Olympus reveals specs, pricing for PEN E-PL3

Olympus' midrange interchangeable-lens model is smaller than its predecessor, but it's still a bit pricey relative to the competition.

About a month ago Olympus announced its PEN interchangeable-lens (ILC) lineup for the rest of the year, and has been dribbling out the specs and cameras. The latest info to come out is for the E-PL3, the line's midrange model, which is designed to be more compact than the higher-end E-P3 but with a similar feature set and performance. Here are the complete specs, along with those of some direct competitors:

 Olympus E-PL2 Olympus E-PL3 Olympus E-P3Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3Sony Alpha NEX-C3Sony Alpha NEX-5
Sensor (effective resolution)12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.1-megapixel Live MOS16.2-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS14.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS
17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm17.3mm x 13mm23.5mm x 15.6mm23.4mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier2.0x2.0x2.0x2.0x1.5x1.5x
Sensitivity rangeISO 200 - ISO 6,400ISO 200 - ISO 12,800ISO 200 - ISO 12,800ISO 100 - ISO 6,400ISO 200 - ISO 12,800ISO 200 - ISO 12,800
Continuous shooting3fps
(5.5fps without image stabilization)
unlimited (LN) JPEG/17 raw
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
18 JPEG/ 6 raw
(5.5fps with fixed exposure)
unlimited JPEG/8 raw
(7fps with fixed exposure)
magnification/ effective magnification
Autofocus11-area contrast AF35-area contrast AF35-area contrast AF23-area contrast AF25-point contrast AF25-point contrast AF
Shutter speed60-1/2,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/4,000 FP sync60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/4,000 FP sync60-1/4,000 sec; 1/160 sec x-sync30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x- sync30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering324 area324 area324 area144 zone49 zone40 segment
FlashYesIncluded optionalYesYesIncluded optionalIncluded optional
Image stabilizationSensor shiftSensor shiftSensor shiftOpticalOpticalOptical
Video720p Motion JPEG AVI1080/60i AVCHD @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13Mbps1080/60i AVCHD @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13Mbps 1080/60i/50i @ 17 Mbps
720/60p @17 Mbps AVCHD or Motion JPEG QuickTime MOV
720/30p H.264 MPEG-41080/60i AVCHD
AudioMono; mic inputStereo; mic inputStereo; mic inputMonoStereo; mic inputStereo; mic input
LCD size3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch tilting
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed OLED
614,000 dots
3-inch fixed touch screen
460,000 dots
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating)280 shots 300 shots 330 shots320 shots400 shots330 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)4.5 x 2.8 x 1.64.3 x 2.5 x 1.54.8 x 2.7 x 1.44.2 x 2.6 x 1.3 4.4 x 2.4 x 0.9 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.6
Body operating weight (ounces)12.711 (est)13.09.310.710.2 (without flash); 10.9 (with flash)
Mfr. pricen/an/an/a$499.95 (body only, est)n/an/a
$599.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 msc lens) $699.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 msc lens) $899.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 msc II lens) $599.95 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens) $649.99 (with 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens)$699.99 (with 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens)
$799 (est, with 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses) $699.99 (est, with 17mm lens) $899.99 (with 17mm f2.8 lens)$699.95 (with 14mm f2.5 lens)$599.99 (with 16mm f2.8 lens)$649.99 (with 16mm f2.8 lens)
Ship dateJanuary 2011September 2011August 2011July 2011August 2011July 2010

The biggest (and thus far only) disappointment here is the price. Not just because $700 is high, but because it's even more expensive than its direct competitors, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 and the Sony Alpha NEX-C3. The PL3 does offer higher bit rate video than the GF3 (and hopefully Olympus will have fixed the serious rolling shutter issues I encountered with the E-P3), but that seems to be the PL3's only initial advantage over it.

As I pointed out originally, Olympus jettisoned the flash--the E-PL series' flash was a response to the lack of one on the original E-P1--following Sony's lead and including an add-on flash in the box. I don't really mind that approach. It will have a smaller set of art filters than the E-P3. Despite the updated AF system, Olympus says the E-PL3 will have a slightly slower response time, likely because of less processing power. It will come in red, black, chrome, and white.

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