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-P3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 Sony Alpha NEX-C3 Sony Alpha NEX-5
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 16.2-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS 14.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS
17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm 23.4mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 2.0x 2.0x 2.0x 2.0x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 200 - ISO 6,400 ISO 200 - ISO 12,800 ISO 200 - ISO 12,800 ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 200 - ISO 12,800 ISO 200 - ISO 12,800
Continuous shooting 3fps
n/a
4.1fps
n/a
(5.5fps without image stabilization)
3fps
unlimited (LN) JPEG/17 raw
3.8fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
2.5fps
18 JPEG/ 6 raw
(5.5fps with fixed exposure)
2.3fps
unlimited JPEG/8 raw
(7fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
Optional Optional Optional None None None
Autofocus 11-area contrast AF 35-area contrast AF 35-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF 25-point contrast AF 25-point contrast AF
Shutter speed 60-1/2,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/4,000 FP sync 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/4,000 FP sync 60-1/4,000 sec; 1/160 sec x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x- sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering 324 area 324 area 324 area 144 zone 49 zone 40 segment
Flash Yes Included optional Yes Yes Included optional Included optional
Image stabilization Sensor shift Sensor shift Sensor shift Optical Optical Optical
Video 720p Motion JPEG AVI 1080/60i AVCHD @ 20, 17Mbps; 720/60p @ 13Mbps 1080/60i 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-4 1080/60i AVCHD
Audio Mono; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Mono Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input
LCD size 3-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 shots 320 shots 400 shots 330 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.5 x 2.8 x 1.6 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5 4.8 x 2.7 x 1.4 4.2 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) 12.7 11 (est) 13.0 9.3 10.7 10.2 (without flash); 10.9 (with flash)
Mfr. price n/a n/a n/a $499.95 (body only, est) n/a n/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 date January 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 August 2011 July 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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