Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III Review

The much awaited and long overdue Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is finally launched today, and thanks to Olympus Malaysia I have had a loaner to shoot with for the past almost 2 weeks. The E-M5 Mark III is a huge upgrade from the previous E-M5 Mark II, with overall performance and feature set matching the flagship camera E-M1 Mark II. The E-M5 Mark III has similar 20MP image sensor, Truepic VIII engine, 5-Axis IS capability, AF performance and video shooting features from the E-M1 mark II. In this article, I am exploring what the E-M5 Mark III can do when it comes to various shooting environment. 

Here is a video review I have done for Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III on YouTube! Yay, Robin Wong finally reviews cameras on YouTube!

Before diving too deep, here are some important disclaimers. I am an Olympus Visionary, an ambassador to Olympus brand. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III was a loaner from Olympus Malaysia and will be returned shortly after this review. Olympus Malaysia did not ask me to do a review, so this review blog article and the video review on YouTube were made because I genuinely wanted to. This is not a technical review, there will be no graphs, charts or comparisons.  This is a user experience based review, I will be sharing lots of sample images shot with the Olympus E-M5 Mark III during the course of my testing period, and from the images I shall be drawing my conclusions on how the camera performed. For this article (and this video) I will only be discussing the stills shooting capability of the E-M5 Mark III. I have a separate article and video to explore the video/movie recording of E-M5 Mark III, which will be published several days from now. All images in this blog entry were shot in RAW, and minor post-processing (exposure compensation, contrast tweak, small white balance adjustments) were performed via Olympus Workspace.

With that out of the way, let's have some fun with the E-M5 Mark III!

Here is a quick rundown of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III's specification highlights:

1) Small & Light build
The body is light, weighs at about 414g with battery and SD card, and 366g only without battery. To keep the build light, Olympus discarded the magnesium alloy construction and the E-M5 Mark III was made entirely of plastic.

2) Weather-Sealing, and Improved SSWF Dust Reduction. 
As with all other E-M5 iterations, there is full weather sealing against splash, dust and freezing (down to minus 10 degrees Celsius). The Supersonic Wave Filter (SSWF) Dust Reduction on the image sensor is not using the same one found on E-M1X, vibrating at 30,000 times a second, repelling dust much more effectively.

3) 20MP Image Sensor and Truepic VIII Processor from E-M1 Mark II/E-M1X
Similar image sensor and processing engine used in flagship E-M1 Mark II/E-M1X, hence the E-M5 Mark III is expected to deliver similar image quality in terms of resolution, dynamic range and high ISO performance.

4) 5-Axis Image Stabilization with 5.5 Stops Effectiveness
The rating of the built in 5-Axis IS is also similar to the E-M1 Mark II

5) Similar AF algorithm and capabilities with E-M1 Mark II
The camera features similar AF performance for S-AF, C-AF as well as movie AF as found in E-M1 Mark II.

6) Electronic Viewfinder at 2.36 Million Dot and 1.37X magnification
The EVF is smaller than what was found in E-M1 Mark II (1.48X), but it has very low latency of rated 10ms only, with high refresh rate of 120fps. The EVF panel is OLED.

7) Maximum sequential burst shooting - Mechanical H 10FPS, Silent H 30FPS

8) BLS-50 Battery
The previous E-M5 series cameras used BLN-1 battery,  however Olympus decided to go with the smaller capacity BLS-50, probably to shave off more size and weight to keep it truly compact.

9) WiFi and Bluetooth connection, with USB-Charging
USB-Charging yes, but sadly, no USB-C! It is 2019, and Olympus included Micro USB in the E-M5 Mark III. Why?????

For full specification, kindly visit the official product page here (click). 

Olympus OM-D E-M5 The Gamechanger - 10 Things Olympus Got Right

In modern times, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 not only became the turning point for Olympus but also shaped the course of what a mirrorless camera should be and was capable of. It was a camera no one saw coming, as deeply involved as I was with Olympus, even I was pleasantly surprised with what the E-M5 can do. E-M5 effectively set many new benchmarks for what the mirrorless system is, and the many new features and improvements found in the camera was subsequently incorporated into many other newer camera models from Olympus as well as other manufacturers. It was indeed an exciting time and I was glad I was involved with the initial review of Olympus OM-D E-M5 when it was launched. In this new video I am making, it is a little throwback to that 2012 released E-M5, and let's dive deep into what made that camera such a winner!

Here are the 10 things Olympus got right with their Olympus OM-D E-M5

At that time, mirrorless cameras were seen as mere toys, or nothing serious for photography use. Build quality were mostly plasticky and the cameras were small, unprofessional looking. However, the E-M5 was announced as the first mirrorless camera to be weather sealed. The splashproof and dustproof design sent a very loud and important message - this camera meant business, and was not just a toy. The weather-sealing allow the E-M5 to push shooting envelopes and be used in harsh operating environment. This was a bold but necessary move to change the public perception of what a mirrorless camera can do, and how it is the future, overtaking DSLR.

All mirrorless cameras (not just Olympus) before E-M5 had sluggish, almost unreliable Autofocus. (with the exception of E-P3, which the E-M5 uses the same AF system). The contrast detect AF was accurate but too slow to acquire focus. Phase detect AF in DSLR system was already mature and the performance difference was obvious. Therefore, many professionals and serious hobbyists were reluctant to pick up a mirrorless camera due to the poor AF performance. Somehow, E-M5 managed to improve the AF based on contrast detect (at least for S-AF) to a point that it was matching the AF speed of even the fastest DSLR at that time. Then there was the touch shutter, shooting an image immediately by a tap on the LCD screen. I even shot weddings with E-M5 and the camera delivered, as expected.

The new image sensor was a surprise. Not only having more resolution, which was necessary to catch up to competition, but everything else in the image quality department got a nice upgrade. Dynamic range was noticeably better and high ISO performance was improved drastically. The image quality came very close to even what the best APS-C DSLR at that time had to offer, and that is saying something coming from a Micro Four Thirds sensor. The ability to bridge the gap when it comes to final image output was a huge determining factor for a lot of photographers. The only way to have a huge margin of image quality difference is to go full frame, but that is a story for another day.

Another reason that held a lot of DSLR users back from getting a mirrorless camera, was the absence of a viewfinder and having to use the camera back screen to compose (Kirk Tuck cutely named this "Stinky Diaper Technique"). Olympus added an EVF into the E-M5, with very little lag and the refresh rate was high enough to look very smooth, even if you jerk and pan the camera around viewing through the EVF. The colors were accurate and pleasing to look at (certainly much better than the OLED camera back screen, which was my biggest complain of E-M5). Having that EVF makes a world of difference, and it sets the path for future high end mirrorless camera models. In fact, the subsequent release from Olympus, PEN E-P5 which did not have an EVF built in was not well received by critics.

Olympus single-handedly changed the public opinion on whether image stabilization is necessary in a camera or not. There was a popular opinion that image stabilization is optional because it did not directly affect the outcome of the images, and also the effectiveness of older image stabilizers was questionable. Olympus broke those beliefs by introducing their 5-Axis IS, something that sounded so alien and cool at the same time. I was the first to doubt the effectiveness of the new image stabilization system when I was briefed privately by Olympus. You have to understand, I was an engineer, you can claim whatever you want on paper but I will only believe it when I can prove it myself. And that actually happened, when I was testing the E-M5, the benefits of the 5-Axis IS, though in the first iteration, was undeniable, and I knew immediately this was the future of imaging products. 5-Axis IS has become a standard for high end cameras, just take a look at all other cameras out there from Sony, Fuji, Panasonic, Nikon, their highest end flagship cameras, don't they all have 5-Axis IS? It began in Olympus E-M5!

To ensure that the battery can sustain the drain of all the new technology and features added to the E-M5 (eg 5-Axis IS, EVF, fast AF, etc) Olympus used a new battery, BLM-5 in the E-M5. The upgrade was much needed, and I could confidently get 500-600 shots per single charge. Unlike some other mirrorless cameras from other brands that dies after less than 200 shots per charge. (we are talking about 2012-2013 period of course).

Olympus released battery grip to support the E-M5, and this design was the first in the world to make it two parter. There was the horizontal part only, to add beefier grip to the hand-holding area without the need of additional battery or bulk, keeping the camera as small as possible but with additional stability when holding the camera. Then there was a second part of the grip that added weight, bulk and another extra battery for longer shooting. The second part of the grip design is more DSLR battery grip conventional.

Olympus released M.Zuiko 12-50mm kit lens ahead of E-M5, which was weather sealed and has very capable macro shooting. There were no other weather sealed lens at that time, and having a weather sealed kit lens to go with a weather sealed body was crucial. I personally loved the 12-50mm lens, though I do admit the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO that came with E-M1 after that was a superior lens.

If I remember correctly, the E-M5 was also the first mirrorless camera to feature a robust magnesium alloy body construction. The metal construction inspired confidence, and separated Olympus from the crowd. Only the highest end of DSLR cameras use magnesium alloy build, and having the same material construction placed the E-M5 at a different spot, bumping general perception of the camera that it was not a non-serious camera. 

All the above, the EVF, 5-Axis IS, new image sensor, fast AF, all packed into a small and light form factor of E-M5, this successfully demonstrated how a mirrorless camera should be. Small in footprint, yet capable to deliver professional quality results, and matching DSLR in terms of shooting performance. It paved a way for Olympus Micro Four Thirds system (many more cameras and lenses) to come. The small and light advantage was a big thing for Olympus, allowing the photographers to pick up the camera and shoot without worrying about neck strains or back pain!

I acknowledge the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was not a perfect camera, in my original review I did have my fair share of complains, but most of these shortcomings were fixed in the subsequent E-M1. Also Olympus never claimed the E-M5 to be a professional grade camera, it never was designed that way. Which hinted to the coming E-M1, but that camera deserves a spot on it's own.

I am sure many of you have owned an E-M5, or are still shooting with one. Is yours still alive? What are your experiences shooting with the E-M5? Share your story!

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MORE Hidden Olympus OM-D Tips

Since my previous videos on Olympus OM-D camera tips were proven popular, here is a new video showing some very rarely used and mentioned features that you may not even have known or heard of. A lot of these tips are not critical to shooting process and there are no serious consequences for not knowing them, but some of them are cool and can be handy in certain situations. Also, I made this video a while back, before I had a recent haircut, so hopefully that non-continuity in video was not too jarring for some. 

The Hidden Tips Mentioned in video are:
1) AF Target Area with Spot Metering - ability to spot meter at the exact location of the AF point placement on the framing
2) Audio Clip Recording with Image
3) Pixel Mapping in Camera - to fix dead pixel on image sensor
4) AF Limiter (for E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X only)
5) In Camera RAW Processing and development with extensive adjustments

I sure hope you have found something new in the video. If you have more tricks up your sleeve, please don't be selfish, share with everyone!

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Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture Simplified

I made a short introductory video with simplified explanation of photography fundamentals - the exposure trinity of Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO. In the video, I explained what they were, how they worked, what photography effects they individually produce and how to control them using Olympus OM-D cameras. This is a quick, dumbed down version of photography basics for beginners, designed for newcomers to Olympus system and this is not a complete beginner's guide or how to use a camera. I made it as straight to the point as possible, cutting out all unnecessary bloat, with the aim of getting you to go out to shoot as soon as possible, because photography happens when you click the shutter button. 

Why am I doing this video?

For newcomers to photography, there are many simple and basic questions, such as how do I blur the background, how do I get motion blur, or how do make sure the moving subject is perfectly sharp? There questions are common, and can be easily controlled if the photography spent some time studying the very basics of how the camera operates, There is no shortcut to photography, if you want to take photography seriously, then you must master the fundamentals - shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Knowing how these settings work, and what they can do, you probably can do almost everything with your camera! 

I acknowledge that the video may be oversimplifying some topics, but it was never meant to be a comprehensive step by step tutorial. There are thousands of such videos out there, with articles and you can also by reference books if you want to explore anything further and in depth. The purpose of this video was to get you off your feet and start taking some pictures. Learn as you go, and you must allow yourself to make some mistakes along the way. You learn faster as you shoot more and more. I am a practical person, you can only learn something fully by actually doing it yourself. The problem with a lot of photographers (especially newcomers) these days? They talk too much and don't shoot enough. 

To freeze fast action, use fast shutter speed

To capture motion blur, slow down the shutter speed

To blur off the background, use large aperture (small F-number)

Shooting in very dark environment, ISO needs to be raised. 

Use large aperture for blur background "bokeh" efefct

Sports shooting require very fast shutter speed

This moment would have been lost if shutter speed was too slow. Prioritize shutter speed in fast action shoots

For light trails, you need very slow shutter speeds, such as this shot, taken at 4 seconds long. 

If you have a friend starting out photography, share this video, hopefully they will take Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO seriously! Because, they cannot advance too much further without properly understanding and mastering all these basics first. Tell them what I said - there is no shortcut in photography! Learn your basics. 

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Olympus 5-Axis Image Stabilization Explained

Olympus rocked the camera world with the original E-M5 in 2012, setting up a benchmark of how a mirrorless camera should be made, and breaking expectations of mirrorless and Micro Four Thirds system performance. An important feature introduced in E-M5 was 5-Axis Image Stabilization. Olympus shouted to the world how incredible their 5-Axis IS can be but not much explanation is made and not many people discuss or explain what it is, how it works, and why it is so important in practical shooting scenarios. So I made a video to cover all those points! 

This is one perfect example that video actually works better to demonstrate how a feature works, in comparison to a written article. There are no easy ways to explain in a simplified manner how all the different 5-Axis movements are. I shall not repeat those points here, and I did my best to make the video as short as possible for easy consumption. 

I do want to say that, having experienced the 5-Axis IS for so many years now, using it for both commercial shoots and personal projects, it is one critical feature in a camera that I cannot live without. If I were to migrate to another system (hey, anything is possible) a feature sitting high in the consideration list would be reliable image stabilization. The 5-Axis IS is not just a gimmick, as some would lead others to believe, it is an actual shooting feature that makes a world of difference in a plethora of environment. 

You may think that it is not a crucial thing to have in a camera at first (because some people keep shouting Megapixels and High ISO an Dynamic Range all over again) but what is the point of having that many Megapixels if you can't fully optimize each and every one of them?

Let me know what you think! 

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