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Olympus E-M5 versus Sony A7 II

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Sony Alpha A7 II are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2012 and November 2014. Both the E-M5 and the A7 II are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a Four Thirds (E-M5) and a full frame (A7 II) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 15.9 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 24 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: Olympus E-M5 vs Sony A7 II

The physical size and weight of the Olympus E-M5 and the Sony A7 II are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions 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 E-M5 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Olympus E-M5 vs Sony A7 II
Compare E-M5 versus A7 II top
Compare E-M5 and A7 II rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7 II is notably larger (12 percent) than the Olympus E-M5. Moreover, the A7 II is substantially heavier (41 percent) than the E-M5. 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 Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M5) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7 II). Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the E-M5 gets 360 shots out of its BLN-1 battery, while the A7 II can take 350 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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)
Camera
Model
Olympus E-M5» 4.8 in 3.5 in 1.7 in 15.0 oz 360 Y Feb 2012 1,299- i Olympus E-M5
Sony A7 II« 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Olympus E-M5 II« » 4.9 in 3.3 in 1.8 in 16.5 oz 310 Y Feb 2015 1,099 i i Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« » 4.7 in 3.2 in 1.8 in 14.0 oz 320 n Jan 2014 699- i Olympus E-M10
Olympus E-PL7« » 4.5 in 2.6 in 1.5 in 12.6 oz 350 n Aug 2014 599- i Olympus E-PL7
Olympus E-M1« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 17.5 oz 350 Y Sep 2013 1,399- i Olympus E-M1
Olympus E-P5« » 4.8 in 2.7 in 1.5 in 14.8 oz 330 n May 2013 999- i Olympus E-P5
Olympus E-PL5« » 4.4 in 2.5 in 1.5 in 11.5 oz 360 n Sep 2012 599- i Olympus E-PL5
Olympus E-PM2« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.3 in 9.5 oz 360 n Sep 2012 499- i Olympus E-PM2
Panasonic GX8« » 5.2 in 3.1 in 2.5 in 17.2 oz 330 Y Jul 2015 1,199- i Panasonic GX8
Panasonic GX7« » 4.8 in 2.8 in 2.2 in 14.2 oz 350 n Aug 2013 999- i Panasonic GX7
Panasonic GH3« » 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.2 in 19.4 oz 540 Y Sep 2012 1,299- i Panasonic GH3
Sony A7 III« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 610 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
Sony A7R II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.0 oz 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.1 oz 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The E-M5 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 35 percent) than the A7 II, 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Olympus E-M5 vs Sony A7 II

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the 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 Olympus E-M5 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony A7 II a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7 II is 280 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.0. The sensor in the E-M5 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the A7 II offers a 3:2 aspect.

Olympus E-M5 and Sony A7 II sensor measures

With 24MP, the A7 II offers a higher resolution than the E-M5 (15.9MP), but the A7 II nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 3.76μm for the E-M5) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the A7 II is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 9 months) than the E-M5, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

E-M5 versus A7 II MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A7 II offers substantially better image quality than the E-M5 (overall score 19 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.1 bits higher color depth, 1.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.6 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
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Olympus E-M5» Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60i22.812.382671Olympus E-M5
Sony A7 II« Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990Sony A7 II
Olympus E-M5 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388472Olympus E-M10
Olympus E-PL7« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.712.487372Olympus E-PL7
Olympus E-M1« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p23.012.775773Olympus E-M1
Olympus E-P5« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.489572Olympus E-P5
Olympus E-PL5« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388972Olympus E-PL5
Olympus E-PM2« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.712.293272Olympus E-PM2
Panasonic GX8« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.512.680675Panasonic GX8
Panasonic GX7« » Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60p22.612.271870Panasonic GX7
Panasonic GH3« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p22.712.481271Panasonic GH3
Sony A7 III« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7373096Sony A7 III
Sony A7R II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.013.9343498Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28324K/30p23.613.3299385Sony A7S II
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695Sony A7R

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the A7 II provides a faster frame rate than the E-M5. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/60i.

 

Feature comparison: Olympus E-M5 vs Sony A7 II

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The two cameras under review are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the A7 II offers a substantially higher resolution than the one in the E-M5 (2400k vs 1440k dots). The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-M5 and Sony A7 II along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
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
Camera
Model
Olympus E-M5»1440 n 3.0 610 tilting Y 4000 9.0 n Y Olympus E-M5
Sony A7 II«2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II
Olympus E-M5 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« »1440 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y Olympus E-M10
Olympus E-PL7« »- n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 4000 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PL7
Olympus E-M1« »2360 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus E-M1
Olympus E-P5« »- n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 9.0 Y Y Olympus E-P5
Olympus E-PL5« »- n 3.0 460 tilting Y 4000 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PL5
Olympus E-PM2« »- n 3.0 460 fixed Y 4000 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PM2
Panasonic GX8« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Panasonic GX8
Panasonic GX7« »2760 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 8000 5.0 Y Y Panasonic GX7
Panasonic GH3« »1746 n 3.0 614 swivel Y 4000 6.0 Y n Panasonic GH3
Sony A7 III« »2359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Sony A7 III
Sony A7R II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7S II
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n Sony A7R

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The E-M5 has a touchscreen, while the A7 II has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

The E-M5 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A7 II uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Olympus E-M5»Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-M5
Sony A7 II«YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7 II
Olympus E-M5 II« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y--Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« »Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--Olympus E-M10
Olympus E-PL7« »Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--Olympus E-PL7
Olympus E-M1« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y--Olympus E-M1
Olympus E-P5« »Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--Olympus E-P5
Olympus E-PL5« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL5
Olympus E-PM2« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PM2
Panasonic GX8« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0YY-Panasonic GX8
Panasonic GX7« »Ystereomono--mini2.0YY-Panasonic GX7
Panasonic GH3« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--Panasonic GH3
Sony A7 III« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.1YYYSony A7 III
Sony A7R II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7S II
Sony A7« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7
Sony A7R« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R

Both the E-M5 and the A7 II have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-M5 was replaced by the Olympus E-M5 II, while the A7 II was followed by the Sony A7 III.

Review summary: Olympus E-M5 vs Sony A7 II

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Olympus E-M5 better than the Sony A7 II or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Advantages of the Olympus OM-D E-M5:

  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (9 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (122x89mm vs 127x96mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 174g or 29 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (35 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2012).

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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A7 II:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 15.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 25%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (19 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.1 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.3 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/60i).
  • Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
  • Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
  • More detailed viewfinder: Has higher resolution electronic viewfinder (2400k vs 1440k dots).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 610k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi build in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 9 months of technical progress since the E-M5 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A7 II is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 6 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.

E-M5 06:14 A7 II

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-M5 or the A7 II handle or perform in practice. 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 expert reviews 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
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Olympus E-M5»HiRec80/1004.5/55/55/5 Feb 2012 1,299- i Olympus E-M5
Sony A7 II«Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Olympus E-M5 II« »HiRec81/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099 i i Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« »-80/1005/54.5/55/5 Jan 2014 699- i Olympus E-M10
Olympus E-PL7« »Rec-5/54.5/54/5 Aug 2014 599- i Olympus E-PL7
Olympus E-M1« »HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2013 1,399- i Olympus E-M1
Olympus E-P5« »HiRec78/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2013 999- i Olympus E-P5
Olympus E-PL5« »HiRec-4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599- i Olympus E-PL5
Olympus E-PM2« »-77/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499- i Olympus E-PM2
Panasonic GX8« »Rec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2015 1,199- i Panasonic GX8
Panasonic GX7« »Rec79/1005/54.5/55/5 Aug 2013 999- i Panasonic GX7
Panasonic GH3« »HiRec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2012 1,299- i Panasonic GH3
Sony A7 III« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
Sony A7R II« »HiRec90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »Rec-4.5/55/55/5 Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

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 make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, kindly get in touch, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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