Body and controls

The E-M1 Mark III (Left), gains an 8-way joystick, which frees-up the right-hand shoulder button to control ISO or some other function of your choosing. The Menu button shifts to the top left corner, so there's no loss of buttons, despite the extra control point.

Key Takeaways:

  • Weather-sealed body, rated to IPX1
  • Extensive customizable direct controls
  • Easy to operate despite compact body size

8-way joystick

One of the biggest physical changes to the E-M1 III body is the addition of a joystick to the back of the camera. It's an eight-direction control, which makes it easy to quickly select autofocus points.

This is a feature we always value on a camera, even one that lets you swipe the AF point using the touchscreen when the camera's to your eye. We're expecting it to be particularly useful if the E-M1 III's focus is like that of the E-M1X. We found that camera's AF Tracking mode would easily lose its subject, meaning you can't use this feature to quickly set a focus subject and recompose.

Status panel

There's a new status screen that can be shown on the rear LCD when you're using the viewfinder to give a DSLR-style experience

The E-M1 III gains a new status display but, a little disappointingly, doesn't get a refresh of the Super Control Panel. For a long time the Super Control Panel has been one of our preferred ways of changing settings: it displays a wide array of the camera's parameters and lets you change them quickly with touchscreen taps, dial turns or a combination of the two.

The E-M1 III's Super Control Panel is a familiar and effective way to access many of the camera's settings, but it doesn't incorporate all the camera's functions

The disappointment comes from the fact that it's not really been updated to reflect the cameras' current feature set. It makes it very easy to fine-tune the camera's green/magenta white balance but doesn't give access to features such as Live ND mode, which seems like odd prioritization. You can now access high-res mode, and switch between the tripod and handheld versions, but it's pretty convoluted.

Two-way switch

The E-M1 III still has the two-position custom switch on its right shoulder and, as with previous models, it can be customized to perform a variety of tasks.

Sadly this too hasn't been updated to take into account the camera's AF features, so you can't use it as a way to engage eye AF mode or turn the focus limiter on and off. In order to retain consistency with older models, these newer features aren't defined as part of the AF states that the switch chooses between. Back to the menus for you.

You can at least apply Face/Eye detection to a button if you wish, but if you want to switch between C-AF for candid portraiture and S-AF without face detection for non-people subjects, or quickly disengage the focus limiter, you can't use the two way switch to do so.

Custom modes

Olympus has always made its cameras supremely customizable, and the E-M1 III gains a novel and rather clever way of handling its user-defined custom modes.

The camera has four customs settings slots, accessible from the mode dial, as is common on high-end cameras. What's unusual is that Olympus lets you choose how these custom modes behave if you modify their settings, while shooting.

Those four custom positions on the mode dial can each be configured to retain the last settings you used, when you were in that mode, letting up modify your custom settings as you go.

Each custom setting can be configured to 'Reset' or 'Hold' settings when you turn the mode dial away from the custom mode you're in. This means you can define custom settings to constantly update and 'hold' those changes, letting you fine-tune the setting as you adjust to whatever you're shooting then, once you're happy with it, define it as 'Reset,' so that it it's always as you expect it.

This strikes us as especially clever, since 'hold' mode means you don't really need to stop and think about how to define your setup and then configure it: the camera will simply retain the last settings you used. Making custom settings easier to define increases the likelihood that photographers will use them.

My Menu

Along with the constantly adjustable custom modes, the E-M1 III gains a My Menu option, where you can save up to 35 menu items in a personalized, five-page section of the menu. Adding a menu item to your list is as simple as hitting the [REC] button when you're at the item you want to add.

Eye sensor

The E-M1 III still has a fully-articulated rear touch screen, but you no longer have to worry about triggering the EVF's eye-sensor when you've got it folded out.

One thing we're delighted to see is that Olympus has added a menu option to let you disengage the viewfinder eye sensor if the rear screen has been pulled out (ie for video shooting). There's also the default option that keeps the eye sensor active, or the option to turn the eye sensor off entirely.

This resolves one of the issues we found distracting when we reviewed the E-M5 III, so it's good to see Olympus respond to user concerns. The option will also be added via firmware updates to the E-M1 Mark II, E-M1X and E-M5 III.

Battery

The E-M1 III uses the same hefty BLH-1 battery as its predecessor. It offers 12.7 Wh of capacity, which underpins a respectable rating 420 shots per charge. As always with CIPA ratings we'd expect to get considerably more than this number, depending on our shooting style: twice the rated value isn't unusual.

Next to the battery door is the rubber cover protecting the connectors for the optional battery grip. The good news is that the E-M1 III remains compatible with the existing HLD-9 accessory grip, the only downside being that the HLD-9 doesn't have a joystick to match the new body.