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Canon 1D Mark III versus Olympus E-M1

The Canon EOS-1D Mark III and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2007 and September 2013. The 1D Mark III is a DSLR, while the E-M1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-H (1D Mark III) and a Four Thirds (E-M1) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 10.1 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 15.9 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Canon 1D Mark III vs Olympus E-M1

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 1D Mark III and the Olympus E-M1 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the 1D Mark III – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 1D Mark III vs Olympus E-M1
Compare 1D Mark III versus E-M1 top
Compare 1D Mark III and E-M1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M1 is considerably smaller (50 percent) than the Canon 1D Mark III. Moreover, the E-M1 is substantially lighter (57 percent) than the 1D Mark III. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (1D Mark III) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M1). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-M1, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

Concerning battery life, the 1D Mark III gets 2200 shots out of its LP-E4 battery, while the E-M1 can take 350 images on a single charge of its BLN-1 power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the 1D Mark III has a battery grip build in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the E-M1, Olympus provides the HLD-7 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III» 156 mm 156.6 mm 80 mm 1155 g 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Olympus E-M1« 130 mm 94 mm 63 mm 497 g 350 Y Sep 2013 1,399- i Olympus E-M1
Canon 5DS R« » 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« » 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 950 g 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark IV« » 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1230 g 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 5D Mark II« » 152 mm 114 mm 75 mm 850 g 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« » 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1535 g 1200 Y Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« » 156 mm 157.6 mm 80 mm 1265 g 600 Y Sep 2002 8,999- i Canon 1Ds
Nikon D3S« » 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« » 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« » 157.5 mm 149.5 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Olympus E-M1 II« » 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M5 II« » 124 mm 85 mm 45 mm 469 g 310 Y Feb 2015 1,099 i i Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-P5« » 122 mm 69 mm 37 mm 420 g 330 n May 2013 999- i Olympus E-P5
Olympus E-M5« » 122 mm 89 mm 43 mm 425 g 360 Y Feb 2012 1,299- i Olympus E-M5
Panasonic GH4« » 133 mm 93 mm 84 mm 560 g 500 Y Feb 2014 1,499- i Panasonic GH4

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-M1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 69 percent) than the 1D Mark III, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 1D Mark III vs Olympus E-M1

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 1D Mark III features an APS-H sensor and the Olympus E-M1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-M1 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 2.0. The sensor in the 1D Mark III has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-M1 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Canon 1D Mark III and Olympus E-M1 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the E-M1 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixel, compared with 10.1 MP of the 1D Mark III. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.76μm versus 7.21μm for the 1D Mark III). However, it should be noted that the E-M1 is much more recent (by 6 years and 6 months) than the 1D Mark III, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the E-M1 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The E-M1 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in relatively fast and reliable autofocus acquisition during video recording.

1D Mark III versus E-M1 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III» APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871Canon 1D Mark III
Olympus E-M1« Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p23.012.775773Olympus E-M1
Canon 5DS R« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.612.4230886Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« » Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark IV« » APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744-24.012.0166380Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« » APS-H 8.2 3504 2336-22.311.1100366Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« » Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704-21.811.095463Canon 1Ds
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.210.948959Nikon D2Xs
Olympus E-M1 II« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M5 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-P5« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.489572Olympus E-P5
Olympus E-M5« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60i22.812.382671Olympus E-M5
Panasonic GH4« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p23.212.879174Panasonic GH4

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The E-M1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 1D Mark III does not. The highest resolution format that the E-M1 can use is 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 1D Mark III vs Olympus E-M1

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-M1 has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the 1D Mark III has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 1D Mark III, the Olympus E-M1, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III»optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark III
Olympus E-M1«2360 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus E-M1
Canon 5DS R« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 6.0 n n Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 8.3 n n Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« »optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 8000 3.0 n n Canon 1Ds
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2Xs
Olympus E-M1 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M5 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-P5« »- n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 8000 9.0 Y Y Olympus E-P5
Olympus E-M5« »1440 n 3.0 610 tilting Y 4000 9.0 n Y Olympus E-M5
Panasonic GH4« »2359 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 8000 12.0 Y n Panasonic GH4

One feature that is present on the 1D Mark III, but is missing on the E-M1 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The 1D Mark III writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDHC cards, while the E-M1 uses SDXC cards. The 1D Mark III features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the E-M1 only has one slot.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III»Y-----2.0---Canon 1D Mark III
Olympus E-M1«YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y--Olympus E-M1
Canon 5DS R« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark IV« »Ystereo-Y-mini2.0---Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 5D Mark II« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »Y-----1.1---Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« »Y-----FW---Canon 1Ds
Nikon D3S« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2Xs
Olympus E-M1 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.0Y--Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M5 II« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y--Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-P5« »Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--Olympus E-P5
Olympus E-M5« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-M5
Panasonic GH4« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Panasonic GH4

Both the 1D Mark III and the E-M1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 1D Mark III was replaced by the Canon 1D Mark IV, while the E-M1 was followed by the Olympus E-M1 II.

Review summary: Canon 1D Mark III vs Olympus E-M1

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 1D Mark III and the Olympus E-M1? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS-1D Mark III:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (2200 versus 350) on a single battery charge.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2007).

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus OM-D E-M1:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (15.9 vs 10.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 23%.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1 EV of extra DR).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • Better video autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident movie autofocus.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 230k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • More compact: Is smaller (130x94mm vs 156x156.6mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 658g or 57 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi build in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (69 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 6 months of technical progress since the 1D Mark III launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-M1 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 8 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.

1D Mark III 08:16 E-M1

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 1D Mark III or the E-M1 handle or perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III»---rev- Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Olympus E-M1«HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2013 1,399- i Olympus E-M1
Canon 5DS R« »Rec83/1005/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark IV« »-89/100-5/5- Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »-HiRec4.5/5-- Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »-HiRec-rev- Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« »-HiRec--- Sep 2002 8,999- i Canon 1Ds
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« »-HiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« »---rev- Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Olympus E-M1 II« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M5 II« »HiRec81/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099 i i Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-P5« »HiRec78/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2013 999- i Olympus E-P5
Olympus E-M5« »HiRec80/1004.5/55/55/5 Feb 2012 1,299- i Olympus E-M5
Panasonic GH4« »HiRec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2014 1,499- i Panasonic GH4

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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