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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

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.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

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.)

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.

Analysis samples

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

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

Lori Grunin/CNET

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

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
0.7
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7
0.1
0.3
0.4
0.2
0.7
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
0.2
0.3
0.2
0.3
1.3
Nikon D5500
0.6
0.6
0.2
0.2
0.3

Legend:

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)

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