Review Olympus OM-D E-M1 MARK III

The new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III  has (almost) all the advanced functions of the E-M1X, but in the smaller and lighter body of the E-M1 Mark II. Because small and light are two important reasons why photographers opt for a Micro Four Thirds camera, that makes the camera immediately a lot more attractive than its big brother.

Click on the lens for specifications, prices and test results.

TEST RESULTS Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III:

PROS

CONS

  • High Res by hand
  • Live ND
  • Good image quality
  • Compact and light
  • Weather resistant
  • Robust
  • 2,36 Mp viewfinder somewhat dated
  • No really new features

The Olympus E-M1 Mark III is a camera for photographers who can appreciate all of the special shooting modes of Olympus.

We now know that Olympus has sold its camera division to JIP, Japan Industrial Partners. The reason for this is the continuing losses and the poor prospects for the camera industry. What it means for the future of Olympus is still unknown. It does explain in part why there is a four-year gap between the introduction of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III and that of its predecessor, the Mark II. That seems enough time for an almost completely new model, or a major upgrade at least. It is slowly becoming clear that Olympus has put some brakes on the development of new techniques to save costs in recent years. That’s a shame, because innovation is something that the brand has always excelled in. The Mark III has virtually no function that we have not seen before on Olympus. The viewfinder, the screen and the resolution of the sensor have remained the same, and the body also seems to have hardly changed.

Nevertheless, the E-M1 Mark III has improved on many small points. You just need to go to the trouble of going through the advanced functions of the camera to see the differences. This means that this is really a camera for photographers who can appreciate all of the special shooting modes of Olympus. These are probably the same photographers who were thinking about purchasing an E-M1 X. Although the ‘X’ is officially still the top model for Olympus, the E-M1 Mark III takes a deliberate shot to steal its crown. Apart from the special autofocus setting for trains, planes and cars, the E-M1 Mark III has all the functions of the X, but in a much more compact body. And smaller dimensions and a lower weight are important arguments for choosing the Micro Four Thirds system.

BUILD

The body of the E-M1 Mark III seems almost unchanged compared to the Mark II. Both are made of a magnesium alloy and feel very solid. Despite the relatively small body, the E-M1s fit so comfortably in the hand that nothing actually needs to be changed. However, an important difference is that the Mark III, like the E-M1 X, has even better seals and meets the IP-x1 standard. Officially, this means that the camera is drip-proof for water that falls onto the camera from above. That seems a fairly low standard. But this is only the second camera that officially meets that standard. The first? The E-M1 X, of course. 

The new Olympus M.Zuiko PRO 12-45 mm f/4 standard zoom is also the first lens with an IP-x1 rating. In practice, it means you can leave your camera rain cover at home for good. Olympus is setting yet another trend that hopefully will soon be followed by other manufacturers. However, a point of discussion remains the on/off switch on the left. It sits there as an ode to Olympus’s analogue cameras, and there are photographers who like it and enjoy it. However, a camera that is so small and light is ideal for carrying and operating with one hand. To turn on the Olympus, though, you always need an extra hand. One solution that Olympus fortunately offers is the option of programming a switch on the back as an on-off switch. Unfortunately, it is not the case that you simply change the functions. In that case, the original on-off switch will no longer work.

In addition to the sealing of the camera, a few minor changes have been made on the outside. For example, the Mark III has been given a joystick for shifting the autofocus field. You can still use the four-way controller just below it, but it can only go sideways and up and down. You can’t move diagonally with it. You can with the joystick. As with other Olympus models, you can of course also use the touch-sensitive screen to move the focus point. Unfortunately, that’s still not possible with the camera at your eye. Not everyone needs it, but it would still be nice to have it as an option. With the arrival of that joystick, the menu button on the back has moved to the left shoulder, just above the screen.

SCREEN AND VIEWFINDER

Both the screen and viewfinder are the same as on the Mark II. This is not a problem for the screen, but there are now better viewfinders than the 2.36-megapixel LCD one from the Mark III. A higher resolution or at least an OLED version would have been quite an improvement. A small innovation that Olympus has implemented is that there is now the option to have the electronic viewfinder switch itself off when you fold out the screen. The screen is fine, but unfortunately the functionality is still limited. In the Super Control Panel, it is touch-sensitive but not in the menus. Also, you can only move the autofocus field by touch when you aren’t looking through the viewfinder. These are actually capabilities that a brand has to offer as an option today.

AUTOFOCUS SPEED AND ACCURACY

At first glance, the 121-field autofocus system looks the same as on the Mark II. However, the Mark III has more options for selecting focus fields. With the Mark III, you can choose from 1, 5, 9 or 25 group fields, as well as creating your own custom AF targets. This allows you to optimize the autofocus for specific subjects. Thanks to the new processor, the camera is also better at recognizing and tracking eyes and faces. In combination with the excellent image stabilization, the E-M1 Mark III is perhaps one of the best vlogging cameras. The film quality is more than reasonable.

VIDEO Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III

With the E-M1, you can choose from two 4K formats: standard 4K (3840×2160 pixels) up to 30 images per second and the wider DCI format (4096×2160 pixels) up to 24 fps with a bit rate of 237 Mbps. Slowmotion is also possible in Full HD up to 120 fps. The E-M1 Mark III can film in 8 bits in OM-log400 and can record sound in 24bit/96Khz. 10 bits would have been nicer for filming, but the specifications for the sound are excellent. The image stabilization in the camera can be supplemented with electronic stabilization for an extra smooth effect. The field of view then becomes slightly smaller, and you lose a little bit of sharpness, but it almost looks like you used a gimbal. The strength of the electronic stabilization is adjustable.

SENSOR AND IMAGE QUALITY

Jpeg OOC with a slightly softer contrast curve already adjusted in the camera. 

The sensor has actually been unchanged for a few generations. It is a 20-megapixel specimen that has proven itself for a long time. The sharpness of the shots is fine, thanks to the absence of an anti-alias filter, the good Olympus lenses and the good image stabilization under nearly all circumstances. The dynamic range, which was able to compete with that of a number of full-frame cameras a few years ago, is now considerable but slightly less than the best models in the market. A new 24-megapixel BSI sensor would have given the camera a bit more flare. But that might have come at the expense of Olympus’s speed and special functions. Incidentally, these functions, such as Live ND and High Res Mode, do cause a decrease in noise because the images are oversampled.

Same shot edited in Adobe Camera Raw.

IMAGE STABILIZATION

Olympus has taken on the same pioneering role it filled for weather resistance with the introduction of the Super Sonic Wave filter for dust reduction on the sensor and built-in image stabilization. These techniques have also been improved on the Mark III. The Super Sonic Wave filter has been given a new coating so that dust adheres even less well to the sensor. According to Olympus, image stabilization has now become 1.5 stops more effective, from 5.5 stops on the Mark II to 7 stops on the Mark III. With a lens like the M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4, you gain another half a stop of image stabilization, for an incredible 7.5 stops, thanks to the stabilization in the lens. In practice, you can get quite close to those values, but then you also have to do your best to keep the camera as still as possible.

SPECIAL CAPABILITIES

The biggest innovation is hidden deep in the camera: the TruePic IX processor. Thanks to this processor, the E-M1 Mark III can do practically the same as the E-M1 X, which has two processors. The three most important functions that the E-M1 Mark III has taken over from the E-M1 X are High Resolution, Live ND and Starry Sky. And all three can now be used by hand, without a tripod. That means that you can take to the road at least a kilo lighter.

20 Mp – 50 Mp Handheld High Res – 80 Mp High Res

In the high resolution mode, the camera takes sixteen shots in quick succession, and these are processed into a single image. You’ll get a 50-megapixel file by hand. How much better this file is than a regular shot depends on both how still you keep the camera and how much your subject moves. The Mark III has little difficulty with flowing water or moving leaves, but with people walking through the image, for example, it quickly goes wrong. If you have brought along a tripod, you can also opt for an 80-megapixel version. That’s even better, but well, then you’re walking around with a tripod again.

Standard
Hand Held High Res

Live ND uses the same technology as the High Resolution mode. The difference is that movement is not eliminated in the various shots but rather amplified. This allows you to achieve the effect of a single shot with a long shutter speed using multiple shots with a short shutter speed but without the use of ND (Neutral Density) filters. That’s nice for depicting flowing water well, for example. The effect is adjustable over five stops, from ND2 to ND32. 

An additional advantage of taking multiple shots is that the noise is reduced by the oversampling. In addition to the ND effect, you also get better image quality. The Starry Sky function works differently. This mode ensures that the camera automatically focuses on the stars. That’s something you used to have to do manually. The E-M1 Mark III has two options for Starry Sky: accurate or fast. If you choose the first, then you have to use a tripod anyway. If you choose the fast option, you can work by hand. The camera then automatically focuses on the stars and indicates this by turning the AF field green. In combination with the Live Time function, you can easily get shots by hand in which the starry sky is sharp and the foreground is exposed to the desired value.

 

 Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
 specifications
  
sensorM43, 20.3 Mp
video4096×2160 24f 4K 24/25/30f
ISOauto, 200-25,600 (64 exp.)
max. series speed15 fps C-AF with shutter, 60 fps ProCapture
storage media1x UHS-I SD and 1x UHS-II SD
battery capacity420 shots
dimensions134x91x69mm
weight (incl battery)580 g
list price€ 2499.00 (body)
importerwww.olympus.nl
  
 rating
image quality8
focus9
light metering 9
white balance9
screen/viewfinder7
price-to-quality8
bonus10
  
final score8.6

ConclusiON: REVIEW Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III

Thanks to the special capabilities of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, you can make get difficult shots more easily.

It’s a shame that Olympus has abandoned a new, better viewfinder and more extensive touch possibilities. But if you add up the many small changes to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, you get a camera that has improved considerably compared to the Mark II. Now that Olympus has also given the Mark II better AF and video capabilities with the latest firmware upgrade, the gap with the Mark III is slightly smaller again. Whether you want to go for the Mark III or want to have a bit of money left over and choose the Mark II depends entirely on the importance you attach to things like High Resolution, Live ND and Starry Sky by hand. These capabilities ensure that you can get difficult shots more easily with the Mark III and that you can still get higher image quality with this camera than with the Mark II, even though the sensor is in fact unchanged.