Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

The OM-D E-M10 Mark II is the latest camera from Olympus, and while the name designates it as an update to the OM-D E-M10, in actuality, the camera is more of a reboot. The original E-M10 was a scaled-back E-M5, and while the E-M10 Mark II is mostly a scaled-back E-M5 Mark II, there are some features in the new E-M10 Mark II that didn’t make it to the recently released E-M5 Mark II. That makes it an interesting camera for the enthusiast user, and one of the rare instances where a lower-level camera bests its higher-end counterpart in some functionality.

The E-M10 II has a spec sheet that reads pretty similar to the E-M5 II, with a few notable absences. Both cameras have five-axis stabilization, a TruePic VII processor, ISO ranges up to 25600 and a 2.36-megapixel OLED electronic viewfinder, and both capture HD video up to 60P.

The E-M5 II is weather-sealed, and the E-M10 II is not. For adventure or outdoor photographers shooting in inclement weather, that’s enough of a difference to justify the $200 higher price tag of the E-M5 II, but for the average shooter, the tough-weather shooting won’t be missed.

The E-M5 II has a top capture speed of 10 fps versus 8.5 fps for the E-M10 II, but it’s questionable if that 1.5 fps difference would be a deal breaker for this customer base. Certainly, wildlife and most sports can be captured at 8.5 fps.

There are a few other little differences: The E-M10 II has no mic jack and a slightly smaller EVF (even with the same resolution), and the rear LCD screen only tilts; it doesn’t rotate like the E-M5 II display does.

On the other hand, the E-M10 II has a few tricks up its sleeve that its bigger sibling does not, most notably, a new autofocus-selection setting that allows the touch-sensitive LCD screen to be used as a focus point selector while the EVF is in use. Shooters simply slide their fingers across the screen when this feature is active in order to set the focus point. This system—which Panasonic introduced a few years ago in their cameras—is much more useful than a scrolling dial for point selection. Alas, due to the small size of the camera, the trackpad is completely blocked by the nose of a left-eye-dominant shooter, making it unavailable to a percentage of the population.

There’s also a built-in flash on the E-M10 II, which is missing from the E-M5 II (but was present on the E-M10). It’s not a particularly powerful flash, and the small size lends itself to creating harsh shadows at times, but it’s always better to have a built-in flash than no flash.

The E-M10 II also can create a 4K time-lapse video in-camera, which the E-M5 II cannot do. This isn’t the same as recording 4K video, which neither camera does, but it’s a high-res, in-camera option for stitching together time-lapse movies automatically.

Externally, the camera is a heavily retro-inspired revision to the budget-minded E-M10, and is a much more attractive camera—providing you’re a fan of the retro look trending in cameras today. Dials mounted on the top of the camera are raised and feature notched rings for easier selection, making the camera easy to set and to shoot with one hand.

The E-M10 II doesn’t feel particularly sturdy in my hands, which is surprising since the body is metal, as are the dials. Maybe it’s the rubberized grip, but it doesn’t feel as durable as the metal body construction makes the camera feel.

The front dial, which shares its duty with the shutter release, handles the exposure compensation, by default, and the prominent position of this dial makes it vastly too easy to change EV settings accidentally. It’s possible to program this function to another dial or to swap the controls of the front and rear dials, but in my personal taste, any protruding dial should have a locking mechanism of some kind.

The power switch is on the far side of the camera from the shutter release, which is just about my only qualm with the layout. Since I carry a camera with me anywhere my family travels, I often find myself rushing to turn on a camera when a photo opportunity arises as I pull the camera from a bag or lift it from around my neck. Having the power switch on the far side necessitates using two hands to turn it on and get into shooting mode, or requires an awkward reach across the camera and then fumbling back to the shutter release to capture a shot.

The top of the camera has a mode dial with the standard PASM controls, as well as ART and iAuto, but it also contains a gimmicky-but-useful-in-the-Instagram-era setting that creates a collage in-camera with any of several templates. Photographers can create side-by-side images of a scene both wide and cropped (a field of flowers next to individual buds) or with several frames of motion aligned in a row. It’s not something that will be used often, but for the creative photographer looking to make a card or keepsake, it’s an interesting idea.

The E-M10 II has three function buttons—just barely enough for the professional looking to set up the camera for a variety of different shooting modes, but enough for the average enthusiast photographer, especially since the LCD screen has touch functions. When in playback mode, a WiFi icon appears on a screen, enabling quick connection of WiFi and eliminating the need for a dedicated function button.

Speaking of WiFi, the E-M10 II was easy to configure for mobile connectivity, though not thanks to the user interface or thanks to iOS. WiFi is activated through the camera’s menu system, but unlike some cameras, where turning on WiFi initiates a connection, it’s necessary to press the aforementioned WiFi button on the LCD screen, which then brings up a QR code to configure a mobile device via free mobile software from Olympus. The next few steps are confusing, and generally it’s better to just select the camera’s WiFi name in the mobile device’s settings and enter the password manually.

Transfer, though, is a breeze, and remote control of the camera works perfectly. Street photographers, in particular, can make great use out of the ability to pretend to be surfing the web while actually triggering a camera pointed in a different direction.

The true measure of a camera, of course, is the performance and the image quality, so we took the OM-D E-M10 Mark II out to do some shoots that will be pretty typical for the average user—family activities and fall foliage.

Olympus provided both the kit lens and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm ƒ/1.8 lens, a $450 lens that gives the Micro Four Thirds system a 34mm equivalent in full-frame lenses. We avoided the kit lens (these usually only highlight the problems with the lenses during a review) and shot with the 17mm.

The camera has an advanced AF system, though it only uses contrast detection, which means that it’s not capable of doing truly predictive AF on moving subjects, but does a good job at continual focus. Focus levels are lower in low light, as is typical with any contrast-detection system, but we found the camera speedy in indoor lighting situations, albeit not as fast as outdoors in bright light.

Focus lock wasn’t a problem on moving subjects. I was easily able to track moving children even when they were erratically riding toward me or away from me on any number of bicycles and Big Wheels. Face detection on the Olympus cameras has always been particularly robust, and the E-M10 II is no exception. The system was able to lock focus in the finder on faces even when they were partially obscured by objects and able to track focus on subjects for the full 8.5 fps shooting, yet many of the images captured suffered from back focus—the camera focused not on the face highlighted
in the viewfinder, but on trees or buildings or vehicles behind the subjects.

Image quality with the E-M10 II is on par with other Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras, which isn’t surprising since it has the same processor and image sensor as found in the E-M5 II. But, the camera suffers from the same issues that affect other Micro Four Thirds systems, which is to say low-light performance isn’t on par with cameras with larger sensors.

We evaluated all of our images in the native Olympus Viewer 3, a piece of software that crashed often and froze other applications, but has the sole benefit of providing the best Olympus RAW conversion. Our initial evaluations of the RAW conversion provided by the current versions of Lightroom and Photoshop left us feeling like the images weren’t converted as well as we expected. Sure enough, images converted with the Olympus software were much sharper and exhibited lower levels of noise (even before any adjustments were made) than Adobe’s conversions.

In bright daylight, some of the images from the E-M10 II are downright stunning. Individual eyelashes are visible, as are strands of hair and details in the eyeballs of subjects. In one instance where my son accidentally took a close-up photo of his own shirt, the flash fired and the light was bright enough that the sensor resolved each individual thread of the shirt’s fabric.

Even up to ISO 1600, noise is acceptable, though it ramps up sharply the higher the camera ISO and the lower the light. This is typical for Micro Four Thirds cameras; the size of the sensors limits the quality of images possible in low light, relative to larger sensors.

For the price point, though, the OM-D E-M10 Mark II produces very good images, especially in daylight and other well-lit scenes. For the enthusiast photographer looking to capture a variety of scenes without breaking the bank, the small, portable and capable Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a worthy contender.

List Price: OM-D E-M10 Mark II, body only ($599); with M.Zuiko ED 14-42mm F/3.5-5.6 EZ kit lens ($749).

Learn more about Olympus products at getolympus.com. You can follow David Schloss on Twitter and Instagram @davidjschloss.

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