Olympus E-M5 III vs PEN-F
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III and the Olympus PEN-F are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2019 and January 2016. Both the E-M5 III and the PEN-F are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 20.2 megapixels.
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 OM-D E-M5 Mark III and the Olympus PEN-F? 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-M5 III and the Olympus PEN-F is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
Both cameras are available in two different colors (black, silver).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus PEN-F is notably smaller (15 percent) than the Olympus E-M5 III. However, the PEN-F is slightly heavier (3 percent) than the E-M5 III. It is worth mentioning in this context that the E-M5 III is splash and dust resistant, while the PEN-F does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog. Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.
Concerning battery life, the E-M5 III gets 310 shots out of its BLS-50 battery, while the PEN-F can take 330 images on a single charge of its BLN-1 power pack. The power pack in the E-M5 III can be charged via the USB port, so that it is not always necessary to take the battery charger along when travelling.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Olympus E-M5 III||125 mm||85 mm||50 mm||414 g||310||Y||Oct 2019||1,199|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||125 mm||72 mm||37 mm||427 g||330||n||Jan 2016||1,199|
|3.||Olympus E-M1 III||134 mm||91 mm||69 mm||580 g||420||Y||Feb 2020||1,799|
|4.||Olympus E-M10 IV||122 mm||84 mm||49 mm||383 g||360||n||Aug 2020||699|
|5.||Olympus E-M1X||144 mm||147 mm||75 mm||997 g||870||Y||Jan 2019||2,999|
|6.||Olympus E-M1 II||134 mm||91 mm||67 mm||574 g||440||Y||Sep 2016||1,999|
|7.||Olympus E-M5 II||124 mm||85 mm||45 mm||469 g||310||Y||Feb 2015||1,099|
|8.||Olympus E-M10 II||120 mm||83 mm||47 mm||390 g||320||n||Aug 2015||649|
|9.||Olympus E-M1||130 mm||94 mm||63 mm||497 g||350||Y||Sep 2013||1,399|
|10.||Olympus E-P5||122 mm||69 mm||37 mm||420 g||330||n||May 2013||999|
|11.||Olympus E-M5||122 mm||89 mm||43 mm||425 g||360||Y||Feb 2012||1,299|
|12.||Panasonic G90||130 mm||94 mm||77 mm||536 g||290||Y||Apr 2019||999|
|13.||Panasonic GX8||133 mm||78 mm||63 mm||487 g||330||Y||Jul 2015||1,199|
|14.||Sony A6600||120 mm||67 mm||69 mm||503 g||810||Y||Aug 2019||1,399|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same 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. 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. 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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to 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.
In terms of chip-set technology, the E-M5 III uses a more advanced image processing engine (TruePic VIII) than the PEN-F (TruePic VII), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 20.2 megapixels. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the E-M5 III and the PEN-F have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the E-M5 III is much more recent (by 3 years and 8 months) than the PEN-F, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.
The E-M5 III has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
Both cameras have the capacity to capture high quality composite images by combining multiple shots after shifting the sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 25600, which can be extended to ISO 64-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN-F are ISO 80 to ISO 25600 (no boost).
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|1.||Olympus E-M5 III||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||1080/60p||23.1||12.4||894||74|
|3.||Olympus E-M1 III||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|4.||Olympus E-M10 IV||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|5.||Olympus E-M1X||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|6.||Olympus E-M1 II||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.7||12.8||1312||80|
|7.||Olympus E-M5 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|8.||Olympus E-M10 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.1||12.5||842||73|
|9.||Olympus E-M1||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||23.0||12.7||757||73|
|10.||Olympus E-P5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
|11.||Olympus E-M5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60i||22.8||12.3||826||71|
|12.||Panasonic G90||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|13.||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 also of capturing video footage. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the E-M5 III provides a higher video resolution than the PEN-F. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the PEN-F is limited to 1080/60p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-M5 III and the PEN-F are similar in the sense that both feature an electronic viewfinder, which is helpful when framing images in bright sunlight. Moreover, their viewfinders offer an identical resolution of 2360k dots. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-M5 III and Olympus PEN-F along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Olympus E-M5 III||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|3.||Olympus E-M1 III||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||18.0||n||Y|
|4.||Olympus E-M10 IV||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||15.0||Y||Y|
|5.||Olympus E-M1X||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||18.0||n||Y|
|6.||Olympus E-M1 II||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||18.0||n||Y|
|7.||Olympus E-M5 II||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|8.||Olympus E-M10 II||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0||Y||Y|
|9.||Olympus E-M1||2360||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|10.||Olympus E-P5||optional||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/8000s||9.0||Y||Y|
|11.||Olympus E-M5||1440||n||3.0 / 610||tilting||Y||1/4000s||9.0||n||Y|
|12.||Panasonic G90||2360||n||3.0 / 1240||swivel||Y||1/4000s||9.0||Y||Y|
|13.||Panasonic GX8||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A6600||2359||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||11.0||n||Y|
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, both cameras under consideration feature an 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 and the Olympus PEN-F both have 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.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-M5 III and the PEN-F write their files to SDXC cards. Both cameras support UHS-II cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s.
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 OM-D E-M5 Mark III and Olympus PEN-F and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Olympus E-M5 III||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|3.||Olympus E-M1 III||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||-||Y|
|4.||Olympus E-M10 IV||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|5.||Olympus E-M1X||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.0||Y||-||Y|
|6.||Olympus E-M1 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.0||Y||-||-|
|7.||Olympus E-M5 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|8.||Olympus E-M10 II||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|9.||Olympus E-M1||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|10.||Olympus E-P5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|11.||Olympus E-M5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Panasonic G90||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|13.||Panasonic GX8||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|14.||Sony A6600||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||YES||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
It is notable that the E-M5 III has a microphone port, which is missing on the PEN-F. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.
The E-M5 III is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Olympus. In contrast, the PEN-F has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). There has not been a direct replacement model for the PEN-F from Olympus. 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 how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-M5 III or the Olympus PEN-F – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III:
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (TruePic VIII vs TruePic VII).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.68x vs 0.62x).
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 8 months of technical progress since the PEN-F launch.
Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN-F:
- More compact: Is smaller (125x72mm vs 125x85mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in January 2016).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-M5 III is the clear winner of the match-up (9 : 2 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 wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports 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-M5 III and the Olympus PEN-F place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-M5 III or the PEN-F 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 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], digitalcameraworld [DCW], 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-M5 III||5/5||+||5/5||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2019||1,199|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||..||..||4/5||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,199|
|3.||Olympus E-M1 III||5/5||..||5/5||83/100||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2020||1,799|
|4.||Olympus E-M10 IV||4.5/5||..||5/5||81/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2020||699|
|5.||Olympus E-M1X||4.5/5||o||5/5||85/100||4.5/5||..||Jan 2019||2,999|
|6.||Olympus E-M1 II||5/5||+ +||5/5||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||1,999|
|7.||Olympus E-M5 II||5/5||+ +||4.5/5||81/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2015||1,099|
|8.||Olympus E-M10 II||4.5/5||+ +||..||80/100||5/5||5/5||Aug 2015||649|
|9.||Olympus E-M1||5/5||+ +||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2013||1,399|
|10.||Olympus E-P5||5/5||+ +||..||78/100||4.5/5||5/5||May 2013||999|
|11.||Olympus E-M5||4/5||+ +||..||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||1,299|
|12.||Panasonic G90||4.5/5||+||4.5/5||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2019||999|
|13.||Panasonic GX8||5/5||+||..||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2015||1,199|
|14.||Sony A6600||4/5||+||4/5||83/100||4.5/5||4/5||Aug 2019||1,399|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
- Canon 1300D vs Olympus E-M5 III
- Canon SX740 vs Olympus E-M5 III
- Fujifilm X-T10 vs Olympus PEN-F
- Fujifilm XP130 vs Olympus E-M5 III
- Fujifilm XP130 vs Olympus PEN-F
- Nikon B700 vs Olympus PEN-F
- Nikon D2X vs Olympus PEN-F
- Olympus E-M5 III vs Panasonic FZ1000
- Olympus E-M5 III vs Panasonic FZ330
- Olympus E-M5 III vs Panasonic G85
- Olympus PEN-F vs Sony A5000
- Olympus PEN-F vs Sony HX95
Specifications: Olympus E-M5 III vs Olympus PEN-F
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-M5 III||Olympus PEN-F|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Micro Four Thirds lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||October 2019||January 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 1,199||USD 1,199|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-M5 III||Olympus PEN-F|
|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||20.2 Megapixels||20.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5184 x 3888 pixels||5184 x 3888 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||3.34 μm||3.34 μm|
|Pixel Density||8.96 MP/cm2||8.96 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 25,600 ISO||80 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||64 - 25,600 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||TruePic VIII||TruePic VII|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||74|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||23.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||12.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||894|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-M5 III||Olympus PEN-F|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2360k dots||2360k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||1037k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Swivel screen||Swivel screen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-M5 III||Olympus PEN-F|
|Focus System||On-Sensor Phase-detect||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||10 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||up to 1/32000s||up to 1/16000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-II||UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-M5 III||Olympus PEN-F|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||micro HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||Wifi built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||Bluetooth built-in||no Bluetooth|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-M5 III||Olympus PEN-F|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||310 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||USB charging||no USB charging|
125 x 85 x 50 mm
(4.9 x 3.3 x 2.0 in)
125 x 72 x 37 mm
(4.9 x 2.8 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||414 g (14.6 oz)||427 g (15.1 oz)|
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