Everything we know so far

Everything we know so far

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III price, specs and release date: All the rumours about Olympus’s incoming mirrorless camera

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is an update to the once-popular, but now slightly grey-haired, mid-range Micro Four Thirds (MFT) camera, the E-M5 Mark II.

Cameras have changed aplenty in the four years since the latter’s arrival. For one, there are many more mirrorless rivals including the relatively affordable full-frame Canon EOS RP, and the APS-C FujiFilm X-T30 that’s both small and has a burst rate fast enough for sports photography.

So, is there still room in this market for MFT cameras such as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III? Here’s everything we know about the camera so far.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III price and release date – When is it out and how much will it cost?

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Olympus’s existence, with the launch of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III expected to celebrate this milestone.

The company’s 2015 Mark II remains a great camera, but it lacks features such as 4K video capture and phase detection autofocus that have become prominent in the interim.

So when exactly is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III due to arrive? Most rumours point to a launch date of 17 October.

While there are no such rumour concerning price, we can use history as a guide. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II launched at £899 (or $1099, body only). However, taking changes to the UK’s currency into account, we’re more likely to see prices around £1,099/$1,099. This pricing makes the Panasonic G90 look very attractive, at £899 body-only.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III design – What will it look like and what controls will it have?

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III may gain some of the hardware seen in the top-end Olympus OM-D E-M1X, but the basics of the design stay consistent with the series’ roots.

For example, it’s unlikely to include a front control dial below the shutter button, as seen in a leaked image of the camera published by 43 Rumors. But the classic two-tone look of the previous M5 will likely return.

Image credit: 43rumors.com

This no way implies that the two generations of camera will feel identical, however. Look at the control layout on the leaked image. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III’s main mode dial appears to have shifted to the other side of the top plate, reportedly to make room for an E-M1X style control to the left (when held in use).

This is used to tweak parameters such as bracketing and the AF mode in the pro-style E-M1X. The hope is that Olympus’s engineers have found a way to fit a greater number of controls into the OM-D E-M5 Mark III without a negative impact on the camera’s ergonomics.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is also likely to be 100g lighter than the previous model, an impressive drop considering it probably won’t be dramatically different in shape. A 344g body means you could add the basic Olympus “body cap” lens whilst keeping the weight below 400g.

The caveat: I can’t be sure the leaked 344g figure includes the battery, which adds around 50g.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III sensor and features – Will it have a new sensor and autofocus system?

A sensor upgrade is one of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III’s potential headline-grabbers. But, as Olympus has repeatedly stated, it won’t shift away from the Micro Four Thirds format, as Panasonic has done with its recent R-series full-frame cameras.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is expected to use the 20.4-megapixel MFT sensor seen in the E-M1X and E-M1 II. This will have knock-on effects on the new camera’s autofocus system.

The sensor has built-in phase detection points, a big upgrade from the contrast detection-only included in the E-M5 Mark II. There are 121 focus points on the sensor, and its performance in the E-M1X and E-M1 II is well regarded. Expect fast, reliable AF.

This raises the question of how the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III will sit alongside the not-that-old E-M1X, a high-end camera for pro sports photographers that costs far more.

It’s unlikely to have the raw speed of that camera, which has dual TruePic VIII processors to enable 18fps autofocus burst, 60fps quick burst with the focus locked and 15fps burst when using the mechanical shutter.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is more likely to use a single processor.

The control layout of the four-year-old Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

Some believe Olympus will introduce a new generation of processor with the camera, which should place it somewhere between the last-gen E-M5 Mark II (10fps burst) and the E-M1X.

Olympus has also reportedly improved upon the E-M5 Mark II’s stabilisation, from 5 stops of effectiveness to 5.5 stops.

In addition, there’s another obvious upgrade to be made: the current Olympus E-M5 Mark II doesn’t feature 4K video capture, clocking out at 1080p 60fps.

The Mark III is likely to have 30fps 4K capture rather than 60fps, because the OMD E-M1X tops out at 30fps. There’s a certain political manoeuvring to camera ranges. This may be an issue for the camera, because the rival Panasonic G9 can shoot both 4K/60 and 6K/30 – although the latter is a larger, heavier camera.

Panasonic’s own G90 is limited to 4K at 30fps – and, again, is heavier at 533g body-only (with battery).

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is also likely to lack the E-M1X’s Pro Capture mode. This uses the electronic shutter to shoot a quick burst of images at up to 60fps – handy for wedding photographers who need to nail certain crucial moments.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III – First impressions

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III will be a test for the future popularity of affordable Micro Four Thirds cameras that aren’t made primarily for video. Once they were notable for their super-fast speed, but nowadays mid-range APS-C and “entry-level” full-frame models can shoot fast enough for most of us.

And it seems the OM-D E-M5 Mark III won’t be able to lean on high-end video modes. either.

But what it has going for it is great all-round performance and excellent optical image stabilisation in a frame that’s both light and small. Micro Four Thirds may struggle a little to convert new stills shooters in the future, but those who (like Olympus) have bought into the format should find plenty here to like.

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