Olympus E-M5 vs Sony A7S III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Sony Alpha 7S III are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2012 and July 2020. Both the E-M5 and the A7S III are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a Four Thirds (E-M5) and a full frame (A7S III) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 12 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 OM-D E-M5 and the Sony Alpha 7S 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-M5 and the Sony A7S III 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The E-M5 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the A7S III 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 Sony A7S III is notably larger (13 percent) than the Olympus E-M5. Moreover, the A7S III is substantially heavier (64 percent) than the E-M5. 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 compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M5) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7S III). 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 gets 360 shots out of its BLN-1 battery, while the A7S III can take 600 images on a single charge of its NP-FZ100 power pack. The power pack in the A7S III can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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||122 mm||89 mm||43 mm||425 g||360||Y||Feb 2012||1,299|
|2.||Sony A7S III||127 mm||97 mm||81 mm||699 g||600||Y||Jul 2020||3,499|
|3.||Olympus PEN-F||125 mm||72 mm||37 mm||427 g||330||n||Jan 2016||1,199|
|4.||Olympus E-M5 II||124 mm||85 mm||45 mm||469 g||310||Y||Feb 2015||1,099|
|5.||Olympus E-PL7||115 mm||67 mm||38 mm||357 g||350||n||Aug 2014||599|
|6.||Olympus E-M1||130 mm||94 mm||63 mm||497 g||350||Y||Sep 2013||1,399|
|7.||Olympus E-P5||122 mm||69 mm||37 mm||420 g||330||n||May 2013||999|
|8.||Olympus E-PL5||111 mm||64 mm||38 mm||325 g||360||n||Sep 2012||599|
|9.||Olympus E-PM2||110 mm||64 mm||34 mm||269 g||360||n||Sep 2012||499|
|10.||Panasonic GX8||133 mm||78 mm||63 mm||487 g||330||Y||Jul 2015||1,199|
|11.||Panasonic GX7||123 mm||71 mm||55 mm||402 g||350||n||Aug 2013||999|
|12.||Panasonic GH3||133 mm||93 mm||82 mm||550 g||540||Y||Sep 2012||1,299|
|13.||Sony A7R IV||129 mm||96 mm||78 mm||665 g||670||Y||Jul 2019||3,499|
|14.||Sony A7R III||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||650||Y||Oct 2017||3,199|
|15.||Sony A9||127 mm||96 mm||63 mm||673 g||650||Y||Apr 2017||4,499|
|16.||Sony A7R II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||625 g||290||Y||Jun 2015||3,199|
|17.||Sony A7S II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||627 g||370||Y||Sep 2015||2,999|
|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 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 63 percent) than the A7S 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.
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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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 Olympus E-M5 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony A7S III a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7S III is 276 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.0. The sensor in the E-M5 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the A7S III offers a 3:2 aspect.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Olympus E-M5 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixels, compared with 12 MP of the Sony A7S III. This megapixels 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 8.40μm for the A7S III). Moreover, it should be noted that the A7S III is much more recent (by 8 years and 5 months) than the E-M5, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-M5 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-M5 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Sony A7S III are 21.2 x 14.2 inches or 53.8 x 36 cm for good quality, 17 x 11.3 inches or 43.1 x 28.8 cm for very good quality, and 14.1 x 9.4 inches or 35.9 x 24 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha 7S III are ISO 80 to ISO 102400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 40-409600.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A7S III offers substantially better image quality than the E-M5 (overall score 15 points higher). The advantage is based on 0.9 bits higher color depth, 1.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Olympus E-M5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60i||22.8||12.3||826||71|
|2.||Sony A7S III||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||4K/120p||23.7||13.9||2520||86|
|3.||Olympus PEN-F||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||1080/60p||23.1||12.4||894||74|
|4.||Olympus E-M5 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|5.||Olympus E-PL7||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.7||12.4||873||72|
|6.||Olympus E-M1||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||23.0||12.7||757||73|
|7.||Olympus E-P5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
|8.||Olympus E-PL5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||889||72|
|9.||Olympus E-PM2||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.7||12.2||932||72|
|10.||Panasonic GX8||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.5||12.6||806||75|
|11.||Panasonic GX7||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60p||22.6||12.2||718||70|
|12.||Panasonic GH3||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||22.7||12.4||812||71|
|13.||Sony A7R IV||Full Frame||60.2||9504||6336||4K/30p||26.0||14.8||3344||99|
|14.||Sony A7R III||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||14.7||3523||100|
|15.||Sony A9||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.9||13.3||3517||92|
|16.||Sony A7R II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||13.9||3434||98|
|17.||Sony A7S II||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||4K/30p||23.6||13.3||2993||85|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the A7S III provides a better video resolution than the E-M5. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/120p, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/60i.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The two cameras under review are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the A7S III offers a substantially higher resolution than the one in the E-M5 (9440k vs 1440k dots). The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-M5 and Sony A7S III in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|2.||Sony A7S III||9440||n||3.0||1440||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|4.||Olympus E-M5 II||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|13.||Sony A7R IV||5760||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A7R III||3686||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|16.||Sony A7R II||2400||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
|17.||Sony A7S II||2400||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||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, the A7S 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 E-M5 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A7S III uses CFexpress or SDXC cards. The A7S III features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the E-M5 only has one slot. The A7S III supports UHS-II cards (on both slots), while the E-M5 can use UHS-I cards.
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 and Sony Alpha 7S III and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|2.||Sony A7S III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||full||3.2||Y||-||Y|
|4.||Olympus E-M5 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|13.||Sony A7R IV||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|14.||Sony A7R III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|16.||Sony A7R II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|17.||Sony A7S II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the A7S III offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the E-M5 does not provide wifi capability.
The A7S III is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Sony. In contrast, the E-M5 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the E-M5 was succeeded by the Olympus E-M5 II. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus and Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-M5 and the Sony A7S III? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Olympus OM-D E-M5:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (15.9 vs 12MP) with a 13% higher linear resolution.
- More compact: Is smaller (122x89mm vs 127x97mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 274g or 39 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (63 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2012).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha 7S III:
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (15 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.6 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.6 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/120p vs 1080/60i).
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- More detailed viewfinder: Has higher resolution electronic viewfinder (9440k vs 1440k dots).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.91x vs 0.58x).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1440k vs 610k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (600 versus 360) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.2 vs 2.0).
- 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.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports a more advanced SD data transfer standard (UHS-II vs UHS-I).
- More modern: Reflects 8 years and 5 months of technical progress since the E-M5 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A7S III is the clear winner of the contest (22 : 5 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 and the Sony A7S III 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 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-M5 and the A7S 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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-M5||4/5||+ +||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||1,299|
|2.||Sony A7S III||..||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2020||3,499|
|3.||Olympus PEN-F||..||..||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,199|
|4.||Olympus E-M5 II||5/5||+ +||81/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2015||1,099|
|5.||Olympus E-PL7||4/5||+||..||5/5||4/5||Aug 2014||599|
|6.||Olympus E-M1||5/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2013||1,399|
|7.||Olympus E-P5||5/5||+ +||78/100||4.5/5||5/5||May 2013||999|
|8.||Olympus E-PL5||3/5||+ +||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||599|
|9.||Olympus E-PM2||3/5||..||77/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||499|
|10.||Panasonic GX8||5/5||+||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2015||1,199|
|11.||Panasonic GX7||4/5||+||79/100||5/5||5/5||Aug 2013||999|
|12.||Panasonic GH3||5/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||1,299|
|13.||Sony A7R IV||5/5||+||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2019||3,499|
|14.||Sony A7R III||..||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2017||3,199|
|15.||Sony A9||5/5||+ +||89/100||5/5||5/5||Apr 2017||4,499|
|16.||Sony A7R II||5/5||+ +||90/100||5/5||5/5||Jun 2015||3,199|
|17.||Sony A7S II||5/5||+||..||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2015||2,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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 are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Olympus E-M5 vs Sony A7S 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-M5||Sony A7S III|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Micro Four Thirds lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2012||July 2020|
|Launch Price||USD 1,299||USD 3,499|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-M5||Sony A7S III|
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||17.3 x 13.0 mm||35.6 x 23.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||224.9 mm2||847.28 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||21.6 mm||42.8 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||15.9 Megapixels||12 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4608 x 3456 pixels||4240 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||3.76 μm||8.40 μm|
|Pixel Density||7.08 MP/cm2||1.42 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60i Video||4K/120p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 25,600 ISO||80 - 102,400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||40 - 409,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||TruePic VI||BIONZ XR|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||71||86|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.8||23.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.3||13.9|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||826||2520|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-M5||Sony A7S III|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||1440k dots||9440k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||610k dots||1440k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Swivel screen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-M5||Sony A7S III|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||9 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||YES|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CFexpress or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||Dual UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-M5||Sony A7S III|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 3.2|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||full HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-M5||Sony A7S III|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||360 shots per charge||600 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
122 x 89 x 43 mm
(4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 in)
127 x 97 x 81 mm
(5.0 x 3.8 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||425 g (15.0 oz)||699 g (24.7 oz)|
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