Amid the excitement of so many new and interesting camera models, one company was left out of the discussion: Olympus. Unlike its main competitor Panasonic, it stuck to the Micro Four Thirds sensor and didn’t jump on the full-screen wagon. And while the larger, more professional E-M1X camera was a hit, it wasn’t a big improvement over the 2016 E-M1 Mark II model.
Now Olympus finally has a real successor. Like the E-M1X, the E-M1 Mark III promises even more speed and first-class stabilization in the body, all this time in a much smaller and more robust body.
It’s disappointing, however, that it has the same 20.4-megapixel sensor as before and lags behind its competitors from Sony, Panasonic, and Fujifilm in certain features on a $ 1,800 camera. Moreover, Olympus has been struggling financially lately. I am in Costa Rica on the E-M1 Mark III and I will see if Olympus does enough to survive.
Olympus’ latest flagship camera, the O-MD E-M1 Mark III, is not exactly exciting. It is slightly faster than the previous model and has improved and more versatile autofocus. It also has a world-class 5-axis image stabilization system that enhances hand photography. However, the autofocus system cannot compete with competitors, especially Sony, and is not suitable for taking pictures in poor lighting conditions. In terms of videos, there are no comparable competitors such as the Panasonic GH5. While it’s great for animal and action photography, better cameras out there for everyone else.
The best feature of this camera is the five-axis stabilization system in the body. It now offers seven levels of camera shake reduction or 7.5 with an IS lens – more than any other camera on the market. This offers some nice benefits for photography and video, as you will see later.
It is remarkable that Olympus has built this stabilizer into a very small camera. Rather than sacrificing weight and ergonomics, the E-M1 Mark III offers both. Not only is it easy to handle, but also very delicate and light, weighing only 504 grams. That is about half the weight of the slightly more expensive fullscreen S1 from Panasonic.
This small size is made possible by the Micro Four Thirds sensor, which takes up less space in the body. However, a smaller sensor also means that it is theoretically not as good in low light as APS-C or full-frame cameras.
Still, Olympus sees the sensor as a great advantage for nature or action photographers. With an equivalent of 600mm f / 4 full-frame lens, the E-M1 Mark III weighs 1,900 grams – less than half of a full-frame DSLR with the same lens. This is important, especially if you drive into the jungle with 95 degrees like I am in Costa Rica.
At the same time, the deep, well-shaped handle ensures that it lies comfortably and reassuringly in the hand. In addition, it has a classically beautiful housing that is extremely robust and, according to Olympus, offers “dust, splash and frost resistant performance”. While I have not been exposed to rain or frost in Costa Rica, I can confirm that it has not been overheated or fogged by the humidity.