Shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M10

By Allison Johnson

The E-M10 and 14-42mm power zoom (used to capture all of the sample images below) strike a lovely combination of portability and capability for me. This is, in a lot of ways, just as much camera as an upper-entry-level DSLR in a smaller, lighter and more responsive package. Where the E-M1 felt like a DSLR in Micro Four Thirds clothing, the E-M10 offers a similar level of control in a body that's only a little bigger than an enthusiast compact.

Handling

By design, the E-M10 doesn't offer the deep, sculpted handgrip that the DSLR-shaped E-M1 does, so naturally it handles a bit differently. Still, I find myself wishing for a slightly steeper grip occasionally. Olympus engineers are one step ahead of me, since an optional grip is sold for the E-M10 to combat exactly this issue.

I also found the rear command dial slightly awkward to use on occasion. With the camera balanced in my right hand, it's just out of my thumb's reach, requiring an extra moment of re-positioning. This also makes it difficult to change the task of the Fn2 button when it's in Multi-Function mode, which requires pressing and holding the button while turning the rear command dial. This issue hasn't bothered me much in real world shooting, since the front command dial is easily accessed.

Aside from minor irritations with the grip and the rear dial, I have very little to complain about using the E-M10. It's endlessly customizable, so it benefits from some legwork up front, but the result is a camera that feels tailored to your needs, even a little bit thoughtful.

For example, you can customize it to show a horizontal level gauge in the EVF on a half-press of the shutter button. This is on by default, but confusingly you won't see it unless you switch to EVF 'Style' 1 or 2 - Style 3, enabled out-of-the-box, simply mirrors the current info screen on the camera's rear LCD. As a notorious crooked-horizon-shooter, a level gauge on half-shutter press has been tremendously helpful - it just took a little work to find it.

Aside from being endlessly customizable, the camera is also incredibly responsive. Auto focus is very fast in good light and slows only a little in dim light. The Super Control Panel (again hidden by default) is easily navigated by touch or command dials, the touch screen makes quick work of selecting a focus target when necessary, and a couple of function buttons make it easy to keep frequently-accessed controls at your fingertips.

This image is brought to you crooked-horizon-free by built-in level gauges.

Features

The E-M10's hardware collection is equally impressive. Coming from several weeks of non-stop DSLR shooting, I nearly forgot about the E-M10's LCD the first time I took the camera out, relying solely on the camera's EVF for composition. That says a lot about this viewfinder - and indeed it's a pleasure to use. It's large, and automatically gains in bright light for a more OVF-style experience. It's not the most detailed viewfinder I've used, but while out for an afternoon of shooting it was good enough that I forgot I was using it.

The E-M10's tilting LCD also comes in handy for composing from unconventional or awkward angles. It's nice to know that when I want to use the monitor's tilting capabilities, auto focus will perform just as quickly and capably as it is in normal use. On a DSLR that's slow to focus in live view, a tilting LCD is nice to have but only goes so far in stills shooting.

I certainly wouldn't use the tilt-out screen to compose a shot while holding the camera out an eleventh-story window, because that would be reckless. But if I did that, I might be able to get a shot like this.

The more I encounter cameras with built-in Wi-Fi, the more I've come to value it as a feature. In several weeks of shooting I've used the E-M10's connectivity at least a dozen times to transfer images to my smartphone, something it does quickly and reliably. Knowing I can share good quality photos instantly with family back home (something I don't remember to do often enough) is just one more compelling reason to keep the camera at my side.

And lest we forget, Olympus gave us the Art Filter, and continues to offer innovative in-camera effects and modes. Live Composite, new to the E-M10, is a clever new mode for long exposure photography that shows a live preview of the exposure as light trails build up on the screen.

Created using Live Composite, converted Raw file from ACR with tweaks to noise reduction.

Most E-M10 owners may never use it (or even find the feature), but for others it will be truly useful and fun. I found it really enjoyable to use, and another way that the E-M10 feels approachable. For a more detailed explanation of how it works, visit the features page of this review.

Like its OM-D and PEN peers, the E-M10 needs some tweaking out of the box to get it configured just right, and even then a user might find him or herself stumbling across new settings well after the getting-to-know-you part of camera ownership. Overall it feels like an E-M1 Light - in both the literal and metaphorical sense. It's a little less weight to carry, a little more space in my bag saved. Some features have been cut down (though not many, considering the price difference) but what's left feels like an incredibly fun and responsive device, a little more than you'd expect from a casual go-everywhere camera, pushing on towards semi-pro territory.