Conclusion

What we like What we don't
  • Good JPEG and Raw image quality
  • Pleasing colors out-of-camera
  • 10 fps (mechanical) and 18 fps (e-shutter) bursts with AF
  • Good buffer depth
  • Well-designed body is comfortable, attractive and highly customizable
  • Reasonable-quality 4K video with low rolling shutter and excellent IS
  • Effective face and eye detect
  • Usable video AF
  • Highly effective image stabilization for stills and video
  • High-res mode gives good detail boost and noise benefit for static subjects
  • Live Time feature makes long exposure photography easier
  • 'Starry Sky AF' effective at nailing critical focus of night skies
  • In-camera Raw conversions
  • USB-charging (USB-C)
  • Dual cards slots
  • IPX1 rated weather sealing
  • AF subject tracking not reliable
  • Larger-sensor competition offers better dynamic range and noise performance
  • EVF is relatively low-res and lacks contrast
  • Menus can be overwhelming
  • Log video capture includes less dynamic range than best rivals
  • Using the Function lever for autofocus modes ignores face/eye detect, focus limiter settings
  • Headphone/Microphone gets in way of LCD when flipped out
  • Only one UHS-II card slot

Overall conclusion by Dan Bracaglia

With the planned sale of Olympus' camera division toward the end of 2020, the OM-D E-M1 III could be the last high-end Olympus camera we'll see for some time. A slight upgrade to the E-M1 II, its most notable improvements include a new processor with better face and eye detect, the addition of an 8-way AF joystick and the inclusion of several useful modes, like hand-held 'High Res Shot', 'Live ND', and 'Starry Sky AF' (to assist in focusing during astrophotography).

The E-M1 III's 20MP Four Thirds chip is one we know from previous M43 cameras: it produces some of the best JPEG and Raw files of any camera in its sensor-class, but larger sensor cameras, at a similar price point, offer better dynamic range and resolution. That said, for static scenes, the E-M1 III's high-res mode can produce up to 80MP Raw files with the added benefit of improved noise over a standard file. This allows it to punch well above its sensor class in some instances.

The E-M1 III strikes an excellent balance between capability and size/weight

Video capture from the E-M1 III is very good and rolling shutter is well-controlled; Cinema 4K quality especially impresses. But the UHD output is not quite as detailed as the competition's 4K. And though the Olympus offers a flat picture profile and a Log mode, the latter is only 8-bit and therefore less malleable than the 10-bit Log footage from the competition. Olympus' image stabilization is class-leading. For hand-held run-and-gun work, you'd be hard-put to find a smoother camera than the E-M1 III, especially with digital IS turned on (which adds a 1.19x crop).

With burst speeds as fast as 10 fps mechanical and 18 fps electronic (the same as the E-M1 II), the E-M1 III is well-suited for fast action, and has a well-sized buffer to boot. Autofocus performance is decent when used in the traditional method of maintaining a point or zone over one's subject. However the camera's subject tracking mode is easily fooled and far less reliable than the competition's. Face and eye detect on the other hand work quite well and, thanks to the new joystick, it's now easy to jump between detected faces.

Out of camera JPEG.
ISO 2500 | 1/1250 sec | F4 | Olympus 300mm F4 Pro
Photo: Chris Niccolls

The build quality is outstanding; this is easily one of the most comfortable digital cameras I've used in recent memory and the control dials are also a personal favorite. What isn't a favorite is the camera's EVF: it's unchanged from that of its 4-year-old predecessor. In 2020, a 2.36M-dot LCD panel in a top-end model seems antiquated when the competition is offering 3.69M-dot OLEDs. On the UI side, menus are dense but the camera is highly customizable: once you wrap your head around its somewhat strange ways, it'll be smooth sailing (it just takes some time to get there).

Size advantage comes at the cost of some image quality, but in situations in which portability or lens 'reach' are more important, the E-M1 III is among the best cameras you can go with

Based on specification and performance alone, the OM-D E-M1 III doesn't stand out much from the crowd. But specs ignores one of the camera's greatest assets: the small / light-weight nature of the M43 system. For adventure and wildlife photographers (or anyone, really) who needs to pack light without sacrificing reach, Micro Four Thirds and Olympus in particular, are a godsend. You need 1000mm of reach in a lens that won't break your back? Olympus's forthcoming 150-400mm F4.5 with built-in 1.25x teleconverter has got you covered (at an F11 equiv. aperture, mind you). And other glass like the compact 12-100mm F4 Pro and 300mm F4 Pro really show off what makes this system special.

Ultimately, the E-M1 III strikes an excellent balance between capability and size / weight. It's extremely well-built, packed with all sorts of cool and useful features and has a huge family of glass to support it. The size advantage comes at the cost of some image quality, but in situations in which portability or lens 'reach' are more important, the E-M1 III is among the best cameras you can go with.


What we think


Richard Butler
Technical Editor

The E-M1 III isn't a major upgrade over the Mark II but if you don't already have one of those, the addition of a joystick and improved face and eye-detection make it much nicer to shoot with. It's a well-built camera that's pleasant to use for both stills and video and lends itself well to landscape and wildlife photography, especially if you have to lug gear. I can't imagine it would prompt me to upgrade from an E-M1 II but it's a distinct step up from an older E-M5 model.


Carey Rose
Reviews Editor

The Mark III is the best E-M1 yet. I really appreciate the addition of an AF joystick and nifty features like Live ND are truly useful and help you to travel as light as possible. Unfortunately, its core capabilities are looking outgunned in today’s market, especially given fierce competition at this price point from cameras with larger sensors. It certainly fits the bill as a rugged, long-reach, high-quality travel camera, but many photographers will likely be served better elsewhere.


Compared to its peers

The Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 is the E-M1 III's nearest competitor. Both are well-built, handle nicely and offer very similar image quality. The body of the G9 is a bit beefier than the E-M1 III and better-suited for large hands, though it is heavier. We prefer the G9's higher-res EVF but are a bit more fond of the E-M1 III's phase detect AF and lack of 'AF wobble.' As a whole, we prefer the G9 for video because it offers 4K/60p capture as well as internal 10-bit capture with nearly as good image stabilization. But for stills-oriented photographers, we think Olympus' suite of unique features like handheld High Res Shot mode, Live Time/Bulb/Composite, Live ND and Starry Sky AF make it more appealing.

The Fujifilm X-T4 is the E-M1 III's nearest APS-C competitor. And for the money, we think the Fujifilm is the better all-around option. It bests the Olympus in image quality, video quality, burst speed, battery life and offers a higher-res EVF. However the E-M1 III is IPX1 rated for weather-sealing (the X-T4 is sealed but not rated), offers more effective image stabilization and has a wider range of compact telephoto glass. We feel the Olympus is the better option for backpackers and nature or wildlife photographers on the go.

The Sony a6600 is another obvious APS-C competitor to the E-M1 III. In terms of ergonomics and build-quality, we strongly prefer the Olympus. But we're incredibly fond of the a6600's outstanding subject tracking implementation and prefer its Raw image quality. Both offer good 4K footage, though the E-M1 III is more stable for hand-held shooting. The Olympus also offers a much wider array of cool stills features. But ultimately, if you'd like to take control over your camera, we'd go for the E-M1 III. But if you want a camera that, once set up, works effortlessly (more like a point-and-shoot), go with the a6600.


Scoring

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
Category: Semi-professional Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Olympus E-M1 III is our favorite Micro Four Thirds cameras for stills shooters, as of publication. It's capable of very good image quality and jam-packed with fun and useful features. It's also no slouch when it comes to 4K video capture and offers some of the best image stabilization around. All this in a supremely well-built, comfortable, customizable and attractive body. That said being said, there are more capable, large sensor cameras available for the money.
Good for
Action, wildlife, nature and landscape shooters (with high-res mode). Micro Four Thirds shooters seeking the best image quality. General and travel photographers desiring a small kit.
Not so good for
Those requiring the best dynamic range and/or resolution. Those needing reliable subject tracking.
83%
Overall score