Camera Review: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
February 15, 2018
Here’s something to ponder. Movie theater popcorn, in all its stale, salt-ridden glory, hasn’t changed much in decades and yet seemingly costs more with every visit. Digital cameras, on the other hand, continue to improve significantly year after year while the prices have only fallen, bringing technology that was inaccessibly to many budgets in the past into the hands of the masses in the present.
The third iteration of Olympus’ entry-level OM-D mirrorless camera, the E-M10 Mark III, is a perfect example. At just $650, it delivers features like in-body image stabilization, 4K video recording and speedy burst modes at a price that’s just about comparable to our last trip to the concession stand.
The Mark III sports a 16-megapixel image sensor with a native ISO range of 200-6400 (expandable to 100 and 25,600). The camera’s in-body, 5-axis stabilization system is good for up to four stops of correction, per CIPA standards.
There are 121 AF points with face and eye detection plus touch-focusing capability on the 3-inch, tilting display. You’ll enjoy continuous shooting of up to 8.6 fps with focused fixed on the first frame. Mechanical shutter speeds top off at 1/4000 sec. but there’s an electronic shutter with a top speed of 1/16,000 sec.
On the video front, the Mark III can record 4K (3840 x 2160) at 30p or 24p and full HD at 60p. It can also compile 4K time-lapse movies in camera. There’s Wi-Fi, too. Finally, Olympus has added a Bleach Bypass filter to its Art Modes if you want some analogue nostalgia.
The E-M10 Mark III offers a nice degree of customizability with a programmable shortcut button and two customizable function buttons. It carries on the OM-D tradition of prominent dials and plenty of exterior controls, which we like. Ergonomically, it’s comfortable to hold with a nice grip in the front and a raised space for your thumb on the back.
It lacks weather sealing, which isn’t surprising given the price, and feels very light. With the 12-100mm PRO lens attached, it definitely felt front heavy.
Olympus redesigned the menu system in the Mark III and while it’s definitely improved, we still found it a bit more byzantine than necessary. For instance, the first shooting menu has just four options on the display, though there’s ample room for more. Fortunately, there’s a quick menu button that lets you access most of your needed settings with just a press.
While 16-megapixels is on the lower side of the resolution spectrum for mirrorless models (though not for comparably priced competition from Panasonic), you can expect solid image quality from the E-M10 Mark III. On auto white balance, JPEGs could sometimes take on a cooler cast, but nothing too offensive.
The smaller sensor makes noise an issue as you push up the ISO, but we had good results below ISO 3200. RAW files showed surprisingly good dynamic range for cameras in this class.
We were especially impressed with the 5-axis stabilization, which allowed us to get sharp results handheld at 1/13 sec. shutter speeds (using the 12-100mm f/4 PRO lens).
The Mark III is quite speedy, clocking in at 8 fps. Better still, you can shoot JPEGs until the card is full. RAW images will start buffering at around 20 or so frames. While the Mark III has plenty of AF points, we found subject tracking to be a bit more hit-and-miss than we expected. Low light, focusing, however, was a pleasant surprise.
The battery clocks in at a CIPA-sanctified 330 frames, which is pretty solid for models in this price, topping Panasonic’s GX850 but below Fujifilm’s X-A3.
Notes from the TIPA Test Bench
PDN is a member of the Technical Image Press Association, which has contracted with Image Engineering for camera testing. Click here for the full lab report.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III uses its 16-megapixel sensor fully at the lowest ISO of 200 (100 percent of the theoretical maximum; 1725 line pairs per picture height). All resolution measurements are improved in the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III over the Mark II.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III makes excellent use of its sensor at all the lower ISO speeds: at ISO 400, it used 95 percent of the theoretical maximum (1649 line pairs per picture height), and at ISO 3200, 91 percent (1568 line pairs per picture height). Even at ISO 6400, it uses 85 percent of its sensor (1476 line pairs per picture height).
These numbers are supported by subjective visual inspection of images shot with the Mark III of the test chart. Only a slight softening of the finest detail is noticeable at ISO 6400 compared to ISO 200. The same part of an image made at ISO 800 is hardly softer than the photo shot at ISO 200.
Sharpening and Noise
The degree of sharpening applied by the Mark III is on the low side, less than that applied by the Mark II. The amount of overshoot and undershoot also decreases as ISO increases. However, one should recall that the user can directly set the degree of in-camera sharpening for JPEGs through the many customizable picture mode settings.
Images made at all ISOs would show observable noise when viewed at 100 percent on a screen. Noise measurements ranged from 0.9 at ISO 200 to 1.5 at ISO 1600. At ISO 6400 and above, the noise was very noticeable in this viewing condition. A subjective visual assessment of the images finds very little noise observable at ISO 200, and observable but not disruptive noise at ISO 800.
When the image is modelled objectively as viewed on a mobile screen or as a postcard-sized print, results indicate that noise would not be very noticeable until ISO 1600. In Viewing Condition 3, simulating a large print, noise would also only become noticeable above ISO 3200. Most of the observable noise can be seen in the mid-tones, especially the darker part of the mid-tones.
Dynamic range in the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is excellent: more than 11 f-stops at lower ISOs (11.2 f-stops at ISO 200 and 400, and 12.3 at ISO 800). Dynamic range in the Mark III drops to 8.5 at ISO 6400, and drops further at extended ISOs (7.5 at ISO128000, and 7.0 at ISO 25600). Color reproduction is also good, with infrequent strong deviations from the original color.
The automatic white balance delivers very good and consistent results throughout nearly the entire range of available ISOs.
The camera’s start-up time is 1.6 seconds. As this is a mirrorless camera, the autofocus time was measured only using Live View. When using Live View in bright light, the autofocus takes 0.17 seconds, with a total lapse from pressing the button to shutter release of 0.26 seconds. In low light, the autofocus in Live View takes a tiny bit longer (0.28 seconds), for a total shooting lapse of 0.36 seconds.
In video mode, the Mark III uses 70 percent of its sensor (759 line pairs per picture height) at Auto ISO, and 73 percent (785 line pairs per picture height) at ISO 1600.
Frames grabbed from a video shot at high and low ISO and enlarged to 100 percent, can be said from subjective inspection to be completely acceptable with regard to detail, color, and noise. Objective measurements of visual noise in video show that it is not extremely noticeable and when it is, it’s mostly in the darker tones. Sharpening is acceptable in video images made of high-contrast scenes.
Dynamic range in video is good, at 9.0 f-stops, about the same as the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II.
There’s plenty of competition for the E-M10 Mark III, including models from Fujifilm and Sony with larger, APS-C-sized image sensors. That said, few models at this price point offer 5-axis image stabilization or the Mark III’s stellar dynamic range.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
PROS: Excellent image stabilization; very good dynamic range in stills and video; ergonomic design; tilting display.
CONS: Menu is a bit clumsy; lower resolution than some competitors.
PRICE: $650 (body)
Camera Review: Leica TL2 Mirroless