Saturday, December 1, 2018

Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark II Review

Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark II Review
December 2018, Carl Garrard

As promised, I'm diving deep into the world of the Micro Four Thirds system to bring you my opinion on cameras I feel are a real steal on the market. This review on the EM10 Mark II, is one of a few upcoming reviews on Olympus cameras and lenses that I hope to continue with (time permitting). I purchased the camera for this review brand new from Beach Camera (through Amazon), which surprisingly came with a free $15.00 coupon for any future purchases, and a 1 year extended warranty card for the camera. Both of the freebies were appreciated. Total price for the EM10 Mark II and 14-42mm II "R" lens? $399.00 (I didn't use the included lens for this review, opted for the EZ pancake!) I've read enough about the EM10 Mark II online to know it has a high value factor, and is a pretty popular choice in the m4/3 realm. So what do I think about the little EM10 Mark II?

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Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark II Review- Overview
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If you read my EM5 Mark II Limited review, you already know that camera impressed me. That camera was a loaner from Olympus, and so I no longer have it in my possession. It made such a good impression on me that I decided to try out a few more "modern" Olympus cameras. I wanted to see how they would compare to my current system cameras, and how they all compete as a whole on the market. The EM10 Mark II seemed like the best bang for the buck, whilst not sacrificing much, if anything practical compared to the Mark III version. It arrived yesterday, and I spent all night and day with the camera (I'm quite versed with Olympus's menu systems and capabilities overall now).

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First of all, it came in the same premium like packaging kit that the EM5 Mark II Limited came in, and for $399.00 I have to say, that was totally unexpected and impressive. I didn't get the little wallet that the EM5 Mark II had, but hey...who's complaining. And with the extra goodies from Beach Camera that were also unexpected, I have to say I feel like I really made out here. I've had great experiences (although few) with them in the past, so I may be taking a look at them more closely as a retailer option in the future.

Secondly, when taking the camera out of the package, I was again surprised to see how premium the camera was (even the included kit lens isn't bad). I had read somewhere or, maybe saw a video review, of the EM10 II in advance of this writing stating that it was a very plasticy camera (it might have been DPReview actually...). The truth is, whoever that person was, or their impression was, is completely uninformed. Questioning my sanity, I checked Olympus USA's description of the EM10 Mark II, and they state that its made of premium metal just as I thought, so there you go. I am sane.

In the last couple of months, I've used the EP5, EP1 and 3, EPM 2, EM5 II, and, I have an OMD EM1 coming next week. So yeah, I'm pretty caught up now and familiar again with Olympus's *newer* and older m4/3 lineup. I've got a few m4/3 lenses here too, and an adapter to use my older 4/3 lenses as well (such as the stellar 12-60mm f/2.8-4). I've been using those lenses for this review as well.

Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark II Review- Build Quality
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Every part of the EM10 Mark II is metal, all except the USB housing flap, memory card door, and rubber front and rear thumb grip. That's exactly what the EM5 II was like, albeit magnesium instead of aluminum alloy. So you can dispel any rumors or misconceptions that the EM10 Mark II is plastic, it's not, and quite the contrary feels almost every bit as good as much higher priced cameras.
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Also worth mentioning are the fit and finish. There are no gaps or signs of inadequate engineering here, every panel and part of the camera is tightly and precisely put together. The finish varies on the camera, from the nice smooth and cool flat black finish on the metal parts of the camera, to the slightly textured thumb rest and premium and dense leather textured rubber on the grip. Both give you an impression of a much higher priced camera.

All of dials, buttons, and switches feel superbly crafted. And when I say that, I'm comparing them to every other camera I've ever used before. The two main control dials feel so good, which are anodized aluminum alloy metal; and they operate tightly like they are on bearings. The dials also have a perfectly dampened feel and audible click. I found that putting the camera down was next to impossible, because it feels so good to fiddle with the dials.

Even the knurled etching on the dials feels so precise. Considering the dials will get the most use of the external controls, I find not skimping on the build or feel of the dials was a very smart design decision. The Mode dial is the same, but bound tighter, which makes sense since no dial lock is needed. All of the dials are elevated nicely, and make for excellent haptic feedback. So never mind that they may look kind of awkwardly high, there is good practical reason for this.

EM10 Mark II

Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark II Review- Handling
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Buttons are large, well spaced, and all have very nice click and feedback. The on/off switch has a reassuring snap into the on position, and a slick implementation of raising the flash housing by pushing the switch (with sprung tension) past the on position forward more. The flash housing, which is all metal, has plastic parts inside but that is common. It snaps up with a confident snap, it doesn't lazily pop up into place like some built in flashes. I like that. And overall I like how the feedback of the controls feel, the EM10 Mark II is a very well built and enjoyable camera to operate and control. There is a sense of premium ownership it gives, that typically costs MUCH more to obtain. Even some high priced cameras don't feel or operate this nice in hand.

The grip is adequate, similar to the EM5 II, and quite possibly the weakest point of the EM10 Mark II, which, is still saying something for the camera overall. Had Olympus re-positioned the strap lug higher and a bit further back, it would be more comfortable for the shooting hand. That said, I ordered an accessory "hard" grip for it to help improve handling of the shooting hand that doesn't add much size or weight to the camera. This is a very small camera!

Size comparison with the very small Fujifilm XE2. With  a Fuji kit lens to match the Olympus's 14-42mm EZ lens, it would be a much larger and heavier package .It goes to show you how small that EZ lens is. And, the Fuji is not a large camera by any means. Hard to tell by the picture, but the EM10 Mark II is only about 2mm taller than the XE2. Its about 1cm less wide, and easily fits into a coat or hoodie pocket.

But, don't let it's small size fool you. The EM10 Mark II somehow never feels cramped for space, nor does it lose out on the amount of controls it has. I felt with the EM5 II there were just too many distractions and controls/buttons in some respects, and that the EM10 Mark II strikes this near perfect balance without feeling cramped or limited. It's a Goldilocks sort of camera to me, at least. Overall the EM10 Mark II is a pleasant surprise in nearly every respect, at least in terms of its handling and build quality, and the overall kit.

Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark II Review- General Notes and Image Quality
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So far I'm sure you've noticed that I've given this camera a pretty positive review. And deservedly so, Olympus ought to be commended for the package they have put together here. And I know I'm late to the reviewing game with this camera, so I'm still catching up on all things *modern* Olympus. But remember, in order to completely eliminate any sense of my own lingering bias (and for my readers), I should remind you that I wanted to purchase the EM10 Mark II personally instead of having Olympus loan me another camera. Hang on, I'm going somewhere with this.

I dusted off that old four thirds Zuiko 40-150 for this review (with an adapter), man this thing is sharp!

Since my first  unboxing impressions, it's been non stop shooting with the little EM10 Mark II, on walks, hikes, my drive to work, and around the house. And I can say without question, this is the most fun I've had with an Olympus camera to date. It's even more fun too shoot with than the EM5 Mark II was, and more capable than every other Olympus but that camera. If you were to ask me which to choose, I'd pick the EM10 Mark II simply based on the fact that I feel its a simpler camera to operate and its handling is superior.

Grabbed this gem on my way to work. Nothing like good ol' Hose Power (cough).

In tough weather, I'd gladly pick the EM5 Mark II if I had to have only one camera. I feel the EM5 Mark II is a great choice if you don't want two cameras like myself, such as an EM1 and EM10 Mark II. It's sorta the go between. But for me, I want a small petite carry everywhere camera, and a larger pro-style camera such as the EM1 for birding, long hike photography, and foul weather photography trips (you know the more serious stuff). 

So for the role it will play, it absolutely fits ideally. All three cameras have similar image quality, so that really isn't a factor in any of this. And I'm sure I'll like the EM1 as well (we'll see!). But let me quit explaining myself to death now, and get on with my general impressions using it in varied circumstances. I'll just start with a couple lists, since it's easier.

  • Haptic experience is off the hook, I don't want to set it down. I have zero complaints about button positions or the overall quality and design execution of nearly every part of this camera.
  • The shutter sound is something fantastic, the best I've heard of any Olympus to date, and one of the best sounding cameras I've ever used.
  • If there is such a thing as a true classic digital camera, Olympus made it. This is unlike a couple of Fujifilm cameras that sell you on a look, but don't live up to a good experience.
  • Auto focusing is extremely confident and quick, and this really surprised me.
  • Battery life has been excellent
  • Overall speed of the camera hasn't hindered me yet
  • It has personality, focused engineering, a special something lacking in most cameras
  • Really enjoy the vintage art filter (I always shoot a raw with it though)
  • Just a blast to shoot with (why do I keep picking it up!?) 
  • Love the image quality from ISO 100 up to ISO 5000, it's a great sensor
  • Ironically, the magnification of the viewfinder is exactly the same as what we see with the eye when the kit lens is set to 42mm (84mm equivalent)
  • I noticed a little shutter shock, so I turned on anti-shock, and bingo, issue gone
  • It's got all the bells and whistles I like for creative side work (HDR, Video, Timelapse w/auto video, etc.)
  • I do wish the right strap lug was higher and further back (or flush type)
  • I'd like to be able to shoot with just a histogram and AF point only on one screen
  • A flip and twist screen would have made this a classic with vloggers

As far as the sensor is concerned, its been around and improved in several generations. It's quite a capable sensor now without any bad surprises, and more than adequate for landscapes, street/candids, and for making long lasting memories of family and friends. For action stuff, pair it with a reasonably fast telephoto, keep the ISO below 1600, and you're set. For a reviews sake, I did a few little test shots here, and the captions explain each.

ISO 5000, raw converted, ACR. No noise reduction (monitor light only)
Same shot, 100% crop, no noise reduction

Same shot, only chroma NR done (15 on ACR slider)

I'd push the camera to 6400 or higher when going with monochrome images, but there really is no reason to do that for most circumstances using m4/3 lenses. Olympus recommends keeping this camera set at ISO 200-5,000, and I agree in general. That said, I like ISO 100 quite a bit, so I won't be taking that recommendation in this case. Dynamic range on this sensor is quite excellent, with more highlight recovery than I expected, and very little penalty raising the shadow areas. A well balanced malleable raw file always excites me, and there are no bad surprises in the raw files at all (like banding for example).

Jpeg out of camera, ISO 100

After Raw Conversion, shadows lifted

This sensor also has plenty of resolution and detail, and I'd not hesitate to print up to 30x40" using a good sharp lens (great thing is, many m4/3 lenses are very sharp corner to corner, even the teeny kit lens used here). Since the sensor appears to have no AA filter (or a very weak one), there's really no need to sharpen images. I use a bit of unsharp mask only, and sparingly.

Full of detail, corner to corner. Unsharp mask at 115 and .3 pixel radius (that isn't a lot)
100% crop of the above image.
Used my old four thirds 40-150mm for this shot. I couldn't resist a quick moon shot, same unsharp mask and raw conversion as above.

Used in limited circumstances, I do like the art filters Olympus makes. Vintage, Grainy Film, and Cross Processing are my favorite, and in that order. Since I always record a raw file with every Jpeg, I see no reason not to have a little fun with the art filters too. Vintage has a sort of believable film like look that got me hooked right away.

Ah vintage. I like you. And this look is similar to the view through the EM5 Mk II's viewfinder as well (its like the output levels on the highlights have been dropped). Hmmm. I'm sure there's no coincidence.

For landscapes, it's got the dynamic range and detail I need for tone rich, detailed prints. I don't see a big difference between ISO 100 or 200, so to keep shutter speeds down, I prefer 100. With so many excellent optics available for m4/3, using these cameras for landscapes is more appealing than ever. On top of that, I can make long time lapse videos and HDR's as well.

Great tones and detail for landscape. ISO 100. I focused on the far mountains near infinity, I could have stopped down to f/8 for more depth of field.
So much details in the extreme corners, the kit lens is really fantastic. Micro power!

Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark II Review- Concluding
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All in all, the EM10 Mark II is a blast to use. It doesn't get in my way, and once its set up to your preferences, it's pretty much a camera that will do whatever you want it to do for general photography and more. I found less to complain about in this review than just about any camera review I've done to date that I can recall. Between its excellent pricing these days, overall fun factor, capability, I think the EM10 Mark II is probably one of the best cameras for the money from any brand out there.

Leaving the day job. I really like the vintage art filter. And I said that twice now.

Photography should be fun, and what kind of fun is the OM-D EM10 Mark II? Well, the entire experience from purchasing, using the camera, and writing the last word on this review has exceeded my expectations greatly. I'm glad to be surprised, it doesn't happen all that often anymore. This is truly a bonafide classic digital camera, if ever I've used one. It lives up to its handsome looks in every way, and it's supremely capable as a bonus.

If you are shopping around, perhaps you could use one of the thousand direct links to this camera I've made in this review. I'd not hesitate to recommend it to anyone I can think of for an all round excellent camera. Now that I've had experience using it, I can see why many people rave about it. It's just one of the most balanced cameras out there, and you get a lot for your money. It almost feels illegal to buy it for its current price.

Stay Focused.

-Carl Garrard

P.S. It also comes in a limited edition version, and silver/black. That limited looks nice. Photos below.


  1. Nice review. I'd be curious to see what you think of the Panasonic GX85, GX9 and G85 cameras as well. These represent excellent mid-range value in MFT currently.

  2. Hi D S, and thank you! I've recently spent some time with the G85 (I may write a review...), and have used the GX85 in the past. I forgot too, that I owned the GX7 for a bit, but my overall consensus on Panasonic is that they make excellent cameras in general. The one I'm most interested in now, is the G9 and OMD EM1 MK II :). Thanks for commenting!

  3. Just got one used, double zoom kit, low shutter count, no scratch or other damage. 300€ well spent, and I'm selling the zooms as they're surplus to my requirements (I already have the same or similar ones). This might end up being an almost free camera for me :-)

    1. Hi Luc, that's another great deal! Show's you can find them if you poke around a bit more. All of this bargain madness has me a little worried about the photo industry. I think it will only continue to retract.

  4. Wow, $399 new? Best I have found is $449 and that is body only.

    1. Hi Steve, yep, Beach Camera on Amazon had a deal. Not sure if they still have them but they were listed as "refurbished" but nothing about it was refurb to me. It was open box like new condition with nothing excepted. Pretty good score there :)

    2. Thanks Carl. I will check it out. Have trying to get a refurb from the Olympus website with no luck yet.

  5. I bought the Olympus OMD 10 mark 2 in August and could not agree more with your review. The camera begs to take it with you everywhere like an excited puppy dog as it is an absolute hoot to use (I thought I was the only one). Although I have graduated from a canon superzoom to my first micro 4/3 ( never had a DSLR) I have already had great fun with the art filters, live timer and timelapse.
    Two things to bring out that is worth mentioning - the camera is so unintimidating no one pays attention to me when I am out which is great and more likely to get natural shots. And the down side - it is so unintimidating that my wife is using the camera more and more!!