Olympus OM-D E-M5 III - Pinnacle of the M43 system

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M43Hero New Member • Posts: 22
Olympus OM-D E-M5 III - Pinnacle of the M43 system
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Here’s my review of the Olympus EM5.3 camera. Most aspects of this camera are already covered by reviews of the Olympus EM1.2 since it's essentially the same camera in a smaller package.

First some background on myself. I am an amateur photographer with 10+ years photography experience. I mainly do travel, street, and landscape photography. Over the years I’ve owned or used several cameras from Nikon, Canon, Sony, Ricoh, Fuji, Panasonic, and Olympus. Before buying the EM5.3 my main camera was the Olympus Pen-F, a 20MP micro four thirds rangefinder style compact camera. I also own a Fuji XF-10 and a Panasonic GX850. The reason I decided to buy the EM5.3 is that while I love my Pen-F, I felt a bit limited by its lack of weather sealing, a UI that can be a bit laggy at times, and lack of 4K video. Other than that the Pen-F has served me well, and produces some excellent images within the M43 performance envelope (more on that below). As a mostly travel photographer I value portability. The Micro Four Thirds system offers IMO the best combination of image quality, feature set, and lens selection in a portable form factor. I can fit a kit ranging from 9mm to 300mm (18-600mm FF equivalent) along with a few accessories in a Mirrorless Mover 20 bag, something that would be impossible with a APSC or FF kit. On to the EM5.3…

Build Quality 9/10:

First, let’s address the build. The camera is made of plastic, composites actually, not cheap ABS, which makes it very light, but it still feels very solid. I believe there is metal on the inside (based on other reviews)? There’s absolutely no body flex. Its hard to describe, but compared to the Pen-F (with its metal build) it has a high-tech feel to it. A good metaphor would be like comparing a classic ‘metal’ sports car from the 70s to a modern carbon fiber Lamborghini, or an old wooden tennis racket and a modern one. Personally, I love it, and given the additional weight savings it’s a change for the better. I got the black model, since I think it looks better than the silver. Examining the construction I can see a high level of fit and finish, with very tight tolerances around the seams, no doubt this is a weather sealed body. On the negative side: the ports on the left side (usb, hdmi, mic) are covered by somewhat flimsy rubberized-plastic flaps that don’t really ‘snap’ into place. The power switch feels a bit cheap/plasticky.

Body and Controls 8/10:

The controls are a bit different from the Pen-F. The buttons are more recessed, with a more spongy feel, I can get used to it, but would have preferred a more tactile feel. The control dials feel more damped (silent) and tight, which I prefer. The half-shutter button actuation lacks the clicky nature of the Pen, but again easy to get used to. The thumb grip is a bit better shaped on the EM5.3 which along with the textured front grip makes for a better ergonomic and handling-friendly feel than the Pen-F, especially when using larger lenses. The ‘leather’ is not as rubbery as other cameras I have used, but provides more than adequate grip. Still, I would not recommend the EM5.3 for shooting exclusively with larger, heavier lenses without the optional extended grip (or get an EM1.2/X instead). The EM5.3 has 7 highly customizable buttons, plus the toggle-switch, which makes it very convenient. There is no joystick, but honestly I’m not a fan of those, preferring to use the touch screen or d-pad for AF.

User Interface 9/10:

The UI is standard modern Olympus. Compared to Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic it’s not as easy to use, but you learn/get used to it quickly. Compared to Sony and Fuji it’s much better. The menu system is arranged vertically and you ‘drill-down’ left to right. Menu items are well organized and you get a lot of customization. The super control panel gives you access to most used settings quickly and is well thought out. The UI is very quick and responsive. A good test for any camera is to scroll through the image previews continuously. On the EM5.3 it’s blazing fast, this is a good indicator of UI performance. On some other cameras I have used there is a noticeable lag when scrolling.

Connectivity 10/10:

This is one area where Olympus excels over other camera manufacturers IMO. The camera interfaces with the OI Share app for seamless transfers/remote control. Compared to other cameras I have used it’s the best implementation, followed by Panasonic. Image transfers are very quick, taking ~2 seconds to transfer full-size JPEGs, and the remote control functionality is seamless (no lag). The camera also has always-on bluetooth connectivity, which allows for syncing with the app even when the camera is turned off, which is something I plan to use extensively. However, on the negative side, I noticed that enabling it results in a ~2 second lag when turning the camera off. Hopefully Olympus can address this in a future firmware update.

Autofocus 9/10:

Personally, I’m more of a S-AF shooter, so for me the camera works great. S-AF is accurate and practically instantaneous, even in low light. C-AF is very quick and there are some settings to adjust the sensitivity. I tested C-AF briefly with 4K video and was impressed at how quickly and accurately it focused. If you are professional photojournalist, sports or wedding photographer and use C-AF exclusively this may not be the perfect camera, but it could make for a good backup camera.

IBIS 10/10:

Not much to say here. Olympus are masters of IBIS. Personally, I have somewhat shaky hands. I have worked a lot on my technique and have improved some over the years, but this is one of the reasons I prefer M43. Without IBIS I would have to rely on higher shutter speeds, which would result in higher ISO images and in the case of APS-C/FF negate the sensor advantages (again, based on my shooting). Compared to the Pen-F I can tell the EM5.3 is maybe 1/2 to 2/3 stops better! Videos come out great too, almost gimbal like.

Image Quality 8/10:

For my uses the Em5.3 provides more than I need. I don’t usually print, and when I do it’s 8x10 or less, but I do use high-res monitors (4k). 20 Mpix is more than enough. The only issues I have (rarely) are that of high-dynamic range and low-light scenes, where M43 falls a bit short. For shooting high dynamic range the EM5.3 provides some interesting choices such as exposure bracketing (requiring post editing) or several HDR modes where the camera does all the processing, but again these are modes that don't apply when shooting moving subjects. The EM5.3 also has a low ISO mode (100 EQ?) which should provide a bit enhanced DR. On the high-iso/noise front, 90% of my photography happens in good light so I rarely push my ISO past 1600. Still, having IBIS means I can shoot several stops slower than typical and still get sharp shots (static subjects). The EM5.3 carries over the Hi-Res mode from other Olympus cameras, which produces 80MP RAW/50MP JPEG images (tripod only), so might benefit if you do product or architectural photography. I have tested this mode extensively (on the Pen-F) and can say it does produce much more resolution (i.e. its not a gimmick), the EM5.3 should be even better with its upgraded IBIS, sensor, and processor. Olympus ‘color science’ is also very good, producing natural looking colors (to my eyes at least).

Battery Life 8/10:

Average for a mirrorless. I was able to record 1 hour 20 minutes of C4k/24p 240Mbps video (highest setting and probably worst for battery life) on a single charge. 2+ hours of continuous ON + shooting + messing around with menus resulted in 1/2 indicated battery. I noticed the battery indicator is not linear, that is, the battery icon displays full for the first 1.5 hours or so, then it starts dropping faster. I would estimate 1/2 to 3/4 hour left when the icon displays 1/2 and 15 minutes when 1/4 battery indicated, so about 2.25 to 2.5 hours total time (more testing needed) . CIPA states 310 shots per battery, but that is not accurate IMO. Mirrorless camera battery life depends mostly on time ON, so if you’re careful (set sleep to 1 minute, turn off when not in use) you should be able to get much more. Another factor that affects battery life is Image Stabilization. If using lens IS you will get less battery life, as the lS mechanism is always on using power. On cameras with IBIS such as the EM5.3 you get the advantage that IS is only ON when pressing the shutter, thus extending battery life.

Price 9/10:

I got the camera on pre-order with a 100 eur discount + free battery, so it came out to 1100 eur (around $1200). For the price I think it’s a good buy. I see a lot of complaining online about the price because of the ‘plastic’ build, but tbh after handling the camera I think it was a wise move from Olympus, the camera feels great. I also looked at the Fuji XT-30 and Nikon Z50, which are cheaper body-only, but lack many of the features the EM5.3 has that I value (IBIS, weather sealing, Pro Capture, Hi-res). The lenses for those systems are also much more expensive, if I were to buy them (I already have a sizable M43 lens collection). In the case of the Z50 there’s only two native APS-C lenses, and they are of questionable quality, and the regular Z lenses are very expensive. Fuji has a much bigger lens catalog, but the lenses are more expensive than comparable M43 lenses (for the most part). Sony has the 6xxx series, but I have never been a fan of Sony ergonomics, and their good lenses are also expensive.

Overall impression:

Pros: The Olympus EM5.3 is highly portable, has excellent ergonomics, a responsive UI, IPX rated weather sealing, great IBIS, great 4k video, and is feature packed.

Cons: Battery life could be a bit better. Buttons could be more tactile. On/off switch could be sturdier. The sensor could have used an upgrade (BSI, more MP).

In my opinion the Olympus EM5.3 represents the pinnacle of the Micro Four Thirds system. It's the lightest, most compact, serious camera on the market.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 III
20 megapixels • 3 screen • Four Thirds sensor
Announced: Oct 17, 2019
M43Hero's score
4.5
Average community score
4.0
bad for good for
Kids / pets
okay
Action / sports
okay
Landscapes / scenery
great
Portraits
great
Low light (without flash)
good
Flash photography (social)
okay
Studio / still life
excellent
= community average
Olympus E-M1 Olympus E-M5 III Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus PEN-F Panasonic GX850
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