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.

In the Box

The Olympus E-M10 retail kit with 14-42mm lens package (as reviewed) contains the following items:

  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 Camera Body (in black or two-toned black/silver)
  • M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R Lens (black or silver depending on camera color)
  • BLS-5 Li-Ion Battery
  • BCS-5 Lithium-Ion Battery Charger
  • USB Cable
  • Shoulder Strap
  • Software CD-ROM
  • Warranty Card

 

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