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Sony A7 II versus Olympus E-M1 II

The Sony Alpha A7 II and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in November 2014 and September 2016. Both the A7 II and the E-M1 II are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a full frame (A7 II) 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 A7 II vs Olympus E-M1 II

The physical size and weight of the Sony A7 II and the Olympus E-M1 II are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size 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 A7 II – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Sony A7 II vs Olympus E-M1 II
Compare A7 II versus E-M1 II top
Compare A7 II and E-M1 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 and the Olympus E-M1 IIare of equal size. However, the E-M1 II is slightly lighter (4 percent) than the A7 II. 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 FE Lens Catalog (A7 II) 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 A7 II 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
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)
Sony A7 II» 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- 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 PEN-F« » 4.9 in 2.8 in 1.5 in 15.1 oz 330 n Jan 2016 1,199 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
Olympus E-M1« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 17.5 oz 350 Y Sep 2013 1,399- i
Panasonic GH5« » 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i i
Panasonic G85« » 5.0 in 3.5 in 2.9 in 17.8 oz 330 Y Sep 2016 899 i i
Sony A7 III« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 610 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i i
Sony A9« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i
Sony A7R III« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 650 Y Oct 2017 3,199 i i
Sony A7R II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.0 oz 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i
Sony A7S II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.1 oz 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999 i i
Sony A77 II« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 22.8 oz 480 Y May 2014 1,199 i i
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i
Sony A77« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 25.8 oz 470 Y Aug 2011 1,999- 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 two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same 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 A7 II vs Olympus E-M1 II

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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 Sony A7 II features a full frame sensor and the Olympus E-M1 II a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-M1 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 A7 II has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-M1 II offers a 4:3 aspect.

Sony A7 II and Olympus E-M1 II sensor measures

With 24MP, the A7 II offers a higher resolution than the E-M1 II (20.2MP), but the A7 II nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 3.34μm for the E-M1 II) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-M1 II is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 9 months) than the A7 II, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. 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 A7 II, 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).

A7 II versus E-M1 II MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 review, the A7 II has a notably higher overall DXO score than the E-M1 II (overall score 10 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1.2 bits higher color depth, 0.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.9 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony A7 II» Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990
Olympus E-M1 II« Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280
Olympus PEN-F« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38881080/60p23.112.489474
Olympus E-M5 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273
Olympus E-M1« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p23.012.775773
Panasonic GH5« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777
Panasonic G85« » Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34484K/30p22.812.565671
Sony A7 III« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7373096
Sony A9« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792
Sony A7R III« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.014.73523100
Sony A7R II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.013.9343498
Sony A7S II« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28324K/30p23.613.3299385
Sony A77 II« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p----
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695
Sony A77« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.280178

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, but the E-M1 II provides a better video resolution than the A7 II. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Sony is limited to 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony A7 II vs Olympus E-M1 II

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The two cameras under consideration are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the A7 II offers a slightly higher resolution than the one in the E-M1 II (2400k vs 2360k dots). The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Sony A7 II and Olympus E-M1 II along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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
Sony A7 II»2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Olympus E-M1 II«2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y
Olympus PEN-F« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Olympus E-M5 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Olympus E-M1« »2360 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Panasonic GH5« »3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 8000 12.0 n Y
Panasonic G85« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 9.0 Y Y
Sony A7 III« »2359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 20.0 n Y
Sony A7R III« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y
Sony A7R II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7S II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A77 II« »2359 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 8000 12.0 Y Y
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n
Sony A77« »2359 Y 3.0 921 full-flex n 8000 12.0 Y Y

The E-M1 II is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the A7 II has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the A7 II was succeeded by the Sony A7 III.

Review summary: Sony A7 II vs Olympus E-M1 II

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Sony A7 II and the Olympus E-M1 II? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A7 II:

  • 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 (10 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.2 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.8 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.9 stops ISO advantage).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 1037k dots).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in November 2014).

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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.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
  • 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 burst: Shoots at higher frequency (18 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (440 versus 350) out of a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 9 months) more recently.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (8 points each). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

A7 II 08:08 E-M1 II

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the A7 II or the E-M1 II handle or perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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)
Sony A7 II»Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i
Olympus E-M1 II«HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i
Olympus PEN-F« »-82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,199 i i
Olympus E-M5 II« »HiRec81/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099 i i
Olympus E-M1« »HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2013 1,399- i
Panasonic GH5« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i i
Panasonic G85« »HiRec84/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 899 i i
Sony A7 III« »HiRec89/1005/5-5/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i i
Sony A9« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499 i i
Sony A7R III« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2017 3,199 i i
Sony A7R II« »HiRec90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i
Sony A7S II« »Rec-4.5/55/55/5 Sep 2015 2,999 i i
Sony A77 II« »-80/1004.5/54/55/5 May 2014 1,199 i i
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i
Sony A77« »91/10081/100-4.5/55/5 Aug 2011 1,999- i

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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. 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? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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