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Nikon Df versus Olympus E-M5 II

The Nikon Df and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in November 2013 and February 2015. The Df is a DSLR, while the E-M5 II is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (Df) and a Four Thirds (E-M5 II) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 16.2 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 15.9 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon Df vs Olympus E-M5 II

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon Df and the Olympus E-M5 II. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the Df – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Nikon Df vs Olympus E-M5 II
Compare Df versus E-M5 II top
Compare Df and E-M5 II rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M5 II is considerably smaller (33 percent) than the Nikon Df. Moreover, the E-M5 II is substantially lighter (38 percent) than the Df. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (Df) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M5 II). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-M5 II, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

Concerning battery life, the Df gets 1400 shots out of its EN-EL14 battery, while the E-M5 II can take 310 images on a single charge of its BLN-1 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Nikon Df» 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 26.8 oz 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i
Olympus E-M5 II« 4.9 in 3.3 in 1.8 in 16.5 oz 310 Y Feb 2015 1,099 i i
Nikon D850« » 5.7 in 4.9 in 3.1 in 35.5 oz 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon D810« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 34.6 oz 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i
Nikon D4S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.6 oz 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499- i
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon D4« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i
Nikon D600« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i
Nikon D800« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i
Nikon D800E« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- i
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i
Olympus E-M1 II« » 5.3 in 3.6 in 2.6 in 20.2 oz 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i
Olympus E-M10 II« » 4.7 in 3.3 in 1.9 in 13.8 oz 320 n Aug 2015 799- i
Olympus E-M10« » 4.7 in 3.2 in 1.8 in 14.0 oz 320 n Jan 2014 699- i
Olympus E-M1« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 17.5 oz 350 Y Sep 2013 1,399- i
Olympus E-M5« » 4.8 in 3.5 in 1.7 in 15.0 oz 360 Y Feb 2012 1,299- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-M5 II was launched at a markedly lower price (by 60 percent) than the Df, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon Df vs Olympus E-M5 II

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon Df features a full frame sensor and the Olympus E-M5 II a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-M5 II is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the Df has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-M5 II offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon Df and Olympus E-M5 II sensor measures

With 16.2MP, the Df offers a slightly higher resolution than the E-M5 II (15.9MP), but the Df nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 7.29μm versus 3.76μm for the E-M5 II) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-M5 II is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 3 months) than the Df, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

Unlike the Df, the E-M5 II has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (40MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

Df versus E-M5 II MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the Df provides substantially higher image quality than the E-M5 II, with an overall score that is 16 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.6 bits higher color depth, 0.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon Df» Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989
Olympus E-M5 II« Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273
Nikon D850« » Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397
Nikon D4S« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
Nikon D4« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
Nikon D600« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094
Nikon D800« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395
Nikon D800E« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380
Olympus E-M1 II« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280
Olympus E-M10 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.112.584273
Olympus E-M10« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388472
Olympus E-M1« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p23.012.775773
Olympus E-M5« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60i22.812.382671

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The E-M5 II indeed provides for movie recording, while the Df does not. The highest resolution format that the E-M5 II can use is 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon Df vs Olympus E-M5 II

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-M5 II has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the Df has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon Df, the Olympus E-M5 II, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon Df»optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n
Olympus E-M5 II«2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Nikon D850« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D4S« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D4« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Nikon D600« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 Y n
Nikon D800« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n
Nikon D800E« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n
Olympus E-M1 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y
Olympus E-M10 II« »2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y
Olympus E-M10« »1440 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y
Olympus E-M1« »2360 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Olympus E-M5« »1440 n 3.0 610 tilting Y 4000 9.0 n Y

Both the Df and the E-M5 II are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The E-M5 II replaced the earlier Olympus E-M5, while the Df does not have a direct predecessor.

Review summary: Nikon Df vs Olympus E-M5 II

So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon Df better than the Olympus E-M5 II or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon Df:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (16 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.6 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.6 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (2 stops ISO advantage).
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1400 versus 310) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in November 2013).

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II:

  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 921k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 5.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (124x85mm vs 144x110mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 291g or 38 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (60 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 3 months) more recently.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-M5 II is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 9 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

Df 09:14 E-M5 II

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the Df or the E-M5 II. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Nikon Df»-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i
Olympus E-M5 II«HiRec81/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099 i i
Nikon D850« »HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i
Nikon D4S« »--4.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499- i
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon D4« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i
Nikon D600« »HiRec87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i
Nikon D800« »HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i
Nikon D800E« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i
Olympus E-M1 II« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i
Olympus E-M10 II« »HiRec80/1005/55/55/5 Aug 2015 799- i
Olympus E-M10« »-80/1005/54.5/55/5 Jan 2014 699- i
Olympus E-M1« »HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2013 1,399- i
Olympus E-M5« »HiRec80/1004.5/55/55/5 Feb 2012 1,299- i

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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