What's new and how it compares

Much of what the E-M1 Mark III offers comes directly from the larger E-M1X, but there are also a handful of improvements that stem from the use of the TruePic IX processor.

Key Takeaways:

  • Gains Live ND and Handheld High Res modes from the E-M1X
  • TruePic IX processor brings improved face/eye AF and Starry Sky AF mode
  • 2.36M dot LCD offers fast refresh but poor contrast and low resolution for this level of camera
  • Sometimes familiar spec points add up to a very well-rounded whole

7EV image stabilization

As well as the potential size/weight benefit that Micro Four Thirds can offer, the smaller, lighter sensor should be easier to stabilize. Olympus has many years' experience with in-body stabilization and the E-M1 III really shows it off, promising an unprecedented 7EV correction rating, according to CIPA standards.

This increases to up to 7.5EV when combined with the 12-100mm F4 Pro or 300mm F4 Pro lens, in which the in-body and in-lens systems work in conjunction. This is able to offer more correction than systems that simply hand-off some correction to the lens IS. The improved performance comes in part from the use of the gyroscopic sensor developed for the E-M1X.

As well as stills, where Olympus claims 4 second handheld shots are possible, the in-body IS makes the E-M1 III one of the most stable handheld video platforms without the need for additional hardware.

New Face and Eye AF algorithm

Olympus was the first camera maker to offer eye-detection AF, but other manufacturers have significantly raised the performance and usefulness bar in the meantime, taking it from being an interesting idea to a feature you really miss if you have to shoot without it.

The E-M1 III promises a new face and eye AF algorithm which, combined with the camera's on-sensor phase detection, should offer greater speed and persistence. Our initial impressions are that it lives up to these promises. We'll need to test it further but it seems much faster at finding and focusing on eyes than previous Olympus cameras have been, making it much more useful.

Face Selection

On top of eye/face detection, the E-M1 III adds a Face Selection mode, which lets you use either the joystick or the rear touch panel to tell the camera what to do if there's more than one face in your scene.

There are two different ways of using face selection. The touchscreen version of the mode just requires you to tap on the screen on whichever of the faces in the scene you'd prefer to focus on.

Face Selection lets you tap on the face you wish to focus on. Alternatively you can tap a custom button to prioritize the face nearest your AF point or hold the button and turn a dial to cycle between faces. If your subject turns away, you'll need to re-select them

The alternative is to set a button to 'Face Selection.' If you do this, then pressing that button will prioritize the face nearest your selected focus point. Alternatively you can hold the button down and use the camera's dials to cycle between the identified faces.

However you make your selection, the camera will choose a different face if loses its original target (if your subject looks away from the camera, for instance). You can't change which face to focus on once the shutter is half-pressed, so if you chose a target and the camera loses it, you'll need to let go of the shutter button and re-select your subject before the camera will focus on it.

Starry sky AF

The E-M1 III gains a new AF mode specifically for astrophotography. Standard AF can have difficulty in this situation, because the low light levels mean lots of noise, making it difficult for the camera to distinguish between noise and stars (which may also only be the size of single pixels). This prompts many astrophotographers to resort to manual focus.

Starry Sky AF is a one-press system for focusing on stars
Lumix G Leica 12mm F1.4 | F1.4 | 23 sec | ISO 200
Photo: Chris Niccolls

Starry sky AF appears to slow down the AF system, probably combining multiple frames to reduce noise, letting the camera more readily distinguish between noise and stars.

There are two modes: Accuracy Priority, which takes around 10 seconds and is recommended for tripod work, and Speed Priority, which takes 2-3 seconds and leans on the camera's IS to ensure it's still assessing the same part of the sky. In both modes, Starry Sky AF is activated by pressing the AEL/AFL button once, and letting the camera focus.

Handheld High Res mode

First seen in the larger E-M1X, and not available in the more compact E-M5 III, handheld High Res mode takes 16 images and blends them together. Unlike tripod mode it can't precisely control the sensor position by fractions of a pixel, so it can't ensure a red, green and blue pixel have been shot at each location. As a result, you won't get the sharpness boost of cutting-out the de-Bayering process.

The handheld High Res mode lets you shoot 50MP JPEGs and Raws without a tripod. They're not as detailed as the tripod-based mode is, since the movement between shots isn't as precisely controlled, but it makes it useful for a much wider range of circumstances.
M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 IS Pro | F4.0 | 1/200 sec | ISO 500
Photo: Richard Butler

You still get the resolution uptick that comes from sampling the scene multiple times from slightly different positions, though, with the camera outputting 50MP Raws or JPEGs. You also get the noise benefit that comes from taking multiple images, averaging-out the noise and giving around a 2EV tone quality boost.

The camera also attempts to correct for subject movement during the exposures (with less of a noise benefit in areas where a single image has had to be used to represent something that's subsequently moved). This ability to shoot without a tripod significantly increases the range of circumstances in which the feature is useful.

Live ND

Another feature the E-M1 III gains from the 'X' is its Live ND feature. This takes multiple exposures and combines them so that you get the motion-smoothing effect of a long exposure with a neutral density filter, but without the overexposure you'd get without them.

Live ND lets you shoot long exposure photos without the need for filters
M.Zuiko 12-45mm F4.0 Pro | F13 | 0.5 sec | ISO 200 | 5EV ND Effect
Photo: Chris Niccolls

Live ND is available either in Manual or Shutter Priority modes and, though the menus, offers you the choice of between one and five stops of ND. And, like handheld High Res mode, it also brings an image quality boost in areas that have been repeatedly sampled. Both features significantly expand the range of things the camera can do, without the need for additional accessories.

The camera continues to offer features such as Focus Stacking, Focus Bracketing and anti-flicker shooting modes.

IPX1 sealing

If you dig into the specifics of IPX1 sealing, it doesn't sound terribly impressive: 'Dripping water (vertically falling drops) shall have no harmful effect. Test duration: 10 minutes, equivalent to 1 mm rainfall per minute.'

The IPX1 rating of the E-M1 III may not sound all that impressive, but it's one of very few cameras that carry a rating at all. The FL-LM3 flash pictured is not included with the Mark III.

But, while it's not an especially high bar, this is more than most camera makers feel comfortable claiming. The point being that most products make no such claims but in many cases are nevertheless pretty durable, so it's reasonable to assume that the E-M1 Mark III will survive more than the moderate rain for 10 minutes that's promised.


Compared to it peers

In many respects, the E-M1 Mark III is just as capable a sports camera as the E-M1X. However, if we compare the maximum shooting speed with autofocus (rather than the headline 60 fps), it's fairly comparable to the best high-speed enthusiast cameras currently on the market:

Olympus
OM-D E-M1 III
Nikon D500 Fujifilm X-T3 Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
Pixel count 20MP 20MP 26MP 20MP
Sensor size Four Thirds (224 sq mm) APS-C
(367 sq mm)
APS-C
(369 sq mm)
Four Thirds (224 sq mm)
Image stabilization Up to 7.0EV
(up to 7.5 with 'Sync IS' lenses)
In-lens only In-lens only Up to 6.5EV
(Maintained at long FL on Dual IS lenses)
Max frame rate with AF (mech shutter) 10 fps 10 fps 11 fps 9 fps
Max frame rate with AF (e-shutter) 18 fps N/A 20 fps 20 fps
Card slots 1 x UHS-II
1 x UHS-I
1 x XQD
1 x UHS-I
Dual UHS-II Dual UHS-II
Viewfinder resolution 2.36M dot
LCD
N/A
(Optical)
3.69M dot
OLED
3.68M dot
OLED
Viewfinder magnification 0.74x 0.65x 0.75x 0.83x
Rear screen 1.04M dot 3.0"
Fully articulated
2.36M dot 3.2"
Tilt up/down
1.04M dot 3.0"
Tilt up/down/right
1.04M dot 3.0"
Fully articulated
Video DCI/24p or UHD up to 30p
8-bit
UHD up to 30p
8-bit
DCI or UHD up to 60p
10 or 8-bit
UHD up to 60p
10-bit
Mic/'phones Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes
Weather sealing IPX1 Claimed Claimed Claimed
Shutter life 400,000 200,000 Unspecified 200,000
Battery life (CIPA)
LCD/VF
420/- -/1,240 390/- 400/380
Weight 580g 860g 539g 658g
Weight 1460g
w/ 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
(80-300mm F5.6 equiv)
1710g
w/ 70-200mm F4 IS
(105 -300mm F6 equiv)
1664g
w/50-140mm F2.8 + 1.4x TC
(105-300mm F6 equiv)
1538g
w/ 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
(80-300mm F5.6 equiv)

The E-M1 III's specs don't stand out as much against the competition as the E-M1 Mark II's did, back in 2016, but the sum total of its capabilities is still pretty impressive.

Other cameras here can compete on shooting rate or outperform it in terms of video spec, but none offer the combination of fast shooting and good video combined with market-leading stabilization, usable video AF, IP-rated sealing and long shutter life. And that's before we consider features such as Live ND or handheld High Res mode.