Olympus' OMD line of micro four-thirds mirrorless beauties have always been known for their retro stylings that disguise very modern camera systems.
The size of a compact with the performance of an SLR, the E-M10 Mark II has some serious megapixel power and stabilization hardware underneath its old-school looks, as well as an intriguing slew of software processing options for both pictures and video.
Design and Build
The E-M10 Mark II maintains the retrolicious looks of it predecessor. It fits nicely into an average sized hand, and is comfortable despite its boxy edges.
However, the focus light is squished into the top left corner of the camera, in a place where users will most likely hold in order to get a good grip on the petite package. This makes focussing a bit of a challenge at times.
The on/off switch is also somewhat obtrusive, taking the form of a larger than necessary (but retro stylish) rotator switch, which gives you even less space to hold the camera with your left hand. This extravagant use of space means that all the control wheels have been shifted to the right, crowding the top right side of the body with three large dials. Olympus certainly doesn’t like left-handed people...
Steady as a rock
Don’t let the inevitable one-handed operation put you off, however. The camera comes with an all new in-body 5-axis stabilization system, meaning that even an earthquake wouldn’t be able to compromise the quality of your photos - much less the usual shakiness of a taking a photo with one hand.
The built-in image stabilisation is good news for prime lens lovers, and is a great boon for low-light and low shutter speeds. This stabilization carries over to its video mode to some degree, although it is certainly no Steadicam. Handheld work would still look much better than regular cameras though.
The AF is mostly fast and accurate, but can be a little iffy when tracking focus in sports mode, shifting erratically through the focal planes especially in challenging lighting situations. There’s also touch shutter AF, which allows you to pick your focus point on the LCD by touching your finger to the screen; holding it there will take a burst of pictures up to 8.5fps - quite nifty in a pinch, especially if you're using the LCD to frame your shots like you would on a smartphone.
Color me good
The 16MP sensor really chomps down on available light, providing gorgeously crisp images. There is good dynamic range for color, with the warmer hues looking very appealing without appearing artificial. When the light is good, there is certainly no lack of detail and sharpness.
When the light is good, the camera leaves no room for complaint, with crisp lines and great contrast - all thanks to the tiny powerhouse of a sensor at work. The camera goes all the way up to 25600 ISO, which you wouldn’t use, unless you’re into dotism (nothing wrong with that!). Images run largely grain-free all the way up to the higher ISOs above 1600 while retaining an impressive amount of clean detail, and of course there’s the pop-up flash if things move from low-light to no-light.
Using the same sensor and TruePic VII processor as the slightly more expensive E-M5, you definitely get enough bang for your buck as far as image quality is concerned. However, these impressive images don’t make their way onto the LCD screen, which can tilt up and down and is touch-enabled, but just doesn’t look as good as it should, given the kind of photos the camera can take.
A Viewfinder to kill (for)
Which is just as well, because the OLED viewfinder they stuck on top of this thing is an absolute beauty. With almost twice as much dots as the LCD, you’ll most likely be using this all the time. It's great for checking if your focus is in the right spot and if your picture and exposure settings are correct.
For purists who prefer the look of an optical viewfinder, a tweak of the settings menu and the viewfinder will give you a very competent approximation of one for you to look back through time with.
The digital peephole also does a very commendable job in during low-light, with noticeable, but very bearable latency when you move the camera around.
Very Social Media
The E-M10 Mark II comes with a whole host of social media friendly options, such as Wi-Fi connectivity to your smartphone, as well as a tremendous range of very convincing creative filters. Whether you’re a gloomy poet instagrammer or a foodporn-addicted Facebook status updater, there’s an art/filter setting that’s perfect just for you.
The camera also puts together time-lapse video for you, in resolutions of up to 4k(!). There’s also high speed video that goes up to 120fps, but only at 640 x 480, a feature that could be as much an afterthought as it is specifically optimized for social media feeds.
The E-M10 Mark II reminds us a lot of a refurbished American hotrod: it retains elements of the a classic’s appearance while packing serious horsepower underneath. Sure, some elements of the design sacrifice practicality for style, but it is precisely the camera’s look and feel that makes it stand out from its competitors, of which there are plenty.
It's a smart and chic little package that could just make fashionable young photographers put down their smartphone cameras, and pick up this old-time snapper with a digital soul.