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Sony A6500 versus Olympus E-M1 II

The Sony Alpha A6500 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2016 and September 2016. Both the A6500 and the E-M1 II are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on an APS-C (A6500) and a Four Thirds (E-M1 II) sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 20.2 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: Sony A6500 vs Olympus E-M1 II

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Sony A6500 and the Olympus E-M1 II is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the A6500 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A6500 vs Olympus E-M1 II
A6500 versus E-M1 II top view
A6500 and E-M1 II rear side

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M1 II is considerably larger (52 percent) than the Sony A6500. Moreover, the E-M1 II is markedly heavier (27 percent) than the A6500. 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 Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (A6500) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M1 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 A6500 gets 350 shots out of its NP-FW50 battery, while the E-M1 II can take 440 images on a single charge of its BLH-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 Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A6500 (⇒ rgt) 4.7 in 2.6 in 2.1 in 16.0 oz 350 YES 2016 1,399 latest check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft) 5.3 in 3.6 in 2.6 in 20.2 oz 440 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 4.1 in 2.9 in 25.4 oz 950 YES 2017 1,299 latest check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.9 in 2.8 in 1.5 in 15.1 oz 330 no 2016 1,199 latest check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.9 in 3.3 in 1.8 in 16.5 oz 310 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 17.5 oz 350 YES 2013 1,399discont. check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 YES 2017 1,999 latest check
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.5 in 2.9 in 17.8 oz 330 YES 2016 899 latest check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.2 in 3.1 in 2.5 in 17.2 oz 330 YES 2015 1,199discont. check
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 YES 2017 4,499 latest check
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.9 in 14.3 oz 400 YES 2016 999discont. check
Sony RX10 III (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.2 in 3.7 in 5.0 in 37.1 oz 420 YES 2016 1,499discont. check
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.1 in 3.5 in 4.0 in 28.7 oz 400 YES 2015 1,299discont. check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 YES 2013 1,699discont. check
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 14.1 oz 430 no 2011 1,349discont. check

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 A6500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 30 percent) than the E-M1 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison: Sony A6500 vs Olympus E-M1 II

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Sony A6500 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-M1 II a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-M1 II is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the A6500 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-M1 II offers a 4:3 aspect.

Sony A6500 and Olympus E-M1 II sensor measures

With 24MP, the A6500 offers a higher resolution than the E-M1 II (20.2MP), but the A6500 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 3.34μm for the E-M1 II) due to its larger sensor. It is noteworthy in this context that the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the E-M1 II has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

Unlike the A6500, the E-M1 II has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (50MP) 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).

A6500 versus E-M1 II MP

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under review, the A6500 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the E-M1 II (overall score 5 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.1 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
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony A6500 (⇒ rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.5 13.7 1405 85
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.7 12.8 1312 80
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.3 14.0 1483 86
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 1080/60p 23.1 12.4 894 74
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.0 12.5 842 73
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 23.0 12.7 757 73
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/60p 23.9 13.0 807 77
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.8 4592 3448 4K/30p 22.8 12.5 656 71
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.5 12.6 806 75
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.9 13.3 3517 92
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.4 13.7 1437 85
Sony RX10 III (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 4K/30p 23.1 12.6 472 70
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 4K/30p 23.0 12.6 531 70
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 14.2 2248 90
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60i 24.1 13.4 1016 81

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).

Feature comparison: Sony A6500 vs Olympus E-M1 II

Apart from 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 E-M1 II offers a slightly higher resolution than the one in the A6500 (2360k vs 2300k dots). The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Sony A6500 and Olympus E-M1 II in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar 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
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Sony A6500 (⇒ rgt) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting YES 4000 11.0 6 YES
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 18.0 no YES
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 922 tilting YES 8000 8.0 12 no
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3680 no 3.2 1620 swivel YES 8000 12.0 no YES
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 9.0 6.2 YES
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3686 no 3.0 1440 tilting YES 8000 20.0 no YES
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting no 4000 11.0 6 no
Sony RX10 III (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 1229 tilting no 2000 14.0 10.8 YES
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 1229 tilting no 3200 14.0 10.2 YES
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 921 tilting no 4000 10.0 6 no

Both the A6500 and the E-M1 II are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The E-M1 II replaced the earlier Olympus E-M1, while the A6500 followed on from the Sony A6300.

Review summary: Sony A6500 vs Olympus E-M1 II

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Sony A6500 or the Olympus E-M1 II – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A6500:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 20.2MP) with a 11% higher linear resolution.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.9 EV of extra DR).
  • More compact: Is smaller (120x67mm vs 134x91mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 121g or 21 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (30 percent cheaper at launch).

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Advantages of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 922k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (18 vs 11 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (440 versus 350) out of a single battery charge.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A6500 comes out slightly ahead of the E-M1 II (8 : 7 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.

A6500 08:07 E-M1 II

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the A6500 and the E-M1 II in practical situations. 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 table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known 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
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A6500 (⇒ rgt) HiRec 85/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,399 latest check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 86/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2017 1,299 latest check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt) - 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2016 1,199 latest check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 81/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,399discont. check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 1,999 latest check
Panasonic G85 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 899 latest check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 1,199discont. check
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 89/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 4,499 latest check
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 999discont. check
Sony RX10 III (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 84/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,499discont. check
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4/5 2015 1,299discont. check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,699discont. check
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 81/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2011 1,349discont. check

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. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. 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 you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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