The sensor in the E-M10 Mark II is the same 16 megapixel 4/3 sized sensor as the one in the E-M5 Mark II. This sensor is a minor evolution of the sensor that debuted in the original E-M5 way back in 2012. It was a big step up in image quality at the time, but I have to say: I didn’t expect almost the same sensor to still be around in new cameras in late 2015. Still, it’s a quality imaging device, so let’s get into specifics.
Dynamic Range and Color
The E-M10 II does a nice job with dynamic range, which can capture the vast majority of details in even harsh daylight scenes. Despite the age of the sensor and the smaller 4/3 sensor, the E-M10 Mark II shows dynamic range abilities beyond what most would expect from the smaller sensor. While dynamic range isn’t quite as good as from the latest APS-C and full-frame mirrorless cameras, it isn’t far behind, and should satisfy most shooters in almost any lighting condition. The Olympus RAW files have always been calibrated to provide quite a lot of highlight headroom, so you’ll find when dealing with RAW images that you’ll have more room to pull highlights than you will to significantly push shadows.
Color is excellent as always. Olympus has always had great color and nothing has changed with the E-M10 Mark II. Colors are rich and vibrant while maintaining good balance and avoiding oversaturation. This is especially present in Olympus’ excellent JPEG engine, which I’ll delve into a bit more later on.
Detail and Noise
The E-M10 Mark II maintains the same 16 megapixel resolution as every Olympus Micro 4/3 camera in the past three years, and it continues to pull plenty of fine detail out of the excellent Micro 4/3 lenses. The sensor does not have an anti-aliasing filter, which adds just a bit of extra crispness to the images over something like the E-M5. The level of detail present will produce excellent images up to 24″ wide and good 30″ prints, which should be enough to satisfy most photographers.
The E-M10 Mark II has similar noise performance to the other 16 megapixel Olympus bodies, with almost identical performance to the E-M5 Mark II and even the original E-M5, though in my real-world shooting it seemed that base ISO noise was slightly improved in blue sky areas. While the noise performance isn’t as good as modern cameras with larger sensors, the deficit isn’t as large as some might imagine. I feel comfortable shooting with the E-M10 Mark II to ISO 1600 for almost any shooting situation, and even ISOs up to 6400 are eminently usable, as the images retain good color and a fair amount of detail. Going beyond this may work OK for some smaller web reductions or black and white prints, but I think most people will find the highest ISOs a bit too noisy. The great one thing that helps the E-M10 Mark II work quite well in dimmer light is the excellent IBIS, which often means that you can shoot at an ISO several stops lower than cameras that don’t utilize stabilization.
Olympus has always been known for excellent JPEG quality, and that tradition continues with the E-M10 Mark II. Color and clarity are excellent at low ISO, with very low compression and excellent processing that yields images that require minimal work. The variety of Art filters and tone curve presets (plus the ability to modify those presets) gives the shooter an array of options to produce images to their taste straight out of camera.
The default noise reduction at higher ISOs yields images that are very clean, but a bit too much smoothing is present for my taste, as valuable detail is lost at high ISO with default settings. Olympus gives you the ability to reduce or turn off JPEG noise reduction, though, and lower settings produce more natural results at high ISO.
I am not a videographer, but the video options on the E-M10 Mark II will be welcome for most casual video shooters, with a 77Mbps bit rate and the ability to shoot in 1080p at 60, 30 or 24 frames per second. Video shot at 60 frames per second can be slowed to 24fps for some mild slow motion capabilities. Quality is rather good, though the lack of a microphone input means that the camera is not going to be the right choice for those who shoot video professionally. The lack of 4K recording is a mild disappointment, but not unexpected.
The E-M10 II does have the ability to output a low frame rate 4K video using the built-in intervalometer. You can shoot time-lapse photos that the camera will then assemble into a high-quality 4K video clip, though at a very slow frame rate of just 5 frames per second.
The built-in image stabilization makes shooting video a steady affair, smoothing out the jerky motion that often accompanies hand-held video shooting. One big downside for me is the inability to use auto ISO in video mode, which is great for keeping full control of aperture while keeping your shutter speed at double the frame rate. Note that Auto ISO can be selected in video mode, but the chosen ISO is locked once recording starts, and ISO will not fluctuate on the fly to keep proper exposure when lighting conditions change during recording.