Olympus took us by surprise with the new OM-D E-M10 IV camera, especially after the official announcement of leaving the imaging business earlier in June 2020. Therefore, it seems that this model might be the last camera ever produced with the Olympus brand engraved in it. If that's the case, we'll be witnessing the end of an era that started back in 1936.
Back to more recent times, Olympus made a real breakthrough into the mirrorless camera scene with the OM-D series in 2012 (more specifically, with the OM-D E-M5 model). A happening which had a huge (positive) impact in the Micro Four Thirds system, a standard developed by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008.
Micro Four Thirds (also known as MFT) may not seem like a big thing now, but back when we had DSLRs all over the place, this was quite a revolution. The MFT format allowed these two camera manufacturers to build not just smaller camera bodies, but also ones capable of lens interchangeability. This resulted in a revolution, and when copped with Metabones adapters, there was no virtual excuse for not trying these cameras out.
Of course, early mirrorless cameras had a lot of "ifs and buts" that stopped early adopters from making a 100% migration into this system. But eventually, this format became more and more advanced, and the rest is very well known to all of us.
So, without further-ado, let's take a nice overview of this camera, which could be the last ever Olympus branded camera we'll have in our hands.
Right out of the Box
Listed with a starting price of $699.99, one can easily label this as an entry-level MFT mirrorless camera. And even when that wouldn't be a wrong call, it offers several interesting things that we could also call as niche oriented.
The camera comes with a 20 Megapixel Live MOS sensor and in-body image stabilization system. It also features a very solid-looking flippable LCD screen, which will come in handy for several purposes like street photography and video recording. But beyond that, it can even flip back down for vlogging and selfies purposes. A really nice thing to have if you (like us) think that dedicated cameras deliver a different experience when compared to smartphones.
Cool Notice: When flipped down, the overall design works fantastically by offering a firm grip and easy to access controls on the screen as well. This will make self-shooting an easier and more pleasing task.
The OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a clear upgrade from the previous Mark III model presented back in September 2017. Which means that this camera is still focused on being lightweight without scarifying image quality or performance, within the limits of the MFT format.
The key main spec upgrades are these:
- 20 Megapixel sensor against 16 Megapixel
- They both have the same TruePic VIII image processor, but Mark's IV is a bit more improved
- Up to 4.5 stops of correction vs. 4, and they both have 5-axis in-body image stabilization
- A bit less burst rate of 4.5 fps burst shooting with auto-focus vs. 4.8
The OM-D E-M10 Mark IV also comes with 121-point contrast-detect AF system and a very generous Electronic viewfinder of 2.36 million dots and 0.62X magnification. USB charging is its way to go, and you can get a very inconspicuous yet capable 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ lens for an extra $100 on the $699 price of the body.
Oh, and for a limited amount of time, you could get a free starter kit which consists of an Olympus camera bag, an extra BLS-50 battery (which is always useful, especially when talking about mirrorless cameras) and a 32GB SD card. All this is valued (according to Olympus) at $99.99. That way, investing on the lens feels less in our pockets.
On the Sensor
The main thing that we noticed when this camera was announced, is the 4 megapixel increase when compared to the Mark III. Now, with a larger megapixels count, there could be more trust in the Micro Four Thirds format.
Under regular shooting conditions, this camera is capable of shooting 15 frames per second while in burst mode, and the focusing system allows its users to precisely focus their subjects beyond their faces thanks to an improvement on eye focusing capabilities.
Let's remember that this is an entry level camera, and having professional features like 5 axis image stabilization, and those mentioned before, at least at a very limited yet capable level, is a very interesting thing to have in such a small and compact camera.
Another interesting feature found under the hood is the legacy behind the continuous shooting capabilities. Which are inherited from the algorithms on the E-M1X model (yup, the flagship camera from Olympus).
Be careful about cranking the ISO too much, and here we are talking that from ISO 3200 some noise is detectable, and at 6400 it becomes visible for sure. This, of course, is a matter of taste. But we do think that is important to tell it out. And honestly, a couple of years ago we weren't able to shoot beyond 400 without messy results, so this is a huge benefit now.
How does it Feels?
One of the many things that DSLR lovers have continuously criticized mirrorless camera systems is bulky-less hand-held feeling of these. Olympus has a long tradition of making their cameras feel comfortable when using them under any circumstance, especially the more advanced models like the OM-D E-M1 Mark II or the OM-D E-M5 Mark III for example. Therefore, it is no surprise that ergonomics plays an important design role in this camera too.
For the more techy ones, this Olympus camera will definitely feel quite limited when compared to the more powerful models. But for those like me, who need little settings and features to start shooting, the camera will feel rather intuitive and friendly to work with.
On the very top of the camera, we'll find several buttons to deal with. The most important one, the power button, is at the left of the camera, which pretty much obliges one to use both hands for turning it on. After that, one hand usage becomes a more doable task. We find that having the AEL/AFL button right where the thumb rests is quite a nice feature, and the overall design offers a very firm hand grip.
Last but not least, when the camera has the screen flipped 180 degrees towards the front of the camera (for selfies and vlogging purposes), the camera sort of "expands" its own grip thanks to the deep gap left behind the LCD screen. And inside that space, there is a strip of rubber that gives a little extra grip for a more confident grabbing too! We aren't sure if this was the real intention behind that thick screen, but we find it quite genius indeed.
Wait, there's more!
The extra grip is something you thank better when shooting with long and heavy lenses, like the recent M.Zukio related announcement made by these folks. This is the M.Zuiko Digital ED 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS.
Priced at $1,499.99, this powerful telephoto lens could be a very interesting option for the OM-D E-M10 Mark IV camera. A set-up which will result in a summed total weight of 1.7 kilograms (380 grams on the camera and 1325 on the lens).
This lens will become a 200-800mm Focal Length (35mm equivalent) when mounted in the MFT camera, making the maximum aperture value of f/5~f/6.3 a very bright solution when considering such focal lengths.
Being both splash and dust proof, and featuring Super HR Glass, the lens has been designed to last. It also comes with an in-Lens Image Stabilization and Autofocus limiter if the 5-axis image stabilization inside the camera needs an extra punch.
The result of such combination is a lightweight weather sealed design, ideal for macro, wildlife and sports photography. Even traveling photography becomes a more pleasing adventure when using a lightweight yet potent lens like this one. And at 200mm, it could definitely be a better portrait solution now that social distancing has become a normal thing. Working with such powerful focal length, is always a joy. And after looking at those specs, it doesn't feel expensive either.
Olympus has a long tradition of showing us that lenses could be small while still delivering high quality results. That's the main achievement of the MFT format, and just for perspective purposes, such an optic power could easily reach $10K in other brands.
Some other Goodies
The E-M10 IV comes with the market's standard specs of a 1.04 million dots 3" LCD screen. Beyond the 180° self oriented purposes, the screen can also be locked at 45° and 90°. In our experience, 90° is one of the most useful things to have when doing street candid photography.
Life Saving Tip: The camera comes with a "boost" mode for low light situations. This doesn't mean that the camera becomes more sensitive or capable of shooting under low light situations but that it increases the brightness on the LCD screen. Be careful because this doesn't reflect true exposure. Always rely on your parameters and the histogram, which is the most truthful way of exposing a photograph.
At the price of $699, the 2.36 million dots with magnification factor of 0.62X electronic viewfinder seems decent more than standard. A very curious thing on the camera is that the eye sensor on the EVF gets disabled when pulling the screen out. This is quite useful, especially for those street photographers used to shoot from the hip (yes, we are able to do that :).
Navigating through the camera should feel like other Olympus cameras, but is said that this one could be a bit friendlier to use. It has a Live Control which is basically a shortcut menu, and a Super Control Panel for more advanced usage. Beyond these two, there is a third menu on the camera called "Live Guide" which is taught for specific photographic purposes.
Creative Note: The E-M10 IV comes with 28 built-in scene modes, and with so many options, the previews shown by the camera are a convenient thing to have.
About power and memory we can tell you that the BLS-50 lithium-ion battery is an impressive power-pack which we've used before in other cameras. And about the memory, a nice surprise! The card slot supports high-speed UHS-II cards. A single charged BLS-50 battery can give you enough energy for 360 raw shots.
Who Should Buy this Camera?
After the aforementioned press release from Olympus, it doesn't feel right to say that everyone should buy this camera. We think that Olympus knows this, and it has been targeted to some particular niches.
First, for those who are already committed to the brand and have a fine M.Zuiko lenses line-up. Second, for anyone looking for a portable camera to carry around everyday with the possibility of lens interchangeability.
We find hard that entry-level photographers would consider this camera due to the unfortunate event announced by the brand. Nevertheless, we do think that it might resonate a bit on people who are already seasoned due to its entry-level price. The camera comes with some very interesting features that a more mature segment of the market could enjoy.
Casual video shooters, and people willing to have a slower selfie experience could be another group which could find this camera could wake some interest as well.
For us, this camera comes with the perfect amount of photographic capabilities for such a nice price. You can get a perfect camera for everyday purposes for just $799, and if you ever need to get more creative options, then you can always look out for other optics as well.And even when Olympus' future is very much uncertain right now, you can always count on adapters for mounting any lens you want to it. And this includes any lenses, even film ones!