Camera Review: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

January 15, 2016

By Greg Scoblete

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

As 2015 drew to a close, Olympus updated two thirds of its advanced OM-D mirrorless lineup, leaving only the flagship E-M1 without a Mark II successor (though there has been new firmware). The OM-D E-M10 Mark II is the entry-level model in Olympus’ mirrorless arsenal, but it still manages to pack a good punch. Is it worth your mirrorless money?

The E-M10 Mark II boasts a 16-megapixel sensor with a native ISO of 100-25,600—identical specs to its predecessor. While still image specs haven’t changed dramatically, the E-M10 Mark II gets a lot more attention in the video department with more frame rate options for full HD video, including 60 fps and 24 fps, along with the ability to create 4K time lapse movies in camera. Alas, there is no 4K video recording.

You’ll frame your scene through a 3-inch tilting display (up 85 degrees, down 45 degrees) with touch focusing capabilities. While the display can’t flip all the way up for selfies, it does come out from the camera body so it’s not obscured by the prominent viewfinder if you’re holding the camera closer to waist level.

Shutter speeds hit as fast as 1/4000 sec. to as long as 30 minutes in bulb mode. There’s a built-in, pop-up flash plus Wi-Fi and NFC for quick pairing with a mobile phone.

Like the E-M5 Mark II, the E-M10 Mark II offers an in-camera 5-axis stabilization that’s CIPA-rated for up to four stops. That’s a big improvement from the original M10, which stabilized only along three axes.  

The E-M10 Mark II debuts two new features for Olympus’ OM-D line. The first is a simulated optical viewfinder mode (S-OPV) that mimics the effect of looking through an optical viewfinder by broadening the dynamic range visible through the electronic viewfinder. The Mark II’s viewfinder is also sharper than the original, with a resolution of 2.36 million dots vs. 1.44 million.

The second new feature is a multi-focus bracketing mode that compiles up to 999 images with different focus points, with focus intervals adjustable in camera. Armed with these multiple exposures, you can compile a single image that’s completely in focus using third-party software. It’s a great, if niche, feature if you’re into macro photography.    

The E-M10 Mark II is squat and well built. While it lacks the weather sealing of the E-M5 Mark II, it doesn’t feel like a cheap knock-off of the OM-D family, either. The top dials have been enlarged from the original model and are now even easier to turn. The power button (of all things) has also seen a redesign from the original camera. It’s now a turning lever that, when rotated to its fullest, will pop up the flash—something we mistakenly did more than we care to admit.

The camera doesn’t have much in the way of a grip, but it’s light enough with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens we were shooting with that it’s not uncomfortable to hold for long stretches. Paired with a more substantial lens, however, the camera could become a bit unbalanced.  

Miss your optical viewfinder? The E-M10 Mark II’s simulated optical viewfinder mode broadens the dynamic range of the EVF, while dropping the ability to preview exposure adjustments.

We enjoyed solid results from the E-M10 Mark II, with accurate color reproduction. Noise is well contained in JPEG images up to ISO 6400, though pixelation and loss of detail strikes at 12,800. It’s unlikely that the intended audience for this camera is going to be doing extensive post processing on files, but the E-M10 Mark II’s 12-bit RAW file does provide a fair amount of latitude to dial up details in shadows. Thanks to the camera’s impressive image stabilization, you’ll also be able to tackle low light with slower shutter speeds.

We shot with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, which, while incredibly compact, isn’t super sharp and is audibly noisy during AF. While it’s likely to be a popular bundle, we’d recommend skipping it entirely. 

Like the E-M5 Mark II, the E-M10 Mark II offers 1920x1080p30 video recording using the ALL-I compression format for high-quality, 77Mbps recording. You can achieve faster frame rates to 60p switching to IPB compression, but you’ll take a bit-rate hit to get there. HD video quality was good, though skin tones appeared a bit overly saturated on some occasions. Continuous AF during movie recording wasn’t always accurate and using the 14-42mm, we had a lot of noisy focus hunting before the camera locked on.

The camera’s 81-area AF system locks focus relatively quickly. In high-speed continuous shooting mode with focus locked on the first frame, the camera is capable of firing off 8.5 frames for 22 RAW images before buffering—a very modest increase from the original M10’s 8 fps at up to 20 images. Switch to continuous AF and the camera slows appreciably, as is typical. The Mark II did struggle to lock focus a bit on fast moving subjects but with time to compose, you shouldn’t have any complaints. 

We found the effect of the new optical viewfinder simulation mode to be subtle. You will lose the ability to see exposure adjustments in real-time or additional exposure details (shutter speed, f-stop, etc.) in the EVF. It’s a curious feature and not one we found particularly useful, though your mileage may vary.

As we found in the E-M5 II, the menu system in the E-M10 Mark II is a bit of a morass. It takes a fair amount of digging around to get at the features you want. You do have the ability to customize three function buttons on the exterior, but some useful settings, like ISO, can’t be mapped to function keys. Instead, you have to program them to the dials atop the camera. While the camera supports an extensive degree of feature-tweaking, it’s a laborious process.

One area where the E-M10 Mark II is definitely deficient is battery life, which clocks in at a paltry 320 shots per CIPA testing, behind leading competitors like Sony’s a6000, Panasonic’s Lumix G7 and Fujifilm’s X-A2.    

As a successor to the E-M10, the Mark II delivers a nice assortment of upgrades, though video shooters are likely to get the most value out of stepping up from the older model. 

At $600 for the body, the E-M10 Mark II competes with cameras like Sony’s a6000 and Panasonic’s G7. While all three models deliver pleasing stills for the price, they have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. For video, Panasonic’s 4K-recording G7 bests the field, even with the improvements incorporated in the E-M10 Mark II. Sony’s a6000 delivers the highest resolution stills and the faster burst rate. The E-M10 Mark II distinguishes itself with rock-solid stabilization and a high quality build that emphasizes manual controls.  

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

PROS: Classic design; tilting display; focus bracketing mode; excellent stabilization; high-quality HD video recording.
CONS: Poor battery life; lacks 4K; confusing menu.
PRICE: $650 (body)

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