The Best Camera For Vintage Glass?

The Olympus EM-1 iii with vintage lenses.

In a recent review we had the opportunity to test out the OM-D EM1 iii, the latest miniaturised m4/3 camera to come from Olympus. And although this camera packed a lot of quality and versatility for the average video shooter into a small body, there was one key feature that really stood out for me and that was it’s 7 stops of Image Stabilisation.

So in the time I had remaining with the EM1 iii I wanted to really test that feature with some vintage lenses and to see if this camera could be the best current M4/3 option for vintage lens video shooters. 

I’m using the infamously swirly Helios 44M 58mm F/2 for all these test shots, so first of all it’s worth noting the crop. It’s always an issue for MFT mounted cameras, and in truth the 58mm should be a hard lens to handle on this mount, without a speed booster.

However the one thing I have found, is that the incredible IS in this camera made handling it that focal length a lot easier. The normal shake and micro jitters just weren’t as much of an issue. So if you can live with the cropped focal range, you don’t have to deal with the optical compromise of a speed booster. 

The next thing that I really loved about this camera lens combo, is being able to breath cinema 4k life into the Helios 44m. It’s a remarkable lens that has a well documented aesthetic. For sure, it’s far from perfect and when you start to use it in a 4k world it’s flaws do become clearer. 

The general lack of contrast and slightly duller colours could be an issue, but in reality, for me it’s all part of the character and charm that I’m looking for. But for certain those issues are more present than when we are experimenting with this lens on something like the Super 16 BMPCC.

The final great thing to note is the ergonomics the feel of using this camera with vintage lenses is really nice. For me this is a huge part of the attraction of these old bits of glass, getting the organic, tangible feel to your filmmaking, handheld with manual focus. There’s something beautifully addictive about the process and the EM1 Mark 3’s body really complements this. It feels great in hand, well balanced and secured with that handgrip. In many ways I prefer the feel of this camera with this lens more, than the 12-45 Pro it was shipped with! 

All of this great stuff doesn’t come without caveats though, there’s always a compromise to be had! And in regards to taking advantage of the great image stabilisation for hand-held shooting there’s a noticeable stutter to the footage. If you make any lateral or vertical movements too suddenly the IS struggles to smoothly compensate and creates this stuttered look, like when a gimbal moves in it’s axis. It’s not the end of the world, once you know it’s present, but definitely an issue worth noting. 

So in summary, The EM1-M3 certainly makes for a fantastic video companion to your vintage lenses. In the context of M4/3 mounted cameras, it could be one of the best, but until Panasonic finally send me a GH5 to test I can’t be completely conclusive. What I can say though is that this camera, definitely solves at least some my vintage lens stabilisation issues.

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