Where are you, E-M5 Mark III?


posted Sunday, February 17, 2019 at 6:41 AM EST


It was love at first sight. My parents gave me an Olympus 35mm Pen in high school, and I just couldn't believe that a roll of 35mm film could even fit in there. I carried that little guy with me everywhere I went. But it wasn't until I joined the ranks of Imaging Resource in 2012 that I met the newer digital generation of Pen cameras, and it only rekindled that original love affair with wonderfully compact Olympus products.

[Editor's update 3-4-19: Olympus has now made an official statement on the future and whereabouts of the E-M5 Mark III in our recent Olympus CP+ Executive Interview!]

But even that was nothing compared to how excited I got when I first met the OM-D line. Still small enough, but far more professional-grade than the Pen line (at least at that point prior to the Pen-F). "Oh, yeah..." was my response in meeting the original E-M5, which was the first OM-D body to roll off the assembly lines. "Now THIS is the future!"

And, it only got better with time. The E-M1 was a terrific camera, but the Mark II versions of both lines were vastly superior to the originals. In short, the OM-D line really "came of age" with the Mark II versions in the E-M1 II and E-M5 II. We gave very well-deserved awards and high marks to both cameras, and then patiently waited for the first of the Mark III's to arrive.

Shot by IR Senior Editor Mike Tomkins with the capable and popular E-M5 Mark II

And, um, we're still waiting. And we know from your comments in our discussion threads that many of you are too. We have all scratched our heads from the waiting and wondering about where in the heck that camera is! In terms of the E-M5 Mark II, which is the line that I can most afford personally, that wait surpasses 4 years as of this month.

And folks, let me tell you, four years is simply too long to wait in the digital realm for a mid-level camera to be replaced. By the three-year mark there needs to be a new announcement, or at least a development announcement, if the line is going to survive and thrive. As a good example of this look no further than the line itself, where the E-M5 Mark II came to us less than three years after the E-M5 made waves in the camera world in April of 2012.

It's not that we're not excited about the E-M1X, as it surely has some amazing features, and I greatly enjoyed my initial shooting experience with it. But let's face it: that camera is not marketed to me, which is to say a middle-class dad who is an enthusiast photographer. I just personally can't afford $3k for only a body, it's twice my budget, and I don't need a camera that size when chasing my kids around on the beach. It's just too big and too expensive to fit that need.

So when Olympus just yesterday announced the new 12-200mm lens with weather-sealing included (!) and one that's also super-small and lightweight, I got super-excited!

With one major caveat: The body that I'd want to purchase to be the natural partner to that cool new lens simply doesn't exist, not even in rumors. Olympus has now even teased the development of the 150-400mm "ultra-zoom" to be forthcoming in 2020, and that does indeed sound exciting, but it sure doesn't help those middle-class masses of enthusiast photographers like me wondering if our cherished line has simply disappeared into oblivion.

Four years now and counting.....  Where are you, E-M5 III?

And please understand that they don't make announcements when camera lines disappear! The E-PM line has long since vanished, but you won't see a press release. Same for the Panasonic GM line that we loved so much....  gone. And the same can be said for any manufacturer... camera lines come and go, but they only make a big deal out of what's new, not what's been passed on by. And that is certainly understandable from a marketing standpoint, but.....

The E-M5 line doesn't seem like it deserves to die!!

Perhaps you all remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? The E-M5 line for me is "just right." It's not too big, and not too small. It's not too expensive, but it's not built cheap either, and even has weather sealing (which the E-M10 line, which I also love, does not). It has in-body IS, and therefore lenses without IS (such as the new 12-200mm) are still fine to use. And at the general price point of the line historically, you can pick up a body and that new lens for somewhere in the $2k ballpark and be well-stocked and ready to rock.

But people don't generally want to invest more than $1k in a body that's more than four years old, even if it's "new" when purchased. It's just too long in digital terms. Perhaps it's OK if you're only spending $400 (you A6000 owners out there are nodding, as well as some folks who snagged those E-PL3's on a budget a few years ago) but when you're spending *real* dollars you just don't tend to want to go back in time four whole years. Or, at least, I don't.

Shot with the E-M5 II by IR Senior Writer Jeremy Gray

And so, this Olympus fan sits here confused and concerned. Is the new 12-200mm an appetizer to get folks like me primed for a Spring announcement of the E-M5 Mark III? Perhaps at the CP+ Tradeshow in Japan next month? Or is it just another piece in the confusing puzzle surrounding the mystery of the future of the line? Time will surely tell, but I for one am tired of waiting.

You remember in Apollo 13 when the "3-minute-blackout" during re-entry happened, and everyone waited for a sign that the 3 astronauts were still alive? We've now crossed the 4-year mark on the E-M5 II, and my hopes that the line is still alive are starting to fade fast.

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[Editor's update 3-4-19: Olympus has now made an official statement on the future and whereabouts of the E-M5 Mark III in our recent Olympus CP+ Executive Interview!]