Flawed, yet the most capable, m43, still camera out there.

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bluevellet Veteran Member • Posts: 3,537
Flawed, yet the most capable, m43, still camera out there.


  • Sturdy build quality
  • Good, comfortable grip
  • Industry-leading weather-sealing
  • Industry-leading image stabilization
  • Feature-rich
  • Customization galore
  • Full sensor readout for video
  • Overall speed
  • Overall AF
  • Can take two SD cards


  • Dated displays
  • Still dense menus (despite improvements)
  • No 4k/60 for some mysterious reason
  • No built-in or external flash unit
  • Proven but old sensor
  • Clunky connectivity
  • Price
  • Only one SD card slot is UHS-II

When Olympus did a major product refresh of their cameras (2019-2020), it was finally time for me to make a m43 upgrade decision, as a long-time owner of the old E-M5 Mark II (2015). And I've chosen the E-M1 Mark III (over the E-M5 mark III) as that upgrade. I don't pretend to be pro, I'm just an enthusiast who likes to take pics of his family, trips and random stuff.

The E-M1 Mark III is a midsize, DSLR-like, mirrorless camera. Smaller and bigger camera options exist within the m43 system. I do not own the likes of the G9 or the EM1X so I can not show how much bigger they can get. So you will have to make due with how smaller m43 cameras can look in comparison to the EM1.

For me, there were 5 reasons to get this camera.

First, an upgrade to 20MP from 16MP. M43 has been in that 20MP generation for 4-5 years so there are plenty of camera choices. The IQ jump from 16MP to 20MP is not major, you certainly get higher resolution with no visible penalty, so more of an evolution than a revolution.

One underrated characteristic of Olympus cameras is how their cameras nail (auto) white balance. This is easy to correct in post of course, but the difference between other brands is something greatly underreported/not discussed. I find only some specific artificial lighting conditions can trip Olympus cameras saving me from lots of post work.

Which brings me to the second reason: build quality. Being an EM5II owner/upgrader, I was initially looking forward to the EM5 mark III, expecting similar quality, but since that camera failed to deliver in that front (dubious, plasticky build), I began to look at higher-end alternatives. The EM1 mark III certainly fitted the bill. Nice comfortable grip, certified weather-sealing and 400000-shutter activation guarantee are also nice bonuses in the build quality category. While not certified shock-proof, this is still a camera I feel I can use for the next decade. That counts for a lot in my book.

The much-praised Live ND feature mimics using neutral density filters through some in-camera wizardry. Here used as it is intended for, though I ironically find it more useful as an indirect way to squeeze the sensor into creating more noise-free photos.

Third reason: major AF upgrade. The EM5III didn't deliver here and neither did the EM1 mark II throughout most of its product cycle (until maybe the latest firmware update). The EM1 mark III is the first M43 camera I feel has (almost) caught up with the competition. It's fairly fast, it's smart, it recognizes people, faces and their eyes from afar and locks on. It's not quite as good as some rival systems (though it edges out my Nikon Z6, the mark 1, but still nice), but good enough for me and better than m43 alternatives, at least for general photography stuff which is what I do (Olympus has a specific model, the EM1X, for these specialized purposes like wildlife or motorsports). In any case, upgrading from the EM5II to the EM1III has meant finally switching to C-AF (from S-AF) as my default AF. I never did this with an Olympus camera before.

Fourth reason: Faster continuous speed and deeper buffer. With the old EM5, if I wanted AF and wanted to avoid shutter shock, I was stuck at 5 fps. As already established, AF wasn't too reliable and if I fell back on E-shutter (with no AF) for faster frame rate (10 fps), I could barely shoot one second. That didn't cut it. So the EM1 series (and Panasonic G9) with their 18fps(+) with AF and even 60 fps without AF, with deeper buffer to match, fixes that problem.

Sensor size has little to do with E-M1's camera body size: it has more to do with functionality (physical dials and buttons) and comfort (grip), hence why it has many similarly-sized peers among other brands. It's a form/size factor that works in most hands. Though sensor size does tend to affect lens sizes so this is something less by design and more by necessity, something that is more to M43's advantage.

And fifth: certain features only available, together, on this camera. I am a great fan of the handheld high-res mode, giving you a way to shoot high resolution pictures, fairly easily, when you don't want to shoot in high resolution all the time (otherwise I would have bought a FF high res camera). Starry AF makes shooting night skies a breeze; I certainly became a fan of this. And while not a new feature (first appeared on the previous EM1), I also really like the live defishify option (I shoot with a FE lens a lot), which I feel is like shooting with two lenses at once and provides a useful framing guide.

So, yeah, I had my reasons for my choice. But after nearly 1 year of use, I was surprised by a few things, had some disappointments and I have some general observations about this camera upgrade.

The live "defishify" feature of recent O-MD cameras can be used as a useful framing guide when using the M Zuiko 8mm f1.8 FE Pro lens (a personal favorite of mine). Here, the original RAW file was "defishified" in post to offer an even more dramatic effect (than the in-camera JPEG).

In-body stabilisation wasn't a big requirement of mine. I had it already with my old EM5, has worked great but I was not left wanting more. Until I tasted more. It's really one of the biggest improvements compared to what I was used to. Sharp, hand-held shots taken at exposure of several seconds and taken easily. Obviously, it is up to a point and varies depending on the focal length. But you can push this camera for stabilisation more than any other brand out there. Impressive. I wouldn't go as far as to say reason enough to buy this camera, but it is really, really nice to have that capability. When I go back to other systems, I need to adjust my shooting style because I can not get away with what I can with the EM1III. Many blurry photos will remind me of that.

Another surprise was not an innovation from Olympus, but the (belated) adoption of a feature from other camera manufacturers: USB charging. I was skeptical about its uses, but it turns out, I'm lazy and if I can just connect my camera to my computer or directly into my phone charger, I actually prefer to do that rather than take the battery out and place it into the (nice and upgraded) dedicated charger. Guilty as charged.

The gloomy, rain-soaked peaks of Western Norway are definitely where you'd want to use the E-M1 Mark III over most other mirrorless cameras.

Where I get more mixed feelings is with the displays, mainly the EVF and LCD. They have also remained the same (from the EM1 mark II and EM5 mark II). Now that is a definite minus in my book. Not that they're unusable, but it's underwhelming in 2021. Olympus has many technical excuses for this, but competitors have shown there's impressive tech out there that can be used, I own one such competing camera in a similar price bracket (Nikon Z6), but Olympus made a conscious choice to stick to older technology. Most probably as a cost-cutting measure on their part. Not a deal breaker, but still a pity. One consolation price is the LCD is still fully articulated, which I find invaluable for both stills and video.

The move from 16MP to 20MP is not big, but I appreciate the small improvements it brings.

Past OM-D cameras came with a very useful flash unit that can swivel and rotate. Not a true replacement to a real flash gun, but still more handy than a traditional, built-in flash. The EM1 Mark III is still compatible with that flash unit, but does not come bundled with it. A bit of a strange move on Olympus' part, maybe they were trying to cut costs here (again), maybe they went with the assumption Pro cameras are not supposed to come with such flash accessories. In any case, I consider it another minus in my book.

And then, finally, there is the issue of value. The E-M1 Mark III is not a cheap camera. Sure, it is a top end product in the m43 world so anyone with a large collection of (m)43 lenses, this is a tempting option. But what if you have no prior investment in the system? First of all, the camera business is not doing ok. Second, Olympus has divested its imaging business (cameras/lenses) to another company (JIP) so the future is uncertain. You can still buy into m43, but save a lot of money with older, but still quite high performance models like the older E-M1 mark II or the Panasonic Lumix G9. That's one way to minimize risks.

The hand-held high resolution mode makes focus stacking much easier to do on-the-fly compared to the more traditional tripod-based method. End results are impressive though slightly less sharp (than tripod-based) yet still as prone to buggy artefacts if objects/people in the scene move when you take the shot. Overall, it's a neat feature, but if you really want to take high resolution pics all the time, spend more money on an actual high resolution camera.

Furthermore, while the mark III is still a very capable camera, you have plenty of options with other brands. The current hot trend is entry-level, full frame, mirrorless cameras and the price point of the E-M1 Mark III (at the time of the writing of this review) is right in that ball park. The specs vary depending on the model, you do sacrifice speed in all cases, trade some specific features and performance, but what you do get in all models is better RAW image IQ with a modern FF camera. If your absolute priority is IQ then, yes, something like a Nikon Z5 or Panasonic S5 is probably more up your alley.

Another option is to go inbetween FF and m43: APS-C. Objectively-speaking, I think the Fuji's X-T4 is the current king here. Technically, the Olympus camera beats it in some specific areas, but rather than go for moral victories, the X-T4 still gives you a high-specced and well rounded camera. So yeah, not as good with IBIS or with weather-sealing as Olympus, but the X-T4 still has those features. Then it adds better IQ, better AF, better video, better displays. As I said, more well-rounded.

As ever with m43, things look great in daylight and tend to fall apart more in drab and poor light. Careful post-processing can do wonders with RAW files, though it is harder to match colors, tonality, micro-contrast and especially noise levels of bigger sensors. HHHR, HDR and Live ND features in the EM1 Mark III can be seen as "cheats" to minimize that handicap though.

But otherwise, if you are already a M43 user, the E-M1 mark III is not a radical departure, but it is the best still camera you can buy from that system. Video ain't too shabby either, but Panasonic offers stronger options here if this is your main interest. Overall, I like this dense, well-built, comfortable package the EM1III offers. I also like it has a bit of dual personality, being both a straight speedy shooter and a high resolution camera (via special modes) at the same time. It's quite handy and a joy to use.

 bluevellet's gear list:bluevellet's gear list
Nikon Z6 Olympus E-M1 III Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Olympus 17mm F1.2 Pro Nikon Z 50mm F1.8 +12 more
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
20 megapixels • 3 screen • Four Thirds sensor
Announced: Feb 12, 2020
bluevellet's score
Average community score
bad for good for
Kids / pets
Action / sports
Landscapes / scenery
Low light (without flash)
Flash photography (social)
Studio / still life
= community average
Canon PowerShot S5 IS Nikon Z6 Olympus E-M1 Olympus E-M1 III Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
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