A small and capable MFT camera

Started Apr 2, 2017 | User reviews thread
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Humansvillian Senior Member • Posts: 1,951
A small and capable MFT camera

I own the Olympus PL-1 and P-3 cameras, and when this PL3 was part of a three lens and a VF-2 viewfinder deal on Ebay I couldn't pass it up.  The PL3 sells for about $100 for the body only in 2017 on Ebay.

Oly's first generation of MFT cameras used a 12 megapixel sensor.  These cameras were the P-1, P-2, P-3, and PL-1, PL-2, and PL-3, plus the EPM-1 "mini".  All newer cameras used the 16mp sensor, until the Pen F and OMD-M1 II that use a 20mp sensor.

From all reports the 16mp sensor is an improvement, especially in low light situations.  But like the old adage, "You can't say a good word about Camels without somebody thinking you are slamming Lucky Strikes", the 12mp sensor cameras were excellent photo taking machines, and started the MFT system.  They remain excellent performing cameras, even today.

The PL-3 and P-3 differ primarily in that the PL-3 is smaller. Using a pancake prime lens, the PL-3 is small enough to fit into a jacket pocket,  The PL-3 loses the built in flash of the P-3, but has a tilting (non touch) rear viewing screen.  There are a few minor menu items such as an orientation sensor and level that Olympus placed on their flagship P-3 the PL-3 lacks, but those are quibbles.

The PL-3 is a significant upgrade from the PL-1 in all ways except looks and handling.  The first Pen Lite PL-1 remains the iconic Olympus MFT camera in terms of imitating the looks and handling of an old film rangefinder camera. This is not to say the PL-1 is a slow camera, but the PL-3 has blazing fast autofocus, the build quality is higher, the menu graphics are better, and along with the P-3 the low light real world performance from the revised 12mp sensor and improved processing engine may be a little better. Yet for all practical purposes, the image quality of the 12mp sensor in the first generation Oly MFT cameras is all the same, and that's excellent.

Fafmer's Market

Dog lovers

The Shaved Duck entrance

A final word about image quality from the 12mp sensor.  Here's two photos, the first from a P-3 with a Panny 25mm f1.7 and the second from a Nikon D5200 with a Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f1.8 prime, of the same ducks in the same pool taken a few minutes apart, both using automatic settings.  The Nikon has twice the resolution, a larger sensor, and yet--how much better, if any, is the Nikon DSLR JPEG than the Oly JPEG with both straight from the camera?

Olympus Ducks

Nikon Ducks

The supreme advantage of the PL-3 is the small size of the camera, and low cost.  In a busy, street shooting situation, your MFT camera cannot be too small and it can't be too cheap.  If I leave my PL-3 somewhere, or drop it, I'm out $100 for another camera body. The tilting screen of the PL-3 is also a bonus, because it makes it possible to walk around with the camera low and yet you can frame candid shots of people, without bringing the camera up at all.

He blinked

Making the sale

I'm learning more about walking around with a little camera in public, every time I do it.  The camera body in such situations is just a lens holder, a tool that allows you to catch an image and move on to the next scene.  For as little as they cost, and the street shooting capability the PL-3 delivers, it deserves five stars.

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Humansville is a town in the Missouri Ozarks

 Humansvillian's gear list:Humansvillian's gear list
Olympus TG-5 Olympus PEN E-PL1 Olympus PEN E-P5 Olympus E-M5 II Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 Pro +10 more
Olympus PEN E-PL3
12 megapixels • 3 screen • Four Thirds sensor
Announced: Jun 30, 2011
Humansvillian's score
Average community score
bad for good for
Kids / pets
Action / sports
Landscapes / scenery
Low light (without flash)
Flash photography (social)
Studio / still life
= community average
Nikon D5200 Olympus PEN E-PL3 Olympus PEN-F Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm F1.7
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