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|Category:||Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera|
|Product:||Olympus PEN E-P3|
Olympus PEN E-P3 M43rds Review - Joshua Waller reviews the new Olympus PEN E-P3 - the E-P3 is the top of the range PEN camera from Olympus and promises the World's Fastest Auto Focus - but does it deliver?
The Olympus PEN E-P3 is the newest Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus, and offers improvements in speed, focusing, image processing, video, built in flash, and even more, including a high resolution 3 inch touch screen. In fact, the camera's focusing is so fast, Olympus are claiming it's the world's fastest! Find out in our review how the camera performs.
Olympus PEN E-P3
The Olympus PEN E-P1 was the first Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus, and the first compact styled mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, as previously Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds cameras were DSLR style with built in electronic viewfinder. The Olympus PEN E-P2 added an accessory port which can connect a variety of options, primarily the electronic viewfinder, but little else changed between the two models. The Olympus PEN E-P3 on the other hand, introduces a number of new features, and significantly improves auto focus speed, amongst other things, here are the new key features:
- Improved sensitivity - upto ISO12800 (although at the loss of ISO100)
- TruePix VI Image Processor
- World's fastest AF, AF illuminator
- Full HD Video - advanced IS, shutter priority
- Advanced Shadow Adjustment Technology
- New graphic user interface (see below)
- 3inch OLED Touch screen, anti-fingerprint
- Choice of grip, no grip and large grip
- New tone control
- Art bracketing, 10 filters, plus effects
Olympus PEN 3 vs Olympus PEN 2 vs Olympus PEN 1 - Here's how it compares to its two direct predecessors, with the new features highlighted in bold.
|Olympus PEN E-P1
||Olympus PEN E-P2
|12.1 megapixels (effective)||12.1 megapixels (effective)||12.1 megapixels (effective)|
|3inch||3inch||3inch, Touch screen, 610k|
|11 point AF, 25 point with Face||11 point AF, 25 point with Face||35 point area focus|
|720p video||720p video||Full HD 1920×1080, 1080i|
|Stereo microphones||Stereo microphones||Stereo microphones|
|ISO100 - ISO6400||ISO100 - ISO6400||ISO200 - ISO12800|
|External Flash||External Flash||Built in flash|
|Battery life: 300||Battery life: 300||Battery life: 330|
|120.5 x 70 x 35 mm||120.5 x 70 x 35 mm||122 x 69.1 x 34.3 mm|
|£699 with kit lens (14-42)||£699 with kit lens (14-42)||£799 with kit lens (14-42)|
|Colours: Black, Silver||Colours: Black, White, Silver|
|Accessory port to allow use of electronic viewfinder.||Other: Histogram, Fisheye, Wide Converter, Macro scene modes for use with the Olympus converters, 3D photo mode, Largest amount of art filters, Level Gauge, Fn buttons, mode dial moved.|
At the same time as the Olympus PEN E-P3 announcement, Olympus also announced two other new models, the PEN Lite 3 (E-PL3), and PEN Mini (E-PM1), here's how they compare visually (shown to scale):
Olympus PEN 3 vs Olympus PEN Lite 3 vs Olympus PEN Mini 1 - How does it compare?
|Olympus PEN E-PM1 Mini
||Olympus PEN E-PL3 Lite
||Olympus Pen E-P3
|12.1 megapixels (effective)||12.1 megapixels (effective)||12.1 megapixels (effective)|
|3inch 460k, Touch, 16:9||3inch 460k, Touch, Tilting, 16:9||3inch OLED, Touch, 610k, 3:2|
|4.1/5.5fps IS On/Off||4.1/5.5fps IS On/Off||3fps|
|35 point area focus||35 point area focus||35 point area focus|
|Full HD 1920×1080, 1080i||Full HD 1920×1080, 1080i||Full HD 1920×1080, 1080i|
|Stereo microphones||Stereo microphones||Stereo microphones|
|ISO200 - ISO12800||ISO200 - ISO12800||ISO200 - ISO12800|
|Detachable flash||Detachable flash||Built in flash|
|Battery life: 330||Battery life: 330||Battery life: 330 (LCD On)|
|109.5 x 63.7 x 34.0 mm||109.5 x 63.7 x 37.3 mm||122 x 69.1 x 34.3 mm|
|£429 with kit lens tbc||£529 with kit lens||£799 with kit lens (14-42)|
|Colours: Black, white, silver, dark brown, purple and silver rose||Colours: Black, Silver, White, Red||Colours: Black, White, Silver|
|Variation of art filters not available (art filters still available), no mode dial.||Variation of art filters available, mode dial available.||Other: Histogram, Fisheye, Wide Converter, Macro scene modes for use with the Olympus converters, 3D photo mode, Largest amount of art filters, Level Gauge, Fn buttons, mode dial moved compared to E-P1 / E-P2.
Olympus PEN E-P3 Back
The size of the E-P3, whilst very similar to the E-P2, now feels quite large in comparison to the tiny E-PL3 (Lite), and E-PM1 (Mini), and other Micro Four Thirds cameras. The touch screen is also a new feature, and it's good to see an improvement in resolution and quality with a 610k dots OLED screen. This shows photos with bright vibrant colours and sharp details. It's also coated with an "anti-fingerprint" coating so using it as a touch screen shouldn't cause too much concern. You can select the focus area with your finger, or take a photo by touching the screen, and for manual focus you can select the areas you want magnified, and choose between 5, 7, 10 and 14x zoom to fine tune focus. However the majority of the time you don't need to use the touch screen if you don't want to as the majority of menus and controls are still changed using the scroll wheel and 4-way buttons.
Olympus PEN E-P3 Top
Menus - the PEN cameras have a refreshed menu system with easier to navigate controls, and they have a softer edge to some of them. There is built in help and a built in camera manual. There are two dedicated function buttons, however, when you go into change the default options you can also set the Video, Right, and Down buttons as custom functions. The more basic options are in the normal menus, then you can also switch on the Custom Menu (shown below), and then there are literally hundreds of options! (70 options, each with sub options, over 10 colour coded screens)
Battery life: The E-P3 used the same battery as the E-P1, and E-P2 before it, and battery life is rated at 330 Shots (using 100% live view, under CIPA testing). We managed to take around 320 photos (a number of these multiple exposure shots) before the battery went flat, this is about what we expected, although the number of shots achieved will depend on whether you shoot continuous, how often you switch the camera on / off and what features you use.
Olympus PEN E-P3 Bottom
Speed - we tested the Olympus PEN E-P3 and compared it to the Samsung NX11, and Panasonic Lumix GF3. You can also compare the results to the new Panasonic Lumix G3 as well.
|Panasonic GF3||Samsung NX11||Olympus E-P3|
|Wide - Focus / Shutter Response||0.2*||0.3||0.2
|Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response||0.2*||0.3||0.2
|Switch on Time to Taking a Photo||0.9||1.3
|Shot to Shot without Flash||0.6||1.0||0.6
|Shot to Shot with Flash||1.3||1.1||2.0
(shots before slow down)
|4fps (13 shots)||3fps (15 shots)
||3fps (59 shots)
|Continuous Shooting - Flash||N/A||2fps (infinite shots)||1.6s
|Continuous Shooting - RAW||4fps (6 shots)||3fps (5 shots)
||3fps (8 shots)
* 14-42mm Olympus M Zuiko 14-42mm II R lens used for both M43rds cameras, tested with the new Samsung Class 10 memory card.
This is one area where you can instantly tell that there have indeed been massive improvements in the focusing speed, as focusing was very, very quick, as fast as the Panasonic Lumix G3 (the G3 focuses in less than 0.2 seconds), and shutter response is instant. Continuous shooting is around 3 fps, which is a little disappointing considering the mid-range "Lite" model features 5.5fps.
We couldn't necessarily confirm that the Olympus PEN E-P3 has, in fact, the world's fastest autofocus system, as the G3 and GF3 both match the speed. Therefore, with Panasonic also claiming to have the world's fastest autofocus system (at launch), we would have to conclude that they both have "the world's fastest autofocus".
Here are several sample photos taken in a variety of lighting conditions, click "Hi-Res" to view full size sample photos, there are more sample photos in the equipment database where you can also add your own photos:
Olympus PEN E-P3 Sample Photos
Sheffield Moors - 1/500 sec | f/10.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
1/640 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
1/400 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
1/60 sec | f/4.6 | 28.0 mm | ISO 200
The photos shown here show good colour, detail, and the lens is capable of producing good background blur (bokeh) when used to focus on close subjects. The first landscape shot shows good colour, and impressively the camera has managed to keep detail in the bright sky without losing the detail in the clouds. The photo of the yellow flowers shows excellent detail in the stalks of the plant. The portrait shot with flash, shows very little red-eye, however the image is underexposed and has given the subject a red tint.
Olympus PEN E-P3 Lens test images
Wide - 1/400 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Zoom - 1/400 sec | f/11.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
Trees - 1/100 sec | f/4.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Macro - 1/30 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 400
The lens performs well with detail right to the corners, although there is some highlight clipping in the wide shot in the clouds, and some purple fringing in extreme contrast areas (the corners especially) although this was generally low in other photos. The kit lens is capable of decent macro performance when used at the telephoto end.
Olympus PEN E-P3 ISO test images
1/8 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 200
1/15 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 400
1/30 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 800
1/60 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 1600
1/100 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 3200
1/125 sec | f/7.1 | 42.0 mm | ISO 6400
1/200 sec | f/8.0 | 42.0 mm | ISO 12800
Noise Filter Off - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 1600
Noise Filter Low - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 1600
Noise Filter Standard - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 1600
Noise Filter High - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 1600
ISO Noise performance: (Noise Filter Low, default: Standard). The E-P3 produces low noise at ISO200, through to ISO800, even when the noise filter is set to low. At ISO1600 and ISO3200 coloured noise becomes apparent, and it's at this point that I'd want to switch the noise filter to standard. Similarly at ISO6400 noise becomes more noticeable and this setting would be best used with the noise filter set to standard. ISO12800 is best used resized, however, the camera does a good job at maintaining colour even at this high ISO setting.
The photos above also show the noise reduction options: Off, On, Auto, with the noise filter options of: Off, Low, Standard, High. Low gives a nice grain with good detail, Standard (Default) does a very good job of removing most of the noise if you're not a fan of noise, whereas High seems as though the noise reduction is a little too high, although your personal preferences may differ.
Olympus PEN E-P3 White-balance test images
AWB Tungsten (Warm off) - 1/20 sec | f/4.2 | 22.0 mm | ISO 200
AWB Tungsten (Warm on) - 1/25 sec | f/4.0 | 19.0 mm | ISO 200
Tungsten Preset - 1/25 sec | f/4.0 | 19.0 mm | ISO 200
AWB Fluorescent - 1/8 sec | f/4.0 | 19.0 mm | ISO 200
Fluorescent Preset - 1/8 sec | f/4.0 | 19.0 mm | ISO 200
Auto white balance: AWB performed well under tungsten and fluorescent lighting, often producing better results than using the respective presets. Interestingly the camera has an option to "Keep warm colour" when using auto white balance - examples can be seen above.
Olympus PEN E-P3 Digital filters
Pop Art - 1/400 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Soft Focus - 1/400 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Pale and Light Colour - 1/400 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Light Tone - 1/400 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Grainy Film - 1/400 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Pin Hole - 1/400 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Diorama - 1/400 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Cross Process - 1/400 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Gentle Sepia 1/320 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Dramatic Tone - 1/320 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
No Art Filter - 1/400 sec | f/8.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
Pop Art Effect Off - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 320
Pop Art Soft Focus Effect - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 320
Pop Art Pin Hole Effect - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 320
Pop Art White Edge Effect - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 320
Pop Art Frame Effect - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 320
Pop Art Star Light Effect - 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 320
Pop Art Filter Type II - Star Light Effect - 1/100 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 400
Art Filters - On the E-P3 (and E-PL3) Olympus has updated the Art Filters with more filters available, as well as introducing effects that can be applied on top of the filters while taking photos. The number of filters and options available depends on which Art Filter you are using - for example, with Pin Hole having 3 different colour options, and also one frame effect available. Another example is Pop Art - this has 2 types of filter (normal, or darker), and all 5 filter effects available (as shown above).
Lenses available: The E-P3 comes with a collapsible zoom kit lens: the Olympus M. Zuiko 14-42mm II R - equivalent to 28 - 84mm, this is an updated version of the 14-42mm Mk II lens and is updated cosmetically only so that the style matches the new range of Olympus PEN cameras. As it's part of the Micro Four thirds system, there is an abundance of lenses to choose from, from both Olympus and Panasonic, and others! There is also a number of adapters available to allow you to use DSLR lenses, as well as a lot of third party "toy" lenses like the Pinhole PenWide, Holga, and others.
Additional sample photos from the Olympus PEN E-P3 and M.Zuiko Digital 12mm f/2.0 Lens, as well as photos taken side by side with the Panasonic Lumix G3.
Video: Video on the E-P3 is greatly improved, now featuring full HD video, and full manual controls (P, A, S, M, Art filters), although using the Art Filters greatly reduces the frame rate on videos. With Full HD, there is also further compression / size options including AVCHD Full HD Fine / Normal, HD Fine / Normal, MJPEG HD / SD, as well as a digital teleconverter that allows digital zoom without any loss of video quality.
Value for Money: Built in body stabilisation is a bonus of the PEN system, as it enables you to have image stabilisation with any lens, new or old, and is of particular interest if you're planning on using adapters to use third party lenses. Although saying this, the E-P3 is currently priced higher than the competition with the kit lens version costing £799, more than the Panasonic Lumix GH2, G3, Samsung NX11, and Sony NEX-5.
The Olympus PEN E-P3 is a welcome upgrade to the E-P2, with extremely fast focusing, which was one of the big problems with the PEN series, especially if you'd used another faster Micro Four Thirds camera, but now Olympus are back in the game. The addition of a built in flash, AF illuminator and several new art filters and effects that can be applied to the art filters, is a very welcome addition.
Olympus has expanded the appeal of the PEN series with new 12mm and 45mm lenses with an entirely metal construction, and a variety of lens converters are available. Image quality of the Olympus PEN E-P3 is excellent with excellent detail from the 12 megapixel sensor, with low noise, and great colour. The build quality and appearance of the camera is simply excellent, and probably the closest we have come to a "tough" mirrorless camera yet.
|The Olympus PEN E-P3 is extremely solid with excellent image quality and produces the speed needed to make this an excellent camera.
Olympus PEN E-P3 ProsTwo year warranty
Great touch screen
Excellent build quality (simply superb)
Excellent image quality
In camera anti-shake (works with ALL lenses)
Built in flash
Removable hand grip
Art filters + effects
Olympus PEN E-P3 ConsHigh price
Only 3fps shooting
Advanced menus can seem daunting initially
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Read our hands on preview and first impressions of the new Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3!
Read our hands on preview of the new Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1!
View our size comparison: comparing the Olympus PEN E-P3, E-PL3, and Lumix G3
Olympus PEN E-P3 Specifications
|CCD pixels||12.3Mp (Megapixels)|
|Sensor Type||Live MOS Sensor|
|Sensor Size||Micro / Four Thirds|
|Sensor Size (width)||17.3mm|
|Sensor Size (height)||13mm|
|Screen resolution||614k dots|
|Shutter speeds shortest||1/4000sec|
|Shutter speeds longest||60sec|
|ISO sensitivity||200 - 12800|
|Viewfinder Resolution||No Data|
|Video FPS||No Data|
|Optical Zoom with Video||Yes|
|Battery Type||BLS-1 Lithium Ion|
|Box Contents||No Data|