrorless models have awful battery life compared to dSLRs. But its electronic viewfinder will probably be great for shooting video and unlike Canon and Nikon, offers clean HDMI out.

The Fujifilm X-T1 is probably its closest mirrorless competitor. While it also potentially outperforms the E-M5 Mark II and uses Fujifilm's excellent APS-C sensor, that cameras movie capabilities are probably not nearly as good.

Overall, though, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II sounds like an aggressive attempt by Olympus to woo folks looking for a more advanced vacation and family camera capable of photographing kids and pets at play.

Comparative specs

Canon EOS 70D Nikon D7100 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Olympus OM-D E-M1
Sensor effective resolution 20.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS 24.1MP CMOS 16.1MP Live MOS 16.1MP Live MOS 16.3MP Live MOS
Sensor size 22.5 x 15 mm 23.5 x 15.6 mm 17.3 x 13mm 17.3 x 13mm 17.3 x 13mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.5x 2.0x 2.0x 2.0x
OLPF Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ ISO 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 25600
Burst shooting 7fps
40 JPEG/15 raw
6fps
n/a
3.5fps
unlimited JPEG/17 raw
(9fps with everything fixed on first shot and IS off)
5fps
unlimited JPEG and raw
(10fps with fixed focus and IS off)
9fps (with IS off)
unlimited JPEG/50 raw
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
Optical
98% coverage
0.95x/0.59x
Optical
100% coverage
0.94x/0.63 x
EVF
n/a-inch
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.15x/0.58x
EVF
n/a-inch
2.36 million dots
100% coverage
1.3x - 1.48x/ 0.65x- 0.74x
EVF
n/a-inch
2.36 million dots
100% coverage
1.3x - 1.48x/ 0.65x- 0.74x
Hot Shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 19-point phase-detection AF
all cross-type
center dual cross to f2.8
51-point phase-detection AF
15 cross-type
center to f8
35-area
Contrast AF
81-area
Contrast AF
27-point phase detection,
81-point contrast
AF sensitivity -0.5 - 18 EV -2 - 19 EV n/a n/a n/a
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 8 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (flash dependent) 60 - 1/8000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (Super FP to 1/8,000) 60 - 1/8000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/320 sec x-sync (Super FP to 1/8000)
Shutter durability 100,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 100,000 cycles n/a n/a
Metering 63 zone 2,016-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering II 324 area 324 area 324 area
Metering sensitivity 1 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV -2 - 20 EV -2 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p, 25p, 24p; 720/60p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p, 25p, 24p; 720/60p, 50p
QuickTime MOV
1080/60i @ 20, 17 Mbps
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p, 50p (52 Mbps); 30p, 25p, 24p (77 Mbps)
QuickTime MOV 1080/30p @ 24 Mbps
Audio Stereo, mic input Stereo, mic input, headphones Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input; headphone jack on HLD-8G grip Stereo; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 4GB 4GB 2GB 4GB 29 mins/2GB
Clean HDMI out No No n/a Yes No
IS Optical Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift Sensor shift
LCD 3 in/7.7cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
3.2 in/8 cm
Fixed
921,600 dots
(plus extra set of white)
3 in/7.5cm
OLED tilting touchscreen
614,000 dots
3 in/7.5cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in/7.5cm
Tilting touchscreen
1.04m dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 2 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection None Optional Wi-Fi
(with WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter)
Optional Bluetooth Wi-Fi W-Fi
Flash Yes Yes Included add-on Included add-on Included add-on
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 800 shots
(2600 shots)
950 shots
(1,900 mAh)
360 shots
(1,220 mAh)
310 shots
(1,220 mAh)
350 shots
(1,220 mAh)
Size (WHD) 5.5 x 4.1 x3.1 in
139.0 x 104.3 x 78.5 mm
5.3 x 4.2 x 3.0 in
135.5 x 106.5 x 76 mm
4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 in
121 x 89.6 x 41.9 mm
4.9 x 3.3 x 1.8 in
123.7 x 85 x 44.5 mm
5.1 x 3.7 x 2.5 in
130.4 x 93.5 x 63.1 mm
Body operating weight 27.2 oz
771.1 g
27.3 oz
773.9 g
15.1 oz
428.1 g
16.5 oz (est.)
469 g (est.)
19 oz
538.6 g
Mfr. price
(body only)
$1,200
£800 (est.)
AU$1,150
$1,100
£800 (est.)
AU$1,500
$600
£650
AU$800
$1,100
£900 (est.)
AU$1,200
$1,400
£1,100
AU$1,500
Release date August 2013 March 2013 April 2012 February 2015 October 2013

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