Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III Review
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The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is a new mid-range compact system camera. The E-M10 Mark III has a 5-axis image stabilisation system equivalent to 4 steps of shutter speed, 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, 4K video capture (30p, 25p or 24p) and the latest TruePic VIII processing unit (as used in the flagship E-M1 Mark II). The E-M10 Mark III also features 121 contrast AF points, a built-in pop-up flash and an external flash hotshoe, electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 2.36 million dots and 100% frame coverage, a tilting 3-inch LCD touchscreen, an electronic shutter with a top shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec, an AF Targeting Pad function, focus peaking, an innovative Colour Creator, Live Composite Mode for previewing long exposures, a customisable self-timer, 8.6fps continuous shooting, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a new Advanced Photo mode. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is available in silver or black and is priced at £629.99/$649.99 body only, £699.99/$799.99 with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 EZ lens for, or £799.99 with both the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 EZ and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm 1:4.0-5.6 R lenses.
Ease of Use
Straight out-of-the box, the E-M10 Mark III feels robust and reassuringly solid thanks to its magnesium-alloy body, despite being the most affordable option in the OM-D range. With dimensions of 121.5 x 83.6 x 49.5mm, it's virtually identical in size to the previous 2-year-old E-M10 II camera, and weighs almost the same too at 410g including the supplied battery and a memory card
Unlike the more expensive OM-D cameras, the new E-M10 Mark III still isn't weather-sealed, a concession to its lower price-point. There's a revised larger textured handgrip which is sufficient enough to be able to still hold the camera nice and steady when shooting handheld, ably assisted by an even more pronounced thumb-grip on the rear.
Low light sensitivity stretches all the way up to a pro-like ISO 25600, partly down to the implementation of the latest noise reducing TruePic VIII processor. Unsurprisingly the E-M10 Mark III retains the Olympus unique selling point of on-board Art Filters, which are also worth singling out for praise, with Bleach Bypass being newly added to this model. Interestingly these filters can be applied to Full HD video as well as stills. The E-M10 Mark III again feature a proper built-in pop-up flash, which also usefully supports wireless flash control.
Most image stabilization systems compensate for camera shake by correcting yaw and pitch. Olympus claim that camera shake is actually caused by five different kinds of motion, and their image stabilization mechanism additionally corrects for horizontal shift, vertical shift and rotary motion (rolling) for both still images and movies. The E-M5 Mark Mark III again offers 4-stops of compensation complete with auto panning detection, with Olympus claiming that handheld shutter-speeds as low as 1/4 second are obtainable, something that was certainly backed up for both stills and video in our testing of the camera.
From the front the E-M10 Mark III has a streamlined look, with just a small round lens release button to the right of the lens mount and a tiny AF assist lamp above interrupting the otherwise featureless faceplate.
|Front of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III|
On top is a vacant flash hotshoe that sits directly above the lens, with a clever Off / On / Flash Up switch and new Shortcut button on the left hand-side when viewed from the rear. The Off / On / Flash Up switch is much more convenient than the On-Off switch on the original E-M10, with a further push from the On position to Flash Up doing exactly what you'd expect - very neat.
On the right of the flash hotshoe is a prominently raised shooting mode dial with a surrounding ridged edge for easier purchase, with the various options being program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, video, scene modes, Art Filters, and the new Advanced Photo mode.
There are 15 Art Filters in total, with Dramatic Tone and the self explanatory Gentle Sepia working the best for us, the former adding an intensely gritty look as if a photograph has been photo copied and vividly hand coloured. The Art Filter digital effects are applied at the time of capture which means write speeds are inevitably a couple of seconds longer than for regular images. When shooting using certain filters, such as Diorama or Dramatic Tone, the screen's refresh rate slows, providing a real time preview of how the eventual image may look.
The new new Advanced Photo mode isn't quite as exciting as it sounds, simply providing a shortcut to already existing modes such as HDR, Silent, Panorama, Keystone Compensation, AE Bracketing, Focus Bracketing, Live Composite, Live Time, and Multiple Exposure.
Further to the right is the small-ish shutter release button, with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III readying itself for action in a second or so. Squeeze down halfway on the shutter release and the E-M10 Mark III very nearly instantaneously responds thanks to the FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) system, the screen almost imperceptibly blurring before snapping back into focus, with the AF point flashing up in green with an accompanying bleep of confirmation. The E-M10 Mark III certainly delivers in terms of focusing speed and perhaps more importantly accuracy too, with very few false positives.
The OM-D E-M10 Mark III has a fully electronic shutter, which in addition to expanding the top shutter speed to 1/16,000 sec, also allows for completely silent shooting and an anti-shock mode. This latter mode, which uses an electronic first-curtain shutter, helps to combat shutter shock, which can occur on the E-M10 Mark III when using the mechanical shutter at speeds between 1/60-1/200th second. Using either the anti-shock mode or the fully electronic shutter will avoid this unwanted effect.
|Tilting LCD Screen|
Take the shot and when shooting RAW and SuperFine (top quality) JPEGs in tandem there's a wait of a more than acceptable one second before the shot is fully committed to the memory card. The buffer memory is such however that you don't have to wait that long to squeeze off another shot if the opportunity presents itself (up to 22 Raw files). Action photographers will appreciate the fast burst rate of 8.6fps, although that's only achieved by locking the focus point at the first frame of the sequence - the EM-10 Mark III can only perform at a more modest maximum speed of 4.8fps when continuously auto-focusing.
The number of selectable contrast AF points is an improved 121 in a 11x11 grid. Low-light auto focus continues to be excellent – the system managed to focus down to -2EV (as long as there was something to focus on) even without the use of the focus assist lamp. This is seriously low light, about the same as a landscape lit only by moonlight and nothing else. It still doesn't include the 37 on-sensor phase-detection auto focus points that the flagship E-M1 offers, though.
The shutter release is encircled by the first of two command dials. This one by default allows you to change the shutter speed or exposure compensation when using one of the more creative shooting modes, while the second that's positioned under your right thumb principally adjusts the aperture. It's a neat system that make using the manual mode in particular a lot simpler than on most rival cameras.
Alongside is the user attributable 'Fn2' function button, which rather unusefully zooms in by 2x by default. Completing the EM-10 Mark III's top-plate is a red video record button. Press this to record, or stop recording, no matter which shooting mode is otherwise selected on the top dial.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III can now record 4K movies at 30p, 25p, 24p and Full HD movies at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p. The E-M10 Mark III can also use its excellent 5-axis sensor-shift image stabiliser when shooting movies, which translates into very smooth hand-held footage, even when using longer telephoto lenses. Manual exposure can be enabled for videos, although you do have to rotate the mode dial to the Movie position to take advantage of this. (You can start filming in practically any other shooting mode too, but in that case, videos will always be recorded with auto exposure, and curiously only at 1080p, not 4K) Audio is recorded in stereo PCM and uncompressed HDMI output is also possible, as is support for timecode. Shooting modes include Aperture priority, Art Filter, Manual, Program and Shutter priority, while one-shot echo and multiecho effects can be added to movies. There's also the ability to capture high-speed VGA footage at 120fps.
|Rear of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III|
Moving to the backplate of the E-M10 Mark III, the built-in electronic viewfinder is activated by a small button to the right that's virtually hidden from view, which toggles between the rear LCD screen and the EVF, with a button for the dioptric adjustment on the left.
The EVF is an impressively detailed 2.36 million dot unit with 100% field of view and 1.23x magnification. The E-M10 Mark III actually has two independent image-processing cores, one for the recorded images and the other for Live View images, so the live and recorded image appears very quickly on both the EVF and the rear screen. The Live Bulb feature cleverly updates the image on the rear screen at pre-set intervals during bulb shooting, giving you a live preview of the exposure, while the Live Composite Mode allows you to see a preview of long-exposure shots as they're being captured. The E-M10 Mark III also features the Super OVF mode, which as the name suggests simulates an optical finder, offering an "unprocessed" view of the scene in front of you.
There's also a built-in eye sensor which optionally switches between the electronic viewfinder and EVF automatically, and the EVF helpfully displays key shooting information along the bottom of the viewfinder. Another boon to productivity is the ability to preview manual and creative adjustments live through the EVF without having to lower the camera to look at the rear screen. The EVF also benefits from the addition of Adaptive Brightness Control, which contributes to an improved viewing experience, and it also “gains up” in low light, making it arguably more usable than an optical finder.
The E-M10 Mark III features capacitive touchscreen operation, although if you're not a fan you can for the most part get away without using it much at all, as there are a plethora of physical buttons which are either dedicated to specific functions or can be customized to suit. Indeed, the touch-sensitive interface hasn't led to a cleaner or more pared-down minimalist look.
The 3-inch 4:3 aspect ratio LCD screen has a resolution of 1.037million dots. Images look particularly vivid with plenty of contrast when viewed on the E-M10 Mark III's screen and happily this carries over when photos are downloaded to your desktop. The rear screen can be tilted by a maximum of 80° upwards and 50° downwards, which helps when shooting from high and low angles, although we did miss being able to fully articulate the screen from left to right as well which always proves useful when shooting video.
|Top of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III|
Dragging a finger, and so the AF point, around the screen is a quick and easy way of following the subject, though inadvertently subsequently tapping it will cause the shutter to fire. This facility can be deactivated by prodding the relevant shutter button icon on the touch screen. The AF targeting pad feature allows you to move the focus point around the touchscreen using a finger whilst holding the camera up to your eye, which is very similar to Panasonic's Touchpad AF feature.
The Live Guide first seen on the Pen cameras has again been implemented on the E-M10 Mark III. This lets users try out picture adjustments with the aid of an onscreen slider bar to adjust the likes of depth of field and see the results in real time before pressing the shutter release button with accessibility extended beyond Auto mode. The Live Guide options are presented as a colourful toolbar on the left hand side of the screen.
From the top we have the ability to change colour saturation, from 'clear & vivid' to 'flat & muted', next down is the ability to alter 'colour image', which translates as shifting the tone between warm and cool via slider bar, with the third option shifting brightness/exposure between a simple bright and dark. The fourth option down is probably the most interesting/effective in that it provides the ability to incrementally blur the background of your shot by again dragging an indicator on a slider - thus providing a similar shallow depth of field effect to that achievable with a DSLR and suitable aperture.
For its latest Live Guide option Olympus has retained the curiously named 'Express Motions'. There's the option to both blur any movement or stop it in its tracks, again achievable by dragging a slider indicator. The last option on this tool bar is an on-board shooting hints and tips manual, with the usual 'suspects' of photographing children and pets given the most prominence ('take a picture at their height level' being a summation of the level of advice imparted). We even get tips, as a bit of closet advertising, for attaching Olympus accessories, such as lens converters.
Embedded in the top of the rear thumb-grip is the customisable Function 1 button, which now also usefully doubles up as the AEL/AFL button. Just below this are the self-explanatory Menu and Info buttons, the latter toggling through various LCD views. Underneath again is a 4-way navigation controller with a central OK button - pressing this accesses the E-M10 Mark III's quick menu system, a handy onscreen vertical list of icons that provide quick access to most of the camera's main settings. In conjunction with the camera's plethora of external controls and its customisable buttons, this makes the E-M10 Mark III a pleasure to use. The final controls on the rear are the Delete and Playback buttons.
|The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III in-hand|
The Wi-fi implementation on the OM-D E-M10 Mark III is actually quite good. You first need to download a free app for your smartphone (Android and iOS versions are both available), but after that, everything is pretty straightforward. You simply touch the Wi-Fi icon on your camera's display to set up a connection. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III will provide you with an SSID and password, but you do not need to type in either of them – just launch the app on your phone and scan the QR code displayed by your camera with your phone. This is nearly as fast as using NFC (Near-Field Communication), a feature that the OM-D E-M10 Mark III doesn't offer. Once the connection is established, you can download images from the camera to your smartphone, or use the latter to remotely control the E-M10 Mark III. You can choose from a variety of shooting modes, set aperture, sensitivity, shutter speed and white balance, select a drive mode, and focus on practically any part of the frame, all remotely.
The Olympus E-M10 Mark III has a time-lapse photography mode, which allows you to capture up to 999 frames at user-specified intervals. You can also tell the camera when to start the sequence, which comes in handy if you want to set up the camera well in advance. The E-M10 Mark III will save each shot in the format of your choice – ORF or JPEG – and can optionally create a time-lapse video in-camera, which you can play back on the rear screen, or upload to a website like Vimeo or YouTube. While shooting raw and creating a video afterwards on your PC gives you more control over grading, sharpening etc., the in-camera option is nice to have when shooting JPEG or raw+JPEG, as it is obviously much faster.
Focus bracketing lets you set the focus point and then automatically take up to 99 shots with focus adjustments around it, thereby greatly extending what is in focus. Unfortunately the E-M10 Mark III still doesn't combine the shots either in-camera or in the supplied Olympus software, so you'll need to use Photoshop or a specialized software program like Helicon Focus to combine all of the shots into one image.
The menu system is similar to that of the professional OM-D E-M1. This is a complex, multi-level menu system that might not seem intuitive at first sight, especially to beginners, so reading the manual is a good idea before starting to explore it. The good news is that these menus are mainly there to allow you to set up the camera exactly the way you want it to be set up – once you're done with that, you'll seldom need to delve into the menus again, courtesy of the large number of external controls as well as the excellent Super Control Panel, which is basically an interactive status display inherited from older Olympus cameras.
Chunky lugs for attaching the supplied shoulder strap hang at either side of the camera, thankfully out of the way of fingers and controls. On the right hand flank, if viewing the camera from the back, we find a pair of covered ports for joint USB/AV output and mini HDMI output respectively. On the bottom of the E-M10 Mark III is a screw thread for attaching a tripod in-line with the lens mount, with the lockable shared battery/memory card compartment alongside. The BLS-50 rechargeable lithium-ion battery supplied with the E-M10 Mark III is good for around 330 shots. There is the option to use all varieties of SD media card, up to and including SDXC cards.