Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II: A Vintage-Styled Budget Camera [Review]
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a mid-priced mirrorless camera with a nice suite of features to explore. Like all mirrorless cameras, it has done away with the space-consuming internal mirrors of DSLR cameras. Instead, the sensor acts as viewfinder, autofocus system, and image creator all-in-one. The lack of mirrors gives mirrorless cameras a compact form that’s more comfortable for longer photoshoots. With the choice of a silver or black-framed body, and a vintage film camera look, the Mark II has a very classy feel. But how do the features of this stylish camera really measure up?
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Table of Contents
- MSRP: $649.99 body-only, $799.99 with kit lens
- Kit Lens: None or M.ZUIKO 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R lens. “II” means this is the second version of this lens, with some minor adjustments to the autofocus motor and body.
- Sensor: 16.1 MP (Micro 4/3rds sized at 17.3 x 13 mm)
- Number of Autofocus Points: 81 Contrast Detection points, which uses differences in image contrast to find focus. 37 of these 81 are Hybrid AF points. They use both contrast and Phase Detection, which detects differences in distance between AF points to find focus.
- Built-in Flash: Yes, with 5.0 m (16.4 foot) range at ISO 100. This ISO level is the lowest level of light sensitivity. Increasing the ISO will increase the effective flash range.
- Continuous Shooting: 8.5 fps
- ISO Range: 200-25600, expands down to ISO 100. Unlike a digital boost, which increases ISO beyond the native ISO range, a digital drop is a form of improved noise control. ISO 100 is useful for capturing especially clear pictures in bright lighting.
- Video Recording Capability: Full HD 1920×1080 (60, 30, 24 fps), HD 1280×720 (60, 30, 24 fps), SD 640×480 (30 fps)
- Image Format: JPEG and RAW. JPEG is a compressed image format most people use for displaying photos on a computer or smart device. It still looks good but has most of the non-essential data removed. RAW images take up more memory on a device but they contain all of the original image data. For photo editing on a computer, RAW files are preferred for the best quality.
- Wireless Connectivity: Yes; Wi-Fi. The camera can be remote controlled using the Olympus Image Share App available for Android and iOS. This app can also add GPS locations to photos or send pictures from your camera to your smart device.
- Battery Life (CIPA rating): 320 images per charge
- Weight: 390 g (0.86 lb / 13.76 oz)
- Dimensions: 120 x 83 x 47 mm (4.72 x 3.27 x 1.85 in)
Olympus’ OM-D Series has a retro look, and the E-M10 Mark II is no exception. With a wonderful film camera feel, the vintage styling is matched only by Fujifilm’s X-series. The ergonomics are excellent, with a solid battery grip textured with a pleasing leather feel. The body is a mixture of hard plastic and magnesium alloy. The Mark II also has a thumb grip on the right backside. With the thumb grip, shooting one-handed feels very natural and there’s little fear of dropping the camera by mistake. Although it’s not truly a compact camera, with the lens removed, the Mark II is small enough to fit into a pocket. The 1,440,000 dot LCD screen also tilts out and downwards to allow for creative composition angles.
With 16.1 megapixels of resolution, the E-M10 Mark II seems to lag a bit behind other cameras in its tier. 20 MP of resolution is the usual baseline for consumer level digital cameras. But megapixel counts are not nearly as important as manufacturers might lead you to believe. For any photographer not making large prints, 16 megapixels is plenty of resolution. 16 MP gives excellent resolution with room for cropping as well. 16 megapixels allows for photos up to 11″ x 16″ at 300 pixels per inch. If you absolutely need larger prints, you’ll want more megapixels for the best print quality. But many photographers have more megapixels than they need and will find 16 MP enough for most work.
The image sensor of the E-M10 Mark II is a Micro 4/3rds sensor, sized at 17.3 x 13mm. The Micro 4/3rds sensor is larger than that of the largest 1″ compact camera sensors (12.8 x 9.6mm). But smaller than that of an APS-C sensor (23.60 x 15.60mm), and much smaller than a full-frame sensor (36 x 24mm).
The sensor of the Mark II is large enough to give good dynamic range and noise control compared to a compact camera. Dynamic range is the range of possible colors captured by the sensor. And noise is a blanket term for errors that can arise in an photograph due to high ISO, lack of light, sensor problems, etc. But the larger the sensor, the easier it is to manage dynamic range and image noise because larger sensors gather more light. More light is more information for the image sensor to work with. Micro 4/3rds sensors remain capable of excellent photography, but smaller sensors always suffer in challenging light conditions. The built-in image stabilization ensures you can use a slower shutter speed for greater light exposure (see below for more on image stabilization).
What additional features does the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II have?
With 16.1 MP, a moderate sized sensor, average battery life, no 4K video, and 81 AF points, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II has average base specifications for a mirrorless camera. However it is a superstar when it comes to special features. The Mark II is loaded with functions, so only the most interesting have been highlighted here.
One of the most relevant for any photographer is its 5-axis Image Stabilization. The image sensor itself is stabilized to reduce or negate the effects of quick motions from the photographer or environment. Sudden motions while shooting can, depending on your shutter speed, cause blur in your photographs. Image stabilization helps counter this through various means. Sometimes a camera has software to help process out motion blur. Or there might be hardware elements in the lens or body of the camera. The sensor stabilization of the Mark II means there’s still room for additional IS in the lens, which many Olympus lenses have.
The in-body IS of the Mark II provides up to four stops of image stabilization. “Stops” sounds a bit strange, but it’s actually quite simple. A stop of light in photography refers to a doubling or halving of the amount of light entering a lens or hitting the sensor. Aperture, ISO, and shutter speed all use stops, but shutter speed is the most intuitive. Say a handheld shooting photographer needs a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second to avoid blur for a given scene. With the Mark II’s 5-axis IS, another photographer can shoot the same scene handheld at up to 1/60th of a second. The Mark II user has the same chances of motion blur as the photographer without image stabilization. That’s also before any lens IS, which can allow for even slower shutter speeds, depending on the situation.
Live Composite mode is a great feature that most photographers need computer software and extra gear to achieve. A composite photo is a photography technique that uses a series of images that are combined with software. The elements that haven’t changed from photo to photo are removed in every photo after the first. And the elements that have changed, like new light sources or subject motion, are added to the unchanging background. This gives some interesting creative options for the right scenes.
If you use Live Composite during a fireworks display, the camera will keep the city skyline the same and add multiple fireworks bursts to a single photograph. Used during a lightning storm, you may capture multiple forks that will then be added to a single image. Live Composite mode can also be used in astrophotography to capture star trails. The earth’s rotation will shift the position of stars over time. Live Composite mode can capture the movement of the stars and create a swirling tapestry of light. The Live portion of Composite mode means you can watch the photo being created on the LCD screen. You can then opt to change or cancel settings as the photo is being created.
The E-M10 Mark II also has in-camera Focus Bracketing. Focus bracketing allows the user to set a range of focus points for the camera to shoot from. You have to select a focus differential, from 1-10, and the number of photos to be taken. The focus differential describes the change in distance from one area of focus to the next. If you keep that number small, then there may not be much of a change in focus. Too large a number, and portions of the scene may not be in focus at all. The number depends on the scene and lens, so experimentation is required.
Focus bracketing is meant to be used with a tripod and an unmoving subject. After choosing your settings, the camera will shoot the selected number of pictures, changing the focus each time. You can then select your favorite picture out of the lot with the best focus. Or with the right software, you can create a composite photo with the exact depth of field you want. Depth of field is how much of a photo is in focus. So if you have 10 pictures of a flower, you can select only the 4 that have the entire flower in perfect focus. Using focus stacking, your composite photo will have a nicely blurred background. And every part of the flower will be in perfect focus.
Olympus’ higher end mirrorless cameras such as the OM-D E-M1 Mark II have Focus Stacking as a feature. Focus stacking allows you to first focus bracket, and then create your composite photo in-camera. Unfortunately, the E-M10 Mark II doesn’t have this feature.
The E-M10 Mark II has other additional features unique to the OM-D line, such as 4K Timelapse Movie. Time lapse movies are created by taking a series of photos for a preset amount of time, and then stitching them into a soundless movie. 4K timelapse is great for showing slow changes over time, such as a seed germinating.
The Mark II also has built-in HDR photography. HDR photos are a type of composite photo, where multiple images are taken over a range of exposure values. Exposure is the total amount of light reaching the image sensor. The camera adjusts the exposure up and down a stop of light, and then combines the (usually) three images. The resulting photo has increased detail in the highlighted and shadowed portions. HDR looks best when strong highlights or dark shadows can overpower an image. The interior of churches, with their large bright windows and recessed dark areas, are a prime example.
The autofocus points of the Mark II are selectable by touch on the LCD. With 81 autofocus points, you can choose exactly where in a photo you want the image focus to be, even a far corner. Lastly, the Mark II also has the usual in-camera art filters like monochrome, portrait, and vivid modes to adjust color values.
How does the Olympus Mark II compare to the Sony a6000?
The Sony a6000 is a slightly older mirrorless camera with a similar price point. The best selling mirrorless camera of all time, the a6000, is a great benchmark to compare the E-M10 Mark II against. What strengths does the Mark II have to offer against such a strong competitor?
Advantages of Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
Shutter speed 1/1600ths vs 1/4000ths of a second: The E-M10 Mark II’s electronic shutter can fire much faster than that of the Sony a6000. Rapid shutter speeds are essential for action photographers.
5-axis Image Stabilization: The Sony a6000 does not have any built-in image stabilization. IS is a great feature whenever you’re shooting handheld to minimize motion blur.
Live Composite Mode: Creates composite photos in-camera, with no need for computer post-processing.
Focus Bracketing: Takes a series of photos with different focus points. The user can select their favorite or create a composite photo later with computer software
Touchscreen: The Mark II can be controlled and autofocus points selected with the touchscreen LCD.
Advantages of the Sony a6000
24.3 megapixel resolution: The Sony a6000 has 8 more megapixels than the E-M10 Mark II. For the photographer wanting to create prints or crop often, extra resolution is useful.
179 vs 81 autofocus points: The a6000 has over twice as many selectable AF points. More autofocus points means more composition options.
360 vs 320 shots: The battery life of the a6000 is longer than the Mark II, although not significantly.
Larger sensor: The APS-C sensor of the a6000 means better dynamic color range and noise control than a Micro 4/3rds sensor.
Price: $549.99 body-only or $649.99 with 16-50mm kit lens for the Sony a6000 vs $649.99 body-only or $799.99 with 14-42mm kit lens for the E-M10 Mark II
Overall, the Sony a6000 has a better foundation as a camera. The higher resolution and larger sensor give slightly higher image quality, especially when lighting becomes challenging. The better battery life has you shooting longer, although as a whole, mirrorless cameras have poor endurance. With either camera, extra batteries are a smart purchase. But the Olympus has better features. The 5-axis image stabilization is great anytime you’re shooting by hand instead of with a tripod. Negating up to 4 stops of motion blur allows for lower shutter speeds, which means better exposure. Focus bracketing and live composite mode may also be essential for the styles of certain photographers. Macro and Astrophotography lovers should definitely consider the E-M10 Mark II.
Improvements over the OM-D E-M10
The OM-D E-M10 Mark II comes with a number of important upgrades over the discontinued OM-D E-M10. The in-body image stabilization of the Mark II is slightly improved. The OM-D E-M10 had 3-axis IS, which provided up to 3 stops of image stabilization. The E-M10 Mark II has 5-axis IS, which provides 4 stops of image stabilization. The Mark II is also 10 grams lighter and comes with a silent mode for the electronic shutter. The electronic shutter of the Mark II can fire much faster than a traditional mechanical shutter. The E-M10 Mark II shutter speed maxes out at 1/16000ths of a second; four times faster than the 1/4000ths of a second of the original E-M10. The Mark II also introduces Focus Bracketing and 4K Timelapse Movies to the E-M10 line.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a worthy choice for any beginner looking to step into the mirrorless camera world. The intermediate photographer looking for a new camera should also consider the Mark II. It has most of the features that make Olympus mirrorless cameras great creative choices. And the in-body image stabilization is one of the best in its tier of cameras. The price is very reasonable, and a hidden feature of the Olympus Micro 4/3rds line is that the lens mounts are also compatible with Panasonic’s 4/3rds lenses. Your lens selection is effectively doubled. But keep in mind that certain features, like combining in-body image stabilization with in-lens IS, may not work across brands. Overall, the OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a very smart choice at an affordable price.
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