Olympus is billing the OM-D E-M1 III as a mini E-M1X, which makes sense. It has all the technology of the E-M1 II plus many of the features of the E-M1X. Unlike the E-M1X, however, the OM-D E-M1 III has a standard single-grip design to make it smaller and lighter.
Some of the new features in the E-M1 III come as a result of the uprated processing engine. Live ND mode, for example, uses similar technology to Live Composite mode, but it enables you to preview the impact of a long exposure. That demands a lot of processing power, but it’s a useful feature for landscape and creative photography. It also means that you don’t need to carry any ND filters with you as the exposure can be extended by up to 32x using the camera’s inbuilt system.
Unfortunately, Live ND mode is a stills-only feature and cannot (yet) be used when shooting video.
Olympus has given the OM-D E-M1 III’s sensor a new coating, which was introduced with the E-M1X. This reduces the likelihood of dust sticking, making the advanced SSWF (Super Sonic Wave Filter) technology, which vibrates the filter over the image sensor filter 30,000 times per second, even better at keeping the sensor clean.
Read our Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review
In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS)
Olympus’s image stabilisation (IS) is excellent and it’s been upgraded for the E-M1 Mark III to enable up to 7.5Ev of shutter speed compensation across 5 axis with a stabilised lens. Even without a stabilised lens it’s said to enable up to 7Ev compensation. This has been achieved by using the same gyro as is in the E-M1X.
It’s the sensor-shifting power of the in-body image stabilisation system (IBIS) that enables the OM-D E-M1 III’s High Res Shot mode. The good news here is that in addition to the 80Mp Tripod High Res Shot mode, there’s also a 50Mp HandHeld version.
An option in the menu allows you to select Handheld or Tripod mode. Then all you need to do is set the camera to High Res Shot via the drive settings. One press of the shutter release triggers the camera to shoot a series of images each with the sensor in a slightly different location. The images are then composited in-camera to create one larger picture (raw and/or Jpeg) with more detail.
Like the OM-D E-M1X and E-M1 Mark II, the E-M1 Mark III has a hybrid autofocus (AF) system with 121 cross-type phase detection points.
The focus points cover 75% of the vertical space of the sensor and 80% of the horizontal area.
These points can be selected individually or in groups of 5, 9, 25 or 121, with a group of 9 points being the best choice with moving subjects. In addition, there’s a Custom AF mode that allows you to change the shape of the AF area to suit your subject or it’s location/movement within the frame.
Face Priority / Eye Priority AF is also on hand to detect and focuses on faces and eyes in the scene automatically. Thanks to the new TruPic IX processing engine and improved AF algorithms, the E-M1 III is better at detecting small (distant) faces and eyes than its predecessor.
It’s also said to maintain focus more consistently than its predecessor when a face is harder to detect, such as when it’s side-on to the camera. In addition, the detection system can be turned on or off with a press of a button and a tap on the screen or a button press allows a specific face to be used as the focus point in still images or video.
Olympus has introduced a new algorithm to aid focusing on stars at night. The new Starry Sky AF option has two modes, Speed Priority mode (the default setting) and Accuracy Priority. The first prioritises the speed of focusing while the second is designed for use when photographing specific stars with a telephoto lens.
Oddly, Olympus hasn’t given the E-M1 III the Subject Detection modes that were introduced with the E-M1X. These proved useful when shooting specific subjects (Motorsports, Airplanes and Trains). It’s possible that this feature will be added with a firmware update, but I’ve also been holding out for people and wildlife to be added to the list of detectable subjects on the E-M1X and over a year later, we’re still waiting.
In Pro Capture High mode the OM-D E-M1 Mark III can shoot at up to 60fps (frames per second), however the focus and exposure are set at the beginning of the sequence. If you need to focus continually, the maximum shooting rate is 18fps.
Pro Capture mode makes the E-M1 III start shooting as soon as the shutter release is pressed halfway. It begins to write images to the memory card as soon as the button is pressed fully-home. The camera can be set to record up to 35 images before the shutter button is fully-pressed and up to 120 afterwards. Full-resolution raw and Jpeg images are recorded with no blackout.
It’s good to see that Focus Stacking and Focus Bracketing modes are available and, according to Olympus, they’re now quicker and more accurate. In a further bid to put tripod manufacturers out of business, it’s possible to shoot a focus-stacked image hand-held.
There’s some good news on the video front, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 III can shoot C4K video at 25/30p in OM-Log400 mode. OM-Log400 was introduced with the E-M1X and it sets the camera to record very low contrast footage to capture greater shadow and highlight detail. It gives more flexibility manipulate the contrast and colour post-capture.
Helpfully, there’s also a View Assist function that previews the footage in Full HD standard BT.709 equivalent to make it easier to assess what is being captured in OM-Log400 mode.
It’s also possible to record Full HD video at a range of frame rates, topping out at 120fps, which is great for slow motion playback.
In addition, there’s a video-specific stabilisation mode that uses electronic stabilisation combined with in-body 5-axis stabilisation.
Further good news is that the E-M1 Mark III includes a feature that was surprisingly absent from the Mark II, the ability for the sensitivity (ISO) to be set automatically when shooting video. There’s also a port to connect an HDMI monitor and a mic port for better audio quality.
As well as being able to charge the BLH-1 lithium-ion battery in-camera in around 2 hours, the E-M1 III’s USB port can be used to connect a power bank to power it during use. That’s very useful for astrophotography or anyone making extensive use of the Live Time and Live Composite modes to shoot long exposures.
It’s especially useful now that the maximum exposure time possible in Live Composite has been doubled to 6 hours.
Read our Olympus OM-D E-M1X review