Operations and controls
Top of camera controls
In terms of control layout, the top of the E-PL3 is somewhat different to the E-PL2 but virtually identical to the original E-PL1. The magnification buttons have returned to the upper right of the camera, with the on/off button, shutter button and exposure mode dial on top as usual. A direct video shooting button sits alongside the magnification buttons just to its aft, but if movies aren't your thing, this button can be reassigned to several other functions.
In playback mode the magnification buttons serve to zoom in and out of captured images, but in record mode the right-hand button can also be used to zoom into the live view display to check fine focus. It's really useful if you shoot with manual focus lenses at all, but its operation is a little perverse; you can't simply press it once to magnify the display (as you would on most other cameras), but instead have to press it once to change display mode and select your point of interest, then again to zoom in.
Image review and delete buttons have found a place on the top left of the E-PL3's rear, moved from their previous position on the back of the E-PL2. These buttons take the place of the mechanical flash release catch on the E-PL1 and E-PL2. The E-PL3 doesn't have a built-in flash of course, so when the light gets low you'll need to attach one of Olympus's dedicated units via the AP2 accessory port and hot shoe, pictured here on the right.
Rear of camera controls
The rear of the E-PL3 is refreshingly free from buttons. Compared to the E-PL1 and the E-PL2 the rear of the E-PL3 looks positively spartan, in fact, and plays host only to the 16:9 format LCD, menu and info buttons, plus a standard 4-way controller, with exactly the same functions at its cardinal points as the same control on the rear of the E-PL2. The 'right' and 'down' keys are customizable, and can be reassigned to shooting functions such as ISO and white balance if you prefer. But - frustratingly - you can only ever get direct access to two of flash mode, drive mode, white balance and ISO at any given time.
The outer edge of the 4-way controller is a control dial, used for setting options in the E-PL3's menu system, as well as changing shooting parameters and scrolling through images in review mode.
On the whole we like the changes to the E-PL3's control layout compared to the E-PL2. The camera's ergonomics are more streamlined, the design is neater, and the overall impression is of a less fussy camera. We do regret the lack of a built-in flash, but overall the E-PL3 presents a cleaner, more logical interface than its predecessors. Compared to the E-PL1, especially, the E-PL3 looks better, and its external controls are easier to get to grips with.