Olympus Pen E-P3 review: Olympus Pen E-P3

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Lovely look and feel, very comfortable to use. Graphical interface is much more refined than previous versions. Responsive touchscreen. Quick autofocus. Excellent art filters. Wireless flash control.

The Bad Average automatic white-balance performance in artificial light. Video quality just OK.

The Bottom Line The E-P3 is the ultimate combination of style and substance. With its gloriously retro chassis and competent image-taking base, we're sold on the new Olympus generation of hybrid cameras.

CNET Editors' Choice Aug '11

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This camera is the flagship of the Olympus interchangeable lens cameras. It's styled in a similar, retro-tastic fashion to previous iterations like the E-P1 and the E-P2, and makes a few improvements to ergonomics, shooting design and the graphical interfaces.

Design and features

While interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) are designed to be a small and lightweight alternative to a digital SLR, the E-P3 is a little bulkier than one might expect. Thanks to the metal construction, it feels sturdy and weighs an impressive 321 grams. There is a chunky plastic grip on the front of the camera, which can be removed as desired, and the entire unit is very sleek. One of our biggest bugbears with the previous models was a lack of a built-in flash: the E-P3 fixes that by having a discreet pop-up unit in the top panel.

Elsewhere at the top, the design doesn't stray too far from what you might expect on a camera of this class. There's a mode dial, with selections including full PASM control, movie mode, scene modes, art filters and intelligent auto mode, plus the hotshoe, which also acts as the gateway to the accessories port just underneath.

Around the back, the 3-inch screen has been given an overhaul for the better compared to previous versions. It's now an OLED touchscreen, is higher resolution at 610,000 dots and looks amazing. It also manages to be fingerprint-proof, somehow. The touchscreen also allows plenty of interaction options that you would expect, including touch to release the shutter, as well as swiping through photos in playback mode. The menu system has also been given a much-needed overhaul with the graphical interface much easier to use than before.

E-P3 menu

The menu system of the E-P3 is much more refined (and prettier!) than on previous versions. (Credit: CBSi)

Connectivity is provided via proprietary mini-USB and a mini-HDMI port. Wireless flash control, long a mainstay of many Olympus SLRs, is on the E-P3, and the pop-up flash can act as a controller. Underneath the hotshoe is an accessory port, which allows you to attach peripherals like the VF-2 electronic viewfinder.

E-P3 viewfinder

The electronic viewfinder mounted on the E-P3. (Credit: CBSi)

Art filters

No Olympus camera is complete without the requisite art filters applying different effects to your images. The E-P3 trumps all previous cameras, and makes do with 10 fun filters. While there's still no precision tweaking or exposure control when you use them, they make casual photography fun — which is what this game is all about.

E-P3 art filters

(Credit: CBSi)

At the very bottom of the scene mode menu, there's also an option for 3D shooting. In addition to the art filters, the E-P3 also comes with picture modes, which include i-Enhance, vivid and monochrome.

Compared to

E-P3

Olympus E-P3 Panasonic Lumix G3 Samsung NX11
12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor (four thirds type) 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor (four thirds type) 14.6-megapixel CMOS sensor (APS-C size)
3-inch, 610,000-dot touchscreen OLED 3-inch, 460,000-dot touchscreen LCD 3-inch, 920,000-dot AMOLED
Full HD video (1080i, 24fps) Full HD video (1080p, 30fps) HD video (720p, 30fps)
35-point AF 23-point AF 15-point AF
3.2fps 4fps 3fps

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Olympus E-P30.80.70.70.2
  • Samsung NX111.11.21.10.3

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • Olympus E-P33.2
  • Samsung NX113

Olympus rates the battery at 330 shots.

Image quality

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Where to Buy

Olympus Pen E-P3

Part Number: CNETOlympus Pen E-P3

Typical Price: $999.00

See manufacturer website for availability.