Aimed at the enthusiast market, but armed with performance and tech that could see the Wi-Fi enabled 16.1-million-pixel OM-D E-M10 punch well above its weight, has Olympus created yet another champ? Read the Olympus OM-D E-M10 review...
Olympus OM-D E-M10 at a glance:
- 16.1-million-pixel, four thirds-sized Live MOS sensor
- ISO 100-25,600
- 8 frames-per-second shooting
- Wi-Fi control and transfer from smart device
- TruePic VII processor with Fine Detail II technology
- 3-axis image stabilisation
- Street price around £529 body only
- See sample images taken with the Olympus OM-D E-M10
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – Introduction
How do you follow-up the award-winning OM-D E-M1 and E-M5? With a more affordable offering that retains the quality construction and classic design of its predecessors, naturally.
Olympus is bolstering its position in the compact system camera market with this latest release – which balances the OM-D line-up – and is now offering a model at every price point. Yet given the popularity of the OM-D series, the E-M10 has a lot of expectation riding on it, especially in the competitive CSC arena.
The company has been smart by creating a model that will appeal not only to CSC newcomers, but also to ‘advanced beginners’ who might be considering the Nikon D5300 or the 18-million-pixel Canon EOS 700D DSLRs.
As many on the forums predicted, to keep the cost down Olympus has ditched the weather-sealing that featured on the premium OM-D models. However, the E-M10 still shares some of their more advanced technology, including the E-M5’s 16.1-million-pixel four thirds Live CMOS sensor and the TruePic VII image processor from the top-of-the-range E-M1.
Image: Capable of capturing good-quality images in a small frame, the inconspicuous E-M10 is an ideal choice for street photography
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – Features
Olympus has won many fans since reverting to the classic film SLR design aesthetic for its OM-D cameras. The E-M10 bears more than a passing resemblance to its film-era namesake, the Olympus OM-10, which was also designed as an attractive lightweight alternative to tempt advanced enthusiasts as well as beginners who didn’t want bulkier and heavier SLRs.
Obvious good looks aside, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 is well equipped to capture quality images on its four thirds (17.3x13mm) sensor. It is also capable of utilising the expansive wealth of micro four thirds lenses, having stuck with the popular micro four thirds system mount.
Along with the TruePic VII image processor adopted from the Olympus flagship OM-D E-M1, Fine Detail II technology can apply specific distortion and aberration adjustments for any Olympus lens, to deliver optimal image quality.
While some compact offerings from competitors have ditched the EVF, the E-M10 has a 1.44-million-dot electronic viewfinder. It’s also the first OM-D camera to include a built-in flash, which is nestled below a hotshoe that can be used to attach an external light or wireless lighting trigger. Unfortunately, unlike the E-M5, there is no accessory port for additional audio options.
Only 3-axis in-camera stabilisation features on the E-M10, for combating yaw, pitch and roll movement. This is a slight step-down from the 5-axis stabilisation included in the more advanced E-M1 and E-M5.
Interestingly, the E-M10’s tilting 1.04-million-dot LCD touchscreen, 3-axis image stabilisation, twin controls, focus peaking and wireless capabilities put it on a par with the key features of many recently launched DSLRs in its price bracket.
Speed, functionality and portability are key features that will make the E-M10 a compelling alternative to the likes of Nikon’s D3300 and D5300, Canon’s EOS 100D and 1200D, and Pentax’s K-50. However, none of the DSLRs mentioned can match the 8fps shooting speed of the pocket-sized and mirrorless E-M10. Additionally, only the Canon EOS 100D and Nikon D5300 are currently a match for the 1.04-million-dot resolution of the E-M10’s 3in LCD screen, which also has a touchscreen that’s as responsive as a smartphone.
Of course, the difference in sensor size between the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and the DSLRs mean that they can’t be directly compared like-for-like, but for people who don’t need the extra pixels, or the additional bulk, the E-M10’s features set will not leave them wanting.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – 3-Axis stabilisation
To keep the size of the E-M10 down, Olympus has omitted horizontal and vertical shift axes, limiting the stabilisation system to just three (see diagram, right): yaw (x), pitch (y) and roll (z).
Where this reduced stabilisation is most noticeable is in macro photography, stills with shutter speeds slower than 1/15sec and video. Using the E-M10’s M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm kit lens and the 25mm f/1.8 macro lens, I tested the 3-axis system by taking images handheld at 1sec, 1/1.6sec, 1/2sec, 1/8sec, 1/10sec and 1/15sec.
At 1sec, the E-M10 showed significant shake and of six attempts I only managed to capture one image that was remotely stable. As I increased the shutter speed to 1/8sec, the sharpness improved enough that I was able to capture an almost shake-free image without having to regulate my breathing too much.
Between 1/10sec and 1/80sec, it is possible to capture sharp images handheld in low light. The added benefit here is that you can shoot at relatively low ISO speeds as well, reducing the impact of noise.
To deal with the limited axes, Olympus has included Movie IS, developed as a hybrid stabilisation solution for the E-M10, utilising electronic image stabilisation in conjunction with the 3-axis system. During movie mode, the systems combine to make adjustments to the pixels used by the sensor, thus reducing video wobble.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – Build and handling
Many CSCs in this class sport tough polycarbonate plastic bodies, but in keeping with the premium build quality of the OM-D series, Olympus has opted for a mix of polycarbonate elements and magnesium-alloy body for the E-M10. The use of metal does make this one of the heavier enthusiast CSCs available at 350g body only: this is just 80g lighter than the Nikon D3300 DSLR and 52g less than the comparable micro four thirds Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7. However, the E-M10’s dimensions of 119×82.3×45.9mm keep it very portable. I was able to wear the camera comfortably around my neck all day as well as carry it in my coat pocket and access it easily.
The E-M10 features an excellent ergonomic design, particularly on the grip, which sports a textured thumb rest that curves out slightly. This makes it easy to operate the camera with one hand whether shooting in landscape or portrait orientation.
Holding the camera to my face and composing shots through the eye-sensor-activated EVF added some extra balance, although the eyecup caused some pain when pressed against too tightly over prolonged use, despite being slightly rubberised. By setting the two custom buttons on the camera’s right shoulder to the features I use regularly, it was possible to change settings while looking through the EVF the whole time. I set my custom options to ISO on Fn2 and autofocus point selection on Fn1.
A criticism I had of the E-M5 was that the buttons felt sticky and weren’t as responsive as I would have liked. While this issue seems to have been mostly tackled in the E-M10, the OK button still requires more than one push on occasions, which isn’t ideal.
Overall, the E-M10 is a very well-balanced camera that is the perfect size and a decent weight for everyday use and travelling.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – Autofocus
Even though the E-M10 is positioned slightly lower in the OM-D range than the E-M5, it benefits from 81-point autofocus, which is a significant improvement over the E-M5’s 35-point system.
Contrast-detection AF on the E-M10 is speedy in fair light, and performs well in low light using the AF-assist beam, particularly in poor lighting situations. Although focusing is noticeably slower in low light, it’s still decent and I rarely noticed the E-M10 hunting. The autofocus was also helped in poor light by manually selecting the AF point. AF points can be grouped into nine areas or single targets, which can be selected manually using the twin dials, with the right dial selecting points horizontally and the left dial selecting vertically. It’s also possible to cycle through the points using the D-pad. However, the ability to focus and shoot images by touching any point on the screen highlights just how fast the AF really is.
Touchscreen focusing is an increasingly popular feature in new cameras at the moment, with Panasonic having implemented it in its Lumix G-series models, as did Canon in its EOS 650D and the recently released EOS 100D. This feature works very well on the E-M10, enabling you to switch between focal targets swiftly.
The E-M10 has manual focus with magnification and focus peaking, single AF, continuous AF and tracking AF modes, but Olympus has also included face-tracking AF, which gives the option to focus on a single eye or both. This feature in particular is great for portraits.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – Metering
Image: Olympus’s electro-selective pattern, 324-zone metering does a good job of capturing highlight and shadow detail in high-contrast lighting situations
The E-M10 uses the same 324-zone multi-pattern metering system as that used in the current Olympus Pen line-up and in the E-M5. As I composed frames using Olympus’s proprietary electro-selective pattern (evaluative) metering, the E-M10 responded to highlights and shadows by making relatively fast adjustments to the exposure compensation, and it did a good job of not over or underexposing the scenes.
Spot metering can be achieved using any one of the E-M10’s 81 AF points, which can be selected using the twin dials or the arrow controls on the D-pad, or by simply tapping anywhere on the frame using the touchscreen display. Centreweighted metering works as expected, and spot-highlight (Hi Spot) and spot-shadow (Sh Spot) metering are also available for more advanced metering needs. They are useful for achieving correct highlight and shadow tonality in scenes that are problematic for other metering modes, such as those with snow, or dark subjects on light backgrounds.
Image: Shot at 1/8sec and ISO 800, the E-M10 has captured an impressive amount of edge detail and metering is spot on
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – Dynamic range
Traditionally, four thirds cameras struggled to offer notably good dynamic range performance compared to APS-C-format models such as the Pentax K-5, which has a dynamic range of 14.1EV. Cameras with smaller sensors typically aren’t able to retain highlights and shadow detail as well, especially as ISO sensitivity increases. This results in blown-out highlights in high-contrast scenes – and I definitely experienced this while using the E-M10.
But that said, in tests the E-M10 showed a dynamic range of 11.82EV at ISO 100 – a fraction smaller than that of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and more than the 20.2-million-pixel EOS 70D, so smaller sensors are definitely improving.
Looking at images from the E-M10 at 100%, I could still see some detail captured in shadow areas, although it did seem to have a tougher time with highlights in high-contrast scenes. However, enough image data remained in the raw files to restore detail to some blown-out areas. For a small-sensor camera, the E-M10 performed as well as I’d expect in this area.
Image: A shaft of strong sunlight required underexposure, but fortunately the shadow areas retain some detail
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – Noise, resolution and sensitivity
Image: Shot handheld at 1/80sec and ISO 3200, a good level of detail remains even in the JPEG
The more premium E-M5 has been recognised for its 16.1-million-pixel sensor’s decent noise-handling capabilities, so the inclusion of the same sensor in the E-M10, supported by the upgraded TruePic VII processor, makes the E-M10 a very capable camera when it comes to low-light, high ISO photography.
JPEG images resolve up to the 26 mark on our resolution chart up to ISO 800, and 28 at its low extend setting, equivalent to ISO 100. The E-M10 has a default ISO sensitivity range of ISO Low (ISO 100)-1600 in automatic mode, extendable to ISO 25,600 in manual mode.
Images taken in low light are helped by 3-axis in-camera image stabilisation, making it possible to avoid extremely high ISO speeds and simply shoot handheld at slower shutter speeds. If a high ISO is required, though, the E-M10 manages to produce low-light images that show very little colour or luminance noise up to ISO 1600. Noise obviously becomes more apparent as the ISO sensitivity is increased, but in-camera noise reduction does a good job of combating chroma and luminance noise without being too aggressive, leaving just enough noise to retain some surface and edge detail.
Overall, I was impressed with the E-M10’s ISO sensitivity performance. The noise that did make it into the images could be reduced somewhat using raw processing software, but I would be happy to print an image shot at around ISO 1600 straight from the camera.
My only gripe with the in-camera processing of JPEGs on the E-M10 and the other OM-D cameras is that they tend to oversharpen images. The effect is far too harsh for me, but I was able to tone it down using the limited options in Olympus’s Viewer 3 image-processing software.
These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the 14-42mm lens set to 34mm and f/5.6 . We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – White balance and colour
I was impressed by the E-M10’s ability to automatically select the correct white balance, showing no tendency to lean towards any one particular colour.
When left to its own devices, the camera seemed to be able to recreate a faithful and accurate representation of the scene, even in scenarios with particularly awkward lighting. For example, the image of a teapot features two separate light sources: ambient light from a window and a warm incandescent lamp in the small room.
Olympus has provided a good number of white balance presets and customisable options should you want to apply more specific balancing. As well as the ability to manually set a Kelvin adjustment, there are also four slots for a custom setting.
There are also seven colour modes, which sees the camera apply its own filters. Using numerous presets and colour options doesn’t seem to tax the TruePic VII processor, so users will be able to experiment and capture Instagram-like images in-camera.
Image: Set to auto white balance and standard picture mode, the E-M10 is intelligent enough to produce faithful colours and tones
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – Viewfinder, live view, LCD and video
Once again, the E-M10 borrows from the E-M5, featuring the same 1.44-million-dot EVF with 100% field of view and 1.15x magnification. While it does have a speedy refresh rate of 120fps with barely noticeable lag, it’s not as impressive as the 2.36-million-dot EVF featured in the flagship E-M1 and the recently released Fujifilm X-T1. However, it does provide a very useful alternative to composing shots on the LCD while in sunlight.
All the relevant shooting information can be accessed using either the EVF or the 3in LCD, although annoyingly there is no option to view the histogram and levels information simultaneously. The most impressive thing about the EVF on the E-M10 is the ability to see the exposure adjustments, art filter effects and colour mode options in real time.
The 3in tiltable touchscreen on the E-M10 is an improvement on the screen on the E-M5, featuring 1.37 million dots and ±7 levels of brightness and colour balance adjustment. I found the LCD reasonably clear in direct sunlight, and the ability to tilt the screen down and up to 45° allowed me to experiment with alternative shooting perspectives.
Swiping through images, navigating the menu, and focusing and taking pictures on the E-M10’s touchscreen is snappy and effortless. I would even say it’s as good as, if not slightly better than Canon’s 20.2-million-pixel EOS 70D. By setting the touchscreen shutter icon to ‘focus and shutter’, it’s possible to point and shoot with the E-M10. I found this feature highly responsive.
Although the E-M10 features a dedicated video-record button, it’s clearly not a camera designed with advanced video recording in mind, given the lack of 60p video recording and the omission of an accessory port that would support a microphone input. That said, for casual video the quality is of a decent standard, with shots holding relatively steady thanks to the 3-axis stabilisation system. The E-M10 can record video in .MOV or .AVI formats and in 1920×1080-pixel full HD, at 30p, 24Mbps, at its maximum quality setting.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – The competition
Olympus would like us to compare the OM-D E-M10 to similarly priced DSLRs from Nikon (D5300) and Pentax (K-30). However, I see the main competition being Panasonic’s CSC range, particularly the 16MP Lumix DMC-GX7, which has a faster maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec compared to the E-M10’s 1/4000sec, although a lower-spec EVF. Alternatively, the 16MP Lumix DMC-GM1 offers similar features and quality to the E-M10 in a smaller, lighter body and is capable of shooting full HD video at 60p. However, it lacks the DSLR-like functionality of the E-M10.
There are a number of other good options at the E-M10’s price point, and ultimately the decision may come down to which body type is preferred.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 review – Our verdict
When carrying the E-M10 around, it garnered a lot of admiring attention – in keeping with the OM-D range, it is beautifully crafted and doesn’t go unnoticed. Opting for a magnesium-alloy body, Olympus has managed to retain a sense of quality that one would expect from a premium camera body. For the majority of people who will be considering the E-M10, the omission of weather-sealing won’t make any difference whatsoever.
Considering that the E-M10 contains many of the key components of the E-M5 and the OM-D flagship E-M1, Olympus has created a very desirable enthusiast offering. I don’t quite agree with Olympus that the E-M10 is a DSLR-beater, but depending on what you shoot, the E-M10 can produce superb quality matching that of similarly priced DSLRs – and you can take it everywhere with you so you’ll get shots that you wouldn’t with the DSLR you didn’t have time to get out of your bag or left at home altogether.
If I were new to photography and looking for a solid system camera to invest in, or even an experienced DSLR owner looking for a more portable solution, the E-M10 would be near the top of my list.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 – Key features
Wi-Fi connectivity via the Olympus Share app makes it easy to view and share your images, but will also help you to make the most of time-lapse and remote shooting modes.
Genuine DSLR-like handling in a compact-body, thanks to well-placed custom function buttons and metallic dials, will appeal to serious entry-level users.
The E-M10 offers some of the top-of-the-range technology featured in the OM-D-series premium models, for a reduced price.
The optional Olympus ECG-1 ergonomic grip for the E-M10 adds some extra depth to the grip and base of the camera, which is great for people with larger hands. It has a smart quick-release feature that means it doesn’t have to be unscrewed to access the battery and memory card.
Twenty-four scene modes, 12 art filters, seven colour presets and custom colour slots give users a wide range of options to experiment with creative photography effects in-camera.
Having a micro four thirds lens mount, the E-M10 will be able to utilise the widest lens selection in the mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera class.
Following the success of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and E-M5, it came as no surprise when Olympus showed us the new 16 million-pixel OM-D E-M10 a few weeks ago. Although the new camera is less expensive than the two previous cameras in the OM-D range, it has all of the features you would expect of an Olympus Micro Four Thirds system camera, including a high quality construction.
With the entry-level market a particularly difficult area to crack, Olympus aren’t aiming the E-M10 at first time users. Instead, Olympus sees the new camera as being in direct competition to the Canon EOS 700 D and the Nikon D5300 DSLR cameras, and with good reason.
According to Olympus around 90% of entry-level DSLR users never upgrade from their initial camera or lens, compared with 50% of advanced entry-level users who go on to buy another camera and additional lenses. It is precisely at this user that the Olympus OM-D E-M10 is targeted.
Many of the features of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 have been borrowed from the two more advanced cameras in the range. However, although the OM-D E-M10 uses the same 16 million pixel Four Thirds size CMOS sensor as the OM-D E-M5, it has the same TruPic VII image processing system as the more advanced, E-M1. The camera also has the Fine Detail II engine, that can apply distortion and aberration adjustments to images based on the exact Olympus lens and aperture being used.
One feature that is new is the 1.44 million dot EVF displays a 100% field of view and most impressively has a 120fps refresh rate. At our meeting with Olympus they were keen to demonstrate the speed of the EVF, by showing us a video featuring the viewfinder of the OM-D E-M10 and the arm of a mechanical metronome. The arm of the metronome was visible both through the viewfinder and in the scene, and as it moved back and forth there was no discernible lag between the real view and the same scene displayed in the EVF. It is certainly something that we look forward to investigating further when the camera arrives in the office.
The rear screen is the same articulated 3inch screen that is used on the other OM cameras, but the new camera has a built in pop-up flash, a feature that has previously been omitted from the more advanced cameras in the range. The small flash should a welcome inclusion for those who want a touch of fill-in flash occasionally, and for more demanding users there is, of course, a hotshoe.
Another difference from the EM-5 is a new in-camera stabilisation system. To allow the camera to maintain its small size, the stabilisation in only 3 axis, correcting yaw, pitch and roll, rather than the 5 axis stabilisation found on the EM-1 and EM-5.
For still images Olympus is content with the 3 axis stabilisation producing a good result, however they wanted to improve the stabilisation for video. The result is a hybrid stabilisation that combines the mechanical stabilisation with an electronic stabilisation that adjusts the pixels used by the sensor when recording video to reduce wobble in video footage.
To make sure images are sharp, the EM-10 uses the Olympus FAST AF contrast detection AF system, with a total of 81 target AF areas. It is possible to change the size of the AF target, as well as using spot AF for more precise focusing on smaller subjects. The AF system is capable of focusing in as little as 0.13sec. The speed of the focusing may seem a little slower on paper than some of the competition, but I didn’t notice any significant difference in the short time I had with the camera. It will be interesting to put the OM-D EM-10 against some of its competition to when we test the camera to see if the fractions of a second difference make a huge difference in reality.
With built-in wifi the EM-10 can transfer wifi quickly to a smartphone or tablet. Pairing the two devices is made easier through the use of QR codes, rather than opting for NFC. Once connected not only can images be shared, but the camera can be fully controlled from a mobile device, including the ability to focus and adjust exposure settings. If you are using the new M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6mm EZ lens, than you can even control the zoom lens via a smartphone. From what I saw at our preview, it is a very comprehensive system for remote triggering and should be useful for long exposure or wildlife photography.
Build and Handling
Unlike the Fujifilm X-A1 and X-M1 camera, the OM-D EM-10 maintains the quality build of it predecessors. The new Olympus camera has an aluminium construction, with the basic design being very similar to the EM-5. However, the EM-10 is smaller, with a few millimetres shaved off of each dimension in comparison to the E-M5. The front and rear dials have also been rearranged to allow the body of the camera to be smaller, whilst still maintaining maximum control.
The new Olympus OM-D E-M10 is very similar in size to the Olympus Stylus 1
The EM-10 has an optional grip, that uniquely has a quick release section on the bottom. This section can be easily removed to access to the battery, without having to unscrew the grip from the cameras tripod mount.
One of the few negatives is that the EM-10 is not weather sealed, so those who will really want to take their camera out in all weather will want to opt for the EM-1.
The feature that already has me looking forward to testing the Olympus OM-D EM-10 is the fact that it has the same high build quality as the other cameras in the same range. In hand it felt like a smaller version of the OM-D EM-5, but with arguably simpler controls that feel nicer to use.
It may lack the weather sealing of the more advanced models, but besides that it maintains the essence of the OM-D line-up. If the camera can produce the images to match the build quality it is bound to be a popular enthusiast CSC, possibly even a back up camera to those with an EM-1 who want something smaller for everyday use.
The Olympus OM-D EM-10 will be in stores from early February and will come in a kit with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens for £699.99 or body only for £529.99.