OLYMPUS OM-D E-M10 MARK III
It’s still one of the prettiest mirrorless cameras on the market, and Olympus has made its entry-level OM-D model even more competitive via a new and more powerful processor, 4K video, wider area autofocusing, revised menus and more.
Olympus’s entry-level OM-D model gets a makeover and new features – including 4K video recording – and it’s still the prettiest Micro Four Thirds camera on the market.
If you’re of a vintage old enough to remember the original Olympus OM System, you’ll recall that a big appeal of singledigit models (i.e. OM-1 to OM-4) was the sheer attractiveness of the way these cameras looked. A lot of it was down to the smallness of size – especially initially when every other 35mm SLR looked huge in comparison – but it was also all about the design. Not only were the proportions just right in terms of creating a visual balance, but the clean, crisp lines were beautifully elegant… less was definitely more.
Today’s OM-D mirrorless cameras are styled to channel the classic OM beauty, but none do it better than the entry-level E-M10, especially in the Mark II iteration which adopted the original OM-1 lever-type power switch, front and rear input wheels mimicking traditional dials, and a reshaped viewfinder housing which is pure 35mm OM. But the Mark II is now just over two years old and, right now, that’s a long time, especially in the mirrorless camera world where the last few months have seen significant upgrades from all of Olympus’s rivals.
So here’s the Mark III model which, wisely, keeps all the best bits of its predecessor – particularly the external control layout – but adds the features that are now de rigeur, most notably better performing autofocusing and 4K video recording (see the Making Movies side panel for the rest of the E-M10 III’s video story). Olympus has also listened to the main criticism of the Mark II model – namely its less-than-logical menu system – and has made some revisions there.
That said, while there’s a definite improvement, if you’re new to the OM-D system, you’re still going to find that Olympus thinks a bit differently to anybody else when it comes to how menu items are allocated.
And new converts are definitely on Olympus’s radar for its new baby, especially as the entry-level D-SLR offerings are becoming a little less exciting over time, and the E-M10 III really leverages the size advantages of the Micro Four Thirds format sensor, even more so than the Panasonic Lumix rivals. Nothing in the D-SLR world gets close in terms of both compactness and lightness… and certainly nothing looks as enticingly pretty. Compare the specs and you’ll find the Mark III camera is actually fractionally larger than its predecessor, but we’re talking mere millimetres here and just a few extra grams in terms of the body weight, so it’s no big deal. Besides, most of the extra bulk is accounted for by a bigger and better shaped handgrip, so the more comfortable handling more than makes up for it.
As we’ve noted with the previous models, the E-M10 Mark III’s size is all the more remarkable because, externally, Olympus has managed to find space for all those traditional dial-type controls (plus reasonably sized buttons), a built-in pop-up flash and a tiltadjustable monitor screen. The body covers are now GRP rather than magnesium alloy.
On the inside is sensor-based image stabilisation – which obviously needs a bit of extra room – with adjustments over five axes giving up to four stops of correction for camera shake (and now with movement detection for auto mode selection). There’s also a decent sized EVF which uses an OLED-type panel with a resolution of 2.36 megadots and magnification of 1.23x (equivalent to 0.62x in 35mm format terms).
The Mark III’s control layout has been slightly revised with restyled input wheels and a main mode dial that looks even more classical than before thanks to its more pronounced rim. The mode options themselves have changed too, with ‘iAUTO’ now marked as simply ‘AUTO’ (but it still does the same thing, selecting full auto operations) and the arrival of a new position marked ‘AP’, for ‘Advanced Photo’. This provides access to a range of more specialised camera operations that previously required a trip the menus.
Under the ‘AP’ banner is grouped the Live Composite and Live Time functions, multi-shot HDR capture, a double exposure facility, silent shooting, a panorama mode, Keystone Compensation and auto bracketing for either exposure or focus. The Live Composite function captures and combines multiple images in-camera, with the exposures subsequent to the first one only recording the areas that change in brightness… so it’s great for subjects such a star trails because the foreground won’t be overexposed. Live view lets you watch the image creation as it progresses. Live Time is for making long exposures, again with live view allowing the progress to be monitored.
The new ‘Advanced Photo’ menu is part of the Mark III’s overhauled user interface, as is a re-organisation of the Scene menu which arranges the long list of 27 programs under category headings for People, Nightscapes, Motion, Scenery, Indoors and Close-Ups. Additionally, the Custom Menu – which was 104 items long on the Mark II and consequently very unwieldy – has been reduced to a more manageable 43, although there are still things here that would be more logically located in the Shooting Menus, such as white balance setting, noise reduction functions and manual focus assists. As it happens, the two Shooting Menus contain just nine items. And why separate the MF assist set-up – i.e. on/off switching for image magnification and/or a focus peaking display – and the colour settings for said focus peaking display into separate sections of the Custom Menu? Curious indeed.
However, the good news is that you can largely by-pass the main menus via the ‘Super Control Panel’ display – which is superimposed over the live view image in the monitor screen – and provides direct access to 18 capture-related functions with the added efficiencies of touch control. A new shortcut button – located adjacent to the Mark III’s power switch on the camera’s top deck – provides quick access to the SCP display (hurray, because it wasn’t obvious previously) or the main menus in each of the camera’s other shooting modes, including ‘Advanced Photo’, the ‘Art Filter’ special effects, movie shooting and the subject/scene programs.
Alternative to the SCP, there’s a ‘Live Control’ display which provides the same access to a smaller selection of function – which vary according to the shooting mode – with the function tiles arranged along the right-hand side of the monitor screen so that the live view image isn’t obscured (and you can monitor the effects of changing settings). A few settings
OLYMPUS HAS ALSO LISTENED TO THE MAIN CRITICISM OF THE PREVIOUS MODELS – NAMELY ITS LESS-THANLOGICAL MENU SYSTEM – AND MADE SOME KEY REVISIONS.
are now exclusive to these displays – such as image quality – to further tidy up the menu system. Whether this is helpful or not probably depends on what you’ve been accustomed to. Incidentally, setting up the image quality modes – there’s four settings – requires a trip to the Custom Menu where they can be configured for image size and compression level. Again, Olympus has simplified matters here by reducing the choice of image sizes to just three, rather than the myriad of options that were previous available under the Medium and Small headings. The choice of four compression levels from Super Fine to Basic remains, but there’s an additional aspect ratio setting of 3:4 which joins the previous selection of 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1. The aspect ratio is another setting that’s now exclusive to the Live control panels.
On the subject of simplifying things, gone is the vast choice of auto bracketing options which previously could include all the ‘Picture Mode’ presets and the ‘Art Filter’ effects (including variations) in one sequence… in reality, an unlikely requirement. The E-M10 III has been pared down to just exposure and focus bracketing (even white balance bracketing is deleted) and these also have simplified settings – either three frames with +/-1.0 EV adjustment or five with +/-1.3 EV adjustment for the AEB; and an eight-frame sequence (versus up to 100 previously) with either a small or large adjustment for focus bracketing. Multi-shot HDR capture – which captures four frames – is distilled down to two settings called Natural and Super High Contrast so there’s no provision for any manual adjustments.
This just may be a tad too much simplification – especially for exposure bracketing – but previously these features bordered on overkill in terms of the numerous setting options, not to mention looking very daunting even to the experienced user. Just how much of it actually gets used – even on the flagship E-M1 Mark II – is debatable.
Retained are the ‘Colour Creator’ and the ‘Highlight & Shadow’ controls. ‘Colour Creator’ enables adjustment of the hue and saturation via the front and rear input wheels respectively. The ‘Highlight & Shadow’ control enables you to adjust the brightness of the highlights and/ or the shadows around a central point. The front input wheel tweaks the highlights while the rear control works on the shadows. You can also tick the boxes for a multiple exposure facility (although it only allows double exposures), an intervalometer and a panorama mode (although there’s no incamera stitching).
The basic sensor specifications are unchanged from the previous model so the total pixel count remains at 17.2 million, giving an effective resolution of 16.05 million which is optimised by the absence of an optical low-pass filter. However, the Mark III’s sensor is mated with the faster and more powerful ‘TruePic VIII’ processor – as used in the E-M1 II – which enables the 4K video capability as well as various imaging performance enhancements, including the noise reduction processing.
However, there’s only a very slight increase in the maximum shooting speed up to 8.6 fps (from 8.5 fps) with the AF and AE locked to the first frame. With continuous AF/AE adjustment the top speed is 4.8 fps. The sensor’s sensitivity range remains the same at ISO 200 to 25,600 with a one stop ‘pull’ to ISO 100.
More processing power is also needed for the contrast-detection autofocus system which has expanded coverage via an increase in the number of focusing points from 81 to 121. These are arranged in an 11x11 pattern with auto or manual point selection, and the option of setting a nine-point
The upgraded auTofocusing is fasT and reliable in The single-shoT mode, wiTh rapid and assured subjecT acquisiTion.
cluster for wider-area coverage. There is both auto subject tracking and face-detection, the latter with an additional eye-detection option. Introduced on the previous model, the ‘AF Targeting Pad’ function allows you to move the AF point around via the touchscreen while using the EVF for framing and composition.
As on all the OM-D models, there’s the option of combining the single-shot AF mode with a continuous manual override, and fully manual focusing can be assisted by a magnified image section (five settings up to 14x) dictated by the selected focus point, or a focus peaking display in red, yellow, white or black (but with no intensity adjustments).
Exposure control is again based on Olympus’s 324-point ‘Digital ESP’ multi-zone metering with the options of centre-weighted average or spot measurements. Continuing a long Olympus tradition (from the OM-4, in fact), the spot meter’s measurements can be biased towards either the highlights or the shadows for high- or low-key exposures. Additionally, there’s an ‘Exposure Shift’ adjustment which fine-tunes each of the metering modes over +/-1.0 EV in 1/6-stop increments.
The main auto exposure modes (i.e. program and shutter/aperture priority) are supported by an AE lock, compensation up to +/-5.0 EV and the auto bracketing settings mentioned earlier. Exposure shifting is available in the program mode. As noted earlier, there’s a choice of 27 subject/scene modes, with auto scene recognition in the AUTO mode which, Olympus says, employs an improved algorithm. While the AUTO mode is essentially designed for point-andshoot operation, there is a set of basic overrides which are accessed at the monitor screen via ‘Live Guides’. These provide a degree of control over colour saturation, colour balance (warm to cool), brightness, background blur and the blurring/freezing of movement. The ‘Live Guides’ are accessed via a touch tab on the live view screen and the adjustments are subsequently applied via slidertype controls which are also operated by touch.
The E-M10 III’s shutter speed range is 30-1/4000 second for the focal plane shutter, but the Mark III also has a sensor shutter which operates up to 1/16,000 second and, of course, also allows for silent shooting. Flash sync is all speeds up to 1/250 second and the built-in flash has TTL control with auto, fill-in, red-eye reduction, front/rear sync and slow speed sync modes. Flash compensation of up to +/-3.0 EV can be set in 1/3 stop increments while the manual control mode has a range of 1/64 to full power. However, the wireless TTL controller function is deleted, presumably on the basis that, again, the typical users of this camera are unlikely to want it.
The white balance control options comprise auto correction (with a ‘Keep Warm Colour’ setting for use when shooting under tungsten lighting), a choice of six presets (the underwater preset has been deleted), provisions for storing up to four custom measurements (which is generous), and manual colour temperature control (over a range of 2000 to 14,000 degrees Kelvin). As we’ve noted previously, Olympus again goes its own way here, calling the custom measurements “one-touch white balance”, and the manual colour temperature settings “custom white balance”. Fine-tuning is available for all the presets, the four custom measurements and both auto modes.
The ‘Art Filter’ effects now number 15 (30, if you count the variations) and these can either operate as a stand-alone shooting modes or applied to the PASM modes. However, some control options are still available with the former, including exposure shift and exposure compensation.
The six ‘Picture Mode’ presets are unchanged and the five for colour capture have adjustable parameters for sharpness, contrast, colour saturation and tonal gradation. Additionally, this last parameter can be set to Normal, Auto, High Key or Low Key. The Monochrome ‘Picture Mode’ is adjustable for contrast, sharpness and gradation, plus there’s a set of contrast control filters (yellow, orange, red and green) and toning effects (sepia, blue, purple or green). One modified ‘Picture Mode’ can be stored as a custom preset.
In The hand
Olympus essentially defines the camera’s shooting mode via the exposure mode groupings – i.e. the fully auto control, the standard ‘PASM’ set, the subject/scene programs (and ‘Advanced Photo’ functions), and the ‘Art Filter’ effects. Subsequently, control and display settings are independently selectable for each, and with varying scope for customisation. This includes the functions of the input wheels in each of the ‘PASM’ modes and two ‘Fn’ buttons, but not the four quadrants of the navigator control, now permanently assigned to short cuts.
There are two custom options for the live view screen which
allow for the activation of a realtime histogram, highlight and shadow warnings (you have to have both) and a dual-axis level display. The real-time histogram includes an internal section – displayed in green – which shows the brightness values at the selected focusing point (or cluster of points). Additionally, there’s a choice of six grid guides. The option of configuring the EVF’s display separately to the monitor screen has been removed as has the former’s ‘Simulated Optical Viewfinder’ setting. Once again, S-OVF is a feature we’ve rarely felt a need to use, as the EVF is far more useful with its preview capabilities enabled.
The image review/replay screens can be configured to include a thumbnail image with a full set of histograms (i.e. brightness and RGB channels), a larger brightness-only histogram superimposed over the image, highlight and shadow warnings and a ‘Light Box’ display for the side-by-side comparison of two images with simultaneous zooming which is very handy for comparing focus. The thumbnail pages comprise four, nine, 25 or 100 images plus a calendar display. Both the replay screens and the thumbnail pages can be preselected as desired via the Custom Menu. Touch controls are available for browsing, zooming and scrolling through the thumbnails.
The in-camera editing functions comprise Shadow Adjust (i.e. dynamic range), Red-Eye Fix, Trim Aspect, B&W, Sepia, Saturation, Resize, e-Portrait and RAW-toJPEG conversion.
The E-M10 III has built-in WiFi with connectivity via a cameragenerated QR code, which is scanned using the Olympus O.I. Share app to configure the setup. This subsequently enables wireless image file transfers (stills and movie clips), remote control of various camera functions and a live view feed. Both the Android and iOS operating systems are supported, and even some of the touch controls transfer to the mobile device, including autofocusing and shutter release.
SPEED AND PERFORMANCE
With our reference memory card – Lexar’s Professional 2000x
128 GB SDXC UHS-II/U3 speed device – loaded, the E-M10 Mark III captured a burst of 143 JPEG/ large/super fine frames in 16.532 seconds which represents a continuous shooting speed of 8.64 fps. This is bang-on the quoted maximum speed, but the burst length far exceeds the quoted specification.
Initially we thought we must have accidentally set the fine quality setting rather than superfine, but several re-tests yield pretty much the same result… a we simply picked an arbitrary point to stop the clock, the camera would have happily kept going at 8.6 fps. This is a camera that makes the most of higher-speed cards. The test file sizes were around 8.5 MB on average.
The upgraded autofocusing is fast and reliable in the single-shot mode, with rapid and assured subject acquisition. In continuous mode, the focus tracking is capable enough, but still not in the same league as the hybrid AF systems using phase difference-detection. Olympus’s ‘Digital ESP’ metering is now well-proven and continues to deliver accurate exposures, even in very contrasty lighting.
Super fine quality JPEGs look lush in terms of colour reproduction, contrast and definition. Olympus again shows what can be achieved with 16 million well-processed pixels, so the level of nicely resolved detailing certainly doesn’t suggest a lack of important information. Likewise, both the dynamic range and the smoothness of the tonal gradations in our test images exceed expectations.
Noise levels are low up to ISO 3200 and both the ISO 6400 and 12,800 settings are still usable, but exhibit some graininess in the areas of continuous tone along with a slight reduction in definition. High ISO performance is where bigger sensors – especially full35mm size devices – are really starting to shine, but Olympus continues to keep the Micro Four Thirds format in the race, at least up to ISO 12,800.
Olympus has made quite a few subtle changes to the E-M10 Mark III which are arguably more important than the major updates. The fine-tuning of the feature set has created a camera that’s much better targeted at its intended audience – namely anybody stepping up to an interchangeable lens camera for the first time. What’s gone – compared to the previous models – are mostly the frills these users are very unlikely to ever want or need.
So, is the E-M10 Mark III less of an enthusiast’s camera then? Definitely not. It’s still exceptionally well featured overall and, importantly, has all the essentials for more creative photography and, of course, this is even more attractive because it’s all packed into such a compact bodyshell and backed by a solid performance. Yes, there’s now more of a differentiation between this version of the E-M10 and the E-M5 Mark II, but it packs a real punch for its size, which is why it’s still a good place to start if you’re ready to move on from a D-SLR system.
To be honest, problems with the user interface remain, as it continues to defy logic at times, but the familiarisation that comes from regular usage will undoubtedly lessen the issue plus, of course, you can do a lot without going near the main menus.
In the end, sheer good looks are likely to win the day for the E-M10 Mark III which remains the prettiest mirrorless camera on the market. And there’s still plenty of substance behind the style.
OLYMPUS OM-D E-M10 MARK III
It’s fractionally larger than its predecessor, but the E-M10 Mark III is still extremely compact even compared to the smallest D-SLRs.
Built-in viewfinder is a 2.36 megadots resolution OLED display. Eyepiece sensor enables auto switching between EVF and monitor. Monitor screen is adjustable for tilt and offers extensive touch controls.
OM period-style power switch also pops up the built-in flash. Main mode dial has a new ‘AP’ setting which accesses the ‘Advanced Photo’ functions. Front and rear input wheels can be assigned different functions depending on the exposure mode.
The control layout is very similar to that of the Mark II model, but the input wheels and the main mode dial have been reprofiled for a better grip.
New ‘Advanced Photo’ menu re-organises a number of the Mark III’s more advanced shooting functions, including Live Composite, Live Time and multishot HDR capture.
Replay/review screens include a thumbnail with a full set of histograms or a full image with a superimposed brightness histogram.
The E-M10 III’s menu system has been extensively revised with a significant reduction in the extent of the Custom menus. It still defies logical in some areas though.
‘Super Control Panel’ provides quick access to a large selection of capture functions with the added efficiency of touchscreen control.
Test images taken with the M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm EZ power zoom and M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f2.8 Pro with JPEG/large/super fine capture. Colour fidelity, sharpness, detailing and dynamic range are all excellent straight out of the camera. Noise is effectively controlled up to ISO 6400.