Bang for the Buck: Olympus OM-D E-M10 II Review
Shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II
By Jordan Stead
I’m a longtime user and abuser of rugged, pro-level SLRs in photojournalistic situations. While I appreciate outstanding image quality and nifty features, the areas I care about the most in terms of the photographic tools I use fall into the category of real world practicality. Durability, reliability, battery life and ergonomics tend to be the most important features of the cameras I use professionally. Using the E-M10 II breaks new ground for me, as well as my shooting experience with Micro Four Thirds cameras.
For reference, all images below are JPEGs, with the camera set for Auto White Balance and 'Natural' Picture Mode.
Handling & Build Quality
The largely plastic body of the E-M10 II feels good in my hands, with a heft and build that feels more satisfactory than robust. I have fairly large hands (according to a couple of people in the DPR office) and I’m lucky if I can get four fingers on the righthand grip of the body, with my pinky finger bracing from the bottom. An optional ECG-3 grip adds extra vertical real estate as well as double the grip depth; I find that its addition changes the ergonomics or the better, immensely. Without it, those with larger hands might find the ergonomics a little cramped.
The top plate of the E-M10 II shows some welcome improvements to the original E-M10 II. The shutter button responds without a wobble. The two main dials have been increased in height, their sides now sporting a grippy engraving for adjustment. The power button, previously located on the lower right corner of the back of the E-M10, now inhabits the entire left side of the top plate on the E-M10 II. The image playback button replaces it, leaving only the lonely 'Function 1' button in a semi-awkward spot on top of the thumb rest. If you decide to program the 'Function 1' button for back button autofocus, you will find your thumb throwing off the balance of the camera, especially if shooting one-handed. From a responsiveness standpoint, the E-M10 II just feels snappy to use, from startup time to settings adjustment on the fly. Moving through the extensive menus and zooming into 100% image sharpness when reviewing pictures is a breeze.
ISO 1600, 1/3200 sec, F4, 90mm equiv. Photo: Jordan Stead
Fine details begin to get mushy around ISO 1600, but sharpness is well-preserved and most definitely useable.
As far as the stock camera strap goes: replace it as soon as possible. The fabric feels greasy and tends to slip off my shoulder more than it stays on.
The E-M10 II’s straightforward button layout is juxtaposed with a myriad of customization options found in the menus. In keeping with Olympus PEN and OM-series tradition, almost every button on the E-M10 II’s body can be reprogrammed. Should they stray into these menus, beginner users or Olympus first-timers may find themselves quickly lost in endless customization options. Thankfully, the E-M10 II’s articulating touchscreen allows for access to a shortcut menu for frequently altered settings.
The extent of the options provided is thoughtful on the part of Olympus, but it’s hard to imagine most users at this level would delve into the deepest depths of the E-M10 II’s menus. We suspect that many will opt for a semi-manual operation (Aperture/Shutter priority) and the ease of Auto ISO (though we wish Auto ISO were programmable and less simplistic). For extra bells and whistles: the features you need are there - the task is just to find them.
Coming from years of photojournalism fieldwork using only pro-grade SLR cameras, I've found the Olympus E-M10 II to be a fun - although sometimes overly-complicated - photographic tool. My current 'off work' camera, a Fuji X100S, serves the same purpose as that of the Olympus at my side: an extension of my eye, with point-and-shoot portability and many SLR quality features. I appreciate the improvement to detail in the knobs and buttons on the E-M10 II. Usually, my discomfort with Micro Four Thirds or mirrorless cameras comes from the downsized nature of critical controls, but on the E-M10 II, I feel largely at home - especially with the added grip. After poring through the 16 major menus (!) and consulting with Olympus-savvy colleagues at DPReview.com, my all-purpose, must-have settings were in place.
The E-M10 II's 8.5 frames per second shooting speed, coupled with the rapid acquisition of subjects on single shot autofocus mode (especially when facial recognition is engaged), are enjoyable and effective. Big plus: the silent 'Sequential' mode is truly silent, even when shooting at the camera's maximum frame-rate. Not a peep to disturb a candid subject. (Do note that if you're using the electronic first curtain mode that the frame rate tops out at 4 fps.)
The lightning-fast refresh of the 100% OLED viewfinder (upped in resolution to an approximate 2.36 million dots compared to the original E-M10) makes me forget about the optical ones in my SLRs and X100S, when shooting in single drive, anyhow.
As a seasoned DSLR user I didn't expect to get much use from the E-M10 II's 3" tilting rear screen, but I've actually found myself using it a lot. A newly designed iteration of 5-axis sensor shift image stabilization keeps even handheld exposures of 0.3 seconds sharp and useable. Over the course of several long bike rides, the E-M10 II accompanied me, slung around my body. The lightweight and compact form factor make it a welcome companion. The slippery stock strap, as mentioned, is not. Overall, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy such a different photographic tool than what I normally shoot with, Fujifilm X100S included. The E-M10 II may overwhelm beginners with its extensive feature set, but overall, the shooting experience is a well-rounded good time.
Continue on to page 2 of our shooting experience to read more about our experiences with autofocus.
Feb 24, 2016
Aug 9, 2016
Jun 14, 2016
May 25, 2016
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