Sibling rivalry: Olympus’ OM-D E-M10 II nearly reaches the bar set by the E-M5 II—for a whole lot less money

The trickle-down effect isn’t anything new to photography equipment, but with the E-M10 mark II, Olympus has created an entry-level camera that, on the surface, seems to offer significantly more bang for your buck than the higher-end E-M5 mark II. But somewhere between the $649 and $1099 starting prices of these two OM-Ds, there must be something very significant, right? Well, as is often the case with photography-related questions, it depends.

With the mark II version, the E-M10 is closer than ever to its big brother. Gone is the truncated, 3-axis stabilization, replaced with a 5-axis system very similar (but not quite identical) to that used in the E-M5. The new viewfinder features an increased resolution, to 2.4m dots—also equal to the E-M5. These were both key points used to “up-sell” customers from the original E-M10 to the E-M5. Olympus has even bumped the E-M10’s exceptional continuous shooting speed from 8FPS to 8.5. While this is still bested by the E-M5 II’s 10FPS, I think most people would consider this near as makes no difference.

While the E-M5 II still maintains an advantage even in the areas that look identical on paper (its stabilization is good for 5 stops, versus 4 on the E-M10 II; its viewfinder magnification is .74x vs .62x), it seems clear that Olympus is banking on other features to squeeze an additional $550 out of customers. The key innovation still unique to the E-M5 II is the High Res Shot mode, which allows the camera to shoot incredibly clean, 40MP images thanks to some fancy multi-shot, sensor-shift tech. The second major difference is in the build quality of the camera: while both are metal, only the E-M5 II is weather-sealed, allowing one to shoot in situations like this:

OM-D E-M5 II Weather sealing

I was very impressed with High Res Shot mode when I reviewed the E-M5 II earlier this year, and equally impressed with the weather sealing (we soaked that camera, and got it covered in mud), but neither is a feature I would consider a “must have” for most photographers. A standard one-shot exposure from the 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor offers plenty of resolution for most users, and the build quality is class-leading even without weather sealing (compare it to a similarly-priced DSLR and you’ll see what I mean). There are also some things the E-M10 II is actually better at than the E-M5 II. Thanks to the smaller, unsealed body, it weighs 79 grams less than E-M5 II. It also features a new image processor, slightly better battery life (320 vs. 310 shots per CIPA standard), and “AF Targeting Pad” which allows users to use the touch screen to move the AF point even when using the viewfinder to frame the shot.

High Res Shot (left) vs. standard exposure. (100% crop; standard exposure scaled up to fit.)

High Res Shot (left) vs. standard exposure. (100% crop; standard exposure scaled up to fit.)

The price difference between these two models says a lot more about the photographer who chooses to buy one than it does about the differences in the cameras themselves. For certain photographers, the 40MP high-res shot mode is the best thing since sliced bread, and worth any premium. Likewise, for those of us who spend too much time cooling off in the mists of the Columbia River Gorge’s numerous waterfalls, dust- and splash-proofing is something we can’t really do without. The E-M5 II thus appeals to a smaller niche of power users, while the E-M10 II remains the OM-D for everybody.

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