Olympus Pen Lite E-PL3

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/ Updated: 30 June 2011 7:00 am BST

If three is the magic number, the Olympus Pen Lite E-PL3 should have plenty of tricks up its sleeve. It's a new lens-swapping snapper in the Micro Four Thirds range and will be available in late summer.

New lenses will also be available at the same time as the E-PL3. Prices and availability are yet to be confirmed.

Have you got a Lite, boy?

The 12-megapixel E-PL3 is also known as the Pen Lite. It's contained in a brushed-aluminium frame and is designed to be both a versatile back-up for seasoned photographers and a lightweight option for amateurs looking to get serious. It uses Micro Four Thirds lenses, a range of standard-sized glass that gives you different effects for different situations.

Micro Four Thirds cameras can swap lenses, but aren't as big as traditional lens-swapping dSLRs. They miss out the mirror mechanism inside, but apart from that they have all the power and features of a dSLR. They're also very friendly to use, designed for people who want to start off with everything in automatic mode and hopefully learn more about photography as they explore the settings and features on offer.

An example is the Live Guide feature. When you want to get a pleasing blurry background to make your photo stand out, you need to adjust the aperture and depth of field. The Live Guide feature makes this easy with a simple-to-understand slider on the screen you adjust with the handy dial.

Other menu options have pop-up descriptions that appear on screen to explain what each option does. You can zip through options with the scroll wheel, and add your favourite functions to a dedicated button for quick access.

Camera origami

The 3-inch screen is a nifty fold-out design. It's not quite as flexible as a camcorder-style screen that folds out and twists round, but it does allow you to hold the camera above your head or down on the ground and still compose your shot on the screen.

At the top of the camera is a hotshoe to which you can attach a flash, viewfinder or other accessories.

The E-PL3's fold-out 3-inch screen gives you more flexibility in your shooting angles.

The E-PL3 shoots 1080i high-definition video, with a dedicated video button, stereo sound and HDMI output. Movies and photos can have special effects added, including soft focus, colourful pop art or vintage-style grainy film. Other effects include new starlight or white outline options.

You can shoot fast-moving action with a mode that captures up to 5 photos in a second.

The E-PL3 follows up the Pen E-PL2 . It's still a 12-megapixel sensor, the same as the E-PL2, so it appears the main change is the folding screen.

Panasonic also makes cameras and lenses that use the Micro Four Thirds format, so when you're swapping in lenses there's plenty of choice as you can use those lenses too. The E-PL3 comes with a versatile 14-42mm zoom lens. Black, white, red and silver versions are available.

Outlook

The Olympus Pen E-PL3 is another strong refinement of the lightweight entry to the Pen range. It's packed with all the features and versatility of a dSLR with the simplicity an size of a smaller camera, and there are plenty if Micro Four Thirds lenses to choose from. The fold-out screen is handy for shooting at new and interesting angles, so we're looking forward to getting our hands on it for a full review soon.

Edited by Nick Hide

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Olympus Pen E-PL3

Part Number: CNETOlympus Pen E-PL3
Pricing is currently unavailable.