Tempted by the Olympus OM-D E-M5 but put off by its high-end price tag? Daunted by the pro specs and advanced controls of the E-M1, let alone its top-end price? Then Olympus is reaching out to you with its latest addition to the OM-D line. Taking the stylish and successfully tried-and-tested looks of the original OM-Ds, then mixing in a handful of technology from the E-M5 and a sprinkling of specs from the E-M1, the OM-D E-M10 has pushed its price down just enough to get competitors' hybrid lens-switchers feeling considerably less "premium" all of a sudden. Could the E-M10 be set to blow its rivals out of the water?
Olympus keeps adding to its OM-D camera line, and while each model manages to keep its own distinct personality, all of them ultimately look quite similar. But who cares—at least a member of the range can be easily identified at a glance, and the E-M10 is no exception. If you're looking for a sleek and stylish accessory that also happens to take photos, then you're probably already sold—the E-M10 definitely ticks those boxes. Otherwise, you'll be glad to hear that Olympus has taken the opportunity to improve on some features of its previous models' design, layout and controls.
The OM-D E-M10 with its two higher-end counterparts.
The 1,440,000-dot viewfinder is lifted straight out of the E-M5, and it's as clean and crisp as ever. Plus, the brightness now automatically adjusts to suit the surrounding conditions. When shooting indoors, that mainly makes the image look less grainy, which is always good news. Like the firm's Stylus 1 bridge, the E-M10 gets a built-in flash—a first for an OM-D camera. It looks like good things really do come to those who wait. However, we found that the rubber eye-piece on the back of the camera tended to come off a bit too easily—you'll need to be careful it doesn't get lost.
The indent between the camera's upper edge and its rear face has been softened and reduced in this model, making the buttons found in that particular zone considerably easier to get at. The upper edge is dominated by a pair of dials which—depending on the mode you're working in—adjust the shutter speed, aperture and exposure correction. The ON/OFF switch is again found to the bottom right of the screen, which helps make the upper edge seem less cluttered. However, it does mean that you'll probably need use two hands to switch the camera on.
Olympus has outed a new lens to accompany the OM-D E-M10—the M. Zuiko Digital ED 14-42 mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ. This is reminiscent of Panasonic's Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42 mm, as both are compact, 3x zoom, pancake-style lenses with electronic-powered zooms. However, the Olympus version is a little smarter than Panasonic's, as the protective blades open (and close) automatically and the lens deploys itself ready for use when you hit the ON switch. That's a really nice touch. We found just a couple of downsides with the new lens. First, there's no zoom control on the camera body (around the shutter-release, for example), like you get with Panasonic's Lumix GF6 or Sony's NEX 3N. Second, the zoom ring only moves a little way left and right, so zooming a long way in or out takes a while, as you have to hold the ring at its end stop and wait for the zoom motor to catch up. It would have been nice to be able to zoom from 14 to 42 mm a little more quickly.
The general controls should be pretty easy to get the hang of, even for users who've never handled an Olympus camera before. The menus are all clear and well-designed, but it's a shame that you can't use the touchscreen controls to browse through the various pages of options. In that respect, the touch-controls still aren't used to the best of their potential in this camera. The grip handle could have been a bit deeper to make the E-M10 easier to keep hold of, especially for users with larger hands. Still, the leather-effect finish has a nice feel. It doesn't make the camera too slippery and it's easy on the eye. The only real design blip is the rubber connections port cover on the camera's right-hand side, which dangles from a skinny little rubber strip that's not particularly attractive and feels quite flimsy.
All in all, the OM-D E-M10 is an excellent little mirrorless camera that's easy to use. It has something to offer both beginners and more advanced users. And that's almost enough to help us forget that it doesn’t get the higher-end version’s weatherproof finish and that the five-axis stabilisation has been traded in for a three-axis system. Still, in return, the E-M10 gains a built-in flash and Wi-Fi.
OM-D cameras have a reputation for being speedy snappers, and the E-M10 is no exception. It turns around quickly between two photos and the autofocus is fast and accurate in all conditions. It's a real treat to use, in fact. This general breeziness only quavers slightly (and we mean slightly) with the two seconds it takes the pancake lens to deploy when the camera starts up. If you decide to use a different lens, then start-up will be almost instantaneous (the E-M10 is generally sold alone or with the classic 14-42 mm mechanical kit lens).
Bust mode performances are excellent. With JPG shots, the OM-D E-M10 shoots at 7.8 frames per second for about twenty shots before slowing down. In RAW mode, it actually gets a little quicker, shooting at 8.6 frames per second but only for 14 shots.
We're on familiar ground when it comes to picture quality, as the OM-D E-M10 uses the 16-Megapixel CMOS sensor from the E-M5 and the Truepic VII image processor from the E-M1. Performances at high ISO settings are therefore just as impressive in this model, with shots remaining easily usable up to 3200 ISO with JPGs or 6400 ISO with RAW shots. From then on in, smoothing starts to wipe out detail. It's also nice to see a minimum sensitivity setting of 100 ISO.
The new M. Zuiko Digital ED 14-42 mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ pancake lens is excellent even from full aperture, shooting a rich, detailed image right up into the corners of the frame. That's no doubt helped by the fact that there's no low-pass filter (anti-aliasing filter) on the sensor. There's no trace of distortion or chromatic aberration. We just noticed a slight hint of moiré effects in certain specific test conditions, but they really won't be noticeable when shooting in real-life situations. The 14-42 mm lens maintains excellent quality as you zoom too. In fact, it's pretty much irreproachable—this truly is an excellent lens. It's so good, in fact, that we even reckon Olympus could have got away with a loading a few more pixels onto the sensor ...
Finally, a word about the flash. The built-in flash gives off a nicely dosed amount of light and doesn't play havoc with the exposure or white balance. Why on earth did Olympus wait two years before finally bringing a built-in flash to an OM-D camera? Maybe we can thank the firm's Stylus 1 bridge for blazing the trail on that front.
The E-M10 films 1080p Full HD video at 30 frames per second in the MOV format. No surprises here, then. The image is nicely exposed and detailed, and it generally stays very smooth. Audio is well handled and the stereo effect sounds good. The electronic zoom lens does a great job in video mode, working in total silence and managing slow, smooth transitions without losing focus. The touchscreen is also a real help for choosing focus areas. Seeing as the E-M10 isn't a top-of-the-range model, the fact that there's no headphones and mic sockets isn't too much of a problem here, even if they always make welcome additions.