The new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III – a smaller, more affordable E-M1X

Written by Gary on February 14th, 2020

Olympus has just announced their upgrade to their Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, a camera which I love so much for its ergonomics, size and feature set that I much prefer to take it with me rather than a full frame dSLR or mirrorless (and I have several of these).

The E-M1X is a great camera too but I don’t need its extra size and built-in grip, nor it’s price point.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III then is a great upgrade as it incorporates most of the features of the E-M1X and adds a couple of new ones, all in essentially the same camera body to maintain similar muscle memory when using both cameras (it is backwardly compatible with the Mark II accessory grip, the HLD-9 although it doesn’t have a toggle).

Some of us were disappointed it didn’t get a new sensor or an upgrade to the EVF as with its peers, however, by not doing this, Olympus has managed to add in lots of extras but keep the price down, and for most of us a better sensor or EVF is not going to make or break our photography.

Features it inherits from the E-M1X

  • the best IBIS out there – 7EV (7.5EV with a compatible OIS lens) means you can hand hold for many seconds without camera shake so you don’t need to carry a heavy, cumbersome and limiting tripod, you get far better video hand held so you don’t need to use heavy, expensive and complicated stabilisation rigs, and it allows Olympus to create novel uses such as Hand Held multi-image Hi Res 50mp mode.
  • hand held 50mp High Res mode with 25mp or 50mp JPEG output options (plus 50mp RAW) which unlike a 61mp Sony a7RIV means you can shoot 20mp most of the time to make your life more enjoyable, and resort to High Res only when you want to, and this HiRes will have much less moire artefacts than the Sony. PLUS, you get the multi-shot advantage of a noise reduction effect up to 2.0EV of ISO sensitivity which essentially negates the advantage of full frame sensors – but as long as your subject is static. Not compatible with flash.
  • tripod mode 80mp High Res mode now offers 25mp, 50mp or 80mp JPEG output options (plus 80mp RAW) and is compatible with flash but flash sync requires shutter speeds of 1/50th sec or slower as it uses the electronic shutter.
  • Live ND filter effect mode which allows you to create a blurry moving water image without needing a tripod or ND filters and gives you an extra very handy tool to play with whilst reducing image noise and options of ND2 (1 step) to ND32 (5 steps) effect.
  • higher rated shutter mechanism now at 400,000 actuations
  • new customizable ‘My Menu’ tab to give you better control over the menu system
  • custom AF target grouping – eg. you can select an 11×3 region in addition to standard 5pt, 9pt, and 25pt groups
  • 8 way joystick controller to make selecting your AF point much easier and it can go diagonally to make this faster and the new option of AF target loop setting is also added, which users can select either stops the AF target at the edge of the screen or moves it to the opposite edge.
  • USB-C port with in-camera battery charging – this is now standard in most new cameras and allows one to bring along a power bank if needed on those camping trips instead of lots of batteries. Note it does not charge the battery inside an attached HLD-9 grip. Olympus recommends the Anker PowerPort III mini or Anker PowerCore +26800 PD power bank.
  • extensive, IPX1-rated weather sealing building further upon the superb weathersealing of the Mark II
  • the new sensor coating and 30,000Hz ultrasonic shake system which further reduces sensor dust issues – Olympus has been a leader in this technology (in contrast, the Sony cameras are renown for sensor dust issues to the extent that pros generally advise cleaning before each shoot!)
  • 120p 1080HD High Speed movie mode for Slo-Mo movies

PLUS, adds a few new features

  • new TruePic IX image processor which allows
    • new and improved Face/Eye AF algorithm which gives improved ability to detect smaller faces and eyes, and maintains detection when faces are side on or eyes are looking downwards and improves maintenance of C-AF on the face during video shooting – see here.
    • Starry Sky AF mode (2 modes: Tripod Accuracy Priority, which takes around 10 seconds, and Hand holdable Speed Priority, which takes 2-3 seconds)
  • Face Selection mode with a few options to allow you to select a face amongst a number of faces such as touching the detected face on the rear screen
  • new display panel option in addition to the much loved Super Control Panel
  • redesigned PASM dial with extra 4th custom setting and BULB is now included at the expensive of iAUTO and ART Filter options, PLUS, you can now choose to automatically save your current settings to a custom mode when you move off that custom mode – this should be extremely useful indeed! And unlike the Sony a7RIV, you don’t need 3 fingers to rotate the PASM dial as the lock button does not need to be held down as you rotate the dial.
  • ability to turn off EVF switching when LCD screen is articulated outwards
  • slight redesign of button layout – MENU and INFO buttons moved, Fn1 button renamed ISO
  • further improved built-in grip.

And of course it retains the awesome E-M1 II features

  • silent electronic shutter with minimal rolling shutter artefact to 18fps with C-AF and 60fps without, and shutter speeds to 1/32,000th sec – none of the Sony full frame cameras have this capability other than the a9 series.
  • 121 cross-type PDAF points giving 75% vertical coverage and 80% horizontal coverage with AF low light limit -6EV support with f/1.2 lenses
  • minimal rolling shutter artefact in video mode – only the Sony a9 series match this in the full frame cameras
  • anti-flicker shooting and Flicker Scan to avoid issues with artificial light
  • mechanical shutter to 10fps with AF and 15fps without (the new Sony a7RIV only has 10fps and that is with 12bit compressed RAW not uncompressed RAW which drops it down to 6fps).
  • in-camera focus limiter to avoid the AF locking onto near or far objects such as spectators, and this works on all AF Micro Four Thirds lenses (this is another unique to Olympus function)
  • Pro-Capture mode which allows you to set your focus where your action will be, half-press your shutter button while awaiting the decisive moment then when this happens and you press the shutter, you get the preceding frames at full RAW quality to ensure your natural reaction lag time didn’t cause you to miss the shot.
  • focus bracketing and in-camera focus stacking of 3-15 images (the Sony a7RIV does not have either!)
  • Live Composite, Live BULB, Live TIMED night modes – and these are now more quickly accessible thanks to Bulb being put on the PASM dial
  • UHD 4K/30p video at 102Mbps and DCI Cinema 4K 24p at up to 237Mbps
  • M-IS1 movie stabilisation mode – multi motion IS by Image sensor shift and electronic image stabilizer
  • OM-Log400 for video
  • in camera automatic HDR modes in addition to HDR bracketing
  • Intervalometer for creating time lapse movies
  • A very usable touch screen – you can touch a subject and camera will instantly AF on it and take a shot (The Sony cameras only allow the AF part) and other touch functions
  • A fully articulating swivel rear screen for maximum versatility (many cameras including the Sony’s only have a tilt screen which is always exposed – it cannot be rotated inwards for protection)
  • two front buttons for extra usability such as rapid custom WB, DOF preview, etc. (the Sony cameras do not have this)
  • lovely size and ergonomics making it almost perfect to allow your photography to be fun and more enjoyable and not a burden in terms of weight or size
  • In-body Fisheye Compensation which converts fisheye images to normal rectilinear images
  • In-body Live keystone correction
  • Wifi and smartphone remote shooting and tethering
  • Support for Olympus Workspace new USB RAW Data Edit
  • Olympus 2.4GHz radio wireless flash (in addition to the older optical remote flash system) – requires FC-WR Commander and Olympus FL-700WR flash or later WR models, or older flash models paired with a FR-WR Receiver.
  • same BLH-1 battery
  • great selection of high quality lenses which are shorter than full frame lenses in the telephoto range for the same telephoto field of view reach.
  • relatively affordable at $US1799

But there are some features of the EM-1X that didn’t make it

  • the obvious one is the built-in vertical grip with dual battery holder and a 2nd 8-way AF joystick
  • the unique E-M1X Field Sensor System which sports an integrated GPS module (GLONASS and QZSS) along with an electronic compass, manometer, temperature sensor, and acceleration sensor
  • dual fast UHS-II SD card slots – only one slot is UHS-II
  • dual image processors
  • Intelligent Subject Detection AF algorithm which detects motorbikes, trains or cars and presumably in a later firmware, other specific types of subjects
  • the integrated heat pipe helps to dissipate heat from the imaging components to benefit recording video and shooting sequential stills in hot temperatures.

Final thoughts

The addition of these features builds upon what is already a great, fun, versatile camera that will not break your back or your bank as a full frame camera is likely to do.

Almost no-one really needs more than 20mp (unless they are doing a lot of cropping) and higher resolution imagery just adds to your hatred of post-processing as your software gets really slow and frustrating to use, and your TIFF files become enormous (0.5Gb just for a 61mp Sony a7RIV when saved as a single layer Affinity software format!).

More pixels is extremely unlikely to make or break your image and 99% will end up downsized to 2mp for the web anyway.

Full frame cameras do allow greater capability of super narrow depth of field options but in general the shallow DOF of the Micro Four Thirds f/1.2 prime lenses are perfect for most situations.

Full frame cameras do allow one to shoot at much higher ISO for moving subjects with better image quality but few of us need to resort to ISO greater than 3200 and if you do, the light quality is likely to be not that aesthetic and you probably should be providing additional lighting.

In short, no other camera offers a comparable combination of size, price, excellent IS, video AF performance, electronic rolling shutter performance, shutter life, weather sealing, usable high-res mode and shooting rate, not to mention the many unique Olympus functionalities to add to your photographic tool kit.

See more info on my wikipedia page

Or you can go straight to the Olympus news release for the source information (pdf) or more details on this web page and their full specs are on this page.


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