The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II joins the ranks of cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix G7 and Fujifilm X-T10 whose manufacturers hope to lure entry-level dSLR buyers away from bread-and-butter models like the Nikon D5500 and Canon EOS Rebel T5i/700D. And if you're willing to step off that well-worn path, the EM10M2 has a lot to offer that those cameras can't match, including a more compact, attractive design and a broad feature set that they technologically can't replicate. I don't think it's quite as good as the G7, but it offers some capabilities that make it a very competitive alternative.
The camera's currently priced at $750 (£650, AU$1,000) for the kit with the 14-42mm power zoom lens, though I expect that to drop as it gets a little older. At this price, it's on the expensive side relative to competitors.
(Note: As usual, Olympus buries the lowest-compression JPEG setting -- super fine -- in a menu section that's hidden by default and only mentioned in one place in the manual in a chart that nobody will look at, so it effectively doesn't exist. I did all my testing on the default large fine.)
Overall, the E-M10 Mark II's photo quality is quite good, and like most cameras in this segment, you can get much better results with a better lens than the bundled 14-42mm power-zoom kit lens. That's especially true at its widest, because there's a lot of image distortion all around the edges.
JPEGs are generally good up through ISO 800 and still usable up through about ISO 1600; by ISO 3200 they look smeary and soft, though depending upon the photos and your needs you could get away with them through the top of its sensitivity range, ISO 25600. Processing the raws delivers more detail starting at about ISO 1600, as well, though they're grainier because you're not gaining any tonal range out of it.
The colors are neutral and accurate -- it nailed some difficult reds and pear green/browns that most cameras don't get right, though red peppers in the JPEGs were slightly cool (and correct in the raw). But they're still pleasantly saturated.
The new sensor in the camera yields far less crunchy-looking images than from the original E-M10, though the in-focus areas have that slightly oversharpened look that I see a lot from the four-thirds sensors. And (unsurprisingly) you do get significantly sharper results -- which extends the usable ISO sensitivity range -- by using a better lens than the kit's.
The HD video isn't as sharp as the 4K video produced by the Panasonic Lumix G7, but it's sufficient for vacations, kids and the like. The edges crawl a bit and you can see noise in the shadow areas, but it's not bad.
The updated image stabilization system works well, steadying my shots down to at least 1/3 second.
With a few outliers, the EM10M2 performs quite well. With the power zoom kit lens it takes a long time to start up: 1.3 seconds. Its fast focus system, though, allows it to focus and shoot in 0.2-0.3 second in good and dim light, respectively (and the latter is rounded up from 0.25). It fares the same when shooting 2 sequential JPEG or raw shots as well. Adding flash recycle time into the mix bumps the time up to 1.7 seconds.
Although it can sustain its burst speed of 4.2 frames per second for more than 30 shots in either raw or JPEG -- with autofocus and autoexposure -- that's not quite as good as its competitors. And it stutters a bit as it adjusts focus and exposure. The good news is it has a very high hit rate of in-focus shots at that speed. If you turn off both as well as image stabilization, you can get that up to a rated 8.5fps; unfortunately, that's not really useful unless your sport is jumping rope.
The battery life is rated at 320 shots, but it did last substantially longer during testing.
Design and features
The EM10M2 is probably one of the more complicated -- and certainly more complicated looking -- interchangeable-lens model in its price class, though you can dumb it down if you're intimidated by all the features. If you're scared by buttons and dials, though, it's simpler sibling the E-PL7 is probably more your speed. You can use the camera without reading the manual, but you'll either end up cursing profusely, miss 75 percent of the features, or both.
The metal-with-faux-leather-accents body feels very sturdy and substantial, and despite the plethora of controls it remains an attractive design. As with many of the lower-end OM-D models, however, the grip feels too flat for comfortable single-handed shooting. That's in part because you have to grip it fairly tightly between the front and the more pronounced thumb grip, which frequently results in the side strap holder digging into your hand.