Micro 4/3 Since some have asked ... a mini-review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 III

MoonMind

Hall of Famer
Dec 29, 2013
Switzerland
Matt
@gordo has encouraged me to give a little overview over my impressions, so I'll oblige - also because I think the Olympus OM-D E-M5 III is a remarkable camera.

Let's first remind ourselves what :mu43: was about at the beginning: small, capable cameras and lenses that didn't break the bank. In the last couple of years, neither Panasonic nor Olympus have adhered to that paradigm as fully as I would have wished for - even though the Panasonic GX9 is a very impressive camera; however, it's just not quite on the same level as Olympus' E-M5 line, and even if it sports a good 20MP sensor, it doesn't manage to clearly outperform older models.

The model that first introduced an intriguing glimpse into what :mu43: might become was (and still ist) the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II - extremely capable, clear advantages in terms of performance as well as IQ over all previous models - but that camera was introduced in 2016, more than three years ago. And while it was (and mostly still is) great, it's not a truely compact camera - Sony's A6*** line are for the most part considerably more compact while offering a bigger sensor.

Enter the OM-D E-M5 III. It's basically (and actually to an astonishing degree) the E-M1 II's tech in E-M5 II body with a slightly deeper grip (yes, I know that the body isn't quite as sturdily built - but you know what: I don't care). I simply had to try it, and by and large, it has lived up to my expectations so far, even if there are a couple of things I wish Olympus had considered.

Let's get those out of the way first: I wish it had a joystick - I love the one on the Nikon Z6, and the one on the X-E3 (a camera that has been on the market for over two years) is very useful, too. I wish there were a couple more configuration options (like the ability to assign a specific function to the "OK" button). I also found some minor niggles that most probably are caused by the current firmware and can be resolved in due time: Sometimes when using the 14-150mm II superzoom zoomed out to longer focal lengths, the EVF flickers on switch-on (it doesn't do that in any other circumstances), and if you want to review images in the EVF, you have to lift the camera to your eye before pressing the playback button, or the camera will revert to shooting mode. But that about it for issues - and both are most probably heavily depended on my own idiosyncratic habits. But the camera is so customisable that I've already managed to make it work as desired to a large extend.

The good things are much more numerous. Two stand-out things: speed and I.B.I.S. The camera is ready to shoot if I switch it on while lifting it up to my eye - not waiting, it feels immediate. S-AF is fast and basically reliable, though I have somehow made it fail - exactly once; it also works in extremely low light, better than any other system I own, maybe bar the D750. I.B.I.S. is outworldly - I've managed sharp shots at 1/4" at - take a lick of this - 300mm (not 300mm-e - that was yesterday!), using the Panasonic 100-300mm II with its O.I.S. switched off. Basically, even in low light, if you know what you're doing, you can trust your camera to counter all shakes - within reasonable margins, of course. This makes this quite sophisticated camera a truely reliable tool even for the less-than-able as far as shot discipline is concerned - and if you have stable hands, you can push it even further.

IQ is very solid - not heads and shoulders above the GX9, but better, especially in low light. I also think it's a tad better at the pixel level - but that might be the effect of the far superior I.B.I.S. DR is okay - not quite as good as on 24MP APS-C sensors, but not far behind at all; noise is reasonably contained up to ISO 1600 - so the camera is basically on par with the Sony A6000, while the Fujifilm X-E3 and Ricoh GR III outperform it by no more than half a stop, all things considered (though I'd not hesitate to shoot the GR III at ISO 3200 - it's got its own magic going in that respect). Resolution is fine - but YMMV if you prefer high-resolution sensors; I don't - 24MP is my personal sweet spot.

Battery life is very good compared to what other small cameras offer - I've used it for a couple of days now without emptying even the first battery (though I *will* charge it soon, or swap it, respectively - for peace of mind).

The grip is quite good as well - I always preferred the E-M10 with its dedicated additional grip when using my favourite :mu43: zoom, the 12-40mm PRO, but don't feel a strong need for one with that lens on the E-M5 III. It's a pretty convincing compromise between size and comfort - a better one than the already surprisingly good one on the GX80 and, consequently, the GX9. However, I can see myself using the Panasonic 100-300mm II on the E-M5 III *without* a bigger grip (though I'd support that lens anyway - regardless of how big the grip is). On the GX9, I really need the additional grip (even if I don't particularily like it because it forces you to grab your camera from a strange angle I don't find all that intuitive).

I like the fact that the camera is small, but it really shouldn't be any smaller - I'm left-eye dominant, and my glasses almost (but not quite) get in the way of my thumb operating the controls. It's not too bad, but a little more room (or, annoyingly, a rangefinder style EVF) would solve that problem. I guess that's just my bad - I like the control layout better than the one on the GX9 overall, but two things, the power switch and the placement of the back control wheel, are not how I would prefer them to be.

Overall, shooting experience was very pleasant - it's an easy camera to get used to, and you can - as I did - customise it to fit your style and preferences. I've already posted some results - if anyone is interested in anything in particular, please let me know.

M.
 
Have they really removed the ability to tether the MK3 to Olympus Capture or Workspace? That sounds suspicious to me. How can it work in a studio? Can you confirm? And can Mysets be assigned to Mode Dial positions or some other simple way to retrieve them? Event shooters need to change settings fast at times; good to have a "stage" and "audience" pre-set and just switch between them.
 

Tilman Paulin

Top Veteran
Nov 15, 2011
Vancouver B.C.
Tilman
Thanks for the write-up! Good to see that there's still some future in m43.
I won't be picking up the EM5 mk3 anytime soon (I just bought the EM1 mk2 this year) but it sounds like a great camera for the Oly 75-300mm (or any of the upcoming Oly zooms).
 

MoonMind

Hall of Famer
Dec 29, 2013
Switzerland
Matt
@MoonMind, have you had either the E-M1.2 or Pen F? Other than size how would rate them versus the E-M5.3 and Fuji X-E3?
I have only ever handled the Pen-F very briefly, so I don't think I'm entitled to a valid opinion - however, I didn't find the camera particularily pleasing to hold and shoot with, especially not with the 12-40mm attached. I'm well aware that the Pen-F is a very divisive camera (like the Nikon Df), so I'd really advise you to take my impressions with a grain of salt. Anyhow, I found the GX80 I owned at the time much more comfortable in the hand, with quicker, more precise handling, and, especially with the PRO zoom, less front heavy. The GX80 also felt less cluttered, more efficient and pleasantly understated - I think the Pen-F offers more bling than performance. Now, the GX9 beats the GX80 it replaced while it itself is clearly outgunned by the E-M5 III in most ways. I think the E-M5 III handles and performs better than the GX9 - which is quite a feat, considering how well behaved the GX9 actually is. My take: I'd pick the E-M5 III over the Pen-F any day - and in a pinch, still reach for the GX9 over the Pen-F.

As far as the E-M1 II is concerned, the E-M5 III does most of the things the E-M1 II does, but not all of them, and if multi-layer connectivity (physical PC socket!) and other pro features (like tethering) are your thing, nothing beats the E-M1 II, especially not at the prices it goes for at the moment. I personally found the camera too big for my liking *as a :mu43: camera*, but if that doesn't bother you, I actually think there are quite a lot of things to be gained: better grip, better EVF, better build, better connectivity ... However, when it comes to :mu43:, I'm a small size fanatic, and the E-M5 III ticks practically all boxes that are relevant to me while being the right (small) size. The E-M1 II sure handles even better, and there's no single aspect except size where the E-M5 III has an advantage. Anyhow, at this point in time, I'd also take a good hard look at the G9 if I decided to put up with the E-M1 II's size. Last time I looked, it even was cheaper ...

Finally, the X-E3 is a completely different kind of camera - it's noticeably more compact than the E-M5 III (and even than the GX9!), but it feels very nice in the hand. It's not a sluggish camera, but it really encourages shooting at a slower pace than the E-M5 III and GX9. It still feels quite fluid in use - it just isn't a speed demon like the E-M5 III. What I do love about the X-E3 are the files - especially the JPEGs! Classic Chrome and Acros get me almost where I want to be in terms of overall looks. So, I'd say it's much more casual and relaxed to shoot with than the E-M5 III - but not as powerful (not by a long shot).

Maybe it's best to put it as follows: I wouldn't hesitate to pick the E-M5 III as my primary (or only) :mu43: camera. In that respect, it certainly tops the GX9 that to a certain extend failed to fill that place. I'd never consider the X-E3 as a primary camera, but it makes a fine second camera to almost everything else. The E-M1 II is everything the E-M5 III is, but in a bigger, sturdier, even more feature-packed body, so if size doesn't matter to you as much as it does for me (when considering :mu43:), I'd pick it over the E-M5 III. The Pen-F is too much of a novelty camera in my view (and, again, very limited experience) to compete in this field - I think the GX9 is the better buy. But if the Pen-F appeals to you, there's no reason not to get it - it's a very nicely made camera with good performance, and unique in some respects.

Have they really removed the ability to tether the MK3 to Olympus Capture or Workspace? That sounds suspicious to me. How can it work in a studio? Can you confirm? And can Mysets be assigned to Mode Dial positions or some other simple way to retrieve them? Event shooters need to change settings fast at times; good to have a "stage" and "audience" pre-set and just switch between them.
Somewhat along the lines of what I said above, if I were after a studio camera that could also handle the outdoors, I'd pick the E-M1 II. I can try the tethering but honestly have never even thought of using it, but high-res might make it quite an interesting option if available, so if I get round to it, I'll test this over the holidays.

As for assigning Myset options to buttons: I can't find any such option - but I fully agree that it'd be handy.

M.
 

davidzvi

Top Veteran
Apr 18, 2014
Boston Burbs
David
@MoonMind Thanks for the detailed write up.

Yes something about the Pen F does appeal to me. And paired with my E-M1.2 I think it will work well. I've been researching ways I can actually configure them to handle pretty close as well. Interestingly you can configure the Exp Comp dial to be Flash Comp and then the front and rear dials will work exactly the same on both bodies. It's one of the things that often took me a second with the X-E3 when paired with the two lenses I used most often (18mm f/2 and 27mm f/2.8). Control this one here but that one there, I must be getting old. :sleep:

I agree the GX9 seems to be a nice bump over the GX80/85. I only played with one for a little bit, but I did notice everything just seemed a bit more responsive. I also agree X-E3 is different than the GX# and certainly different than either OMDs. But I'm not sure when compared to the Pen F. I think they both encourage you to slow down a bit, but time will tell for me.

Yes the E-M1.2 is big to be called "Micro", but the G9 is a beast, bigger in almost ever way than your Z6. But the E-M1.2 serves it's purpose for me with bigger primes and zooms. And yes the build it great.

I did also consider just selling the E-M1.2, not getting the Pen F, and just getting the E-M5.3. But I do like have a second body and also do like having a range finder style body so.....
 

ggweci

Veteran
Feb 2, 2013
Toronto, Canada
Craig
Here’s another great review to go along with Matt’s. Done by Gordon Laing:

David, might help with your search.

I also like rangefinder style and wish they made an updated Pen-F with all the features/internals of this new E-M5.3 :cloud-9-039:
 
Interesting comments about Pen F and I agree that it is a bit long in the tooth. Some of the improvements in the E-M5 III are long overdue into Pen F but I get the feeling it will never be updated (like the Nikon Df).

Funny thing is I am looking at a replacement for my aged EM-5 version 1 bodies. They have served me well but the IQ is blown away by cameras like the Nikon D800 and D7500 which I also have. Not wanting to get rid of my Voigtlander lenses (and I also still have the Olympus 12-40 and 40-150 f/2.8 lenses).

The E-M5 III is too pricey for a second camera system camera so the options have come down to the Pen F or Panasonic GX9. While the EM-5 II is a possibility, I would prefer to go to a 20mp sensor and prefer the "rangefinder" style body format. There are pros and cons with every option and if the E-M5 III was somewhat more realistically priced, I would consider it.
 

davidzvi

Top Veteran
Apr 18, 2014
Boston Burbs
David
That's 8 months old and the camera is still on the Olympus web site but Olympus does seem to move very slowly these days.
The line has been killed according to reports, but not the inventory (completed units and parts at a guess). So I wouldn't be surprised to see it available for at least another 6-12 months. But I am only seeing it available in black new (at least in the US).
 
Both seem to be available in Australia but many retailers don't carry the line as it isn't much of a seller. Prices are very high with the Australian recommended retail price actually increasing since it first released. It hasn't been discounted like the OM-D E-M5 II and there are very few available second-hand. Market-wise, it seems to be following the same pattern as the Nikon Df.
 

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