Olympus PEN E-PL3 review

Started Sep 20, 2011 | Discussions
Amadou Diallo
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Olympus PEN E-PL3 review
Sep 20, 2011

We have published our in-depth review of the PEN Lite/E-PL3 at
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/olympusepl3
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Amadou Diallo
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AdamT
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As Expected
In reply to Amadou Diallo, Sep 20, 2011

reduced handling and ergonomics, improved AF and drive modes - well out of date sensor ..

Oly need to find another source of sensors, Panasonic are seriously holding them back either in willingness to sell them premium chips (the EP2 should have had the GH1 chip let alone all the new cams the G3 or GH2 one) and age of the ones they're prepared to sell (no improved 12Mp unit) . the EPs have been great since day one body wise. the sensor gap is getting wider and wider all the time, it's the lens selection which is keeping M43 top Mirrorless seller (everyone elses selection is lousy, overpriced or both) .

if Sony made a full run of compact affordable primes and telezooms like Panny have and put the 5N sensor in the NEX7 (a NEX6) people would drop M43 like a hot brick

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BigBarney
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That brick may not be as hot as you think
In reply to AdamT, Sep 20, 2011

AdamT wrote:

if Sony made a full run of compact affordable primes and telezooms like Panny have and put the 5N sensor in the NEX7 (a NEX6) people would drop M43 like a hot brick

While I agree with you that an updated sensor could have improved the performance of the latest Olympus m43 cameras, the sensor may not be the only reason for preferring one system to another. IMO the far more critical thing is the availability, size, weight and quality of the lenses for any system. Although I currently use Panasonic m43 cameras (G1, GF1, GH2), I am seriously considering buying an E-PL3 for my wife this Christmas (she has booked to take an extended digital photography course), and the ability to take a range of lenses into the field with me acting as the Sherpa will be far more important than which sensor the camera has. YMMV.

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Ray Sachs
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Re: Olympus PEN E-PL3 review
In reply to Amadou Diallo, Sep 20, 2011

Good review.

I remember when you first reviewed the Canon S90, you mentioned the lack of a grip but then revised the review when Richard Franiac started making add-on grips for that camera. Well, I just got one of Richard's grips for the EPL3 and it is similarly transformative on this camera, so you might want to mention that in this review as well.

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whatnotnow
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Re: Olympus PEN E-PL3 review
In reply to Amadou Diallo, Sep 20, 2011

..Interesting...
I red the review, I was just in to buy one of the olympuses.

I have a G7 which has done great service, I wanted the better sensor and lens quality, and am willing to adapt to my mainly outdoor shooting.

The Olys were given a lot of credence as the lower ISO and JPGs were legend, I like lots of shots and the thought of processing (required) RAW is too much work.

So yesterday, a day before this review was posted I decided on one.

The camera store had them all, they were similar but for one big thing which decided it.

The EPL3 was almost impossible to hold, it felt heavier and really the same size as the epl2, which gripps like a pro. the metal on the 3 was so smooth and the weight distribution "off" I could never imagine handling the kit lens let alone the Zoomy thing.

So I bought the EPL2, with the kit and 140mm zoom.

Marvelous, then I red the review Still marvelous.

Sure The sensor is dated, however its mainly for oudoors, quality is marvelous, easy to use so far so good.

All I could think of the 3 was how hard it would be to maintain a grip (geta grip)

So I have it and its Marvelous, you will have to pry it out of my cold dead fingurs, which would be difficult because of the grippy thing.

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dingenus
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Re: Olympus PEN E-PL3 review
In reply to Amadou Diallo, Sep 20, 2011

If you want liveview in continu shooting, Set picture review to OFF. READ the manual!

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bluevellet
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Possible error on page 19
In reply to Amadou Diallo, Sep 20, 2011

When you access the studio comparison scene on page 19, the E-PL3 is set to ISO 1600, but the cameras it is compared to are at base ISO by default. The reader needs to set them manually otherwise they get the wrong impression.

Thanks for the review though. I particularly enjoyed all the details about the movie option.

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fermy
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Re: Olympus PEN E-PL3 review
In reply to Ray Sachs, Sep 20, 2011

Ray Sachs wrote:

Good review.

I remember when you first reviewed the Canon S90, you mentioned the lack of a grip but then revised the review when Richard Franiac started making add-on grips for that camera. Well, I just got one of Richard's grips for the EPL3 and it is similarly transformative on this camera, so you might want to mention that in this review as well.

-Ray

Good review. I am sure that Franiec grip transforms this camera, but it should have been included by Olympus. Great that dpreview grilled them for the grip and screen aspect ratio, maybe they will fix this in the next camera.

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tinternaut
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Re: Nice review, no surprises
In reply to Amadou Diallo, Sep 20, 2011

I'm not seeing any reason to upgrade my E-PL1 though.......

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Jorginho
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Re: As Expected
In reply to AdamT, Sep 20, 2011

Of course, Panny/Oly only need to put out a sensor with DxO-score of 75 (13 Ev and ISO performance like a Canon Nex5). And it would all end Samsung/Sony's efforts. By your logic, that is...

Anyway: m43 will probably reach that level in the next year or so. It is possible.

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Camp Freddy
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Evolution is slow but welcome
In reply to Amadou Diallo, Sep 20, 2011

The AF evolution is slow in particular, and also the points are made that

1) There is R lens optimisation going on ie how good on all lenses?

2) Not as good as panny for moving subjects

I think mFT still lacks some obvious AF features which would help it, like focal range lock.

Really we would like to know more about the AF versus OTHER mirrorless and this would be well worth an Oly-Panny_Leica-Sony-Samsung "shoot out".
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jim stirling
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Re: As Expected
In reply to AdamT, Sep 20, 2011

AdamT wrote:

if Sony made a full run of compact affordable primes and telezooms like Panny have and put the 5N sensor in the NEX7 (a NEX6) people would drop M43 like a hot brick

I would not be so sure about that while I see clear advantages with the Sony sensor and it would certainly be more interesting were they to produce a selection of compact well performing lenses. The bottom line is that the lenses will always be considerably bigger than equivalent focal length and speed lenses designed for mFT and for many including myself size is a critical factor; my use of mFT is as a light weight alternative for travel etc. when I do not wish to use my FF cameras.

In fact for me I actually find the rumoured Nikon with a smaller sensor more interesting, assuming they can deliver decent small lenses to go along with it. Everyone has different needs and uses for their chosen cameras, but I suspect for many the size factor has a pretty high priority especially for those coming from a P&S background. Other than DOF control, hardly a priority to most P&S users I would not be surprised if the Nikon was capable of delivering results on a par with mFT. Even assuming identical sensor performance the worst case scenario would be approx. ¾ of a stop better noise DR in favour of the larger mFT sensor {who would have thought it } but given recent Sony sensor performances I could easily see them reducing the ¾ of a stop difference.
Jim

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_vlad
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Re: As Expected
In reply to AdamT, Sep 20, 2011

AdamT wrote:

Oly need to find another source of sensors, Panasonic are seriously holding them back either in willingness to sell them premium chips (the EP2 should have had the GH1 chip let alone all the new cams the G3 or GH2 one) and age of the ones they're prepared to sell (no improved 12Mp unit) .

How do you know that? AFAIK - and it was discussed here - Panny offered to OLY their 16 MPIX sensor - but OLY did not want it...

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Marco Cinnirella
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Why don't Oly do a Nikon?
In reply to jim stirling, Sep 20, 2011

Nikon took the 16MP Sony sensor and tweaked the processing pipeline so that, arguably, it had better high ISO noise suppression than the same sensor as used in Sony's products. If Oly are stuck with an old Pannie sensor then they should go to town improving the processing pipeline like Nikon did. There's no reason why 12MP can't cut the mustard in theory.

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TEBnewyork
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Re: Olympus PEN E-PL3 review
In reply to Amadou Diallo, Sep 20, 2011

Surprising that the G3 and E-PL3 are in different ratings categories (entry level vs mid range).
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aroundomaha
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Nice review, nice camera
In reply to Amadou Diallo, Sep 20, 2011

Thorough review by DPR as always, though I'm sure some will applaud too loudly and others will hiss through their teeth.

The PL3 looks like a nice evolutionary move though to my eyes I don't feel I can poinpoint any qualitative advantages in the stills. Video options are better and the focus performance alone is reason enough to buy the new generation PENs.

For the time being I'll probably stick to the E-P2 but I can easily see the EPL3 being added if I want an even lower key option for event shooting.
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harrisoncac
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Re: Olympus PEN E-PL3 review
In reply to Amadou Diallo, Sep 20, 2011

Thanks for DPR for your great efforts in this review.

Please also let Olympus know that if there were a grip on this camera, I would NOT buy it.

And thank God there is no grip.

Best Regards.

Harrison

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photo perzon
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Re: Olympus PEN E-PL3 review
In reply to harrisoncac, Sep 20, 2011

I got the perfect companion to the portable PL3... the E-P3. With it I get the large screen, touch screen, higher pixel count

harrisoncac wrote:

Thanks for DPR for your great efforts in this review.

Please also let Olympus know that if there were a grip on this camera, I would NOT buy it.

And thank God there is no grip.

Best Regards.

Harrison

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Tim in upstate NY
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Me too Terry
In reply to TEBnewyork, Sep 20, 2011

TEBnewyork wrote:

Surprising that the G3 and E-PL3 are in different ratings categories (entry level vs mid range).

. . . I've been wondering about that as well. They're priced the same at $700 which is a little too expensive for entry level while the E-PM1 is clearly aimed at the entry level market both in price and features.

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mick_finn
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Re: the much mentioned p&s-upgrade
In reply to Amadou Diallo, Sep 20, 2011

Nice review, and I'm sure it's completely straight on the point in the technical stuff. But I'm a bit thrown off in the consistent guesswork that this camera is targeted specifically at people upgrading from point and shoots. That kind of reasoning, and making judgements based on it, is increasingly dated.

DSLRs have been cheap a long time already and selling like mad. Many have bought them but then missed a lot of photo opportunities because they haven't had them along. In other words, they have been too large for their purposes and the gain in image quality hasn't been overweighted by the problems in bulk and complexity (and most people don't buy more lenses than the kit zoom anyway, thereby missing one of the greatest advantages with a DSLR).

So for a DSLR owner µ43 makes sense. But for a P&S-owner (think say Ixus) they are just as bulky and pricey as entry level DSLRs. And a new and rather unknown format. So I think most of the P&S crowd will go for the entry level DSLRs first. And then maybe take a step back to the CSC's.

So I think one very important market for µ43 is people not liking their DSLRs but not wanting to give up the IQ. I'm myself about to kind of sidegrade to the E-PL3. I have the pro grade but dated Olympus E-1 and the, in its time very innovative, E-330. But want something more compact and current feature wise. So this is the perfect complement, but not exactly the kind of P&S-upgrade you keep talking about.

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