Olympus E-M10 Review
Overview by William Brawley, Walkaround by Dave Etchells
Review finalized: 05/02/2014
Shooter's Report by William Brawley
01/29/2014: Part I: Initial Thoughts
03/26/2014: Part II: Sports, Wildlife and Long Exposures
05/02/2014: Part III: Video Recording, Wi-Fi and Wrap-up
Are you looking for a cutting-edge Olympus compact system camera, don't need the weather sealing of the Olympus E-M5 or the higher price tag and bigger size of the Olympus E-M1, yet still want a built-in electronic viewfinder (scratch the E-P5, in that case)? Olympus has you covered with the Olympus E-M10.
The Olympus E-M10 is the latest OM-D model of Micro Four Thirds cameras from the "Big O" and is aimed at the entry-level enthusiast photographer, looking for an affordable yet powerful system camera for every day shooting -- the "OM-D for all," as Olympus themselves put it. However, don't let that "entry-level" descriptor concern you -- this is far from a basic, entry-level camera. In fact, the E-M10 shares a lot the guts and processing prowess from the flagship E-M1 as well as the earlier E-M5.
The OM-D Family: E-M1 (left), E-M5 (center) and the new E-M10 (right).
Specifically, the Olympus E-M10 shares the same TruePic VII image processor from the E-M1, as well as the same in-camera RAW processing and adaptive brightness technology in the EVF. However, the E-M10 one-ups both the E-M5 and E-M1 with a faster display lag time in the EVF. The E-M10 uses a similar (though not identical) 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor without an anti-aliasing filter, providing a maximum ISO of 25,600. Borrowing from the E-M1, the new E-M10 also has an ISO LOW mode, delivering an ISO 100 equivalent sensitivity.
The E-M10 is not without its compromises, however. As mentioned, the E-M10 lacks the weather-sealing shared by the other OM-D cameras. In addition, while it shares the same processor as the E-M1, the E-M10 is capable of continuous shooting at up to eight frames per second (as opposed to 9fps and 10fps on the E-M5 and E-M1, respectively). Additionally, The E-M10 lacks the more robust 5-axis in-body image stabilization system, opting instead for a new, more basic 3-axis IS system, which corrects only for yaw, pitch and roll. For video recording, Olympus has also included a hybrid IS system utilizing both sensor-shift and digital image stabilization (expect a bit of cropping along the edges of the frame in this case).
However, the Olympus E-M10 does have a few unique tricks up its sleeves. For example, it's the first OM-D camera with a built-in flash. The E-M10 also has the fully-featured built-in Wi-Fi capabilities of the E-M1, including the fast QR code smartphone pairing system and remote control shooting ability.
One of the unique features introduced on the E-M10 is a new Live Composite Mode, which allows you to see previews of long-exposure shots as they're being captured. A prime example of usage is for star trail photos -- you can see the star trails forming in the photo live on-screen, as the exposure progresses.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10, the company's most affordable OM-D camera went on sale in March 2014 in both a body-only configuration and in a kit with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R lens, with street prices of about US$700 and US$800, respectively. Like E-M5 before it, the E-M10 comes in two body colors, black or two-toned black/silver with corresponding black or silver 14-42mm II lens for the kit configurations.
The new 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ pancake-style zoom lens mentioned below is available separately, for about US$350.
Walkaround. (By Dave Etchells) The new Olympus E-M10 is clearly cut from the same mold as the wildly popular E-M5 and the relatively new, pro-grade E-M1, something fans of the line's generally retro-look will surely appreciate. I've personally been a longtime fan of all-black cameras, but am finding myself liking even more the retro look of combined silver/black tones, and so find myself very attracted to the silver & black version of the E-M10.
For readers familiar with the original E-M5, the Olympus E-M10's control layout is nearly identical. The few minor tweaks are just that - tweaks to improve accessibility and ergonomics, and most of what we found were welcome. It's also very similar in size to the E-M5, with width and thickness nearly identical, but slightly shorter, a matter of millimeters for the body itself, but more noticeably around the viewfinder and hot shoe area, as the viewfinder bulge on the Olympus E-M10 doesn't stick up quite as high. With the battery loaded, the E-M10 weighs in at 396 grams, about 8% lighter than the E-M5, and about 21% lighter than the pro-grade E-M1. Despite its slightly lighter weight, the E-M10 doesn't feel the least bit less solid than either of its predecessors.
E-M10 (left) and E-M5 (right)
Apart from minor cosmetic changes, the view from the front is very similar to that of the E-M5. As noted, the viewfinder housing and hot shoe don't stick up as much, and the hot shoe is tucked down behind the housing (which now contains a flash), so it barely protrudes above the top. We applauded the deeper grip of the E-M1, but the Olympus E-M10 unfortunately goes a bit in the other direction, with a slightly more rounded profile on the front of the grip, and a slightly less frictive surface. The grip on the original E-M5 gave us a more secure feel in the hand, so we wish that Olympus hadn't made this particular change.
Other than the grip and the slightly shorter profile, the only other visible difference on the front of the E-M10 is a more prominent boss beneath the front control dial, accommodating the slightly larger dial itself. The only button on the front of the Olympus E-M10 is the one for the lens release.
E-M10 (left) and E-M5 (right)
Moving on to the Olympus E-M10's top deck, the huge difference is that there's now a popup flash head, in addition to the hot shoe, surely a welcome addition for many users. While on-camera flash is far from optimal from the standpoint of picture quality during night shooting, it's often arguably better than no flash at all, and having an internal flash always available for fill illumination in backlit daytime shots is a huge plus. The E-M10's built-in flash also supports Olympus' wireless RC flash system, capable of controlling multiple remote flash units (FL-50R, FL-36R, FL-300R or FL-600R) in 4 groups (3 external groups plus the built-in flash), using 4 channels.
Apart from the flash, the main differences in the top panel are that the shutter button is larger, the front control dial that surrounds it is now larger as well, and the Fn1 and Playback buttons have not only swapped positions, but also, more importantly, are now larger and reside on an angled surface, making them much easier to access than on the earlier model. Another change is that the twin microphone ports for the internal stereo mic have migrated to either side of the viewfinder/flash housing, since that housing now pops up when the flash is deployed. (On the E-M5, the microphone ports were located on either side of the viewfinder housing; we wonder if this translates into any difference in stereo separation between the two cameras.)
Barely visible on the left and right sides of the viewfinder housing are the dioptric adjustment and LCD/EVF selection button. These occupy the same relative positions as on the E-M5, but the dioptric adjustment now sits flush with the side of the housing, as opposed to the edge-on orientation on the E-M5. (Personally, I prefer the kind dioptric control dial that presents itself edge-on, on the side of the VF housing; I find them much easier to operate than the design on the E-M10.)
As on the E-M5, the dedicated movie-record button and programmable Fn2 button are on the far right-hand side of the top deck, easy to access, with little chance of confusing the two, thanks not only to their position, but also their significantly different heights above the top panel.
Finally, the top view also shows the more sculpted viewfinder bezel of the Olympus E-M10. Overall dimensions are the same as on the E-M5, but the E-M10's curves more, to wrap around your eye and cut out more glare under bright conditions. I'd expected the more sculpted bezel to cause more interference with my eyeglasses, but was surprised to find that I could see the EVF on both the E-M10 and E-M5 about equally well.
The E-M10's articulating LCD screen.
E-M10 (left) and E-M5 (right)
The rear-panel controls are very similar to those on the E-M5, the only real differences being the previously mentioned (very welcome) repositioning of the Fn1 and Playback buttons, and the presence of a flash-up button on the left side, to pop up the internal flash. Operation of the tilting rear-panel LCD screen seems identical to the one on the earlier model.
The electronic viewfinder on the E-M10 sports the same resolution as the E-M5's: 1.44 million dots. The EVF provides a 100% field of view and a maximum 1.15x magnification -- again, like the E-M5. As expected, the E-M10 also features a proximity eye sensor to quickly toggle between the rear LCD and EVF on the fly when the camera is brought up to your eye. Although we weren't given specific numbers, Olympus tells us that the lag time on the E-M10's EVF is less than that on both the E-M5 and E-M1, which should provide for a more real-time view through the EVF. Eyepoint has also improved over the E-M5, from 18 to 20mm.
One feature missing from the E-M10 is the Accessory Port 2 found just under the hot shoe on the E-M5 and E-M1 (shown above on the E-M5 with cover installed). Since the E-M10 has a built-in flash, one could argue the loss of the accessory port isn't a big deal (the E-M5 and E-M1's bundled flash used that port as well as the hot shoe), but that does mean that other accessories such as the MAL-1 Macro Arm Light and the PP-1 PENpal Bluetooth Communication Device are not supported.
The Olympus E-M10 with new 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens
The sides of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 actually reveal larger changes from the E-M5 than most of the rest of the camera. The Micro (Type D) HDMI out and USB/AV-out ports have moved from the left side of the camera to the right, and the memory card slot formerly located on the right hand side has moved inside the battery compartment. To our mind, this is a positive change; the HDMI/USB port cover on the original E-M5 was rather awkward to open; we always had to tilt the LCD away from the back of the camera a little in order to get a fingernail under the lip of the cover. With the ports and cover moved to the right side of the camera, there isn't anything obstructing access like that.
E-M10 (left) and E-M5 (right)
The bottom of the two cameras reveals one significant difference between the two, namely that the original E-M5 has a set of contacts on it to support its accessory battery grip. (In the shot above, these contacts are hidden beneath a rubber flap, just to the left of the tripod socket.) The Olympus E-M10 has no such option, so there aren't contacts on the bottom panel. Not visible in the shot above is the memory card slot, now located inside the battery compartment. We really liked the move of the HDMI/USB port panel from the left to right side of the camera, but having the memory card inside the battery compartment means you'll need a fairly skinny tripod plate if you want to be able to access the card while the camera is mounted on a tripod.
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Olympus E-M10 Technical Info
In-depth with all the technical details of the mini OM-D
Sensor / low-pass filtering. At the heart of the Olympus E-M10 sits a 16.1 megapixel, Live MOS image sensor in the standard Four Thirds format, with around 40% less surface area than the APS-C chips used in most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Output images have a resolution of 4,608 x 3,456 pixels. Total resolution is 17.2 megapixels, and the sensor has a 4:3 aspect ratio.
Like quite a few interchangeable-lens cameras these days, there's no optical low-pass filter overlaid on the E-M10's sensor. That decision allows slightly higher resolution, but increases the risk of moiré and false color artifacts.
Processor. Output from the sensor is processed by a TruePic VII image processor, the same variant used in the flagship E-M1. One generation removed from the processor in the E-M5, it includes a newer-generation Fine Detail Technology II processing function which works to further reduce moiré and false color.
In its announcement of the E-M1, Olympus noted that Fine Detail Technology II's advances had allowed it to remove the optical low-pass filter altogether, and that's doubtless why the E-M10 likewise forgoes the filter. The new processor also includes adaptive routines for suppressing lateral chromatic aberration and optimizing sharpening in JPEGs, and these take account of both the lens type and aperture value in use.
Click to read about the Olympus E-M10's technical details!
Olympus E-M10 Shooter's Report Part I
I've mentioned this in some of my earlier reviews, but I began my journey into photography as a DSLR person. I've stuck with that style of camera even after mirrorless cameras came on the market. I still put a priority on good autofocus speed, the viewfinder and the fuller handgrip over sheer portability -- not to mention the extensive lens selection that the big DSLR brands offer. However, I've recently found myself leaning toward using smaller and smaller cameras (my cameras du jour are a Canon EOS M and a Sony RX100). Slowly but surely, I've realized that bigger does not always mean better. I like having a camera with me almost all the time, and, especially if I'm out doing something active like hiking, I've found I don't want -- or need -- to haul a bunch of DSLR gear around.
So, when I heard about the Olympus E-M10, I was really excited to review it, especially after the rave reviews and excellent images I've seen coming from its two sibling OM-D cameras. Furthermore, the E-M10 looks to combine lots of features I personally want in a camera: excellent AF performance, a nice viewfinder, a comfortable grip (there's also an awesome grip accessory for an extra-secure hold) all in a small, lightweight and well-priced package.
Read more about my first impressions and hands-on experience with the E-M10.
Olympus E-M10 Shooter's Report Part II
Sports, Wildlife and Long Exposures
I was fortunate to have all the stars fall into alignment and was able to test the E-M10 on a variety of subjects, that happen to be some of my favorites -- sports, wildlife and long exposures.
Let the games begin. I had the fantastic opportunity to photograph a local college basketball game and thought it would be the perfect chance to see how a camera like the OM-D E-M10 would handle high-speed sports photography. Traditionally, sports photography is all about the DSLR -- fast phase-detect AF, rapid-fire FPS and bright wide-aperture lenses. With the ever-improving performance of contrast-detect AF systems, plus the E-M10's 8fps burst speed and a decidedly more compact setup, I was curious to see how the new Olympus E-M10 would handle a serious sporting event.
Well, as they say, all that glitters is not gold, and with the E-M10, that's surely the case. There are good things and bad things about using the E-M10 to shoot sports, or many other fast action subjects for that matter. First, the size is great. The small E-M10 and compact Micro Four Thirds lenses are much more portable, as you already know. If you're shooting for hours on end, like at a basketball game, a smaller camera like the E-M10 is much more comfortable than a large, gripped DSLR and an f/2.8 telephoto zoom. I shot the basketball game with the E-M10 plus three Olympus fast prime lenses, and all I needed to carry was a small waist pack. No heavy, back-breaking backpack for me!
See how the E-M10 held up to the challeng of shooting action, animals and night sky.
Olympus E-M10 Shooter's Report Part III
Video Recording, Wi-Fi and Wrap-up
It's time to wrap up the shooting of the Olympus E-M10, and to finish off this popular camera. I'll go over a few features not yet covered: video and Wi-Fi capabilities, as well as address some reader questions.
Video Recording. Unlike its Micro Four Thirds consortium "frenemy" Panasonic, Olympus really hasn't put video capabilities at the forefront of their cameras' features. Instead, they've chosen to focus primarily on still image quality and performance, and this same focus applies the E-M10 as well. However, while the E-M10's video capabilities may not pique the interest of video enthusiasts or professional videographers, the camera provides a nice, basic array of Full HD video features for the beginning videographer, or those who simply want quick, high-quality video at the press of a button.
Video recording is quite straightforward on the E-M10, with a dedicated Movie Mode for access to the complete set of movie features, and a separate movie record start/stop button offering quick access to recording in most exposure modes. Like more advanced cameras, the E-M10 has full PASM exposure controls that are changed via the slide out Live Control menu. (Note: there's no option for a Super Control Panel view in the Movie Mode, which I found a little disappointing, as I like the quick overview as well as fast access to important settings.)
Read on to hear about the E-M10's video and Wi-Fi capabilities and my final thoughts.
Olympus E-M10 Image Quality Comparison
See the E-M10 up against the E-M5 & major APS-C players.
See our Still Life crops comparing the Olympus E-M10 with itself at base and extended low ISO, and then with the Olympus E-M5, Canon 70D, Fuji X-Pro1, Nikon D7100, and Panasonic GH3. Readers familiar with our review of the Olympus E-M1 will find many of the comments quite familiar, as the E-M10 behaves very similarly, especially at low ISOs. This is doubtless because the two models share the same advanced processor, so noise-reduction algorithms are likely very similar.
NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses.
Go on, it's okay to pixel-peep!
Olympus E-M10 Print Quality
More than just digital. How does the E-M10 look in the real world?
The Olympus E-M10 brings a lot of image quality performance to the table for a very affordable price point. Similar to the E-M5 before it, the E-M10 produces very similar print quality results with excellent fine detail and great colors at lower ISO levels.
The E-M5 did an excellent job, so does the E-M10 follow suit with equally impressive printing abilities?
Olympus E-M10 Conclusion
Is the E-M10 truly the 'OM-D for all?'
The Olympus E-M10 is a solid camera at an outstanding budget-friendly price point. For someone looking to upgrade to an interchangeable lens camera system and aren't sure if they want or need the big bulk of a DSLR, the E-M10 and the Micro Four Thirds system is an excellent choice. The E-M10 provides a low barrier of entry and opens up the expansive world of interchangeable lenses for the Micro Four Thirds ecosystem.
Performance-wise, the E-M10 is a unique camera that blends features from Olympus's flagship E-M1 camera and their first OM-D camera, the E-M5. It's got the faster image processor and higher-precision AF area grid, as well as a similar AA-filterless sensor. The E-M10 borrows the more compact size of the E-M5 -- although the E-M10 is slightly smaller -- making it an excellent go-anywhere, carry-all-the-time kind of camera.
Read our Olympus E-M10 Conclusion