Olympus E-M10 Field Test Part III

Video Recording, Wi-Fi and Wrap-up

By William Brawley | Posted: 05/02/2014

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.)

There are a couple of caveats for exposure adjustments, depending on what exposure mode you're in. For everything but full Manual exposure mode, the E-M10 defaults to Auto ISO. No exceptions. The same is true in reverse: There's no Auto ISO in Manual mode (and the base ISO is pegged at ISO 200).

Yes, you have full manual and adjustable exposure settings for video recording, but you aren't allowed to adjust any exposure settings, including ISO, while video is being recording. At first, I found this disappointing because, for instance, if you're moving from a bright to dark location or otherwise moving the camera to subjects with different exposures, you'd better be using some form of auto-exposure mode and not full manual for fear of getting blown highlights or crushed shadows. However, the lack of adjustment isn't necessarily a bad thing, as you usually don't want visually jarring exposure changes or often-noisy button or dial sounds picked up by the recording. If you're shooting in a more controlled setting, simply lock the exposure down before recording and you're good to go. Otherwise, simply pop over to a different exposure mode with Auto ISO if you know you'll be shooting in varied lighting conditions.

In even, overcast lighting, the E-M10 shows an impressive amount of crisp detail and great colors, as seen in this frame-grab. Click for a full-res image, and watch the corresponding video below.
Daytime Sample Video
1,920 x 1,080, H.264, Progressive, 30 fps, Fine
Download Original (31.8MB MOV)

Okay, but how's the quality? The video quality was surprisingly good based on the handful of Full HD movies I shot. Compared to the very disappointing video quality of some Olympus cameras like the E-PL5 or E-PM2, Full HD .MOV files from the E-M10 are crisp and sharp, with a decent amount of fine detail for a compressed, down-sampled video. Dynamic range and colors are also very pleasing in good lighting, but high contrast scenes like those shot under very bright, direct sunlight can easily show blown highlights and very dark shadow areas.

The E-M10 also offers a couple of Motion JPEG video formats, and, frankly, I'm not sure why this option is even available in this current era. Not only are the .AVI filesizes larger than the higher resolution, Full HD .MOV files, -- the same 5-second clip in 720p MJPEG is larger than its H.264 1080p counterpart -- but the Motion JPEG videos show pretty heavy compression artifacts.

Though it might be hard to see even in the magnified crop from a video frame-grab above, Motion JPEG videos from the E-M10 display fairly severe compression artifacts.

Like many modern cameras nowadays, the Olympus E-M10 offers both full-time continuous autofocus in video recording, as well as single-shot AF and, of course, manual focusing. Full-time AF worked pretty well, and seemed average to better than average for a contrast-detect AF system -- not super-fast to re-focus, but very smooth, without any wobble or hunting. While the E-M10 can be a bit slow to re-focus when zooming, especially zooming to telephoto, adequate lighting and high contrast subjects are important factors. I experienced both relatively quick, smooth re-focusing when zooming, and a noticeable delay as the camera attempted to re-calculate the focus. When zooming, the AF area is being concentrated on a smaller subject area, which might have less contrast than the previously wider-angle scene did. Overall, however, nothing jumped out at me to indicate the E-M10 struggled with continuous AF while recording video.

Video & Still Image Capture. One of our reader questions concerned the behavior of taking still photos while recording video, and the quality of the resulting images. Like many cameras these days, the E-M10 lets you do just that, and it gives you two ways to accomplish the task. By default, "mode1" in the Movie+Photo Mode setting gives priority to video recording.

If you're okay with a much lower resolution (3200x1800 @ medium quality) image in a 16:9 aspect ratio and JPEG only, this method works very well. Video recording is not interrupted and the photo capture is completely silent, so as not to interfere with the video.

With "mode2" however, photo-taking is given priority, and a full-resolution image -- or whatever image size and quality setting you have selected (even RAW, if chosen) -- is captured, at the expense of interrupted video recording. The camera also re-focuses the image prior to taking the shot (mode1 does not refocus upon half-pressing the shutter button). There's also a fairly significant delay of a few seconds while the E-M10 writes the photo(s) to the memory card and then resumes recording video. It's definitely enough time to miss a moment. (I'd say to pick "mode1", if this were a concern to you.)

 

Olympus E-M10: Movie+Photo Mode Comparison
Photo Priority (aka "mode1")
16:9, 3200 x 1800 pixels
Video Priority (aka "mode2")
4:3, 3200 x 2400, Medium (Normal) Quality JPEG
Normal Still Photo
4:3, 3200 x 2400, Medium (Normal) Quality JPEG
Despite the Olympus manual stating that "Mode1" stills are considered medium resolution/normal quality images, you can see in the 100% crops above that the photos captured in Mode1 are still lower resolution than a typical Medium-quality JPEG image shot in "Mode2" or a regular photo.


Other Video Details. Beside the disappointing lack of a microphone jack (which is typically a deal-breaker for the more advanced videographers out there) and headphone jack, the audio recording half of the video equation is pretty standard and not bad at all. You have audio adjustments with +/-10 levels and a stereo VU meter (not available on-screen while recording though), as well as an adjustable wind filter.

There are some other quirks or omissions with video recording, such as a lack of focus peaking in Movie Mode, which is available in still shooting modes when manual focus is turned on, along with a 5x-10x magnification. In Movie Mode, you get neither. Like in the stills modes, you're also given the option to display a live histogram, and the same goes for Movie Mode, but it's turned off when recording, unfortunately.

The E-M10 also includes Olympus' standard batch of "Movie Effects" that include an array of picture settings and Art filters like Sepia, Watercolor and Toy Camera, plus a couple of goofy after-image and "art-fade" gimmicks. There's also a Movie Teleconverter that provides a kind of digital zoom. There are some limitations to these various effects, such as not being able to take stills in "mode1" while the effects are enabled, or use the Movie Teleconverter setting when using one of the Art filters. There's also a risk of the video frame rate dropping with heavy effects, even more so if you use a slow memory card (Class 6 or higher is recommended, according to Olympus).

The Wi-Fi features of the E-M10 are straightforward and easy to use, although some features like video recording control are unfortunately absent.

Wi-Fi. Wireless connectivity with your smart device using the OI Share app (iOS or Android) is fairly straightforward and the QR Code setup makes it even simpler in that you don't have to manually enter the camera's Wi-Fi password. For iOS, at least, scanning the codes lets you install a custom settings profile that makes this initial connection and any subsequent one a password-less affair -- simply tap on the camera's Wi-Fi network on your smart device and you're done. Once connected, simply return to the app and it's ready to go.

Using the QR code and built-in reader with the OI Share app, you can quick connect to the camera's Wi-Fi access point without manually entering the password.

With the app, you can trigger the shutter remotely, transfer images, geotag images, and edit photos from your camera roll or gallery for some reason -- I guess they want you to transfer photos first, save them to your camera's storage, then re-access them via the app. Pretty clunky. Snapping photos, though, is practically instantaneous and worked great, however I wish there was video recording control with the app. You can, however, transfer over videos from the camera to your smart device for viewing or sharing.

By default, the OI Share app is in "Remote Shutter" mode, which provides a simple remote shutter release. At first, I was not aware that live view control and other advanced functions like changing exposure settings and tapping the screen to adjust focus were available. In order to enable these features, you'll need to visit the Remote Control settings and change to "Live View" mode. [Editor's Note: Thanks to reader "t-funk" for pointing out my omission of the Live View functions of the Wi-Fi app.]

Geo-tagging takes a few steps, but since it uses your smart device's GPS, it's more reliable than some built-in GPS systems that need direct line-of-sight with clear open skies to get a proper signal. The app does the heavy-lifting with logging your location, and then you either snap photos with the camera or using the remote, then send the GPS data over to the camera for embedding into a batch of photos' metadata.

AF speed:  E-M10 vs. E-M5. One of our readers, Alejandro, asked about the autofocus performance of the E-M10 compared to the E-M5. Given that both of these cameras share similar contrast-detect AF systems, I expected the performance to be quite evenly matched. Taking both cameras out for a quick side-by-side test, sure enough, both cameras were able to focus very quickly -- both indoor and out -- in single-area AF mode with a 12mm f/2 Olympus lens (which we here at IR HQ happen to have two copies of). Our lab tests confirm that these two cameras focus atmore or less the same speed, with the Single-area AF mode taking 0.234 seconds on the E-M10 and 0.277 seconds on the E-M5 (although different kit lenses were used for these tests). Overall, the other AF tests we ran were all very comparable to the E-M5, but not as fast as the hybrid, phase-detect-including E-M1.



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