Olympus has always impressed with its OM-D line of mirrorless cameras. They feature chic, retro-inspired styling, excellent ergonomics, integrated EVFs, and cutting edge features. The OM-D E-M10 Mark II ($649.99, body only) keeps that tradition alive in terms of imaging—it’s amazing that a body this compact features a 5-axis stabilization system. It also includes a large, sharp EVF and excellent Wi-Fi implementation. But it omits the 4K recording capability offered by rival Panasonic’s G7, and it can’t keep up with the Sony Alpha 6000‘s autofocus system. The Alpha 6000 is an older model (it too omits 4K), but it remains our Editors’ Choice for mirrorless cameras under $1,000.
Design The E-M10 Mark II is shaped similarly to its predecessor, the E-M10, but raised knurled control knobs give it a distinctly different look. It measures 3.3 by 4.7 by 1.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 13.7 ounces without a lens. That’s a bit smaller than the E-M5 Mark II (3.3 by 4.9 by 1.8 inches, 14.4 ounces), but the E-M10 includes a built-in flash, while its more expensive sibling does not. Olympus offers the camera in a two-tone black-and-silver version, or an all-black model.
We’re reviewing the 16-megapixel OM-D E-M10 Mark II as a body only. It’s also available in a kit with the M.Zuiko ED 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZpower zoom lens for $799.99.
Controls are one of the typical strengths of the OM-D series. For the most part, the E-M10 II gets everything right, with the exception of the most basic control of all, the power switch. It sits on the top plate, to the left of the EVF, and incorporates a three-stage design with the typical Off and On positions, as well as a third position that raises the in-body flash. I had a couple of problems with the switch. It’s easy enough to use it turn the camera on—a counterclockwise twist does the trick. But it isn’t as intuitive when trying to turn the camera off, I kept pushing it in the wrong direction, though I’m sure that’s something I’d get used to in time.
The other issue is that, when raising the flash, you have to take a little care so as to not get your finger jammed in between the toggle switch and the flash itself. If I’m holding the camera to my eye and I use my left index finger to pop up the flash, invariably I end up rubbing the flash with said finger. I ran into a similar issue when I used my left thumb and index finger together to raise the flash—which feels more natural when holding the camera at waist level.
The programmable Fn3 button sits to the left of the power switch, at the edge of the top plate. By default, it activates an overlay menu that allows you to adjust saturation, color temperature, brightness, background blur, and image motion. Those are plain English ways of adjusting the white balance, aperture, and shutter speed—advanced shooters will likely want to reprogram this button, but novices looking at the E-M10 as a way to capture images that are superior to a smartphone camera are sure to appreciate this layman’s control menu. It also allows you to access a list of tips for taking better photos.
There are three control knobs situated to the right of the EVF: the mode dial, front control dial, and rear control dial. Each is raised above the top plate at a different height, and each itself is taller than dials you’ll find on competing cameras. Mode is the tallest, and features a knurled texture around its circumference that differs from the other two dials. The front dial is slightly taller than the rear, and has the shutter button at its center. Olympus states that this dial design improves ergonomics and also helps you differentiate Mode from the two control dials by feel, which I found to be the case in use.
The Fn2 button (which by default adjusts highlight and shadow rendering) and the Record button for movies round out the top controls. The Fn1 button (which locks exposure by default) sits on the angled rear thumb rest, bridging the top and rear controls. The thumb rest is ample, and certainly complements the modest front grip well. Given its size, the E-M10 isn’t ideally matched with larger Micro Four Thirds lenses like the M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm f2.8 PRO, but it pairs quite well with smaller zooms and primes like the M.Zuiko 25mm f1.8that Olympus supplied along with the camera.
The other rear control buttons—Menu, Info, Delete, and Play—sit below the rear thumb grip, surrounding a four-way directional pad with its own center OK button. The rear d-pad is used primarily for menu navigation, but can also move the active focus point around if you have a flexible spot focus mode set.
OK launches an on-screen control pad that gives you quick access to a number of shooting settings. These include ISO, white balance, color output, the autofocus area and mode, flash output settings, the drive mode, metering pattern, stabilization mode, and other sundry settings. The menu can be navigated using the rear controls or via touch. One note about ISO control: If you’re shooting in Manual mode you cannot set ISO to Auto by default, but you can enable this useful function by changing a setting in the E-M10 II’s extensive menu system.
The E-M10 II includes a pair of modes that are useful for long exposure photography. Live Bulb shows you an exposure on the rear LCD as it develops, a solid tool for capturing landscapes at night. Live Composite is a variation. It works in two stages. An initial exposure captures the scene in front of you, and a second records changes in light. It can be used for fireworks, star trails, and light painting. Both Live Bulb and Live Composite require the camera to be set to manual mode and are accessible via the shutter speed setting.
The rear 3-inch LCD is mounted on a hinge and can tilt up or down, so it’s easy to shoot at waist-level or with the camera above your head (whether handheld or mounted on a tripod). It’s a touch panel that includes useful functions like touch to focus (or to focus and fire), menu navigation, and access to the Wi-Fi functions. I’ve got zero complaints about the 1,040k-dot panel, which is bright, sharp, and quite responsive to touch.
The eye sensor, which automatically switches between the EVF and rear LCD, is disabled when the rear display is tilted away from the body. It’s a feature that Sony should consider adopting for its cameras, including the full-frame Alpha 7 II, which feature eye sensors that are much too sensitive. The EVF itself, which is very large to my eye when you consider the size and price of the camera, and sharp thanks to a 2,359k-dot resolution, is excellent. It’s a slight, but noticeable, upgrade over the EVF used in the Panasonic G7, which is very crisp, but not quite as large to the eye.
Wi-Fi is built-in. There’s no NFC, so you’ll need to connect your phone manually, but you can use a QR code (displayed on the rear LCD) and skip typing in a password on the initial connection. After that, the password can be saved in your phone for quicker connections. Once connected, you can use the free Olympus Image Share app (for iOS and Android) to copy images and videos to your smartphone or tablet, or add GPS location data to photos that you’ve already shot—you’ll need to make sure the location logger is active in the app before you start shooting and that the clock is set correctly for this feature to work.
You can also use your phone as a remote control. A Live View feed streams to its screen, and you have full manual control over exposure. You can also set the autofocus point simply by tapping the screen. It’s one of the best remote control interfaces of this type out there.
Performance, Image Quality, and Video The E-M10 II is on the slow side in terms of start up, requiring about 2.2 seconds to power on, focus, and capture a photo. The Fujifilm X-T10 is noticeably quicker, requiring just 1.6 seconds to do the same. But that’s the only area in which the E-M10 II is pokey. In bright light it locks focus in just 0.05-second, and can focus in about 0.35-second in very dim conditions.
The maximum continuous shooting rate is 8.6 frames per second. It can keep up that pace for 15 Raw+JPG, 17 Raw, or 34 JPG shots before slowing down. Those speeds are with locked focus; you can enable continuous autofocus with subject tracking and still shoot at 8.6fps, but I found that the hit rate of shots when firing at that rate was quite low when dealing with a moving target. However, the low-speed continuous drive mode, which slows the camera to 4.1fps, did a fine job keeping a moving target in focus. The Sony Alpha 6000 remains unthreatened in performance; it can shoot at 11.1fps while accurately tracking moving subjects.
I used Imatest to see how the 16-megapixel OM-D E-M10 Mark II performs at the higher ISOs associated with low-light photography. When shooting JPGs at default settings the camera keeps noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 6400, and shows just 1.7 percent at ISO 12800. Both are fine results for a camera of this class. I took a close look at images from our ISO test scene on a calibrated display to evaluate how image quality holds up. Detail is strong through ISO 3200. At ISO 6400 there is some slight smudging of lines that wipes away some very fine detail. Quality drops again at ISO 12800, and photos are very blurry at ISO 25600.
You can eke out more image quality at high ISOs by shooting in Raw format. Details are crisp and noise is not detracting through ISO 3200. Images shot at ISO 6400 appear to be a bit grainy, but fine lines are rendered properly. Very small details start to disappear at ISO 12800, and grain is pronounced, but there’s much more detail here than in the JPG equivalent. The story is the same at ISO 25600; detail shines through, but the output is very grainy. Crops are included at each ISO, taken from both JPG and Raw output, in the slideshow that accompanies this review.
Olympus has stuck with 1080p video recording for the E-M10 II, but upped the maximum frame rate to 60fps. You can choose between Fine and SuperFine video quality, and can also record at 24, 25, 30, or 50fps—and if you reduce the resolution to 480p you can record video at 120fps, which can be played back at one-quarter speed slow motion without sacrificing fluidity.
There are a lot of good things about the video—it’s crisp, rife with detail, and the autofocus system does a good job reacting to changes in the scene. In-body image stabilization steadies handheld footage, regardless of which lens you attach. While you can set exposure compensation and adjust audio levels, full manual control isn’t available. Also missing is a microphone input. That’s a curious omission. The internal mic does a fine job of picking up voices in close proximity, but it also picks up background noise.
There is no 4K support. It’s a feature that’s being added to more and more cameras, and at this stage in the game, its omission is worth noting. The Panasonic G7, which uses the same Micro Four Thirds lens system, records in 4K, as does the Samsung NX500. The resolution benefits that the format offers are immense, and it’s no longer a feature that’s limited to high-end cameras.
The E-M10 II includes a standard micro HDMI port as well as a proprietary USB port, and a standard hot shoe. In-camera battery charging is not supported, so an external battery charger is included. A single memory card slot supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC media.
Conclusions The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is another solid entry in the OM-D line, and a fine choice for Micro Four Thirds devotees and others searching for a mirrorless camera. Its strengths include a large, sharp EVF, an excellent Wi-Fi implementation, and 5-axis image stabilization. It handles well, despite having a power switch that frustrated me a bit. But its video features are a bit behind the times. The 1080p footage is excellent as far as 1080p goes, but competing models deliver 4K recording. And the lack of a mic input limits the E-M10 II’s usefulness for serious videography. If you’re not heavily into video that’s less of a concern. There are pluses and minuses to every camera, and for the right photographer the E-M10 II is an excellent choice. But it’s not our favorite in this category—that’s still the Sony Alpha 6000, which is better for shooting very fast action, and captures 24-megapixel images with its larger APS-C image sensor.