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Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III evaluation: nonetheless shopping for the digicam

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

“The E-M5 Mark III is not the most advanced camera, but it’s definitely the most fun.”

Excellent image stabilization

Fast and accurate auto focus

Very compact and light

4K video looks good

Weatherproof

Plastic body is a step back

Low resolution viewfinder

No really new features or technologies

I am not entirely satisfied with the OM-D E-M5 Mark III. Olympus took an extremely well-made all-metal camera body and replaced it with plenty of plastic. The E-M5 has always been my favorite Olympus model, but the Mark III is changing that by taking an unfortunate step back in the design department. It’s still pretty to look at, but lacks the weight and solid feel of previous versions that have given the camera its charm.

That is not the only thing that rubs me wrong. This camera is an update that has been in the works for almost four years and I wanted to use it to launch the next generation of Olympus technology. The E-M5 line is known for this. The 16-megapixel sensor was introduced in the original and the high-resolution recording mode in the Mark II. However, the Mark III shows nothing that we haven’t seen in the E-M1 Mark II, a three-year-old camera.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III camera in hand.Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

As disappointing as that for the camera geek in me, it’s not the whole story. Through my time with the camera, I faced a truth that I couldn’t ignore. The E-M5 is fun.

It’s easy to carry and makes great shots almost effortlessly. It’s agile, responsive, and circles around many larger, more expensive cameras. It’s easy to think of it as a step forward, two steps back, but when I got over my ganglust and accepted the Mark III for what it is, I found that taking a step forward was more like a giant leap .

What’s new in the E-M5 Mark III?

While I disagree with Olympus’ decision to shy away from the premium design of previous E-M5s, there are good reasons for it that go beyond the cost. In addition to the plastic housing, the camera also uses the smaller battery of the entry-level E-M10 Mark III. Together, this saves about 2 ounces in weight, which makes the new E-M5 less than a pound. It is impressively easy.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III camera front, on the table.Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Fortunately, the new design didn’t affect functionality. The weather resistance is still there and the battery life remains unchanged thanks to better efficiency (however, with only 310 shots per charge it is not a cause for excitement).

However, Olympus has removed the option of using a vertical battery grip. While Mark II owners could double battery life and add vertical recording controls, Mark III users don’t have that chance.

This is not a big problem as few people want to compromise the compact size of this camera. However, it is worth mentioning whether you are a Mark II owner with a battery grip and want to upgrade.

Detail of the handle of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III camera.Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

On the inside you will find the same 20 megapixel Four Thirds sensor, the TruePic VIII image processor and the 121-point phase detection autofocus system of the E-M1 Mark II.

There’s also a redesigned sensor shift stabilization module that now offers up to 5.5 stops to reduce blur, or 6.5 in combination with a lens that supports Olympus Sync IS. This is the only component that is unique to the E-M5 Mark III. A small stabilization unit was required for the small body of the camera, which is why you cannot see the incredible 7.5-step stabilization of the much larger OM-D E-M1X here.

Video has taken a big step forward, up to 4K UltraHD (3840 x 2160) resolution at 30 or 24 frames per second, while Full HD 1080p can be recorded in slow motion at up to 120 fps. It doesn’t have professional features like OM-Log, but for occasional use, the E-M5 Mark III is a powerful video camera.

Close-up of the mode dial that triggers the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III camera.Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

The high-resolution recording mode is not explicitly new, but is improved by a sensor with a higher resolution. In this way, the E-M5 can create 50 megapixel images from eight different exposures. However, you need a tripod to keep the camera stable during this process.

In addition to the spatial resolution, High Resolution Shot records complete color information at every pixel position, avoiding the limitations of Bayer sensor design for more accurate colors and less moiré. It also improves the noise level, especially in the shade. For landscape photographers, high resolution shot is a transformative function.

Performance and shooting experience

My initial concerns about this camera quickly subsided when I started taking pictures. The 121-point autofocus system is not a new technology, but it is still one of the fastest in the industry. It had no problem keeping up with galloping horses, which meant that far more of my action shots were keepers.

Add the superb 5-axis stabilization system and you have a practically foolproof camera. Olympus offers the best sensor shift stabilization on the market and I was overwhelmed by what they achieved with such a small camera.

Stabilization becomes even better in video mode if it can be combined with electronic stabilization. Electronic image stabilization (EIS) limits the maximum details, since the image has to be trimmed and re-framed, but has only minimal effects. Any loss of quality is worth the compromise for rock-solid footage.

I made a video while holding the camera out the window of a lobster racing through narrow off-road paths and over huge boulders. The resulting footage looked like I had the camera attached to a gimbal. It is so good.

I also used Live Composite mode for night star trail photography. This is not a new feature – it can be found across the Olympus range, including the Tough TG series of point-and-shoots – but it was the first time I used it. Live Composite takes a series of long exposures and automatically compiles only the highlight information. In addition to photography in the night sky, it is also ideal for painting with light. The initial setup is cumbersome, but then incredibly easy to use.

Overall, shooting with the E-M5 Mark III is liberating. From high-resolution recordings to live composite, you can do so much in the camera that you don’t need a computer. It is a great first “real” camera for anyone looking to step up from a phone.

picture quality

There is little new to be discussed here. This is the same sensor as the E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X. 20 megapixels don’t sound like much, but I would argue that it is enough for the vast majority of photographers, especially if you have the option to take 50 megapixel images in high-resolution shooting mode.

Four-thirds sensors, which have a double the harvest factor compared to the full image, suffer from high ISO values ​​and have a smaller dynamic range even with basic ISO values. This means more noise in low light and less ability to pick out details from shadows. High resolution shot can help, but is not always an option.

Coincidentally, the last camera I took before the E-M5 Mark II was the Fujifilm GFX 100 in medium format with 10,000, 102 MP and the best image quality of any camera I’ve ever used. It was a sobering transition; The difference in picture quality was day and night.

Of course, these are not competing cameras, but once you get an idea of ​​how good things can be, it is difficult to accept less. Four Thirds leaves something to be desired in the image quality department, but that’s the compromise for such a portable camera. In any case, Olympus’ JPEGs look good straight from the camera, and the RAW files offer a good degree of flexibility in the mail.

More importantly, the E-M5 Mark III makes taking smooth, focused shots as easy as possible. For most people, this is a greater contribution to image quality than the size and resolution of the sensor.

Our opinion

The Mark III is more functional than its predecessor, but doesn’t feel premium, and that’s a shame. Still, it’s a simple, portable, and powerful camera that appeals to people who need to travel lightly, while providing enough high-end controls and features to keep enthusiasts happy. It’s not the most exciting release of the year, but it’s a capable and fun camera.

Is there a better alternative?

There are many options in the $ 1,200 range, but none that combine the weather resistance, speed, and portability of the E-M5. It is worth noting that the high end E-M1 Mark II currently costs only $ 1,500. It has a larger battery with 440 shots per charge, a viewfinder with higher magnification and is compatible with a vertical battery grip. It’s a great camera for advanced photographers, but the E-M5 Mark III is otherwise equivalent and smaller and lighter at the same time.

Should you buy it

Yes. The E-M5 is still a simple recommendation due to its compact size and excellent performance.

Editor’s recommendations




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