Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
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This is a preliminary version of the review, now being expanded and corrected with information contained in the (just released) user manual. It may be incomplete; it may also contain some factual errors.
The article will be continuously updated as new information becomes available. This may take even a month or two.
Updates are marked with color tags: U1 U2 U3
Table of contents
In the OM-D family of cameras, Olympus introduced (at long last!) a simple, unambiguous and transparent scheme of model naming. There are three product lines, aimed at increasingly demanding (and wealthy) user: E-M10, E-M5 and E-M1, and within each line model progression is marked (pun intended) as Mark 2, Mark 3, etc.
The original E-M10 appeared on the market in early 2014. It was a perfect (or close) compromise between specs, performance, construction quality, and price. Olympus stripped some non-essential (for most users, at least) features, like weather-proofing, downgraded some secondary-importance (ditto) specs, like serial rate, but kept the essentials intact: exposure modes, flexibility of processing, lots of adjustments and customizations. As a result, the E-M10 was not a dumbed-down "entry-level" model (even if it could be used as such); it was capable of meeting 99% of ambitious amateur's needs.
The next model, Mark II, followed in late 2015. While it did not introduce any ground-breaking improvements, it offered a number of evolutionary ones: rearranged external controls, better (5-axis, not 3) image stabilization, higher viewfinder resolution). The new controls were especially nice, addressing some complaints I had about Mark I.
And now we have the E-M10 Mark III.
Olympus just announced the next E-M10 update, available in mid-September of 2017.
Expected U.S. price: $650 (body), $800 (with MZD 14-42/3.5-5.6 EZ "pancake" lens and a fitted bag).
Here are the basic specs and some not-so-basic features, as described in the manual, commented, annotated, and cross-checked by yours humbly. They will be updated and expanded as new information becomes available.
The list assumes no previous familiarity with older versions of this camera.
If you are already familiar with the E-M10 line and interested mostly in the changes from Mark II, you may choose to jump over this section straight to the model comparison.
All images: promotional material by Olympus
16 megapixels, CMOS type, μFT standard: 17.3×13 mm size.
The user group demanding most megapixels are often those who know least what those megapixels are and how to make use of them. For a normal 12×16" print, and for screen viewing, 12 MP is easily enough, even with some cropping. There are at least five other factors affecting image quality to a greater degree than pixel count.
Therefore if I am (just a little) disappointed with the sensor not upgraded to 20 MP, this is not for image quality but for two other reasons. First, I'm a compulsive pixel-peeper, enjoying pan-and-zoom screen viewing. Second, I'm considering the E-M10 Mk. III as a second body to my E-M1 II, and having the same pixel size from both cameras would help in some of batch processing I often do. Otherwise 16 MP is fine with me.
All Olympus cameras (as far as I know) have a dust-removal system. A dust barrier seals the CCD in and vibrates for one second or so at a low-ultrasonic frequency when the camera is turned on; dust particles are shaken off and stick to an adhesive surface at the bottom of the sensor chamber. This surface has to be replaced by a service center every few years, according to Olympus, depending on how often and in what environment lenses are changed.
Secure Digital (SD) card, including the high-speed and high-capacity SDHC and SDXC; also compatible with UHS-II (which seems like an overkill, for still photography at least).
When the camera is hooked up to the computer with a USB cable, it will be seen as another disk drive, so no special software is needed to move files.
There are two basic kinds of autofocus systems: one based on contrast detection (CDAF), and the other — on phase detection (PDAF). CDAF systems "know" how much out-of-focus the image is, but not in which direction; only PDAF ones have that other piece of information.
Among Olympus μFT cameras only the E-M1 has a hybrid, phase- and contrast-detection system, requiring a special image sensor. The E-M10 III uses, like its two predecessors, a CDAF system. For more on this subjects, read these two sections of my E-M1 article.
Two basic AF modes are available on E-M10 cameras: single (S-AF) and continuous (C-AF), as well as focus tracking and face detection (with an option to select the eye on which the focus is set).
Roughly, the "plain" C-AF will update the focus on the originally selected focus point; C-AF with tracking will switch from one focus point to another, following the original subject as it moves across the frame.
The AF sensor matrix in Mark III has been upgraded to 11×11 (121 cross-type points. up from 81) and covers most of the frame area.
To facilitate manual focusing, focus peaking and/or view magnification (up to 14×) can be used, even with fully-manual lenses, which don't communicate with the camera.
U2 Three kinds of AF target patterns can be used: single spot, 3×3, and all 11×11. In two first cases the target position can also be adjusted.
New in this model is an option to select the AF target position (and release the shutter) using the touch-screen monitor feature. I remain skeptical on this, especially for handheld shooting.
While any Four Thirds lens can be mounted on a μFT camera, most were designed to work with phase-detection AF systems; their performance on PDAF bodies will be sluggish and erratic.
Even the few late FT lenses which are designed to work with both AF types (see my FT lens list) don't perform especially well. If you plan to use legacy FT optics, you have to go for the E-M1.
Olympus has one of the best IS systems on the market (possibly the best), with camera shake compensated by microscopic lateral movements of the image sensor, driven by a dedicated ultrasonic motor in the camera body.
Introduced to Olympus cameras in the E-510 (2007), the system evolved considerably since. Importantly, it does not require any IS-specific circuitry in lenses; therefore it will work with any lens, μFT or not (for the latter, the focal length has to be entered manually).
While the original E-M10 used a somewhat simpler 3-axis IS system, it was upgraded to 5-axis one in Mark II, catching up with the E-M5 and E-M1.
Actually, it may be more proper to talk not about five axes but about five degrees of freedom: rotations around three axes (yaw, pitch and roll), and two translations (vertical, horizontal).
The rotations are more important for the camera shake blur (maybe except for the closest shooting distances), therefore the change from a 3-axis IS to 5-axis one is not as significant as the manufacturers would like us to believe — unless you shoot lots of handheld macro.
For Mark III, Olympus claims a shake blur reduction of 4 EV (16× longer handholdable exposure times); I am skeptical about this. My past experience with Olympus gear allows me to expect 1.5 to 2.5 EV for the same lens, using my measuring technique.
The value quoted by Olympus was obtained for the MZD 14-42/3.5-5.6 EZ lens at 42 mm and "based on CIPA measurement conditions" (whatever these are).
A few of MZD Pro lenses (most notably: the 12-100/4.0) have their own, in-lens IS. On the E-M1 (both versions) it can be used concurrently with the in-body IS. There is no such option on the E-M10 III — you have to choose one or the other. The same is true with Panasonic IS lenses when used on this camera.
Mechanical: electronically controlled, from 60 s to 1/4 000 s, in user-set increments.
Electronic (sensor-gated): from 30 to 1/16 000 s, accessed via Scene and Advanced Photo modes; referred to as Silent Mode.
First-curtain electronic (with mechanical second curtain) — reducing shutter-induced camera shake: from 60 to 1/320 s; referred to as Anti-shock Mode.
First, you can switch to the low- or high-speed sequential mode (4.8 or 8.6 FPS maximum). In the high-speed mode the AF and AE will be performed only before the first frame. At low speed, the sequence length is unlimited (until the memory card is full); at high speed the limit is 22 raw files, somewhat higher for JPEGs.
These frame rates are just a tad higher than those in Mark II; not enough to make any practical difference. Still, 8 FPS with a mechanical shutter on an "entry-level" camera — this is something!
Then there is a self-timer: 10 or 2 seconds or a custom delay; in the last case you can also set the number of frames (up to 10) and spacing between them (.5 to 3 s).
[U3] Bracketing is now accessible only as one of the Advanced Photo modes.
Among OM-D cameras, only the E-M10 line has a built-in flash. With a guide number of 8 m (27 ft) at ISO 200, it can be used in emergencies or as a handy fill-in.
Olympus uses a through-the-lens flash metering system, where the flash fires twice: the first, low-energy burst is used for metering purposes, to estimate how much light the scene needs, and then that estimate is applied to the second burst, actually used to expose the frame.
As opposed to older E-M10 cameras, Mark III does not support wireless remote flash control. While some users will see this as a significant omission, most will never notice, myself in this number.
No surprises here. Metering is done by the imager and can use matrix, center-weighted or spot pattern. Shutter- and aperture-priority modes are provided, in addition to a program mode (with an option to auto-adjust ISO as well, if in a crude fashion).
The metering range is from -2 EV to +20 EV (F/2.8, ISO 100). unchanged from Mark II.
Most manufactures show this at F/2, ISO 100. In these terms,
These numbers correspond to the longest measurable exposure of 30 seconds at ISO 200 (the native sensitivity) with a lens of any (yes, any!) maximum aperture.
Exposure compensation up to ±5 EV can be set via a control dial (the range was ±3 EV in other OM-D cameras). This can be configured in a number of ways, more than enough for us mere mortals.
On top of that, you can hardwire an additional exposure bias, different for each metering pattern, in 1/6 EV increments.
Settings from ISO 200 to ISO 25 600 are available in 1/3 EV or 1 EV increments. Additionally, there is a Low setting, about ISO 100 (why it is specified as "about", remains unclear).
ISO can also be set to Auto, with user-defined limits.
White balance [U1]
In addition to Auto, there are the usual presets: Sunny, Cloudy, Shade, etc., and a user-specified custom setting.
There is also an option to set WB by reference, by taking a picture of a white surface. This method works best and I'm glad Olympus makes it available on an "entry-level" camera. There are four slots to store WB settings obtained this way, so they can be recalled and used as needed.
This term refers to removal of random noise during the raw-to-RGB conversion. This is done at the expense of some detail loss. Like other Olympus cameras, the E-M10 allows the user to set the strength of this process. I usually set it to Off or Low and use the base ISO of 200 if I can. While I haven't checked it, I expect things to stay this way with the Mark III.
This process affects even raw image files; it is intended to reduce the static noise, caused by some photosites being less or more sensitive to light than others.
This may affect exposures above one second, especially at higher ISO settings. The remedy applied is by taking a dark frame exposure just after the actual picture (using the same exposure time) and subtracting it from the latter. During that, the camera becomes unresponsive.
I suspect that with the E-M10 Mk. II the process is just not worth bothering with, but I would have to shoot a few dozen of dark frames with this camera to be sure.
For more on static and random noise components, noise reduction and filtering — see my article on this subject.
Olympus Raw (ORF) or JPEG; the latter can be set to four different compressions (starting from 1:2.6, which is almost lossless) and a number of downsampled resolutions.
Olympus JPEG conversion was always very good. Most of the time I don't use raw files; the kind and amount of post-processing I use can be easily applied to high-quality, in-camera JPEGs. Your preferences may differ.
These were introduced by Olympus back in 2005, in the E-500 SLR, and the feature remains almost unchanged since, which is a good thing.
A Picture Mode is a combination of image processing presets: Sharpening, Contrast, Saturation, Gradation; each of them can be additionally adjusted and then the user may quickly switch from on such set to another.
In addition to the expected Vivid, Natural, Muted, Monochrome, Portrait and Custom modes, you see some others, which I would really prefer not to see (quoted from memory, the list may be inaccurate):
There are plenty of these, and they already have their own position on the mode dial, why do they have to sit on top of the few genuinely useful settings?
This is a separate setting to adjust highlights, shadows and midtones in the raw-to-RGB conversion — identical to such option available on other recent OM-D cameras.
I've tried this feature on the E-M1 II and I'm not enthusiastic about it. First, I find it easier to adjust the tonal curve in postprocessing, even from a JPEG save; this is more accurate than a pre-set adjustment. Second, this should be a part of Picture Modes, as the Gradation setting is, for obvious reasons.
This is a trinket, something you use once or twice and never come back to. The results are not really predictable (and hard to judge on a 3" monitor), so it makes more sense to do this in postprocessing (Olympus Viewer can apply these filters to images saved as raw files).
I will withhold any judgements on actual quality of effects, as it seems that the art filter system underwent some modifications in the E-M10 Mk.III.
A related feature, Color Creator, allows you to experiment with image tint and saturation. Again, I believe that it can be done better in postprocessing of raw files.
If this stays in-camera, then at least a number of slots for user-defined settings should be available to assure reproducibility of results.
Scene Modes [U1]
These modes, accessible via the [SCN] slot on the mode dial, are auto-exposure programs, supposed (most of them, at least) to fit best a number of shooting situations. The user first selects one of six available scene types, an then a scene mode within that type.
The following are available:
While most of these names are self-explanatory and refer to scene types, some (marked here with an * asterisk) are entirely out-of-place in this list.
For example, Silent activates the electronic shutter; this has nothing (or almost nothing) to do with the scene type. Also, I may want to use the silent shutter in a scene mode I select. The design is just internally inconsistent.
The marked settings, by the way, are also accessible from the Advanced Photo mode, which makes them even more redundant here.
Note that some scene modes show more than once in this tree.
It would be more proper, perhaps, to refer to this as Straightjacket Modes, because, to quote the manual, "To maximize the benefits of the scene modes, some of the shooting function settings are disabled". Unfortunately, that includes exposure compensation, the most useful adjustment I can think of.
For many users, myself included, disabling exposure compensation disqualifies the whole Scene Mode concept. The fact that this is not the first Olympus camera with this problem does not make things any better.
Again, another slot on the mode dial, new in Mark III. This allowed the designers to remove some rarely used (not to say exotic) features out of the way of other, more basic ones. This is, generally, a very good idea, but we have to wait to see how it works to judge the implementation, so this has to wait.
The modes to choose from here are:
Olympus cleaned the bracketing mess up by removing the useless WB, flash, ISO and Art bracketing, leaving just exposure and focus. I will write more on this when I know more.
One of the most irritating design decisions in the current OM-D models is that the camera does not automatically switch into a serial mode when bracketing is activated.
I don't feel literate enough in videography to make any comments on this subject.
Just for the record: new in Mark III is the capability to shoot 4k (2160p) video at 30 FPS.
The camera has both an eye-level viewfinder and an external monitor. Either can be used for scene preview, based on the readout from the image sensor.
Both previews can be augmented with a number of information overlays of various kinds: shooting parameters, luminance histogram, level gauge, grid patterns, metering outlines, and more. These can be configured independently, or set to stay identical (or close).
[U3] The overlay I find most useful in other Olympus cameras is the level gauge, which can be configured to be very unobtrusive (replacing the exposure compensation bar at half-press of the release). While the Mk. III does have the gauge, it no longer can be configured that way, which is a shame.
An eye sensor is used to switch between the both displays (this feature can be disabled).
This seems to be the same eye-level finder as the one upgraded in Mk. II: 2.36 million dots, 0.615× magnification (normalized to "full frame" sensor, to make comparisons across formats possible).
[U3] While the resolution is the same as in the E-M1, the magnification is lower (compared to 0.74× in that camera). The choice between three display layouts has been removed in Mark III; now the finder always shows the data overlayed on the image preview.
This is an excellent viewfinder, for me at least, preferable over SLR viewing in any situation.
The monitor also seems unchanged from Mk. II, except for one aspect: in the new model it is touch-sensitive. Some users may find use for this feature.
The diagonal size is 3" (3:2 aspect ratio) and resolution — 1.04 million dots, which is equivalent to 350 000 pixels, or VGA screen resolution.
The screen tilts up and down. Actually, I prefer this to the tilt-and-swivel type, as I find the latter a bit cumbersome to use. Maybe just a matter of taste.
The knob visible to the left of the eyepiece is the diopter adjustment.
I liked the original E-M10 body, and it was thoughtfully improved in Mark II (first of all, the on/off switch moved to a better location). Mark III introduces some small touches here, and they all seem for the better.
Let us compare the new model with its predecessor (pictures to scale).
E-M10 Mark II
|E-M10 Mark III|
The front shows only some cosmetic differences, with the new design being, I'd say, less cluttered. The dials are less overwhelming; Olympus says they are made out of metal now (which implies they weren't in Mark II). The only thing I like less in the new model is the lens release button, which looks a bit cheap — but this is a matter of taste.
Generally, a very pretty camera, somewhat remindful of the classic OM-1 from the early Seventies.
The all-black version may be more practical, but does not look as good. Choosing one over the other may be quite difficult.
The dimensions of Mark III are 121.5×83.6 mm (depth is not really significant), and the weight — 410g (including battery). Let's compare that with Mark II on one hand. and with two other Olympus μFT models on the other; high and low values are highlighted:
This comparison may be of some use to those who are considering E-M10 III as a backup body to their E-M1; size and weight may matter in that context.
Physically, the top deck remains virtually unchanged from Mark II, with an identical control layout and just some cosmetic changes — for the better, I think, but judge for yourself.
E-M10 Mark II
E-M10 Mark III
First of all, the camera retains two control dials, which is not a given in this price range, and makes things much easier. The dial functionality can be specified independently for each autoexposure mode. The factory defaults are (front and rear):
Program shift allows to tilt exposure settings towards faster or slower shutter speeds than those set by the default exposure program. This is, however, not as useful as it could have been, because the shift is shown in the monitor just as [Ps], without any indication of direction. "To cancel program shift, turn the rear dial until “s” is no longer displayed." Brilliant.
The on/off switch, at far left, is also used to pop up the flash. I like it just the way it is; no complaints.
The mode dial is larger than in Mark II, and at the first glance it looks like it got a lock button, but it didn't.
The dial slots have changed, if not drastically:
All previous OM-D cameras had an option to store and recall user-defined configurations, some even allowed to assign those to unused mode dial slots. This was removed in E-M10 Mk. III.
I understand the benefits of removing some less-elementary, non-obvious functions — if they obstruct or complicate the most commonly used ones. The custom setting store and recall was no such trouble-maker, though. All complexity it brought in was hidden in one menu item, branching into a small sub-tree. Don't need it? Don't enter it. Cheap.
This is not dumbing down for the sake of simplicity or efficiency. This is dumbing down for the sake of dumbing down.
The top deck also hosts three function buttons. While their positioning remains the same as in Mark II, there are some changes in functionality.
Out of these three, only [Fn3] can be reassigned to another function.
Almost completely hidden in these pictures, barely visible even in full-screen versions, is the monitor on/off button. It can be configured to toggle between scene preview and Control Panel modes.
The back of Mark III is, except for some resculpting, identical to that of Mark II. Most of the space is taken by the 3-inch, tilting monitor.
E-M10 Mark II
E-M10 Mark III
The top-right button, defaulting to AE/AF Lock functionality, can be reassigned, but the default makes most sense, so I wouldn't do that. Others are hardwired.
Customization was always one of the strengths of Olympus cameras. This, unfortunately, comes at the expense of complexity and user confusion.
With the E-M10 III, Olympus makes an effort to find a new kind of compromise, making the camera operation and setup more accessible to less-experienced users, and at the same time not giving up too much of functionality and customization.
External controls [U1]
As described above, each of the control dials may be assigned to changing shutter, aperture, exposure compensation, program shift, white balance and ISO. This is reasonable.
The arrow buttons are no longer re-assignable, but their binding makes perfect sense to me. No complaints.
The former [Fn3] button is now hardwired to the shortcut menu. This is something I don't really like. That menu is usable and/or useful only in some situations, and invoking it should be done from the area near the arrow cluster. I'm sure some smart use of [OK], [Menu], or [Info] could be figured out.
If the above is open for debate, my next complaint is not. Why, for crying out loud, is the red-dot (video) button hardwired? If I don't shoot video, I will never, ever need quick access to it. Even if I do, I may prefer to use the Mode Dial (with full access to video settings).
This leaves us with only two buttons for which you can change functionality. Really, just one for most users, as [Fn1] should probably keep the default AE/AF Lock functionality.
E-M10 Mark III is a relatively minor upgrade to Mark II — nothing comparable to the transition from Mark I. There are no significant new features or improvements to existing ones.
While the AF system has been, according to the manufacturer, upgraded (more target points, faster processor, better algorithms), we don't know how this upgrade affects the speed, reliability and accuracy of the process, especially continuous AF tracking.
In an attempt to make the E-M10 line more appealing to beginners, Olympus removed in this release some functionality and settings, at the same time modifying (simplifying?) the user interface in a few places.
Unfortunately, this was not a good job. I'm getting an impression they chose not the functionality which needed modification, but that which was easy to modify without affecting the rest of the intricate system. Sort of a lip-service job.
All this said, the E-M10 III is still a very attractive camera, even if not because these improvements but in spite of them.
Its main competition is a sibling model: the E-M5 Mk, II. At $900 (body, U.S.) it is just $250 more expensive; a premium more than justified by construction quality (metal body, weatherproofing) and specs. Actually, I consider this a bargain, and the new E-M10 would have to drop to $500 or below to compete.
If you are considering a purchase of Mark III, my advice depends to which of the following groups you belong.
For those who would like to see just the changes in basic specs and capabilities between the E-M10 Mk. II and Mk III, here is a brief table, with the Mk. I thrown in as well.
|Feature||Mk. I||Mk. II||Mk. III||Notes|
|Image Stabilization||3-Axis, 3.5 EV||5-Axis, 4 EV||5-Axis, 4 EV||[1,2]|
|Engine||TruePic VII||TruePic VII||TruePic VIII|||
|Max. Serial Rate||8.0 FPS||8.5 FPS||8.6 FPS|||
|Viewfinder dots||1.44 M, LCD, .58×||2.36 M, OLED, .615×|
|Connectivity||USB 2.0 (proprietary), HDMI||USB 2.0 (micro-B), HDMI|||
|Max. Video||HD (1080p), 30 FPS||HD (1080p), 60 FPS||4k (2160p), 30 FPS|
|Size (W×H×D)||119×82×46 mm||119.5×83.1×46.7 mm||121.5×83.6×49.5 mm|
|Weight (w/o lens)||396 g||399 g||410 g||[5,7]|
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|Posted 2017/08/31; last updated 2017/09/19||Copyright © 2017 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak|