My first serious outing with the EM-5 II was during my family vacation at Singapore. I carried the EM-5 II along with the P7-14, O9-18, P20, P45 and the P100-300, a backup Panasonic Lumix GX-7, my 52mm filter set and a Sirui T-1204X CF tripod plus Tiltall BH-07 ball head, all in a Lowepro Hatchback 22L.
I bought the EM-5 II mainly for its In Body Image Stabilization or IBIS, as it is more popularly know. It works quite well for Video and Stills and with Video it gives a very nice Steady Cam kind of stabilization that is really a boon for hand held videos.
I had purchased an extra battery from Flipkart who supplied me the battery through some retailer in Hyderabad before my vacation, but either the battery is defective or a duplicate, as it hardly hold any charge and runs out within a couple of shots. So the first thing I got from Singapore was a new battery for my EM-5 II. I got it from Funan mall and this one seems fine. Its a shame that Olympus equipment is not easy to procure here in India at competitive prices.
I instantly fell in love with the retro looking silver OMD EM-5 II and frankly the camera looks quite stylish. Full weather proofing is retained and it no longer has the squishy buttons of the original EM-5 classic.
The buttons and levers all have a good tactile feel and just like an enthusiast/pro camera, it is possible to customize most of these as per your liking. Unfortunately all this level of customization makes it one of my most difficult to operate cameras and sometimes it really flummoxes me with the sheer amount of possibilities it allows. But anyway, most of the really important settings are present on the super panel and I hardly ever need to dig down deep in the menus. On menus, I would say the Olympus menus are one of the not so intuitive or user friendly menus. But a few days of practice and I was able to operate it well enough. My previous experience with menus is limited to Panasonic m43 cameras and Nikon DSLRs.
I had my first experience of using the live time feature at the Merlion park walkway when I could actually see the image being formed on the EVF of the EM-5 II. I thought that this was quite cool and really useful feature, as one does not have to keep trying different exposures or use a chart that tells you how many seconds your exposure should be for a particular strength ND filter. You can get it right the first time itself. However I was not sure how to activate this feature and it did take some doing to get it working.
Now the real reason why I got this camera, the awesome IBIS. A good image stabilization system really transforms the way you shoot. The m43 sensor is not really the best out there to shoot in low light or when high ISO work is a major part of your work flow. Enter the legendary 5 axis Olympus IBIS, that made its first appearance in the EM-5, has now been made much more effective and refined in the EM-5 II, that promises 4-5 stops of stabilization without much sweat.
This shot for example, was taken handheld through a glass panel on top of the Singapore flyer using my EM-5 II and Panasonic 7-14 F4.0 at 9mm for 1 second, yes you read it right, hand held for 1 second.
IMHO the IBIS in these new OMD bodies really makes the m43 competitive with the best full frame offerings in the market. No one wants to refute the claim that a FF camera like a D800 will more often than not outperform a m43 camera at low ISOs. Now I haven’t heard of too many complaints about m43 IQ at low ISOs. Yes, there is the occasional talk about seeing noise even at base ISOs, but then I have not really seen these in what ever travel shots I have printed with all my m43 cameras so far. Maybe my IQ requirement are not as high as most FF shooters.
But anyone who has shot with a D800 knows how difficult it is to shoot handheld at anything even near to the 1/Focal Length shutter speed to avoid camera shake on these monster high MP bodies. This usually translates to needing, higher shutter speeds and thus needing higher ISOs. So one usually needs a higher ISO on these FF cameras, shooting unstabilized lenses, to shoot in the same light as these IBIS wielding OMDs, which are at ease shooting at low ISOs and stabilizing any lens that you mount on them for both stills and video. This I feel is a huge advantage for these IBIS wielding m43 cameras.
I also shot with my P100-300 which is my longest lens at the Jurong bird park and Singapore zoo that also gave me ample number of keepers and also show how good the consumer P100-300 is, for anyone looking for a long lens in m43. Of-course this lens is now superseded by the new Panaleica 100-400 and the Olympus 300 F4.0. But it still remains a very good choice for people who do not want to spend too much money on these new long lenses.
I am quite happy with the DR of the EM-5 II sensor. It was hot humid and bright in the Singapore zoo and the white tigers were quite a difficult subject to shoot as the shade and sun made proper exposure a bit difficult. But eventually I was able to get a good exposure, thanks the very good DR of the camera.
The best part of using m43 lenses unlike most FF lenses is that the m43 lenses are at their best around the wide open apertures. So there is no real need to stop them down like FF lenses to achieve optimum sharpness. Shooting street style on the go is again very easy for the EM-5 II along with small a small high IQ lens like the 45 F1.8 which provides stealth, speed and very good IQ.
I really enjoyed using my EM-5 II in Singapore where I was walking almost the whole day in hot, humid conditions and not once did I feel the pain of carrying 2 cameras, a small CF travel tripod and lenses that cover all FLs from 14-600mm. This is the beauty of the m43 system and I can’t really imagine a better system than this for travel and holidays.