Olympus E-M1mkIII First Impressions

The Olympus E-M1mkIII is an update and a refinement for what is already a great camera.

Written By Rob Knight

On February 12, 2020

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The Olympus E-M1mkIII is an update and a refinement for what is already a great camera. I have enjoyed using the E-M1mkII for almost a year, but there are a lot of times when I reach for my trusty Olympus E-M1X instead. I like the bigger body of the E-M1X when I use longer lenses like the 300mm f4 pro, but there are a lot of features that I use in the E-M1X that the E-M1mkII lacks. Things like Live ND and hand-held high res mode were only available in the E-M1X thanks to it’s dual TruPic VIII processors.

Enter the E-M1mkIII.

The E-M1mkIII has a new TruPic IX processor that enables it to do all sorts of computational photographic tricks without the big body of the E-M1X. The E-M1mkIII shoots hand-held 50mp high res shots and Live ND long exposures just like it’s big brother.

That is great news for me since I like to travel and shoot with two camera bodies at the ready. I’ve had to juggle cameras and lenses in the past in order to use the features in the E-M1X. Now I can have the same functionality in both bodies, and I can choose which camera to use based mostly on which lens or lenses I will be using. For example, I may have the 300mm f4 pro lens on my E-M1X, and the 12-100mm f4 pro on my E-M1mkIII. 

There are several improvements in the E-M1mkIII that I really like…

Control Improvements.

The first thing you’ll probably notice about the E-M1mkIII’s controls is the addition of a joystick for moving the focus point. This is a welcome addition for sure, and it makes the focus adjust button from the E-M1mkII unnecessary. That button is now assigned to adjust the ISO, which I also consider an improvement over the E-M1mkII. The Menu button has been moved next to the viewfinder button next to the EVF and the Info button moved below the 4-way controller, but otherwise the controls are much the same as the E-M1mkII.

The mode dial on the E-M1mkIII is a bit more “pro” than the E-M1mkII. The iAuto and Art modes have been replaced by a dedicated Bulb mode and an additional Custom mode. The Bulb slot gives easy access to Bulb mode, Live Time, and Live Composite modes. The additional Custom slot makes a total of four slots to save custom settings for easy access.

Reach for the Stars.

One of the banner features of the E-M1mkIII is Starry AF. If you have ever tried to photograph the night sky, you know that critical focus is often the most challenging part. Starry AF is a dedicated focus mode that allows the camera to lock focus onto stars either on a tripod or handheld. I was told it uses neither contrast or phase detection, but luminance to lock on target.

Starry AF works great with Live Composite

There is a Speed setting that takes a couple of seconds. This mode is used when hand holding the camera. There is also an Accuracy setting for use on a tripod. Accuracy mode takes up to 10 seconds or more, but is theoretically better than Speed mode if you have the time.

In my experience both modes work beautifully. It was a bit cloudy when I was trying out Starry AF, but I was able to choose a specific focus point and lock on to one star at a time. I also found that Starry AF was able to lock onto the distant lights of a beach town as well as the stars.

Other refinements.

The auto focus in the E-M1mkIII is improved over the previous model. It is on par with the E-M1X in my experience, although the E-M1mkIII lacks the planes, trains, and automobiles tracking in the E-M1X. Predictive focus using C-AF is fast and accurate, and it does a nice job of tracking moving subjects. On a side note- the regular C-AF mode is the one you want to use for most moving subjects. C-AF+Tr seems like a good idea, but it practice it is not as reliable as regular C-AF. 

Continuous AF works beautifully.

The image quality from the E-M1mkIII is fantastic. The noise performance is also on par with what I’m used to from the E-M1X. The image stabilization with compatible lenses is up to 7.5 stops. I have tack sharp handheld shots from the E-M1mkIII at unbelievably slow shutter speeds. 

I hope you enjoyed this brief report on the new Olympus E-M1mkIII! I’m happy that I had the opportunity to put the camera through its paces, and I’m even more happy that I enjoyed the shooting experience so much. This is a professional camera that I will be glad to work with on a regular basis. 

Capuchin monkeys love it!
Tarcoles River, Costa Rica
Hand held at 1/3sec? No problem!
Hand held high res sloth!
3 stop live ND
Straight out of camera jpeg.
Live ND is a ton of fun with waves.
Live ND and great IBIS makes for cool portraits
More fun on the “crocodile river” in Costa Rica.
Painterly effects with Live ND.
Live ND for long exposure effects in bright daylight.
Note how Hand held High res mode smooths out the water without funky artifacts.
One last Live ND shot from Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.


  1. Fran Yates

    Thanks for comparison. Clear, concise, makes sense. Now it is decision time.


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