Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III Hands-on: Making Impossible Shots Easy
“The Olympus E-M1 Mark III makes previously impossible shots easy to snap.”
Starry sky autofocus
Handheld high-res mode
EVF might be higher
Metering was a bit unpredictable
Same sensor, AF as Mark II
Some cameras are designed for pixel peepers, essentially the most discerning photographers that hoard megapixels and argue over the standard of bokeh. The $1,800 Olympus OMD E-M1 Mark III isn’t a kind of cameras.
This is the digicam for everybody else — photographers that care extra a few compact, adventure-ready system; photographers that need lenses which are lengthy in zoom however brief on dimension; and photographers on the lookout for a digicam that makes even essentially the most troublesome pictures enjoyable to shoot.
Olympus is sitting out the full-frame race, sticking the smaller Micro Four Thirds format it pioneered and specializing in usability with options no different model presents. For essentially the most half, it’s working.
This contains options like Starry AF, the flexibility to make use of autofocus on the celebs as an alternative of painstakingly utilizing guide focus to search out that just-right candy spot. That joins a 7.5-stop stabilization system and built-in impartial density (ND) filters that lets you depart the tripod and the filters at house (more often than not, in any case).
We spent 4 days testing the E-M1 Mark III’s limits within the seashores and jungles of Costa Rica. (We have been visitors of Olympus, however our opinions are our personal). And whereas the E-M1 Mark III isn’t making an attempt to compete with one of the best full-frame cameras from Sony, Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic, a couple of distinctive options permit it to simply maintain its personal.
Design and construct high quality
The E-M1 Mark III is designed to supply comparable options to the E-M1X, however in a smaller kind with out the built-in battery grip. With the 12-45mm f/4 PRO (additionally introduced on Feb. 12), it’s the smallest weather-sealed combo Olympus presents. I used to be in a position to tuck the digicam, 4 lenses, two teleconverters — sufficient for a 600mm-equivalent attain — and an iPad inside a backpack. I had sufficient room left over to place my tripod inside my backpack as an alternative of latching it on the skin, a distinction that allowed me to skip the bag examine and pack all the pieces for a four-day worldwide picture journey into carry-on baggage.
Despite the smaller dimension and weight — roughly 20.5 ounces — the grip is snug and there’s nonetheless fairly a little bit of actual property for bodily controls, together with twin management dials and an autofocus joystick. I like the programmable mode change, which I used to shortly transfer from single to steady autofocus whereas photographing wildlife.
On the much less constructive facet, the document button and publicity compensation are proper subsequent to one another on the highest of the digicam close to the shutter launch. With the similar dimension and form, I by accident began recording video a number of instances when what I wished was to regulate the publicity. These two controls would require a bit extra time with the digicam to comfortably use with out pulling the viewfinder away from my eye.
The E-M1 III makes use of a 3-inch, 1.037-million-dot touchscreen that tilts to the facet of the digicam, permitting you to rotate the display into selfie orientation with out being blocked by a tripod. Like the E-M1X, although, I wasn’t impressed with the digital viewfinder. The refresh charge was stable, however photos had much less distinction than the LCD display. With 2.36 million dots, there are a number of EVFs in the marketplace that supply higher image high quality. Live Composite, which exhibits a preview even for lengthy publicity photos, and the choice to make use of OVF mode, does assist make up for these gaps in image high quality, nonetheless.
The magnesium alloy physique is sealed towards mud and splashes and feels stable within the arms. The digicam survived my unintentional sturdiness check when the tide got here in just a little quicker than anticipated. Despite being extra of a partial submersion than a splash, each the digicam and the brand new 12-45mm package lens have been no worse for put on. A small quantity of seaside sand bought simply contained in the battery door, but when the digicam can survive getting smacked by an ocean wave, it ought to survive the marketed splash and mud and not using a hitch.
The E-M1 Mark III doesn’t have the twin batteries of the E-M1X, however battery life is stable for a mirrorless digicam. I didn’t must swap the battery till the tip of the day, roughly 800 pictures later. (My penchant for burst mode often permits me to get greater than the marketed battery life rating — the specs rank the digicam at 420 pictures, and 900 in fast sleep mode).
Features and efficiency
Shot utilizing Starry AF and a tripod, edited in Adobe LightroomShooting with the E-M1 Mark II is extremely liberating. While most mirrorless cameras are simple to journey with, usually, the E-M1 Mark II can depart each the tripod and the ND filters behind. With a 7-stop stabilization system (7.5 with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 PRO) and the built-in NDs, I shot a number of lengthy exposures of the ocean waves in the course of the day with nothing however the digicam physique and lens.
Olympus says most individuals can shoot six-second wide-angle exposures and not using a tripod, however with a gradual grip, it’s attainable to eke out much more.
But taking pictures an extended publicity handheld isn’t new for Olympus — taking a handheld picture of the celebs and not using a tripod or guide focus, alternatively, is. The digicam’s new Starry AF mode doesn’t use distinction detection, section detection, or perhaps a hybrid of the 2 programs. Instead, it makes use of luminance and appears for mild to concentrate on. The system makes use of two modes, velocity precedence for taking pictures handheld, and accuracy precedence when engaged on a tripod. The mode can also be arrange to make use of again button focusing as an alternative of focusing with a half-press of the shutter, making it simple to maintain the main focus locked as you reframe the shot.
Photographing stars is without doubt one of the more difficult sorts of images as a result of it usually requires a tripod and discovering the candy spot on the guide focus ring with a number of check pictures earlier than getting it good. The E-M1 III’s mixture of stabilization and Starry AF simplifies taking pictures the celebs, making it simpler for superior photographers and really attainable for newbies. I’d nonetheless favor a tripod for one of the best outcomes, however that one isn’t required could be very spectacular.
Starry AF — for being a brand new characteristic that’s exceptional even from different manufacturers — labored surprisingly properly. I may watch the digicam deliver the star out and in of concentrate on the LCD display . While not as fast because the digicam’s typical autofocus, it beats guide focus. And for the reason that system is predicated on luminance or mild, it additionally works with different sorts of mild sources surrounded by darkish, like evening cityscapes, for instance.
While the Starry AF is the star of the present, the E-M1 Mark III’s 121-point autofocus system, whereas not new, is respectable and performs properly. The focusing velocity isn’t record-breaking, nevertheless it saved up with all the pieces from surfers to birds in flight. Low mild autofocus can also be respectable with sensitivity right down to -3.5 EV.
Starry AF — for being a brand new characteristic that’s exceptional even from different manufacturers — labored surprisingly properly.
Part of that autofocus efficiency is as a result of new TruPix IX processor. The improve, Olympus says, was essential to maintain the efficiency specs virtually even with the E-M1X, which homes two processors.
The processor can also be accountable for a 10-fps burst velocity and an 18-fps burst velocity with the digital shutter in silent mode. If you don’t want steady autofocus, you’ll be able to bump that velocity up to 15 fps and even 60 fps in silent mode. The buffer was lots to comply with a surfer and a chicken in flight — it caps out round 76 RAW pictures when taking pictures at 18 fps.
The processor additionally allows the hand held excessive res mode, which makes use of the picture stabilization system and the tiny actions of your arms to sew collectively 16 photographs right into a 50-megapixel file. The mode is just good with the stillest topics, however presents the choice of getting extra decision when the 20.4 megapixels from the sensor isn’t sufficient.
Image high quality
The E-M1 Mark III homes the identical megapixel rely because the Mark II — however with its smaller Four-Thirds sensor, in some unspecified time in the future, growing the decision brings diminishing returns. There’s no technique to get round the truth that this sensor, now a few years previous, has limitations in comparison with bigger, extra fashionable sensors, however the E-M1 Mark II remains to be ok for many photographers.
One of the largest perks of the Micro Four Thirds system is that the 2X crop issue makes getting an extended focal size simpler. 600mm of equal attain, a back-breaking focal size on full body, will be simply carried with you.
The glorious picture stabilization is an enormous assist with these lengthy lenses. The stabilization helped maintain particulars sharp whereas working with an excessive telephoto, even at comparatively gradual shutter speeds.
A brand new element precedence mode processes excessive ISO photos twice, slowing the digicam however growing the extent of element, which was surprisingly good for a 20-megapixel digicam. Shots at ISO 6,400 lose a number of the finer particulars.
The digicam’s metering system felt much less predictable than most, even in spot metering mode, and I used to be often on the publicity compensation dial to get the shot proper in aperture precedence and shutter precedence mode.
When you want the additional decision, excessive res handheld mode is usually a large assist. The above picture was shot on this mode, and even cropped in publish.
Video follows an identical sample, with good coloration and glorious stabilization. Recording regular wide-angle pictures and not using a tripod was easy, with solely minor motion within the video. Detail is superb, due to the cinema 4K decision at 24 fps.
Price and availability
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III is $1,800 and can launch on February 24. The digicam is presently obtainable as a pre-order.
Small digicam, large efficiency
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III is a small digicam, certain, nevertheless it’s additionally a digicam that may carry out in a method that different cameras can’t. Features like Starry AF and handheld excessive res mode are distinctive benefits.
But it’s not excellent. The viewfinder decision is a few generations outdated, the metering system feels a bit inconsistent, and lots of different primary programs, just like the 121-point autofocus and 20MP Four Thirds sensor, are carried over from the Mark II.
Ultimately, it comes right down to who this digicam is for. The picture stabilization and built-in NDs are the lengthy publicity fan’s pot of gold. The digicam’s velocity and easy accessibility to telephoto attain are additionally splendid for sports activities and wildlife. The mixture of options with the digicam’s small dimension — and the liberty it grants to go away the tripod at house — can also be splendid for journey.
The smaller sensor is much less splendid for genres like portraits, weddings, and vogue, the place you’ll be able to spend an identical amount of money on a full-frame physique, and the place the E-M1 III’s superior options merely received’t come into play.