New Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III finally catches up to 3-year-old E-M1 Mark II

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III camera front, on table.
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Olympus announced the OM-D E-M5 Mark III on Thursday, October 17, ending a nearly four-year drought for the popular enthusiast camera line. The E-M5 series has been a go-to camera for adventure and travel photographers thanks to its compact size and great performance, and the new Mark III further hones in on these aspects. It is smaller, lighter, and faster than previous versions and gains the 20-megapixel sensor and faster processor of the more professional E-M1 Mark II.

Along with the new sensor comes the 121-point, phase-detection autofocus system of the E-M1. It’s a big step over the E-M5 Mark II, particularly for shooting moving subjects. Stabilization has also been improved to 5.5 stops, or up to 6.5 with select lenses that support Sync IS. This isn’t as good as the flagship OM-D E-M1X, but Olympus had to design an entirely new sensor-shift system for the E-M5 Mark III that could fit within its smaller body.

However, not everything has been improved. Where the E-M5 Mark II was a masterclass in premium camera design, the Mark III shies away from its upmarket heritage by introducing more plastic into the body, offering the smaller battery from the E-M10 series, and removing the option for a vertical battery grip. While a battery grip wasn’t popular on a camera sold for its small size, and Olympus claims both battery life and weather sealing are the same as the Mark II, these changes may still rub some E-M5 fans the wrong way.

The technical improvements are also a bit underwhelming for people who have waited this long for an upgrade. While they offer a decent jump in performance, particularly autofocus, over the Mark II, they merely catch the E-M5 up to the E-M1 — a camera that is itself 3 years old. Where the E-M5 was once known for introducing new tech — the 16MP sensor and 5-axis stabilization in the original, High Resolution Shot mode in the Mark II — the Mark III doesn’t give us anything we haven’t already seen from Olympus.

Of course, that doesn’t make it a bad camera. Digital Trends spent a week with the E-M5 Mark III in Moab, Utah earlier in October and were pleased with its performance. It may not feel quite like an E-M5 of old, but it’s still a fun (and attractive) little camera that can shoot circles around many larger DSLRs. We’ll have more details and impressions in our full review, which is currently in the works.

Available in late November, the E-M5 Mark III will sell for $1,199 body only, or $1,800 with the M.Zuiko 14-150mm f/4-5.6 kit lens.

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