Olympus PEN E-P3 in-depth review
Raw and Raw Conversion
The EP-3 is supplied with Olympus Viewer 2 (Version 1.2, Mac/Windows) and the curiously-named Olympus [ib] (Windows only). Olympus Viewer 2 is an update of the older Olympus Viewer raw conversion software that came bundled with the very first E-series camera, the E-1, and [ib] is a more beginner-friendly platform for photo organizing and tagging, as well as some basic JPEG and raw editing.
- Olympus Viewer 2 - Image browser and raw/JPEG image editor, with video editing capabilities.
- Olympus [ib] - launched alongside the E-PL1, [ib] combines a photo database with a series of features for editing and searching images, including face recognition and geotagging (Windows only).
Olympus Viewer is a capable and versatile image editing platform that can be used to make adjustments to the E-P3's JPEG, raw and Motion JPEG video files). The range of adjustments for raw files is impressive, and as well as the usual core white balance, sharpness and NR sliders, Viewer 2 also allows you to apply any of the camera's various color and filter modes to RAW files directly. You also get access to a range of editing functions not available in-camera, including perspective correction and lens aberration corrections (for chromatic aberration, vignetting and residual distortion).
You can also edit Motion-JPEG movie clips shot with the E-P3 (note though that AVCHD .MTS movie files can't be edited). The range of options is fairly small though; clips can be trimmed or merged with other movies, individual frames can be extracted and saved as stills at actual size, and fade in/out effects can be added to the start and end. It's fairly basic stuff, but enough to edit clips together and prepare a composite movie.
Olympus Viewer is a more-than-capable converter that's probably one of the best 'free' programs supplied with any camera. It has a few irritations - it's rather slow to preview any changes you make, and has a bad habit of displaying a coarsely-pixelated preview until you 'let go' of adjustment sliders when viewing at 1:1 - but the results are sifficiently good that many users may well find it the only raw converter they need.
For more detailed information about Olympus [ib], take a look at the Photographic tests (raw) page of our Olympus E-PL1 review.
As is normal in our digital SLR reviews we like to compare the supplied raw conversion software, any optional manufacturer RAW conversion software and some third party raw converter. In the case of the Olympus E-P3 we used the supplied Olympus Viewer 2 as well as Adobe Camera RAW 6.5 Beta.
- JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
- Viewer 2 - Olympus Viewer 2
- ACR - Adobe Camera Raw 6.5 Beta (at default 'Adobe Standard' setting)
Sharpness and Detail
One advantage of shooting raw is that it can enable a more convincing rendition of fine detail. The E-P3's in-camera sharpening is relatively unsubtle, and can be prone to giving visible halo artefacts around high contrast edges. This kind of wide-radius sharpening is distinctly destrucive of very fine detail.
Shooting in raw and applying careful sharpening can therefore be advantageous if you want to extract the maximum possible detail from the camera's output. The conversions below show better rendition of the very finest low-contrast detail by Adobe Camera Raw, most obviously with the fluffy balls which show visibly more texture. Olympus Viewer 2 by default gives visually identical output to the camera's JPEGs, and while it can be tuned to give better results by careful tweaking of sharpening settings, it never quite matches ACR in this regard.
|Adobe ACR 6.5 Beta Raw -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 200 studio scene 100% crops
|Olympus Viewer 2 Raw -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 200 studio scene 100% crops
|JPEG out of camera, Super Fine setting, manual WB (all other settings default)
ISO 200 studio scene 100% crop
Once again, Olympus Viewer 2 gives identical results to out-of-camera JPEGs when both are set to default (or equivalent) settings. There's very obvious halo artefacts around the numbers of our chart, but the lines themselves are rendered impressively cleanly with no moire. You can reduce the haloes (but not eliminate them entirely) by turning down the sharpness settings, without significant detriment to the actual resolution. Meanwhile switching to Adobe Camera Raw gives similar results in terms of actual resolution with our high-contrast test chart, but there's a hint of colour moire.
|Adobe Camera Raw 6.5 Beta||Olympus Viewer 2|
Real world advantages
While the E-P3 generally produces very good JPEGs, shooting raw and spending a bit of time on converting them carefully can give better results. You can tweak such things as white balance, brightness and noise reduction at your leisure to get the best possible images.
In the ISO 1250 example below, we're comparing the camera's JPEG output (with the Noise Filter turned off - click here to download a verison at the camera's default settings) with the raw file converted using Adobe Camera Raw 6.5. The white balance, brightness and saturation have all been optimised, giving an image with better colour rendition, but what's most strking is how much better ACR does at suppressing noise (especially blotchy chroma noise). The result is a more finely-detailed image, showing just gritty luminance noise that's not unattractive.
E-P3 + M ZD 9-18mm F4-5.6, 9mm F8, ISO 1250
|JPEG (Noise Filter Off, Sharpness = 0)||Raw + ACR 6.5 Beta|
|100% crop||100% crop|
Even at low ISOs, you can use raw to extract a bit more fine detail by the use of careful sharpening. In this example we've been able to bring out a more natural rendition of the foliage, while avoiding the sharpening halos that are endemic to the E-P3's JPEG output.
E-P3 + M ZD 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R, 28mm F4.6, ISO 200
|JPEG||Raw + ACR 6.5 Beta|
|100% crop||100% crop|
Raw files for download
Here we provide raw files from the sample shots we take, to allow you to apply your own workflow techniques and see for yourself the benefits of shooting in raw mode.
Jan 19, 2012
Oct 25, 2011
Aug 17, 2011
Aug 4, 2014
|scrum break away by al booth|
from Sport competition
|Parking Deck by Olaf R|
from Your City - Parking Garage
|Communication Tech by alberto_b|
|With & without by OBellini|
from Empty - Full
ISOCELL comprises four sub-brands: Bright, Fast, Slim and Dual which are tailored to specific mobile device market demands.
The new store will be located at the Fotografiska center for contemporary photography in Stockhom, Sweden and carry the full range of Hasselblad products.
A recent vacation gave Richard a chance to think about the needs of travel photography – and how our reviews might recognize the perfect travel camera.
Need more evidence that 2017 is the year analog begins its comeback? Well, welcome another new film stock to the world.
The winners of the 10th annual iPhone Photography Awards have been announced, and they're striking.
If you were disappointed by reports that the Sony a9 struggles with adapted Canon glass, you might be able to take some comfort from Metabones' latest update.
Blackmagic Design has dropped the prices of its Video Assist external monitor/recorders for a limited time. Prices of the SD card-based recorders will be reduced in all markets, while supplies last.
Instagram has started testing a new feature called 'favorites' that enables users to share photos with only certain people. Only a small number of users have access to the feature at this time, though it may roll out to everyone in the future.
Lensbaby has announced the Velvet 85 F1.8 for interchangeable lens cameras. The lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Sony E, Sony A, Pentax K, Samsung NX, Fuji X and Micro 4/3 mounts.
It's the end of an era. Parent company Micron has announced that they are discontinuing the Lexar retail brand. This includes 'memory cards, USB flash drives, readers, and storage drives.'
Youthful trainspotter turned adult photographer, John Sanderson has traveled across the United States, documenting the country's railroads. But you won't find any trains in his pictures.
Sony's new CMOS sensor is backside-illuminated and offers an all-pixel global reset function which should drastically reduce rolling shutter effect when panning.
Shoulderpod has converted its offerings into a lego-like modular system by offering all individual parts of existing products separately, allowing users to build exactly the rig they need for a specific project or simply replace a damaged part.
Photographer Felix AAA has spent the past ten years touring the world with a variety of musicians, capturing behind the scenes shots and portraits. He talks about some of his favorite images on the FujiFilm Blog.
A roll of film discovered in an Argus C2 from an Oregon Goodwill turned out to contain some incredible images – and has been re-united with the original owner's family.
Nikon's 28mm F1.4E ED appears to roundly complete the company's updated lineup of fast, professional prime lenses. We've already seen some initial images from a Nikon ambassador, but we've worked through a gallery of our own, with a lens of our own over the past week. Take a look.
Google is holding a competition that could see your Pixel photos gracing millions of screens.
Nikon's 100th birthday party continues worldwide as a distributor in Italy organized a one-of-a-kind feat: assembling the world's largest 'human camera' from over a thousand volunteers.
Ricoh has dropped the price of its Theta SC 360 spherical camera by to $199, a reduction of roughly $50. The camera features two 12MP sensors and can record Full HD video in addition to stills.
Photojournalist Pete Souza served as the presidential photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. In an interview with fellow photographer Marcia Nighswander, he discusses several of his most noteworthy images.
Photographer Michael Wolf has been documenting the crowded conditions of Tokyo's subway trains since the 1990s. The photos have gone viral regularly in the years since he started the project, and he just published the final edition in the series.
The just-launched OnePlus 5 is getting a minor update that should improve camera function.
A Belgian camera shop is showing off an extremely rare, limited 'Rex Edition' Nikon D500. The cosmetic alterations were provided by a customer's German Shepherd Rex, who got ahold of the camera within a day of its purchase.
Adobe says that many of its users have been relying on SkyBox for VR editing and it therefore made sense to make the plug-ins available to all subscribers through Creative Cloud.
The Pictar grip provides a number of customizable physical controls for your iPhone camera, but at its price point we would like to see better materials and build quality.
Peak Design's 'consider every detail' approach shines in the Everyday Backpack. While expensive, it's one of the best options out there for a photographer who needs to pack a lot of stuff in addition to gear.
If you're thinking of using Canon's sports glass on the Sony a9, think again. The ultra-fast camera slows way down when you attach off-brand glass.
The Polish town of Katowice is not famed as an area of beauty, but as all photographers know, that doesn't mean that beauty can't be found if you look in the right places. Mariusz Pietranek used a drone to look down on the colorful sedimentation tanks at an ironworks.
New York Times video journalist Ben Solomon spent a harrowing three weeks accompanying Iraqi Major Sajjad al-Hour as he and his men fought to retake Mosul from I.S. forces.
The 3D VR camera launched through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 goes on sale beginning June 26.