Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkIII - First glance

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

After 4 long years of waiting and speculating and waiting some more, Olympus finally launched the next flagship camera body in February 2020: the Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkIII. We had super high hopes for the new kid on the block: not as price-y as the beast that was the OM-D E-M1X, but hopefully a big step up from its predecessor the E-M1 MkII.

Aesthetically, the E-M1 MkIII looks similar to the E-M1 MkII. No surprise there, since it's part of the same series. The body is slightly sleeker, the grip is a little bit more pronounced and there are a couple of new additions in regards to button layout, including the new ISO button, 4 custom modes and dedicated B mode for your long-exposure shots. It also has the 'nipple' - a feature that Jimmy particularly enjoyed from the E-M1X - allowing for easy selection of the focusing point whilst taking photos and videos. Handy.

Marketed for 'professionals', the E-M1 MkII is fully metal-built, fully weather-sealed with an IPX1-rating and fully Jimmy-proof. If it's anything like the MkII which, between the two of us at Red35, has been really put through the ringer in all sorts of weather conditions and environments, we're pretty confident about the durability of the MkIII. Come back in 4 years and we'll let you know.

One neat improvement over the MkII is the shutter reliability. Like anything mechanical, there is a limit to how long something will operate properly (how many times you can charge your phone, for example, before it won't charge to full capacity any more) - the MkII has an estimated 150-200,000 actuations; the MkIII has around 400,000 - so you're good for quite a lot more snaps.

The E-M1 MkII is also equipped with SSWF supersonic wave filter dust reduction, but goes one step further to protect your camera's sensor with a new and improved coating - better than even the E-M1X. When you're changing lenses in uncontrolled environments, it's nice to have that peace of mind.

So what else does the E-M1 MkIII bring to the table? Well, for starters, it's got a new TruePic IX processor, that allows for Live ND (similar to the E-M1X) which means you can do a slow-motion effect in camera without a physical filter. It's also powerful enough for handheld hi-res shots of 50mp files and a tripod hi-res mode that produces 80mp files. With the new processor comes an increased performance with the ISO range. Images are cleaner, with less colour cast, especially within the ISO 3200-6400 range.

Another new feature is the Starry Sky AF setting which, full disclosure, sounds amazing but we haven't had a chance to try in practice yet. Also very handy is the ability to charge within camera via the USB-C port, which both allows for a fast charge and the option to shoot while charging.

Most exciting for Jimmy - a portrait photographer at heart - is the new and improved Face and Eye Priority Portrait mode. Automatically enabled when you turn on the Face & Eye detect, we've noticed that the system is much better at tracking faces and focusing on the eyes than even the E-M1X. This works in both photo and video mode. It also allows for Face selection - if you have more than one face in the frame, the camera allows for you to select which face you want to be in focus. The E-M1 MkIII is also compatible with the HLD-9 hand grip.

Olympus has been the pioneer of Image Stabilisation technology and the E-M1 MkIII is no slouch in that department. As in the E-M1X, the MkIII now has the super impressive IS system that compensates up to 7 and 1/2 stops when paired with compatible IS-enabled lenses. Shake? What shake?

For videographers, the E-M1 MkIII doesn't pack as much of a punch in terms of technological advances. In addition to what the E-M1 MkII already had, the MkIII now has a super slow-mo high speed option that shoots 120fps in Full HD. With the 121-point cross-type face detect and contrast detect hybrid AF system, a new ability to move the focusing point with the nipple whilst recording is very useful indeed. It also allows for audio syncing with the Olympus LS-P4 audio recorder which, as any editor in post will tell you is very, very helpful indeed.

Whilst there are still a few things missing from the E-M1 MkIII, most notably on the video side of things (4K 60fps would be amazing, just saying!), we are still super impressed with what Olympus has been able to squeeze into the compact, lightweight body of the MkIII. It is like a much more affordable version of the E-M1X and we love the effort Olympus has made to improve user experience: from the more ergonomic design of the grip to the dedicated ISO button, to the joystick (sorry, Jimmy, it's a joystick) that allows for smoother and quicker movement across the screen... and the AF detection system is pretty darn good.

As always, we recommend trying gear before buying. If you're looking to upgrade from the MkII but don't have the budget for the big E-M1X like we are, then the E-M1 MkIII might just be your answer.

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