Olympus OM-D E-M10 review: Olympus' E-M10 offers a good mirrorless alternative to a first dSLR

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The only problem with the camera's design is the shallow grip. Sarah Tew/CNET

The top of the camera can look a little cluttered and intimidating, but the inclusion of front and back dials really helps when shooting anything but full auto. The mode dial includes the usual manual, semimanual and automatic modes plus a movie mode that adds some manual controls, Olympus' Photo Story mode (which automatically collages selected photos), and its Art Filter mode. That latter remains one of the better implementations I've seen, offering several options for each filter as well as the ability to shoot one scene and have the camera automatically apply every filter. It also has Olympus' highlight/shadow curve button for adjusting curves rather than just shifting the overall exposure; that doubles as a programmable function button.

If you buy the kit with the new power zoom lens, I really suggest to spring for the optional Auto Open Lens Cap. While it's annoying that it costs extra, it's a lot more convenient than easily-lost lens caps.

14-42mm power zoom lens
The new, compact power zoom kit lens is a good match for the E-M10. Sarah Tew/CNET

Nikon 1 V2 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Sony Alpha ILCE-6000 (A6000)
Sensor (effective resolution) 14.2MP CMOS
12 bits
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
n/a
Sensor size 13.2mm x 8.8mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.5 x 15.6mm
Focal- length multiplier 2.7x 2.0x 2.0x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 160 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 (exp)/ 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Burst shooting 5fps (mechanical shutter)
(60fps with fixed focus, electronic shutter)
3.5fps
unlimited JPEG/20 raw
(8fps with fixed focus and exposure)
4fps
17 JPEG/11 raw
(9fps with fixed focus, exposure and WB)
11fps
n/a
Viewfinder 0.5-inch EVF
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
n/a
EVF
n/a-inch
1.44m dots
100% coverage
1.01x - 1.15x/0.5 - 0.58x
EVF
n/a-inch
1.44m dots
100% coverage
1.15x/0.58x
OLED EVF
0.4-inch
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.07x/ 0.71x
Autofocus 41-point phase detection, 135-area contrast AF 81-area contrast AF 35-area contrast AF 175-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a n/a n/a 0 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 30 - 1/4,000 (mechanical); 1/16,000 sec (electronic); bulb; 1/60 x-sync (mechanical); 1/250 x-sync (electronic) 60 - 1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (flash-dependent) 60 - 1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (flash-dependent) 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering n/a 324 area 324 area 1,200 zones
Metering range n/a -2 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Flash Yes Yes Included add-on Yes
Wireless flash No Yes Yes Yes
Image stabilization Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift Optical
Best video 1080/60i/30p H.264 MOV 1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV
(22 mins)
1080/60i QuickTime MOV @ 20, 17Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic (via accessory shoe)
LCD size 3-inch fixed
920,000 dots
3-inch tilting touchscreen
1.04 million dots
3-inch tilting touchscreen OLED
614,000 dots
3-inch tilting touchscreen
921,600 dots
Wireless None Wi-Fi None Wi-Fi, NFC
Battery life (CIPA rating) 310 shots 320 shots 330 shots 420 shots
Dimensions (WHD) 4.2 x 3.2 x 1.8 in
107.8 x 81.6 x 45.9 mm
4.7 x 3.2 x 1.8 in
119.1 x 82.3 x 45.9 mm
4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 in
121.9 x 88.9 x 43.2 mm
4.8 x 2.9 x 1.8 in
120 x 67 x 45 mm
Body operating weight 9.8 oz (est)
278 g (est)
14.0 oz
404 g
15.1 oz
428.1 g
12.1 oz (est)
343.0 g (est)
Mfr. price $749.95 (body only) $699 (body only) $799.99 (body only) n/a
$849.95 (with 10-30mm lens) $799 (with 14-42mm PZ lens) $899.99 (with 14-42mm lens) $799.99 (with 15-60mm PZ lens)
$999.95 (with 10-30 and 30-110mm lenses) n/a $999.99 (with 12-50mm lens) n/a
Ship date November 2012 March 2014 April 2012 April 2014

In addition to stuff I've already mentioned, the E-M10 has a lot of useful features, including time lapse and auto HDR, along with Olympus' nice set of in-camera effects. Like most low-end time-lapse implementations it's limited to 99 shots and 3 frames/1 EV for bracketing, though if you use the auto HDR it can combine up to 7 frames/2EV or 5 frames/3EV. There's a new high-speed mode for the viewfinder that drops the resolution in exchange for a faster refresh rate as well. It seems to automatically down-res during continuous-shooting if turned on, which is disorienting at first but nice to have.

The Wi-Fi implementation is quite well-done, though not without its problems. Instead of near-field communication (NFC), the app scans a barcode that appears on the camera and automatically configures the connection; basically, it saves you from having to enter a passcode on setup. The drawback is that this method requires that you manually switch Wi-Fi connections in the phone's settings each time you want to connect. On the other hand, iOS devices don't support NFC anyway, so only Android folks lose some convenience.

Olympus offers one of the better apps, on both Android and iOS (sorry Windows Phoners). It supplies full live-view remote control -- including zoom if you have the power zoom lens -- for all the settings on the mode dial; the ability to browse and download images from the camera; image editing; and geotagging. As far I could tell, however, you can't change the metering setting remotely. PSA: On Android I did run into a conflict with LastPass (here's the fix) and some phone-based annoyances (I'm not sure if it's HTC Sense or Android) related to connecting to a Wi-Fi access point that doesn't have Internet access -- like a camera. But it still works.

For a complete accounting of its features and operation, download the E-M10's manual.

Conclusion

(A note on the rating: The image quality and performance subratings fall squarely between 7 and 8, so I calculated the overall rating as if those subratings were 7.5 each.)

Unless you need the weather sealing, extra-power image stabilization, or the microphone input of the E-M5, the E-M10 is probably a better deal; it's cheaper, delivers better performance and comparable photo and video quality, and has a broader feature set which includes a built-in flash, 1080/30p video, better LCD and built-in Wi-Fi. If Olympus drops the E-M5's price again -- which it probably will when it finally decides to kill that model -- it would end up a great deal at, say, $499 for a kit if it ever drops that much.

The E-M10 also makes a nice alternative to a dSLR if you want something significantly more compact. It just can't match a camera like the less-expensive Nikon D3300 for low-light photo quality -- the D3300's larger sensor really does confer an advantage there -- or for continuous-shooting performance. On the other hand, it does have a broader feature set than most entry-level dSLRs and for people upgrading from a point-and-shoot the electronic viewfinder and fast shooting with the back display will probably feel more natural.

Typical continuous-shooting speed (frames per second)

Olympus OM-D E-M1
6.5
Nikon D3300
5.1
Sony Alpha NEX-6
3.5
Olympus OM-D E-M10
3.3
Olympus OM-D E-M5
N/A

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Shooting speed

Nikon D3300
0.4
0.6
0.2
0.2
0.5
Olympus OM-D E-M5
0.3
0.5
0.5
0.6
1.1
Sony Alpha NEX-6
0.2
0.5
0.2
0.2
2
Olympus OM-D E-M10
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.4
1.3
Olympus OM-D E-M1
0.2
0.2
0.2
0.2
0.8

Legend:

Shutter lag (typical)
Shutter lag (dim light)
JPEG shot-to-shot time
Raw shot-to-shot time
Time to first shot

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type Live MOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (5-axis image sensor shift mechanism)
  • Optical Sensor Size 4/3"