Body, design and handling

Key takeways:

  • The compact E-M5 III is weather-sealed to IPX1 standards, so shooting in the rain is no problem.
  • Controls are thoughtfully laid out and most are customizable
  • The EVF is smaller than on the E-M5 II, although the switch to OLED is appreciated
  • The camera's menu system can be overwhelming
  • The bundled flash is excellent, with weather sealing and the ability to tilt and rotate
  • As you'd expect, the E-M5 III has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

As mentioned earlier in this review, the E-M5 Mark III looks like a slightly smaller version of its predecessor. It's compact enough for one-handed operation - at least with smaller lenses - and Olympus has done a good job with button placement. The twin controls dials are perfectly placed, and the numerous buttons on the right side of the camera don't require stretching your fingers.

Despite its size, the E-M5 III feels solid in the hand. Its body is a mix of metal and composites, and it's wrapped with a faux leather that's a bit slippery. As with its predecessor, the E-M5 III is sealed against dust and moisture (it's rated to IPX1 standards), and is freezeproof to -10°C (14°F).

The camera's top plate is loaded with switches, dials and buttons. The Drive/Display/Power switch combination is borrowed from the E-M1 II and replaces the mode dial, which has moved to the right. The mode dial now has a Bulb setting, which is where you'll find the Live Bulb and Live Composite features.

LCD and EVF

The E-M5 III's 3" fully articulating display is the same as on its predecessor. Olympus's touch interface feels a bit sluggish, and isn't used in as many places as some of its peers, but it's still decent. Aside from the usual features, like tap-to-shoot and various playback functions, the screen can also be used to select items in the Super Control Panel, which is essentially a giant function menu. While the easy-to-use Live Guide feature (an Auto mode feature which uses sliders to adjust more complex camera settings) is touch-enabled, the Live Control (shortcut) and main menus are not touch-enabled.

The EVF on the E-M5 III is smaller than the one on the Mark II (0.68x vs 0.74x magnification), which places it on the lower end of the size spectrum. The eye point has increased from 21mm to 27mm. Olympus switched from an LCD to OLED panel on the Mark III, which improves contrast and puts the Mark III at the same level as its peers.

Bundled flash

While some may bemoan the lack of a built-in flash, Olympus bundles a very nice external flash that you can attach when you need it.

The FL-LM3 offers more than a built-in flash in that it can both tilt and swivel. Making it a separate unit avoids compromising the camera's weather sealing, and the LM3 is itself sealed against dust and moisture, making it an ideal companion for the E-M5 III. It can be used to remotely control any of Olympus's RC wireless flashguns.

Ins and outs

The ports on the E-M10 III include those for HDMI and USB (both of the micro variety), mic input and a connector for Olympus's optional RM-CB2 wired remote. On the opposite side of the camera is a single SD card slot, which supports UHS-II media.

The ports on this side of the E-M5 III include those for mic input, wired remote, HDMI and USB

Battery

In order to make the E-M5 III more compact, Olympus switched to a battery that takes up less space. Olympus went with the 8.7 Wh BLS-50 battery, which was introduced in the days of Four Thirds cameras. Battery life is the same as on the E-M5 II: a rating of 310 shots per charge using the LCD.

As always with CIPA ratings, you're likely to get many more shots than this, depending on your shooting style (getting twice the CIPA rating isn't uncommon), but a rating of 310 shots puts the E-M5 III towards the lower end of its class. We usually find a rating like this is good for half a days' committed shooting, so you'll need to think about a second battery or a means of topping the camera up.

Menus

The main menu is overwhelming

While the Live Guide and associated 'tips' are easy for new photographers to understand, the full menu system is very complex. Existing Olympus users will find it familiar but the 'index' page of the setup menu and its color coding have been removed, making it harder for newcomers to navigate.

Another way to adjust settings is the Super Control Panel, which you may be off by default in certain shooting modes. There's a lot of information to take in, but virtually every important camera function can be found here.

Customization

Not a fan of the default functions of the E-M5 III? Olympus makes it easy to change them. Eight buttons can be customized, as can certain directions on the four-way controller. The aforementioned Fn lever lets you switch between these customizations and also jump between still and video shooting modes, and serve as the power switch.

Connectivity

As with the E-M5 II, the Mark III offers Wi-Fi, with Bluetooth being the new addition. Bluetooth keeps the camera in constant contact with the smart device, which reduces the number of steps required to remotely control and transfer photos from the camera. The 'O.I. Share' app doesn't support geo-tagging: you'll need to download O.I. Track in order to add that data to photos.

Auto ISO

The Auto ISO feature on the E-M5 III is fairly standard. You can select the top and bottom sensitivities and the minimum shutter speed (Auto is the default option, which uses a shutter speed related to the focal length). There's no way to bias this Auto setting, which can be helpful if you have shaky hands or want to ensure that fast action is frozen.

Auto ISO can be used in manual mode with exposure compensation when shooting stills. It's not available at all when settings the exposure manually in movie mode.