What can the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II do?

 
Rebecca Frogley puts the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II through its paces and lets you know what to expect

‘Get serious without getting complicated’, asserts one of Olympus’s latest online slogans, and I have to admit, I like the idea. While many higher-end DSLM cameras are designed to lure DSLR users into the mirrorless fold, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is one of a number of models aimed toward hobbyists and those looking to upgrade to an interchangeable lens camera from their compact camera or smartphone. There are several reasonably priced cameras available in this category, and the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II finds itself pitched against a number of very strong competitors, including the Fujifilm X-T10 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7, of which we’ve already provided some quite favourable reviews. Though, given the Mark II’s OMD heritage, we have a fair idea of what to expect — that it’s more than capable of keeping up with its peers.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens, f/4, 1/40s, ISO200

Its predecessor, the Mark I, found favour with enthusiasts for its range of features, and for being an excellent carry-around camera due to its small size — so popular in fact, that it’s outsold all other OM-D models. To our delight, the Mark II wasn’t a complete overhaul of the existing model, but rather builds upon the success of the original version. Still, there are a number of marked improvements. Most importantly, Olympus has incorporated its impressive five-axis in-body image-stabilization system, which helps deliver razor-sharp images and smooth video by moving the sensor to counter camera movement. Around the back there's another upgrade in the form of a large, more detailed, OLED electronic viewfinder boasting 2.36 million dots, and a considerably larger size in comparison to the E-M10. And, sitting under the EVF, is a tiltable three-inch LCD touchscreen, with 1037K dots, that is capable of smartphone-like touch focusing. As we’ve come to expect of mirrorless bodies, the OM-D E-M10 Mark II is compact enough to fit within a jacket pocket — and, in line with its stylish family of OM-D cameras, the body boasts a sleek form, all-metal finish, and distinctly retro design.

Besides its handsome appeal, the OM-D E-M10 Mark II’s main assets lie in that it’s a low-light machine, offering a variety of shooting functions to suit various lighting scenarios. I chose to put Olympus to the ultimate test, in shooting interiors, with all of their shadowy, warm-hued, artificially lit problems. And, I have to admit, it was a smooth ride.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens, f/4.2, 1/10s, ISO200

Contributing to how pleasantly simple and effective the Mark II is to shoot with, the OLED electronic viewfinder boasts 2.36 million dots, with 0.74x magnification — making for a considerably larger view than its predecessor — and in terms of scale, actually a little larger than what’s provided on most full-frame DSLR viewfinders. That means a lot more fine detail that can be seen while composing a shot. Compared to its rivals, the Mark II’s viewfinder is one of the best around, especially as the native shape of Micro Four Thirds image fills the panel, avoiding wasting space through letterboxing. As a bonus, the Mark II offers a built-in eye sensor, which switches between the LCD screen and EVF automatically, streamlining the photographic process, and meaning you can preview any adjustments through the EVF without having to lower the camera to look at the rear screen. The EVF also benefits from the addition of Adaptive Brightness Control, which ‘gains up’ in low-light, possibly making this more usable than an optical finder in dim light.

The highlight of the Mark II’s many features is decidedly its five-axis image stabilization. Claiming to be the most sophisticated form of optical stabilization available, this feature offers the ability to capture razor-sharp hand-held images and, most importantly, flawless low-light shots. Most image-stabilization systems compensate for camera shake by only correcting yaw and pitch, however the Mark II combats five different kinds of motion. With its finely tuned stabilization mechanism, it’s able to correct horizontal shift, vertical shift, and three-way rolling motion by up to five stops, with any lens in use. With the combination of image stabilization and my 14–42mm lens’s bright, wide aperture, I was comfortably able to shoot down to 1/4s — even at times 1/2s, handheld, and in extremely low-light conditions. It produced notably sharp images, with no motion blurring or fuzziness. While we’re still bewildered as to the physics behind this technology, there’s certainly no complaints from this side of the room.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, 14-42mm f/3.5–5.6 EZ lens, f/,5.6, 1/8s, ISO200

Aiding in quality image capture in dim light, the Olympus OM-D E-M10’s low-light sensitivity stretches all the way up to a pro-like ISO 25600, with an expanded dynamic range lending to faithful image reproduction. This is made possible, in part, by the noise-reducing TruePic VII processor (pulled from Olympus’s flagship E-M1), and the 16.1-megapixel Micro Four Thirds Live MOS sensor. In close examination of images, grain and noise prove unobtrusive, and chromatic aberrations commonly associated with low-light photography are negligible — but there’s one (albeit minor) hampering to what would otherwise be a perfect image. Interestingly, and only within certain shots, the images resulted in a moire effect. Caused by the way light reaches the sensor, and how the sensor interprets this light — and often magnified by the fact that a sensor’s pixels aren’t arranged in an organic way — false colour artifacts such as moire occur when the frequency of detail within a scene exceeds the sensor’s pixel pitch (and consequently, ability to render this detail). Still, this defect is unlikely to occur in most shooting scenarios, and was never so pronounced that it obscured the subject.

Like its predecessor, the OM-D E-M10 Mark II exclusively employs a contrast-based autofocus system. And as anyone who’s picked up an OM-D camera can agree, it performs excellently, with the camera locking in on subjects quickly and confidently, even in low light or at large apertures with a very shallow depth of field. In using the contrast-based autofocus system, you can pick from a 9x9 array or 81 autofocus areas, which cover most of the frame, making autofocus painless, even in dim-lighting or low-contrast areas. Both face- and eye-detection modes can be used for the precise tracking of subjects, as with single and continuous focusing modes. Dragging a finger, and the autofocus point, around the LCD touchscreen is a quick and easy way of following the subject, and subsequently tapping it will cause the shutter to fire. Photography surely couldn’t get any simpler.

Get serious without getting complicated — the OM-D E-M10 Mark II is the perfect starter kit for any beginner.

Specs:

  • Body type: DSLM (digital single-lens mirrorless)
  • Dimensions (wxhxd): 119.5mm x 83.1mm x 46.7 mm
  • Max resolution: 4608 x 3456
  • Effective pixels: 16.1 megapixels
  • Focus: Continuous-servo AF (C), manual focus (M), single-servo AF (S)
  • Sensor size: 17.3mm x 13mm
  • Sensor type: MOS
  • ISO range: 200–25600
  • Minimum shutter speed: 0.5 or one minute in bulb mode
  • Maximum shutter speed: 1/4000s, or 1/16000s with electronic shutter
  • Image stabilization: Sensor-shift, five-way
  • Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Battery: BLS-50 rechargeable Li-ion battery