Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

      Photo Review 9.0

      In summary

      The new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III introduces a 20.4-megapixel sensor, the latest TruePic VIII processor and a 121-point, all cross-type On-chip Phase Detection AF system.

      We’ve waited a long time for the E-M5 Mark III so it’s great to see the wait was worth it.

       

      Full review

      Announced on October 17, 2019, the long-awaited update to the popular E-M5 consumer-level model in Olympus’s OM-D camera line-up arrived on our desk in mid-December following an official late-November local release date. The lightweight weather-sealed body carries over from the previous model but the new camera meets IPX1 standards, which means it can withstand a shower of rain. Its control layout is now much closer to that of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, making it a viable second body for users of the premium camera.

      Angled view of the OM-D E-M5 Mark III camera (silver version) with the M.Zuiko ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 II lens. (Source: Olympus.)

      The review camera comes with a USB 2.0 cable, shoulder strap, instruction manual, warranty card and the same FL-LM3 flash as the E-M1 Mark II and the E-M5 Mark II. Unfortunately, the supplied battery is the smaller, less powerful BLS-50 unit and the associated BCS-5 battery charger (which are also bundled with the E-M10 Mark III).  The E-M5 Mark III is normally bundled with the M.Zuiko ED 14-150mm f/4.0-5.6 II lens (which we haven’t yet reviewed) at an RRP of AU$2499.

      However, the review camera was supplied with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens, which is reviewed separately. No flash was provided. Aside from the 20.4-megapixel sensor, another important feature the E-M5 Mark III has inherited from the E-M1 Mark II is the 121-point, all cross-type On-chip Phase Detection AF system, which is a big improvement on the previous camera’s system. A more effective algorithm prevents focus from unexpectedly jumping to the background in scenes with near and far subjects and provides improved precision and tracking performance for moving subjects as well as convenient centre priority and centre start modes with the C-AF setting.

      The AF Target frame for the area in focus continues to be displayed in green, making it easy for users to check where the camera is focusing and whether it is tracking the subject. Touch AF is supported and the AF Targeting Pad can be used to move the AF point while looking through the viewfinder. Face and eye detection are also available.

      Like previous models, the new camera will be available in silver and black and all-black colour options. It will be offered as a body only or with the M.Zuiko 14-150mm f/4-5.6 II kit lens.

      Who’s it For?
      Essentially the E-M5 III has been designed for photo enthusiasts who want the benefits a smaller and lighter camera system can bring over the more heavily-promoted (and larger and heavier) DSLR cameras. Coupled with a wide range of lens choices from both Olympus and Panasonic, as well as third-party manufacturers, it helps to keep the Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) alive as a viable choice, particularly among photographers who like to travel light.

      However, users unaccustomed to the Olympus menu system will need to spend time learning how to deal with the complex array of functions and programming the camera to suit their shooting styles. Olympus menus are a bit more intuitive than Sony’s but not quite as straightforward as those from Canon, Panasonic and Nikon but, once you get the hang of them, they can be simple to use and the camera has plenty of external buttons and dials that give direct access to most frequently-used functions.

      Build and Ergonomics
      Physically, the new camera’s body is similar in size and styling to the E-M5 II although it’s roughly 5 mm deeper and 11 grams lighter, thanks to a higher percentage of polycarbonate (plastic) in its construction. Build quality is nonetheless excellent, with a quality feel and well-implemented weatherproof sealing (which the Mark II lacked).

      This diagram shows the weatherproof sealing in the OM-D E-M5 Mark III camera and how it integrates with lenses and flashguns with similar sealing. (Source: Olympus.)

      A few changes have been made to the control layout to make it more like the E-M1 II. Both the grip moulding and the thumb rest on the new camera have been enlarged, making the new camera more comfortable to hold and operate.

      Front, top and rear views of the OM-D E-M5 Mark III camera with no lens fitted. (Source: Olympus.)

      The top panel mode dial has been relocated to the right of the EVF moulding while a drive/sequential shooting/self-timer/HDR button has been installed in front of the LV button on top of the power on/off lever switch. The thumb rest on the rear panel has a new ISO button on top of it and an exposure compensation button has been added in front of the movie button.

      While the E-M5 III lacks a built-in flash, it comes with the same relatively weak FL-LM3 flashgun as other OM-D models. But the hot shoe above the EVF can accept more powerful flashguns and the camera supports a maximum synch speed of 1/250 second with the mechanical shutter or 1/50 second with the electronic shutter with ISO settings to 6400, dropping to 1/20 second for higher sensitivity values.

      The LCD touchscreen monitor on the rear panel is the same articulated screen as on the E-M1 II and is CIPA rated for approximately 310 shots/charge. An optional battery grip (ECG-5) is available for those who need greater capacity.

      Two lift-up flaps are located on the left hand side panel, the upper one covering the microphone jack and remote control cable terminal, while the lower one protects the type D HDMI and Micro-USB (2.0) terminals. The camera supports USB battery recharging.

      The built-in Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n) is unchanged but the new camera includes low-energy Bluetooth (Ver 4.2), which can connect the camera to a smartphone via the Olympus Image Share app. This lets users transfer images to the smart device and use the device to operate the camera remotely.

      Internal Changes
      The E-M5 Mark III introduces an improved SSWF (Super Sonic Wave Filter) and in-body 5-axis Image Stabilisation (IS) system, with the latter claiming up to 5.5 stops of shake correction. The same system is used when shooting video, where it can be supplemented by digital stabilisation for even steadier footage. Note that some frame cropping occurs when digital IS is used.


      This diagram illustrates how the camera’s 5-axis image stabilisation system interacts with stabilised Olympus lenses. (Source: Olympus.)

      While the E-M5 III benefits from technologies developed for the flagship E-M1 Mark II camera , some performance parameters have been held back. The top continuous shooting speed with the mechanical shutter is 10 fps, which lies between the E-M1 II’s continuous rate of 15 fps and the 8.6 fps rate of the E-M10 III.

      Similarly, the 60 fps Pro Capture mode on the E-M1 Mark II slips back to 30 fps with focus locked on the first frame in the E-M5 III, or 15fps with continuous AF.  However, when the shutter is half-pressed in this mode, the camera begins storing images and will retain up to 14 before the shutter is triggered, after which it can retain a further 85 frames.

      Like other Olympus cameras, the E-M5 III provides a wide range of in-camera special effects, including 16 Art Filters, Live Composite and HDR Composite modes and focus bracketing and stacking capabilities. The Tripod High Res Shot combines eight sequential shots to produce a 50-megapixel image but it requires the camera to be tripod-mounted. The Live Time setting provides plenty of scope for taking long exposures, again with the camera tripod-mounted.

      Video
      On the video front, 4K video clips can be recorded in both Cinema 4K and UHD 4K modes, each with a frame rate of 24 and 25 fps, respectively. High bit rate recording is also possible at up to 102 Mbps for 4K or 237 Mbps for Cinema 4K (C4K). Other options include a ‘Flat’ Picture Mode to make colour grading easier with Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve software. A dedicated LUT (look-up table) file is available for downloading from the Olympus website.

      The two 4K options use IPB compression, while for the FHD (1920 x 1080) and HD (1280 x 720) recordings users can choose from ALL-I  at 202 or 102 Mbps and IPB,  the latter offering SuperFine (52/26 Mbps), Fine (30/14 Mbps) and Normal (18/10 Mbps) quality levels. UHS-II or UHS-I Speed Class 3 cards are recommended for 4K, C4K, ALL-I shooting. The maximum recording time is approximately 29 minutes per clip.

      These features make the E-M5 III a capable camera for those who require decent image quality when shooting video as well as stills, such as multimedia bloggers. The built-in stabilisation system does a fine job of keeping footage steady, especially when an Olympus lens with IS is used, and the digital stabilisation adds extra steadiness when it’s required.

      However, video recording remains a secondary item in this camera; nice to have but not totally at pro level. Serious video shooters will require Log profiles and a headphone jack, both of which are missing from the E-M5 III  but provided in the E-M1 II.

      Playback and Software
      The E-M5 III  offers the same playback options as other Olympus cameras as well as in-camera raw file conversion into JPEG format. The standard software is Olympus Workspace, which is available as a free download and includes viewing and managing functions for still images and video clips. It can also be used to update the camera’s firmware – and Olympus is one of the more diligent companies when it comes to providing bug fixes and performance improvements on a regular basis. Click here for more information.

      Performance
      Using the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens to test the E-M5 Mark III enabled us to see just how good the camera was in terms of image sharpness and colour accuracy through our regular Imatest testing. As is our normal practice, raw files from the camera were converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe camera Raw, our preferred raw file converter.

      Although some of our test shots were affected by smoke from the bushfires that covered much of eastern Australia while we had the camera, we were able to take some shots on a relatively smoke-free beach in Adelaide over Christmas. Out-of-camera JPEGs shot with the default Natural Picture Mode in this location looked sharp with nicely balanced colour saturation and slightly elevated contrast.

      Our Imatest tests showed the camera to be a fine performer with JPEG resolution was above expectations for the 20-megapixel sensor near the centre of the frame and very close to expectations towards the edges. Resolution was well above expectations across the frame for ORF.RAW files, captured simultaneously.

      Imatest also showed colour accuracy to be very good, with nicely restrained saturation, which was more subdued in converted raw files, giving plenty of scope for post-capture processing and printing.  Resolution held up well across the camera’s sensitivity range, as shown in the graph of our test results below.

      Long exposures were effectively noise-free up to ISO 6400 after which slight traces of softening became detectable. Noise was only evident at ISO 25600 but not particularly obvious and colours remained unchanged throughout the sensitivity range. Shots taken at this setting were printable at up to A4 size, although not at full page bleed.

      White balance performance was similar to other OM-D cameras we’ve tested. Only a slight warm cast remained in shots taken with the auto setting under incandescent lighting and with warm-toned LEDs.  Fluorescent lighting produced very close to neutral colours. There’s no pre-set for LED lighting but the tungsten and fluorescent pre-sets over-corrected slightly.

      Like its predecessor, the Mark III provides plenty of adjustments to overcome biases, including four Custom settings. Use of these tools delivered cast-free shots with all types of lighting.

      Video quality was very good for a camera at this level, although not quite up to the E-M1 Mark II’s. However, it should be good enough to satisfy most potential users.

      The camera did a much better job of rendering image tones than the E-M10 Mark III and we found few instances of blown-out highlights or blocked-up shadows.  Colours were also attractively rendered and the stabilisation system worked well for hand-held shooting.

      Autofocusing and auto exposure adjustments were much faster when zooming and/or panning and we obtained smooth footage almost all of the time. Audio quality was decent for the internal microphones and the ability to add external microphones would be useful if better quality was desired.

      Our timing tests were carried out with a 64GB Panasonic SDXC I U3 memory card, which claims a read speed of 95 MB/s and write speed of 90 MB/s. The review camera took just over one second to power-up, which is similar to the previous model.

      Capture lag was effectively negligible when the shutter button was used to capture the shot and averaged 0.1 second when the shot was captured by touching the monitor screen. Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.3 seconds.

      Image processing speeds were similar to the E-M10 III’s, with both JPEG and ORF.RAW files taking less than a second and RAW+JPEG pairs very little more. This is very good, given the E-M5 III’s higher resolution and larger file sizes.

      In the high-speed sequential shooting mode, we recorded a burst of 30 Large/ Fine JPEGs in 3.4 seconds before the capture rate paused. This is less than the specifications but slightly faster than the specified 10 frames/second. The buffer capacity was also less than specified but close to the specified limits for silent shooting.  Processing was completed within 5.2 seconds of the last frame captured.

      With ORF.RAW files the capture rate slowed after 21 frames, which were recorded in 2.1 seconds. It took just over nine seconds to clear the buffer memory. Nineteen RAW+JPEG pairs were recorded in 1.9 seconds before the frame rate slowed. It took 11.1 seconds to process this burst.

      Conclusion

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      SPECS

      Image sensor: 17.4 x 13.0 mm 4/3 Live MOS sensor with 21.8 million photosites (20.4 megapixels effective)
      Image processor:  TruePic VIII
      A/D processing: 12-bit
      Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
      Focal length crop factor: 2x
      Image formats: Stills: JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver. 2.31), ORF.RAW (12-bit lossless compression), RAW+JPEG; Movies: MOV (MPEG-4AVC / H.264) with PCM/16-bit stereo audio
      Image Sizes: Stills – 5184 x 3888 to 1024 x 768 pixels; Movies: C4K (4096 x 2160 pixels, 24p, IPB), 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels, 30p, 25p, 24p), 1080p (50p, 60p, 30p, 25p, 24p, ALL-I &IPB compression available), Flat Picture Mode (LUT file available for download from website)
      Aspect ratios: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1, 3:4
      Image Stabilisation: Built-in 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilisation for movie and still photos; 5.5 to 6.5 stops of shake correction, depending on lens; 4 modes –  S-IS Auto, S-IS1, S-IS2, S-IS3, off
      Dust removal: Supersonic Wave Filter
      Shutter (speed range): Mechanical focal plane shutter (60-1/8000 second plus B and T), electronic shutter (60-1/32000 second); flash synch at 1/250 sec.
      Interval Timer: Yes, Max 999 frames, 1 sec. – 24 hours intervals
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 5EV in 1/3, ½ or 1EV steps (+/-EV for movies)
      Exposure bracketing: Yes
      Other bracketing options: Focus (10 levels, up to 999 shots), ISO, WB, Flash. Art Filter (3 frames for each)
      Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay plus Custom (wait time: 1-30sec., shot interval: 0.5 / 1 / 2 / 3sec.
      Focus system: Dual Fast AF with 121 cross-type phase detection points and 121 imager contrast points
      AF point selection: All targets, group target (5-area, 9-area or 25-area), single target (normal/small), custom target (x4)
      Focus modes: Single AF (S-AF) / Continuous AF (C-AF) / Manual Focus (MF) / S-AF + MF / AF tracking (C-AF + TR) / Preset MF; C-AF lock (5 steps), AF scanner (3 types); AF targeting pad; AF limiter; 3x , 5x , 7x , 10x , 14x Magnified frame AF; face/eye detection AF with eye priority; Manual focus assist (magnification and peaking)
      Exposure metering:  Digital ESP metering (324 zones), centre-weighted average and spot metering patterns plus spot metering with highlight control, spot metering with shadow control
      Shooting modes: Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual Exposure, Bulb (Live Bulb, Live Time and Live Composite are available), Custom, Movie, Art Filters (16 options), Scene (6 themes)
      Scene presets: Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape + Portrait, Night + Portrait, Children, Nightscape, Sport, Hand-held Starlight, Fireworks, Light trails, Sports, Panning, Landscape, Sunset, Beach & Snow, Backlight HDR, Candlelight, Silent, Macro, Nature Macro, Documents, Multi Focus Shot
      Other shooting modes: Live Composite, Pro Capture (14 frames retroactively recorded, up to 30 fps), Tripod High Res Shot (50-megapixel image), anti-flicker shooting, HDR (Auto Composite) 2 modes, multiple exposures – 2 frames with auto gain adjustment, exposure on recorded picture (RAW)
      In-camera effects: Focus stacking, raw file processing
      Colour space options: sRGB and Adobe RGB
      ISO range: Auto (ISO), ISO 200 to 25600 with extension to ISO 64 and ISO 100  available; adjustable in 1/3 or 1 EV steps
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Fluorescent (Cool White), Fluorescent (Daylight), Fluorescent (Warm White), Incandescent, Shade, Underwater, Colour Temperature, Custom
      Flash: FL-LM3 external flash supplied
      Flash modes: TTL Auto, red-eye, backlight, slow sync first or second curtain, manual, wireless flash control
      Flash exposure adjustment: +/-3EV in 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps
      Sequence shooting: Max.10 shots/sec.
      Buffer capacity: JPEG – to card capacity; RAW – 150 frames
      Storage Media: Single slot for SD, SDHC, SDXC cards (UHS-I, II compatible)
      Viewfinder: 2,360,000-dot OLED EVF with 100% frame coverage, 23mm eyepoint, 0.86x magnification, -4 to +2 dpt adjustment
      Monitor: Vari-angle touchscreen TFT LCD with 1,040,000 dots
      Interface terminals: USB 2.0 Micro-B, Micro HDMI (type D), 2.5 mm mini jack for remote controller,  3.5 mm stereo mini jack for microphone
      Wi-Fi function: Built-in (IEEE 802.11b/g/n) plus low-energy Bluetooth
      Power supply: BLS-50 rechargeable Li-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 310 shots/charge
      Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 125.3 x 85.2 x 49.7 mm (excluding protrusions)
      Weight: Approx. 414 grams with battery and card

      Distributor: Olympus Imaging Australia; 1300 659 678

       

      TESTS

      Based on JPEG files taken with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

      Based on ORF.RAW files captured simultaneously and converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw.

       

      SAMPLES


      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with warm-toned LED lighting.


      ISO 64, 50-second exposure at f/3.2; 21mm focal length.


      ISO 200, 25-second exposure at f/3.5; 21mm focal length.


      ISO 800, 6-second exposure at f/4; 21mm focal length.


      ISO 3200, 4-second exposure at f/6.3; 21mm focal length.


      ISO 6400, 3.2-second exposure at f/8; 21mm focal length.


      ISO 12800, 1.6-second exposure at f/8; 21mm focal length.


      ISO 25600, 1.6-second exposure at f/11; 21mm focal length.


      40mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/60 second at f/5.


      35mm focal length, ISO 1600, 1/30 second at f/5.


      12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/11.


      15mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/11.


      40mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/160 second at f/10.


      40mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/200 second at f/8.


      40mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/8.


      40mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/5.6.


      Autofocusing speed and accuracy; 40mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1250 second at f/2.8.


      12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/800 second at f/10.


      40mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/160 second at f/10.


      40mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/10.


      21mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/500 second at f/11.


      12mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/500 second at f/11.


      12mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/11.


      40mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/6.3.


      34mm focal length, ISO 320, 1/400 second at f/5.6.


      40mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/250 second at f/5.6.


      17mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/8.


      17mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/8.


      40mm focal length, ISO 640, 1/100 second at f/11.


      16mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/8.


      Still frame from C4K (4096 x 2160) video clip at 24p.


      Still frame from UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) video clip at 25p.


      Still frame from Full HD 1080/50p video clip.


      Still frame from Full HD 1080/25p video clip.


      Still frame from HD 720/50p video clip.


      Still frame from HD 720/25p video clip.

      Additional image samples can be found with our review of the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$1999 body only; US$1199

      • Build: 8.9
      • Ease of use: 8.8
      • Autofocusing: 9.0
      • Still image quality JPEG: 8.9
      • Still image quality RAW: 9.0
      • Video quality: 8.9

       

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