Olympus OM-D E-M10 $910
17th Mar 2014 | 16:07
A more affordable OM-D with most of the E-M5's features
Introduction and features
Olympus is hoping that the new OM-D E-M10 will find favor in the same way as the OM-10 did when it was launched way back in 1979.
Whereas the OM-10 was the first consumer-level camera in Olympus's OM series of SLRs, and went on to be a big hit and a popular choice for family photography, the Olympus E-M10 is the first consumer-level model in the highly respected OM-D series. It sits below the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Olympus OM-D EM-1 in the company's line-up of Micro Four Thirds compact system cameras.
For those unsure of the difference, the Olympus OM-D series distinguishes itself from the Pen series (Olympus Pen E-PM2, Pen E-PL5 and Pen E-P5) by its more SLR-like styling and the presence of a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF).
Many of the features found in the E-M10 are the same as in the Olympus E-M5, the original OM-D – the Four Thirds type (17.3x13mm) 16.1-million-pixel LiveMOS sensor and 1,440,000-dot electronic viewfinder, for example.
This means that unlike the E-M1's sensor there is an optical low-pass filter present. However, rather than using the TruePic VI engine of the E-M5, Olympus has used the TruPic VII processor that is found in the top-end OM-D E-M1.
The TruPic VII processor incorporates Fine Detail II Technology that adapts processing to the characteristics of individual lenses and aperture settings. It is also claimed to allow better noise control. These two features may mean that the new E-M10 could produce better quality images than the E-M5.
This processor also allows sensitivity to be set in the range ISO 100-25,600 and a maximum continuous shooting rate of 8fps – although focus and exposure are locked at the start. In addition, shutter speed may be set in the range 1/4000-60sec (plus bulb) and exposure compensation can be adjusted to +/-5EV.
As the E-M10 uses the E-M5's sensor it doesn't have the phase detection pixels of the E-M1, so focusing is carried out by contrast detection alone. A total of 81 AF points are available for selection at normal viewing sizes, which can be selected individually or in groups of nine.
In addition to Single AF mode, Continuous AF mode, Manual Focus (MF), Single AF + MF and AF Tracking mode are available. Manual Focus is aided by the ability to magnify specific areas of the scene and focus peaking, which highlights the areas of highest contrast.
Face Detection AF is also available and this can be augmented with Eye Detect AF, Left, Right and Near side priority.
While it's the entry-level OM-D camera, the E-M10 still has the enthusiast friendly exposure modes: program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual. There's also a healthy collection of automatic scene modes (24 in total), including a new Hand-Held Starlight mode. In this mode the camera captures eight images and automatically combines them into a single composite for better exposure and noise control.
In addition to Olympus's standard Live Bulb and Live Time modes, which allow the photographer to see the image build-up on the screen during long exposures, there's a new option called Live Composite Lighten Mode. This allows a Live Bulb image to be combined with one 0.5-60sec exposure for better dynamic range control in some situations.
Being an Olympus camera, the E-M10 has a large collection of Art Filter modes – 19 in total – which may be used to apply an effect to images. Many of these effects are customisable. They can be applied to JPEG files and video clips, but raw files can also be recorded at the same time so there's a 'clean' image for processing.
Like the other OM-D cameras, the E-M10 has a tilting LCD screen that is touch-sensitive for making settings adjustments and swiping through images in review mode. This is a 3-inch device with 1,370,000 dots like the E-M1's, so it trumps the E-M5 screen's 610,000 dot-count.
Key differences in comparison to the E-M5 include a simplification of the optical stabilisation system, which is 3-axis rather than 5, no battery-grip compatibility, the lack of an accessory port in the hotshoe and no weather-sealing.
The 3-axis stabilisation counteracts yaw, roll and pitch for both still shots and HD movies, irrespective of the lens attached to the camera. It is claimed to extend the safe hand-holdable shutter speed by up to 3.5EV.
A small pop-up flash, with Guide Number 5.8m at ISO 100, is a key addition to the E-M10. This will be useful for fill-in or shooting in low-light conditions. As mentioned earlier, there's also a hotshoe to accept an external flash. While the built-in flash sync speed is 1/250sec, it is 1/200sec with an external flashgun (1/180sec with the FL-50R).
The new camera also has Wi-Fi connectivity built-in, the same system as in the E-M1. Furthermore, it's compatible with the updated Olympus Image Share app which gives extensive control over camera settings, even allowing the exposure mode to be set to something other than the option indicated by the camera's mode dial. It's also possible to use a smartphone like a standard wireless remote shutter and just trip the shutter, keeping the camera settings as they are set on the body.
On the face of it, the E-M10 looks like an attractive alternative to the E-M5. It has many of the same features, makes only a few compromises and has a few aspects borrowed from the top-end E-M1.
Olympus has announced a new 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens to complement the E-M10 and it will be offered as the standard kit lens. This new lens is a powerzoom and it collapses down when the camera is turned off to maintain the slim lines of the camera. Olympus claims that it is the slimmest standard zoom lens in the world.
Build and handling
Olympus has used a very similar design for the E-M10 as it has for the Olympus E-M5, the original OM-D. However, at 119.1x82.3x45.9mm and 350g it's a little bit smaller and lighter than the older camera (121x89.6x41.9mm and 373g). Consequently it's also smaller than the OM-D E-M1 (130.4x93.5x63.1mm and 443g), which sits at the top of the Olympus compact system camera line-up.
It doesn't have the dust- and splash-proofing of the E-M5, nor the freeze-proof build of the E-M1, but it is constructed from metal so it feels nice and solid.
A small, but pronounced rubberised pad on the back of the E-M10 makes a good, comfortable thumbrest, while a ridge on the front provides grip for your fingers. The two combine to make the camera feel secure in your hand while shooting and when carrying it between shots.
The control layout of the E-M10 is almost identical to that of the E-M5, albeit on a slightly smaller body.
As before, there are plenty of button and dial controls giving a direct route to camera settings. Everything is within easy reach and the controls feel responsive.
Following the layout of the E-M5 rather than the E-M1 means that the E-M10 has a mode dial on the left side of the top-plate as you hold the camera for shooting. This provides a route to all the exposure modes. While there is the usual option for Art Filters, these can also be applied when shooting in the other exposure modes such as aperture priority, so it is possible to retain control over the camera's settings.
The two control dials on the top of the E-M10, for adjusting shutter speed/aperture and exposure compensation, are a little deeper and chunkier than the ones on the E-M5, but the difference is subtle.
Like the E-M5, the E-M10 has two Function buttons which can be customised to perform different operations. The button marked 'Fn2' button at the top of the camera also has the Highlights and Shadows icon as it gives direct access to this contrast control. However, it can also be used to access the Color Creator, sensitivity, white balance, Image Aspect and Magnify options.
Holding the Fn2 button down while rotating one of the control dials allows you to select the option (Color Creator, sensitivity, white balance, Images Aspect and Magnify) that you want. Once the button is released, a single press activates the feature, ready for adjustment or use.
The E-M10's 3-inch 1,370,000-dot screen provides a nice, clear view with plenty of detail visible even in quite bright conditions, but when the sun is shining the electronic viewfinder (EVF) is a welcome alternative. It's helpful that there's a sensor to detect when the camera is held to the eye.
This activates the EVF so you can quickly switch between the two viewing devices. However, if you want to dictate when you use one or the other, the sensor can be deactivated and there's a button on the side of the EVF.
As usual, the touchscreen can be used to alter the focus point with a tap of a finger. It can also be used to trip the shutter, first focusing on the point you touch and then taking the shot. We found the touchscreen to be very responsive and quick to use, just as it is in the E-M5.
As it's mounted on a tilting mechanism the LCD screen is easier to see than a fixed screen when shooting landscape format images from low and high angles, but it's no help with portrait format images.
Olympus's reluctance to provide a fully articulating screen is somewhat counterbalanced by the fact that it's possible to compose images on a smartphone screen. This can be achieved while controlling the E-M10 remotely via the built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and Olympus Image Share app.
The 1,440,000-dot electronic viewfinder in the E-M10 is the same as the one in the E-M5, but it benefits from the Adaptive Brightness Technology found in the E-M1. This adjusts the brightness of the view according to the ambient light to give a more comfortable viewing experience, taking into account the size of the user's pupil.
We found that the EVF provides an excellent view with no obvious texture or flickering (it operates at 120fps). EVF naysayers should give it a try because it brings many benefits over an optical finder including the ability to see the image as it will be captured.
The new 14-42mm kit lens extends promptly when the camera starts up and it feels well-balanced on the E-M10. However, it takes a few moments to get used to how close the zoom ring is to the camera body. Also, anyone switching from an SLR may initially find their fingers naturally resting on the focus ring on the end of the barrel.
Connecting the E-M10 to a smartphone or tablet using the built-in Wi-Fi system is easy thanks to the free Olympus Images Share (OI Share) app. Although there's no NFC (Near Field Communication) chip, initial set-up is simplified by the fact that the camera's screen displays a QR code which the phone scans to obtain the necessary data.
From here it's just a question to touching Wi-Fi on the camera's screen to activate the system, waiting a couple of seconds and then starting OI Share before selecting the desired option in the app – Remote Control, Import Photos, Edit Photo or Add Geotag.
The camera responds quickly to settings adjustments made via the phone and the system provides a convenient method of controlling the camera when shooting from awkward angles or tight spots. The only downside is that the digital level isn't displayed on the phone screen, so you can't be sure that the horizon will be level in the image.
It's especially useful to control the camera remotely via the app when shooting in Live Bulb or Live Time mode, as it avoids introducing blur when you touch the camera. It's also often more comfortable to watch the image build up on the 'phone rather than the camera, and has the added benefit of drawing attention away from the camera.
As it has the same sensor as the E-M5 and the same processing engine as the E-M1, we had reasonably high expectations for the E-M10's image quality. These expectations have not been disappointed as the camera is capable of producing superb images with plenty of detail.
Noise is controlled well in JPEGs taken at up to around ISO 6400, when some smoothing and slight loss of detail is evident in images viewed at 100% on screen. As usual, this softening increases with sensitivity and while the top value, ISO 25,600, produces respectable results, many photographers are likely to keep it for emergencies only.
Luminance noise is visible at 100% from around ISO 1600, but it only starts to become noticeable at normal viewing sizes at about ISO 6400. Chroma noise (coloured speckling) isn't an issue in high sensitivity JPEG shots, even in the darker areas. It can be made to appear by turning off noise reduction when processing raw files, but it's fine-grained with no clumping or patterning visible and comfortably within respectable levels at ISO 6400.
Olympus's general purpose ESP metering system performs very well in a range of situations and delivers good exposures. Naturally, it's not completely foolproof and the exposure compensation facility can come in handy on occasion.
Where this was required during this test, it was usually to decrease the exposure a little in high contrast conditions. Reducing the exposure of a bright landscape shot by 1/3EV can also play dividends in colour saturation.
On the subject of colour, the E-M10 generally produces natural-looking hues in it's Natural Picture mode and the automatic white balance copes admirably with most natural lighting conditions. As is often the case, however, it struggles a little under artificial light when a bespoke setting is the best option via the manual white balance control.
Our lab tests indicate that the E-M10 has a pretty impressive dynamic range. While our real-world images confirm this, it's worth noting that it comes coupled with a slightly flatter look to JPEGs taken using the default 'Natural' Picture mode than the Fuji X-E2 produces.
The images look good, but they lack the bite or midtone contrast of JPEGs direct from the Fuji X-E2. This isn't intended as a criticism of either camera, just an observation. The E-M10's files have a larger range of tones and are less likely to lose the highlights.
As it has an anti-aliasing (aka optical low-pass) filter, we thought that the E-M10 may not be able to resolve quite as much sharp detail as the E-M1, but judging by our resolution chart images, it can. In fact it can resolve a little bit more than the E-M1 and the E-M5 at some low and mid-range sensitivity settings, although there's not a huge amount in it.
At the higher end of the sensitivity scale, however, its resolution score drops off, probably because of the noise control. But there is still a good impression of detail visible at normal viewing sizes.
In normal daylight conditions the E-M10's autofocus system is fast and accurate. It's even able to keep up with quite fast-moving subjects and in AF Tracking mode it can keep it sharp as it moves around the frame.
Flushed with confidence at this success, we took the OM-D E-M10 to a funfair at night to see how it would deal with erratically moving subjects under low-light conditions. Sadly, it proved too much for the camera's contrast detection AF system, which though able to cope with stationary subjects, was not quick enough to lock onto fast moving subjects such as dodgems and roundabouts in the low artificial light.
However, we managed to get a few sharp shots of a children's mini-rollercoaster. In continuous AF mode, provided we kept the active AF point over the moving subject, the camera was able to get it sharp and stayed with it as it moved towards us.
Olympus's Art Filters have proved very popular because they're a convenient way of applying effects to JPEGs. It's particularly useful that you can set the bracketing control to produce an image using every Art Filter with just one press of the shutter release.
You can select which Art Filter you want to use, so you don't have to use them all if you don't want to. The TruePic VII processor makes using this bracketing option a much better experience than it was in the past as processing and write times are much faster. The fact that you can shoot unaffected raw files at the same time is a major bonus not offered by any other camera manufacturer.
Sensitivity and noise ranges
Full ISO 200 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Olympus OM-D E-M10, we've shot our resolution chart.
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
Full ISO 200 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
ISO 200, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 400, score: 26 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 800, score: 24 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 1600, score: 22 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 3200, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 6400, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 12800, score: 10 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 25600, score: N/A (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 200, score: 26 (Click here to see full resolution image)
ISO 400, score: 26 (Click here to see full resolution image)
ISO 800, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)
ISO 1600, score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)
ISO 3200, score: 18 (Click here to see full resolution image)
ISO 6400, score: 14 (Click here to see full resolution image)
ISO 12800, score: 12 (Click here to see full resolution image)
ISO 25600, score: N/A (Click here to see full resolution image)
Noise and dynamic range
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.
JPEG signal to noise ratio
Although the Panasonic G6 performs best at ISO 400, the Fuji X-E2 has the best results at every other sensitivity setting. This indicates that there's plenty of detail and low levels of noise in the X-E2's JPEG images in its default settings. However, the Olympus E-M10 puts in a very good performance and compares very well with the two SLRs (the Canon 70D and Nikon D7100), especially at the higher sensitivity settings.
Raw (after conversion to TIFF) signal to noise ratio
The Olympus E-M10 is a clear winner here, indicating that it produces the cleanest images across the sensitivity range. However, our resolution chart results show that this comes at the expense of some detail at the highest sensitivity values.
JPEG dynamic range
The Olympus E-M10 and E-M1 in their default (Natural) Picture Mode have very similar dynamic range in their JPEGs. This means that there's a wide range of tones and detail isn't lost quickly in the highlights or shadows. However, it's worth noting that the Fuji X-E2, which has a lower dynamic range, produces punchier-looking images straight from the camera in its default configuration.
Raw (after conversion to TIFF) dynamic range
These results confirm our real world findings that the Olympus E-M10's raw files have lots of tonal data and its images have an impressive dynamic range. It beats all the competing cameras here.
JPEG images have a high level of detail direct from the camera, but as usual there's a bit more visible in the raw files (see below).
Raw files bring increased scope to fine-tune contrast and sharpening to help bring out detail.
These catkins were bobbing about violently in the wind, but in the bright light the E-M10's AF system was able to lock onto them quickly. It even managed to keep up with them as they moved around the frame in AF Tracking mode.
In low light, AF performance drops off and although it wasn't fast enough to produce sharp images of erratically moving dodgems, it managed to deliver a few sharp images of this junior roller-coaster ride.
The E-M10 general purpose ESP metering system wasn't thrown off by the brightness of the main subject in this shot and has delivered an excellent exposure.
The tilting screen is useful when shooting very low subjects, like this crocus.
Although the white in the fungi in this JPEG file is a bit too burned out to pull back, it could be retrieved in the simultaneously captured raw file below.
It only took a couple of seconds to adjust the raw file in Adobe Camera Raw to restore the highlights in this raw file.
Using Live Time mode enabled us to see the image build up on the screen on the back of the camera (or our iPhone) and then close the shutter when the exposure looked correct. This image took 5.5 seconds at ISO 100 and f/18.
Olympus's Grainy Film Art Filter suits this cooling tower image well, but if you're not sure you can shoot a raw file simultaneously so that you have a 'clean' file to work with. It's also possible to bracket the Art Filters and produce a sequence of images with each one (or just your favourites) applied with just one press of the shutter release. Alternatively, the supplied Olympus Viewer 3 software allows you to apply the filter effects to raw files as they are processed.
Another example of where a tilting LCD screen can come in handy.
This JPEG file was shot at the same time as the raw file above, but the Dramatic Tone Art Filter has given it a bit more impact.
At launch, the E-M10 has a recommended retail price of £529.99/US$699/AU$734 body only, or £699.99/US$799/AU$999 with the new 14-42mm EZ (powerzoom) lens which makes it considerably more affordable than the E-M1 and E-M5.
These cameras can be found for around £1,299/US$1,399/AU$1,199 and £749/US$1,099/AU$1,599 (body only) respectively. Expect the E-M10's price to drop a little after it has been on sale for a few months.
Olympus has given the E-M10 many of the features of the excellent OM-D E-M5, and some from the E-M1 at the top of Olympus's OM-D range.
The only compromises appear to be the lack of weatherproofing, the loss of the ability to attach a battery grip (although there is an accessory grip to make the camera larger if you prefer), the loss of the hotshoe accessory port and a reduction in the level of correction offered by the stabilisation system.
However, you get a pop-up flash, a more advanced Wi-Fi system and a better LCD screen. Plus the camera is a little more compact and lightweight – but still robust with a metal construction.
As it has the same sensor as the first OM-D, the widely respected E-M5, and the same processing engine as the top-end E-M1, it's not really a surprise that the E-M10 produces high-quality images. However, it is a little surprising that they resolve quite so much detail – especially considering that the E-M10's sensor has an anti-aliasing filter.
While the OM-D E-M10 manages to improve a little on the detail reproduction of the E-M1 and E-M5 at some lower and mid sensitivity settings, the desire to control noise seems to limit the resolution score a little at the highest values. Nevertheless, at normal viewing sizes images taken at ISO 12,800 look very good. The very top value, ISO 25,600 is probably best avoided however.
Our lab results show that the E-M10 competes very well against popular SLRs such as the Canon 70Dand Nikon D7100, by which we mean it whips their butts. That will give SLR manufacturers and prospective buyers something to think about.
While we may not have an issue with the E-M10's image quality, it's clear that the AF system still needs some work if the camera (or compact system cameras as a whole) is going to compete fully with an SLR. In good light all is well, but in low light conditions an SLR copes far better (at least with a high quality lens mounted). For many photographers this probably isn't an issue, but for dedicated enthusiasts that want to shoot a wide range of subjects, it's a restriction they won't want.
The E-M10 has plenty of controls within easy reach and an extensive featureset in a compact body that feels reasonably durable and comfortable in the hand. The EVF provides a nice clear view, showing scenes as they will be captured using the selected settings, and the touchscreen is responsive.
A fully articulating screen would be nice, but the ease with which the camera's Wi-Fi system connects to a smartphone means that it's easy to compose images on the screen if the camera is at an awkward angle. It would be helpful if the camera's level could be displayed on the phone screen, however.
While the AF system is very good in most outdoor daylight conditions, it slows considerably when you step into subdued lighting conditions or night falls. This limits the camera's ability to shoot subjects such as music gigs and sports.
I like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 a lot. It's small and light enough to fit in a large coat pocket or small bag so it can be used as a carry-round camera. It affords lots of control over images, feels good in the hand and has a control layout that's easy to get to grips with. It also has a healthy number of customisation options and produces high quality images.
As with Olympus's other recent compact system cameras, the Art Filters can be customised and used when you're shooting in advanced exposure modes like aperture priority, shutter priority and manual.
What's more, you can use them when shooting raw and JPEG files simultaneously to have a 'clean' image for processing. You can even bracket to have all your favorite Filters applied with one press of the shutter release. Some of the filter effect results are superb.
Just about the only thing we don't like about the E-M10 is that its AF system isn't fast enough for shooting low-light gigs and fairgrounds. That's not an issue exclusive to the E-M10, it's an issue for all CSCs that we've tested to date and it's something that SLRs take the lead on.
In daylight, however, the E-M10's AF system is one of the best around in a CSC (only pipped by the hybrid system in the OM-D E-M1) and it's capable of bringing still and moving subjects quickly into focus.
It might be small and light, but the E-M10 feels like a proper camera, and when you look at the images that it produces, you know it is.