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Olympus’s new OM-D E-M10 has the size of a compact, performance of a flagship camera

Check out our review of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 camera.

If you thought the OM-D E-M1 was a bit too expensive to stomach or perhaps you don’t need all that power, Olympus has added a new Micro Four Thirds camera that is slightly more attainable for the masses. The new E-M10 combines features from the E-M1 and E-M5 (both DT recommended cameras) and puts them in a body that’s as small and lightweight as the Olympus PEN series of compact system cameras; it’s even smaller than the smallest DSLR, Canon’s EOS Rebel SL1. Available in March, the camera starts at $700 for the body – great if you’re looking to step up from a PEN camera and you already own some MFT lenses – or $800 with an M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42 mm f3.5-5.6 II R lens for those getting into an interchangeable lens camera for the first time.

Like its OM-D siblings, the E-M10 has that attractive retro styling with mechanical dials and a built-in flash – an OM-D first. The body is all metal, but it lacks the weather resistance qualities of the E-M1. It also uses an in-camera 3-axis image stabilization system instead of the 5-axis found the E-M1 and E-M5, as well as the PEN E-P5 (stronger than 2-axis systems however). While entry-level in the OM-D series, it’s not a slacker: It employs the same 16-megapixel Live MOS 4/3 sensor and TruePic VII image processor as the E-M1. The E-M10 has an ISO range between 100 and 25,600, but movie capture is only up to 1080/30p.

Olympus OM D E M10 comparison front angle

While the E-M1 uses the Dual Fast hybrid autofocusing, the E-M10’s Fast AF is the company’s fastest-ever AF system, Olympus says. It uses 81 target areas that cover the entire image area. You can also zoom in on a scene for more precise focusing. With the help of the image processor, the E-M10 can handle burst shooting at 8 frames per second (fps) and continuous shooting of up to 20 RAW frames or unlimited JPEGs (3.5 fps when tracking mode is on).

The E-M10 has a bright electronic viewfinder (EVF) in addition to the 3-inch tilting touchscreen, which is always a welcome feature. The EVF has a fast 120-fps refresh rate and 1.15x magnification, so it’s responsive and accurate. The EVF is rated at 1.44-million dots, which isn’t as bright at the E-M1’s but it’s no chump.

Olympus has included Wi-Fi for image transfers and remote control and Live View when paired with smartphones. Olympus uses a semi-auto pairing method where the user scans a QR code that appears on the LCD, and from our experience it works very well. It’s not as strong as Sony or Samsung’s, but it’s useful. Users stepping up to this type of camera for the first time will have automatic and creative modes at their disposal.

New lenses and accessories 

Along with the E-M10, Olympus is also introducing two new MFT lenses. One is a pancake zoom 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens that features electronic zoom ($350); Olympus says it’s the world’s slimmest standard zoom lens. Because it’s electric, you can zoom it when operating the camera remotely via a smartphone. The second lens is a 25mm f/1.8 fixed lens ($400) that lets you get close from 9.8 inches away. These lenses are optional, and the 14-42mm lens here is different from the one included in the kit option.

Olympus also has new lens accessories for shooting creative images. There’s a fixed-aperture F8.0 Fish Eye Body Cap lens with a 9mm focal length; the MCON-PO2 macro converter that’s compatible with six lenses; and the Automatic Opening Lens Cap LC-37C, designed to open/close to protect the aforementioned 14-42mm pancake lens. Pricing to be determined for both accessories.

Other new accessories include ECG-1 grip that enhances the camera’s built-in grip.

First impressions

We had a very brief opportunity to try out a preproduction unit during CES 2014 behind closed doors. Since it was an engineering sample, we won’t talk about performance and image quality. The camera has a nice feel and a solid build as the other Olympus premium cams, especially for folks used to handling smaller cameras. Slap on the pancake lens and you have yourself a nice compact shooter that street photographers would enjoy. We’re thinking Olympus is targeting the same group as Panasonic’s Lumix GM1. Autofocusing was fast and responsive, and so was the EVF. We can see the appeal of this compact camera for many, especially those who want an ILC that’s easy to tote.

Olympus OM D E M10 rear lcd

With the strong specs and price, it leaves us wondering about the Stylus 1 that Olympus introduced late last year. That camera is a premium bridge point-and-shoot with a built-in zoom lens. It has a similar design and construction, but internal specs wise, it isn’t as strong as the new E-M10. Yet, it costs nearly as much. In fact, holding the E-M10 felt very similar to holding the Stylus 1. For a user who wants something stronger than a compact point-and-shoot, the E-M10 seems like a better option for just a bit more money, yet it gives you the flexibility of lens options down the road. It also make us wonder what will happen with the PEN series, and how Olympus plans to differentiate the two.

We will be putting the E-M10 to the test in the next couple weeks, so stay tuned for our full review. Let’s see if this camera can deliver as we hope.