Olympus OM-D E-M10 II Review
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The Olympus OM-D E-M10 II is the latest model in Olympus’s OM-D series of compact system cameras. The mid-range, all-metal E-M10 II has a 5-axis image stabilisation system, 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, Supersonic Wave Filter anti-dust technology, 4K time-lapse movie mode and the TruePic VII processing unit. The E-M10 II also features a built-in pop-up flash and an external flash hotshoe, electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 2.36 million dots and 100% frame coverage, a tilting 3-inch LCD screen, an electronic shutter with a top shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec, an AF Targeting Pad function, focus peaking, an innovative Colour Creator, Live Composite Mode for previewing long exposures, a customisable self-timer, 8.5fps continuous shooting, Wi-Fi connectivity and in-camera HDR exposure blending. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 II retails for £549.99/€599.00/$649.00 body-only or £649.99/€799.00/$799.00 with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 EZ electronic zoom lens.
Ease of Use
Despite ostensibly being the new entry-level model in the OM-D system, the E-M10 II feels robust and reassuringly solid thanks to its magnesium-alloy body. With dimensions of 119.5 x 83.1 x 46.7mm, it's virtually identical in size to the original E-M10 model, and weighs almost the same too at 342g body-only.
Unlike the more expensive OM-D cameras, the new E-M10 II isn't weather-sealed, a concession to its lower price-point. There's a rather modestly sized textured handgrip which is just sufficient enough to be able to still hold the camera nice and steady when shooting handheld, ably assisted by a much more pronounced thumb-grip on the rear.
Low light sensitivity stretches all the way up to a pro-like ISO 25600, partly down to the implementation of the noise reducing TruePic VII processor (which is also used by the flagship E-M1). Unsurprisingly the E-M10 II retains the Olympus unique selling point of on-board Art Filters, which are also worth singling out for praise. Interestingly these filters can be applied to Full HD video as well as stills. The E-M10 II is the latest O-MD camera to feature a proper built-in pop-up flash, which usefully supports wireless flash control.
Most image stabilization systems compensate for camera shake by correcting yaw and pitch. Olympus claim that camera shake is actually caused by five different kinds of motion, and their image stabilization mechanism additionally corrects for horizontal shift, vertical shift and rotary motion (rolling) for both still images and movies. The E-M5 Mark II now offers 4-stops of compensation complete with auto panning detection, with Olympus claiming that handheld shutter-speeds as low as 1/4 second are obtainable.
From the front the E-M10 II has a streamlined look, with just a round lens release button to the right of the lens mount and an AF assist lamp above interrupting the otherwise featureless faceplate.
|Front of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II|
On top is a vacant flash hotshoe that sits directly above the lens, with a clever new Off / On / Flash Up switch and Function3 button on the left hand-side when viewed from the rear. The Off / On / Flash Up switch is much more convenient than the On-Off switch on the original E-M10, with a further push from the On position to Flash Up doing exactly what you'd expect - very neat.
On the right of the flash hotshoe is a prominently raised shooting mode dial with a surrounding ridged edge for easier purchase, with the options remaining the same as the E-M10's, being program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, video, scene modes, Art Filters, Photo Story and - the most obviously highlighted of all - iAuto mode.
There are 14 Art Filters in total, with Dramatic Tone and the self explanatory Gentle Sepia working the best for us, the former adding an intensely gritty look as if a photograph has been photo copied and vividly hand coloured. The Art Filter digital effects are applied at the time of capture which means write speeds are inevitably a couple of seconds longer than for regular images. When shooting using certain filters, such as Diorama or Dramatic Tone, the screen's refresh rate slows, providing a real time preview of how the eventual image may look.
Further to the right is the small-ish shutter release button, with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II readying itself for action in a second or so. Squeeze down halfway on the shutter release and the E-M10 II very nearly instantaneously responds thanks to the FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) system, the screen almost imperceptibly blurring before snapping back into focus, with the AF point flashing up in green with an accompanying bleep of confirmation. The E-M10 II certainly delivers in terms of focusing speed and perhaps more importantly accuracy too, with very few false positives.
The OM-D E-M10 II now has a fully electronic shutter, which in addition expanding the top shutter speed to 1/16,000 sec, also allows for completely silent shooting and a new anti-shock mode. This latter mode, which uses an electronic first-curtain shutter, helps to combat shutter shock, which can occur on the E-M10 II when using the mechanical shutter at speeds between 1/60-1/200th second. Using either the anti-shock mode or the fully electronic shutter will avoid this unwanted effect.
|Tilting LCD Screen|
Take the shot and when shooting RAW and SuperFine (top quality) JPEG in tandem there's a wait of an acceptable two seconds before the shot is fully committed to the memory card. Buffer memory is such however that you don't have to wait that long to squeeze off another shot if the opportunity presents itself (up to 22 Raw files). Action photographers will appreciate the fast burst rate of 8.5fps, although that's only achieved by locking the focus point at the first frame of the sequence - the EM-10 II can only perform at a more modest maximum speed of 4fps when continuously auto-focusing.
The number of selectable contrast AF points is 81 in a 9x9 grid. Low-light auto focus continues to be excellent – the system managed to focus down to -2EV (as long as there was something to focus on) even without the use of the focus assist lamp. This is seriously low light, about the same as a landscape lit only by moonlight and nothing else. It doesn't include the 37 on-sensor phase-detection auto focus points that the flagship E-M1 offers, though.
The shutter release is encircled by the first of two command dials. This one by default allows you to change the shutter speed or exposure compensation when using one of the more creative shooting modes, while the second that's positioned under your right thumb principally adjusts the aperture. It's a neat system that make using the manual mode in particular a lot simpler than on most rival cameras, although we did find the front command dial to be too easily moved at times, resulting in a few shots where the exposure compensation was inadvertently too high or low.
Alongside is the user attributable 'Fn2' function button, which adjusts the gradation curve by default. Completing the EM-10 II's top-plate is a red video record button. Press this to record, or stop recording, no matter which shooting mode is otherwise selected on the top dial.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II can record Full HD movies at a variety of frame rates (60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p). The E-M5 Mark II can use its excellent 5-axis sensor-shift image stabiliser when shooting movies, which translates into smooth hand-held footage, even when using longer telephoto lens. Manual exposure can be enabled for videos, although you do have to rotate the mode dial to the Movie position to take advantage of this. (You can start filming in practically any other shooting mode too, but in that case, videos will always be recorded with auto exposure.) Audio is recorded in stereo PCM and uncompressed HDMI output is also possible, as is support for timecode. Shooting modes include Aperture priority, Art Filter, Manual, Program and Shutter priority, while one-shot echo and multiecho effects can be added to movies. New to the E-M10 II is the ability to create 4K time lapse movies in-camera, although frustratingly playback is limited to just 5fps, and you can also capture high-speed VGA footage at 120fps.
|Rear of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II|
Moving to the backplate of the E-M10 II, the built-in electronic viewfinder is activated by a small button to the right that's virtually hidden from view, which toggles between the rear LCD screen and the EVF, with a button for the dioptric adjustment on the left.
The upgraded EVF is now an impressively detailed 2.36 million dot unit with 100% field of view and 1.23x magnification. The E-M10 II actually has two independent image-processing cores, one for the recorded images and the other for Live View images, so the live and recorded image appears very quickly on both the EVF and the rear screen. The Live Bulb feature cleverly updates the image on the rear screen at pre-set intervals during bulb shooting, giving you a live preview of the exposure, while the Live Composite Mode allows you to see a preview of long-exposure shots as they're being captured. New to the E-M10 II is the Super OVF mode, which as the name suggests simulates an optical finder, offering an "unprocessed" view of the scene in front of you.
There's also a built-in eye sensor which optionally switches between the electronic viewfinder and EVF automatically, and the EVF helpfully displays key shooting information along the bottom of the viewfinder. Another boon to productivity is the ability to preview manual and creative adjustments live through the EVF without having to lower the camera to look at the rear screen. The EVF also benefits from the addition of Adaptive Brightness Control, which contributes to an improved viewing experience, and it also “gains up” in low light, making it arguably more usable than an optical finder.
The E-M10 II features capacitive touchscreen operation, although if you're not a fan you can for the most part get away without using it much at all, as there are a plethora of physical buttons which are either dedicated to specific functions or can be customized to suit. Indeed, the touch-sensitive interface hasn't led to a cleaner or more pared-down minimalist look.
The 3-inch 4:3 aspect ratio LCD screen has a resolution of 1.037million dots. Images look particularly vivid with plenty of contrast when viewed on the E-M10 II's screen and happily this carries over when photos are downloaded to your desktop. The rear screen can be tilted by a maximum of 80° upwards and 50° downwards, which helps when shooting from high and low angles, although we did miss being able to fully articulate the screen from left to right as well which always proves useful when shooting video.
|Top of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II|
Dragging a finger, and so the AF point, around the screen is a quick and easy way of following the subject, though inadvertently subsequently tapping it will cause the shutter to fire. This facility can be deactivated by prodding the relevant shutter button icon on the touch screen, but it's just as easy to accidentally turn it on again; even via an action as incongruous as the button of your shirt connecting with the screen as you're wearing the E-M10 II on a neck strap, or the thumb of your left hand straying as you handle the camera. New to the E-M10 II is the AF targeting pad feature, which allows you to move the focus point around the touchscreen using a finger whilst holding the camera up to your eye, which is very similar to Panasonic's Touchpad AF feature. There are no less than 800 AF points to choose from.
The Live Guide first seen on the Pen cameras has once again been implemented on the E-M10 II. This lets users try out picture adjustments with the aid of an onscreen slider bar to adjust the likes of depth of field and see the results in real time before pressing the shutter release button with accessibility extended beyond iAuto mode. The Live Guide options are presented as a colourful toolbar on the left hand side of the screen.
From the top we have the ability to change colour saturation, from 'clear & vivid' to 'flat & muted', next down is the ability to alter 'colour image', which translates as shifting the tone between warm and cool via slider bar, with the third option shifting brightness/exposure between a simple bright and dark. The fourth option down is probably the most interesting/effective in that it provides the ability to incrementally blur the background of your shot by again dragging an indicator on a slider - thus providing a similar shallow depth of field effect to that achievable with a DSLR and suitable aperture.
For its latest Live Guide option Olympus has retained the curiously named 'Express Motions'. There's the option to both blur any movement or stop it in its tracks, again achievable by dragging a slider indicator. The last option on this tool bar is an on-board shooting hints and tips manual, with the usual 'suspects' of photographing children and pets given the most prominence ('take a picture at their height level' being a summation of the level of advice imparted). We even get tips, as a bit of closet advertising, for attaching Olympus accessories, such as lens converters.
Embedded in the top of the rear thumb-grip is the customisable Function 1 button. Just below this are the self-explanatory Menu and Info buttons, the latter toggling through various LCD views. Underneath again is a option-less 4-way navigation controller with a central OK button - pressing this accesses the E-M10 II's quick menu system, a handy onscreen vertical list of icons that provide quick access to most of the camera's main settings. In conjunction with the camera's plethora of external controls and its customisable buttons, this makes the E-M10 II a pleasure to use. The final controls on the rear are the Delete and Playback buttons.
|The Olympus OM-D E-M10 II in-hand|
The Wi-fi implementation on the OM-D E-M10 II is actually quite good. You first need to download a free app for your smartphone (Android and iOS versions are both available), but after that, everything is pretty straightforward. You simply touch the Wi-Fi icon on your camera's display to set up a connection. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 II will provide you with an SSID and password, but you do not need to type in either of them – just launch the app on your phone and scan the QR code displayed by your camera with your phone. This is nearly as fast as using NFC (Near-Field Communication), a feature that the OM-D E-M10 II doesn't offer. Once the connection is established, you can download images from the camera to your smartphone, or use the latter to remotely control the E-M10 II. The level of control provided is quite good – you can choose from a variety of shooting modes, set aperture, sensitivity, shutter speed and white balance, choose a drive mode, and focus on practically any part of the frame, all remotely.
The Olympus E-M10 II has a time-lapse photography mode, which allows you to capture up to 999 frames at user-specified intervals. You can also tell the camera when to start the sequence, which comes in handy if you want to set up the camera well in advance. The E-M10 II will save each shot in the format of your choice – ORF or JPEG – and can optionally create a time-lapse video in-camera, which you can play back on the rear screen, or upload to a website like Vimeo or YouTube. While shooting raw and creating a video afterwards on your PC gives you more control over grading, sharpening etc., the in-camera option is nice to have when shooting JPEG or raw+JPEG, as it is obviously much faster.
Focus bracketing is a brand new feature on the E-M10 II, and one that the more expensive E-M5 II and E-M1 cameras don't currently offer. This lets you set the focus point and then automatically take up to 99 shots with focus adjustments around it, thereby greatly extending what is in focus. Unfortunately the E-M10 II doesn't combine the shots either in-camera or in the supplied Olympus software, so you'll need to use Photoshop or a specialized software program like Helicon Focus to combine all of the shots into one image.
The menu system is similar to that of the prfoessional OM-D E-M1. This is a complex, multi-level menu system that might not seem intuitive at first sight, especially to beginners, so reading the manual is a good idea before starting to explore it. The good news is that these menus are mainly there to allow you to set up the camera exactly the way you want it to be set up – once you're done with that, you'll seldom need to delve into the menus again, courtesy of the large number of external controls as well as the excellent Super Control Panel, which is basically an interactive status display inherited from older Olympus cameras.
Chunky lugs for attaching the supplied shoulder strap hang at either side of the camera, thankfully out of the way of fingers and controls. On the right hand flank, if viewing the camera from the back, we find a pair of covered ports for joint USB/AV output and mini HDMI output respectively. On the bottom of the E-M10 II is a screw thread for attaching a tripod in-line with the lens mount, with the lockable shared battery/memory card compartment alongside. The BLS-5 rechargeable lithium-ion battery supplied with the E-M10 II is good for around 320 shots. There is the option to use all varieties of SD media card, up to and including SDXC cards.
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