Olympus E-PL3 is also known as Olympus PEN lite, which is also known as just ‘PEN Lite’ is a compact system camera which evolved from the EPL2. It was quick upgrade from E PL2 providing the fact that Olympus took just 7 month to launch a upgrade, which is in fact incidental if you look at the Olympus.
Camera is small and stylish and loved for the ease of use. Micro Four Third camera (MFT) is a relatively new technology which is popularly called as Compact System cameras or CSCs, which has the benefits of the Shooting with dSLR but with reduced size and weight ( which is characteristics of digital camera).
This is done by removing the mirror and the optical viewfinder from the system, by this the lens can be placed more near to the sensor thus system is more compact with lesser weight than dSLR (which is in fact equivalent to Compact cameras)
It is smaller brother of EP-3 but it is full of innovative technologies which set it apart from other compact cameras.
Sensor: 4/3″ Hi-Speed Live MOS sensor, 17.3 x 13.0 mm active area with 12.3 MP
Dust Suppression: Supersonic Wave Filter
Image Stabilization: Supersonic Wave Drive (Sensor shift), Digital IS in Move mode
Image Processor: TruePic VI
Sound Recording: Digital Dolby (AVCHD Format) with stereo microphone
Lens: Micro Four Thirds Mount, compatible with standard MFT via adapter.
Auto Focus: Contrast detection AF, 35 point AF, Manual Assist
ISO Range: ISO 200 – ISO 12800
Metering: 324 zone TTL Image Sensor metering system (through the lens)
Shutter speed: 60 sec to 1/4000
Max Shoot Speed: 5.5 FPS (IS off) and 4.1 fps ( IS on)
Flash: 10m @ ISO 200 (special Flash Included for Accessory port)
Power: BLS-5 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery (supplied & charger), Approx 330 shots.
Dimension: 109.5mm (W) x 63.7mm (H) x 37.3mm (D)
Weight: 315 gm with battery and card.
Sensor and lens
Sensor is 12.3 MP Live MOS, which houses image stabilization on sensor itself. AF is nice and fast and responsive in normal light condition. It has RGB color filter and a anti-aliasing filter is fitted over it.
Sensor is fitted with image stabilization which makes it first of the class which has in built image stabilization but it is not very effective. But it makes it work with every lens made for the lens mount.
The system also houses the TruePic VI image processor which is found in E-P3 model as well. It come with Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R kit zoom which has a crop factor of 2 hence the equivalent focal length becomes 28-84 mm (35 mm equivalent), which is okay for normal day to day use.
Lens has sliding lock mechanism which is normally found in every CSC camera system but does not allow much compactness. Also lens outer shell is made completely of plastic which makes it light. A good edge to edge sharpness is observed with optics and is good bang for bucks.
Metering is done by Through the Lens ( TTL) using 324 metering zones. System is accurate and good when subjected to high contrast scenes and product accurate reproduction of scenes and shadow retention
But provided still it does not fit inside jackets pocket.
Body and physical:
It has sleek metal finish. It feels solid in hand, controls are well placed on outer surface and they are easy to use. It is available in black, white, red and silver. There is not even rudimentary finger grip available but in back there is textured rubber grip for thumb at the back panel. Buttons are spaced out general.
And like any other CSC camera you need to unlock the lens which is press and twist mechanism similar to Nikon.
The actual aesthetic of the E-PL3 is what most separates it from the bulkier, more prosumer-focused E-P3. But all this sleek body has its own compromises as it has no built in flash, instead a hot shoe in included in the package for people who want a flash.
There is a tilting rear LCD (at 420K dots) but it lacks touch –hardly deal breaker as it has nice intuitive user interface flow. There is a single scroll wheel attached at back panel and buttons are small and not so solid in feel. It is a few more buttons than its peers. ‘Fn’ button is customizable. There is a mode dial on the top which includes PASM mode as well (which is missing from J1).
At the back panel the LCD screen is tilting which is similar to that on the NEX-5N. It is 3” across and is widescreen and can tilt up or down for easy waist height or overhead shots.
The accessory port is host to PEN specific assortments of optical and electronic view finders and flash guns. Though Olympus do supply a Flash in the box, but ultimately it looks like they have compromised on the expanse of the flash.
Olympus claims the 1150mAh Li-Ion battery will last for 330 images but it lasted for around 270 before it dies completely. But if you do not use flash much you can extend it around 350 shots at a time. So you need to have a spare battery if you are planning to go on trip.
Flash is not in built due to the fact that Olympus want it to as small as possible but, it ships with an external flash, which is effective till 5 m @ ISO 100. Flash is normal and at par with what others are offering.
From pressing ON button it took only 0.9 second to take first picture which is pretty fast provided Nikon J2 took 1.5 seconds to do that. Time lag between two photos comes out to be 0.6 sec to 0.8 sec in normal light conditions. Camera is real quick and outnumber Sony NEX 5N. Auto focus can be floundered in low light condition
Quick shooting is very slow at 4.4 fps which ended up to 2.2 fps after nine frames which is kind of very slow if you compare Nikon V1 and J1’s ( now V2 and J2) astonishing 60fps with electronic shutter. Continuous shooting goes down further around 1.5fps when you use the tracking AF.
In house image stabilization is not very best in class, it certainly lacks behind the Sony NEX 5N at full zoom and at 1/8 sec, it’s around 40% less accurate than the competitor. Olympus has deactivated more of the advanced settings when compared to its big brother E-P3.
ISO sensitivity reaches up to ISO 12,800 which is one stop higher than E PL2 and par with competitor, other thing which makes the ISO setting a pleasure is the flexibility, user can select an ISO like ISO 640 i.e. increase in small steps, which is unique feature here. Low light performance has significantly improved over its earlier version E PL2
iAuto mode gives 23 scenes mode which helps to novice or compact camera user plenty of things to do. Also it has sex additional Art filters to have fun with.
Movie recording abilities are matched with the big brother EP-3 on all counts. Full HD 1080p/20Mbps or 1060i/17Mbps is what best you can shoot. You get efficient AVCHD format for improving upon space. But at 720p you get option to record in motion Jpeg files. Sound is recorded from two microphones (stereo) which is situated at the top of the camera. There is no external microphone port but you can connect one from accessory port.
E-PL3 is a nice camera with good diverse image quality. It is stylish and is easy to use in normal day to day life. Also it offers plenty of use full not to forget a tilting LCD. Art filters and solid HD video recording is really fun. Though there is lack of proper hand grip or Flash but all these minus points are diminished by the plus points. At the end it is a good camera altogether and good bang or the bucks. Although on comparing with other CSC comers you find it at most on the same level but a little pricey, a further drop in the street price is expected which makes it even dearer to buy.
The Olympus E PL3 is priced at $699 with the 14 – 42 mm kit.