Hands-on with the Olympus E-M5 Mark III

17 Oct

Hands-on with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Meet the newest member of the Olympus Micro Four Thirds family: the OM-D E-M5 Mark III. Coming in more than four years after its predecessor was released, Olympus has really stepped up the specs of the E-M5 III, managing to fit an awful lot from its higher-end E-M1 Mark II into a much smaller overall package. Is it worth the wait? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

New sensor, autofocus system and stabilizer

To start, the E-M5 III comes with a new 20MP sensor and 121-point phase-detection autofocus system which are backed up by a new ‘Truepic VIII’ image processor, all of which are lifted from the E-M1 II. The resolution bump is welcome, of course, over the E-M5 II’s 16MP of resolution, but the older camera only utilized contrast-detection autofocus. The adoption of phase-detection should make the E-M5 III a more tempting option for users that want to photograph moving subjects.

There’s also an updated, more compact in-body image stabilizer, promising 5.5 stops of shake reduction with a non-stabilized lens, while putting on a stabilized lens gets you 6.5 stops using ‘Sync IS’. That means you should be able to hand-hold pretty slow shutter speeds and still get sharp results, so you can keep your ISO value down in low light or simply leave a tripod at home in some situations.

Lastly, the new sensor and AF system now allow the E-M5 III to fire at a maximum burst rate of 10 fps with full autofocus and auto exposure (and up to a 30 fps mode with manual focus), and Olympus claims equal tracking performance to the E-M1 Mark II. It also gains a Pro Capture mode, which captures 30fps bursts, but saves 15 of them prior to the moment you hit the shutter – a great feature for peak action moments.

Top-plate controls

The top plate of the camera has been extensively redesigned, and is far more similar in layout to that of the E-M1 II. The power switch is in the same place as the old model, but the mode dial is now on the right side of the viewfinder hump instead of the left, and the left shoulder adopts drive and display buttons that are also customizable.

Clip-on flash

Just like its predecessor, the E-M5 III has no built-in flash, but Olympus includes the FL-LM3 compact clip-on unit that allows for tilting and bouncing. The external design helps the camera stay smaller and better sealed, but the fact that it can articulate makes it much more versatile than a fixed or pop-up strobe that’s built in. It’s a really nice touch, and as an added bonus, the flash is advertised as being splash and dust resistant.

Rear controls

The E-M5 III’s rear control layout is actually pretty similar to the older model, which isn’t a bad thing – but the ‘Fn’ rocker switch is now textured for easier operation, and the top right thumb pad gains a dedicated ISO button. The screen is unchanged, coming in at 3″ and 1.04M dots. Olympus has added the ability to drag your finger around on the touchscreen to move your autofocus point while the camera is to your eye – and you can quickly enable or disable this feature by double-tapping. Pretty snazzy.

The viewfinder has seen some updates as well, including…

OLED Electronic viewfinder

…an increased eyepoint spec, which should make it easier for eyeglass-wearers to get the full view of the 2.36M-dot panel. Plus, that panel is now OLED, which is a welcome update to the previous model’s LCD tech thanks to greater contrast. Unfortunately, there has been a tradeoff – the magnification has fallen from approximately 0.74x to 0.68x.


Like the older model, the E-M5 III comes with a microphone port to get you better audio when recording video (and more on video very shortly), but no headphone port to monitor audio during recording. The other ports have been updated, though – gone is the proprietary USB / A/V-out connector (hooray!), and in its place are standard micro USB, micro HDMI and remote trigger ports. The camera can also be charged over its USB connection, but Olympus still includes a dedicated charger in the box, which we always like to see.


The E-M5 III is, like Olympus’ other models, now capable of shooting 4K video at up to 30 frames per second with no crop. We haven’t yet been able to test its quality, but we expect it to look quite good. Even the lower-end E-M10 III can capture impressively detailed 4K footage, and the E-M5 III inherits that camera’s effective digital stabilizer on top of the already good in-body stabilizer to smooth out hand shake. It also gains a DCI 4K video mode from the E-M1 II, with a theoretical maximum bitrate of ~237Mbps.

If high-speed video is more your thing, the E-M5 III tops out at a respectable 1080/120p.


Olympus has changed the type of battery the E-M5 III uses; it’s now the BLS-50 unit that we first saw in the PEN-F, as opposed to the BLN-1 from the E-M5 II. It’s more of a packaging and design consideration than anything else, as the new battery’s capacity isn’t much diminished (1210mAh compared to 1220mAh and 8.7Wh rather than 9.3Wh), and CIPA-rated battery life is likewise unchanged at 310 shots. As with all CIPA ratings, you can expect to get more shots than that in real-world use, but this rating looks a bit low against the competition.

UHS-II card slot

Another welcome update is the inclusion of a UHS-II card slot, which should speed up write times with compatible cards. This isn’t especially common in this class of camera, and will come in handy if you’re using the 30 fps Pro Capture burst mode.


Although the older E-M5 II was also described as weather-sealed, the Mark III now gains the same official IPX1 rating that Olympus’ sports-shooting E-M1X earns. This technically means that it can withstand dripping water for 10 minutes, which may not sound super impressive, but the fact that these interchangeable lens cameras have ratings at all sets them apart from most of the market. Of course, we’re not advocating you go and run your brand-new E-M5 III under the tap, but it should stand up well to shooting in inclement weather or environments.

And that’s about it! We’ve long been fans of the E-M5 lineup, and we’re happy to see that Olympus has crammed plenty of updates and refinements into the Mark III, all while keeping the size similar and even losing a few grams of weight. After all, so many cameras are so capable these days, we generally expect to see refinements of already good cameras rather than revolutionary changes.

But what do you make of Olympus’ latest camera? Do you think it’s worth the wait? Let us know in the comments.

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