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Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II review: Small and powerful, the E-M10 M2 may deter you from dirt-cheap dSLR

Olympus' entry-level interchangeable-lens camera hits the bullseye in many aspects for the enthusiast photographers it targets.

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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9 min read

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.

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8.0

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

The Good

The OM-D E-M10 Mark II offers some unique but useful features in a smaller-than-a-dSLR design.

The Bad

The grip could be bigger and its continuous shooting can't keep up with the competition. Plus, you really need to read the manual unless you're running on full auto.

The Bottom Line

Attractive and compact, with a broad feature set, solid kids-and-vacation performance and nice photos, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a good choice for photographers on a budget who like to fiddle.

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.)

Image quality

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.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II full-resolution photo samples

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Analysis samples

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The EM10M2's good-light JPEGs look clean through ISO 800; by ISO 1600 you can start to see noise in detail and shadow areas.

Lori Grunin/CNET
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In ISO 3200 and higher JPEGs you can clearly see color noise and the smoothing caused by noise reduction.

Lori Grunin/CNET
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The camera has a decent tonal range, though there usually isn't a lot of detail to recover from blown out areas. The sky was one of the few exceptions I could find (top, original JPEG; bottom, exposure-adjusted from raw).

Lori Grunin/CNET
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Olympus defaults most of its cameras to a neutral color profile, and the EM10M2 measured extremely neutral in our tests.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Performance

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.

Shooting speed

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.7Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.2 0.7Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.3 1.3Nikon D5500 0.6 0.6 0.2 0.2 0.3
  • Shutter lag (typical)
  • Shutter lag (dim light)
  • Typical shot-to-shot time
  • Raw shot-to-shot time
  • Time to first shot
Note: Seconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)

Typical continuous-shooting speed

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II 10.3Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 6.5Nikon D5500 5.1Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II 4.2
Note: Frames per second with continuous AF/AE (longer bars indicate better performance)

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.

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The camera retains the 2 adjustment dials on the right shoulder, but they're more attractive than the ones on the original E-M10 and arranged in a slightly better way.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Now a power switch occupies the top left shoulder of the body; pushing beyond On pops up the flash. It's joined by a programmable function button which defaults to toggling the simulated optical-viewfinder function. When S-OVF is on, the viewfinder shows you the actual exposure; when it's off, it gains up so that you can more clearly see the scene, even if it's really dark. As with the other two function buttons, you can map its operation to myriad other settings.

On the right shoulder is a mode dial with the usual manual, semimanual and automatic modes, plus a dedicated movie mode, Photo Story (which automatically creates a collage from photos), and an effects mode with tons of attractive, configurable options. When in movie mode you gain access to a lot of touchscreen controls for operations like zooming (with the power zoom lens), exposure adjustments, special effects and so on.

The two adjacent adjustment dials vary operation by context, but unless you're a frequent user of exposure compensation, I suggest you reprogram the front dial; it defaults to that and I unvaryingly ended up changing exposure when I thought I was changing the aperture. Most cameras make you explicitly hit an exposure-compensation button before adjusting.

To their right are a flat and not terribly well-placed movie-record button and function button that defaults to a multifunction control -- it provides a choice among operations when you hold it down and scroll with a dial (something you'd never figure out without reading the manual). Among those are two unique-to-Olympus tools: curve adjustment, a nice feature which lets you manipulate the highlight and shadow sections of the tone curve for a sophisticated, persistent correction, and Color Creator, a hue/saturation adjustment tool with a unique and smart interface.

Behind those on the thumbgrip sits another function button. On the back right are the typical menu, info, delete and review buttons surrounding the four-way navigation pad -- those buttons can be mapped as well -- and an OK button which pulls up the screen with frequently used settings.

The back display tilts up to 90 degrees and angles down about 45 degrees. It's a fine display, though it has a 3:2 aspect ratio and the camera uses 4:3, so there are thin black bars down the sides into which the information overlay extends. The viewfinder is excellent, big and bright with the most useful overlays for maintaining camera level that I've seen, because they're huge and hard to miss.

However, the SD card slot -- in the battery compartment, natch -- feels a little tight. Every time I slide a card in it feels like something's going to break off.

As for features, the EM10M2 has a lot of them. It lacks 4K movie recording and the screen doesn't flip up for selfies, but otherwise it has a fairly impressive set for its price class. These include popular capabilities like time-lapse, focus bracketing, in-camera HDR and Wi-Fi connectivity with a powerful app.

The camera inherits some capabilities from other models in the lineup as well, such as 4K Time Lapse (it takes up to 999 shots and automatically creates a movie with frames in 3,840x2,160-pixel resolution); Live Bulb, for continuous preview of long-exposure shots; Live Time, which is essentially the same thing except for the way you control the length of the exposure; Live Composite, which takes multiple exposures of varying duration and combines them in such a way as to keep from blowing out brightly lit areas while still capturing dimmer lights, with continuous display of the cumulatively updated image; and the better video codec of the E-M5 Mark II (1080/60p at 52 megabits per second).

The E-M10M2's focus bracketing works more like focus stacking: you tell it how many shots you want, and it calculates the number of increments in which to change the focal point, starting at the first focus point and moving backwards, saving each shot. So, for instance, you can shoot with a wide aperture (for maximum light), pop the group of photos into Photoshop layers and use the Blend Layers tool (or other software) to create a sharp-everywhere version in minutes. Note that Panasonic this month announced a similar capability will be available in a firmware upgrade.

It also debuts -- at least in Olympus' ILC models -- the AF Targeting Pad capability. Basically, when you're using the viewfinder you can glide your finger on the back display to select an autofocus area. In practice, I found this lacked a precision feel; when I lift my finger off the desired area it always jumps to a neighboring block.

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

Conclusion

On one hand, I think the Panasonic Lumix G7 is overall a better camera in that general class -- somewhat better photo quality, 4K video, and generally faster performance elevate it -- and its 14-42mm kit can be found for a more palatable $600 (about £460-£550, AU$900). But the EM10M2 is more attractive and it does offer some of the aforementioned Olympus niceties that make it a compelling option for some people.

Comparative specifications

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 Sony Alpha A6000
Sensor effective resolution 16.1MP Live MOS 16.1MP Live MOS 16MP Live MOS 24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
Sensor size 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3 x 13mm 23.5 x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 2.0x 2.0x 2.0x 1.5x
OLPF Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Burst shooting 3.5fps
unlimited JPEG/20 raw
(8fps with focus fixed on first frame)
4fps
unlimited JPEG/raw
(8.5fps with focus and exposure fixed on the first frame and no IS)
6fps
100 JPEG/13 raw
(8fps with focus fixed on first frame; 40fps with electronic shutter)
11fps
49 JPEG/49 raw
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
EVF
100% coverage
1.44m dots
1.15x/0.6x
EVF
100% coverage
2.36m dots
1.08-1.23x/0.59-0.63x
OLED EVF
100% coverage
2.36m dots
1.4x/0.7x
OLED EVF
0.4 in/10 mm
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.07x/0.71x
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 81-area
Contrast AF
81-area
Contrast AF
49-area
DFD Contrast AF
179-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity n/a n/a -4 - 18 EV 0- 20 EV
Shutter speed 60-1/4,000 sec (1/16,000 sec electronic shutter); bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync (1/200 with external flash) 60-1/4,000 sec (1/16,000 sec electronic shutter); bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync (1/200 with external flash) 1/4,000 to 60 secs (up to 1/16,000 with electronic shutter); bulb to 2 minutes; 1/160 sec x-sync 30-1/4000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Shutter durability n/a n/a n/a n/a
Metering 324 area 324 area 1,728 zone 1,200 zone
Metering sensitivity -2 - 20 EV -2 - 20 EV 0 - 18 EV 0 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p @ 24Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p @ 77Mbps; 1080/60p @ 52Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV
UHD/30p, 25p, 24p @ 100Mbps; 1080/60p, 50p, 25p, 24p @ 28Mbps
AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps
Audio Stereo Stereo Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic (via accessory shoe)
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time per clip 29 minutes 29 minutes 29:59 mins 29 minutes
Clean HDMI out n/a Yes n/a n/a
IS Sensor shift
3 axis
Sensor shift
5 axis
Optical Optical
LCD 3-inch/7.5cm
Tilting touchscreen
1.04m dots
3-inch/7.5cm
Tilting touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in/7.5cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
3-inch/7.5cm
Flip-up touchscreen
921,600 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi, NFC
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash Yes Yes No No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 320 shots
(1,175 mAh)
320 shots
(1,175 mAh)
360 shots
(1,200mAh)
420 shots
(tk)
Size (WHD) 4.7 x 3.2 x 1.8 in
119.1 x 82.3 x 45.9 mm
4.7x3.3x1.8 in
120x83x47mm
4.9 x 3.4 x 3.1 in
124.9 x 86.2 x 77.4 mm
4.8 x 2.9 x 1.8 in
120 x 66.9 x 45.1 mm
Body operating weight 14 oz
404 g
14.1 oz
400 g
14.7 oz
418 g
11.6 oz
330 g
Primary kit
$875
£550 (est.)
AU$800 (est.)
(with 14-42mm EZ lens)
$750
£650
AU$1,000 (est.)
(with 14-42mm EZ lens)
$800
£540 (est.)
AU$1,000
(with 14-42mm lens)
$630 (est.)
£485 (est.)
AU$1,000 (est.)
(with 15-60mm PZ lens)
Release date March 2014 September 2015 June 2015 April 2014
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8.0

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Image quality 8
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