Olym­pus OM-D E-M10 III

With a new easy-to-use in­ter­face and up­rated aut­o­fo­cus, is Olym­pus’s lat­est OM-D the per­fect choice for first-time cam­era buy­ers? Andy West­lake finds out

Amateur Photographer - - 7days -

Is this the per­fect cam­era for first-time buy­ers? andy West­lake finds out more about the lat­est oM-d

Over the past decade, the cam­era in­dus­try has changed dra­mat­i­cally. Ca­sual pho­tog­ra­phers now over­whelm­ingly use smart­phones rather than com­pacts, and share their photos in­stantly on­line. Yet some bud­ding pho­tog­ra­phers inevitably find their artis­tic am­bi­tions out­strip­ping the lim­i­ta­tions of their phone cam­eras, and look to up­grade to a ‘proper’ cam­era. So the chal­lenge fac­ing the tra­di­tional cam­era man­u­fac­tur­ers is how best to ap­peal to these po­ten­tial cus­tomers, who are used to touch­screen-driven op­er­a­tion and al­ways-on con­nec­tiv­ity.

It’s into this mar­ket that Olym­pus has in­tro­duced its lat­est mir­ror­less model, the OM- D E- M10 Mark III. On the sur­face, it looks like a mi­nor up­date to the two-year- old OM- D E- M10 Mark II, with es­sen­tially the same body de­sign and fea­ture set. It gains an up­dated 121-point AF sys­tem and 4K video record­ing, thanks to Olym­pus’s lat­est TruePic VIII pro­ces­sor, but that’s pretty much it. More in­ter­est­ingly, though, Olym­pus has rad­i­cally over­hauled the cam­era’s in­ter­face and firmware in a bid to ap­peal to smart­phone up­graders. In­ci­den­tally, the Mark II will be re­main­ing in Olym­pus’s line- up for now.

The OM- D E- M10 Mark III is avail­able in black or sil­ver for £699.99 with the slim­line 14- 42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ elec­tronic zoom lens. Opt­ing for the larger me­chan­i­cal-zoom 14- 42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R will save you £50, and the cam­era is also avail­able body- only for £629.99.


Olym­pus has based the cam­era around a 16-million-pixel Four Thirds sen­sor sim­i­lar to those used

in the pre­vi­ous two E- M10 bod­ies. Its sen­si­tiv­ity range runs from ISO 200-25,600, with an ex­tended low set­ting equiv­a­lent to ISO 100. The con­tin­u­ous-shoot­ing rate of 8.6fps drops to 4.8fps when you need fo­cus and ex­po­sure to be ad­justed be­tween shots. Us­ing a high-speed UHS- II card, the cam­era will keep shoot­ing JPEGs un­til you run out of bat­tery or card space, or record 22 raw files be­fore it slows down. Even with a stan­dard UHS-1 Class 10 SD card, it shot a burst of 10 raw frames at full speed, or more than 30 JPEGs.

One cru­cial fea­ture is Olym­pus’s five-axis im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion, which works with ev­ery lens you can mount on the cam­era (although you have to pro­gramme in the fo­cal length man­u­ally with non- elec­tronic lenses). The sys­tem is ex­tremely ef­fec­tive at re­duc­ing blur from hand­shake when shoot­ing still im­ages with long shut­ter speeds, and Olym­pus’s claim of up to four stops of sta­bil­i­sa­tion is per­fectly re­al­is­tic.

As ex­pected, the cam­era has built-in Wi- Fi for con­nect­ing to a smart­phone, us­ing Olym­pus Im­age Share for An­droid and iOS. This well- de­signed app makes it easy to copy your favourite shots to your phone for shar­ing on so­cial me­dia: sim­ply start up Wi- Fi by tap­ping a small touch but­ton on the top-left of the screen and fire up the app. It also en­ables full re­mote con­trol of your cam­era from your phone, com­plete with a live-view dis­play. The app can even use your phone’s GPS to record a track of your lo­ca­tion, then use this data to geo­tag your photos.

In per­haps its big­gest up­date, the E- M10 Mark III gains the abil­ity to record video at 4K res­o­lu­tion (3840x2160) and 25fps, and it’s pos­si­ble to ex­tract 8MP stills from the re­sult­ing footage dur­ing play­back. Al­ter­na­tively, you can shoot in full HD (1920x1080) res­o­lu­tion at up to 50fps, with a va­ri­ety of in- cam­era ef­fects. There’s also a high-speed (slow mo­tion) mode at 120fps and HD (1280x720) res­o­lu­tion. How­ever, there’s no op­tion to at­tach an ex­ter­nal mi­cro­phone.

Out­side of this core set, the E- M10 Mark III has a healthy ar­ray of ad­di­tional fea­tures that should keep more cre­ative and am­bi­tious users happy – and they’re far eas­ier to ac­cess than be­fore. Olym­pus has es­sen­tially re-used the ex­ist­ing body de­sign of the E- M10 Mark II, with all the same but­tons and di­als in all the same places. How­ever, many of them have been re-pur­posed, with the aim of mak­ing the cam­era eas­ier for be­gin­ners to use. As a re­sult, the new­comer op­er­ates some­what dif­fer­ently to its pre­de­ces­sor.

Some things haven’t changed, though. The mas­ter­ful retro de­sign is rem­i­nis­cent of Olym­pus’s 1970s film SLRs, and a care­ful choice of ma­te­ri­als makes it look and feel more ex­pen­sive than it is. You might not get the weather-sealed mag­ne­sium-al­loy con­struc­tion of its more ex­pen­sive E- M5 Mark II sib­ling, but the cam­era still feels sturdy. An en­larged grip gives a se­cure hold, aided by a prom­i­nent rear thumb pad, and the con­trol di­als click pre­cisely. Com­pared to sim­i­larly priced DSLRs, it’s sim­ply a more tac­tile and de­sir­able ob­ject. If you buy it with the re­tractable 14- 42mm EZ zoom, it’s also slim­mer and eas­ier to carry.

Two elec­tronic di­als on the top-plate are used to change

ex­po­sure set­tings, and are per­fectly placed for op­er­a­tion by your fore­fin­ger and thumb. The ex­po­sure-mode dial along­side them is raised to make it easy to op­er­ate, and pro­vides a full ar­ray of modes from full auto for novices to PASM modes for en­thu­si­asts. Its SCN po­si­tion gives ac­cess to a large range of sub­ject-based scene modes, but these are now or­gan­ised into six cat­e­gories us­ing a new touch­screen-based in­ter­face. Olym­pus’s sig­na­ture art fil­ters are also on board, of­fer­ing highly stylised im­age pro­cess­ing.

Many of the cam­era’s but­tons have changed func­tions, and in a marked change of tack from Olym­pus, only two are cus­tomis­able. So while the D-pad was pre­vi­ously used to move the fo­cus point di­rectly, you now have to press the left key first; the other keys now give di­rect ac­cess to ISO, flash and drive modes.

You can use the touch­screen to move the fo­cus point in­stead, which works even with your eye to the viewfinder. This can mean it’s all too easy to re­set the fo­cus point by in­ad­ver­tently press­ing the screen with your nose. How­ever, Olym­pus has come up with a fix: dou­ble­tap­ping the screen turns the touch­pad AF func­tion on and off. It’s a clever idea, and works well. Com­bined with the EVF’s gen­er­ous clear­ance from the screen, this makes the E- M10 Mark III the first cam­era on which I’ve re­ally been happy to use the touch­screen for fo­cus-area se­lec­tion.

One key new in­ter­face fea­ture is that the but­ton be­side the power switch – pre­vi­ously Fn3 – is now used to call up an on-screen menu with op­tions tai­lored to each mode. For ex­am­ple, in the art po­si­tion it lets you scroll through all the avail­able fil­ters, with a live preview of how your shot could turn out; in movie mode it se­lects be­tween record­ing res­o­lu­tions; and in the PASM modes it calls up the on­screen Su­per Con­trol Panel that gives quick ac­cess to a large ar­ray of shoot­ing set­tings. This brings a sen­si­ble co­her­ence to the cam­era’s op­er­a­tion.

The only but­tons that are still cus­tomis­able are both on the left side. The thumb- op­er­ated Fn1 but­ton en­gages au­to­ex­po­sure or aut­o­fo­cus lock, and I sus­pect most users will keep it this way. Mean­while, the Fn2 but­ton be­side the shut­ter re­lease is set to en­gage the 2x dig­i­tal tele­con­verter. Smart­phone users are very fa­mil­iar with such an idea, and the 4MP ef­fec­tive res­o­lu­tion is more than ad­e­quate for so­cial-me­dia use. Per­son­ally, I’d set it to op­er­ate some­thing more use­ful, such as fo­cus peak­ing or mag­ni­fi­ca­tion. Another op­tion is to use it to tog­gle the touch­screen on and off.

In a very wel­come move, Olym­pus has also fi­nally stripped back its no­to­ri­ously com­pli­cated menus. The firm has done a re­ally good job of trim­ming things down to the es­sen­tials: I was able to tweak the cam­era’s set-up to my per­sonal taste, with­out find­ing any key op­tions had gone miss­ing. Some of the more ad­vanced fea­tures have inevitably been re­moved as part of this process: the built-in flash can no longer wire­lessly con­trol off- cam­era units, and you can’t save ‘MySet’ cus­tom set- ups. But you still get broadly the same fea­ture set and cus­tomi­sa­tion as you’ll find on mid-range DSLRs.

One area where I think Olym­pus has over­sim­pli­fied, though, is with in- cam­era raw con­ver­sion. On its other mod­els you can ad­just set­tings such as colour mode and white bal­ance for each in­di­vid­ual im­age, and preview the re­sults be­fore con­ver­sion, which is great for tweak­ing shots be­fore shar­ing them us­ing Wi- Fi. On the E- M10 III, though, Olym­pus has re­verted to its bad old ways, as you have to

‘In a wel­come move, Olym­pus has stripped back its no­to­ri­ously com­pli­cated menus, trim­ming things down to the es­sen­tials’

make the changes to the cam­era’s cur­rent shoot­ing set­tings to ap­ply them to an in- cam­era raw con­ver­sion. This is clunky and is li­able to leave you with the cam­era in­cor­rectly set up the next time you start shoot­ing. It feels like un­nec­es­sary dumb­ing- down.

Viewfinder and screen

Both the viewfinder and screen are sim­i­lar to those on the E-M10 Mark II. Based around a 2.36-mil­lion­dot panel, the viewfinder of­fers a de­cent 0.62x equiv­a­lent mag­ni­fi­ca­tion with 100% cov­er­age of the lens’s view, mean­ing it’s both larger and more ac­cu­rate than the op­ti­cal viewfind­ers in sim­i­larly priced DSLRs like the Nikon D5600. It also ac­cu­rately re­flects the im­age you’ll get in terms of colour and bright­ness, which makes it much eas­ier to ad­just your set­tings to get your pic­tures to look how you want. Like­wise, it can dis­play a whole host of use­ful ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing a choice of grid­lines, elec­tronic lev­els, ex­po­sure warn­ings and so on.

On the cam­era’s back you’ll find a touch­screen that tilts 90° up and 45° down, and which of­fers many of the same op­er­a­tional ad­van­tages as the EVF. A sen­sor be­side the viewfinder al­lows the cam­era to switch au­to­mat­i­cally be­tween the two, but is dis­abled when the screen is tilted so it won’t in­ter­fere with waist-level shoot­ing. Cru­cially, the cam­era works ex­actly the same re­gard­less of which view­ing method you’re us­ing, un­like most DSLRs, which usu­ally fo­cus no­tice­ably slower when you’re us­ing the screen. How­ever, this fully elec­tronic view­ing does come at the ex­pense of bat­tery life.


While the 121-point aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem is adapted from that on the pro-level OM- D E- M1 Mark II, it re­lies on con­trast- de­tec­tion only, which means it doesn’t have the same re­mark­able high-speed fo­cus track­ing. The fo­cus area cov­ers prac­ti­cally the en­tire frame, and you can ei­ther se­lect an in­di­vid­ual point or use a group of nine. Face de­tec­tion is also avail­able, with the op­tion to fo­cus specif­i­cally on your sub­ject’s eyes.

With sub­jects that aren’t mov­ing much, the E- M10 III’s aut­o­fo­cus is su­perb. It’s fast and ac­cu­rate, re­gard­less of where in the frame your sub­ject is placed, and it will pro­vide a near-100% hit rate, pro­vided you make sure you place the fo­cus point over an area with suf­fi­cient de­tail. When you’re pho­tograph­ing peo­ple, the cam­era’s abil­ity to iden­tify and fo­cus specif­i­cally on their nearer eye is a huge ad­van­tage, too.

Once you try to shoot sub­jects mov­ing to­wards or away from you, though, the cam­era be­gins to strug­gle. Olym­pus’s re­liance on con­trast de­tec­tion places the E- M10 Mark III at a dis­ad­van­tage here, as the AF sys­tem and lens drive have to work much

High ISO im­age qual­ity is per­fectly re­spectable, with good colour re­ten­tion Tam­ron 14-150mm f/3.5-5.8 at 35mm, 1/40sec at f/4.7, ISO 6400

The com­pact kit zoom isn’t es­pe­cially ver­sa­tile, but can still give good re­sults Olym­pus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ at 27mm, 1/1000sec at f/6.3, ISO 200

Olym­pus’s Art Fil­ters can give some in­ter­est­ing re­sults: this is the Dy­namic Tone II set­ting

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