FIRST LOOK: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III

      In summary

      Subtle changes to the camera body and internal functions realign the new camera as a more professional model than the E-M1 Mark II. In the process, the E-M1 Mark III co-opts some of the features of the more sports shooter-aligned E-M1 X into the smaller and lighter body of the E-M1 II.

      Aside from that, the Mark III model retains the compact size, relatively light weight, solid construction and SLR-like styling of its predecessor.

      Full review

      We’ve been waiting for a third generation model in the popular Olympus OM-D E-M1 line since the middle of 2019 so it was no surprise to receive an early sample of the OM-D E-M1 Mark III just over a week before it was officially announced. The new camera has the same physical dimensions as the E-M1 II but is six grams heavier. It also uses the same 20.4-megapixel sensor as the E-M1X but introduces a new TruePic IX processing engine and a rear panel joystick multi-selector for quick and easy shifting of AF areas.

      Angled view of the OM-D E-M1 Mark III with the new M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-45mm f/4.0 PRO lens. (Source: Olympus.)

      The OM-D E-M1 Mark III will be available in late February 2020 at an RRP of AU$3,099 for the body alone. It will also be offered in two single-lens kits. The camera plus the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens kit will carry an RRP of AU$4,199, while the camera plus the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 IS PRO lens kit will be priced at AU$4,799 (RRP).

      Who’s it For?
      Subtle changes to the camera body and internal functions realign the new camera as a more professional model than the E-M1 Mark II. In the process, the E-M1 Mark III co-opts some of the features of the more sports shooter-aligned E-M1 X into the smaller and lighter body of the E-M1 II.

      Aside from that, the Mark III model retains the compact size, relatively light weight, solid construction and SLR-like styling of its predecessor. It’s enough like the former model to make users feel comfortable using the camera from their first encounter. The choice of whether to upgrade will depend upon individual photographers.

      Externally, we’d see the changes as useful improvements to overall usability and shooting convenience.  However, there are probably enough internal improvements to justify updating for photographers who already own an E-M1 Mark II and definitely enough if you’ve been holding onto an original Mark I camera.

      What’s New?
      Physically not much has changed since the earlier model and most of those changes have been subtle, particularly on the front panel, where the main difference is the addition of a model nameplate.  Aside from that the two models are virtually indistinguishable, as shown in the comparison images below.

      A comparison of the front panels of the new OM-D E-M1 Mark III with its predecessor, shown below. (Source: Olympus.)

      The rear panels of the new OM-D E-M1 Mark III and Mark II model, shown below. (Source: Olympus.)

      The most significant addition to the rear panel is a joystick multi-selector, which replaces the Info button between the AEL/AFL button and the arrow pad, which moves down to below the arrow pad. It’s nicely positioned just beside the thumb rest to allow your thumb to reach it.

      Relocation of the Info button has pushed the Menu button up to just above the upper left hand corner of the monitor screen. A new ISO button replaces the Fn1 button on the E-M1 II, which defaulted to AF target selection.  The arrow pad is slightly smaller in the Mark III but large enough to be usable, although it won’t be required as frequently since the addition of the joystick.

      A comparison of the top panels of the new OM-D E-M1 Mark III with its predecessor, shown below. (Source: Olympus.)

      On the top panel, the changes are relatively subtle. The HDR setting on the button above the On/Off lever has been replaced with a flash setting, relegating HDR functions to the Advanced shooting options page in the menu.  The Fn2 button, which defaulted to Highlight/Shadow control on the E-M1 II now provides a direct link to exposure compensation adjustment.

      The iAUTO mode has been dispensed with and a new ‘B’ setting replaces the ART setting on the mode dial to provide easier access to the Live Composite, Live Bulb and Live Time settings, which are the same as in the E-M1 X. A fourth Custom memory mode has been added. These are sensible decisions and confirm the more professional orientation of the new camera.

      The removal of the auto mode won’t worry photographers who plan to use the E-M1 III since most would shoot with one of the other modes that provided access to all camera controls. And for those who use them when shooting JPEGs, the Art Filters can now be found on page D2 in the Custom Menu.

      We’ve listed the new internal features below, in no particular order. All are significant and some may be sufficient on their own to justify upgrading. Significantly, while sensor resolution remains at 20.4 megapixels (effective) one of the most important upgrades is to a new TruePic IX image processing engine that underpins many of the changes listed below.

      1. Improved in-camera stabilisation. The in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) system is the same as in the E-M1X and offers up to seven stops of shake correction, compared with 5.5 stops in the E-M1 II. Synchronisation of the IBIS and stabilisation in supported lenses extends this to 7.5 stops of compensation with 5-axis sync IS.
      2. Improvements to the SSWF (Super Sonic Wave Filter). A new coating, developed originally for the E-M1X, makes it ten times less likely for dust and dirt to stick to the image sensor than in the previous model. The filter also vibrates at 30,000 times per second to shake off any dust or dirt.
      3. Improvements to shutter durability. The high-durability shutter unit offers the same high level of reliability as the unit in the E-M1X, with a rating of 400,000 cycles. This is twice the rating of the E-M1 II.
      4. Autofocusing improvements. While the same 21-point all cross-type On-chip Phase Detection AF sensor array is used in all three models in the E-M1 line-up, some significant improvements have been introduced into the E-M1 III. The AF/AE tracking system is the same in all three cameras, with the standard 25-point, 121-point, 5-point and 9-point settings but users of the E-KM1 III can now generate their own customised tracking arrays.
        New algorithms plus Advanced Face Priority and Eye Priority AF modes provide better detection for small faces and eyes and help to maintain stable focusing on traditionally difficult subjects such as sides of faces. Faces can also be selected with either the buttons (joystick included) or by touch in both stills and movie shooting modes. Detection on or off can be changed by pressing a single button.
        Finally, a new AF target loop setting lets users choose between having a tracking target stop at the edge of the screen when the subject leaves the frame or loop back to the opposite edge of the frame and seek a new target. This makes it easier to focus on subjects that move erratically, particularly when shooting team sports or taking wildlife shots of multiple targets.
      1. Shooting mode improvements. A Handheld High Res Shot, similar to the mode introduced in the E-M1X, enables users to capture high-resolution shots in locations where it is impossible to use a tripod. This multi-shot mode records 16 frames in a rapid sequence and composited them to produce 8160 X 6120 pixel images (49.94 megapixels), eliminating any small jitters between shots. The standard tripod High Res Shot mode is also available for recording ultra high-resolution JPEG images with approximately 80 megapixel resolution.
        Live ND, another popular feature from the E-M1X, has been included in the E-M1 III to provide greater exposure control. Five steps of neutral density adjustments are selectable, ranging from ND2 (one step) to ND32 (5 steps). Users can also view the effects of slow shutter speeds in the viewfinder before taking the shot, making this setting a useful substitute for screw-in ND filters, particularly with lenses that can’t accept optical filters.
        Starry Sky AF is a new mode that is likely to have limited appeal among generalist photographers but will attract astrophotographers. Designed to enable accurate focusing on individual star points in the night sky, it should work best with longer lenses (such as the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO) and when the camera is used with an astronomical telescope. Two modes are provided for this function: the default Speed Priority mode, which prioritises focusing speed and Accuracy Priority, which uses a fine-tuned scan to concentrate upon accurate focusing.
        The Live Composite function has been extended to support up to six hours of recording (given sufficient battery capacity), which is double the times offered by the E-M1 X and E-M1 II models. Interval recording for Time-lapse movies has also been extended to support up to 9999 shots in a sequence, compared with 999 in the previous model (and also the E-M1 X).
      1. Movie improvements. The OM-D Movie function gains improved stabilisation with the addition of three levels of digital IS that can be combined with in-body 5-axis stabilisation instead of only one. This provides greater flexibility for shooting movies with the camera hand-held and even more options when using the camera on a gimbal.
        Support for UHD 4K and Cinema 4K (C4K) plus the provision of Flat and OM-Log400 profiles remain common across all three current cameras in the E-M1 series, as does the View Assist function, which converts the colour gamut to Full HD standard BT.709 equivalent for display. Only the E-M1 X and E-M1 III allow 4:2:2 output to be viewed on the camera’s screen or on an external monitor.
        A new pre-amp boosts audio recording from 48kHz 16-bit to 96kHz 24-bit quality. The E-M1 III can also be paired with the pocket-sized LS-P4 Linear PCM recorder to provide high-quality audio recording for video production. New firmware (Version 1.10) for the LS-P4 is being released at the same time as the E-M1 Mark III, adding a Slate Tone function, which is useful for editing sound files and a Test Tone to support adjustment of the recording level.
        A new High-Speed Movie mode, which records with Full HD 1080p resolution at 120fps, is also ported across from the E-M1 X. It can be played back at different frame rates, from 60 fps to 24 fps, giving slow motion movies at between ½ and 1/5 times normal speed.
      1. Connectivity improvements. Bluetooth 4.2 LE has been added to the wireless options and Wi-Fi support is extended to cover IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac support for fast image transfer. Wireless support for Olympus Capture has been added to the existing tethered support option. The Olympus OIShare app has been extended to support firmware updates and backup of camera settings, both new features specific to the E-M1 Mark III.

      Unchanged Features
      Aside from these improvements, nothing much has changed. Importantly, the menu design retains the same structure as previous models, which makes upgrading easier for current users of the Mark II and Mark I cameras. However, that means it’s still complex and multi-layered.

      You still have to dig deeply into the menu to find some of the interesting features shared by both cameras. For example, the touted 18 frames/second (fps) continuous shooting mode is common to both cameras but it’s hidden away in the Custom Menu, section C1, where (counter-intuitively) it’s located under the LSettings (low-speed) tab.

      When you select sequential low silent (indicated by a love heart), the frame rate defaults to 18 fps, although frame rates of 15 fps (the default in high-speed mode) right down to one fps are available. Selecting the HSettings tab restricts the camera to 15 fps (plus a range of selectable lower speeds). You can then choose between Unrestricted and restricting the count to 25 frames.

      The base and side plates are unchanged from previous models, the former retaining the locking battery compartment cover. The battery is the same BLH-1 battery as used in the E-M1 II (and E-M1 X) and the E-M1 III can accept the same optional HLD-9 Battery Grip as its predecessor. Capable of holding two batteries it can double the camera’s shooting capacity. However, for some inexplicable reason, the capacity with the grip is reduced from up to 950 shots with the Mark II to 840 shots with the Mark III.

      On the opposite side panel, the dual SD card slots are unchanged from the E-M1 II:  Slot 1 provides UHS-II support and Slot 2 restricted to UHS-I. The Mark III is also equipped with USB  and HDMI ports as well as jacks for external microphones and headphones but it adds support for USB charging on-the-go via a USB PD (USB Power Delivery) enabled power bank.

      Because the camera and lens we received were IP (Initial Production) units – which means some minor tweaks might be required before the products are finalised – we aren’t able to report on the preliminary Imatest tests we carried out. And these were only conducted on JPEG files, which don’t provide a full evaluation of performance.

      Nonetheless, initial results suggest the E-M1 III is every bit as good as the E-M1 II, when tested with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-45mm f/4.0 PRO lens. We look forward to conducting some parallel tests when a production-standard camera is available.

      Fortunately, Olympus has promised to supply us with samples of the new camera and lens as soon as they become available. Until then, the comments below represent our subjective assessments of both the camera and lens, albeit slightly coloured by our initial Imatest results.

      As well as using the new 12-45mm f/4.0 PRO lens we also took some shots with our M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 IS PRO lens to test the new camera’s stabilisation system. Most of those shots were taken in wet weather, when conditions varied between light showers and torrential rain.

      We used both lenses to try out the Handheld High Res Shot mode and obtained some interesting results, particularly with the 100mm focal length (equivalent to 200mm in 35mm format), where with a shutter speed of 1/100 second the 16-frame recording that created the shot resulted in fast-moving subjects in the scene becoming blurred while static objects remained sharp.

      But even with shorter focal lengths, the Handheld High Res Shot mode could contain blurred images of anything in the scene that moved during the brief time in which the 16 frames were captured before compositing. However, non-moving sections of the scene were invariably pin-sharp.

      For photographers seeking to lighten their loads without compromising image quality and performance, the E-M1 Mark III creates a very attractive picture (no pun intended). However, given the current tight economic conditions and relatively low value of the Australian dollar against the US dollar and Japanese yen.

      When we reviewed the E-M1 Mark II back in January 2017, its RRP was AU$2799 for the camera body alone with the Australian dollar averaging a value of 86.23 Japanese yen. Today the dollar’s average value is 73.5 yen, a difference of around 13.3 yen, or 18 cents Australian.

      That may not appear to be much but it’s probably enough to account, at least in part, for the $300 difference in the RRP between the Mark II when it was first released and the RRP for the Mark III camera today. So the question photographers will ask is: will the improvements provided in the new camera justify me upgrading?

      For those with the original E-M1 camera, which was launched in late 2013, the answer should be an unqualified ‘yes’. The boost in resolution from 16 to 20 megapixels is more than enough justification as is the jump from the TruePic VII processor to the TruePic IX, which provides two generations of improvements in performance and capabilities.

      Upgrading from an E-M1 Mark II body is a bit more problematic, although the new processor will certainly deliver some improvements over the TruePic VIII chip in the earlier camera. Some photographers could probably justify upgrading in order to get the Handheld High Res Shot mode, while others could be drawn to the new joystick multi-controller or the improvements to the stabilisation systems. The Starry Sky AF mode will probably only attract astrophotographers, although it could appeal to those who enjoy capturing start trails at night.

      Improvements to the focusing system are relatively minor, as are those relating to video capture. Both have potential to be added to the Mark II via a future firmware upgrade but either could be relevant if they provide quantifiable benefits in situations where the camera will be used frequently. Aside from that, if you’re happy with your Mark II, you may choose to hold onto it until the Mark IV comes along, although you’ll probably have to wait until at least 2023 – and who knows how the camera market will be faring then.

      In the interim, keep an eye out for our test results, which will be published once we’ve been able to review a production camera. This may not happen until after CP+, which takes place in Yokohama between 27 February and 1 March.


      Image sensor: 17.4 x 13.0 mm Live MOS sensor with  21.8 million photosites (20.4 megapixels effective )
      Image processor:  TruePic IX
      A/D processing: 12-bit lossless compression
      Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
      Focal length crop factor:  2x
      Image formats: Stills: JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver. 2.31), ORF..RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies: MOV(MPEG-4AVC/H.264) with Wave Format audio (Stereo linear PCM/16-bit, Sampling frequency 48kHz)
      Image Sizes: Stills – 5184 x 3888,    1024 x 768; Movies: 4096 x 2160 (C4K) at 24p/ IPB (approx. 237Mbps); 3840 x 2160 (4K) at 30p, 25p, 24p / IPB (approx. 102Mbps); 1920 x 1080 (FHD) at 30p, 25p, 24p / ALL-I (approx. 202Mbps), IPB (approx. 52Mbps, approx. 30MBps, approx. 18Mbps), 60p, 50p / IPB (approx. 52Mbps, approx. 30MBps, approx. 18Mbps); 1280 x 720 (HD) at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p / ALL-I (approx. 102Mbps), IPB (approx. 26Mbps, approx. 14MBps, approx. 10Mbps); High speed movie at 120/100 fps
      Aspect ratios: 4:3 (default), 3:2,  16:9, 1:1, 3:4
      Image Stabilisation: Built-in 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilisation; up to 7.5 stops with M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO lens
      Dust removal: Supersonic Wave Filter
      Shutter (speed range): Mechanical focal plane shutter (60-1/8000 sec., plus Live bulb, Live time, Live Composite); Electronic shutter (60-1/32000 second; shutter speeds faster than 1/320 sec. in first curtain mode will automatically switch to mechanical shutter); flash synch at 1/250 sec.
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 5EV in 1/3, ½ or 1EV steps (Live View only reflects +/3EV steps)
      Exposure bracketing: 2, 3 or 5 frames (0.3/0.7/1.0EV steps selectable), 7 frames (0.3/0.7EV steps selectable)
      Other bracketing options: ISO (3 frames (0.3/0.7/1.0EV steps selectable), WB (3 frames A-B/G-M axis, each selectable in 2, 4, 6 steps), flash (3 frames (0.3/0.7/1.0EV steps selectable), Art Filters,  focus bracketing and stacking
      Interval recording: Yes, for time-lapse movies
      Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
      Focus system: High-speed imager AF (phase/contrast detection), range – -3.5EV to +20EV
      AF points & selection: 121 points each of cross-type phase detection and contrast detection; All target, Single target (Normal), Single target (Small), Group target (5 area), Group target (9 area), Group target (25 area), Custom target (AF area and its increment steps selectable)
      Focus modes: Single AF (S-AF), Single AF (S-AF+MF), Continuous AF (C-AF), Continuous AF (C-AF+MF), Manual Focus (MF), AF tracking (C-AF + TR), AF tracking (C-AF + TR+MF), Preset MF, Starry sky AF (S-AF), Starry sky AF (S-AF+MF)
      Exposure metering:  324-area Digital ESP metering, Centre-weighted Average and Spot metering patterns  plus Spot metering with highlight/shadow control; AF target spot metering also available
      Shooting modes: P, A, S, M, Bulb, Movie, C 1-4
      Art Filters: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line, Water Colour, Vintage, Partial Colour (18 colours selectable), Bleach Bypass, Instant Film
      Picture modes: i-Finish, Vivid, Natural, Flat, Portrait, Monotone, Custom, e Portrait, Underwater, Colour Creator, Art Filters
      Movie Picture Modes: Flat, OM-Log400
      Other shooting modes: HDR (auto composite), Keystone correction, Fisheye compensation, Live ND,  One Push Tele-converter (2x), Live Bulb /. Live Time, Live Composite
      In-camera effects: Tripod High Res Shot (JPEG (80M) 10368 x 7776, JPEG (50M) 8160 x 6120, JPEG (25M) 5760 x 4320, RAW 10368 x 7776); Handheld High Res Shot (JPEG (50M) 8160 x 6120, JPEG (25M) 5760 x 4320, RAW 8160 x 6120);
      Colour space options: sRGB and Adobe RGB
      ISO range: Auto (ISO 64-6400) with extension to ISO 25600 available; adjustable in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps
      White balance: Auto,  Daylight, Fluorescent (Cool White), Fluorescent (Daylight), Fluorescent (Warm White), Incandescent, Shade, Underwater, Colour Temperature, Custom
      Flash: External flashguns only
      Flash modes: Redeye, Fill-in, Flash Off, Red-eye Slow sync.(1st curtain), Slow sync.(1st curtain), Slow sync.(2nd curtain), Manual (1/1 (FULL) ~ 1/64)
      Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 3EV in 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps
      Sequence shooting: Max. 15 frames/sec. with locked AF; up to 60 fps in silent sequential shooting mode and Pro Captrue H mode
      Buffer capacity: Max. 134 Large/Fine JPEGs, 101 RAW files
      Storage Media: Dual slots for SD, SDHC, SDXC cards (Slot 1 is UHS-I, II compatible; Slot 2 is UHS-I compatible)
      Viewfinder: 2,360,000-dot EVF with 100% frame coverage, 21mm eyepoint, 1.3x magnification, -4 to +2 dpt adjustment, adaptive brightness technology, simulated OVF
      LCD monitor: Vari-angle 3-inch LCD with 1,037,000 dots, electrostatic capacitance touch panel +/- 7 levels of brightness and colour temperature adjustment
      Playback functions: Single-frame, information display, index display (4/9/25/100 frames), calendar, enlargement (2x ~ 14x), movie (with sound, FF/REW/Pause), picture rotation (auto),  Light Box display
      Interface terminals: USB Type-C / ⌀2.5Pin Jack (Optional remote cable RM-CB2 can be used), Micro HDMI  (type D), Hot shoe, sync terminal, ⌀3.5 stereo mini jacks for microphones and headphones, Superspeed (USB3.0) PC interface
      Wi-Fi function: Built-in (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac); Bluetooth Ver.4.2 BLE
      Power supply: BLH-1 rechargeable Li-ion batteries in special base pack; CIPA rated for approx. 440 shots/charge (up to 950 shots in quick sleep mode)
      Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 134.1 x 90.9 x 68.9 mm (excluding protrusions)
      Weight: Approx. 504 grams (body only); 580 grams with battery and card

      RRP: AU$3099
      Distributor: Olympus Imaging Australia; 1300 659 678



      ISO 64, 30 second exposure at f/4.5, 30mm focal length.

      ISO 100, 20 second exposure at f/4.5, 30mm focal length.

      ISO 1600, 5 second exposure at f/4.5, 30mm focal length.

      ISO 6400, 5 second exposure at f/8, 30mm focal length.

      ISO 12800, 3.2 second exposure at f/9, 30mm focal length.

      ISO 25600, 1.3 second exposure at f/9, 30mm focal length.

      12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/80 second at f/16.

      45mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/80 second at f/16.

      45mm focal length plus Digital Teleconverter, ISO 250, 1/80 second at f/16.

      Photographed in the rain; 45mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/8.

      16:9 aspect ratio; 12mm focal length, ISO 1250, 1/60 second at f/6.3.

      JPEG file; 12mm focal length, ISO 6400, 1/60 second at f/6.3.

      The same scene captured simultaneously in ORF.RAW  format and converted into an editable TIFF with Olympus Workspace software.

      12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/10.

      Crops from the above image at 100% magnification, taken from the centre (top) and edge (below) of the frame.

      A scene with a wide brightness range, recorded in JPEG format; 12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/5.

      The same scene captured simultaneously in ORF.RAW  format and converted into an editable TIFF with Olympus Workspace software.

      Handheld High Res Shot mode in bright sunlight; 19mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/6.3.  The red circles show areas in which blurring has occurred due to subject movement as the frames were captured.

      Handheld High Res Shot mode on a day with heavy rain; 12-100mm f/4 lens, 100mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/8.

      A crop from the above image at 100% magnification showing blurring due to subject motion against a sharp background.

      Handheld High Res Shot mode with subject moving towards the camera; 12-100mm f/4 lens, 66mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/8.

      A crop from the above image at 100% magnification showing the some of the main subject is sharp.

      45mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/8.

      45mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/7.1.

      12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/8.

      12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/8.

      25mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/5.

      15mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/5.

      12mm focal length, ISO 500, 1/60 second at f/4.5.

      12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/6.3.

      25mm focal length, ISO 250, 1/60 second at f/4.

      28mm focal length, ISO 6400, 1/60 second at f/8.

      33mm focal length, ISO 3200, 1/100 second at f/8.

      37mm focal length, ISO 25600, 1/800 second at f/8.

      12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/800 second at f/8.

      45mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/8.

      Close-up with Digital Teleconverter, 45mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/5.

      12-100mm f/4 lens, 100mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/7.1.

      12-100mm f/4 lens, 100mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/8.

      21mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/7.1

      31mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/11.

      Additional image samples can be found with our ‘First Look’ at the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-45mm f/4.0 PRO lens.