Olympus OM-D E-M10 review

Offering 16-megapixel stills and full-HD video in one compelling package,  the new Olympus E-M10 is the retro-styled camera for photo enthusiasts who couldn’t justify spending a pro-like grand on the previous OM-D E-M5 or E-M1 models.

Like its predecessors, the mirror-less E-M10 with its mini DSLR-type design is based on the Olympus OM camera range of the 1970s and 80s. Its classic looks go directly up against the X series CSC’s from Fuji, recently in danger of stealing Olympus’ crown.

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For those for whom portability is a concern, the E-M10 is also the smallest OM-D to date; therefore making it a useful tool for shoot-from-the hip style street and reportage photography. A case in point; the manufacturer is bundling the camera with an ultra compact version of its 14–42 mm standard lens, barely a couple of centimetres in depth when dormant.

The E-M10 feels smaller and lighter in the palm than its closest and slightly flashier competitor, the Fujifilm X-E2. But build quality doesn’t appear to have been unduly compromised. Only the door that protects the shared battery and SD card compartment is obviously plasticky, but then it’s hidden away at the base. Olympus however claims that we are being spoiled with an all-metal build. Well, almost.

Atop the Wi-Fi-enabled camera we have the familiar shooting mode wheel mixing creative and fully automatic settings plus two unmarked command dials adjacent and almost on top of one another over at the other side.

In the middle sits a large eye-level viewfinder boasting a resolution of 1.4 million pixels and with useful built-in eye sensor encircled by an unobtrusive pop-up flash, whilst the large 3-inch, 1.4 million dot LCD screen sitting below can be pulled outward from the body and angled up or down to suit, as on Fuji’s X-A1. It cannot however be flipped to face your subject, as on Sony’s less expensive A5000.

This being an Olympus camera we also get a range of user selectable Art Filters – or digital effects – to choose from and which like its nearest rivals this camera applies at the point of camera. There are 12 selectable effects to add punch and drama to shots. In duller conditions these do appear to add contrast and drama that would otherwise be lacking and an appearance that overall in terms of sharpness and clarity could be claimed as ‘professional’.

While we had no complaints about image sharpness, Olympus cameras tend to err in favour of naturalistic rather than the warmly-saturated colours presented by cameras from electronics manufacturers like Panasonic and Sony – and the OM-D E-M10 is no exception. An extra degree of vividness applicable with a button press is a welcome facility, as is the ability to angle the screen during video recording.

OUR VERDICT

As with Panasonic’s GM1, at the heart of the E-M10 sits a Four Thirds (4/3-inch) sensor. This is physically smaller than the APS-C chips found in actual DSLRs and competing CSC brands such as Canon (with its solitary EOS M) Fuji, Samsung and Sony. But both Olympus and Panasonic argue that the trade off, in terms of lighter and more portable lenses as well as lighter and more portable camera bodies is worth it. For those who shoot handheld and want a decent bit of equipment at their fingertips, it may be a compromise worth making.

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