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Olympus OM-D E-M10 III vs E-M5 III vs E-M1 II: which OM-D is right for you?

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III vs E-M5 III vs E-M1 II
(Image credit: Olympus)

The announcement of the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III has rejuvenated the company's line-up of DSLR-style OM-D cameras – but which one should you choose?

Olympus makes two sets of cameras. The PEN models, including the PEN E-PL9 and E-PL10, are designed for novices, smartphone upgraders and bloggers who don’t need viewfinders but do want the advantages of a bigger sensor and interchangeable viewfinders. The OM-D models like the new OM-D E-M5 Mark III, however, are more advanced cameras with viewfinders that are designed for enthusiasts and experts and hark back to the classic Olympus OM 35mm SLRs.

Both sets of cameras are amongst the best mirrorless cameras you can get, but while the PEN models are probably the best cameras for beginners (and maybe the OM-D E-M10 Mark III), the OM-D models are more for enthusiasts, experts and professionals.

The OM range has been a little confusing of late, with a mix of resolutions and old and new cameras. The launch of the new OM-D E-M5 Mark III is a chance to straighten this out. There are three OM-D models, aimed broadly at beginners, enthusiasts and pros, and we compare them detail by detail to see how they differ and what this means for different types of user (we’ve included the powerful OM-D E-M1 Mark II left out the high-end OM-D E-M1X because that’s a specialised professional camera). 

At the end, we’ll tell you exactly what we think and help you decide which of these three cameras would suit you best.

Specs compared

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III vs E-M5 III vs E-M1 II

(Image credit: Olympus)

1. Sensor

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
Sensor16.1MP MFT Live MOS20.4MP MFT Live MOS20.4MP MFT Live MOS

Of the three latest cameras models, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is the odd one out. This camera still uses Olympus's older, lower resolution 16-megapixel sensor. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that – it’s only a 4-megapixel difference after all – but if you want those extra pixels and the reassurance of having the latest sensor tech, then the E-M10 Mark III is probably not the one to go for. There’s nothing to choose between the E-M5 Mark III and the E-M1 Mark II, however.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III vs E-M5 III vs E-M1 II

(Image credit: Olympus)

2. Image stabilization

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
StabilizationIn-body, 5 axis, 4 stops compensationIn-body, 5 axis, 5.5 stops compensationIn-body, 5 axis, 5.5 stops compensation

All three of these cameras have very capable 5-axis in-body stabilization systems – but there are differences. The image stabilizer in the E-M10 Mark III is rated at 4 stops of shake compensation (4EV) – that means it compensates for camera shake at up to four shutter speeds slower – but the stabilizers in the E-M5 Mark III and E-M1 Mark II are rated at 5.5 stops of compensation (5.5EV) and this rises to 6.5 stops (6.5EV) with one of Olympus’s new stabilized lenses fitted.

3. ISO range

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
ISO range100-25,600100-25,600100-25,600

There’s no difference in the ISO range across all three cameras. The E-M5 Mark III and E-M1 Mark II have higher resolution sensors than the E-M10 Mark III, but improvements in the image processing mean that Olympus has been able to maintain the same sensitivity range. To be frank, the smaller size of the MFT sensor in these cameras (versus APS-C and full frame) mean they are not really high ISO specialists anyway.

4. Exposure system

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
Exposure324-zone ESP, spot, center-weighted, highlight, shadow324-zone ESP, spot, center-weighted, highlight, shadow324-zone ESP, spot, center-weighted, highlight, shadow

All three cameras share the same 324-zone exposure system, offering multi-pattern ESP metering, center-weighted and spot metering modes, plus very effective highlight and shadow modes which enable you  to set the exposure for either of these key areas – a more advanced and very useful mode that probably doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

5. Viewfinder

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
ViewfinderEVF, 2.36m dots, 1.23x magnificationEVF, 2.36m dots, 1.37x magnificationEVF, 2.36m dots, 1.48x magnification

All three of these cameras use a 2.36 million dot electronic viewfinder, but there are differences in the magnification. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III offers the lowest magnification, and 1.23x – though that’s still pretty decent. The E-M5 Mark III offers a higher 1.37x magnification while the E-M1 Mark II offers the largest viewfinder image at 1.48x magnification.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III vs E-M5 III vs E-M1 II

(Image credit: Olympus)

6. Rear screen

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
Rear screen3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1.04m dots3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.037m dots3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.037m dots

The cheapest camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, is the odd one out again. It has the same size 3-inch touchscreen as the others, but it’s on a tilting hinge and can only tilt up and down. The E-M5 Mark III and E-M1 Mark II have fully-articulating touchscreens which offer far more freedom of movement – including front-facing.

7. Autofocus

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
AutofocusContrast AF, 121 points (800 points in magnified manual mode)PDAF, 121 pointsPDAF, 121 points

Again, it’s the cheaper Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III that’s the odd one out, using a theoretically slower contrast AF system rather than the higher-tech 121-point phase detection AF in the OM-D E-M5 Mark III and E-M1 Mark II. Actually, though, the E-M10 Mark III’s AF still feels pretty snappy, so casual users might not even notice the difference, though the more expensive models are likely to prove more effective for fast-moving action.

8. Shutter speeds

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
Shutter speeds1/4,000-60sec plus B, x-sync 1/250sec, electronic shutter 1/16,000-30sec1/8,000sec-60sec, plus B, x-sync 1/250sec, electronic shutter 1/32,000-60sec1/8,000sec-60sec, plus B, x-sync 1/250sec, electronic shutter 1/32,000-60sec

Even the humble E-M10 Mark III offers a good range of shutter speeds, and both mechanical and electronic shutters, but the E-M5 Mark III and E-M1 Mark II go further, with a maximum 1/8000sec for the mechanical shutter and 1/32,000 for the electronic shutter.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III vs E-M5 III vs E-M1 II

(Image credit: Olympus)

9. Continuous shooting

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
Continuous shooting8.6fps, 22 RAW, JPEGs up to card capacity10fps, 152 RAW, JPEGs up to card capacity15fps, 102 RAW, 134 JPEGs, 10fps, 321 RAW, JPEGs up to card capacity

This is where the differences between the entry-level OM-D E-M10 Mark III and the two other models become especially apparent. The E-M10 III offers a decent 8.6fps continuous but a modest 22-shot RAW buffer capacity. The E-M5 Mark III is far more capable, shooting at 10fps and with a huge 152-shot RAW buffer capacity. The E-M1 Mark II doubles that buffer capacity at 10fps, and can go up to 15fps and 102 RAW files (the higher speed fills the buffer faster).

10. Pro Capture

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
Pro Capture30fps (AF-S), 10fps (AF-C), 99 frames, 14 pre-capture60fps (AF-S), 18fps (AF-C), 99 frames, 35 pre-capture

The continuous shooting story does not stop there. The more advanced E-M5 Mark III and E-M1 Mark II have a Pro Capture mode that stores up to 14 frames and 35 frames respectively in a rolling buffer while the shutter release is half pressed and then adds these to the start of the burst sequence when you press the shutter button the rest of the way. The E-M5 Mark III’s Pro Capture Mode is impressive enough, but the E-M1 Mark II is the star, offering up to 60fps (with focus locked on the first frame) or 18fps (with continuous AF).

11. High Res Shot

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
High Res Shot50MP50MP

The High Res Shot mode is another feature found only on the more advanced Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III and E-M1 Mark II, and not on the cheaper E-M10 Mark III. In this mode, the camera uses the sensor shift feature to rapidly capture 8 frames at half-pixel increments and merge them into a single 50-megapixel image. It needs a static subject and for the camera to be on a tripod, but the results are stellar.

12. Video

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
Video4K UHD 30p, 25p, 24p, SHD at 120fpsC4K 24p, 4K UHD 30p, 25p, 24p, FHD at 120fpsC4K 24p, 4K UHD 30p, 25p, 24p, FHD at 60fps

Even the entry-level OM-D E-M10 can capture 4K video, but the E-M5 III movies it on further with support for the wider C4K ratio, not just UHD, and the ability to shoot full HD at 120fps. Interestingly, although the older E-M1 Mark II also offers C4K and UHD, it doesn’t have the E-M5 Mark III’s 120fps mode. 

13. Battery life

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
Battery life330 shots310 shots440 shots

Mirrorless cameras are not known for their battery life, so none of these three cameras are particularly impressive in this respect. It’s a shame that the battery life of the E-M5 Mark III is slightly down on the E-M10 Mark III, but then it has a higher resolution sensor processing more data. The E-M1 Mark II’s battery life is the best, at 440 shots, but you’d still be well advised to carry spares.

14. Memory

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
Memory1x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS II)1x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS II)2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (1x UHS I, 1x UHS II)

All three of these cameras support UHS I and UHS II SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, but the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II adds a second card slot – though this is UHS I only, which is mildly disappointing.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III vs E-M5 III vs E-M1 II

(Image credit: Olympus)

15. Dimensions

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
Dimensions121.5 x 83.6 x 49.5mm125.3 x 85.2 x 49.7mm124.1 x 90.9 x 68.9mm

The entry-level Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is impressively small for a mirrorless camera with a viewfinder, and one of the advantages of the Micro Four Thirds format. What’s more impressive is that the much more powerful E-M5 Mark III is only a few millimetres wider and a couple of millimetres taller. The E-M1 Mark II is a much bulkier camera, thanks to the DSLR-style grip on the right side of the body.

16. Weight

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
Weight410g414g574g

The star of this group for weight is the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III. It’s just 4g heavier than the cheaper E-M10 Mark III, itself quite a lightweight. The E-M1 Mark II is heavier, thanks to its larger grip and sturdier construction, but even this weighs only 574g, body only.

The verdict

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (2017)Olympus OM-D E-M5 III (2019)Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (2016)
ProsSmall sizeSmall sizeDSLR-like handling
Lower costGreat value for the power and featuresCheaper than the flagship E-M1X
Advanced features for a beginner/travel cameraPowerful image stabilizationPowerful image stabilization
Effective external controlsGreat 4K/FHD video featuresGood 4K video features
4K videoVari-angle touchscreenVari-angle touchscreen
Very good burst/Pro Capture shootingExcellent burst/Pro Capture shooting

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III vs E-M5 III vs E-M1 II

Which Olympus OM-D is best? The E-M10 Mark III (above) is small, cheap and ideal for travel, the E-M1 Mark II is real sports powerhouse, but we think the new E-M5 Mark III is the best all-rounder of the trio.

(Image credit: Olympus)

The launch of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III has reinvigorated the Olympus mirrorless camera range and made the choices for photographers a lot clearer. It offers high-end tools and features in an exciting mid-price camera that’s also very compact.

To see how it fits in, and which model is best for you, we’ve compared the three current OM-D models, spec by spec (the PEN models are a different proposition) and reached a pretty definite conclusion.

The cheapest OM-D, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is small, affordable, remarkably powerful and not just suited to beginners but enthusiasts too. If you’re just starting out, or you’re on a tight budget, this is the one to get.

But if you’re a keen photographer and can afford a little more, the new OM-D E-M5 Mark III is simply stellar. It has a higher resolution 20-megapixel sensor, faster and more advanced autofocus, superb in-body stabilization and terrific high speed shooting modes. 

Good as the E-M5 Mark III is, however, there will be many users looking for things that only the E-M1 Mark II can provide, including even better high-speed shooting and Pro Capture modes (quite extraordinary, in fact), a more robust construction and a large front grip which makes the camera balance better with longer lenses. For sports and wildlife fans, the E-M1 Mark II is still the one to go for.

Read more:

• These are the best mirrorless cameras right now
• We pick the best cameras for beginners
• Which is the best camera for travel? We pick our favorites