Olympus E-M10 III Review
|Full model name:||Olympus OM-D E-M10 III|
(17.4mm x 13.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||200 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/16000 - 60 seconds|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
4.8 x 3.3 x 1.9 in.
(122 x 84 x 50 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Olympus E-M10 III specifications|
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Olympus E-M10 III Review -- Now Shooting!
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 08/31/2017
Early in 2014, Olympus took its retro-styled OM-D camera line to a new level of accessibility with the E-M10, a camera with affordable entry-level pricing, yet sharing much of its feature set with the higher-end E-M1 and E-M5. In late 2015, the company followed up with the E-M10 II, swapping in a more compact 'pancake' kit lens, improved handling and an impressively crisp new viewfinder. And now, some two years after that camera, the company continues its progression with the Olympus E-M10 Mark III, aiming to make the entry-level OM-D camera even more approachable for a generation of photographers who may have grown up shooting with nothing other than their smartphone.
Like the E-M10 II before it, the Olympus E-M10 III offers 16-megapixel resolution from a Four Thirds-format Live MOS image sensor, and can span the sensitivity gamut from a low of ISO 100-equivalent to a high of ISO 25,600-equivalent. Its top full-resolution burst capture rate of 8.6 frames per second, meanwhile, is only ever so fractionally higher than the 8.5 fps provided by its predecessor. And all of this comes in a body whose overall layout is much the same as that of the earlier camera, too.
The Olympus E-M10 III sports a brand-new imaging pipeline
So what's new? Well for one thing, while its resolution is unchanged, the imaging pipeline is brand-new. The OM-D E-M10 III sports both a new image sensor and TruePic VIII image processor. The latter is inherited from the flagship E-M1 II, just as the original E-M10 drew its processor from the original flagship E-M1, incidentally. And that means you're getting high-end performance at an entry-level pricetag. Nice!
And while the E-M10 III's control layout is unchanged, it sports a reworked body which is just fractionally (but not really noticeably) larger in every direction, as well as being just ever so slightly heavier than was its predecessor. At the same time, the front and rear hand grips have grown in depth for a more secure hand hold, and the top-deck Mode dial has grown a little taller, making it easier to grasp and turn. And many more of the Olympus E-M10 III's physical controls are now labeled with their Record-mode function, making it easier for the unfamiliar to find the right control and operate their new camera, and easing the transition from your smartphone to a more capable camera.
At the same time, the Mode dial itself has been rearranged, with the Intelligent Auto position of the previous model replaced with a more straightforwardly-named Auto mode, and the quirky Photo Story mode of the E-M10 II replaced by a new "AP" or Advanced Photo mode which aims to surface and provide quick access to some of the features less experienced photographers would otherwise miss in the menu system. And the Scene mode now proves rather less intimidating thanks to a rethought layout that layers the dozens of available scene types beneath one of six main category headings.
The E-M10 III's user interface revolves around a brand-new Shortcut button
There's also a new Shortcut button where the E-M10 II instead offered up its third customizable Function button. This new control varies in its function depending on the camera's operating mode, but in each case, it aims to provide quick access to the most important functions relevant in the current mode. This does, however, mean that the Olympus E-M10 III now provides only two customizable Function buttons, where its predecessor gave you a choice of three.
And there are some other important differences between the Olympus E-M10 III and its predecessor, as well. For one thing, Olympus tells us that it has redesigned its Auto-mode algorithms so that they will now better take account of subject and camera motion when determining the appropriate shutter speed, and will more readily roam to higher sensitivities as needed to yield a fast-enough shutter speed to freeze motion. And the contrast-detection autofocus system now has a more point-dense layout, with a total of 121 autofocus points as in the E-M1 II, up from "just" 81 points in the E-M10 II.
Olympus has also removed the manually-selected image stabilization modes of the E-M10 II, with the E-M10 III now able to select the relevant operating mode for its five-axis image stabilization system automatically as needed, depending on whether you're panning or simply doing your best to hold the camera steady. And battery life to CIPA testing standards has improved just slightly as well, with the Olympus E-M10 III now said to be capable of 330 frames on a charge, up from 320 frames in the previous model.
The Olympus E-M10 III shoots better movies, and offers more Art filters too
There are also two new Art filter options catering to creative types, both offering the look of bleach bypass film processing straight out of the camera body. And the Olympus E-M10 III boasts improved movie-capture chops as well, with the addition of in-camera 4K movie capture, not just the 4K time-lapse movie mode of the E-M10 II. There's also an increased capture frame rate of 120 fps for the 720p high-def, high-speed mode, where the E-M10 II recorded high-speed clips at 60 fps. This means that you'll be able to provide footage with double the slow-motion effect while not sacrificing on output frame rate and introducing stutter in the process.
Available from late September 2017 in the US market, the Olympus E-M10 Mark III will be available either body-only or with a 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ "pancake" kit lens, as was offered with the preceding model. A choice of all-black or black-and-silver body colors will be provided.
In both cases, pricing is exactly as it was for the E-M10 II at launch, with the body-only Olympus E-M10 III priced at US$650 or thereabouts, and the Olympus E-M10 III 14-42mm EZ kit priced at around US$800. (Canadian customers will pay CAD$800 body-only, or CAD$1,000 for the 14-42mm EZ kit.)
Olympus E-M10 III Field Test Part I
The entry-level OM-D camera gets 4K video capture and an ease-of-use overhaul
By Mike Tomkins | Posted: 08/31/2017
I've been reviewing cameras for close to two decades now, and in all of those years, I've gotten to shoot more than a few cameras prior to their official announcement. Sadly with the digital camera market being a very different one to what it once was, that's become something of an exception these days, though. So it would be something of an understatement to say that I was thrilled to be given that opportunity when Olympus first told us of its plans for the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, it's third-generation, entry-level OM-D camera.
We were big fans of the preceding Olympus E-M10 II when we reviewed it a couple of years ago, finding much to love within the trim confines of its Micro Four Thirds-format body. For such a relatively compact interchangeable-lens camera, the E-M10 II packed in plenty of features along with excellent image quality, great performance and a price tag which felt very reasonable indeed. Our main concerns with that model were for its rather modest battery life, and a menu system which we described as "frustrating ... with a steep learning curve."
And it was the user interface which we understood was one of the main areas which Olympus intended to address with the OM-D E-M10 III, which boded well for this new model. Suffice it to say that I tore into the packaging like a kid at Christmas when Olympus' latest OM-D camera landed on my doorstep recently. Along with the camera body itself and the bundled M.Zuiko ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ kit lens, I chose several other Micro Four Thirds lenses for my review, and the first thing I did was try them all out on the Olympus E-M10 III body to see how they handled.
The Olympus E-M10 III's kit lens pairs beautifully with its compact body
The 14-42mm "pancake"-style kit lens makes for a great walkaround pairing for street photography, yielding 35mm-equivalent focal lengths from 28 to 84mm. As I assembled my initial gallery for this first field test, I did the majority of my shooting around the tourist towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with this lens, which has a powered retraction / zoom function.
When retracted, it's very compact indeed, and while it does add a little to your startup time, it only takes around a second or less to extend as you power the camera on. Retracting takes a little bit longer, but that's not a concern as you're no longer using the camera. (And as an ILC, you're not really waiting to slip it in a pocket either.)
I was a little disappointed that the zoom speed -- which can be controlled in three steps -- has to be set through the menu, though. I'd have preferred it to be controlled by how far you turn the zoom ring, which truth be told is more of a zoom rocker, really, as it only moves a little bit in either direction. Doubly so for videos, for which you configure a separate zoom speed than for still images, as the default zoom speed is already too fast and jarring for my tastes, yielding only one really usable zoom speed.
But you can't really argue with its tiny dimensions when retracted, nor its very light weight, and I felt image quality was more than acceptable for the entry-level shooters Olympus is courting with this camera.
The M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8, which has a 50mm-equivalent focal length on the E-M10 III, is about twice as deep as the retracted 14-42mm EZ and just a little heavier. But it's actually a little shorter than the 14-42mm EZ once that lens is retracted, and again, pairs very nicely indeed with the E-M10 III body. It also offers a nice, bright f/1.8 maximum aperture, something I'm planning on taking advantage of in my second field test when shooting in low light. I've not really shot much with it thus far, though, with its focal length already covered by the 14-42mm EZ, and having shot predominantly in full sunshine thus far.
When retracted at its 40mm position, the M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 R, meanwhile, is almost twice as deep as the 25mm f/1.8, but it's surprisingly light nevertheless. By the time you zoom all the way in to the 150mm position, it more than doubles in length without noticeably shifting the center of gravity forwards much at all. It offers 35mm-equivalent focal lengths from 80-300mm, and along with the kit lens, gives you coverage of everything from 28 to 300mm without any gaps. That makes it an excellent choice as a second lens, and image quality is surprisingly good, even though the lens itself feels a bit plasticky, and the mechanical zoom has a fair amount of friction in its operation, which can make it tricky to make small and very precise zoom adjustments.
Finally, I selected the M.Zuiko ED 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 II for a 35mm-equivalent range of 150-600mm. This lens is a good bit heavier than others, and the center of gravity does shift forward significantly as you zoom in towards the telephoto end of the range. A two-handed grip is a must, and when walking around between photo opportunities, I preferred to switch to one of the other lenses as with the Olympus E-M10 III's relatively modest handgrips, the weight of the lens quickly became tiring to carry by my side. And the same was true while adjusting the zoom, when I had to take up most of the weight on my right hand, freeing up my left to turn the zoom ring. (Which again, has a fair bit of friction in operation, although not as much so as the 40-150mm.)
Unfortunately, this lens is decidedly dim at the telephoto end of the range where you could most use some more light for a quick exposure, so I don't expect to be using it much if at all in my second field test. But while there's some chromatic aberration towards telephoto and the corners get rather soft, I think for the typical Olympus E-M10 III shooter the image quality will prove more than sufficient. And the bokeh -- that is, the character of the blurred, out-of-focus areas of the image -- was fairly pleasant, if perhaps just a bit busy compared to that of a higher-end lens.
The Olympus E-M10 III pairs superb build quality with a pretty comfortable design
But what of the Olympus E-M10 III body itself? Well, the build quality is excellent, especially for a camera at this price point. There isn't a hint of panel flex or creak anywhere other than where you'd expect it on compartment doors and the articulated LCD panel. And while it's far from heavy, there's enough heft to counteract the weight of even larger lenses like the aforementioned 75-300mm, and to help you hold the camera reasonably steadily while shooting through the viewfinder or at arm's length.
Note: This image was shot through a glass window which may affect image quality.
Comfort-wise, I still feel the newly-expanded handgrip is rather on the shallow side, but then at 6'1" tall, I have larger hands than most. And it was only really when carrying the camera around with the 75-300mm lens mounted that this started to bother me, causing some uncomfortable hand cramps that took a few minutes to work back out again. With the other lenses mounted, I had no such problems, and I quickly learned that the solution was simply only to mount the 75-300mm lens when I was actually ready to shoot with it, then take it straight back off the camera in favor of a different optic afterwards.
There are no two ways about it, though: This is one very busy camera body, and I can't help but think the sheer number of external controls protruding from the Olympus E-M10 III's top deck, and clustered to the right of the LCD on the rear panel, are going to prove intimidating and offputting to the entry-level shooters Olympus is courting with this camera. I'd like to see Olympus increase the depth of the front and rear grips just a little more, and then integrate the front and rear dials into the grips, rather than placing them on top of the camera. This would reduce the visual clutter quite significantly.
It would also negate the need for the taller-than-ever Mode dial, this being the second generation in a row that it has grown in height. But with that said, I felt the increase has certainly done its job, as I had no problems at all grasping and spinning the Mode dial when needed, and never once found it turned accidentally either. In fact, the only dial I ever bumped was the front dial, accidentally dialing in a stop of positive exposure compensation early on in my shoot, and realizing my mistake after just a handful of shots. I'm not sure how I managed it, as all of the dials have a reasonably strong click detent, and put it down to unfamiliarity with the body as it hasn't happened again since.
And all of the other controls were pleasant to use, too, if perhaps a bit on the cramped side, especially the little four-way controller with its central OK button. They were all easy to locate by touch, and had good button feel, with an obvious (but not overly obtrusive) click sound and feeling when pressed. Really, the only brief confusion I had with the physical controls was in figuring out how to raise the popup flash, which rather unusually is done by rotating the Power switch past its On position. That same technique was used in the E-M10 II, though, and you get used to it quickly enough.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the Olympus E-M10 III's user interface, where I stumbled badly initially. One of the first things I do when shooting with a review camera is to enable raw+JPEG capture and bracketed shooting, usually with a 2/3EV step size. That's typically enough to help out with an unfamiliar metering system, saving the day if any shots are under or over-exposed a little because I'm not used to an individual camera's behavior yet.
Note: This image was shot through a glass window which may affect image quality.
But when the time came to do so with the E-M10 Mark III, I simply could not for the life of me find where on earth Olympus had hidden the exposure bracketing function. And I wasn't helped here by the fact that -- as is often the case with review cameras, which tend to be among the first off the production line and rushed into our eager, waiting hands -- there was no user manual or CD in the product package. (Fear not, though, our review camera itself is a final production model running production-grade version 1.0 firmware.)
I hunted and hunted through the menus. I even went so far as to go back to our E-M10 II review to confirm where the function had been located in its menus. (Which was to say, right where I was expecting it to be.) Eventually, I stumbled on the answer almost by mistake: Exposure bracketing is now accessible only through the new AP or "Advanced Photo" position on the Mode dial, and cannot be enabled in other exposure modes.
That, to my mind, is a terrible decision, and one Olympus should rethink stat. The reason being quite simple: You can now no longer combine a bracketed exposure with Aperture- or Shutter-priority capture, something I quite often find myself wanting to do. Instead, you're forced to rely on Program autoexposure, and can simply coax the aperture or shutter speed in your desired direction using the E-M10 III's Program Shift function. That, to my mind, is simply not good enough for a camera which, in other respects, offers a fair few enthusiast-friendly features.
And it's exacerbated by the fact that you also can't dial the bracketing step size in with 1/3-stop increments as is typically the case, but rather only in whole-stop increments. That's simply too coarse-grained an adjustment, and in the real world my experience as a result was that when the default exposure was under or overexposed, so too was the nearest bracketed shot on offer, just in the other direction.
The Olympus E-M10 III's Advanced Photo mode is a nice idea, but it shouldn't be the only option
I get what Olympus is trying to do with the Advanced Photo mode, and I'd happily laud the idea if it wasn't the only way to access a critical feature like this. But it shouldn't be the only way to do so -- the option should still remain available through the menu system in other exposure modes where appropriate, so more experienced shooters can make the decision for themselves.
I'm hoping against hope that this is something Olympus can address with a firmware update, as the function itself already exists, it's just been somewhat hidden from the view of more experienced shooters who will simply ignore anything on the Mode dial which doesn't say P, A, S, M, or Movie. I can't imagine it would require that much code to add back in a menu item which can call the function from other exposure modes.
But enough of that quibble, how did I find the experience of shooting with the Olympus E-M10 Mark III in the real world? Well, I have to say, I rather enjoyed it. The repurposed Shortcut button does help to surface settings I'd use most often through the Super Control Panel in PASM modes, and relevant options such as Scene mode options, Advanced Photo mode options, the Live guide and more, depending on your current exposure mode. You quickly learn to rely on it to get where you need to be depending upon your shooting mode
The newly-categorized Scene mode layout, which nests up to six scene types apiece under six different main categories -- People, Nightscapes, Motion, Scenery, Indoors or Close-ups -- is a great improvement that helps you find what you're looking for more quickly, and doesn't overwhelm less experienced shooters as badly. And even if I don't like that it's the only way to bracket exposures, Advanced Photo mode will certainly help newbies to find and take advantage of some very useful tools like Olympus' clever Live Time / Live Composite mode, multiple exposures, high dynamic range photography, focus bracketing and more. These are tools that, if hidden in a menu somewhere, they'd probably never find and learn to make the most of, so kudos to Olympus for calling attention to them.
The rest of the main menu system is typical Olympus, which is to say that it's usable, but not terribly well-organized, and relies too much on rather opaque, meaningless icons and abbreviations. But that's long been the case with the company's cameras, and you do get used to it eventually. And things like the generous selection of dedicated controls, a couple of customizable function buttons, and the Shortcut button do help keep you away from those confusing menus in the first place.
The Olympus E-M10 Mark III's viewfinder and touch-screen LCD are both great!
The viewfinder is bright and clear, and very generously-sized, making for a pleasant shooting experience. And there's just enough of an eyecup to prevent me having to shield the finder with my other hand as I have to do with some cameras when the sunlight is coming from just the wrong angle. The eyecup also has just enough "give" to it for comfort, without being soft and squishy enough that I'd worry about it getting damaged. And thanks to the small proximity sensor to the right of the viewfinder eyepiece, it is quickly enabled as you bring the finder to your eye, and then disabled once you lower the camera once more, reenabling the main LCD monitor.
And the main display, too, is bright, clear and crisp. I've yet to have any issues with daylight visibility, even when shooting under direct sunlight. And the touch-screen overlay on the LCD is very precise and responsive indeed, accurately detecting where I touched with my finger to select a subject for focus, and quickly following allowing with my fingertip if I dragged my finger around the screen. You can also have a tap on the screen trip the shutter as it might on your smartphone, not just set the focus, if you desire. I tried it a few times to satisfy myself that the function worked, and then promptly disabled it using the small on-screen button which can also be used to disable the remainder of the touch screen entirely, preventing accidental focus point changes.
And the articulation mechanism, while not my preferred side-mounted, tilt/swivel type, felt exceptionally sturdy and solid, and was great for shooting from the hip, low to the ground or over my head. It leans out just far enough from the rear of the camera body when tilted upwards that the viewfinder eyepiece doesn't block your view, but only tilts downwards by around 45 degrees, although that was typically enough to see what I was doing. I still find side-mounted tilt/swivel displays to be even more versatile when framing shots from awkward angles, but I can certainly live with Olympus' tilt-only implementation.
Selfie fans take note, though: There's no way to see the display from in front of the camera, so you'll be reliant on remote shooting via Wi-Fi from your smartphone or tablet, or simply pointing and hoping to frame your self-portrait shots.
The E-M10 III offers good performance with the exception of continuous autofocus
Performance also struck me as good in most respects, although I was rather disappointed with continuous autofocus. Burst capture performance was certainly very swift: Olympus claims 8.6 frames per second, and our performance testing results from the lab bear this out. With a UHS-II card, buffer depths are good too, with the lab finding as many as 33 raw or 14 raw+JPEG frames were possible in a burst. In my real-world shooting, I only had access to a regular 94MB/sec UHS-I card, and saw rather lower buffer depths, so you'll want to get a UHS-II card for the best results.
In my real-world shooting, I found that the AF system could consistently achieve a focus lock swiftly and accurately in daylight using single AF mode. The same was also mostly true for the first frame in continuous AF mode, but after that point it was noticeably less capable.
I tested this out using my long-time favorite AF test subject, the go-kart track of Xtreme Racing Center in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I like shooting around this track for several reasons. For one thing, I can walk around most of the outer track's perimeter without needing to access private property. For another, there are several long straights which I can shoot down the length of, following the karts as they come directly towards the camera. And Xtreme Racing Center's karts are the fastest I've found in the area, so this does represent a fairly challenging subject. (I've previously estimated the karts to have a top speed of around 25 mph -- perhaps not their claimed 40mph, but still a pretty decent clip.)
But shooting the karts with the Olympus E-M10 III, I found that many of my bursts of shots failed to keep up with the action, lagging as much as a couple of kart lengths behind the driver on which I was trying to focus. Only perhaps a third of my attempts managed to keep the kart in focus for more than two or three frames from the start of the burst. That doesn't compare so well to DSLRs with phase-detection, nor with mirrorless rivals offering hybrid phase/contrast-detection, where at the same track, I'd have expected more like a 70-80%+ hit rate.
And it wasn't down to just the lens, either. I shot with both the 75-300 and 40-150mm lenses at similar focal lengths to those I've used with other cameras, but the E-M10 III struggled to keep up with the action regardless. Dialing back the burst capture rate from the full 8.6 frames-per-second rate to the lower-speed burst rate, which is now said to be around 4.8 fps, seemed to help, but even still, far too many shots were out of focus.
I'm planning to test out the autofocus performance again with a less challenging subject for my second field test, to see how the Olympus E-M10 III fares with more typical sports shooting, perhaps at a local skate park or something of that nature. Watch this space!
Shooting in the daytime, I have to say I really rather liked the Olympus E-M10 III's image quality. Of course, I'm still planning on testing out its low-light chops in my second field test, but for what I've seen thus far, things are certainly looking promising.
I did notice a tendency to overexposure at the go-kart track, but that seemed pretty specific to the subject, shooting small, dark colored karts on bright, light-colored concrete under full daylight. I didn't see the same issue with other subjects thus far and could easily have resolved it with some negative exposure compensation, so I don't think it's a major concern.
I did notice an occasional tendency to focus on the background behind the subject in a few scenes, which was a little more concerning, but again, it was a relatively infrequent issue. I'll endeavor to get to the bottom of it in my second field test. And I did have some occasional issues with the E-M10 III selecting a shutter speed which was too low to avoid blur from camera shake when shooting with the longer lenses, but again, this was in a relative minority of my shots and I got plenty of sharp ones too.
And otherwise, the E-M10 III's images were very pleasing indeed. Colors were pleasing and lifelike, without being overly saturated and punchy as is often the case with cameras aimed at consumers. And the white balance system did a great job, yielding accurate color almost all of the time, although again, I've yet to shoot much in low light and under street/indoor lighting, where white balance issues most frequently rear their head.
Oh, and the while in-camera Art filters aren't my cup of tea personally speaking, the new Bleach Bypass filters do pretty much as they say on the tin, so if you're into filtering your images in-camera, you'll likely appreciate them. :)
I'll be offering my thoughts on all of that in my second field test, where I'll be shooting in low light, both at high sensitivities and for long exposures. I'm also planning on trying out the Olympus E-M10 III's Wi-Fi features, as well as offering up some videos shot with the new entry-level OM-D camera both in the daytime and in low light. (Spoiler alert: If you want to see the daytime videos, you'll find they're already live on our YouTube channel. There are close to a dozen clips to choose from, showing 4K, Full HD and slow-motion footage from the E-M10 III in a variety of conditions.)
Got any particular features of the Olympus E-M10 Mark III that you'd like to see tested? If so, be sure to sound off in the comments below, and let me know! I'll do my best to answer your questions and add your requests into my next field test.
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