Back in 2020, we reviewed the Olympus EM1 Mk III and awarded it four out of five stars. Since then, it’s received a few firmware updates, so we’ve updated the review of the camera. It has since been succeeded by the OM System OM1, which we really love. While it’s it’s not great at everything, there are a few things about the EM1 Mk III that still make it a great camera. The trend these days is that so many cameras can be great at everything. But if you’re an owner of the EM1 Mk III, we think you’ll like some of the updates.
Overall, the EM1 Mk III is a great camera that works best when you tell it where to focus. For a lot of Olympus and some OM System users, that may sound weird. It will even sound odd to Fujifilm and Nikon users. However, if you pick up a Sony or Canon mirrorless camera you’ll see just how effortless the autofocus experience is. This is true of older cameras like the Sony a7r III and the Canon EOS R. I still use these cameras nearly weekly and am amazed at how intelligent their autofocus system is despite not having the most advanced ones on the market.
Would I buy the Olympus EM1 Mk III today? For the durability, and if I’m more of an old-school style of photographer, then yes. But quite honestly, the OM System OM1 blows it out of the water in nearly every category. The OM System just isn’t that great at street photography. I even dove into Instagram to look for images shot with the 17mm f1.2 PRO lens, and couldn’t find much candid or street photography.
Some folks will say the system is really just good for landscapes and wildlife. And I agree that the system is great for that. But why can’t it do everything well?
Update August 2022.
One of the newest updates to the Olympus EM1 Mk II brought an improvement to autofocusing with single-focal length lenses. Basically, it’s supposed to improve the precision of the focusing. So to really see what this can do, we used the EM1 Mk III with the 17mm f1.2 PRO, one of my favorite lenses for the system. Here are my notes from the testing:
- It’s frustrating that it never got the AI update the Olympus EM1x and the OM System OM1 have.
- Going back to this menu is such a blast from the past.
- Precision seems very accurate even with the smallest AF point.
- C-AF is very, very good once it locks onto a moving subject. If only it were better at seeing faces, then this camera would be amazing for street photography.
- Canon EOS R and 50mm f1.2 seem better still.
- Face detection is not so great for street photography, and using it isn’t reliable. The “cluster AF” as former staffer Robin Wong states in his own videos, isn’t all reliable for something like this. You’re much better off telling the camera exactly where you want it to focus.
- Faces need to take up around 1/4 of the frame for the best results.
- The precision of the autofocus is still very good even with the smallest autofocus points and in low light.
- Disabling the simulated OVF setting and the Live View boost settings don’t dim the screen a lot in underexposed conditions. So the autofocus will still work well except in the areas with super low contrast.
Overall, using the EM1 Mk III is a major difference between the EM1x and the OM System OM1. What I’m still shocked by is that the AI autofocus algorithms never made it to this camera. But if you’re into manually selecting autofocus points and all, the EM1 Mk III is an excellent camera.