(Pocket-lint) - Say hello to the Olympus OM-D E-M10, the company's entry-level model into the OM-D compact system camera series. But by "entry-level" we don't mean low-end. When we got to see this camera in action ahead of the official announcement over in Las Vegas it had a feeling about it similar to the OM-D E-M5.
The OM-D E-M10 is anticipated to be more budget offering and yet still brings with it a strong feature set. It's got the same 16-megapixel sensor as found in all the OM-D models, as Olympus doesn't differentiate image quality from one model to another in the series. Whichever model you choose you can be assured of high quality, and we've been suitably impressed with this sensor already.
To the eye the E-M10 looks a lot like the original E-M5, but in the hand the same snakeskin-esque finish as the top-spec E-M1 model gives it a different feeling. The all-metal build of the camera nestles comfortably and those stacked dials fall into just the right place for the fingers. The small scale feels just right as it's not too big, not too small. We've been carrying the Olympus around in tandem with a full-frame Nikon and after a week at the Consumer Electronics Show the ability to spend a day with the smaller camera on its own made a big difference.
READ: Olympus OM-D E-M5 review
So what is different about the E-M10 compared to its other OM-D compatriots? Its features list is a little more trim, but in those more pro-spec areas. There's no expansion port for an additional battery grip on the base, the build is without weather-sealing and there's no accessory port for connecting up more demanding accessories.
It's not without its own merits and additions, though, including small points such as a tripod thread dead centre directly behind the lens and the playback and function button being aligned closer to the edge of the body.
There is also the same 1.44m-dot electronic viewfinder that worked a treat in the E-M5, complete with the adaptive brightness tech of the E-M1, but due to the addition of a pop-up flash unit and in order to keep the camera's overall size down Olympus has opted to remove one of the image stabilisation sensors from the build. That's right, pop-up flash is on board.
But just because one stabilisation sensor has gone doesn't mean there is no stabilisation. Instead the E-M10 utilises a 3-axis sensor. We've only shot using the camera out in the bright sun in the desert so haven't been able to discern what sort of difference this will make in practice - it's likely to impact video stabilisation the most compared to the 5-axis model.
On location in the desert, while snapping behind the scenes footage of photographer Damian McGillicuddy on a Death Valley shoot, we were able to give the camera a whirl and the Fast AF autofocus system works just as well as the OM-D E-M1 model. In a word, that means it's good. Fast and arranged over 81-points on the screen for heightened accuracy, the numbers game places it above the current E-M5's 35-points.
The one thing we're still waiting for from Olympus is a "pinpoint" style shooting mode, such as the one offered by Panasonic G-series models. The E-M10 does offer a small area autofocus, but the small square isn't the same as the crosshair-style found in the Panasonic Pinpoint AF mode. A small thing, as the E-M10's single autofocus ability is just as good as a DSLR or any other OM-D model, but a criticism nonetheless.
From fast autofocus to speedy burst shooting, the E-M10's quoted eight frames per second (8fps) burst mode is definitely quick, albeit one frame a second less than the E-M5 and two frames behind the E-M1.
There are some other features we weren't able to test in the wilds of the desert, such as the built-in Wi-Fi option. Other settings such as Olympus Art Filters also make it on board, to enable in-camera adjustments via presets, but that's a given with any Olympus model these days.
Lastly there's the new 14-42mm electronic zoom lens that came attached to the front of our E-M10. This collapsible power zoom lens will be available as one of the kit lens options and helps keep that physical size down yet further. We're fans of traditional twist-barrel lenses more, but each to their own, and Olympus will be offering different kit options.
Then there's the price: at £700 with the new 14-42mm lens the E-M10 undercuts its OM-D siblings to deliver an accessible price point. Come February it looks like we'll have a compact system camera that sits nicely between the Nikon D5200 and D7100 categories but with stronger features in many areas.