If you haven’t already made the move to mirrorless, the ongoing activities of both Olympus and Panasonic – as well as a growing choice of lenses from a variety of makers – give the Micro Four Thirds format plenty of ammunition to combat the larger sensor alternatives. If it’s enough to convince you of MFT’s merits, then the choice between Olympus and Panasonic is a little harder to pin down – the latter has demonstrated a remarkable capacity for giving photographers exactly what they want, but if you have any sense of camera design heritage and aesthetics, then the former’s OM-D Series models tick all the right boxes.
 
Each successive OM-D model seems to channel the spirit of the legendary OM System 35mm SLRs more definitively than before and the second generation of the entry-level E-M10 is arguably the closest re-incarnation yet. It certainly has something to do with the size. None of the OM-D bodies are exactly bulky, but the new Mark II E-M10 is trimly petite… just like the classic OMs. Furthermore, the styling is even closer to, say, and OM-3 or OM-4, helped along by a fairly significant revising of the control layout which further emphasises the dial theme. Put simply, the E-M10 II is a pretty little thing – even more so than its predecessor – and this was always a key attraction of the legendary 35mm cameras. If you were buying on looks alone, the E-M10 II would beat all comers in the mirrorless world, but just like its predecessor, its beauty is more than skin deep.
 
Despite the many attractions of the higher-end OM-D models, we still crowned the original E-M10 as the pick of the litter for its hard-to-beat combination of size, styling, features, performance and price. In the fast-moving mirrorless camera market, crowns aren’t worn for long and since then Olympus has updated the E-M5 and upgraded the flagship E-M1 while Panasonic has been equally busy across its Lumix range. Yet, the E-M10 has held up well, with a bit of price snipping helping it hang onto its value-for-money edge. And now there can be an orderly succession because, if anything, Olympus has made the Mark II model even more of an appealing all-rounder.
 
It starts with the restyle – which we’ll get to in a minute – but also includes important improvements to key elements such as the electronic viewfinder, the image stabilisation system and the autofocus functionality, along with a myriad minor revisions which all add up to a more capable package across the board.
 
 
Better View
The restyle mostly involves the control layout, but the central housing for the pop-up flash 
and viewfinder has been reshaped so it’s slightly broader and looks more like that of an OM 35mm SLR while, similarly, a lip has been added to the edge of the top panel which is straight from the OM-1 lineage. 
 
There’s now an OM-1/2-style power on/off lever which sits where the main mode dial used to be on the Mark I model. On the new camera, the dial has swapped sides and, to make way for it, the front and rear input wheels have been re-aligned so they’re no longer so off-set. They’ve also been reduced in size and have classically knurled rims – as does the main mode dial – so the top panel is almost pure 1970s in appearance save for two ‘Fn’ buttons and the video start/stop button. Better still, it delivers much improved ergonomics, especially in terms of changing exposure settings on-the-fly.
 
The EVF was one of the few areas where the original E-M10 did seem a bit low-rent, but its basic 1.44 megadots LCD panel has been replaced with an OLED-type display boasting a much higher resolution of 2.36 megadots and an increased magnification of 1.23x (equivalent to 0.62x in 35mm format terms). The improvements in sharpness, detailing, colour reproduction, dynamic range and responsiveness are all significant… and especially noticeable compared to the previous model. 
 
The EVF has its own custom menu and here you can configure the display to one of three styles and add elements such as a real-time histogram, dual-axis level display, highlight and shadow warnings and a grid guide (chosen from a selection of four patterns). Usefully, you can configure the EVF independently of the monitor – although all the same elements are available for the latter too – and there’s a new setting called the ‘Simulated Optical Viewfinder’ (S-OVF). This essentially extends the dynamic range – and obviously switches off the preview functions – to replicate the look of an optical finder. The dynamic range expansion is actually quite dramatic, but it’s surprisingly how quickly we’ve become accustomed to using either the EVF or the monitor as a visual guide for exposure and white balance. Using S-OVF you have to go back to the traditional method of relying 
on the read-outs (although you can still sneak a peek at the monitor screen). 
 
Auto and manual switching is available between the EVF and the monitor, and the latter remains the same tilt-adjustable TFT LCD panel as before which has a resolution of 1.037 million dots and touch controls. A new addition to these is called the ‘AF Targeting Pad’ which is Olympus’s version of Panasonic’s ‘Touchpad AF’ function (as on the G7 and GX8) and works in the same way, allowing you to move the AF point around via the touchscreen while using the EVF for framing and composition. Using your grip hand’s thumb is the most comfortable way of working, and this is a much more convenient and efficient arrangement than fiddling around with four-way navigator keys. 
 
As before, the monitor also provides the ‘Super Control Panel’ for direct access to a long list of capture-related functions. The individual functions can be selected via touch control, but the subsequent settings are made via the front or rear input wheels. While on operational matters, the Mark II E-M10 retains the same menu design as its predecessor – and current siblings – which means just about everything beyond a few basics is done via an extensive Custom Menu and the Shooting Menu is actually quite small. It’s the opposite of the way most camera manufacturers do things, but obviously you will get used to it if you’re actually living with the camera on a daily basis.
 
Steady On
Like the rest of the OM-D family, the E-M10 II employs sensor-based image stabilisation, but it now corrects for movement in five directions rather than the previous model’s three. 
This is the same as for the E-M5 II and flagship E-M1, but it isn’t quite same system as the maximum range of correction is four stops rather than five. Nevertheless, this is still a big improvement and, as on the E-M5 II, when shooting video there’s the option of using a combined ‘Sensor-Shift and Digital IS’ mode which is particularly effective when using the camera hand-held. Digital IS shifts the image area across the sensor (achieved via a small crop) to provide additional correction. The rest of the E-M10 Mark II’s video capabilities are outlined in the separate Making Movies panel.
 
The sensor itself is the same 17.2 megapixels Micro Four Thirds size ‘Live MOS’ device as used on the previous model. It goes without an optical low-pass filter (LPF) in order to optimise the resolution. It’s mated by the same ‘TruePic VII’ processor as before, although no doubt there have been some tweaks to various elements of performance. For example, there’s a modest increase in the maximum shooting speed which is now 8.5 fps (versus 8.0 fps) with the AF and AE locked to the first frame while Full HD video recording is now possible at 50 fps with progressive scan. With continuous AF/AE adjustment the top speed increases to 4.3 fps from 3.5 fps. New is a silent shooting mode made possible by the inclusion of a sensor-based shutter which also gives a top shooting speed of 1/16,000 second (versus 1/4000 second for the conventional shutter). The sensor’s sensitivity range remains the same at ISO 200 to 25,600 with a one stop ‘pull’ to ISO 100.
 
The AF and AE systems are also unchanged; the former is Olympus’s ‘FAST AF’ contrast-detection system which employs 81 measuring points – arranged in a 9x9 pattern – with auto or manual point selection, and the option of setting a nine-point cluster for wider-area coverage. There’s both auto tracking and face-detection, the latter switchable to eye-detection and further refined to catch either the right or left eye. There’s also the option of combining the single-shot AF mode with a continuous manual override, and full manual focusing can be assisted by a magnified image (five settings up to 14x) or a focus peaking display. The latter is now available in an expanded choice of colours – red, yellow, white or black – and High, Normal or Low intensity settings.
 
 
Exposure control is based on Olympus’s 324-point ‘Digital ESP’ multi-zone metering with the choice of centre-weighted average or spot measurements. Continuing a long Olympus tradition (from the OM-4, in fact), the spot metering can be biased towards either the highlights or the shadows. Additionally, there’s an ‘Exposure Shift’ adjustment which fine-tunes each of the metering modes over a range of +/-1.0 EV in 1/6-stop increments.
The standard auto exposure control modes can be overridden via an AE lock, up to +/-5.0 EV of compensation or auto bracketing which can be set to shoot sequences of two, three, five or seven frames with adjustments of either +/-0.3, 0.7 or 1.0 EV per frame. As before, there’s a selection of auto bracketing modes with, in addition to exposure, settings for white balance, flash, ISO and ‘Art Filter’ special effect plus a new one for focusing. Focus bracketing can be set for sequences of up to 999 shots (!) with a focus differential adjustment from Narrow to Wide over ten steps. Long sequences are also possible with the ‘Art Filter’ bracketing which can also include the camera’s ‘Picture Mode’ presets so you could potentially end up with 21 variations of an image. 
 
Colour And Contrast
The E-M10 II has two new ‘Art Filter’ effects – called Vintage and Partial Colour – bringing the total selection to 14. Additionally, the choice of ‘Art Effects’ is expanded to nine (from seven) and these are variously added to the original effect… which themselves are mostly adjustable too. The six ‘Picture Mode’ presets are unchanged and the five colour modes have adjustable parameters for sharpness, contrast, colour saturation and tonal gradation. This last parameter can be set to Normal, Auto, High Key or Low Key. The Monotone ‘Picture Mode’ is adjustable for contrast, sharpness and gradation, plus there’s a set of contrast control filters (yellow, orange, red and green) and a choice of toning effects (sepia, blue, purple or green). You can store one modified ‘Picture Mode’ as a custom preset.
 
Supplementing the standard ‘PASM’ exposure control modes are 25 subject/scene modes plus the ‘iAUTO’ full auto mode which provides auto scene mode selection. A selection of basic manual overrides called ‘Live Guides’ are available when shooting in ‘iAUTO’ and these provide some control over colour saturation, colour balance, brightness, background blur and the blurring/freezing of movement. The ‘Live Guides’ are accessed via a touch tab on the live view screen and the adjustments are subsequently applied via slider-type controls which are also operated by touch. 
 
For the more experienced user, there’s the ‘Colour Creator’ function and ‘Highlight & Shadow’ control, both of which perform like built-in Photoshop tools, namely the Saturation/Hue and Curves adjustments.
 
When the ‘Colour Creator’ is selected, the front input wheel adjusts the hue and the rear wheel varies the saturation which, of course, can be monitored in live view. The ‘Highlight & Shadow’ control allows you to adjust the brightness of the highlights and/or the shadows around a central point. The front wheel tweaks the highlights while the rear dial works on the shadows. 
 
The E-M10 II also has multi-shot HDR capture (with both auto and manual modes), in-camera panorama stitching, a multiple exposure facility (with auto exposure correction), an intervalometer for recording time-lapse sequences and in-camera processing of RAW files. There’s also a ‘Live Composite’ mode which, after a base exposure is set (between 1/1.3 to 60 seconds), maintains the brightest elements of the image (say, for example, fireworks or stars) to avoid overexposing them while capturing multiple exposures over a period of up to three hours. With each successive exposure you can watch the image being ‘built’ on the monitor screen as is the case with ‘Live Bulb’ and ‘Live Time’ modes which work with the shutter’s ‘B’ and ‘T’ settings. Both allow for exposures of up to 30 minutes, and the image display intervals are variable.
 
The white balance control options comprise auto correction (with a ‘Keep Warm Colour’ option for use when shooting under tungsten lighting), a choice of seven presets (including for underwater), provisions for storing up to four custom measurements, and manual colour temperature control (over a range of 2000 to 14,000 degrees Kelvin). As always, Olympus does its own thing here; calling the custom measurements “one-touch white balance”, and the manual colour temperature settings “custom white balance”. Fine-tuning is available for all the presets, the four custom measurements and both auto modes. 
 
Despite being ultra-compact in size, the E-M10 Mark II still packs in a built-in flash which is concealed in the central housing and popped up by pushing the OM-style power on/off lever forward another notch. It has a metric guide number of 8.2 (at ISO 200) which is a little more powerful than before and it can serve as the commander in a wireless TTL flash set-up (a feature Olympus originally pioneered on its D-SLRs). Alternatively, manual control is available with an adjustable output down to 1/64. The shooting modes include fill-in, slow speed sync and second curtain sync. The maximum flash sync speed is 1/250 second.
 
 
Under Review
Post-capture, the E-M10 II’s in-camera editing functions for JPEGs comprise Shadow Adjust (for dynamic range expansion), Red-Eye Fix, Aspect, B&W, Sepia, Saturation, Resize and e-Portrait. The ‘Art Filter’ effects aren’t available for application post-capture.
 
The image review/replay screens can be configured to include a thumbnail image with a full set of histograms (i.e. brightness and RGB channels), a larger brightness-only histogram superimposed over the image, highlight and shadow warnings and a ‘Light Box’ display for the side-by-side comparison of two images (complete with zooming which is very handy for checking focus). The thumbnail pages comprise four, nine, 25 or 100 images plus a calendar display, but as with the replay screens, you can choose which ones you want to be available via the Custom Menu. Touch controls are available for browsing, zooming and scrolling through the thumbnails. Like its predecessor, the E-M10 II has a built-in WiFi module for image transfer, remote control of various functions and a live view feed. Instead of using NFC for easier connecting with mobile devices, the camera generates a QR code which is scanned via the O.I. Share app to configure the set-up. 
 
Both the Android and iOS operating systems are supported and even some of the touch controls transfer to the device, including autofocusing and shutter release.
 
Speed And Performance
Loaded up with our reference memory card – Lexar’s Professional 64 GB SDXC format UHS-I speed device – the E-M10 II captured a sequence of 25 JPEG/large/super fine frames in 2.922 seconds, representing a shooting speed of 8.55 fps… which pretty much nails Olympus’s quoted spec. For the record, the average file size was 8.2 MB.
 
Although the autofocusing is via contrast-detection measurement, in the single-shot mode it’s fast and reliable, especially when using either face- or eye-detection when it locks onto the subject in an instant. In continuous mode, the focus tracking is reasonably capable, but not in the same league as the hybrid systems using phase difference-detection. Olympus’s ‘Digital ESP’ metering is now well-proven and continues to deliver accurate exposures with the E-M10 II, even in challengingly contrasty situations.
 
The original camera delivered exceptional performance and, given it shares pretty much the same hardware here, the Mark II model does likewise, although it’s likely there’s been some software-related tweaks between the two models based on user feedback. As before, the superfine quality JPEGs exhibit high levels of crisply-defined detailing and very smooth tonal gradations. Again the dynamic range is wider than might be expected for a smaller-sized sensor. The colour reproduction is excellent, but of course there’s plenty of scope for fine-tuning here via the ‘Picture Control’ presets. Vivid, in particular, delivers really punchy images with boosted saturation and contrast, but without overdoing it.
 
Noise levels remain acceptably low up to ISO 3200 and both the ISO 6400 and 12,800 settings are still usable, but exhibit some graininess in the areas of continuous tone while there’s a small loss of definition. As we’ve noted with all the OM-D models, the MFT imaging performance doesn’t give anything away to the rival CSCs with a larger ‘APS-C’ sensor, especially in terms of the high ISO capabilities.
 
The Verdict
We really loved the original E-M10 and the Mark II model has even more appeal thanks, for starters, to its revised styling and ergonomics which make it even closer in spirit to one of the classic OM 35mm SLRs. It’s unquestionably the prettiest mirrorless camera on the market – even more so than the E-M5 II and the sheer smallness really does make the most of the configuration… further enhanced by the EVF’s major upgrade which is also another big plus. 
 
We also picked the first E-M10 as the pick of the OM-D litter – particular in terms of its value for money – but now there’s much stiffer competition in the shape of the brilliant E-M5 II so it’s harder to be quite so definitive. Nevertheless, the E-M10 Mark II still stands out as far as great value is concerned which makes it easier to contemplate as a second system if you’re not quite ready to give up your D-SLR just yet. It makes a brilliant travel camera, for example – especially with the ‘pancake’ 14-42mm power zoom – and certainly has everything the enthusiast-level shooter is going to want, backed up by a superlative imaging performance. But the bottom line is that it’s even more intuitive and enjoyable to use even with the menu system’s idiosyncrasies so it’s more likely to be your ‘go to’ camera no matter what you’re shooting. 
 
Dimensions (WxHxD): body only = 119.5x83.1x46.7 mm.
Weight: body only = 350 grams (without 
battery pack and memory card). 
Price: $799 body only. $999 with M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-6.3 EZ ED MSC zoom lens. $1199 for twin lens kit which adds M.Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 R telephoto zoom. Available in black or silver.