Olympus PEN E-PL10 Review: Olympus has two retro-style line-ups in its range of mirrorless cameras; PEN and OM-D. An essential difference between the two line-ups is that Olympus PEN cameras have a flat profile without an in-built viewfinder. The PEN E-PL10 is the latest model in this entry-level mirrorless camera range. The E-PL10 has plenty of options to tempt newcomers to shoot: beautiful images, an unparalleled range of fun shooting modes, an intuitive flip-touch screen, and robust image stabilization.
Yes, this retro-style camera is a highly capable shooter that makes smartphone use easier, plus it also throws in a few manual controls. We say right away that you need a magnifying glass to see the differences between the E-PL10 and the E-PL9, its predecessor two years ago. There is a general feeling, not exclusive to Olympus, that these entry-level mirrorless models are not high on the priority list.
That in itself is not bad, because we loved the Olympus E-PL9; however, there is less to get excited about here. So does the PEN E-PL10 do enough to succeed in 2020? Let’s find out!
Olympus PEN E-PL10 Review: Design
Straight out of the box, the Olympus PEN E-PL10 will put a smile on your face because it is a dinky and attractive camera. It looks just to seal the deal for some. We had the white version with a gold embossed Olympus logo, but it is also available in black or brown. The body is covered in tactile imitation leather and sandwiched between the upper and lower metal effect plates. A thumb grip and a curved handgrip on the front provide some extra purchase, although you wouldn’t want to use particularly heavy lenses – they are more suitable for OM-D series cameras, such as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III.
The E-PL10 is an entry-level camera and has plastic construction, which is more noticeable at the top and bottom of the camera. However, all controls feel firm enough, the artificial leather is delicious, and the upper dials are charming to turn. The buttons on the back are a bit on the small side – Olympus has opted for style over-functionality by surrounding those buttons with an edge instead of maximizing space.
The 2x digital teleconverter is standard on the Fn button on the top right. In practice, likely, you will accidentally activate the teleconverter, so unless you want to use that function a lot, we recommend that you change the function. A tilt-touch screen dominates the back. It will tilt 180 degrees to the bottom of the camera to be able to see from the front so that it will take a bit of a rest from time to time. But without a connection for an external microphone, this isn’t a blogger’s camera.
All in all, the touch function works smoothly, which is essential with an entry-level camera. For example, if you are used to a camera phone, you will feel at home here. You get touch-sensitive, touch AF, plus swipe control when playing back images and magnification for closer inspection. When you select Advanced Photos mode, you can choose which way you want with the touch of a button. Besides, the brightness of art filters can now be adjusted via the exposure compensation slider.
In video mode, the touch screen can be used to zoom in and out of the lens, with a slow and a fast-setting – a pleasant bonus. However, you cannot navigate through the main menu with a touch. It is not surprising that it is sometimes difficult to see the screen in bright light and glare. And unfortunately, it can’t be otherwise without the option of connecting an electronic viewfinder. For framing photos, you are entirely dependent on the screen.
A pop-up flash is included, along with a hotshoe to attach external flash units. The amount of manual control available for flash units goes beyond the typical target group. The battery life is stable, with 350 shots from a full charge. Olympus also deserves a compliment for recording a battery charger, which is never taken for granted at this level. However, it is not possible to charge the camera on the road via a power bank. Extra batteries, should you need them, are also quite expensive. Still, packing a single battery only caught us once.
In the end, the way a camera looks and its ease of use are two important reasons to keep coming back to it, especially for a beginner. And the E-PL10 scores well on both points.
Olympus PEN E-PL10 Review: Features
Olympus has established a proven 16.1 million pixel sensor on the E-PL10. By today’s standards, this resolution is modest. However, the image quality is not about how large you can print or view the images at 100% size (without loss of quality due to interpolation). There is plenty to tell about the pictures the E-PL10 takes – more about that later.
The video specification is almost identical to the E-PL9, which impressed at launch two years ago. There is a 4K video at 30fps. Crucial again is that the E-PL10 offers image stabilization in the body (IBIS), both for video and photos. Image stabilization is Olympus’ primary offering, which means it’s up to 3.5EV (or 3.5 stops). But in use, it is possible to make very smooth handheld videos. There are not too many other cameras at this level with such a function, and Olympus has been offering leading stabilization for a long time.
As usual, there are a large number of art filters, which are included in the menu with the regular color modes. Add them all up, including the variants of the filters such as Pin Hole and Vintage, and there are 38 in total. With Raw image in-camera editing, each of these filters can be applied after shooting. A lot can be done on an image in-camera, which is not always the case. Photos can also be captured, shared, and edited wirelessly with the Olympus Image Share app. Using an Apple iPhone, we had a smooth experience.
We also had a lot of fun with the advanced photo modes – they are generally user-friendly for every skill level. For example, the first of two photos are displayed with multiple exposures so that you can set up the next one exactly for your compositions. Live Time’ is for long exposures and displays the brightness of the image during exposure, so you know when to stop shooting. A disadvantage is that you are stuck in the maximum aperture of the lens.
Yes, the advanced photo modes have some confusing limitations. Panorama only takes pictures in vivid color mode (plus it fails quite a bit). Try a different mode, and you can choose the color style. After all, Advanced Photo is a gateway to creative shooting techniques. Once you get the hang of it, you can achieve all these effects manually with a little knowledge and gain control of elements like the color mode and aperture.
However, even those who already know how to do such styles can enjoy the way the E-PL10 takes the hard work out of these creative shots. And this is the beauty of a camera like the E-PL10 – it’s fun for users of all levels.
Olympus PEN E-PL10 Review: Performance
The E-PL10 has a resolution of 16.1 million pixels, which is lower than most. With a print resolution of 300ppi, it provides a print of 40x30cm. As an entry-level camera and all-round family snapper, we still find the number of pixels sufficient today. With a good range of lenses, including some that have a sensible price-to-size ratio, such as the 45mm f/1.8 and 12mm f/2, the E-PL10 can drive your photography even further.
In sunny conditions, the E-PL10 can produce sharp images full of contrast and tonal range, supported by beautiful color reproduction. JPEG photos – those are the photos that come straight out of the camera – especially when using the ‘natural’ color profile, look great. Art filters also offer fun alternative styles. For a camera that could be used a lot for general family shots, poor low-light performance would be more of a switch-off than low resolution. The original sensitivity range of ISO 200-6400 is modest, suggesting that E-PL10 images will have more difficulty than larger format cameras at low contrast.
The details in JPEG images at a sensitivity setting above ISO 1600 are rather vague. If you shoot in Raw format instead, the same detail improves. Alternatively, we suggest digging into the camera menu and disabling noise reduction, if possible, in the selected shooting mode. We should mention the impact of image stabilization in the body (IBIS) on image quality. When it comes to video, we’re delighted that 4K handheld video came out – really smooth movement and sharp detail.
As far as photos are concerned, the 3.5 stops of stabilization allow for extra light shooting, while the still subjects in handheld photos remain sharp.
Price and Configuration Options
You can now purchase the Olympus PEN E-PL10, either for the body only or in a pancake zoom set with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ pancake lens. The body-only price is $600/£550 (it’s not available body-only in Australia), although we’ve already seen some discounts on that price. If you don’t have existing lenses, then the Pancake Zoom kit is the better bet and costs $700/£650/AU$1199. If that’s a bit out of your budget, then it’s worth considering the Olympus E-PL9, given that the model lacks only the new fine-tuning of Olympus’ art filters.
With my time while writing the Olympus PEN E-PL10 Review, I found it to be a competent and stylish entry-level camera. It is a camera that you want to hold on to, and that gives pleasure to the experience of taking photos. Users of every possibility can enjoy the choice between automatic shooting modes or manual control. The LCD tilt-touch screen works well, especially for automatic shooting modes. It is a pity that there is no viewfinder option, as the screen can be challenging to see in bright light.
However, the showstopper can be used by hand for image stabilization in the body. It is possible to take smooth videos and sharp photos. The 16.1MP resolution of the Four Thirds sensor may seem undersized. There is room for better image quality in a wider range of scenarios of rivals such as the Fujifilm X-A7 and Sony A6100, for example. But you do get JPEGs with excellent color reproduction and the option to edit raw photos in the camera.
On the other hand, there is little reason to consider the E-PL10 compared to its predecessor, which is two years old and a lot cheaper. Moreover, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, which is also priced, is a more attractive prospect, with a built-in viewfinder and better handling. Even without many changes in two years, the E-PL10 still holds its own. The price tag is a bit high at the moment, but with savings we’ve already seen, this could be an excellent option to start your photo trip.
For more options, do check our list of Best Mirrorless Cameras that you can buy right now.
The Olympus PEN E-PL10 is a compact and capable camera, tailored for travel, blogging, vlogging, and content creation. Its core technology is now long in the tooth, but with 3-axis image stabilization and 4K video.
- Several beginner-friendly modes
- In-body image stabilization
- In-camera Raw editing
- Lovely JPEG color rendition
- Silent shutter mode
- No viewfinder option
- Contrast AF can be hit-and-miss