Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III Review

November 21, 2019 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The Olympus E-M5 Mark III is a new Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera that replaces the 4-year-old E-M5 Mark II model.

It brings many of Olympus’ most advanced imaging technologies from the flagship E-M1 Mark II / E-M1X cameras into a compact, lightweight and weather-sealed camera body, at a lower price-point.

The E-M5 Mark III is a classically styled camera that has exactly the same 20.4 megapixel Live MOS sensor and Truepix VIII processor found in the E-M1 Mark II / E-M1X cameras, and the same dual phase- and contrast-based auto-focus system, with 121 points for both.

It offers the world's most effective 5-axis image stabilisation system, rated for up to 5.5-stops of compensation with any lens that's fitted to it, and 6.5 stops when using the stabilized M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4 IS PRO zoom lens.

In the improved High Resolution mode, the 5-axis image stabilisation system can capture 50 megapixel JPEGs and 80 megapixel RAW files by moving the sensor between each shot and merging eight single exposures into one during the course of 1 second.

On the video side, the E-M5 III offers Cine 4K recording at 24p and 4K 30p recording, plus Full HD 120p slow-motion, with a dedicated 3.5mm Mic jack for better sound recording.

Other key features of the Olympus OM-D EM-5 include a 3-inch touch-sensitive, vari-angle LCD screen, 2.36 million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder with eye-detection, 10 frames per second burst shooting with AF/AE tracking, a sensitivity range of ISO 64-25600, Live Composite, Pro Capture, Focus Stacking and USB charging.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is available in silver or black priced at £1099 / $1199 body-only, and also in different kit versions.

Ease of Use

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
Front of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Four years is a long time in the fast moving world of photography, and at first glance you'd be hard-pressed to spot the difference between the new E-M5 Mark III and 2015's Mark II model.

But look carefully and there are some subtle and important external changes between the two cameras, with Olympus taking the opportunity to fix almost all of the criticisms that were levelled at the E-M5 II.

In fact, the control layout of the new EM5 Mark III much more closely resembles the E-M1 Mark II, rather than its mid-range predecessor.

On top of the camera, only the power switch is still in the same place, with the dedicated shooting mode dial now relocated over on the right and customizable drive and display buttons on the left, just like on the E-M1 Mark II.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
Rear of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

There are fewer changes to the rear, with the principal one being the addition of a dedicated ISO button just above the rear thumb-rest, along with a revised Mode 1/2 switch that now incorporates an AEL/AFL button within it, once again just like on the E-M1 Mark II.

These are all very welcome changes, but there is unfortunately one pretty big step back in terms of the E-M5 III's external design.

It's now constructed of polycarbonate to help keep both the weight and price down, rather than the magnesium-alloy used in its predecessor, which could prove to be a deal-breaker for some.

In practice, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II still feels well-built, just not quite as solid as the previous model, which is shame given that the new version's launch price is actually slightly higher than its predecessor's was back in 2015.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
Tilting LCD Screen

Despite the change of material, it thankfully still boasts the same dust and splash-proof capabilities as before, forming a truly weatherproof system with a similarly equipped lens attached.

The E-M5 Mark III's dimensions are 125.3 x 85.2 x 49.7mm, slightly bigger than the Mark II version, with a body-only weight of 366g, a not insubstantial 53g lighter.

Starting from the front, the E-M5 Mark III has a re-programmable depth-of-field preview button located to the bottom-left of the lens mount, a round lens release button to the right, plus an AF assist lamp above.

Sadly it's predecessor's flash sync terminal has disappeared completely, which makes this camera less well-suited to life in a studio environment.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
Top of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

The E-M5 Mark III's handgrip is slightly different to its predecessors, featuring a slightly more protruding design and the use of a different, more leather-like texture, with just enough room vertically to accomodate three fingers.

Over the years Olympus have developed and refined a class-leading image stabilization mechanism that corrects for horizontal shift, vertical shift and rotary motion (rolling) for both still images and movies.

The E-M5 Mark III offers an incredible 5.5-stops of compensation complete with auto panning detection, with Olympus claiming that handheld shutter-speeds as low as 1/4 second are easily obtainable.

Even better, by synchronizing the in-lens IS of supported lenses, such as the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4 IS PRO zoom, with the camera body's sync IS, the OM-D E-M5 Mark III offers up to an incredible 6.5 shutter speed steps of compensation.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III In-hand

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III can now create a 50 megapixel JPEG or an 80 megapixel RAW file in the improved High Resolution mode. This is achieved by shifting the sensor in half-pixel steps and capturing eight images over a period of one second.

Olympus recommends that you mount the camera on a tripod or other stable surface to obtain sharp results and also that your subject should be static.

Focusing is another area where the Olympus OM-D E-M5 III has been significantly improved.

The new model now uses a a dual phase- and contrast-based auto-focus system and the number of selectable AF points has been expanded to 121 versus the E-M5's 81 points, a big advance on the Mark II's contrast-only system.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III's Memory Card Slot

In fact, it's exactly the same proven system found in the flagship E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X cameras, which is great news.

The continuous shooting speed has been increased too, to 10fps with with full time AF/AE tracking (up from 5fps on the OM-D E-M5 II).

For the first time on the E-M5 series, this new model inherits the Pro Capture mode from further up the range.

In this special shooting mode the camera takes a 30fps burst, with 15 of those frames saved before you actually pressed the shutter, helping to ensure that you don't miss that vital moment.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III's Battery Compartment

Manual focus enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that the Olympus E-M5 Mark III has a focus peaking feature, which enables precise focusing even without magnifying into the live view feed, now with additional options for the outline colour.

The power switch is still positioned on the left-hand side of the flash hotshoe. The placement of the on/off switch might well raise a few eyebrows as it means you will almost always need to use your left hand to turn on the camera, which is hardly an ideal solution.

Actually, this is a design nod to the Olympus OM-1 film camera that had its power switch in virtually the same location – which is all nice and well, but we’d still prefer it to be in a position where you can easily reach it with your right thumb or forefinger.

There are also two raised semi-circular buttons which provide quick access to two sets of settings.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III's Hand-Grip Accessory

Press the top one and you can adjust the camera’s drive modes and self-timer settings with the rear and front control dials, respectively.

Hit the bottom button and you can cycle through the various display modes offered by the camera.

Also on the top of the camera is a vacant flash hotshoe that sits directly above the lens.

Instead of a built-in pop-up flash, the EM-5 Mark III continues to be supplied with the FL-LM3 unit (guide number of 9/m at ISO 200) which clips into the external flash hotshoe.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Black and Silver Versions of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

While many will bemoan the lack of a true built-in unit, thankfully Olympus have chosen not to sell it as an optional accessory, and it does have the same dustproof and splashproof construction as the camera body.

Plus it can swivel and tilt for bounce flash and act as a wireless controller for off-camera flash. It may make the OM-D EM-5 Mark III look a little top-heavy when fitted, but at least you have the choice of whether to use it or not.

There's a shooting mode dial on the right hand-side when viewed from the rear, complete with a lock button in the centre.

On most other cameras that have a lockable dial, you need to hold down the centred button while turning the dial – on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, the mode dial locks with one press of the locking pin and unlocks with a second press, which is a clever idea.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III With the 12-40mm Pro Lens

The shooting mode options remain largely the same as the original E-M5's, being program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, video, Art Filters, scene modes, and - the most obviously highlighted of all in green - iAuto mode.

There are also two new modes on the shooting mode dial - Bulb for Live Composite long exposures and Custom for quickly accessing your own customised settings.

Also over on the the right of the external flash hotshoe are a small-ish shutter release button, with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III readying itself for action in a second or so.

Squeeze down halfway on the shutter release and the E-M5 Mark III very quickly responds thanks to the new TruePic VIII processor, with the AF point flashing up in green with an accompanying bleep of confirmation (if AF is enabled).

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III In-hand

The shutter release is encircled by the first of two command dials. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark I inherits the 2x2 Dual Control system first seen way back on the Pen E-P5.

This comprises two top-mounted control wheels and a function lever on the rear that’s easy to reach with your right thumb.

The function lever has two settings. In the first position, moving the control dial on the front of the camera adjusts the aperture while the dial on the back adjusts the shutter speed.

On the second setting, the dials change the ISO value and white balance respectively. You can also configure the switch’s operation too – for example, you can turn it into a handy AF/MF toggle if that makes more sense to you.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Top of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Completing the EM-5's top-plate are an exposure compensation dial and a red video record button.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III It can now record cine-standard 4K videos at 24fps with a bit rate of up to 237Mbps in the DCI 4K mode (4096 x 2160 pixels) or UHD 4K footage at 30fps and a 102Mbps bit-rate. Full HD 1080p and HD 720p recording is also supported, plus Full HD 120p slow-motion.

It can use its excellent 5-axis sensor-shift image stabiliser which translates into surprisingly smooth hand-held footage, even when using a medium telephoto lens.

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.)

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III's 3.5mm MIC Socket

It also now has a dedicated 3.5mm Mic jack on the body for better sound recording for vlogging, a very welcome addition.

Moving to the rear of the E-M5 Mark III, there's a built-in electronic viewfinder complete with diopter control to the left.

The Olympus E-M5 has a new, pretty decent OLED viewfinder offering a 2.36-million-dot resolution, 1.37x magnification and a 27mm eyepoint. The magnification is a little lower than on the E-M5 Mark II, although the eyepoint is greater, making it better for glasses-wearers.

There's the same 3-inch articulated rear LCD screen as seen on the Mark II, with a resolution of 1037K dots and capacitive touchscreen technology.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

As the monitor is side-mounted, it's a fully articulated vari-angle display that can be rotated to the front for easier selfies and closed against the rear of the camera to protect the screen.

The E-M5 Mark III features touch screen 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.

Dragging a finger to move 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, but it's just as easy to accidentally turn it on again.

To the right of the EVF is the function lever for the 2x2 Dual Control system with the AEL/AFL button at its centre.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Just below this control and the usefully protruding, textured thumb-rest are dedicated and self-explanatory Menu and Info buttons, the latter toggling through the various LCD views.

Underneath again is a option-less 4-way navigation controller with a central OK button - pressing this accesses the E-M5 Mark III's quick menu system, a handy onscreen grid 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-M5 Mark III a pleasure to use. The final controls on the rear are the Delete button and Playback buttons.

Chunky lugs for attaching the supplied shoulder strap hang at either side of the camera, thankfully out of the way of fingers and controls.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Bottom of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

On the left hand flank, when viewing the camera from the back, are three covered ports for a standard 3.5mm stereo microphone jack, remote control, and a shared cover for the mini HDMI output and mini USB ports.

You can now charge the camera on the go via the USB port, a great new feature that is appearing in more and more new cameras.

On the right is a sliding plastic cover protecting the single memory card slot.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Olympus have upgraded the slot's spec to UHS-II, which should help the camera keep up with all those high-speed bursts. It's not that common in this class of camera, where the slower UHS-I standard is the norm.

On the bottom of the EM-5 Mark III is a screw thread for attaching a tripod, with the lockable battery compartment alongside.

The new BLS-50 rechargeable lithium-ion battery supplied with the E-M5 Mark III is good for around 310 shots or 60mins of video recording, about the same as on the E-M5 Mark II.