Olympus established a firm footing in the Compact System Camera (CSC) market five years ago with the ‘Pen’ E-P1, and the latest OM-D E-M10 expands the Pen range further. Its internal make up contrasts with the retro-styled exterior, taking on a 16.1Mp Live MOS sensor, TruePic VII imaging sensor and Wi-Fi functionality.
Sitting somewhere between the Olympus Stylus 1 bridge camera and the flagship OM-D E-M1 CSC, the E-M10 is an exciting camera, and at £699, it’s less than half the price of the E-M1. Though the price is keen, it does put the camera up against stiff competition from similarly priced D-SLRs.
If you’re looking to buy an interchangeable lens system, a big question you’ll ask is whether a CSC is the right choice. Investigating what’s on offer in the E-M10 will help.
Features & Build
At 350g (body-only) and 119.1x82.3x45.9mm this is a small and light camera. But made from magnesium alloy it delivers the iconic retro looks and solid build which feels like it could take a hammering.
The E-M10 should be quick too, taking on the same TruePic VII image processor as found in the top-of-the-range E-M1. This processes the 16.1Mp images from the 4/3in Live MOS sensor at a maximum of 4608x3456px for JPEGs or RAWs. Body-based sensor-shift image stabilisation is a nifty trick, as any lens attached to the E-M10 will benefit from up to 3.5 f-stops of stabilisation to combat camera shake.
The contrast-detect AF is quick and there’s a choice of 800 positions to place the active AF point. You can adjust the AF point size too, making for very precise focusing.
The shutter can be set between 60secs and 1/4000sec and there’s a Bulb mode for longer exposures too. A burst mode allows the shooting at up to 8fps, while the ISO can be set from LOW (ISO 100 equivalent) up to a value of 25,600 for low-light conditions.
On the top, there’s a pentaprism-shaped housing, but instead of an optical viewfinder, there’s a 1440k-dot Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) with 100% coverage. Above this is the hotshoe and in front is the pop-up flash. The Mode dial with MASP, iAuto, Art, Scene, Movie and Photo Story modes sits to the left of the top plate. To the right of it you’ll find twin command dials, with the shutter button integrated into the front one. Five stops of exposure compensation is on offer using the second dial in Program, Shutter speed and Aperture modes. There’s a movie record and a Function (Fn1) button too.
Flip the E-M10 over and you’ll find a 3in 1037k-dot LCD touch screen on the rear which flips up horizontally by 90° and down 45° for awkward shooting angles. There’s also an additional Function (Fn2) button and a D-Pad. The power switch takes a while to get used to as it’s positioned at the bottom right on the back, but it didn’t hinder use.
You can capture Full 1080 HD video at 30p and there’s built-in Wi-Fi for remote control from a smart device with the Olympus Image Share App.
The most interesting feature of the E-M10 has to be its new 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ kit lens. Offering a film-equivalent zoom of 28-84mm, it’s half the weight and size of its predecessor at 93g and about 2.5cm long when retracted. As the zoom is electronic, you can use it remotely when shooting via a smart device too. The lens is also available to buy separately and will cost you £299.
Performance & Handling
Though small, the E-M10 feels solid with a curved thumb rest and protruding front grip planting it firmly in your hands.
The mode dial clicks into place with a positive action and the twin command dials work smoothly for adjusting exposure settings. Though there’s no dedicated ISO button, the two function buttons (Fn1 and Fn2) can be customised to the setting you want. We found a combination of ISO/White Balance and Manual Focus gave everything that was needed.
As well as navigating menus, the D-Pad arrows can be pressed to set the active AF point. Unlike the E-M1, the E-M10 has no phase detection, relying solely on contrast detection to focus. Though this is the slower of the two, we were very impressed by its performance – the AF was on par with similarly-priced D-SLRs. The touch-screen can be used to tap to focus, and we really liked the slider which allows you to change the size of the AF point.
The 3in 1037k-dot monitor is bright and clear. Being able to tilt the display is a bonus and makes shooting from low or high angles easy. Turned on by a sensor when brought up to the eye, the 1440k-dot EVF gave a stellar performance. It felt like an optical viewfinder, with a bright display and no time lag.
Connecting remotely to a smart device using the Image Share App took a while to set up as the App wasn’t very clear about how to pair devices. The E-M10 doesn’t feature NFC (Near Field Communication) technology and this could have speeded up the process. That said, once connected the device is remembered for future use and it’s brilliant for remote shooting from a phone or tablet. You can also add a Geotag, import and edit images through the App.
The TruePic VII processor was able to write a single JPEG to card in 0.76sec and a RAW in 1.15secs. Switching over to the 8fps burst mode allowed 60 JPEGs to be fired before slowing and they took just 1.99secs to clear. In the same mode, 16 RAWs could be fired with a respectable time of 6.56secs taken to clear the buffer.
Value for Money
The E-M10 isn’t the most affordable CSC on the market, but a whole host of desirablefeatures have been crammed in to justify its price-tag making it a very desirable camera. At £699, it competes with Canon’s EOS 700D D-SLR (£739), which has an 18Mp sensor, but its focal length cannot be changed when shooting remotely like the E-M10’s electronic zoom.
Nikon’s D5300 matches the E-M10’s price, and though it has a lower 5fps burst mode it makes up for it with a higher resolution, 24.2Mp sensor.
Sony’s newly-released A6000 CSC undercuts the E-M10 at £649 and offers a larger 24.3Mp APS-C sensor, Bionz X image processor and Fast Hybrid AF system. But the number of pixels isn’t everything (Nikon’s £5k top D-SLR the D4s has ‘only’16.2Mp), and a full test of the Sony will reveal all.
Alternatives aside though, if you’re looking for a fully featured CSC, the E-M10 offers a great performance and punchy pictures. It’s big on features and realistically priced, and should be on your shortlist.
The E-M10 with its newly designed 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ kit lens is awinning combination. Its solid build is backed up by a hefty list of features. Sensor-shift image stabilization, 8fps shooting, Electronic Viewfinder, WiFi functionality and tilt-able 3in 1037k-dot touch-screen names just a few. If you like the idea of a being able to change lenses but find D-SLRs too big and bulky, then the Olympus E-M10 is a great camera to go for. It’s a powerful, pocketable CSC.
- Street price: £490 (Body only price as of July 2016)
- Resolution: 16.1Mp (4608x3456px)
- Sensor: 4/3in Live MOS 17.3x13mm
- Lens mount: MFT
- ISO range: LOW(100)-25,600
- Shutter: 60-1/4000sec & Bulb
- AF system: Contrast detection
- Focusing modes: Manual Focus, Single AF, Continuous AF, Single AF & MF and AF Tracking
- Burst rate: 8fps
- Monitor: Tilt-able 3in, 1037k-dot touchscreen LCD display
- Viewfinder: 1440k-dot EVF
- Flash: Pop-up
- Hotshoe: Yes
- Video: Full 1080 HD @ 30p
- Write speeds: 1.15sec (RAW),
- 0.76 (Large Fine JPEG)
- Storage: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Weight: 350g (body only)
- Dimensions: (WxHxD)
- Visit: www.olympus.co.uk
This review was first published in the June 2014 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.