Olympus OM-D E-M10 Review

5.0
March 27, 2014 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

Building on the runaway success of the enthusiast E-M5, and inheriting some of the key features of the professional E-M1, the new O-MD E-M10 is attempting to bring Olympus' retro-flavoured mirrorless camera system to a wider audience. But can it retain the same levels of build quality, speed and image quality at a lower price-point? Read our expert Olympus E-M10 review to find out...

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 is the third model in Olympus’s OM-D series of compact system cameras. The mid-range, all-metal E-M10 has a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor with on-sensor phase-detection auto focus (81-point), Supersonic Wave Filter anti-dust technology, a 3-axis sensor-shift image stabiliser and the TruePic VII processing unit. The E-M10 also features a built-in pop-up flash and an external flash hotshoe, a high-resolution electronic viewfinder, a tilting 3-inch LCD screen, focus peaking function, an innovative Colour Creator, new Live Composite Mode for previewing long exposures, a customisable self-timer, 8fps continuous shooting, Wi-Fi connectivity and in-camera HDR exposure blending. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 is currently available for £529 / $699.99 body-only in the UK and US, respectively, or £699.99 / $799/99 with the new, super-slim M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 EZ electronic zoom lens.

Ease of Use

The Olympus O-MD E-M10 tested in this review was kindly provided by CameraWorld, a real camera shop helping you to make the most of your hobby. Our expert team has many years experience within the photographic trade with knowledge gained over 40 years. Many are photographers themselves and enjoy passing their knowledge on. You'll also find our online service fast, efficient and courteous and you can always call us if you want to talk to a human being! We are dedicated to bringing you the very best in service, choice and price. We're very easy to find, our London store is just off Oxford Street between Oxford Circus station and Tottenham Court Road station. The Essex shop is located in High Chelmer Shopping Centre, just off the High Street in Chelmsford. Visit us and you'll always find a friendly welcome. Our policy is to serve our customers as we would like to be served ourselves, a simple ideal that we try hard to live up to.

Feeling very robust and reassuringly solid in the palm thanks to its magnesium-alloy body, the E-M10's dimensions are 119.1 x 82.3 x 45.9 mm, slightly smaller than the E-M5. with a body-only weight of 350g, which is lighter than the E-M5 too. Unlike that older camera and the flagship E-M1, the new E-M10 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 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 is the first O-MD camera to feature a proper built-in pop-up flash, rather than the diminutive FL-LM2 unit that was supplied with the EM-5, a much better solution if this feature is on your must-have list, especially as it supports wireless flash control.

The E-M10 has a simpler 3-axis image stabilization system that compensates for camera shake by correcting yaw, pitch and roll, rather than the more sophisticated 5-axis system used by the E-M5 and the E-M1. You can see some examples on the Image Quality page of this new system in action. Despite the simpler implementation, we still had very few images that suffered from camera shake during the review period.

From the front the E-M10 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. On top is a vacant flash hotshoe that sits directly above the lens, with a partially recessed shooting mode dial on the left hand-side when viewed from the rear. The coin-like dial has been given a surrounding ridged edge for easier purchase, with the options remaining the same as the E-M5'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 11 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.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Olympus OM-D E-M10
Front Rear

Over to the right of the external flash hotshoe are the small-ish shutter release button, with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 readying itself for action in a second or so. Squeeze down halfway on the shutter release and the E-M10 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 certainly delivers in terms of focusing speed and perhaps more importantly accuracy too, with very few false positives.

Take the shot and when shooting RAW and Fine (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. Action photographers will appreciate the fast burst rate of 8fps, although that's only achieved by locking the focus point at the first frame of the sequence - the EM-5 can only perform at a more modest maximum speed of 3.5fps when continuously auto-focusing.

Focusing is one area where the Olympus OM-D E-M10 offers a clear improvement over the E-M5. For starters, the number of selectable AF points has been expanded to 81 versus the E-M5's 35. 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. Manual focus enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that the Olympus OM-D E-M10 has a focus peaking feature, which enables precise focusing even without magnifying into the live view feed; although we would love to see a few more options for the outline colour.

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 non-specific, user attributable 'Fn2' function button, on our review sample sensibly given over to adjusting the ISO speed. Completing the EM-5'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 EM-5 offers two different movie formats - the MOV format (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264) for more convenient post-editing on a PC has a 4Gb limit, and the AVI (Motion JPEG) format has a 2Gb limit - with VGA, 720p and 1080p sizes all available. Audio is recorded in linear PCM. Shooting modes include Aperture priority, Art Filter, Manual, Program and Shutter priority, while one-shot echo and multiecho effects can be added to movies.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Olympus OM-D E-M10
Front Top

Moving to the backplate of the E-M10, the E-M5's accessory port has been removed to make way for the pop-up flash, so you can no longer fit a Bluetooth adapter, an external microphone adapter kit or the MAL-1 Macro Arm Lights. Underneath again is the built-in electronic viewfinder. This 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 EVF is an impressively detailed 1.44 million dot high-definition unit with 100% field of view and 1.15x magnification. The E-M10 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 new n Live Composite Mode allows you to see a preview of long-exposure shots as they're being captured.

There's also a built-in eye sensor which optionally switches between the electronic viewfinder and OLED screen 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 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'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.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Olympus OM-D E-M10
Pop-up Flash Side

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 on a neck strap, or the thumb of your left hand straying as you handle the camera.

The Live Guide first seen on the Pen cameras has been implemented on the E-M10. 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.

To the right again are two tiny buttons, the first for the customisable Function 1 button and the second for image playback. Just below these two buttons and the thumb-rest are dedicated and 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'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 a pleasure to use. The final controls on the rear are the Delete button and the On/Off switch.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Olympus OM-D E-M10
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

The Wi-fi implementation on the OM-D E-M10 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 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 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. 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.

Like most digital still cameras these days – Nikon Df excepted –, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 can record Full HD movies. The highest bit rate has increased to 24Mb/s from 20Mb/s on the E-M5 – a welcome improvement, although nothing close to the 72Mb/s offered by the Panasonic GH3. The only frame rate option available is 30fps, which is quite disappointing and a little incomprehensible given that competitors tend to offer everything from 24fps to 25, 50 and even 60fps. On a more positive note the OM-D E-M10 can use its 3-axis sensor-shift image stabiliser when shooting movies, and there's digital image stabilization too. 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.)

The Olympus E-M10 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 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.

The menu system is similar to that of the E-M1. This is a complex, multi-level menu system that might not seem intuitive at first sight, 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 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 is good for around 320 shots. There is the option to use all varieties of SD media card, up to and including SDXC cards.

Entry Tags

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