The much awaited and long overdue Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is finally launched today, and thanks to Olympus Malaysia I have had a loaner to shoot with for the past almost 2 weeks. The E-M5 Mark III is a huge upgrade from the previous E-M5 Mark II, with overall performance and feature set matching the flagship camera E-M1 Mark II. The E-M5 Mark III has similar 20MP image sensor, Truepic VIII engine, 5-Axis IS capability, AF performance and video shooting features from the E-M1 mark II. In this article, I am exploring what the E-M5 Mark III can do when it comes to various shooting environment.
Here is a video review I have done for Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III on YouTube! Yay, Robin Wong finally reviews cameras on YouTube!
Before diving too deep, here are some important disclaimers. I am an Olympus Visionary, an ambassador to Olympus brand. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III was a loaner from Olympus Malaysia and will be returned shortly after this review. Olympus Malaysia did not ask me to do a review, so this review blog article and the video review on YouTube were made because I genuinely wanted to. This is not a technical review, there will be no graphs, charts or comparisons. This is a user experience based review, I will be sharing lots of sample images shot with the Olympus E-M5 Mark III during the course of my testing period, and from the images I shall be drawing my conclusions on how the camera performed. For this article (and this video) I will only be discussing the stills shooting capability of the E-M5 Mark III. I have a separate article and video to explore the video/movie recording of E-M5 Mark III, which will be published several days from now. All images in this blog entry were shot in RAW, and minor post-processing (exposure compensation, contrast tweak, small white balance adjustments) were performed via Olympus Workspace.
With that out of the way, let’s have some fun with the E-M5 Mark III!
Here is a quick rundown of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III’s specification highlights:
1) Small & Light build The body is light, weighs at about 414g with battery and SD card, and 366g only without battery. To keep the build light, Olympus discarded the magnesium alloy construction and the E-M5 Mark III was made entirely of plastic.
2) Weather-Sealing, and Improved SSWF Dust Reduction. As with all other E-M5 iterations, there is full weather sealing against splash, dust and freezing (down to minus 10 degrees Celsius). The Supersonic Wave Filter (SSWF) Dust Reduction on the image sensor is not using the same one found on E-M1X, vibrating at 30,000 times a second, repelling dust much more effectively.
3) 20MP Image Sensor and Truepic VIII Processor from E-M1 Mark II/E-M1X Similar image sensor and processing engine used in flagship E-M1 Mark II/E-M1X, hence the E-M5 Mark III is expected to deliver similar image quality in terms of resolution, dynamic range and high ISO performance.
4) 5-Axis Image Stabilization with 5.5 Stops Effectiveness The rating of the built in 5-Axis IS is also similar to the E-M1 Mark II
5) Similar AF algorithm and capabilities with E-M1 Mark II The camera features similar AF performance for S-AF, C-AF as well as movie AF as found in E-M1 Mark II. 6) Electronic Viewfinder at 2.36 Million Dot and 1.37X magnification The EVF is smaller than what was found in E-M1 Mark II (1.48X), but it has very low latency of rated 10ms only, with high refresh rate of 120fps. The EVF panel is OLED.
7) Maximum sequential burst shooting – Mechanical H 10FPS, Silent H 30FPS
8) BLS-50 Battery The previous E-M5 series cameras used BLN-1 battery, however Olympus decided to go with the smaller capacity BLS-50, probably to shave off more size and weight to keep it truly compact.
9) WiFi and Bluetooth connection, with USB-Charging USB-Charging yes, but sadly, no USB-C! It is 2019, and Olympus included Micro USB in the E-M5 Mark III. Why?????
I love the design of the E-M5 Mark III, I think the vintage OM SLR look that Olympus was clearly going for worked well to add that nostalgia yet sleek appearance to the E-M5 Mark III. The labeling on the camera is now much cleaner, with omission of Fn labels (Fn1, Fn2, etc). The position of the command dials and shutter button were good, with no awkwardness when holding the camera and operating it. I like how there is now a dedicated ISO button at such an auspicious location, just above the thumb rest area, that is a definite plus point for E-M5 Mark III. For those who may not like the position of the power switch all the way at the other side of the camera, you may customize the camera to remap the power switch to the function 1/2 switch which is located immediately to the right of the electronic viewfinder. I like the silver version of the camera better than the black one.
The hand-gripping area has been improved significantly, feeling much beefier and there is more substantial part for fingers to grip onto. The thumb hook is also wider and curvier, allowing the thumb to rest securely. The handling of the camera is excellent, and Olympus spent a lot of time studying and perfecting the ergonomics of E-M5 Mark III. Initially I anticipated difficulty using much larger and heavier lenses like the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO, butI was proved wrong. I used that lens in two long period shooting sessions, one for a tennis tournament and another out in the wild for birding. In both scenarios I never felt any strain on my wrists or any other part of the body, and the shooting experience handling the E-M5 Mark III was comfortable with no fuss to report about. However, if you do intend to use longer lenses (such as 40-150mm PRO and 300mm PRO) I strongly suggest getting the external camera grip, ECG-5. Olympus did not provide me with one to try this time.
My ultimate torture for E-M5 Mark III’s handling was shooting insect macro. In case you are not familiar with my insect macro technique, you may refer to my previous blog entry here (click). I held the camera and macro lens with my right and, and the external flash fired wirelessly on my left hand. Shooting close up with high magnification was not easy, especially so when done single-handedly. The E-M5 Mark III passed with flying colors, and the fact that it was lighter helped the hand-holding. The grip was comfortable and I never felt once that the camera was slipping off my fingers.
The E-M5 Mark III felt incredibly light, almost 60g lighter than the previous E-M5 Mark II, and surely significantly lighter than my main workhorse, the E-M1 Mark II. The light-weight feel and the much smaller form factor was a joy to use, especially pairing the E-M5 Mark III with smaller prime lenses, such as M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8 and 17mm F1.8. I did shoot on the street with these combinations and I immediately fell in love with the E-M5 Mark III, and I think I will make it my default street shooting machine, once the camera is available on sale.
60mm, F11, 1/160, ISO200, Wireless Flash
60mm, F13, 1/200, ISO200, Wireless Flash
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60mm, F9, 1/160, ISO200, Wireless Flash
60mm, F4, 1/40, ISO200, Wireless Flash
60mm, F9, 1/160, ISO200, Wireless Flash
60mm, F5, 1/50, ISO400, Wireless Flash
There is nothing new to talk about when it comes to image quality. The output from the E-M5 Mark III is exactly the same as what is expected from E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X, and both cameras have been well tested, reviewed and documented over the past few years. During my shooting experience using the E-M5 Mark III I did not find any surprises when it comes to image quality.
Having similar image quality with the 20MP image sensor and Truepic VIII processor engine (same from E-M1 Mark II) is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact I am still perfectly happy with what my E-M1 Mark II delivers. I shoot professionally with my E-M1 Mark II, and having the exact same image output in the new E-M5 Mark III is a huge welcome. I know some people may be expecting some upgrades or improvements when it comes to image quality, but to be entirely honest, I never felt the lack of dynamic range even in harshest shooting conditions, or that the high ISO was limiting my shooting possibilities. My shots I have been delivering to my clients, they were all happy and no one ever complained that the image quality was not sufficient.
As predicted, for a 20MP image sensor, Olympus managed to squeeze out as much as they can and per pixel sharpness was well optimized. Using Olympus M.Zuiko lenses, the sharpness of the images was quite impressive and certainly the level of details captured was more than sufficient for my shooting purposes and needs. By default, for a small image sensor size, the Micro Four Thirds sensor in E-M1 Mark II can churn out close to 13 EV stops of dynamic range, as reported by DXOMark site. While this is not a leader in any modern camera list, it is still respectable. I have always loved Olympus colors, and the E-M5 Mark III renders very realistic and life-like looking colors, with pleasant skin tones and natural overall look.
Looking at the JPEG files, I felt that Olympus did small improvement over the previous cameras, though not reported. The files look a little smoother with less artifacts. Olympus is known to oversharpen their images a little to a point that we get some sharpening artifacts as we pixel peep the images. I find almost no traces of artifacting from the JPEG files I have obtained from the E-M5 Mark III. Also, the default JPEG engine balances harsh lighting condition very well, with gentle highlight roll offs and pulling good amount of details from the shadow regions.
45mm, F1.2, 1/4000, ISO200
45mm, F1.2, 1/5000, ISO200
45mm, F1.2, 1/1000, ISO200
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45mm, F1.2, 1/2500, ISO200
45mm, F3.5, 1/1250, ISO640
45mm, F1.2, 1/400, ISO200
45mm, F1.2, 1/200, ISO200
Perhaps the biggest complain I can hear from some parties, would be the low resolution and smaller size EVF (in comparison to many other cameras in 2019). In comparison to the largest EVF Olympus has at the moment in E-M1X being 1.65x magnification, the E-M5 Mark III’s EVF has only 1.37 magnification. Also the 2.36 Million dot LCD panel is nothing to write home about. At least on paper, Olympus seems to be losing out in the EVF game.
However, may I direct you to a few other aspects of what makes a great viewfinder. It is not just the game of size and resolution. The experience of using a viewfinder also needs to take into account the responsiveness, the smoothness of view when moving the camera around (panning) and more importantly, will the EVF slow down and lag in very dim lighting environment. I have tried some of the “higher resolution EVF with bigger magnification” from other camera brands, they don’t get everything right either. Either the EVF lags horribly in low light, or the refresh rate was not fast enough that the view jerks and lags as the camera moves around and another worse problem I should have probably pointed out earlier – POOR color accuracy! Yes, some of the other cameras, the EVF panel has terrible colors!
E-M5 Mark III may trail behind in terms of size and resolution, but it quickly catches up with minimal lag (response time of 10ms), high refresh rate 120fps for smoother viewing when camera is moved around and the color was almost what you see is what you get. I used the E-M5 Mark III to shoot a tennis tournament, and believe me that the EVF was such a joy to use, being super responsive and lag-free, allowing me to follow the tennis players around and get high hit rates.
AF is nothing new to dissect for E-M5 Mark III, having the same AF algorithm and performance as expected from E-M1 Mark II, which is a huge advantage if you ask me. I am extremely happy with what the E-M1 Mark II can do when it comes to AF, both in Single-AF (that I use like 99% of the time) and Continuous-AF. I rarely used C-AF, but I did rely on it when I shot sports events such as MMA and Muay Thai fights.
The S-AF was super fast and reliable, I think at this point in 2019, you don’t get bad AF from any camera anymore. The AF on Olympus cameras since E-M5/E-M1 has always been blazing fast and super reliable. If you cannot get the shots, it is not the camera’s fault really.
Last week there was a tennis tournament happening in Malaysia, the ITF Junior Circuit Selangor 2019, and it was open to public. I went to the courts with the E-M5 Mark III and M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO attached, and got some tennis action shots. I set the camera to C-AF and activated the cluster AF area to allow the camera to automatically find and track the moving tennis players. The C-AF worked so well that all I had to do was to make sure the tennis player was within my frame and I clicked the shutter button at the right moments. The C-AF capability of the E-M5 Mark III is best demonstrated in the video I have shot. I came home with extremely high hit rates!
300mm, F4, 1/1000, ISO800
300mm, F4, 1/1250, ISO800
300mm, F4, 1/2000, ISO800
300mm, F4, 1/1250, ISO1250
300mm, F4, 1/1600, ISO800
300mm, F4, 1/2500, ISO800
300mm, F4, 1/1600, ISO1250
300mm, F4, 1/1600, ISO1000
300mm, F4, 1/2500, ISO800
150mm, F4, 1/2500, ISO500
LOW LIGHT SHOOTING
I brought the E-M5 Mark III and did some night street shooting with it. I cranked up the ISO numbers, hoping to be surprised by any improvements, but after rigorous testing (spending many hours) I came to the conclusion that the high ISO performance was exactly the same as what the E-M1 Mark II can do. It is however, a huge step up from E-M5 Mark II. I can confidently shoot at ISO3200 and was fine with noise structure captured within the image, and will not hesitate to go up to ISO6400 if necessary. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT underexpose your images shooting with Olympus cameras, and you should be fine.
AF works in very dark situation, I have no issue focusing as long as there were lines, texture or something for the camera to lock focus on. Perhaps, to circumvent the shortcomings of the smaller sized sensor of Micro Four Thirds, is to take full advantage of the 5-Axis Image Stabilization.
5-AXIS IMAGE STABILIZATION
Olympus claimed the 5-Axis IS image sensor based stabilization has 5.5 stops EV effectiveness, and I am not surprised if it is the exact same one used in the E-M1 Mark II which also has 5.5 EV stops effectiveness. I verified the image stabilization effectiveness by shooting incredibly long shutter speed hand-held images. I can shoot confidently, again and again at almost 100% success rate, about 5 seconds long exposure, with no aid and not leaning or bracing my body against anything. This was using non stabilized lenses, such as the M.Zuiko 7-14mm PRO lens, or the 12mm F2 lens. With a stabilized lens, such as 12-100mm PRO lens, activating the 5-Axis Sync IS, I could go as slow as 15 seconds, but that was maybe about 20-30% success rate.
I think I have spoken in length about the advantages of 5-Axis IS from Olympus and I won’t repeat myself here.
Perhaps, the biggest compromise Olympus did with the E-M5 Mark III’s design, was the decision to downgrade the battery from BLN-1 to BLS-50. Now that I am shooting with E-M1 Mark II as my workhorse, which has a larger capacity battery BLH-1, and as a bonus, accurate remaining battery percentage indicator, the smaller battery in the E-M5 Mark III did not inspire much confidence. I got away with 1500 shots shooting tennis (in about 3-4 hours session), but that was mostly burst sequential shooting at 10FPS. For a bird shooting session, in about 4 hours long, I killed the battery of E-M5 Mark III’s single charge after about 500 shots. The E-M1 Mark II could easily give me double of the shots I can get from the E-M5 Mark III.
28mm, F4, 1/2, ISO200
25mm, F8, 1, ISO200
12mm, F5.6, 3.2, ISO200
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12mm, F13, 15, ISO200
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100mm, F8, 4, ISO200
25mm, F5.6, 1/25, ISO6400
100mm, F4, 1/8, ISO1600
100mm, F4, 1/16, ISO3200
100mm, F4, 1/32, ISO6400
100mm, F4, 1/64, ISO12800
7mm, F4.5, 1/2, ISO200
100mm, F4, 1/25, ISO5000
The camera backscreen is another one of my complains. I wish the size is bigger, and we have more resolution, at least close to what we get from our smartphones. We can certainly do away with some of the buttons at the back of the camera to make way for a larger LCD screen, with higher resolution so we can be more sure when the review the images for critical focus accuracy. Some of the control buttons can be replaced by smart touch operations and gestures, it is 2019, we should be making the camera a little smarter now. I also do not like the fact that Olympus uses single touch operation on the LCD screen, this single touch panel has been the same and around since E-P3 in 2011? Gosh, can we get a multi-touch panel already, I want to be able to at least pinch to zoom when I review my images!
I am not a fan of the deep labyrinth-like menu system, and to get to some crucial settings, I need to do deep diving into the never-ending menu. Olympus did compromise with a viable solution to this, they created a fully customizable menu that we can easily build on our own, for ourselves, personalized for our own needs, when they introduced MyMenu in E-M1X. I was hoping we get MyMenu in E-M5 Mark III, but that did not happen unfortunately. I really wish Olympus reworked their menu for simpler navigation to important features and functions (for example, there is no shortcut to live view boost, or Pro Capture mode settings) or just give us that MyMenu, which will solve this issue!
OLYMPUS SPECIFIC FEATURES
There is a plethora of Olympus dedicated shooting features, some can be extremely beneficial in certain shooting situations, such as Live Time/Composite, Pro Capture Mode (slower at 30FPS compared to 60FPS in E-M1X/E-M1 Mark II), Fisheye Correction, Focus Stacking, Keystone Compensation and 50MP High Res Mode. I did not test any of these features for this particular review, because these features are not new to Olympus, some of them have been around for years and I have covered them previously in other camera reviews. Let’s not drag on this review article too long. I am not aware of any new features being added to the E-M5 Mark III.
300mm, F4, 1/80, ISO200
300mm, F4, 1/50, ISO200
300mm, F4, 1/100, ISO320
300mm, F4, 1/100, ISO200
420mm, F7.1, 1/100, ISO200
300mm, F4, 1/60, ISO200
300mm, F4, 1/60, ISO200
300mm, F4, 1/250, ISO400
THERE I SHOT A BIRD IN FLIGHT!!!!!! DON’T SAY I DIDN’T DO IT 300mm, F4, 1/1250, ISO400
All in all, the E-M5 Mark III is a camera that I think anyone can fall in love with. I did. I enjoyed the camera tremendously in each and every session I was shooting with.
Olympus got a lot right with E-M5 Mark III. Featuring the best image sensor and processor they have at the moment, with all the best features and capabilities from the flagship cameras, fitting all into a much smaller and lighter camera body with almost no compromise, I believe the E-M5 Mark III represents what a true Micro Four Thirds camera stands for. The lighter weight opens up a lot more opportunities, and is a perfect fit with the tiny prime lenses. There is very little to complain about the E-M5 Mark III, it has the best image quality for Micro Four Thirds camera (alongside flagships E-M1 Mark II/E-M1X), most capable AF and a plethora of other fantastic shooting features, to me, Olympus has a real winner in their hands. The camera just works, it delivers fantastic image quality and can perform in even the most severe shooting conditions (weather-sealing). Though the E-M5 Mark III did not break any grounds, it houses the best of what Olympus currently has to offer, in a truly compact form factor that a Micro Four Thirds camera should be.
The compromise of plastic body build will be the main focus when other reviewers talk about this camera, but I feel the compromise was justified seeing how the camera is being made to be so light, yet so comfortable to hold and use. The plastic build did not feel cheap at all, in fact the build quality was excellent, and I felt confident using the camera. The smaller EVF may look bad on paper but after using it for more than a week in multiple shooting scenarios, the fast response, accurate colors and smoothness of the EVF made up for the lack in size and resolution. The battery life was not as good as I have hoped for, but I guess we cannot have everything in a camera, and it does not hurt to carry a few more spares. Besides these few minor complains, there really is nothing more to write about the negative points of the E-M5 Mark III.
I know I did not mention anything about video shooting capability here, but I will get to that in another article and video, very, very soon. Stay tuned for that! This is not the end.