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Review: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
3:03 am | August 26, 2015

Author: admin | Category: Cameras | Comments: None

Review: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

Introduction and features

Mirrorless cameras promise DSLR quality, features and controls in a smaller package, and the OM-D E-M10 is one of the smallest cameras to still deliver that DSLR feel.

I’m a fan of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and I’ve used it on a frequent basis since its launch in January 2014 because, as well as being very compact, it has a durable feeling body, offers lots of control and produces high quality images. When paired with a small lens like the M.ZUIKO 14-42mm f/3.5-5,6 EZ it makes a great ‘carry-everywhere’ camera with a wealth of easy to access controls and, crucially, an excellent viewfinder which means you can see the image you’re composing even in bright sunlight. I’m not the only one who’s appreciated it – it’s been a huge success for Olympus, out-selling the other OM-D models.

The new OM-D E-M10 Mark II is more of a refresh than a substantial update to the existing camera (which continues in the range for now). It’s aimed at enthusiasts who want creative options without the bulk or complexity of some SLRs or one of Olympus’s more advanced OM-D cameras. However, the new model brings a few changes that should help it compete in the current market.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

Like the original E-M10, the E-M10 II has a 16Mp Four Thirds type sensor coupled with the TruePic VII processing engine and it’s capable of shooting raw and JPEG still images as well as Full HD movies. Olympus isn’t saying whether it uses the same sensor as is in the E-M10, but it seems likely.

However, Olympus has improved the image stabilisation system to make it operate over 5 axis rather than 3 and pushing its compensation to a claimed 4 stops of shutter speed rather than 3.5. This can be used in stills and video mode to reduce blur or shake. It doesn’t add the high resolution mode that’s present in the OM-D E-M5 Mark II though.

While the OM-D E-M10’s 1,440,000-dot electronic viewfinder is very good, Olympus has given the Mark II a 2,360,000-dot OLED finder – a significant enhancement. As usual with an electronic finder this provides a 100% field of view and can show the impact of settings such as white balance, exposure and Picture mode. In response to user requests, however, there’s an option in the Mark II’s menu to set it to simulate an optical finder, so you can also have an unprocessed view if you like.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

As on the Mark I, there’s a 3-inch 1,037,000-dot LCD touch-screen on the back of the camera. While it’s disappointing that Olympus hasn’t opted to give the new camera a vari-angle screen like on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II, it’s perhaps understandable given that the company needs some separation between the products. It would also have pushed the price up.

In a new move for Olympus, there’s an option to enable the screen to be used to set the AF point while looking through the viewfinder.

Keen videographers will appreciate the fact that there’s greater control over video settings and it’s possible to record Full-HD footage at a maximum of 60fps (frames per second) and VGA footage at 120fps. There’s also a My Clips option shoot short clips of video that are joined together in-camera to create more dynamic movies. In addition, for more advanced users there’s a clean HDMI output for recording or viewing on external devices.

Although it’s not possible to record normal 4K movies with the E-M10 II, Olympus has improved upon the original EM10’s time lapse feature with the ability to create 4K time lapse movies in-camera, although playback is limited to 5fps.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

In addition to the usual exposure bracketing, Art Filter, sensitivity and white balance bracketing options that we expect from Olympus, the E-M10 II has a focus bracketing option that allows you to set a starting focus point and capture up to 99 shots with focus adjustments around it. This could be very useful for macro, still life or landscape photographers who want to use focus stacking techniques to create an image that’s sharp from front to back. Sadly the stacking doesn’t happen in-camera and there’s no stacking software supplied, but it’s something that can be done relatively easily in Photoshop and some other image editing packages.

As usual with Olympus cameras, the E-M10 Mark II has 14 Art Filter effects that can be applied to JPEG files along with 9 Art Effects or Picture Modes. The Art Filter effects can be customised and saved for future use. All of these effects can be used when shooting raw and JPEG files simultaneously, so it’s possible to have a clean image as well as one (or more) with the processed effect. Olympus allows you to bracket the effects, selecting the options you like best, so if you want it’s possible to produce a whole array of different styled images, plus a raw file, with just one press of the shutter release.

Further control over images is given via the Colour Creator, Highlight and Shadow and Aspect Ratio controls.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

Olympus was one of the first manufacturers to get on-board with WI-Fi connectivity and allow remote control of a wide range of features via an app on a smartphone or tablet. It’s business as usual with the E-M10 Mark II, but there’s the additional ability to see Live Composite images build-up on the screen of a connected smart device.

Other features of note in the E-M10 Mark II include the ability to shoot at up to 8.5 frames per second (up from 8fps) when the focus and metering is set at the start of the sequence, 3.5fps shooting with continuous autofocusing and metering, an electronic shutter that allows shutter speeds of up to 1/16000 sec, a silent mode and a small pop-up flash in addition to a hot-shoe. In addition, there’s an extensive range of exposure modes with options to suit novices as well aperture priority and manual exposure favoured by enthusiasts. Olympus’s clever Live Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite modes which make light work of long exposure shots are also present. These allow you to see the image build up on the back of the camera or on a connected smartphone.

Build and handling

Obviously image quality plays a huge part in the success of a camera, but one of the reasons for the success of Olympus’s OM-D line is the build quality and control arrangement. Like the other OM-D cameras, the E-M10 Mark II is constructed from magnesium alloy and has a solid, durable feel, though it lacks the weatherproof sealing of the OM-D E-M1, OM-D E-M5 and OM-D E-M5 Mark II.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

On the front there’s a shallow but effective grip just like the one on the Mark I. The thumb-grip on the back however, has changed a little and I have a little less confidence in it and used the camera with a strap, swapping between the Peak design Cuff and Leash depending upon the shooting situation. In fairness, the camera never once slipped from my grasp, I just felt the need for the extra reassurance that a strap brings. The thumbrest also now houses one of the three customisable function buttons on this camera – there are two on the E-M10.

The OM-D E-M10 is the smallest and lightest camera in the OM-D series. While the dimensions that Olympus quotes for the mark II version indicate that it is very slightly larger in two dimensions (it’s just 0.8mm/0.03-inches in both cases) and 8g (0.28oz) heavier, its body looks the same size as the Mark I version except for the slightly taller flash housing.Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

Although there are a few tweaks to the design here and there, the most noticeable difference between the new and old cameras is on their top-plates. On the left, where the Mark I has the exposure mode dial, the Mark II has a new retro-styled power switch. Pushing this beyond the power-up point pops-up the flash. Over on the right, where the E-M10 has two dials, the E-M10 Mark II has three – including the relocated mode dial. All three dials are taller than those on the Mark I and they have a new silver metal finish and knurled pattern that gives excellent purchase. As before, the shutter release is at the centre of the frontmost dial and it’s within easy reach of your index finger, while the rear and mode dials are easy to operate with your thumb. The mode dial doesn’t have a lock (neither do the other two – it would be odd if they did), but it isn’t easily knocked out of position in normal use.

As the power switch has moved from the back of the camera to the top-plate there’s a slight difference on the back of the E-M10 II in comparison with the Mark I version, with the playback button appearing in the bottom right corner.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

I found the viewfinder very clear, with no obvious dot pattern or texture, so it’s easy to forget whether you’re using an optical or electronic finder. It makes the scene look vibrant and attractive to photograph.

When shooting from the photographers’ pit at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, however, I often found that the viewfinder showed the performers would be badly overexposed even though the exposure settings delivered a perfect result. This happened in manual exposure mode and shutter priority mode, and when I took control of sensitivity or let the camera set it automatically. A test shot or two was enough to confirm that the exposure settings were correct, but it was disconcerting at first. I’ve reported this issue to Olympus and it’s being investigated. On other occasions the viewfinder correctly previewed the final image unless I was using the simulated optical finder – which is what you would expect.

Another issue I had when shooting continuously was that the when the final image appears in the viewfinder it fleetingly looks very soft before rendering to reveal the sharp image. However, I had no problem following a moving subject in the viewfinder.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

To me one of the main advantages of an electronic viewfinder is that you can preview the impact of camera settings, so the ability to simulate an optical viewfinder isn’t important to me. Nevertheless the E-M10 II has this capability and it does a good job.

The main screen also provides a good view in all but direct sunlight, but as there’s an excellent viewfinder it makes sense to use it for composing most shots. As the screen tilts it’s helpful when composing landscape format images (or video) above or below head height. A vari-angle screen would make it helpful for upright shots as well.

I had mixed success with using the screen to set AF point while looking in th viewfinder. On some occasions it worked very well, while on others I couldn’t get it to respond. Because the EVF extends out behind the screen I had no trouble with my nose touching the screen and shifting the active AF point – it might be an issue for people with larger noses though.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

As it has an extensive feature set the E-M10 II also has a pretty long menu. On the whole this is sensibly arranged and after a period of familiarisation it doesn’t take long to find the things that you want. It would be helpful if there was a customisable screen where you could access all your most commonly used features. It would also be nice if the main menu options could be selected using the touch screen. The options in the Super Control Panel, which appears when the OK button at the centre of the navigation pad on the back of the camera is pressed, can be selected with a touch on the screen, but the individual settings have to be navigated and selected via the physical controls, which seems a little odd.

It’s very easy to create a time lapse movie in-camera. This feature is found within the drive mode option and there various parameters (shot number, interval time etc) are easily set – and the camera indicates how long the shoot will take as well as the length of your movie. Once you’ve set everything, the sequence is started by pressing the shutter release. After the last shot is taken (there’s a maximum of 999), the camera creates the AVI movie automatically. Full resolution images are also saved so it’s a good idea to switch off raw recording and select a smaller file size to save space on the memory card.

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLVWv1Ve9Ic&list=PLvj1L6okKcaZbGYs-f9KShbNGsLsQ2qnl&index=2YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAYSTM6g7u4&list=PLvj1L6okKcaZbGYs-f9KShbNGsLsQ2qnl&index=1

The OM-D E-M10 II can create 4K time lapse movies in camera, but they have a frame rate of just 5fps, which makes them quite jerky (quite apart from any subject movement between frames). The camera will also save the individual frames, though, so you can make your own time lapse movies later – our samples are resized to full HD for YouTube.

While the E-M10 II is generally very responsive, as with the E-M5 Mark II, I had the occasional unexpected problem. I’ve already mentioned the issue with the viewfinder and there were a few occasions when pressing the info button didn’t toggle through all the options, skipping the histogram and level views. There was no logical explanation and turning the camera on and off again seemed to resolve it.

Performance

Olympus hasn’t divulged whether the sensor inside the OM-D E-M10 Mark II is the same as the one in the E-M10, but it’s likely that it is very similar. The processing engine is the same TruePic VII system. Our lab tests indicate that the OM-D E-M10 Mark II produces very similar images to those from the Mark I, but the newer camera has a slight edge for detail resolution.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II sample image

Click here for a full size version.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II sample image

Click here for a full size version.

Although there’s a tiny hint of luminance noise visible at 100% in JPEG images captured at ISO 400, there’s a good level of detail visible in low to mid sensitivity range shots. Noise is controlled well up to around ISO 6,400 when some areas in JPEGs start to take on a slightly painterly appearance at 100%. Nevertheless it’s within acceptable limits for making A3 (11.7×16.5 inch) prints. The results at ISO 12,800 and 25,600 are reasonably good provided you are happy to keep printing sizes to A4 (8.3×11.7 inches) or smaller.

Even when all noise reduction is turned off, when raw files are processed using the supplied Olympus Viewer software they look remarkably similar to the JPEGs. Those taken at ISO 25,600 have hardly any chroma noise (coloured speckling) visible, but luminance noise is present at from ISO 400. I anticipate that processing the files in Adobe Camera Raw will allow more chroma noise to be visible and this will enable greater control over the balance of detail and noise that’s visible. We’ll have to wait for a Camera Raw update to be sure.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II sample image

Click here for a full size version.

One area where the E-M10 II really impressed was with its autofocusing. I enjoy music photography and in the past I’ve found that compact system cameras haven’t been able to cope when stage lights are the main form of illumination. However, when shooting at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention I found that the E-M10 Mark II was more than up to the job with the M. Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens mounted. It was able to get the subject sharp even in very low light conditions. Provided I positioned the starting AF point over the subject I also found the AF Tracking system was able to get it sharp quickly and keep it sharp as performer moved around the stage. This was much easier than constantly changing AF point manually. All three of the cameras that I used in the pit this year (the others were the Panasonic GX8 and Sony Alpha 7R II) were able to give me sharp images in very low light, but the E-M10 II coped just a little better. It was also helpful to have the 40-150mm lens which with the Micro Four Thirds focal length multiplication of the E-M10 II produces images comparable with an 80-300mm lens with a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8. I didn’t feel that I was missing out by not using an SLR.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II sample image

Click here for a full size version.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II sample image

Click here for a full size version.

It seems that 5-axis image stabilisation is all the rage right now. The system inside the E-M II is very good. When shooting with the 40-150mm lens mentioned earlier, I was able to get images that look sharp at 100% when shooting at the longest point (which is equivalent to 300mm) and using a shutter speed of 1/8second. Rising to 1/15 sec produced more consistently sharp images, but if you are able to shoot several images to make sure you’ve got a few to choose from, you can push the shutter speed impressively low. Video is also more stable – although you still can’t walk and shoot with the camera handheld and expect totally smooth footage.

As we have found with previous Olympus OM-D cameras, the automatic white balance and metering systems give a good account of themselves, delivering the colours and exposures that you would expect in any given situation. The E-M10 II’s dynamic range scores in the lab are also pretty good and in real world shooting it doesn’t loose highlights quickly. Its images generally have pleasant contrast and tonal range.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II sample image

Click here for a full size version.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II sample image

Click here for a full size version.

Although I have little use for Art Filters like Watercolour and Keyline, there are others such as Grainy Film, Pop Art and Dramatic Tone that I like for their fun, quick effects. I especially like that they can be shot in a sequence using the bracketing control and any of the image can be shared quickly on Facebook or Twitter via a smartphone connected to the camera’s Wi-Fi system. It gives you the fun of Instagram with the image quality (and raw file) of a good camera.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II sample image

Click here for a full size version.

Lab tests: Resolution

We chose three rival cameras for the E-M10 II to see how it measured up in our lab tests: the original E-M10, Fuji X-T10 and Panasonic G7.

We’ve carried out lab tests on the E-M10 II across its full ISO range for resolution, noise (including signal to noise ratio) and dynamic range. We test the JPEGs shot by the camera, but we also check the performance with raw files. Most enthusiasts and pros prefer to shoot raw, and the results can often be quite different.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II resolution charts

We test camera resolution using an industry-standard ISO test chart that allows precise visual comparisons. This gives us numerical values for resolution in line widths/picture height, and you can see how the E-M10 II compares with its rivals in the charts below.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II lab tests

JPEG resolution analysis: This chart shows that the E-M10 II can match other 16Mp compact system cameras for detail resolution at the low to middle sensitivity settings. It also manages to resolve a bit more detail than the original E-M10 at some values.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II lab tests

Raw (converted to TIFF) resolution analysis: The E-M10 II competes a little more effectively against the other cameras when shooting raw files.

Sample resolution charts

This is the chart we use for testing camera resolution. The key area is just to the right of centre, where a series of converging lines indicates the point at which the camera can no longer resolve them individually. We shoot this chart at all of the camera’s ISO settings, and here are two samples at ISO 200 and ISO 6400.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II lab tests

ISO 200 (JPEG): Click here for a full-size version.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II lab tests

ISO 6400 (JPEG): Click here for a full-size version.

Lab tests: Dynamic range

Dynamic range is a measure of the range of tones the sensor can capture. Cameras with low dynamic range will often show ‘blown’ highlights or blocked-in shadows. This test is carried out in controlled conditions using DxO hardware and analysis tools.

Dynamic range is a measure of the range of tones the sensor can capture. Cameras with low dynamic range will often show 'blown' highlights or blocked-in shadows. This test is carried out in controlled conditions using DxO hardware and analysis tools.We use DxO Analyzer to measure noise and dynamic range in controlled laboratory conditions.Read: Noise and dynamic range results explainedDynamic range is measured in exposure values (EV). The higher the number the wider the range of brightness levels the camera can capture. This falls off with increasing ISO settings because the camera is having to amplify a weaker signal. Raw files capture a higher dynamic range because the image data is unprocessed.Olympus OM-D E-M10 II dynamic range chartsOlympus OM-D E-M10 lab tests

Read: Noise and dynamic range results explained

Dynamic range is measured in exposure values (EV). The higher the number the wider the range of brightness levels the camera can capture. This falls off with increasing ISO settings because the camera is having to amplify a weaker signal. Raw files capture a higher dynamic range because the image data is unprocessed.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II dynamic range charts

Noise and dynamic range results explained

JPEG dynamic range analysis: As we found in real world shooting, the E-M10’s JPEGs have good dynamic range which means that highlights don’t burn out quickly and shadows have detail.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 lab tests

Raw (converted to TIFF) dynamic range analysis: Unusually after conversion to TIFF using the supplied software the E-M10’s raw files have a lower dynamic range than simultaneously captured JPEGs. However, performing a bespoke conversion is likely to draw more information out of the file and produce a better result than these figures might indicate.

Lab tests: Signal to noise ratio

This is a test of the camera’s noise levels. The higher the signal to noise ratio, the greater the difference in strength between the real image data and random background noise, so the ‘cleaner’ the image will look. The higher the signal to noise ratio, the better.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II signal to noise ratio charts

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II lab tests

JPEG signal to noise ratio analysis: These results confirm that the E-M10 II strikes a good balance between noise and detail visibility.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II lab tests

Raw (converted to TIFF) signal to noise ratio analysis: The lower scores here indicate that the E-M10 II’s raw files reveal a little more noise and, as we have seen from the resolution results, this enables them to record a bit more detail than the simultaneously captured JPEGs.

Sample Olympus OM-D E-M10 II test results

The signal to noise ratio charts use laboratory test equipment, but we also shoot a real-world scene to get a visual indication of the camera’s noise levels across the ISO range. The right side of the scene is darkened deliberately because this makes noise more obvious.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II lab tests

ISO 200 (JPEG): Click here for a full-size version.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II lab tests

ISO 6400 (JPEG): Click here for a full-size version.

Verdict

The original OM-D E-M10 has been very successful for Olympus and while the OM-D E-M10 Mark II doesn’t mark a major upgrade, it has enough to make it attractive to those looking for their first serious compact system camera (CSC). However, the marketplace is more competitive than ever with Panasonic’s (much more expensive) GX8 pushing the Micro Four Thirds pixel count to 20 million and Fuji’s X-T10 offering a solid SLR-like CSC with traditional controls at a very attractive price.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

Inside the E-M10 II is a high quality Four Thirds type sensor with 16 million pixels which is paired with a capable processor that ensures noise is controlled very well up to around ISO 6,400. In addition, the autofocus system is fast and effective in a wide range of situations, making the camera versatile and capable of shooting in conditions that were in possible just a couple of years ago with a compact system or mirrorless camera.

There’s also a healthy collection of shooting options including aperture priority, shutter priority and manual exposure mode as well automatic options for inexperienced photographers.

Olympus also offers a wide range of lenses with some like the tiny M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ being especially well-suited to the small proportions of the E-M10 II, as well as high quality optics like the M. Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro and M. Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro proving very popular. As it has the Micro Four Thirds mount the E-M10 II is compatible with the wide range of lenses produced by Panasonic as well as a growing collection from third party manufacturers.

We liked

Although it’s a small camera small the E-M10 II has a very high quality electronic viewfinder built-in and this makes it easy to compose and review shots in very bright light. The control arrangement is also good with all the key features within easy reach.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

Further good news is that Olympus doesn’t make you compromise when you want to shoot raw images. All the creative Art Filter effects, and time lapse recording options can be used when shooting raw as well as JPEG files, so you can have some fun while still having a clean file for ‘serious’ processing.

Olympus has once again impressed us with its image stabilization system enabling images to be captured in low light levels when shutter speed needs to be kept low.

We disliked

While I like the E-M10 II a lot, it’s not without a few niggles such as the viewfinder failing to show the image as it will be captured when shooting subjects under stage lighting and the occasional instance of the Info button not revealing all the options that I expect when it was pressed.

I like having touch-control, but Olympus could make greater use of it with the Super Control Panel and the main menu. It would also be helpful to make the Super Control Panel customisable and have a customisable main menu screen.

I can’t help feeling a little disappointed that Olympus has stuck with the tilting screen rather than going for a vari-angle option, this would’ve enhanced the camera’s creative potential further.

Verdict

Olympus’s OM-D series of compact system cameras have a good reputation and the E-M10 II will ensure this continues. Despite its small size it offers just about everything that a dedicated photographer wants with a stylish and solid-feeling body that gives you quick access to the most important features.Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

Although Olympus is marketing the camera at creative photographers wanting a smaller alternative to an SLR or larger CSC, enthusiast photographers should also consider it as an alternative to a high-end compact camera as a ‘carry-everywhere’ model. It’s more versatile than most compacts and produces superb quality images.

While it’s not especially aimed at novice photographers, there are automatic options that will help them get good results while enthusiasts will find that features such as Live Time, remote control via a smartphone and Art Filter bracketing help them make more creative images. In addition the autofocus, white balance and metering systems are excellent, helping it to deliver very high quality images even in challenging conditions.

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