First Look Olympus OM-D E-M5 III Underwater Housing

By Jean Rydberg

Olympus did more than just add a roman numeral when they designed the new weather-sealed OM-D E-M5 Mark III camera. The body has shrunk compared to the previous OM-D E-M5 II camera, yet it encases many of the same components as the higher end E-M1 II. For example it uses the same 20 megapixel four-thirds sensor, full-width 4K video capture, and 5-axis in-body image stabilization. The newer E-M5 III also features an updated 121-point hybrid autofocus system. 

The E-M5 III still manages to be smaller and lighter than both the E-M5 II and E-M1 II despite having comparable CIPA rated battery life of approximately 310 shots per charge.

A Super Control Panel screen provides quick access to nearly every important camera setting including ISO, white balance, drive mode, and flash exposure compensation. Eight camera controls can also be customized using the camera’s custom menu settings.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 III Underwater Housing Ikelite

Regardless of which camera body you're using, great light and a super sharp lens are the two biggest advantages underwater. Try TTL strobe exposure to increase your speed of shooting and improve your accuracy rate.

 

200DLM/A Underwater Housing for Olympus OM-D E-M5 III

The 200DLM/A Underwater Housing for the OM-D E-M5 III encompasses all of our latest features and updates. The housing is designed to put all important camera functions at your fingertips. You can keep it compact or build out a professional rig with expandability for high-performance accessories like magnified viewfinders, vacuum systems, true TTL flash exposure, and support for the best micro four-thirds lenses for underwater use.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 III Underwater Housing Ikelite

The unique placement of the o-ring on the DLM port mount prevents water from being dripped on your camera's sensor during lens changes and makes it easier to properly prepare the o-ring.

Lens Choice 

The Dry Lock Micro (DLM) port system is a perfect combination of optical quality and lightweight design. Quickly change between dozens of lenses including the top choices for underwater performance: 

  • Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 ED PRO
  • Olympus 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO
  • Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 G Fisheye
  • Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 ED
  • Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 ED PRO
  • Olympus 30mm f/3.5 ED Macro
  • Olympus 60mm f/2.8 ED Macro

Plus dozens of other Olympus, Panasonic, and Sigma micro four-thirds lenses. Check out the DLM/A Lens Port Chart for a full listing of port recommendations and zoom solutions for lenses we’ve tested.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 III Underwater Housing Ikelite

The completely clear back with laser engraved control details. The 1/2" accessory port is visible on the lower left corner of the housing. This is the attachment point for an optional vacuum valve.

Confidence 

It couldn’t be easier to put the housing together and get a good, waterproof seal. The camera and rear o-ring are fully visible through the clear housing back. The unique DLM port system keeps the o-ring on the outside of the housing – not on the port itself - making it easier to see and keeping water away from the camera’s sensor when making lens changes. It also allows the port to attach without rotating or twisting against the o-ring.

The optional Vacuum Kit for 1/2" Accessory Port # 47012 can be quickly and easily installed for added reassurance. Pull a vacuum on the housing to simulate pressure at a depth of one atmosphere. When the housing holds a vacuum you can be confident that you won’t experience a catastrophic flood at depth.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 III Underwater Housing Ikelite

Testing your housing is easy. Pump up the system to create a vacuum and then leave it sit for as long as possible. If the gauge doesn't move, your housing is air- and water-tight.

Controls and Ergonomics

The control set on the housing is optimized for comfortable and intuitive use underwater. Hard anodized aluminum push buttons and glands provide durability, smooth action, and reduced weight. Each control knob is overmolded with premium soft-touch rubber for just-right grip whether you’re wearing gloves or not.

A front rubber hand grip mimics the feeling of holding the camera body while underwater. A rear attachment point is provided for the addition of an 1/8” lanyard (lanyard not included). Two 1/4-20 threaded mounts on the bottom of the housing allow for secure and rotation-free attachment of optional tray and handle accessories. Choose the Tray with Left-Hand Quick Release Handle # 9523.63 or the Tray with Dual Quick Release Handles # 9523.64 depending on your needs. Both the shutter and AE-L/AF-L levers can be extended with the optional Trigger Extension # 4077.93 for perfect positioning when using a right handle.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 III Underwater Housing Ikelite

The trigger-style shutter feels super natural and sensitive with or without gloves on. It can hug the housing or extend to a handle depending on the set-up of your system.

Back Button Focus

Back button focus is when you use the AE-L/AF-L button to lock focus instead of half-pressing the shutter button. It is simple and effective. Once you get used to the different shooting style, it’s invaluable for obtaining tack-sharp focus underwater, especially for super macro or fast moving subjects.

Read more: Getting it Sharp: Back Button Focus and Post Processing Workflow

Super Control Panel

The super control panel will be displayed in the monitor when using the camera’s viewfinder to frame your subject. This useful screen both shows you the camera’s current settings and allows you to quickly change them. Just press the OK button and use the up/down/left/right arrows to access all important camera settings including ISO, white balance, and flash exposure compensation. Rotate the front dial to change the highlighted setting. Pressing the shutter button halfway accepts the setting change.

Power Save

Conserving battery life is important with mirrorless cameras, but sometimes the best photo opportunities are missed because a camera was turned off to save battery for later. Instead, set a short Sleep and Auto Power Off intervals so that the camera falls asleep automatically when not in use. The camera will use virtually no battery in this "sleep" mode and you just need to half-press the shutter or press any button to wake it up.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 III Underwater Housing Ikelite

The camera mount plate is ultra low-profile so that it won't get in your way when making memory card changes or shooting on the surface. You can even attach it directly to a tripod for slow exposures and time lapse shooting.

On the Surface

The truth is that on a dive trip you may want to use your camera outside of the housing once in a while. A compact camera mount attaches once to the bottom of the camara, and can stay attached throughout your trip. The camera then slides in and out of the housing for quick installation and removal. The camera’s battery and memory card slot can still be accessed with the mount plate attached. Additionally, the mount plate features a 1/4-20 threaded hole on the bottom for attachment to a photo or video tripod.  

Strobe Shooting

An included manual flash hotshoe and bulkhead allow fast and reliable triggering of external underwater strobes. Lightweight sync cords are available Ikelite, SEA&SEA, INON, and other strobes that are capable of electrical triggering.

The optional DL3 DS Link TTL Converter Ikelite PT1 Hotshoe Kit # 46032 puts automatic camera-controlled flash exposure right at your fingertips. The DL3 makes it possible for current model Ikelite DS strobes to communicate directly with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 III camera for perfect strobe exposure shot after shot, even as your subject is quickly advancing or retreating. Exposure flash compensation can be dialed in through the camera itself.

Copyright Nirupam Nigam Olympus E-M5 III Underwater in Ikelite Housing

The E-M5 III combined with the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens provides stunning results. Shot with the DL3 DS Link TTL Converter and DS160 and DS161 strobes. Copyright Nirupam Nigam, Bluewater Photo

TTL may be perfect about 99% of the time, but sometimes you need to get creative. You’re not stuck with TTL exposure. Quickly switch between TTL and manual strobe exposure at the touch of a button. When set to TTL you never need to reach up and fiddle with the dials of your strobes, giving you the time and focus to getting perfect composition and correct exposure in your camera.

TTL or "auto" strobe exposure is not to be confused with the "auto" exposure mode on the camera. It is most common to shoot the camera in manual mode and the strobes in TTL. This is the same thing that you typically do with a surface flash- shoot in TTL and dial in flash exposure compensation as needed.

The E-M5 III does not feature a built-in flash, rather coming bundled with the FL-LM3 hotshoe-mount flash unit. In order to keep the housing as compact and lightweight as possible, the accessory FL-LM3 flash is not supported.

Conclusion

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 III comes packed with all of the features that you would expect of a compact mirrorless camera released in 2019. It is a highly capable compact camera with a stylish, ergonomic, and weatherproof build.

If you’re already an Olympus micro four-thirds shooter then the E-M5 III is a great choice for a lightweight travel-friendly system. Recent instant savings promotions have pushed the camera body just below the attractive $1,000 price point in the US market.

If you’re new to interchangeable lens photography then we would suggest considering the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 instead. The SL3 features better battery life and lens support at an even lower price.

 

 

Jean Rydberg IkeliteJean Rydberg is the President & CEO of Ikelite. She has lived her whole life in landlocked Indianapolis, Indiana, but is no stranger to the water as a daughter of Ikelite’s founder Ike Brigham. She has traveled around the world shooting and testing gear and enjoys new challenges in both photography and diving. Jean loves to learn about the creative ways photographers achieve their visions. More than anything she wants to show aspiring underwater photographers that excellence is attainable with any system. When she's not working she's spending time with her husband and two daughters.

 

 

Additional Reading

Best Underwater Camera System of 2019

The Best Mid-Range Camera Underwater by the Specs

First Look Canon EOS Rebel SL3 250D Underwater Housing

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Underwater Housing & Camera Review

First Look Olympus Tough TG-6 and FCON-T02 Circular Fisheye Lens

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III Underwater Review by Bluewater Photo

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