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Olympus PEN E-P3 vs Panasonic Lumix G3

Olympus PEN E-P3 vs Panasonic Lumix G3 - We recently had the chance to shoot the Olympus PEN E-P3 side by side with the Panasonic Lumix G3. Find out how they compare.

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Category : Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
Product : Olympus PEN E-P3
Price : £449
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Features
Handling
Performance
Value
Verdict

The Olympus PEN E-P3 is the latest Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus, we thought it would be interesting to see how the new E-P3 compares to one of the most recent offering from Panasonic, the Lumix G3, and had the chance to shoot side by side.

Olympus PEN E-P3 vs Panasonic Lumix G3 Features


Olympus PEN E-P3

We've put the main features into the table below so you can compare the features at a glance:

Olympus PEN E-P3 Panasonic Lumix G3
12.1 megapixels (effective) 16.0 megapixels (effective)
3inch, Touch screen, 610k, OLED 3inch, Touch screen, 460k
Fixed screen Swivel screen
3fps 4fps at 16mp, 20fps at 4mp
35 point area focus 23-area-focusing
Full HD 1920×1080, 1080i Full HD 1920x1080, 50i, 25fps
Stereo microphones Stereo microphones
ISO200 - ISO12800 ISO160 - ISO6400
Art Filters: 10+ Creative modes: 5
Optional extra 100% view, 1.44m pixels
330 (LCD) 270 (LCD)
122.0 x 69.1 x 34.3mm 115.2 x 83.6 x 46.7/62.2*mm 
321g (body only) 336g (body only)
£799 with kit lens (14-42) £549 body, £629 with kit lens (RRP)

* including viewfinder

Olympus PEN E-P3 vs Panasonic Lumix G3 Handling


Panasonic Lumi G3

The Panasonic Lumix G3 features a swivelling screen on the back for use in strange angles up high, below, or with the camera facing you, and a more traditional SLR styled design, most noticeable with the electronic viewfinder sticking out the back of the camera. It also offers a more SLR styled grip, however this is covered in a smooth plastic with a slightly rubbery feel to it. In contrast the Olympus PEN E-P3 features a changeable grip, with either a leather effect, or a larger rubber grip. Alternatively you can use the PEN with no grip at all for minimum size, I found this very comfortable and the shape of the camera makes it very easy to grip the camera.

Both cameras feature a 3 inch touch screen, the Panasonic featuring a swivel screen, with 460k dots, and the Olympus featuring a fixed OLED screen, with 610k dots. The Olympus screen is very contrasty, a very bright, colourful, display. The Panasonic is less vibrant but is very clear even in bright sunlight.

Battery Life

The battery life of the Panasonic Lumix G3 is rated at 270 shots, and the camera matched this rating in real life giving around 270 shots before the battery went flat. The Olympus PEN E-P3 battery life is rated at 330 shots, however, we took over 800 photos before the battery went flat, and then 360+ photos with another battery that was still going when we had to hand the camera back.

Focusing speed is excellent for both cameras, however without having both cameras in studio and timing equipment to hand it was very difficult to declare a specific winner. The only thing that needs to be said about both cameras, is that focusing is very fast.

Olympus PEN E-P3 vs Panasonic Lumix G3 Performance


Image quality comparison side by side - click to view full size photos:

Olympus PEN E-P3   Panasonic Lumix G3
 
ISO1600, 1/50, f/3.5, 14mm - ISO1600 noise - despite the PEN having "only" 12 megapixels, the image shows similar (but not quite the same) levels of detail.   ISO1600, 1/60, f/3.5, 14mm - ISO1600 noise - the higher resolution sensor slightly eeks ahead here, with additional detail shown in the scarf.
 
ISO200, 1/500, f/9.0, 17mm   ISO160, 1/4000, f/2.8, 17mm
 
ISO250, 1/80, f/5.6, 42mm (Telephoto) - Good detail in the bottles on the counter.   ISO250, 1/80, f/5.6, 42mm (Telephoto) - Equally good detail on the bottles on the counter.
 
ISO200, 1/125, f/4.5, 14mm (Wide) - sharper, detail in the ceiling slats is kept for for longer as the distance increases. Purple fringing visible on areas of high contrast.   ISO160, 1/125, f/3.5, 14mm (Wide) - slightly soft in comparison, and the detail in the slats in the ceiling disappears more quickly, moire can also be seen. Less purple fringing.
 
ISO200, 1/640, f/5.0, 14mm - Shadow / highlight detail - Very good detail in the shadows, and more detail in the highlights when compared to the Panasonic G3. Purple fringing visible.   ISO160, 1/400, f/6.3, 14mm - Shadow / highlight detail - Some highlight clipping in the bright clouds. Shadow detail seems to be overly smoothed over / lacking.
 
ISO200, 1/400, f/7.1, 17mm - Warm colour   ISO160, 1/400, f/7.1, 14mm - Cool
 
ISO200, 1/200, f/4.5, 26mm - Slight magenta cast.   ISO160, 1/100, f/5.0, 26mm - cooler, more neutral image.
 
ISO200, 1/500, f/4.5, 14mm - The PEN shows purple fringing in the top corners of the image, but has very good detail in the darker brown shades of rust on the sculpture.   ISO160, 1/250, f/5.6, 14mm - The G3 also shows purple fringing in the top corners of the image, but perhaps not quite as much as the PEN. The G3 doesn't show as much detail in the sculpture, despite the ISO setting being lower, and the camera having a higher resolution.
 
ISO1600, 1/40, f/3.5, 14mm - Noise is visible in the shadow areas, and the use of a higher ISO has reduced detail.   ISO800, 1/15, f/3.5, 14mm - here the Panasonic chose a lower ISO setting of ISO800, and noise is low even in the shadow areas, and detail is good.

Overall the Olympus PEN E-P3 gives warmer results, while the Panasonic Lumix G3 gives cooler, but also more neutral images. The G3 shows less noise, but also seems to show less detail than the E-P3, which is surprising considering the higher resolution 16 megapixel sensor in the Panasonic, you would expect to see more noise, but ideally more detail as well. The Olympus PEN E-P3 shows more detail in highlights and in shadow areas which means you should get better dynamic range in your photos.

Olympus PEN E-P3 vs Panasonic Lumix G3 Value For Money

The G3 is much cheaper, aimed at lower level / mid range market, so price wise the E-PL3 would be a fairer comparison, or should be when its price is announced. Really the E-P3 should be compared to the Pansonic Lumix GH2, as both are the top of the range micro-four-thirds cameras - and the GH2 feels (in the hand) much more equal with the E-P3 in build quality.

Olympus PEN E-P3 vs Panasonic Lumix G3 Verdict

The Panasonic Lumix G3 comes with a built in electronic viewfinder, a swivel screen, and a style much more similar to an SLR. It also offers faster, 4fps, continuous shooting, and better value for money.

However, the PEN gives more pleasing JPEG images with great colour and possibly better image quality - more detail, less moire, better dynamic range. The screen is excellent although perhaps a little contrasty (it can make you think the dark areas of the image are under-exposed, yet when you look at them on the computer they look great). The PEN gives you more choice as to whether you want to add an electronic viewfinder, or whether you want a small (leather style) grip or large (rubber) grip, or no grip at all. The camera also features a huge array of Art Filters, and on top of this you can apply further effects to each Art Filter.

Both are excellent with excellent focusing speed and performance. Difficult to choose between them, the G3 is slightly smaller but has a viewfinder that sticks out the back, and disappointing battery life. Despite the G3 featuring an aluminium front to its body, it still feels very plasticy and really makes the E-P3's extremely solid metal body stand out. Handling the e-p3 is excellent as a street shooting camera it's just so responsive and easy to hold, it makes shooting spontaneously a real joy, and the abundant creative art filters can be really good fun.

Previously the slower auto-focus on Olympus PEN cameras, made the Panasonic Lumix G series a sensible choice as the faster AF was a definite benefit, however, now that Olympus has responded with faster auto focus it's much more difficult to choose between the two. If you want faster continuous shooting, SLR style, a swivel screen, and a built in electronic viewfinder, the Panasonic Lumix G3 is the obvious choice, however if you want excellent images straight from the camera, creative Art filters, a great screen, built in image stabilisation, and the choice of what grip you use, then the Olympus PEN E-P3 is a great choice.

Come back shortly for our full reviews of both cameras.

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Photographs taken using the Olympus PEN E-P3

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Comments


Carrera_c 5 256 3 United Kingdom
5 Jul 2011 7:36PM
Why weren't all the comparison shots taken at the exact same ISO, F#, and Shutter? Feel that the comparison shots are spoiled by the fact they're shot so differently, especially the photo of the glass with the plastic stirrers.

Also, would like to know if these photos were taken in jpeg and if they had noise reduction set on them which may explain the lesser detail in some of the G3 shots if it had a more aggressive noise reduction set.

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joshwa e2
4 605 United Kingdom
5 Jul 2011 9:00PM
JPEG shots, default settings, cameras were used in P/Program mode to see what they would do, see if the camera's used the same ISO/etc. I have another shot of the glass with plastic stirrers but in comparison to the Olympus shot it is slightly under-exposed. The time we had with the cameras was unfortunately limited. When we have both cameras in for review we will be able to put together a much more thorough comparison. Also, the lowest ISO on the PEN E-P3 is ISO200, and the lowest on the G3 is ISO160.
Carrera_c 5 256 3 United Kingdom
5 Jul 2011 9:12PM
Interesting to know that they both act quite differently in Program mode. These are two camera's that I'm contemplating getting so look forward to the full reviews.
6 Jul 2011 1:33AM
Is it correct that the E-p3 has continuous focus while recording HD video where as the G-3 does not?

thanks for the clarification
6 Jul 2011 5:54PM
Not or me i'm afraid, thought the Pen would be useful but Olympus disappoint with both offerings

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