E-M1 Mark III Musings

Rumours about new camera launches and their related specifications seem to be never ending. Recently I’ve had a number of readers ask me about a newly registered Olympus camera… rumoured to be a new OM-D E-M1 Mark III.  Like many photographers who own a particular brand of camera, they are keen to find out what may be in store. I have no inside information to share. But I am sure of one thing… get prepared for some new camera clickbait articles to appear on the internet.

Remember when the internet was full of OM-D E-M5 Mark III ‘leaked specs”? Much of what was written on various blogs was simply crazy and made no logical sense. For example, the new E-M5 Mark III was supposedly going to have almost all of the high tech features of the E-M1 X but at 1/3 of the cost. And, in a much smaller and lighter body. Features like Handheld Hi Res mode. Live ND. The same level of IBIS performance… just to mention a few.

The sad thing is that many folks don’t really think about new camera models from a logical and strategic standpoint. Somehow they think that all of their wish list items will magically get crammed into a new, less expensive body. A couple of simple questions about a future E-M5 Mark III would have quickly identified a lot of the rumours on the internet as nothing more than new camera clickbait articles.

Does it make logical sense that a smaller, lighter body without dual processors could duplicate some of the high end technology in the E-M1X without possessing the raw computing power needed to do so?

Does it make strategic sense for Olympus to create a camera of the size, weight and price of the E-M5 Mark III and somehow make it as technically competent a camera as the E-M1X… then sell it for 1/3 of the price? The obvious answer to both of those questions is “No”.

So, get your salt shaker out and have it at the ready when you start to see new camera clickbait articles popping up all over the internet.

As mentioned at the start of this article, I have no inside information whatsoever about any new Olympus products. To answer some of the questions posed by readers I’ll give you my two cents worth. By the way… Canada doesn’t even mint or circulate pennies any longer!

For what it’s worth… here are some of my musings about a potential OM-D E-M1 Mark III.

Right now in Canada, the suggested list price of an Olympus OM-D E-M1X is $3,899 (currently on sale at $3,499). The E-M1 Mark II lists at $1,999 (currently on sale at $1,599). And, the E-M5 Mark III is at $1,499 (both suggested list and selling price).

Since the E-M1 Mark II has been ‘on sale’ for many months now, it would seem logical to assume that Olympus is trying its best to deplete current inventories. This would make room for an E-M1 Mark III. For a difference of $100 how many people wouldn’t purchase an E-M1 Mark II rather than an E-M5 Mark III? Blow out pricing appears to be in effect.

Going forward, let’s assume that the E-M1X list price stays at $3,899 CDN and the E-M5 Mark III remains at $1,499 CDN. This gives Olympus a good deal of pricing latitude between those two models for a new E-M1 Mark III. Especially if the company can significantly differentiate this model from both the E-M1X and the E-M5 Mark III.

Assuming a good degree of product differentiation, it appears logical to me that Olympus could price an E-M1 Mark III in the $2,499 to $2,699 CDN range.

Will the performance and functionality of a new E-M1 Mark III be at or near an E-M1X? I don’t think so. It may have some improvements over the E-M1 Mark II, but I doubt that they will be earth shattering. For example, it makes no sense to me that an E-M1 Mark III would have Live ND, Handheld Hi Res, or the intelligent subject tracking found on the E-M1X. It is even possible that an E-M1 Mark III could lose some functionality vis-a-vis a Mark II… for example with frame rates.

From a strategic standpoint it makes more sense to me that Olympus would put a new, high resolution micro four thirds sensor in an E-M1 Mark III. Something in the 36MP to 47MP range. The camera would then be significantly differentiated from both the E-M1X and E-M5 Mark III, and could be targeted at different segments of the camera market. Landscape and fashion photographers come to mind… as well as studio work. A high resolution E-M1 Mark III could also have unique video capabilities as part of its differentiation with other OM-D cameras.

Remember that when Olympus launched the E-M1X, the company went to great pains to position the E-M1X as one of a pair of ‘flagship cameras’. It was not ‘above’ the E-M1 Mark II… but in a parallel position. At the time this appeared quite strange. It occurred to me that this positioning had little to do with the E-M1 Mark II, and was primarily done to set the stage for a future E-M1 Mark III.

In my mind, it would be very difficult for Olympus to position an E-M1 Mark III with a 20 MP sensor as another ‘flagship camera”. On the other hand, using a high resolution micro four thirds sensor in the 36MP to 47MP range would enable that type of market positioning for an E-M1 Mark III.

So, that’s where my old, porous brain leads me when I think about an E-M1 Mark III. A high resolution M4/3 camera in the 36MP to 47MP range. Targeted at landscape, fashion and studio photographers. And, priced in the $2,499 to $2,699 CDN range. Feel free to shake some salt on these musings if you don’t agree.

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6 thoughts on “E-M1 Mark III Musings”

  1. Happy New Year Tom and thanks for your always interesting articles.
    In regard to what people expect from new products, it is a case of what I call “wishful thinking”. As you state above, it is just not realistic to think the manufacturers will be able to put all key features in one single line and sell it for the lowest price in the line. It doesn’t happen with any product, autos, appliances, etc, etc. But the camera manufacturers are in more of a bind than most companies because of the decreasing sales and worse, decreasing interest in their cameras. It has to be a hugh marketing and sales dilemma for them. I am a good example of what you talk about above. Seven years ago I was happily shooting with a Nikon D800 FF camera and assorted lenses. About 3-1/2 years ago I moved to Fuji because as I have gotten older, I just tried of carrying the heavy equipment. I loved both the Nikon and Fuji equipment and they both did a great job but just a short 3-1/2 years after starting with the Fuji, I started to feel the weight of it bearing down on me. It would not have been a problem except for the fact that I shoot a lot of birds and had to have the 100-400 lens on a top camera. I watched a couple of shooting buddies use Olympus and Panasonic and often hand-held and I saw their output and I wondered why I was even using Fuji. So Olympus came out with the E-M1X and goodbye Fuji and hello Olympus. What I dont want is anything heavier than this equipment so the last thing I want to see Olympus do is get into the FF business when I hope they will continue to offer improvements to the M4/3 line. And as I see it, the camera population is aging and Olympus and Panasonic are on the right side of that. Nikon, Canon will be in the mirrorless business but they have a far greater problem with moving people away from the lines where their money is today.

    1. Happy New Year to you as well Joel!

      Thanks for adding to the discussion by sharing your camera experiences over the past 7 years. Like you, I also owned a Nikon D800 with a good assortment of F-Mount glass and enjoyed using it when I had it. I left full frame back in July 2015 and went with very small Nikon 1 gear as it fit my client video work perfectly. My recent move to the Olympus M4/3 sensor was actually a move to ‘larger’ gear… I guess that illustrates how relative life experiences can be!

      I also think that M4/3 is the ‘right side’ of an aging population of camera buyers. I must admit that even though the M.Zuiko 150-400 mm with built-in 1.25X teleconverter will be a comparatively large and heavy lens… it does intrigue me considerably. Being able to handhold up to 2000 mm with the MC-20 teleconverter is an exciting prospect… even for an old guy like me.

      Tom

  2. Tom,

    Happy new year!

    I agree with what you wrote — it seems that usual expectations for folks nowadays is that all (if not more) the features of the top-end/flagship model(s) will all trickle into the the mid- to low-end models, then offered for half or even less of the price. First, there are physical dimensions to consider, even in this ever increasing miniaturization. Then, there’s the market to consider: will it cannibalize into the sales of the flagship? will the feature set make owning the top tier models redundant?

    I was reading the year-end report of DPReview and one thing they tried hard to skirt around is to discuss in detail how camera sales have regressed. I think Olympus was wise to stick to its niche instead of joining the full-frame and medium-format fray. It would be smart for Olympus to think beyond the FF and MF boxes as well as continue to refine the M4/3 format as a viable system for enthusiasts and serious photographers.

    Oggie
    http://www.lagalog.com

    1. Happy New Year to you as well Oggie!

      It will certainly be interesting to see where the decline in the camera market leads. Another key point in my mind is the aging of camera buyers. When I do presentations at camera clubs I don’t see many folks in the audience that are under 50 years old. This has to be very concerning to camera manufacturers.

      I think the current obsession with full frame and medium format cameras by the manufacturers will not magically increase, or even stabilize, the size of the camera market. Manufacturers that have jumped on this bandwagon may not reap the financial rewards they are anticipating. As camera buyers continue to age their needs will likely skew towards smaller, lighter and more capable gear… and that includes lenses.

      The importance of computational photography will only increase with time. When one looks at the functionality of the E-M1X with its relatively small sensor, one can’t help but wonder what the future holds.

      Tom

      1. Tom,

        You raised very important points. I also noticed that when people (usually teens to young adults) consult me on how to take a certain picture, they are usually not interested in how I did so many steps, employed this and that lens, used such and such settings, to come up with the final image. Arguably, this is the effect of smartphone imaging technology (shoot not, apply filter later or let the smartphone do all the setting anyway). If all else fails, there’s simulation (think Luminar sky replacement). The situation is becoming more and more “how good is the camera” than “good is the photographer wielding the camera”.

        While there will be niches for photographers to remain relevant and useful, I think these would be becoming more and more compressed as the costs of equipment and other related expenses are becoming disparate from the fees/payments being offered for such services.

        Oggie
        http://www.lagalog.com

        1. Hi Oggie,

          As your comment points out, as cameras and Smartphones continue to become more sophisticated they will offer more and more creative options. The future will become more about software manipulation of an image.

          As far as making a living as a professional photographer these days… I’m quite happy being in the twilight of my career in terms of doing client work. My future business will have much more to do with combining photography with writing, than just photography or video alone.

          Tom

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