First Impression: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III packs the 20 MP Live MOS sensor and TruePic VIII Image Processor from the E-M1 Mark II into a lighter, weather sealed body.

It’s been more than four and a half years since Olympus introduced the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. With baited breath, fans of the Micro Four Thirds Mirrorless camera have been waiting for an eventual successor to be released. As much of the industry is shifting its focus towards Full Frame Mirrorless cameras, it felt that day may never come. This camera inherits the 20 Megapixel Live MOS sensor and the TruePic VIII Image Processor first introduced in Olympus’s top tier E-M1 Mark II. The OM-D E-M5 Mark III is a lightweight, compact, weather sealed, mid-tier M43 option for photographers looking for the right balance between performance and pocketability. With the introduction of the OM-D E-M5 Mark III (and the E-M1X before it back in January of this year), Olympus is making a definitive declaration that they remain dedicated to the Micro Four Thirds ecosystem. We got to spend some time in the literal wild shooting with the OM-D E-M5 Mark III last week in Moab, Utah. Was the E-M5 Mark III worth the long wait? Find out after the jump.

Editor’s Note: Olympus flew us and other members of the photography press out to Utah to test the brand new OM-D E-M5 Mark III. While all expenses for this trip were paid for by Olympus, this First Impressions coverage was done with full transparency. The Phoblographer’s Editors are trained on this from Day One and have regular discussions about ethics.

 

Gear Used

We tested the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III with a variety of native lenses including the M.ZUIKO ED 7-14 mm f2.8 PRO, M.ZUIKO ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO, M.ZUIKO ED 17mm f1.2 PRO, M.ZUIKO ED 25mm f1.2 PRO, M.ZUIKO ED 45mm f1.2 PRO, and M.ZUIKO ED 40-150mm f2.8 PRO.

 

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III Tech Specs

Highlighted tech specs for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III taken from the official press release

Sensor Effective Resolution / Type 20.4 Megapixel Live MOS
Processor TruePic™ VIII Quad Core Processor
Focusing System Dual F.A.S.T. AF (Contrast & Phase Detection AF) 121 Point (All Cross Type) On-Chip Phase Detection
Image Stabilization System 5-Axis Image Stabilization with up to 6.5 Shutter Speed Steps Compensation with Sync-IS
Viewfinder 2.36M dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
Rear Monitor 3.0″ Vari-Angle Touch LCD
Weathersealed Dust, Splash and Freezeproof
Sequential Shooting Speed 10fps [H] mode 6fps [L] mode mechanical shutter
30fps [H] mode 10fps [L] mode silent electronic shutter
Special Features 4k Video Capture (30/25/24 fps) with Flat Picture Mode
30fps Silent Electronic Shutter
PRO Capture Lag-Free Electronic Shutter Mode
Fisheye Compensation Mode
USB In-camera Charging

 

Ergonomics

Meet the brand new OM-D E-M5 Mark III from Olympus. Although the E-M5 Mark III is slightly larger than its predecessor, at a glance it’s pretty easy to mistake it for its predecessors.

From the front, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III retains the retro styling that harken to SLR designs of yesteryear. Aside from the Olympus and OM-D badging, the only buttons you’ll find on the front are the Depth of View Preview button and the lens release.

Most of the OM-D E-M5 Mark III’s controls are located on top of the camera body. This is also where you’ll find some of the more notable changes Olympus has made to the body of the E-M5 series. Although the OM-D E-M5 Mark III remains a very compact camera, the handgrip on the right is beefier. There is also a larger thumb rest towards the back as well. On the left side of the top of the E-M5 Mark III, you’ll find the On/Off lever. Previously on the E-M5 Mark II, a Mode Dial and a Mode Dial Lock were located on top of the On/Off level. They have been replaced with dedicated buttons for Sequential Shooting/Timer as well as Liveview. The Mode Dial and the Mode Dial Lock have been moved towards the right side of the Hot Shoe, next to the Front and Rear dials. The Shutter Release is nested within the Front Dial. Depending on your preference, you can assign either dial to adjust Aperture and Shutter Speed values. Dedicated buttons for Exposure Compensation, Movie Record, and ISO round out the buttons on top of the camera.

The articulating touchscreen dominates much of the E-M5 Mark III’s rear and comes in handy when shooting from odd angles. You can flip the touchscreen forward for selfies or vlogging, or flip it inward to keep it protected when not in use or if you prefer shooting through the Electronic Viewfinder. To the right of the EVF, you’ll find the AEL/AFL button along with the mode lever. Beneath the thumb rest, the Directional Pad along with the buttons for Menu, Info, OK, Delete, and Playback round out the rest of the physical controls on the OM-D E-M5 Mark III. The single SD card slot is located towards the right side of the camera.

“Photographers coming from other camera systems may find the E-M5 Mark III’s menus to be somewhat challenging to navigate. “

A selection of input options can be found on the left side of the OM-D E-M5 Mark III. From top to bottom, you’ll find the 3.5mm microphone jack, 2.5mm cable release jack, Micro HDMI port, and Micro USB port (which can be used to charge the camera).

 

Build Quality

Like many of Olympus’s other cameras, the OM-D E-M5 Mark III is weather sealed. Olympus claims that the E-M5 Mark III is dustproof, splashproof, and freezeproof. Although the preview unit provided to us by Olympus is considered an initial production sample, it felt solidly constructed and withstood quite a lot of abuse during our testing in Moab. While there wasn’t any precipitation while we were testing the camera in Moab, the camera definitely survived freezing temperatures while we photographed the Colorado River during the early morning hours at Dead Horse Point State Park. It did an excellent job of keeping sand and dust from contaminating the camera sensor as we photographed cattle and steeds being chased around a cowboy ranch. We’ll need to put the weather sealing to additional tests for our review, but so far the E-M5 Mark III is living up to Olympus’s claims.

 

“It did an excellent job of keeping sand and dust from contaminating the camera sensor as we photographed cattle and steeds being chased around a cowboy ranch.”

 

Ease of Use

The physical changes Olympus made to the body of the OM-D E-M5 Mark III, along with upgraded Auto Focus, improved 5-Axis In-Body Image Stabilization, and increased resolving power makes it the best E-M5 camera to date. Olympus also has one of the best smartphone apps currently available in the industry. Setting up the WiFi connection between your phone and the E-M5 Mark III using Bluetooth is one of the smoothest phone-camera pairing processes we’ve experienced. Browsing images and transferring them from the camera to a phone is also lightning fast. Despite the physical improvements, the OM-D E-M5 Mark III remains a very compact camera. Photographers with large hands will want to consider picking up the optional ECG-5 Dedicated External Grip for improved handling, particularly if the plan is to pair the E-M5 Mark III with the larger M.Zuiko lenses. Photographers coming from other camera systems may also find the E-M5 Mark III’s menus to be challenging to navigate. Thankfully, pressing the Info button will usually display helpful explanations about specific menu items that are selected.

 

Autofocus

Although we spent a limited amount of time shooting with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, the autofocus system felt very responsive. It did an admirable job acquiring and maintaining focus on fast-moving subjects (cattle, horses, cowboy, and cowgirl), even when there was a significant amount of dust and sand in the air. We will need to put the camera through more rigorous testing in other challenging lighting conditions. Please stay tuned for our upcoming full review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III.

 

“The physical changes that Olympus has made to the body of the OM-D E-M5 Mark III, along with upgraded Auto Focus, improved 5-Axis In-Body Image Stabilization, and increased resolving power makes it the best E-M5 camera to date. Olympus also has one of the best smartphone apps currently available in the industry.”

Image Quality

While the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III that was provided to us is a final production sample, it is still an initial production unit and camera profiles for it are not yet available for Capture One or Adobe Lightroom. As such, all sample images seen within this First Impressions article are straight out of camera JPEGs. As a matter of ethics, none of the sample images seen in this First Impressions article have been edited or retouched in any way so that you can judge the quality of the images produced by this camera for yourself.

 

First Impressions

Four and a half years is a long time, and to go that long between camera generations feels like an eternity, especially given how much the industry has been moving within the last few years. With that said, our experiences with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III so far have been mostly positive. The 5-Axis In-Body Image Stabilization is one of the most effective currently available in the industry. While it’s certainly no Sony A9, the autofocus performance in the OM-D E-M5 Mark III is certainly one of the better ones in this price bracket. The weather sealing in the E-M5 Mark III has proven to be on par with Olympus’s other weather sealed offerings currently available and is a benchmark by which other camera manufacturers should measure their weatherproofing camera designs. Having spent just a few hours shooting with the E-M5 Mark III thus far, we’ll surely need to evaluate the camera more thoroughly before we can render a fair and comprehensive verdict. It’s shaping up to be a compact and highly capable camera though. Please stay tuned for our upcoming full review.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is available in both black and silver colorways and will begin shipping in late November of this year – just in time for the holidays. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III (camera body only) retails for $1,199.99 USD ($1,499.99 CAD). It is also available in a kit paired with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-150 mm f4.0-5.6 II lens for $1,799.99 USD ($2,249.99 CAD). A $300 USD/CAD off special launch offer is currently available. The optional ECG-5 Dedicated External Grip can be had for $169.99 USD ($224.99 CAD).

Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.