My E-M5 Mark III hands on first impressions

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Astrotripper Veteran Member • Posts: 7,191
My E-M5 Mark III hands on first impressions
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So I went to the local store where they had Olympus reps showing the new E-M5. I got my hands on one and here's what I found. Keep in mind that this is all subjective.

Also, only when I already left, a lot of follow up questions popped up to my head, which will be left unanswered. And so, this really is just first impressions.

Body design

I like it. Quite a lot, actually. Compared to my old E-M10, which I used for many years, E-M5 III is a great improvement. Despite it's small size, it felt comfortable in my hand. The grip is obviously small compared to my E-M1 II, but is significant enough and profiled in a way that my hold of the camera was solid and very confident. Not for a moment have I thought it could slip out from my hand.

Button layout feels familiar coming from E-M1 II (unlike my old E-M10, where everything felt like it was in the wrong place). This time, Olympus got the 1/2 lever right. It's way better than on E-M1 II.

+2 on body design.

And now the elephant in the room. OMG, it's plastic!!!

Yes it, is. It's obvious when you handle it. I know people tend to assign quality to density of the object. My Oly 75/1.8 and PL 12/1.4 feel a lot more "premium" than my 12-100, for example. Because they are quite heavy for their relatively small volume. Plus the feeling of cold from the metal exterior. Glorious high quality. It is obviously a nonsensical connection our brains make. Cheap Chinese metal lenses have often have a feeling like that. And they are usually not high quality at all (yes, even mechanically).

This feeling is exactly what you will miss from E-M5 II.

Other than that blissful feeling of holding a metal object, there's not much to say. It looks as handsome as metal version, IMHO. Only with time one could tell how this body will hold. My original E-M10 is partly metal, and after years of heavy use it looks like garbage, with scuff marks all over it, and paint peeling off. No idea what I could expect of E-M5 III here.

So unless someone subjects their E-M5 III to torture test, it's hard to say whether the decision to go all in on polycarbonate has any actual negative implications. One possible concern would be heat dissipation, but a silver painted plastic sounds like a better idea than black magnesium alloy, at least when sun is concerned.

The port covers seem a lot more flimsy than on E-M1 II. My immediate thought was, is this really going to be as weather sealed as E-M1 II? But once more, it might just be a feeling. Those little covers are easier to both take off and to put back on. They kind of "snap" into place a bit. The material is not as elastic as on E-M1 II, so there's none of this mushy feeling when peeling them off or trying to secure them back. I suspect it might make it less likely that you will accidentally be left with one partly unstuck. I tried a few moves to see if it would be possible to snap any of the covers away by accident, but it does not seem so.

Handling

I tried different lenses, 14-150, 12-200, 12-100 and 45/1.8. I was a bit surprised at the size of 14-150. Somehow I expected it to be larger. It's a perfect size for this body. Next is 12-200, and I was sure it would not be a good match, as it's a noticeably larger lens. But literally after a minute, I got comfortable with the balance and it's a combo I think I could easily use for a whole day. 12-100 is to heavy. This is the point where the whole kit becomes front heavy and if feels much less comfortable.

So not many surprises here. A lens around the bulk of 12-200 would be my threshold for comfortable use.

ECG-5 grip

The rep said 199 EUR. That is too much, sorry.

As for practical considerations, it makes using lenses like 12-100 way more comfortable. But the grip itself is not as comfortable as E-M1 II. And it also makes some buttons way harder to use. Specifically, the button on the front, by the lens mount, was barely reachable (I have fairly small hands). And to press the video record button, you need to do some serious finger gymnastics (or alter your grip). It blocks the battery compartment as well.

So it's a bit of a mixed bag.

EVF

I wear prescription glasses, and this fact is important for this section.

Let's start with magnification. To be honest, I could not tell the difference until I pulled out my E-M1 II and switched back and forth between the two.

What I did notice (and hoped for), was that EVF on E-M5 II is a bit more comfortable to use. With my E-M1 II, I have to be quite precise in positioning my eye to be able to see the whole view and even then, the corners just don't make the cut. The situation was better with E-M5 II. While there is also a "sweet spot", so to say, I could clearly see the whole view from a broader range of positions. It was simply a more pleasing experience.

I did not play with settings, and I would definitely have to, as the defaults are just about what you get from other OLED viewfinders from the likes of Fuji, Sony or Panasonic. Punchy, saturated and fake looking. In short, bleh. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to try to set the live view/EVF to the way I like it.

EVF blackout

The blackout felt worse than on E-M1 II. It was more like what I remember when I was playing with Fuji (X-T30 it was, I think). But at 10fps (maximum possible with electronic shutter and AF), it was still good enough to comfortably move the camera around. At least I felt quite confident that I would be able to shoot some action with this.

The problem here is that there are too many variables to evaluating an EVF and trying to do so when handling the camera in a store for 20 minutes is just not gonna work well. So this really is more like a gut feeling and a first impression. Take it with a grain of salt.

Action shooting

One of the good news about E-M5 II is UHS-II memory card slot. Olympus claims that at 6 fps (max mechanical shutter framerate), it can shoot until card is full. That seems to be true. I did try, pressed the shutter button, and after about 15 seconds decided to just stop. The buffer got cleared in a mere seconds, as expected.

On to ProCapture. The bad news is that due to reduced frame rates (from 18 to 10 for Low and from 60 to 30 for High), trying to use that mode while tracking a moving subject will be noticeably harder than on E-M1 II. This is because in ProCapture is "blackout-free", which means it just shows you the last photo takes. A slideshow like that at 60fps is almost as good as live view, although the inherent delay will cause problems for erratically moving subjects. At 30 fps, lag is starting to be noticeable, as is the drop in smoothness. At 18 fps (Low on E-M1 II), it's visibly choppy and laggy, but for predictably moving subject you can track it. At 10 fps (Low on E-M5 III), it really becomes very hard.

The PreCapture buffer on E-M5 III is also smaller, 14 instead of 35 frames.

In short, ProCapture not as good for dynamic scenes.

I did play a bit with tracking and felt it was about the same as on E-M1 II. With a clearly distinct subject, it locks on and keeps track of it quite reliably. I tried to push it by choosing less distinct feature to track and as expected it was much easier to loose track of it. Just like E-M1 II. To truly tell the difference, I'd have to do proper evaluation, but I really do not expect anything surprising here.

Ok, this is getting long, I'll continue later in subsequent posts.

 Astrotripper's gear list:Astrotripper's gear list
Sigma DP2 Merrill Olympus PEN E-PL1 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 Olympus E-M1 II +17 more
Olympus E-M1 II Olympus E-M5 II Olympus E-M5 III Olympus OM-D E-M10
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