V1/V2 vs OM-D E-M10 (take 2)

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Photo Pete
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V1/V2 vs OM-D E-M10 (take 2)
8 months ago

I had promised in my response to another forum thread to provide a comparison between the Nikon V1/V2 and the new Olympus OM-D EM10, given that a number of forum users are considering both brands of camera.

I will precede my comments below by stating that I have decided to keep the Olympus rather than the V1/V2s that I have been using for the past couple of years. Other than for frame rate and fast action shooting I believe that the Olympus provides the better photographic solution for day to day shooting and that it better emulates the functionality of a dSLR in a miniature package. However, both systems are very capable and I wouldn’t be considering the Olympus if Nikon hadn’t goofed with the V3 EVF, flash and pricing, which has lost my confidence in the direction of future Nikon 1 V series cameras.

I will also come clean and admit that I had posted another thread in which my conclusion was to retain the V2 in preference to the EM10. The reasons I gave in that thread with regard to performance are still valid, but I have now had more time to spend with the EM10 and more time to customize the settings and work with the files. My view has changed, no doubt assisted by my continued disappointment with the V3 announcement.

Ergonomics and Build

The size of the two cameras and lenses are so similar as to be not worthy of comment. The V2 remains smaller than the EM10 with longer telephoto lenses attached, but not by any significant margin.

Both cameras are well built. The EM10 ‘feels’ slightly heavier and more robust and the dials and buttons feel more purposeful than those of the V2. However, in my opinion the V2 is the more ergonomically comfy camera to handle. The EM10 is a little too sharp cornered and angular to be a truly comfortable hold. It isn’t a major problem, just that the V2 feels more comfortable in the hand.

Controls

The EM10 has a better control layout. Two dedicated function buttons and the movie record button can be customised to a wide range of functions. The four way controller can also be assigned a number of options. Other items which require access can generally be found easily to hand on the ‘super control panel’. This is a display screen which lays out all of the key shooting settings on one page so that they may be accessed or changed using the four way controller or the touch screen. The ease of access to the multiple functions, once configured to your own preference, make the camera a real joy to use. Don't be put off (as I was at first) by the complexity of the initial control customisation.

One other main difference with the control layout is that the EM10 keeps all the button controls on the right hand side of the rear screen, just like on the V1. I could never work out why Nikon chose to move buttons to the left hand side of the screen on the V2. This might work on their larger DSLRs, but they become virtually impossible to use with the camera up to your eye on a camera as small as the V2.

The EM10 also has custom menu sets which make recalling banks of settings for different shooting scenarios a very simple task. These are proper custom menus which retain their settings (unlike the soft custom menus of the Nikon DSLRs)

Functions and Features

The EM10 has a whole raft of features, modes and scene modes. Most reviews tend to treat this as a plus point, but my own view is that most of these features and modes are unnecessary and can get in the way of the camera when in use. Why would I want to carry out in-camera HDR when I can get better results in post processing? Why does an enthusiast camera need art filters which again can be applied much more successfully in post processing?

The good news is that the control system of the EM10 is laid out in such a way that the additional features just don’t get in the way, but remain at hand if you want to use them.

The features of real note that differentiate between the EM10 and V2 are as follows:-

Video – The V2 is by far the better option here. The PDAF focussing gives smoother video performance and the option to take 400fps or 1200fps slow motion video is a nice bonus for the V2.

The EM10, however, has bracketing, time-lapse (with cumulative live view), tilting rear screen and wi-fi. The wi-fi in itself is a lovely feature, permitting wireless control of the camera and upload of images onto a smartphone or tablet.

Viewfinder and Image Review

Both viewfinders are very smooth in good light. In low light the V2 viewfinder image appears smoother than that of the EM10, which appears to become slightly jerkier (perhaps slowing down the refresh rate in low light?). The V2 viewfinder image is, however, more noisy and grainy in low light.

The displayed information in the EM10 viewfinder can be customized and includes electronic levels and histograms, giving a more informative view.

The image review of the EM10 can be turned off, just as with the V2. Users on this forum know only too well that this is not also the case with the V1.

One real annoyance I have had with the V2 is the lag between altering menu settings and the viewfinder refreshing to display the shooting settings again. The EM10 has no such lag and this makes the camera feel substantially quicker to use that the V2.

An omission from the V1 and V2 was the ability to switch between images whilst zoomed in when reviewing them. With the EM10 this is possible.

The touch screen of the EM10 also makes image review, scrolling and zooming a much easier task, similar to viewing images on a smartphone.

Focus

There is virtually no discernable difference in speed of autofocus acquisition between the V2 and EM10. Both are extremely quick in reasonable light and slow down to a similar degree in low light.

Continuous autofocus and focus tracking is a different matter and the V2 is substantially better. Whilst the EM10 gives a relatively high success rate for more sedately or predictably moving subjects (walkers, joggers, vehicles moving in a straight and predictable line) it visibly hunts back and forth continuously in AF-C mode and tracking is a very hit and miss affair for anything that is not moving relatively slowly or predictably. I have tried shooting junior football matches with both cameras and the EM10 is not the sort of camera you want to use for that scenario. Of course you can use it and have some success – many years ago we used to use manual focus for sports - but the V2 will provide a vastly greater keeper rate.

However, the implementation and user control of the focus system strongly favours the EM10. With the V2 you have to select tracking mode, press the centre button of the rear controller to activate tracking and then press the shutter button to activate autofocus. Should you wish to stop tracking you need to use a separate AF lock button or re-centre the AF point using the centre button of the rear controller. The whole implementation is rather clunky. The EM10 however allows you to use one of the function buttons as an AF-On button and to decouple focus from the shutter button, just as is the case with the upper range Nikon DSLRs. The system works excellently and makes triggering continuous or tracking AF or locking focus (to permit focus and re-compose) a very simple process. It is also possible to dedicate a separate function button to switch to AF-S with manual override (with focus peaking), activated by using the lens focus ring.

The usability and flexibility of setting up the focus system to be controlled in the way you want it to be controlled cannot be understated. So much so that after customising the camera I believe that the EM10 focus system is more useable than that of the V2 for anything other than erratic or fast moving action shots.

Buffer and Continuous Shooting

The V2 is the better option here by a long, long margin. The EM10 has 3.5fps with autofocus and can sustain that for about 10-15 RAW frames before slowing down. It can achieve 8fps with focus locked on the first exposure. The V2 can just blow this away with 15fps with autofocus or up to 60fps with focus locked on the first exposure.

Shutter and Image Stabilisation

The EM10 only has a mechanical shutter and the tactile vibration from this is noticeable when holding the camera. It is audibly about a loud as the mechanical shutter on the V2, but has a longer klunk-unk sound. Since my first comparison post between the two cameras I have been unable to find any discernable trace of shutter shock from the EM10 shutter at any shutter speed whilst handholding the camera. I have shown in another post, however, that the V1 and V2 can exhibit shutter shock at around 1/160 second when using VR and mechanical shutter. This can obviously be overcome by using the V1 / V2 electronic shutter if required, which also gives totally silent shooting which the EM10 cannot achieve.

Image stabilisation on the EM10 appears about as effective as that on the V2 (with 30-110mm lens). I can achieve about a 3 stop improvement with either.

Exposure and White Balance

Automated exposure for both cameras is generally pretty reliable. The EM10 appears to expose slightly more to the left than the V2 which helps preserve highlights and makes a little bit more use of its greater dynamic range should you wish to brighten the images in post processing. I would call both systems fairly equal here.

Where the EM10 again trumps the V2 is that it permits the display of a live histogram whilst shooting.

When using Programme or Aperture Priority mode with Auto ISO the V1 and V2 have the tendency to drop the shutter speed to very low levels (1/15sec or 1/30sec) before raising ISO. This can result in motion blur for many point and shoot scenarios. The EM10 tends to treat 1/’(35mm equivalent focal length)’ as the minimum shutter speed before raising ISO, much as per the latest Nikon DSLR implementation of Auto ISO.

Auto white balance for the EM10 and V2 is extremely good and much better than with my Nikon DSLRs. Nothing to worry about with either camera.

Flash

The EM10 wins out with regard to flash functionality. It is compatible with standard flash units and the in-built flash can be used as a wireless commander unit.

One oddity that I’ve noticed with the EM10 is that the flash exposures appear to be weighted towards fill-in flash, with the exposures being some 1 to 1.5 stops too dark when the flash is used as the main or only source of light. This isn’t really an issue as you can leave flash exposure compensation set to +1.3 to compensate if you are using the flash regularly as the main light source.

Another difference between the in-built flashes in the V2 and EM10 is in their operation with Auto ISO set. With Auto ISO the V2 picks the ISO required for the ambient light exposure, the EM10 picks the lowest ISO required to achieve correct flash exposure (setting ISO 200 and increasing only if the flash power isn’t strong enough for correct exposure). Personally I favour the EM10 approach here, but both are equally valid depending on your own point of view.

Image Quality

In terms of noise and detail the EM10 is better than the V2 by just less than 1 stop if processing from RAW. In terms of dynamic range and colour reproduction the advantage to the EM10 appears to be closer to 1.5 stops at high ISO when processing from RAW. I’m sure these don’t coincide with DXOs figures, but that is what I’m finding when working with the files… not a scientific test, but probably more practical in a real world scenario!

So there we have it. Hopefully the above will be of use to some of you. There isn't much between the cameras really, but Nikon has lost my faith in where the 1 system is heading whilst Olympus and micro 4/3s seem to be sailing in the direction I want to go. I know where I want to invest my money (and less of it than for the equivalent Nikon 1 system!!!)

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Photo Pete

Nikon 1 V1 Nikon 1 V2 Nikon 1 V3 Olympus E-M1 Olympus OM-D E-M10
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