Olympus E-3 vs E-M5 III
The Olympus E-3 and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2007 and October 2019. The E-3 is a DSLR, while the E-M5 III is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-3 has a resolution of 10 megapixels, whereas the E-M5 III provides 20.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-M5 III is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The E-M5 III can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the E-3 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M5 III is considerably smaller (35 percent) than the Olympus E-3. Moreover, the E-M5 III is substantially lighter (53 percent) than the E-3. 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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-3) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M5 III). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-M5 III, 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 E-3 gets 750 shots out of its BLM-1 battery, while the E-M5 III can take 310 images on a single charge of its BLS-50 power pack. The power pack in the E-M5 III can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Olympus E-3||142 mm||116 mm||75 mm||876 g||750||Y||Oct 2007||1,699|
|2.||Olympus E-M5 III||125 mm||85 mm||50 mm||414 g||310||Y||Oct 2019||1,199|
|3.||Nikon D300||147 mm||114 mm||74 mm||925 g||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|4.||Olympus PEN-F||125 mm||72 mm||37 mm||427 g||330||n||Jan 2016||1,199|
|5.||Olympus E-M5 II||124 mm||85 mm||45 mm||469 g||310||Y||Feb 2015||1,099|
|6.||Olympus E-M1||130 mm||94 mm||63 mm||497 g||350||Y||Sep 2013||1,399|
|7.||Olympus E-M5||122 mm||89 mm||43 mm||425 g||360||Y||Feb 2012||1,299|
|8.||Olympus E-5||142 mm||117 mm||75 mm||873 g||750||Y||Sep 2010||1,699|
|9.||Olympus E-600||130 mm||94 mm||60 mm||535 g||500||n||Aug 2009||449|
|10.||Olympus E-620||130 mm||94 mm||60 mm||521 g||500||n||Feb 2009||699|
|11.||Olympus E-30||142 mm||108 mm||75 mm||701 g||750||n||Nov 2008||1,299|
|12.||Olympus E-420||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||440 g||500||n||Mar 2008||599|
|13.||Olympus E-520||136 mm||92 mm||68 mm||535 g||750||n||May 2008||699|
|14.||Olympus E-410||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||435 g||500||n||Mar 2007||699|
|15.||Olympus E-510||136 mm||92 mm||68 mm||538 g||750||n||Mar 2007||799|
|16.||Olympus E-1||141 mm||104 mm||81 mm||738 g||750||Y||Jun 2003||1,699|
|17.||Panasonic GX8||133 mm||78 mm||63 mm||487 g||330||Y||Jul 2015||1,199|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The E-M5 III was launched at a markedly lower price (by 29 percent) than the E-3, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.
Technology-wise, the E-M5 III uses a more advanced image processing engine (TruePic VIII) than the E-3 (TruePic III), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-M5 III offers a higher resolution of 20.2 megapixels, compared with 10 MP of the E-3. This megapixels advantage translates into a 42 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-M5 III has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.34μm versus 4.74μm for the E-3). However, it should be noted that the E-M5 III is much more recent (by 12 years) than the E-3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the E-M5 III has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-M5 III implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-M5 III for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 25.9 x 19.4 inches or 65.8 x 49.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.7 x 15.6 inches or 52.7 x 39.5 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.3 x 13 inches or 43.9 x 32.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-3 are 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm for good quality, 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm for very good quality, and 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 cm for excellent quality prints.
The E-M5 III has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
Unlike the E-3, the E-M5 III has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (80MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
The Olympus E-3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III are ISO 200 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 64-25600.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
| DXO |
|1.||Olympus E-3||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.6||10.5||571||56|
|2.||Olympus E-M5 III||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|4.||Olympus PEN-F||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||1080/60p||23.1||12.4||894||74|
|5.||Olympus E-M5 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|6.||Olympus E-M1||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||23.0||12.7||757||73|
|7.||Olympus E-M5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60i||22.8||12.3||826||71|
|8.||Olympus E-5||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.6||10.5||519||56|
|9.||Olympus E-600||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.5||10.3||541||55|
|10.||Olympus E-620||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.3||10.3||536||55|
|11.||Olympus E-30||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.3||10.4||530||55|
|12.||Olympus E-420||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.5||10.4||527||56|
|13.||Olympus E-520||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.4||10.4||548||55|
|14.||Olympus E-410||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.1||10.0||494||51|
|15.||Olympus E-510||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.2||10.0||442||52|
|16.||Olympus E-1||Four Thirds||4.9||2560||1920||none||..||..||..||..|
|17.||Panasonic GX8||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.5||12.6||806||75|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The E-M5 III indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-3 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-M5 III can use is 4K/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-M5 III has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the E-3 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the E-M5 III has a higher magnification than the one of the E-3 (0.68x vs 0.58x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-3, the Olympus E-M5 III, and comparable cameras.
|2.||Olympus E-M5 III||2360||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|5.||Olympus E-M5 II||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The E-3 has one, while the E-M5 III does not. While the built-in flash of the E-3 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.Both cameras have an articulated rear screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This feature will be particularly appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the E-M5 III is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Olympus E-M5 III has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The E-3 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards, while the E-M5 III uses SDXC cards. The E-3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the E-M5 III only has one slot.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Olympus E-3 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|2.||Olympus E-M5 III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|5.||Olympus E-M5 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
It is notable that the E-M5 III offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the E-3 does not provide wifi capability.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Olympus E-3 (unlike the E-M5 III) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
The E-M5 III is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Olympus. In contrast, the E-3 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the E-3 was succeeded by the Olympus E-5. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus website.
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-M5 III? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-3:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 310) on a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- 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 October 2007).
Arguments in favor of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (20.2 vs 10MP), which boosts linear resolution by 42%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (TruePic VIII vs TruePic III).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/30p video.
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.68x vs 0.58x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 230k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (125x85mm vs 142x116mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 462g or 53 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (29 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 12 years of technical progress since the E-3 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-M5 III is the clear winner of the contest (22 : 8 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-M5 III place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the E-3 and the E-M5 III in practical situations. 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 why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Olympus E-3||..||88/100||+ +||o||4/5||Oct 2007||1,699|
|2.||Olympus E-M5 III||5/5||+||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2019||1,199|
|3.||Nikon D300||..||+ +||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|4.||Olympus PEN-F||..||..||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,199|
|5.||Olympus E-M5 II||5/5||+ +||81/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2015||1,099|
|6.||Olympus E-M1||5/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2013||1,399|
|7.||Olympus E-M5||4/5||+ +||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||1,299|
|8.||Olympus E-5||4/5||..||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,699|
|9.||Olympus E-600||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||449|
|10.||Olympus E-620||3/5||88/100||72/100||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2009||699|
|11.||Olympus E-30||..||..||71/100||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2008||1,299|
|12.||Olympus E-420||..||85/100||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Mar 2008||599|
|13.||Olympus E-520||..||87/100||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2008||699|
|14.||Olympus E-410||..||86/100||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Mar 2007||699|
|15.||Olympus E-510||..||89/100||+ +||3.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2007||799|
|16.||Olympus E-1||..||..||+||o||..||Jun 2003||1,699|
|17.||Panasonic GX8||5/5||+||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2015||1,199|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-M5 III
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Olympus E-3||Olympus E-M5 III|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Four Thirds lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||October 2007||October 2019|
|Launch Price||USD 1,699||USD 1,199|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-3||Olympus E-M5 III|
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds Sensor||Four Thirds Sensor|
|Sensor Size||17.3 x 13.0 mm||17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||224.9 mm2||224.9 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||21.6 mm||21.6 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||10 Megapixels||20.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3648 x 2736 pixels||5184 x 3888 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.74 μm||3.34 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.44 MP/cm2||8.96 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||200 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||64 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||TruePic III||TruePic VIII|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||56||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.6||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.5||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||571||..|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-3||Olympus E-M5 III|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2360k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||1040k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Swivel screen||Swivel screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-3||Olympus E-M5 III|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||5 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||up to 1/32000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or XD cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-3||Olympus E-M5 III|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-3||Olympus E-M5 III|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||750 shots per charge||310 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
142 x 116 x 75 mm
(5.6 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
125 x 85 x 50 mm
(4.9 x 3.3 x 2.0 in)
|Camera Weight||876 g (30.9 oz)||414 g (14.6 oz)|
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