A Perfect Pairing
The Olympus E-M5 Mark III and the 12-45mm f/4 PRO
Disclosure: I am an Olympus Visionary and as such, receive compensation from Olympus America. However, no compensation was paid for this review. I endorse their products because I truly believe in the quality of their gear.
When Olympus sent me the E-M5 Mark III and the 12-45mm f/4 I was certainly pleased to get this new camera and lens. But to be honest, I was rather hesitant to shoot with them. After all, I was very happy with the E-M1 Mark III and 12-100mm combination that I'd been using for quite some time. What could this new combination offer me that I wasn't already getting from their pro-level body and my workhorse lens?
After about 3 months with it on my shelf I finally decided it was time to 'kick the tires' and see what it could deliver. It was also the start of the pandemic and I needed a creative boost, since travel was out of the question, and many of my local attractions were also shut down. So, on a rather grey March morning I grabbed an umbrella, a tripod, and the E-M5 Mark III and the 12-45mm lens and headed down to the still-frozen bay near where I live, to see what I could create.
I set the camera up on the tripod, fairly low to the ice, engaged the time-lapse feature and began moving the umbrella around and tossing it up in the air (I'm sure that I looked like a complete fool!). This craziness lasted about 10 minutes, and after a bit of editing finally lead to this image...
This was my first creation with the 5iii and 12-45. I was pleased with the results, however a bit more time would pass before I was convinced that this pairing would truly meet my needs. But, more on that later. Now it's time for some introductions.
The E-M5 Mark III
The OM-D series of cameras has 3 separate camera line-ups, from entry-level (the E-M10 series) to professional (the E-M1 series). The E-M5 Mark III fits right in between the two. It has a 20MP sensor with 5-axis image stabilization and weather-sealed construction. It can shoot at 10fps with its mechanical shutter and 30fps with the electronic shutter engaged.
The E-M5 Mark III has a noticeably smaller footprint that its bigger brother, the E-M1 Mark III. There are, of course, pros and cons to this. It's missing the great ergonomics of the E-M1iii, but is lighter and easier to pack.
A quick look at the mode dial shows that it can easily handle what a pro photographer might throw at it, yet with fully automatic settings and scene modes, it will appeal to those people who want the camera to take control of the shooting situation. It also has some really nice advanced features built in, like tripod high res mode and focus-bracketing and stacking.
The 12-45mm f/4 PRO
When Olympus announced the release of the 12-45mm f/4, many people (myself included) questioned this decision since the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO already existed in the line-up. The 12-40 was the first PRO lens to be developed and had proven itself to be an exceptional piece of glass. The new 12-45, having a smaller fixed aperture of f/4, allowed it to shed a bit of its cousin's size and weight. This alone can be considered an advantage, but where this lens really shines is in its sharpness - a degree of sharpness that is usually reserved for prime lenses.
Like all of the PRO lenses the 12-45 is weather-sealed, has a Zero coating on the front element, and has a very close minimum working distance (12mm for this lens). What is missing however, is the manual focus clutch. I don't use manual focusing often, but the pull-back clutch system on the other PRO lenses is a nice, convenient way to engage it.
Putting it to the Test
After a bit of playtime with the camera and my umbrella I put the camera and lens back on my shelf...
...and two months went by before I decided to pick it up again. Yup, two whole months! Like I said, I was quite pleased with the E-M1 Mark III. But now I was starting to feel guilty that I wasn't shooting with this new gear, so I finally decided it was time to see what this camera/lens combination could do.
It was now the middle of May, and on this particular morning a thin fog hung in the air, creating a moody atmosphere that got my trigger finger itching. Overwhelmed with guilt (okay, that might be an exaggeration!), I opted to grab the E-M5iii and the 12-45 and headed out to see what I could shoot.
As a landscape photographer I know that some days are a complete bust, and on others you strike it rich. On this particular day, I hit photographic gold.
The photos above are just two that I made that day, but they turned out to be two of my all-time favourites. Could I have achieved the same results with my E-M1 Mark III and the 12-100 f/4 PRO? Almost certainly. But this proved to me that my hesitation to shoot with the E-M5iii and the 12-45 was completely unwarranted.
Small, Light, and Powerful
I have a great love of the outdoors and for adventure. Looking for something new to do during a pandemic, when regular travel was not a wise idea, my wife and I turned to fat biking. It's a great winter activity that utilizes specially designed bikes with very 'fat' tires that allow you to ride fairly easily over snow. It's a real calorie-burner, so I'm not interested in carrying any extra weight. That said, I'm also not willing to bike these winter trails without a camera. The E-M5iii and 12-45 lens were the absolute perfect solution. Together, they are small, lightweight, and rugged enough to handle the elements. Plus, they have all the professional features I need for my winter adventures.
Final Thoughts and Images
My initial hesitation to shoot with the E-M5 Mark III is now long gone. It, along with the 12-45mm lens is always packed in my camera bag. I still shoot primarily with the EM-1 Mark III, but for professional photographers, it makes for a great back-up camera. And, for enthusiast photographers, who are looking to upgrade, it is definitely a combination worth considering. All in all, I would say that, for many situations, it is a perfect pairing.
I started this article with a concept shot, so why not finish with one. I love shooting during heavy snow as it helps to isolate the elements of the scene. The E-M5iii and the 12-45 can handle some tough weather conditions, but, full disclosure, there were no ravens to be found during this winter storm so it was added later, in post. (ISO400, 1/400s @ f/4)
3/3/2021 12:11:13 am
Peter, has the 12-45mm f/4 replaced your 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, or do you still use it?
3/3/2021 04:43:36 am
3/3/2021 12:51:51 pm
Thanks so much, Peter. I have yet to add anything wider than the 12-40 to my collection but would like to at some point. I remember following your astrophotography when you were using the 12-40 PRO, and it gave me incentive to try it. I admire your work and love seeing your images. Thanks so much for the inspiration and knowledge that you are so willing to share.
3/3/2021 12:36:00 pm
Nice article Peter, beautiful images. I can't pick a favorite as I really like them all. When I grow up, I hope to create art like this. It is truly inspiring work. Thanks for sharing your images and thoughts on this combination. All the best, Todd
3/3/2021 04:54:58 pm
Hey, Todd! So glad that you enjoyed the images. Thanks for the support.
3/6/2021 10:06:08 am
I’ve had these two items in my shopping cart for a while now, but was hesitant. I think this post has settled my mind. It’s the high res mode and in-camera focus stacking that brought me to this combination. Weather sealing and portability are key as well. I think I might just complete that purchase!
3/6/2021 05:53:12 pm
Nice article, Peter! I will consider getting this lens for my E-5 Mark II.
4/9/2021 07:13:42 pm
2/6/2022 11:10:37 am
Hey Peter! I love your work I'm big fan of you! I'm an amateur landscape photographer and I am using nikon bodies for now. I'm looking to change to om-d e-m1 mark iii and I want to ask for your opinion about olympus lenses kit. What is your advice? 7-14 Pro and 12-40 Pro Or 8-25 f4 and 12-45 f4? And also which prime you prefer for astrophotography? Thank you in advance!
2/6/2022 11:57:41 am
For astrophotography, the 12mm f//2.0 lens is one I have used and Peter has extensively shown examples of its use.
2/6/2022 12:16:58 pm
Thanks for sharing Walter! I didn't know that the 7-14 has no filter threads... Thanks again 🙏
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Peter Baumgarten is a professional photographer and educator. He is also an Olympus Visionary and NiSi Official Photographer.