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Date: 28/05/2013 | By: Mathieu

OM-D E-M5 vs DMC-GH3: clash of the titans in the Micro Four Thirds realm!

Clash of the titans in the Micro Four Thirds reign!

OM-D E-M5 vs DMC-GH3: clash of the titans in the Micro Four Thirds realm!

In the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3, the Micro Four Thirds system has its two best representatives: two compact yet professional bodies that prove what MFTs is capable of when it comes to image quality for both still and video, as well as the flexibility of the system.

But what is the purpose of comparing two cameras?

Well, for us, not only is it a way of pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each model, but it is also a chance to summarize our personal experiences with them. It is a way in which we can give you advice about the style of photography that best suits these cameras, while helping you answer that tricky question: which model is best for me?

You won’t find scientific comparisons but rather our personal experience with each camera based on real-world usage. For more information about the cameras, you can check out our full reviews and galleries across the site (relevant links are mentioned throughout the article).

But remember, this comparison isn’t just about us and our opinions. If you too have had the chance to use both of these cameras and want to share your opinion about them, feel free to leave us a comment. We would love to hear your two cents!

Olympus OM-D E-M5

Panasonic DMC-GH3

Main Specs

These two cameras share the same sensor and the same lens mount, meaning that they produce very similar results for still photography. They have in common lots of technical specs, making MFT the most versatile system because both Olympus and Panasonic lenses are fully compatible on both bodies. But, as in every camera comparison, there are differences worth mentioning:

The E-M5 has internal 5-axis stabilisation, meaning that it will work with any kind of MFT lens attached (regardless of whether those lenses have their own stabilisation built-in or not). Also, it is a little bit faster (9fps vs 6fps).

The GH3 stands out for its video capabilities, as it offers a professional codec and bitrate as well as other interesting options for filmmakers. It doesn’t have internal stabilization. Rather, it relies on stabilization built into the lenses.

Main Specs


  • Sensor: 16.1 megapixels 4/3 Live MOS Sensor
  • Lens system: Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens system
  • ISO Sensitivity: 200 – 25600 ISO
  • Continuous shooting: 9 fps (maximum size)
  • Autofocus: Autofocus with image contrast detection system and 35 focusing points
  • Internal Stabilization: Yes (5 axis image stabilisation)
  • Viewfinder Eye-level electronic viewfinder, approx. 1.44M
  • LCD Screen: 3.0-inch tilting OLED monitor, approx. 610k dots, Touch control
  • Movie recording:: Full HD: MOV (MPEG-4AVC/H.264 ) and AVI (Motion JPEG), interlaced, up to 20 mbps
  • Water and dust proof Yes
  • Sensor Cleaner Yes (Supersonic Wave Filter (dust reduction system for image sensor)
  • Built-in Flash No (but an external flash is provided with the camera)
  • Extra Features: Art Filters, Panorama Mode (works only with Olympus Viewer 2 software)
  • Dimensions: 4.8 inch (W) x 3.5 inch (H) x 1.7 inch (D)
  • Weight: Approx. 15 ounces (430g) (with SD card and battery)


  • Sensor: 16.1 megapixels 4/3 Live MOS Sensor
  • Lens system: Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens system
  • ISO Sensitivity: 200 – 12800 ISO (expandable to ISO125 and ISO 25600)
  • Continuous shooting: 6 fps (maximum size)
  • Autofocus: Contrast AF system with 23 focusing points
  • Internal Stabilization: No
  • Viewfinder: OLED Live View Finder (1,744K dots) with a Field of View of approx. 100%
  • LCD Screen: 3.0 inch OLED monitor with touch control (614k dots)
  • Movie recording:: Full HD in AVCHD 2.0, MOV and MP4 (H264) formats, up to 60p for NTSC and 50p for PAL, up to 72 mbps (ALL-Intra mov only), slow and fast motion
  • Water and dust proof Yes
  • Sensor Cleaner: Yes
  • Built-in Flash Yes
  • Extra Features: HDR, built-in WI-Fi, Microphone Input, Headphone Output
  • Dimensions : (W x H x D) 132.9 x 93.4 x 82.0 mm / 5.23 x 3.68 x 3.23 inch
  • Weight Approx. 550 g / 19.40 oz (SD card, Battery, Body)

Ergonomics and Design

A key difference between the two cameras resides in their design and how they feel in your hand.

The OM-D design matches that of the old OM SLR Olympus cameras. It is actually identical, but the E-M5 is slightly smaller than its grandfather. It has a very solid build with that nice metal feeling.

The GH3 has a modern design, very similar to DSLRs. Its volume closely matches entry-level Canon or Nikon DSLRs. The build is also very good (except for the SD card door slot) but is made of plastic only.

Despite a few points, the build of each camera feels very solid. But when it comes to ergonomics…

…the OM-D body has two very nice dials for aperture and shutter speed but the various buttons at the top and rear are a little bit too small and quirky. Some of them feel overly delicate (especially the Live view button).

the GH3 has a wonderful design that feels well-balanced in your hand. Since it has a more DSLR look, it will look more familiar to those used to cameras with mirrors. All the buttons are perfectly placed and very easy to access too.

Functionality & Ease-of-use

Both cameras are easy to use but their menu systems are different.

The E-M5 has a more complex menu system. The main settings of the camera can be accessed with the OK button. It has two function buttons and the arrow pad can also be customized. Since these buttons are neither very precise nor sturdy, more than once I found myself hitting them too fast and accidentally skipping the setting I wanted.

The GH3 has a very easy menu to navigate and also has 5 customisable function buttons. All the buttons feel nice and robust when pressing them. Only the video record button is a little bit hard to push. I also like the Drive Mode dial, a very clever thought.

Both cameras feature a high quality OLED screen and electronic viewfinder, but…

I find the E-M5 OLED screen and EVF sharper.I rarely miss the optical viewfinder on my DSLR when I use this camera.

The GH3 OLED screen is slightly less detailed, especially when looking back over high ISO pictures. Also, the viewfinder glass isn’t very well-made and the far edges of the screen appear blurry and distorted which can be annoying.

Check out our brief hands-on video for both cameras.

Image Quality

The E-M5 and the GH3 share the same MFT sensor. To find differences worth mentioning isn’t easy if not impossible.

Colour reproduction is very good and very similar on both cameras. I tend to prefer the E-M5 and its vivid colour profile found in the JPGs on-camera. Also, the E-M5 gives you the possibility to select warmer or colder colours for auto white balance mode.

Below is an informal gallery featuring pictures taken with both cameras in various locations and situations. As you can see, both cameras perform very well in low light situations with more than decent images up to 6400 ISO. Also, the dynamic range is very good despite the smaller sensor and the average of details preserved in the highlights and the shadows are quiet impressive.

You can also visit these additional E-M5 galleries:

You can also visit this additional GH3 gallery:

Autofocus and Performance

Both cameras feature very similar performance when it comes to speed and autofocus. But still…

The OM-D E-M5 is faster with its 9fps (in AF-S mode). The autofocus is among the quickest I’ve ever used. Its only limit is with tracking, where its performance is less effective.

The GH3 has a continuos shooting of 6fps, so a little bit slower than its twin sister. Its autofocus is very effective and fast as well but I haven’t use it a lot in AF-C mode. In video mode, the autofocus works well but does not perform as good as with still images.

Since I am using primarily the EM5 for still and the GH3 for video, I cannot share the same experience about the AF. From what I tested so far, the GH3 seems to have a slightly better overall performance, probably due to the fact that the Panasonic model is newer than the Olympus model.

The overall performance of the two cameras is very good. The both turn on very quickly, and all operations run smoothly without any glitches. So the main difference here resides in the stabilization.

The E-M5 features 5-axis stabilization that is really impressive and will work with any M43 lens, which makes it more flexible.

The GH3 has no internal stabilization and relies on the O.I.S. motor built into the Lumix lenses.

Video Capabilities

The second key difference between the two cameras can be found here.

The E-M5 video mode is more than decent, allowing you to shoot in Full HD and manually control aperture, ISO and speed. Its in-body stabilisation works great for hand-held shots. The video codec isn’t bad even though it is excessively compressed and has a limited bitrate. There is no way to manually control the audio, and the built-in microphone isn’t great.

The GH3 on the other hand has been built with professional filmmakers in mind. It features a professional video codec (AVCHD) and the all new ALL-I 72mps mov option. It records Full HD in 25p and 50p. It features slow motion capabilities, has manual audio control, microphone input, a timecode generator, and a headphone jack to listen to what you are recording. And above all, the image quality when it comes to video is stunning. Very clean, even at high ISO with wonderful colour reproduction.

When it comes to video capabilities, the GH3 clearly has a great advangtage over the E-M5 as it perfectly suits professionals and is a great alternative to Canon DSLRs used for video.

Below is a very short documentary shot with the GH3 about painter Deborah Rushton.

Other features

The two cameras distinguish themselves from each other when you look at their extra features.

The EM-5 has the Olympus Art Filter (11 in total). Nice to play with, but will only satisfy amateurs. There is also a Panorama function, but the camera won’t merge the pictures for you – you will have to rely on the Olympus Viewer 2 software to do so. Since the software is really slow and hasn’t been updated recently, you will achieve more accurate results by merging the pictures in Photoshop.

The GH3, being more recent, has some interesting functionalities. Beyond the Creative Control mode (similar to the Art Filters on the E-M5), there is also a HDR option (JPG only) that works nicely, though you won’t get better results than doing it in post with RAW files. The camera has an electronic shutter option if you want the camera to shoot quietly or to avoid extra micro-shakes if you are taking a picture hand-held at a slow shutter speed.
Another fun feature worth mentioning is the multiple exposure feature, that allows you to merge various pictures in a single shot. It works with both JPG and raw files. The camera can merge up to four pictures.

The most important feature of the GH3 is its Wi-Fi capabilities.

You can connect the camera wirelessly to a smartphone, tablet or PC/Mac, upload your pictures or control the camera remotely. While I find it very easy to use with my iPad, it is more complicated with a Mac or PC. Still, it is a great option and is very nice to use in some situations.

As for the battery life…

The E-M5 has a more than reasonable battery life but if you use it extensively all day, it could run out by the afternoon.

The GH3 has an extraordinary battery life. You can shoot video almost all day with a single charge, while for stills it will last until late at night.


The E-M5 and the GH3 are without a doubt the best MFT cameras to date, though the recently-announced Olympus E-P5 could probably join the battle. They are almost identical when it comes to image quality for stills, so to choose one over the other, you have to look beyond.

Choose the EM-5 if:

  • You like its retro design
  • Continuous shooting speed is a priority
  • You need an excellent viewfinder to work with everyday

Choose the GH3 if:

  • Video is a priority, and you are looking for an alternative to Canon DSLRs for professional purposes
  • You desire a perfectly ergonomic body design


You can also read our reviews about the two cameras:


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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Archieman

    I have both cameras, I have listed my impressions:
    GH3 E-M5
    -ergonomics designed in heaven Wretched ergonomics, even with HDL-6

    -eye cup has never fallen off eye cup never stays attached
    -great battery life acceptable battery life
    -good location of power switch strange location of power switch
    -good color rendition excellent color rendition

    -lacks in body stabilization (IBIS) excellent IBIS

    – easy to access Menus Menus are not intuitive

    I intend to sell my E-M5 simply because of the poor ergonomics as well as the ridiculously designed and always missing eye cup.
    I really enjoy your web site, you could charge a reasonable yearly fee and I would definitely sign on.

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