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Just posted: Our in-depth Olympus E-PL3 review

By dpreview staff on Sep 20, 2011 at 01:46 GMT

We've published our Olympus PEN Lite/E-PL3 review along with studio comparison shots fron the Sony NEX-5N. The E-PL3 squeezes much of the capability of its big brother, the E-P3, into a smaller, simplified body. It gains the faster autofocus and Full HD (60i) video of the third-generation PEN models, while it also adds a tilting LCD and 5fps burst shooting mode. These all represent significant improvements over the larger, heavier E-PL2 it replaces. Could this be the mirrorless model that would-be compact camera upgraders should be looking to?

Click here to read our in-depth review of the Olympus E-PL3

74
I own it
8
I want it
28
I had it
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Comments

Total comments: 45
thubleau3
By thubleau3 (Sep 22, 2011)

Potentially awkward handling with the control dial, a disappointing noise reduction/sharpening default and and a digital image stabilization system (for video) that can produce less than pleasing results prevent the E-PL3 from receiving our Gold Award.

What a stupid comment..........the G3 kicks this camera out of the ball park...........so my question is with the G3 scoring 75% what stopped it from getting a Gold award ???
Must be a yawning gap somewhere and I just wished these reviewers would be consistant in their assumptions.

0 upvotes
grahamdyke
By grahamdyke (Sep 21, 2011)

No Grip, No Buy...

0 upvotes
dentaku
By dentaku (Sep 23, 2011)

Just get a Franiec grip - totally transforms the Sigma DP1.

0 upvotes
PeterNMIF
By PeterNMIF (Sep 20, 2011)

Wow. I didnt realize anitshock was needed in mirrorless cams. (I use it with the E620). Nice to know the E-series cams have. Is this a failing in the Pansonic G-series? They don't have anti-shock. Right? Or, is their shutter different so it doesn't create vibration??

0 upvotes
mister_roboto
By mister_roboto (Sep 20, 2011)

It's for image stabilization- low light and hand held.

0 upvotes
tchatila
By tchatila (Sep 20, 2011)

Panasonic does stabilization in some of their lenses as opposed to in the bodies.

0 upvotes
Amadou Diallo
By Amadou Diallo (Sep 20, 2011)

Anti-shock is not related to IS and handheld use. It addresses shutter-induced vibrations, similar in principle to mirror-lockup in a DSLR. We have no reason to suspect Olympus and Panasonic employ identical shutter mechanisms.

0 upvotes
Mattersburger
By Mattersburger (Sep 20, 2011)

Page 7, Menus, lists under' Picture Mode Settings' what appear to be some Art Filters that that are EP3 only, rather than E-PL3 available filters. Can someone educate me on this?

0 upvotes
Amadou Diallo
By Amadou Diallo (Sep 20, 2011)

Indeed an error. It's fixed. Our apologies and thanks for pointing this out.

0 upvotes
nboyer
By nboyer (Sep 20, 2011)

I don't know that I agree with the reviewer. Careful comparison of the RAW samples would show that the E-PL3 renders slightly more detail over the E-P3, just take a look at the details in the feathers between the two cameras. This is likely due to one or more of four things - thinner AA filter, less NR on the sensor, inconsistent settings in ACR, or sample variation. The differences are minimal, but, visually noticeable, at least to me.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Image Quality

... Image quality of the E-PL3 is identical to that of the E-P3 and you'll note that our comments in this regard match those of our recent Olympus E-P3 in-depth review.

0 upvotes
Stephen_C
By Stephen_C (Sep 20, 2011)

Put me on the list of people who are stunned by the lack of orientation sensor. I was on the fence about buying one of these things. Now, not so much. Does the mini pen series have an orientation sensor?

0 upvotes
Akeem
By Akeem (Sep 20, 2011)

"No orientation sensor"?

This is probably by far the cheapest component that saves a few seconds of post-processing time for half of all pictures made. For me, it is about as useful as AWB. I wouldn't consider buying a cam without AWB. Why do manufacturers keep this feature out?

3 upvotes
Entropius
By Entropius (Sep 20, 2011)

It's actually free for Olympus, because they already have accelerometers in the camera to run the IS.

1 upvote
carlosdelbianco
By carlosdelbianco (Sep 20, 2011)

I agree. Maybe in next firmware? Don't fool us, Olympus.

0 upvotes
Akeem
By Akeem (Sep 20, 2011)

Are there any cameras where the manufacturer added orientation information through firmware? I'm not aware of any.

If there is a possibility to quickly (1 button press, not more) change the orientation in review? This could change a buying decision from "never" to "maybe".

If only dpreview and other reviewers would make MORE noise about this issue. Imagine the uproar if there were no AWB on a camera. Sure you can change it manually, but it's an avoidable waste of time.

0 upvotes
TANK_JONES
By TANK_JONES (Sep 20, 2011)

Meh... It is something which is nice to have, but I don't need it. When I first started shooting with an Olympus E1 back in the day, they didn't have an orientation sensor on the camera. It wasn't a deal breaker for me... bad images are a deal breaker.

0 upvotes
Mssimo
By Mssimo (Sep 20, 2011)

Youtube Nex 5n or GF3 clicking noise. Its caused by the orientation sensor. There are a few drawbacks. The GH1 also did not have it.

0 upvotes
absentaneous
By absentaneous (Sep 20, 2011)

comparing those studio test shots there is really no visible difference when it comes to image quality between the E-PL3 and E-PL1. I even find the E-PL1 examples a bit more "pleasant". it's obvious that the E-PL3 got many also important improvements over the E-PL1 so it is surely an overall better camera but considering that now the E-PL1 costs 2x less than the E-PL3 I am really not sure how much sense does it make to buy it.

4 upvotes
sbjaerum
By sbjaerum (Sep 20, 2011)

Why can't sensor shift IS be used during video recording?

0 upvotes
Andy Crowe
By Andy Crowe (Sep 20, 2011)

I think the reason is it generates too much heat close to the sensor.

1 upvote
Camp Freddy
By Camp Freddy (Sep 20, 2011)

I think it is because it is seeking to stabilise a still image as it is designed for: heat or pixel smear may be two side eeffects. But for stills this of course works with ANY lens you can cobble, glue or weld on the PENS or FT cameras.

0 upvotes
sbjaerum
By sbjaerum (Sep 20, 2011)

I understand the advantage that sensor shift gives IS to all possible lenses mounted on the camera.

It is my understanding that all cameras offering non-digital image stabilization during video recording do this by optical stabilization in the lens.
I can see that heat generation is one possible reason why sensor shift is not used in video mode.
Are there other reasons?

0 upvotes
Nigel S
By Nigel S (Sep 20, 2011)

"Are there other reasons?"

One very big one is noise - you don't want IS sound on the soundtrack.

Also it is not really needed, at a frame rate of 60/s the exposure time for each frame must be less than 1/60th and so will have very little motion blur anyway. What is needed is to align the frames (remove the movement between frames) and that is best done in software.

0 upvotes
tmyuen
By tmyuen (Sep 20, 2011)

Hmmm... I'm sure "No touchscreen interface" should be considered a cons.

3 upvotes
bluevellet
By bluevellet (Sep 20, 2011)

Many don't consider touchscreens a benefit. In fact, as implemented in most cameras, they'd argue it's a gimmick.

0 upvotes
Lurker2525
By Lurker2525 (Sep 20, 2011)

But for quickly selecting AF points it's very useful.

5 upvotes
M Jesper
By M Jesper (Sep 20, 2011)

If it's a gimmick why does only the most advanced model have it.

1 upvote
Andy Crowe
By Andy Crowe (Sep 20, 2011)

It is something that many other m4/3 models have now, so it is a con compared to other m4/3 models

0 upvotes
GeorgeZ
By GeorgeZ (Sep 20, 2011)

Very nice looking but no flash :-( Otherwise it would go well with the new Pana pancake-zoom.

0 upvotes
M Jesper
By M Jesper (Sep 20, 2011)

Add-on flash is included in the box tho.

1 upvote
Camp Freddy
By Camp Freddy (Sep 20, 2011)

Losing the hotshoe to the EVF or blue tooth stations is not such a big deal: the PENS all have remote wireless flash activation built in. But it is a minor irriation!

0 upvotes
roblarosa
By roblarosa (Sep 20, 2011)

Thanks! I was hoping you'd review this sooner or later.

1 upvote
Mssimo
By Mssimo (Sep 20, 2011)

Up to 1600 ISO, EPL3 is up to par with the Sony 5N any other 12-18Mp camera out there. Maybe because of better lenses?

6400iso looks terrible

0 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Sep 20, 2011)

Maybe if you shoot jpegs. In RAW it's about a stop and a half behind at ISO 1600, about 2 stops at ISO 6400.

0 upvotes
ijustloveshooting
By ijustloveshooting (Sep 20, 2011)

you got to be kidding...take a look at 5N's iso1600 once again.Almost no visible noise.Clarity is still there, however Oly iso1600 lost it's clarity very clearly...

2 upvotes
slncezgsi
By slncezgsi (Sep 20, 2011)

It will be interesting to see high ISO a comparison to NEX-7 as the pixel density is about the same ...

0 upvotes
Camp Freddy
By Camp Freddy (Sep 20, 2011)

The pens have IBIS which makes several full exposure stops manageable hand held for the same ISO as a non IBIS camera.

2 upvotes
rocklobster
By rocklobster (Sep 22, 2011)

Yes IBIS is a big advantage when using pancake lenses. Panasonic 20mm F1.7 on E-PL3 has no competition. Also, I have recently been playing with RAW files from E-P3 compared to the G3 and have got results at ISO 1600 and 3200 that are as good if not better from the E-P3. The JPEG engine in the camera does not do it justice - the E-P2 was a little better at ISO 1600.

0 upvotes
Jogger
By Jogger (Sep 20, 2011)

time for oly to dump that 12mp sensor. not saying they need more mp, but they need a better sensor.

0 upvotes
Mssimo
By Mssimo (Sep 20, 2011)

If your talking about High ISO, then yes....but otherwise its very good.

Compare it to the Nikon D3 at iso 100-400, images from the EPL3 are much sharper and I would say, better overall.

0 upvotes
gdiver
By gdiver (Sep 20, 2011)

So.. does it get a 72% or a73%?

0 upvotes
Sosua
By Sosua (Sep 20, 2011)

I would not say its better at all than the D3 - a little sharper from the lighter AA filter, but much grittier from base ISO noise (helping with the perception of sharpness), particularly in the mid tones and shadows.

Anyway - for all intents and purposes its fine of course - looking forward to what the next generation brings sensor wise as the archlles heel remains the lack of DR / shadow noise and file flexibility, even at base ISO. Unfortunately faste, high quality lenses and IBIS (both very desireable features) don't assist here.

Something that probably isn't of great importance to most, but it still is to me.

0 upvotes
Amadou Diallo
By Amadou Diallo (Sep 20, 2011)

Scoring for the E-PL3 is 72%. If anyone is seeing otherwise, toggle the "Compare To" slider on and off.

0 upvotes
Lurker2525
By Lurker2525 (Sep 20, 2011)

But in the review it's 73%...

Somewhere in between :)

0 upvotes
Camp Freddy
By Camp Freddy (Sep 20, 2011)

Comparing it to a D3 is like comparing a big fat Rolls Royce or Hummer to a Yamaha R1: small and does the job admirably. mFT sensors do need to improve though to keep the system competitive.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 45