Olympus OM-D E-M10 Review
Conclusion - Pros
- E-M5 image quality in smaller, lighter body
- Built-in dual-axis level gauge
- In-body IS works with all lenses
- Dual control wheels and customizable buttons
- Wi-Fi connectivity and remote shooting
- Tilting LCD useful for video and tripod work
- Raw files offer a good deal of latitude for post-processing
- Wealth of in-camera features for creative experimentation including Live Composite and Art Filters
- Quick auto focus and overall responsiveness
- Built-in EVF automatically gains and dims depending on situation
- Touch screen adds a useful level of control over AF and settings
- Built-in flash offers wireless flash control
Conclusion - Cons
- Default JPEG processing tends to muddy fine detail at ISO 3200 and above
- Useful interface features hidden at default
- Video quality is mediocre as details are somewhat soft
- Can't combine histogram, highlight/shadow warnings etc. on the same display mode
- Grip is a bit shallow and many users may want to add accessory
- Rear command dial slightly out of thumb's reach and awkward to use with Fn2 button
- Awkwardly-placed on/off switch
- Memory card slot on bottom panel is blocked with use of tripod plate
The E-M10 very much feels more like a third generation OM-D model than a step-down from its two brothers. It borrows many qualities we liked from both of them and presents them in a slightly smaller, lighter package. The buttons are easier to press than the E-M5's, and despite some minor gripes about the top panel controls, the E-M10 handles overall better than its sibling. In fact, the only crucial difference between the two is the E-M10's lack of weather-proofing, and that's not likely to be a significant drawback for a lot of potential owners. It also doesn't hurt the cause that the E-M10 is cheaper at introduction than both OM-D models that came before it.
Looking beyond Olympus' offerings, the E-M10 occupies a space in the upper-entry-level ILC tier. It's priced in the neighborhood of the Nikon D5300, Canon T5i, Fujifilm X-M1 and Sony a6000. In that category it offers a slightly smaller Four Thirds sensor with 16 megapixels, with the 24 megapixel APS-C D5300 and a6000 tipping the scale at the other end of the class. The Fujifilm X-M1 lacks a built-in EVF, but boasts some of the best high ISO image quality in the mirrorless class.
The E-M10 faces some intense competition. Choosing an entry-level DSLR like the D5300 and T5i gets you more resolution and slightly better low light performance, but the E-M10 keeps the image quality gap impressively slim in terms of dynamic range and noise. There's also the obvious size tradeoff in opting for a DSLR - you'll be carrying a significantly larger camera with significantly larger lenses.
Though the Fujifilm X-M1 is hard to argue with in terms of image quality, it doesn't match the E-M10 for built-in features, including a touch screen and EVF. Another potential advantage to the E-M10 here is its lens mount - it has an impressive selection of lenses dedicated to its sensor format, many of which are comparatively affordable. A lineup of fast primes including the 45mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8, and Panasonic 20mm F1.7 go a long way to offsetting some of the disadvantages to a smaller sensor.
For its upper-entry-level ILC positioning, the E-M10 offers an impressive level of direct control. Twin command dials and two customizable function buttons are just the tip of the iceberg - in true Olympus fashion, just about any button or dial on the camera can be customized.
There are also a number of little features here and there that make the E-M10 that much more pleasant to use, like the in-EVF level gauge on shutter half-press. The downside of Olympus constantly adding little features and modifications is that its cameras have become almost unbelievably complicated, and the E-M10 is no exception. While it's great that Olympus doesn't restrict the software on its less expensive cameras, just to create a reason to make you buy the more expensive one, we do worry that the target audience will struggle to get the most out of this camera, as a result of this complexity.
Overall, the camera is very responsive. Auto focus is fast and reliable, camera menus are easily navigated and the touch screen adds one more interface option when the Super Control Panel is in use.
With the same imaging components as its siblings, it came as no surprise that the E-M10 is capable of producing very nice images. JPEG default sharpening is a bit strong, and around ISO 3200 noise reduction starts to muddy fine detail. In good light at low-to-moderate ISO the E-M10 produces pleasantly sharp and clean JPEGs that rival the performance of entry-level DSLRs.
As ISO climbs and light levels fade the E-M10 turns over a slight advantage to its competitors with bigger and higher resolution sensors. Olympus' Raw files provide a good deal of latitude for post-processing, which closes the gap a bit.
We were also pleased to find that, in our testing, the E-M10 did not prove to be susceptible to the shutter shock we saw from the PEN E-P5 - so the image quality is more consistently available.
The final word
The E-M10 is truly an impressive little camera. It holds its own against entry-level DSLRs in terms of image quality and handling, and beats them all in terms of direct control. Beyond the core photographic tools, the E-M10 is brimming with extras: Wi-Fi that makes it easy to share images with your friends, time-lapse with video creation, Time exposure mode with live updates for judging progress, multi-exposure mode, lashings of Art Filters and one of the most comprehensive in-camera Raw re-processing systems. It's hard to imagine many people using all of these features (and surely a great many won't use any of them), but you only need to latch onto one of them for it to make the camera indispensable.
The E-M5 remains a truly impressive camera, but the improved feel of the control layout in the E-M10 and additions like Wi-Fi make this camera feel more like an un-weather-sealed E-M5 replacement, rather than a lower-end model. Those considering the E-M5 at this point should take a serious look at the E-M10 - if weather-sealing isn't absolutely necessary, then we're inclined to pick this one over the E-M5.
During the home stretch of the review I took the Canon T5i out for a quick spin for an hour or so. I was reminded what a good camera it is - reliable, unfussy, and straightforward to use. But I was also reminded of all the little ways the E-M10 goes the extra mile in terms of handling. I missed the E-M10's direct access to AF point. I missed its second control dial when I needed to make a quick exposure adjustment. And when I wanted to transfer an image I'd shot on the T5i to my smartphone, I missed the E-M10's connectivity. Later, I put the SD card in the E-M10 and got it on my phone that way. The experience drove home for me everything that the E-M10 does just a little bit better than a perfectly capable entry-level DSLR.
For some, trading up to a slightly larger camera with a bigger sensor and higher pixel count will be worthwhile. But there are many photographers who would find the E-M10 a better fit in many ways, especially those willing to invest a little time initially digging through menus.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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Olympus OM-D E-M10
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 is positioned as the entry-level OM-D camera, though it's just as capable in most ways as its more advanced siblings. It borrows the E-M5's impressive imaging capabilities, without the weatherproofing, and adds built-in Wi-Fi. The E-M10 offers an impressive level of direct control in a camera body that's light and compact.
- Olympus OM-D E-M5 Review
- User Guide: Getting the most out of the Olympus E-M5
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review
- Nikon D5300 Review
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