Olympus E-M10 Review

 
Camera Reviews > Olympus Cameras > Olympus E i Now Shooting!
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Olympus OM-D E-M10
Resolution: 16.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: Four Thirds
Kit Lens: 3.00x zoom
14-42mm
(28-84mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
ISO: 100-25600
Shutter: 60-1/4000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 4.7 x 3.2 x 1.8 in.
(119 x 82 x 46 mm)
Weight: 18.2 oz (515 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
MSRP: $800
Availability: 03/2014
Manufacturer: Olympus
16.10
Megapixels
Micro Four Thirds mount Four Thirds
size sensor
image of Olympus OM-D E-M10
Front side of Olympus OM-D E-M10 digital camera Back side of Olympus OM-D E-M10 digital camera Top side of Olympus OM-D E-M10 digital camera Left side of Olympus OM-D E-M10 digital camera Right side of Olympus OM-D E-M10 digital camera

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Now Shooting

Overview by William Brawley, Walkaround by Dave Etchells
Posted: 01/29/2014

Shooter's Report by
01/29/2014: Part I: Initial Thoughts
: Part II: Sports, Wildlife and Long Exposures

Olympus E-M10 Review - 3/4 beauty shot

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 newly-introduced 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.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Vs E-M1 & 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-M10 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.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Front View

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).

Olympus E-M10 Review - flash animation

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, is set to be available 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 estimated 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.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Back View

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.

Olympus E-M10 Review - E-M10 vs E-M5 front view
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.

Olympus E-M10 Review - E-M10 vs E-M5 top view
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.)

Olympus E-M10 Review - Diopter crop

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.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Articulating LCD
The E-M10's articulating LCD screen.
Olympus E-M10 Review - E-M10 vs E-M5 rear view
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% percent 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.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Left view Olympus E-M10 Review - Right View
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.

Olympus E-M10 Review - E-M10 vs E-M5 bottom view
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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Shooting with the Olympus E-M10

by

Part I -- Initial thoughts
Posted: 1/29/2014

Olympus E-M10 Review - gallery shot
E-M10 + 14-42mm II kit lens: The articulating screen and decent close-focusing ability of the 14-42mm kit lens allowed to get down and close for this shot. (22mm, f/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 200)

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.

Olympus E-M10 Review - gallery shot
E-M10 + 14-42mm EZ: (14mm, f/3.5, 1/4000s, ISO 200)

I shot with the higher-end Olympus E-M1 briefly, and think it's an excellent camera. The performance all around is amazing, especially the super-fast AF and the grip, making it a standout among mirrorless cameras -- it really is like a full-size DSLR put under a shrink ray! However, its DSLR resemblance is not far off. It's quite a bit larger and heavier than the E-M10, for example, and therefore much less portable, and thus something I'd be less apt to carry it around with me all the time. It's also quite expensive: around $1,400 for the body alone. As Olympus themselves said, the E-M1 is aimed at advanced enthusiasts and professional photographers (though $1,400 is an outstanding price for a pro-level camera)!

In contrast, the Olympus E-M10 provides a stellar combination of features and performance, at a budget-friendly price point. In this first installment of my Shooter's Report, I'll report on my initial impressions of the camera after having shot with it for a few days, and highlight some of its excellent features, as well as some not-so-excellent details I've come across.

Olympus E-M10 Review - gallery shot
E-M10 + 14-42mm EZ: (14mm, f/3.5, 1/80s, ISO 400)

Design & Build: The good and the bad. The exterior design of the E-M10 is practically a carbon copy of the E-M5, with minor button rearrangements here and there, of course. The E-M5 is a gorgeous camera with superb build quality, and the new E-M10 follows right along with the same retro styling and solid construction. In fact, placed side-by-side, you be hard-pressed to tell them apart.

I my opinion, though, the E-M10 has both improvements on the E-M5's design, as well as some downsides. Like I mentioned earlier, the build quality of the E-M10 seems excellent. It's super-solid with a nice heft that feels nearly identical to the E-M5. The E-M10 is not weather-sealed like the E-M5, though, and while that may be a disappointment to some (I would have liked it, just for a bit of insurance in adverse weather), but the lack of sealing has made for a notable operational improvement, in that the buttons are much easier to press, and provide better tactile feedback. According to Olympus, the weather sealing on the E-M5 made the buttons, especially those on the rear of the camera, soft and mushy to press.

Olympus E-M10 Review - gallery shot
E-M10 + 14-42mm EZ: (14mm, f/3.5, 1/640s, ISO 200)

The E-M10 isn't just stripped-down E-M5, though, in fact it adds a new feature that's a first for an OM-D camera: a built-in flash. Both the E-M5 and E-M1 required an external flash, and given that the kit lens with the E-M10 is an f/3.5-5.6 variable aperture lens, it's nice to have an included flash when you need it. The control for the built-in popup flash (which is pretty solidly-built, by the way, and doesn't feel flimsy, the way some with multiple hinges or collapsible bits do) is very thorough, with automatic and fill flash settings as well as full manual brightness adjustment (full strength to 1/64th power). Although I generally try to avoid using flash, as it tends to look quite harsh and can be distracting, it's nice to have it there and ready to go, if and when you need it.

Olympus E-M10 Review - gallery shot
E-M10 + 14-42mm EZ: (14mm, f/22, 1/10s, ISO 200)
Olympus E-M10 Review - Top dials

When I took the E-M10 out shooting, one thing that kept annoying me was the front-most control dial: it's very easy to bump and quickly adjust something unexpectedly. In Aperture-Priority, for instance, this dial defaults to controlling Exposure Compensation. Numerous times, I'd put the camera up to my face to take a shot and notice I was +/- a third of a stop or so. When I got back to the office, I quickly grabbed our E-M5 to see if it had the same issue, and found that its dial -- even after undergoing heavy usage here in the lab and with a reviewer -- still takes a bit more effort to rotate.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Dial Customization

Customize. An example of the extensive customization options offered on the E-M10.

There's perhaps a silver lining to this, though, that brings me to one of my favorite features of not only the E-M10, but other OM-D cameras as well: customization. As any respectable enthusiast camera should allow, the E-M10 lets you customize all sorts of buttons and dials to suit your shooting style. Thanks to this, I was the able to swap the top dials around, with the front one controlling aperture and the back one for exposure compensation. Not only did this help prevent accidental E.C. adjustments, it was also more ergonomic for me as well. Shooting in aperture priority, I'm always monitoring and adjusting my aperture, and using my index finger to adjust aperture was more intuitive and more comfortable.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Icons

Symbols. Instead of using "Image Quality," Olympus chooses to denote this with a confusing diamond icon.

I'll admit that this vast customization aspect of the E-M10 can be a little daunting, particularly given Olympus' odd menu conventions, with a mixture of both text and symbols. I've always found this system to have a bit of learning curve, but once you understand its quirks and nuances, it's fairly straightforward.

Along the same lines, it seems Olympus has a habit of leaving important and useful settings disabled by default. Such is the case with the higher quality "Super Fine" JPEG compression, and also my favorite user interface improvement -- Super Control Panel.

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Quick menu

I love shooting with both the LCD monitor and the EVF, making use of the proximity sensor next to the EVF. With the Super Control Panel enabled (shown on the left), a quick press of the "OK" button brings up a big on-screen grid of all the major camera settings, giving you a quick lay of the land, as well as letting you easily adjusting all sorts of settings. Why this isn't enabled by default, I'll never know.

The last little design quirk I'd like to mention are the shoulder strap lugs. Not long after I began carrying the E-M10 around shooting, I started getting irritated at those little triangular shoulder strap rings -- particularly the one on the right side of the camera. The ring would either scrape up against my finger when gripping the camera, or I needed to make a conscious effort to move the ring out of the way. Using a strap or not, I find those lugs to be in the way, especially on my right hand. Upon mentioning this to a fellow IR employee, he retorted, "I know what you mean…I always take those things off!"

Olympus E-M10 Review - Gallery shot
E-M10 + 14-42mm EZ: (14mm, f/3.5, 1/500s, ISO 200)

Image Quality & Performance. Since the E-M10 uses a similar (though not identical) 16MP sensor as the E-M5 and also the image processor of the E-M1, it unsurprisingly manages to produce excellent photos. I took the E-M10 around the North Atlanta area and to a local park, and the images it produced were crisp and sharp with vivid colors and great dynamic range. A lot of building shots I took were backlit by bright sun, with the faces of buildings in shadow. The E-M10 did a great job of showing shadow detail, while at the same time keeping highlights in-check. Overall, considering the E-M5 and E-M1 produce stellar results, it's no shocker that the E-M10 follows suit.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Gallery shot
E-M10 + 14-42mm EZ: The E-M10 performed well with dynamic range, showing lots of shadow detail while keeping highlight relatively well-controlled. This particular image, however, does have some blown highlights right in the center. (42mm, f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO 200)

Trying some low-light indoor shots, the E-M10's higher ISO images were very nice, and I saw performance similar to that of the E-M5. Things do start to get a little soft in very fine detail areas once you hit ISO 1600 and 3200, but if you don't pixel peep, images look great, as do RAW images.

View the IR Lab's in-depth Olympus E-M10 image quality test results by clicking here, but be sure to read further on to see side-by-side comparisons of the E-M10 against its top competitors.

Olympus E-M10 Review- Gallery shot
E-M10 + 14-42mm EZ: The E-M10 did well with higher ISOs and low-light shooting for its class of camera. (14mm, f/3.5, 1/60s, ISO 1600)

One really handy feature is the ability to set a maximum ISO sensitivity for Auto ISO. I love using Auto ISO; especially in situations where I'm in and out of varying lighting conditions, or if I'm shooting subjects that call for a certain aperture and shutter speed. You'll have to enable it manually, but you can use Auto ISO in Manual exposure mode, which is a nice touch.

As I mentioned over in my Panasonic GM1 Shooter's Report, I'm a Canon EOS M owner. And while it's a great little camera for a number of things, what it's not great at is autofocus, even after the firmware update. It was such a refreshing experience to use a small, lightweight camera like the Olympus E-M10 with excellent, lightning-fast AF. Shooting fast-moving subjects or just swinging the camera up to get the shot, the E-M10 was quick, accurate and fun to use. I've had no issues with AF whatsoever with the camera. Although since it uses the same contrast-detect system as the E-M5, it can struggle to focus on dark, low-contrast subjects, especially if you turn off the shockingly bright orange AF assist light.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Gallery shot
E-M10 + 14-42mm II kit lens: Although not a full-frame "bokeh king" camera, the E-M10's Micro Four Thirds sensor is plenty big enough for some great shallow depth of field shots. (14mm, f/3.5, 1/3200s, ISO 200)

The E-M10 has also borrowed the more precisely-segmented AF point grid from the E-M1, giving you 81 total "AF points" in a 9x9 grid for really precise control over composition. Compared to the comparatively coarse 35 AF points (5x7 grid) of the E-M5, this is a definite upgrade.

Olympus E-M10 Review - AF points

I found the E-M10's expanded AF grid very useful, especially when using fast primes, as the focus-and-recompose method can often lead to out-of-focus shots at large apertures, when the plane of focus shifts after recomposing.

Like other OM-D cameras, the Olympus E-M10 also makes it super simple to adjust the AF point -- simply press a directional button on the rear of the camera. No need to hold down a function button or activate some mode, instead you just use to the directional pad to move to the AF point of your choice -- all 81 of them. I love this about the E-M10. I use single-point AF most of the time, and this behavior lets me quickly and easily adjust the focus point to fit my composition and get focus right where I want it. Plus, thanks to the EVF, I can see all this happening in the viewfinder -- just like with a DSLR -- avoiding the need to take the camera down from my eye.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Gallery shot
E-M10 + 14-42mm EZ: The 81 AF point system and easy adjustment system let me quickly move the AF point to the front-most hanging lamp. (36mm, f/5.5, 1/80s, ISO 1600)

Speaking of EVF, the E-M10 shares the same EVF magnification as the E-M5, and looking through it is a very similar experience. The "DSLR guy" in me appreciates having the electronic viewfinder (versus just the rear-panel LCD screen), especially when shooting with longer, heavier lenses, or when shooting at slower shutter speeds. It's not the biggest or brightest EVF out there, but I found it to be just fine -- easy to read text and no strange rainbow tearing artifacts like I've seen with other cameras. In fact, Olympus has given the EVF a little performance boost compared both the E-M5 and E-M1 with a much shorter lag time, thus making the view of the EVF more like a traditional optical viewfinder. (Lag time in this context is the delay between when something happens in the scene you're shooting, and when you see it on the EVF screen.)

Olympus E-M10 Review - Gallery shot
E-M10 + 14-42mm II kit lens: (41mm, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 200)

Want to learn more about how the Olympus E-M10's 14-42mm II kit lens performs?
Click here to see our optical test results.

The new 14-42 lens: smaller, flatter...worse? Introduced alongside the Olympus E-M10 is a new 14-42mm lens with their "EZ" electronic zooming system. One of the biggest features is that when the camera is powered off, the lens automatically retracts to a very compact, almost pancake-style size, which makes this body and lens combo even more portable.

The pictures I've taken so far with the E-M10 have primarily been with this new 14-42mm EZ lens, and over all the images look nice, with great color and sharp detail. However, I did notice an issue with flare when shooting with the sun just outside the frame. I noticed this with the standard 14-42mm II kit lens as well, though, so it's not an issue unique to the new EZ lens.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Gallery shot
14-42 EZ - (14mm, f/3.5, 1/800s, ISO 200)
Olympus E-M10 Review - Gallery shot
14-42 II Kit Lens- (14mm, f/3.5, 1/800s, ISO 200)

On the physical side of things, I'm personally not a fan of the EZ lens' electronic zoom, and while it's smooth and very quiet, it's still much slower than your typical "manual" zoom lens. Thankfully, Olympus does let you speed up (or slow down) the zoom speed via a menu option, but I still found the fastest setting too slow for my liking. It feels almost like a point-and-shoot, and takes away a bit of the experience of a true interchangeable lens camera.

Overall, my experience with the Olympus E-M10 so far has been extremely positive. The Olympus E-M10 is packed full of features and is superbly customizable, both features insuring that it will be a favorite among enthusiast photographers. Autofocus performance and shot-to-shot speed are both excellent, and I never felt like I missed a shot from waiting on the camera to focus or finish processing an image (or a RAW+JPEG pair, for that matter). Be sure to check out our gallery photos page for even more sample images from the Olympus E-M10.

Olympus E-M10 Review - Gallery shot
E-M10 + Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 Leica: (25mm, f/1.4, 1/400s, ISO 200)

 

Part II -- Sports, Wildlife and Long Exposures
Posted: 3/26/2014

Fear not OM-D fans, the next installment of my Olympus E-M10 shooter's report is here. 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.

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Gallery shot
The Olympus 12mm F2 lens gave me a fairly generous depth of field making precise focusing less critical. Also the tilting screen of the E-M10 let me easily get the shot from a cool, ground-level angle. (M.Zuiko 12mm F2: f/2, 1/1250s, ISO 1600)

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.

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Gallery shot
The previous JPEG edited in Adobe Lightroom 5 for a slight exposure boost, white balance correction, cropping and noise reduction.

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!

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Burst sequence

Fast FPS. The E-M10's 8fps burst mode does a nice job of capturing a sequence of action. Head over to the gallery page to view the full-res images (YP2200508.JPG - YP2200514.JPG).

Secondly, I found the 8fps Continuous High Speed burst mode plenty fast to catch an excellent frame or two, or even an entire sequence of a player going up for a shot. Of course top of the line DSLRs like the Canon 1D X and Nikon D4S can shoot at a massive 12 and 11fps, respectively, but as someone who has used a Canon 7D for sports with its 8fps continuous burst rate, the E-M10 felt plenty speedy. 

However, here's where we get to the first caveat. The Olympus E-M10 can shoot at 8fps, but only without continuous AF. So, if your subject moves closer or farther away and therefore out of the plane of focus, chances are you're going to end up with a not-so-great shot (or one in-focus shot followed by a bunch of out of focus ones). If you want AF working between each shot during continuous shooting, you're left with a mere 3.5fps, which is certainly not fast enough to capture a full sequence of a basketball player rushing past.

However, a caveat to a caveat: I found the buffer to clear at a more steady pace in the 3.5fps low-speed continuous mode, and I could therefore keep on shooting more or less at a constant pace if needed. The 8fps mode shot a fast burst of 11 frames, and then continued on with a much slower frames-per-second rate as the camera tried to clear through the buffer. (I was shooting RAW+Large SuperFine JPEGs at ISOs 1600 to 2500 with a Sony 94MB/s 32GB SDHC card. Your mileage may vary.)

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Gallery shot
(M.Zuiko 12mm F2: f/2, 1/1000s, ISO 2500)

However I was a little confused at first between "Sequential High Speed" and "Sequential Low Speed" modes and how they related to Continuous AF. Going into this, I assumed that the 8fps and 3.5fps were simply high- and low-speed burst modes -- similar to what you get on, say, a Nikon D7100. I assumed that by simply having Continuous AF (C-AF) enabled, the camera would automatically slow the burst rate if it had to when the camera attempted to refocus between frames.

So, when I selected "Sequential High Speed" mode and C-AF, I was surprised to find the 8fp speed working like a charm. I then thought perhaps it was the dedicated "AF Tracking" focus mode that slowed the burst rate -- nope. Still 8fps. I later found out that it's not the focus mode that determines the burst speed, but the burst speed mode itself that determines if the camera focuses between each frame. In "Sequential High Speed" mode, focus is locked at the first frame (even if C-AF is selected), while in "Sequential Low Speed" mode, the camera attempts to focus between frames if C-AF is selected. Chalk this whole thing up to user error, but I can see it being a little confusing to others unfamiliar with Olympus cameras as well.

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Gallery shot
(M.Zuiko 12mm F2: f/2, 1/1250s, ISO 1600)

I also noticed a strange behavior with Continuous AF mode, not only when shooting sports, but also with birds and other wildlife. When shooting moving subjects or other objects that were small in the frame, such as birds, I could really see the inherent "wobble" of the E-M10's contrast-detect AF system as it continuously tried to keep the subject in focus. It was a little disconcerting at times, since I had a hard time telling if my subject was, in fact, in focus when I pressed the shutter button.

Of course, the E-M10 gives you the option of having Release Priority (RP) or Focus Priority (FP). With RP enabled, the camera will still take a shot when you press the shutter button even if the subject is not in focus, while FP mode does the opposite -- it delays taking the shot until the subject is in focus. As you might expect, with fast sports or quick-moving animals, the delay in FP mode would not be ideal and could lead to missing a shot at that perfect moment. Thankfully, the E-M10's AF speed is, in general, quick enough for most subjects I encountered, especially higher contrast subjects.

Just how fast is the Olympus E-M10? Find out by clicking here to see our full battery
of rigorous, objective speed and operation tests conducted in the IR Lab.

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Gallery shot
The E-M10 paired with a long 75-300mm lens was very comfortable to use thanks to the built-in EVF. The f/6.7 aperture of the lens, however, forced me to use a high ISO in this shot, which took a toll on fine detail. (M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II: 300mm, f/6.7, 1/320s, ISO 2500)

Compact wildlife camera? If you've read my other reviews, you'll know that I like to shoot wildlife, and particularly in my recent Panasonic GM1 review, I attempted to use long telephoto lenses with that small camera. The experience in that case was far from ideal. The lack of an EVF was troublesome as it forces you to hold the camera out in front of you rather than up against your eye, which enhances stability and comfortable, especially with these larger, heavier lenses.

Thankfully, the Olympus E-M10 has a nice built-in EVF in a traditional DSLR-like, on-axis design. Using a long telephoto zoom lens such as the Olympus M.Zuiko 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II was easy and comfortable, and gave me the very familiar, DSLR-like shooting experience that I enjoy. Plus, the addition of in-body image stabilization was extremely helpful, if only to steady the shot when framing at the full 600mm-equivalent focal length. I found the body-based IS works quite well, making it much easier to get shots on small subjects like perched songbirds or other scenes off in the distance where framing with long telephoto lenses can get tricky -- minute movements of the camera can equal large changes in composition.

Despite a long 600mm-equivalent zoom lens, subjects like birds are oftentimes still quite small in the frame. As such, I found the AF system, especially when using C-AF, to be a little disconcerting, as the camera had trouble focusing on small subjects. Like I mentioned earlier in the sports section, especially when using Continuous AF, I really noticed the hunting or wobbling effect of the contrast-detect AF system as it tried to achieve and maintain focus on the subject. I found it difficult at times to tell if the subject was in crisp focus when I snapped the shot.

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Gallery shot
Despite being a bright color, the E-M10 had trouble focusing on this Cardinal. It took a few tries before I was able to get a photo with the bird in focus. (M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II: 300mm, f/6.7, 1/250s, ISO 320)
Olympus E-M10 Review -- Gallery shot
In a crop of a shot taken just prior to the one above, you can see that despite a similar composition with the AF target over the bird, the E-M10 had issues achieving correct focus.

This is perhaps, not an issue with the E-M10 itself, but rather an inherent limitation of contrast-detect autofocus systems. The autofocus "points" of the E-M10 are not really points at all, but rather focus target areas, and you simply don't get the fine-grained focus point with CDAF systems that you do on straight phase-detect AF systems like in DSLRs. As such, photographing subjects like birds and other small objects can be tricky for CDAF cameras.

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Gallery shot
Worst-case scenario? Not only was this female Cardinal pretty small in the frame, the small twigs and low-contrast coloring made it even more difficult for the contrast-detect AF system to get a crisp shot of the bird itself, yet the E-M10 still managed to focus correctly this time. (M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II: 300mm, f/6.7, 1/320s, ISO 400)

As I mentioned up in Part I, the E-M10 does bring the more precise grid of 81 AF areas from the E-M1, which is a solid upgrade over the E-M5. These smaller AF areas allow you to more precisely place an AF "point" over your subject.

Olympus E-M10 Review -- AF targets screen shot

The E-M10 takes it a step further by bringing over the "Small Target AF" option from the E-M1 (shown on the right). With this mode, the comparatively coarse 81 AF area grid is shrunken down to a much finer-grained grid, which are more akin to typical DSLR AF points. This mode makes is easier to autofocus on smaller subjects, such as birds perched in a tree, although you can still see the distinct "wobble" when using Continuous AF.

You can also magnify the display by up to 14x for an even smaller AF area, and of course there's always manual focus which supports magnification and focus peaking.

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Gallery shot
The Olympus E-M10 is also much quieter than competing DSLRs, which means you are less likely to disturb skittish animals. (M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II: 300mm, f/6.7, 1/250s, ISO 2000)

I'm seeing stars! I've realized I like shooting extremes -- fast-moving, hard-to-capture subjects, such as sports, as well as very slow-motion subjects with a more involved setup, such as long exposure shots. The Olympus E-M10 did reasonably well at capturing the fast stuff, but it makes easy work of the slow stuff, which in this case are long-exposure multi-shot star trail composite photos.

Typically, with star trail photos, you need lots of time, an intervalometer to make the camera continuously take photos periodically for a long span of time, and then lots of post-processing time stacking and combining hundreds of photos -- not to mention additional time if you want to mask in a foreground shot, perhaps done with some light-painting, for a really interesting nightscape.

I've always wanted to try my hand at creating star trail photos, and the Olympus E-M10 makes it a much simpler endeavor -- all you need is time and a tripod. And clear skies, of course. Introduced as a new feature on the E-M10, the Live Composite mode lets you build multi-shot long exposure photographs right in the camera! And you see it all happening live on-screen in real time!

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Composite settings menu

The E-M10 lets you adjust the exposure time for Live Composite shots from 1/2s to 60s.

Accessed in manual exposure mode by scrolling down past Bulb Mode, Live Composite Mode takes an initial shot of the scene for noise reduction, and then a second press of the shutter button begins the live sequence of continuous shooting. Prior to shooting, you adjust the exposure time per shot, from a half-second to a long 60s shutter speed. After capturing the scene for your desired length of time, simply press the shutter button again and have the E-M10 combine all the shots into one final image. The cherry on top? It can also produce a composited RAW image, allowing for all the increased flexibility with post-processing that RAW images give you.

While I never had a great star trail scene to experiment with, I was able to test this cool new feature, and I have to say, I am impressed. It worked exactly as described. I set the camera up on a sturdy tripod, adjusted the timing, and let it capture away. Sure enough, periodically checking back on the camera, I could see star trails slowly building up on the screen. If you don't know how or don't want to spend lots of time photoshopping hundreds, possibly thousands of individual images together, the E-M10 makes it super simple to get great star trails or other long exposure shots (fireworks photos also come to mind as a possible use for this mode).

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Gallery shot
With the E-M10's new Live Composite mode, you can see star trails build up on screen in real time. I used a 10s exposure time and kept the camera running for about 30 minutes. As you can see, be aware of objects like aircraft that enter the frame. (M.Zuiko 12mm F2: f/2, 10s, ISO 200)

There are a few issues or notes worth pointing out, however. You can use Live Composite mode with either the EVF or rear LCD screen; however, one of the screens will remain powered (even if it's mostly black -- no battery-friendly OLED rear screen here like in the E-M5). So be sure to charge those batteries before setting off to shoot for very long periods of time. (There's still no word on an AC Adapter for the E-M10 like we saw with the E-M5 to let you keep the camera up and running via mains power.) Also, shooting is limited to a maximum of three hours (or however long your battery lasts), so no super-long all-night photos with the E-M10.

Also, as with other long exposure shots, be aware of vibrations and other camera shakes. It's recommended to use a remote shutter release to avoid bumping the camera. Thankfully, the built-in Wi-Fi on the E-M10 works for Live Composite mode, and I was able to use my smartphone to start and trigger the shutter. Also, be aware that if you're shooting into the open sky, you might have an unwelcome visitor or two appear in your final photo. In this case, airplanes. Clouds are another possibility.

Overall, the Olympus E-M10 did well in these little experiments, and while it won't replace a DSLR for me when shooting sports or wildlife, it's generally very speedy with excellent burst performance if you don't need continuous AF. The contrast-detect AF is excellent on all but very small and low-contrast subjects, as well. The built-in EVF is large and easy to view and makes it comfortable to use larger, longer and heavier telephoto lenses even though the E-M10 itself is quite small. Lastly, the Live Composite mode works exactly as described, giving photographers an easy way to explore the world of astrophotography and other long exposure, multi-shot compositions.

In the third installment of my Olympus E-M10 Shooter's Report, I aim to wrap up my experience with E-M10 and answer some reader requests, more fully test the expanded Wi-Fi capabilities, shoot some sample video footage and examine the potential moiré issues with this AA-filterless sensor. Stay tuned, and as always, be sure to add your comments and questions below.

 

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins

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.

Sensitivity. Together, sensor and processor yield a sensitivity range of ISO 100 - 25,600 equivalents. The ISO 100 position, however, is an extended option; the native sensitivity of the sensor is ISO 200 equivalent. There's also an auto ISO function which is normally capped at ISO 1600, but can be expanded to range as high as ISO 25,600.

Performance. The Olympus E-M10 is capable of burst shooting at a rapid eight frames per second, with the proviso that focus and exposure are locked from the first frame. Enable autofocus and autoexposure adjustment between each frame, and Olympus rates the E-M10 for a more sedate 3.5 fps when shooting with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ lens. Burst depth is 16 raw frames at the higher rate, or 20 raw frames at the lower rate. In either case, unlimited JPEG burst depth should be possible with a sufficiently fast Secure Digital card.

Build. Although it isn't weatherproof, the E-M10 does have a solid body inheriting some tech from the flagship E-M1. The body is crafted from metal, and both front and rear control dials are likewise metal.

Lens mount / optics. As you'd expect of an Olympus mirrorless camera, the E-M10 features a Micro Four Thirds mount, and will also accept Four Thirds and many other lens types via optional adapters. Support for Four Thirds lenses isn't as good as that of the E-M1, however, because this camera lacks on-chip phase detection autofocus.

The Olympus E-M10 ships either body-only, or in a bundle with the M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R lens. Note that this is the earlier 14-42mm design, not the newer pancake collapsing zoom.

Shake reduction. One area in which the E-M10 saves on cost -- and therefore lags higher-end Micro Four Thirds models -- is its stabilization system. Where the E-M5 and E-M1 use a five-axis stabilization system, the E-M10 is based around a three-axis system.

Although it still stabilizes all three rotational axes, it doesn't stabilize X/Y translational shift like those cameras. It also doesn't locate the motion sensor in the viewfinder housing like the earlier cameras, since that location is occupied by the flash. Instead, it's located elsewhere in the camera body.

According to Olympus, the system has a 3.5EV corrective range when shooting with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R kit lens.

When shooting video, the E-M10 can also use digital stabilization, providing a hybrid system with a greater corrective range.

Dust removal. The E-M10 features Olympus' patented Supersonic Wave Filter dust reduction system, seen on all of the company's interchangeable-lens cameras. It operates via a piezoelectric element which vibrates the cover glass overlying the sensor, and shakes dust particles free. They're then captured on an adhesive membrane beneath the imager. We've subjectively found piezoelectric systems like these to be significantly more effective than those using lower-frequency motion from a sensor-shift assembly.

Focusing. One of the most significant differences between the affordable Olympus E-M10 and the flagship E-M1 is to be found in the autofocus department. Where the E-M1 includes on-chip phase detection pixels, the E-M10 relies solely on contrast-detection autofocus. An AF assist illuminator is also provided.

Olympus' CDAF system, branded by the company as FAST AF, has definitely lived up to its name in past models, though, so the absence of phase-detection or a hybrid system may not be a big deal. That is, unless you're planning on mounting older Four Thirds lenses, some of which don't play terribly nicely with contrast-detection since they were never designed for the manner in which it operates.

The contrast-detection system in the Olympus E-M10 offers up an array of 81 autofocus points by default, although with small and super spot autofocus targets, a much finer-grained 800+ AF points are available. Magnification options are 5, 7, 10, or 14x.

As you'd expect, the E-M10 also offers autofocus tracking, and has a face detection function. It goes a step beyond that, however, as you can also prioritize eyes for autofocus, selecting to focus specifically on the left or right eye, or whichever is nearer to the camera.

If you prefer to focus manually, you'll be pleased to note the presence of focus peaking in the E-M10. Two peaking colors are available: white or black.

Viewfinder. The Olympus E-M10's viewfinder is very closely related to that in the E-M5. Resolution is 1,440,000 dots, equating to approximately 480,000 pixels. That's an SVGA array of 800 x 600 pixels, with each pixel comprised of separate red, green, and blue dots.

The E-M10's viewfinder has a 100% field of view, and 1.01 to 1.15x magnification, depending on the viewfinder mode. The refresh rate is 120Hz. There's a diopter adjustment dial to the left of the eyepiece with a range of -4 to +2m-1. An infrared eye sensor is provided for automatic switching between the electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor.

So what differs from the E-M5 viewfinder? The eyepoint is 20mm -- some 2mm higher than that of the E-M5 -- and the viewfinder's lag time is said to be lower than that of the E-M5 or even the E-M1, although no precise figures are yet available. The adaptive brightness technology seen in the EVF of the E-M1 is also featured here, along with a seven-level manual adjustment.

LCD. As well as the electronic viewfinder, there is of course an LCD monitor as well. With a 3.0-inch diagonal, it has a high resolution of 1,037 kdots, or 720 x 480 pixels in a 3:2-aspect array, with each pixel comprised of separate red, green, and blue dots.

Again, a +/-7 level brightness adjustment is available.

Touch. The screen also serves as an input device, courtesy of an electrostatic capacitance touch panel. Available functions for touch control include both shutter release and autofocus area selection.

Articulation. Like shooting from the hip or over your head? If so, you'll appreciate the fact that the LCD monitor is articulated. It can tilt upwards some 80 degrees, or downwards around 50 degrees. It won't be of any help for selfies, but this isn't really a camera aimed at the selfie crowd. We still prefer tilt/swivel screens, though, as they provide added versatility not just for landscape-orientation shots, but also for portrait orientation. Still, any level of articulation is a big improvement over none at all!

Metering. The Olympus E-M10 determines exposures using a 324-area Digital ESP metering system. Available metering modes also include center-weighted, spot, highlight spot, and shadow spot. The metering system has a working range of EV -2 to 20 with a 17mm f/2.8 lens at ISO 100, although the lower end is abbreviated somewhat to EV 0 if the frame rate is set to high speed.

An autoexposure lock function is available, helpful when you want to reframe after metering from a particular subject. A generous +/-5 EV of exposure compensation is available in 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV steps, but note that the E-M10's monitor and EVF only show the effects of a +/-3EV compensation at most.

Exposure modes. A generous selection of exposure modes in the Olympus E-M10 include Intelligent Auto, Program (with program shift), Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, Manual, Bulb, Time, Scene, Art Filter, Underwater Wide / Macro, and My Set. The last option allows you to store your own custom setups.

Scene modes on offer include Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Sport, Hand-held Starlight (composites eight images), Night scene, Night + Portrait, Children, High Key, Low Key, DIS mode, Macro, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Documents, Panorama (assist only), Fireworks, Beach & Snow, Fisheye Conv., Wide Conv., Macro Conv., and 3D (requires optional Panasonic 3D lens).

Shutter. The E-M10 uses a computerized, focal-plane shutter that offers a range of shutter speeds from 60 to 1/4,000 second in either 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV steps. A Bulb mode is also available, as is a Time mode which can be set to 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 20, 25 or 30 minutes.

No shutter life figure has been provided for the E-M10.

Flash. The Olympus E-M10 is notable as the first OM-D camera to feature a built-in flash strobe, and it's a very solid strobe indeed. It has a guide number of 19 feet (5.8m) at ISO 100, and has a 1/250 second X-sync speed.

There is, of course, also a hot shoe. External strobes are capable of sync at 1/200 second, with the exception of the FL-50R which syncs at 1/180 second. With Super FP flash, sync is possible with reduced flash output at up to 1/4,000 second.

The internal flash can also act as a wireless commander for four external strobe models: the FL-50R, FL-36R, FL-300R and FL600R. Four wireless channels and four groups are available, with the internal flash itself counting as one of those groups.

Flash exposure compensation is available within a +/-3EV range in 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV steps.

Creative. The Olympus E-M10 allows two, three, five or seven frame exposure bracketing in 0.3, 0.7, or 1.0 EV steps (except for the seven-frame mode, which allows only 0.3 or 0.7 EV steps). You can also bracket ISO sensitivity, white balance, flash, and art filter functions.

A pretty unusual feature of the E-M10 is its Live Composite function, which builds up the final exposure by capturing and combining multiple exposures, and which takes the brightest pixel from all the shots at any given pixel location. This technique retains dark shadows, unlike a purely additive technique.

The E-M10 also inherits the additive Live Bulb mode from the E-M1, in which you simply hold down the shutter button. In the viewfinder, you can see the image building up gradually throughout the exposure.

Either Live Composite or Live Bulb allow exposures from 0.5 to 60 seconds. Interestingly, Live Composite will allow you to save your final result as a raw file. If you want more control and the possibility of post-capture stacking, there's also an Interval shooting function, which can shoot frames once every one second to 24 hours, with a 999 frame limit. There's also a two-frame Multi-exposure function with auto gain control, and you can reuse an existing raw file as one of the two frames.

The E-M10 includes 12 Art Filter effects, three HDR capture modes, and the in-camera raw file processing capabilities seen in the E-M1.

Level gauge. Want to ensure you have level horizons and parallel verticals? If so, you'll find the included dual-axis electronic level handy. You can, of course, see the level gauge on either the electronic viewfinder or the LCD monitor.

Movie capture. Like the overwhelming majority of interchangeable-lens cameras these days, the Olympus E-M10 can also shoot videos. You have a choice of Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels; 1080p) or HD (1,280 x 720 pixels; 720p) video using MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 compression in a .MOV container, or HD / VGA (640 x 480 pixels; 480p) video with Motion JPEG compression in a .AVI container. All are recorded at approximately 30 frames per second.

In addition, the E-M10 can record timelapse movies. These play at HD resolution, with a rate of 10 frames per second.

Full Program, Priority and Manual exposure control is possible for video capture, and you can also apply the E-M10's filter effects to your movies. And more unusually, the E-M10 lets users shoot high-quality 3,200 x 1,800 pixel still images without interrupting the video recording.

Audio capture. The Olympus E-M10 has a built-in stereo microphone, and includes a wind noise reduction function. Audio is recorded as 16-bit linear PCM with a 48kHz sampling frequency.

Wi-Fi. Like the Olympus E-M1 before it, the E-M10 sports 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity.

In-camera Wi-Fi makes it easier to get your photos and videos off the camera, and onto your smartphone or tablet for sharing on social networks. Setup is a slight bugbear, though, and quite a few manufacturers have resolved this using Near Field Communications, which adds an extra radio (in some cases, a passive one) to the camera. This is great for ease of use, but it's not universally supported by smartphones and tablets (and not supported at all by Apple). It also adds to the camera's cost.

As in the E-M1, Olympus has gone its own route, taking advantage of the near-ubiquitous cameras on smart devices these days. The E-M10 shows a Quick Response code -- a type of two-dimensional barcode -- on its screen when ready to pair via Wi-Fi, and you scan this using your smart device's camera. The connection is then configured between both devices for you, automatically. If you don't have a camera on your smart device, of course, you'll need to pair manually.

Once connected, you can not only download movies or images, but also control the camera remotely. As in the E-M1, this includes a live view feed and remote shutter release.

GPS. There's no built-in GPS in the Olympus E-M10, but it does allow you to piggyback on your phone or tablet's GPS receiver for geotagging of images, a function also offered by some competitors. To be honest, though, it's one we've never found terribly useful since you have to leave power-hungry GPS running on the mobile device to capture a track log, rather than it running on the camera only as needed.

Connectivity / remote. The Olympus E-M10 offers several wired inputs and outputs. These include a multi connector that supports USB 2.0 High Speed data, NTSC / PAL standard-definition A/V output or an RM-UC1 wired remote, as well as a high-definition Micro (Type-D) HDMI video output, and a flash hot shoe. What it lacks are Olympus' proprietary Accessory Port 2, and any form of external audio input connectivity.

Storage. The E-M10 stores images and movies on Secure Digital cards. It's compatible with higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC cards, as well as higher-speed UHS-I types. At least a Class 6 card is recommended for video capture.

It also works with Eye-Fi cards, although obviously the camera has its own wireless connectivity, so there's little reason to use in-card Wi-Fi unless you already own the card. (And if you do, note that Eye-Fi's Endless Mode is not supported.)

Power. The E-M10 draws power from a proprietary BLS-5 lithium-ion battery pack. Battery life is rated at 320 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards. That's about 30 shots less than the E-M1, which is a surprisingly modest difference given that the E-M10 includes a built-in strobe which must be used for 50% of shots to comply with the CIPA standard.

Accessories. Among the accessories available for the Olympus E-M10, one in particular stands out: the optional ECG-1 external camera grip. While it doesn't include any duplicate controls for portrait-orientation shooting, and also lacks a built-in battery, what makes it interesting is the ease with which it can be removed from the camera. Simply press a single lever and it pops right off, exposing both battery compartment and tripod socket. When you're done, it pops back on just as easily. And it adds a fair-sized handgrip that makes the E-M10 more stable in hand. With an affordable pricetag of around US$60, it's a no-brainer for E-M10 buyers.

 

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Image Quality Comparison

Below are 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 below 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.

Olympus E-M10: ISO Low (approx. ISO 100) vs ISO 200

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 100
Olympus E-M10 at ISO 200

We usually avoid expanded low ISO settings for our image quality comparisons as we don't normally see much improvement in image quality, and they often come at the cost of reduced dynamic range. However, like the E-M1 before it, the Olympus E-M10 is a different story. The E-M10 offers an expanded LOW ISO, which is stated as "approximately ISO 100." As you can see above, it shows significantly more detail compared to the lowest standard ISO of 200, especially in our fabric crop. (This was also the case with the E-M1's LOW ISO setting.) Dynamic range is usually more limited in extended-low ISO settings, but if you have a well-lit and modest-contrast subject, you may want to use the E-M10's extended low-ISO setting, for maximum detail.


Olympus E-M10 versus Olympus E-M5 at base ISO

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 200
Olympus E-M5 at ISO 200

The Olympus E-M10 and E-M5 seem pretty evenly matched at ISO 200, with sharp, crisp details, though the E-M5 appears to use just slightly lower default noise reduction and somewhat higher default sharpening.


Olympus E-M1 versus Canon 70D at base ISO

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 200
Canon 70D at ISO 100
Despite having a smaller, lower-resolution sensor than the 70D with its 20-megapixel APS-C imager, the E-M10's JPEG looks better in almost every aspect in these three comparisons. The Olympus produces sharper details, most noticeably in the mosaic and the fabrics, although the 70D does a bit better with the red fabric swatch.

Olympus E-M10 versus Fuji X-Pro1 at base ISO

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 200
Fuji X-Pro1 at ISO 200

Both the Olympus and Fuji do very well at base ISO, as you'd expect. The E-M10 produces slightly crisper detail while the X-Pro1 yields more refined-looking images with lower noise and fewer sharpening artifacts, though the Fuji does suffer from some minor demosaicing errors in other areas of the image. The fabric crop is interesting, as the Olympus does better with the pink fabric, while the Fuji pulls more detail from the red leaf swatch.


Olympus E-M1 versus Nikon D7100 at base ISO

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 200
Nikon D7100 at ISO 100

The bottle crops looks similar in terms of the detail and sharpness, though the Nikon leaves a little more of the wall texture intact, which the Olympus E-M10 smooths out. In the mosaic crops, the D7100 offers a bit better detail but its more conservative approach to sharpening results in an image that isn't quite as crisp. As usual, the Nikon does much better with the red leaf fabric, a particular strong point of Nikon cameras.


Olympus E-M10 versus Panasonic GH3 at base ISO

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 200
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 200
These two 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds cameras perform similarly at ISO 200 as you may expect, though the E-M1's images are a touch crisper with a slightly more processed look. The GH3 leaves behind a little more chroma noise, but does much better in the red leaf pattern.


Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent base ISO shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Olympus E-M10 versus Olympus E-M5 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 1600
Olympus E-M5 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, the E-M10 and E-M5 are again very closely matched, although the E-M5 appears to have a slight edge. Both have fairly low noise while still producing a lot of fine detail in the mosaic, and both cameras have issues rendering subtle detail in the red fabrics, although the E-M5 does slightly better.


Olympus E-M1 versus Canon 70D at ISO 1600

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 1600
Canon 70D at ISO 1600

We can see in the shadows of the bottle crop that default noise reduction is a little stronger in the E-M10. Both cameras do well with the mosaic at ISO 1600, with the E-M10 perhaps holding a slight edge, while in the fabric swatch, the Canon 70D does just a bit better in the red leaf pattern and the Olympus does better with the pink.


Olympus E-M10 versus Fuji X-Pro1 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 1600
Fuji X-Pro1 at ISO 1600

Here, the Fuji does better than the E-M10 in all three comparisons. Noise is lower in the first crop, the fine detail in the mosaic is more even and less mottled-looking due to noise reduction, and the Fuji produces a better leaf pattern in the red fabric.


Olympus E-M10 versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 1600
Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

The default noise reduction of the Nikon is weaker than the E-M10 here, as can be see by the strong luminance noise in the bottle crop. In the mosaic crop, we can see the Olympus works hard to produce a crisper, cleaner-looking image while Nikon's rendering is more detailed and natural-looking, but it's a bit soft in comparison. The D7100 does better with the red-leaf swatch, as Nikons usually do.


Olympus E-M10 versus Panasonic GH3 at ISO 1600

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 1600
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 1600

Both cameras here show the effects of noise reduction, but the E-M10 produces a slightly better result in the shadows and crisper detail the bottle. The mosaic pattern looks a bit more even but less well-defined from the GH3, and the Panasonic also handles the fabric swatch a little better.



These days, ISO 3200 is a very viable shooting option for most good cameras, so let's take a look at some comparisons there.  

Olympus E-M10 versus Olympus E-M5 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 3200
Olympus E-M5 at ISO 3200

The results between the two Olympus cameras here are very similar to the comparison between them at ISO 200. Noise is well-controlled for this ISO, and detail is still pretty good in the mosaic. Both cameras have difficulty with the fabrics at this ISO level. The earlier (and considerably more expensive) E-M5 again maintains a slight edge over the E-M10 pretty much across the board.


Olympus E-M10 versus Canon 70D at ISO 3200

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 3200
Canon 70D at ISO 3200
Compared to the 70D, the E-M10 shows less noise in the bottle crop comparison, and somewhat greater detail in the mosaic. The 70D does better with the red fabrics in this comparison, though.

Olympus E-M10 versus Fuji X-Pro1 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 3200
Fuji X-Pro1 at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200, the E-M10 is sharper than the X-Pro1 in the bottle crop, but the Fuji maintains much better fine detail in the mosaic and the red fabric swatch.


Olympus E-M1 versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 3200
Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

Here, the E-M10 has a lot less noise in the bottle crop image, and its mosaic generally looks crisper, thanks to higher default sharpening, but the D7100 preserves more subtle detail in the background of the mosaic. As usual, there's a good bit more detail to be found in the Nikon's red fabric swatch, albeit with much more obtrusive luminance noise.


Olympus E-M1 versus Panasonic GH3 at ISO 3200

Olympus E-M10 at ISO 3200
Panasonic GH3 at ISO 3200
The GH3's favorable mix of noise reduction and sharpening makes a clear difference here, both on the bottle's surface and on the pink fabric. The mosaic pattern is a bit of a toss-up, with the E-M10 looking more crisp, but the GH3 retaining a good bit more subtle detail. Both cameras have a hard time holding onto any detail in the red fabric swatch.

 

Detail: Olympus E-M10 versus Olympus E-M5, Canon 70D, Fuji X-Pro1, Nikon D7100, and Panasonic GH3.

Olympus E-M10
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus E-M5
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon 70D
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fuji X-Pro1
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon D7100
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Panasonic GH3
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. The Olympus E-M5 remains the king in these high-contrast detail crop comparisons, but the E-M10 comes very close indeed, and also has that extended-low ISO mode for even better detail. The other four cameras look just a little softer than the two Olys at base ISO, but not by much. As ISO rises to 3200, the three Micro Four Thirds cameras hold up surprisingly well, to the point that they surpass some of the APS-C models. At ISO 6400, the E-M5 still manages to beat the E-M10, albeit by just a little bit, resolving most of the horizontal lines within the letters, while the E-M10 blurs some of them. The GH3 also does well, though it struggles a bit with chroma blotching and sharpening artifacts. The APS-C models look a bit softer at ISO 6400, but they still perform very well, with the Nikon's resolution advantage becoming more apparent.

 

Olympus E-M10 Review -- Print Quality

Good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 100 and 200; makes a nice 20 x 30 inch print at ISO 800 while ISO 25,600 should be avoided or used only with less critical applications.

ISO 100/200 produces a great 24 x 36 inch print with impressive fine detail and excellent color rendition. Although a little taxing on the 16MP sensor as you can see some pixelation if you look closely, you can easily wall-mount 30 x 40 inch prints or even get away with 36 x 48.

ISO 400 images look very close to ISO 200, but there's a hint of noise reduction showing up in the shadow areas. All in all it makes for good 20 x 30 inch prints, while 16 x 20 inch prints look even better with excellent fine detail and pleasing colors.

ISO 800 prints also look good up to 20 x 30 inches. You can start to see a little more noise reduction softness around the edges of low-contrast areas and in the shadows.

ISO 1600 images still show an impressive amount of fine detail, especially in high contrast areas, and colors still look great, which all makes for pleasing 16 x 20 inch prints.

ISO 3200 prints look good up to 13 x 19 inches as noise reduction is beginning to look a little heavy in the shadow areas. However, prints still show great high contrast detail and nice color rendition.

ISO 6400 images look acceptable for up to 8 x 10 inch prints with noise reduction taking its toll on low contrast detail and in the shadows.

ISO 12,800 prints are a bit on the noisy side, plus heavy-handed high ISO noise reduction is hurting fine detail, but the E-M10 still manages to produce an acceptable 4 x 6 inch print.

ISO 25,600 images are too lacking in fine detail with a lot of noise, and therefore it's difficult for us to consider any print sizes acceptable at this ISO.

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. Even as the ISO rises, high-contrast fine details remain crisp and sharp, and colors remain accurate. We did see a little less performance from the E-M10 compared to the E-M5 at the very high ISO levels. At ISO 25,600, prints are best avoided as they show a little too much noise and not enough fine detail for us to consider them acceptable at our smallest standard print size (4 x 6).


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