Olympus Pen Lite E-PL3 review: Olympus Pen Lite E-PL3

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The Good Flip-down LCD screen. Near-equivalent image quality to E-P3. Performance only slightly slower than E-P3. Compact and lightweight.

The Bad No grip, can be tricky to hold. Noisy images at high ISO levels. Interface and physical configuration not as easy to use as the E-P3. Video quality not as good as on competing models.

The Bottom Line With the same internals as found on the E-P3 wrapped in a smaller package, the E-PL3 is a compact and competent image-making machine.

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8.2 Overall

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It's tough being the middle child. Not only do you have to contend with your siblings on either side getting more attention, but you also constantly get compared to them. Such is the case with the Olympus Pen Lite E-PL3 (which we'll call the E-PL3 from now on), which sits between the Editor's Choice-winning E-P3 and the Pen Mini E-PM1.

Design and features

If you have been following the developments of the third generation of Pen-series cameras from Olympus, you will know that the internal elements of each of these cameras are much the same. They all use the same image sensor (12.3-megapixel live MOS) and fast autofocus system, with the menu interface and external design being the big differences.


The menu system on the E-PL3 has been overhauled from that found on previous versions, but is still not as nice to look at as the menu on the E-P3.
(Credit: CBSi)

The E-PL3 is evidently cheaper than the E-P3, given away by its exterior and more compact form factor. It sits comfortably in the hand, although there is no external grip or indentation anywhere, which makes it quite easy for the camera to fall out of your hand. It has a tilting 3-inch screen that juts out from the camera body in a similar manner to that found on the Sony NEX-C3.

The physical button configuration is a lot simpler than that found on the E-P3, with main controls located above the screen. There's still room for a control wheel to the side. According to Olympus, the Lite is 25 per cent smaller than the camera it supersedes, the E-PL2, and is 20 per cent lighter. All up, it weighs 265 grams as body only, or 313 grams with battery and memory card. Connectivity is provided by a mini-HDMI and mini-USB port, and an accessory port that sits underneath the hotshoe in the same way as it does on other Olympus Pen cameras. The E-PL3 misses out on a pop-up flash, although there is an additional clip-on unit provided in the box.

The real disadvantage of having a clip-on unit is that you can't attach any additional accessories, such as an electronic viewfinder. The E-PL3 also comes with six art filters: pop art, soft focus, grainy film, pin hole, diorama and dramatic tone. On top of these filters, you can also add effects over the filtered image, including frame, star light and white edge.

Compared to

E-PL3 comparison
Panasonic GF3 Sony NEX-C3 Olympus E-PL3 Samsung NX100
12.1-megapixel Live MOS (Four Thirds type) 16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS (Four Thirds type) 14.6-megapixel APS-C CMOS
3-inch, 460,000-dot touchscreen 3-inch, flip-down 921,600-dot screen 3-inch, flip-down 460,000-dot screen 3-inch, 610,000-dot AMOLED screen
Pop-up flash Optional flash attachment Optional flash attachment Optional hotshoe flash
Full HD video (1080i, AVCHD) HD video (720p, H.264) Full HD video (1080i, AVCHD) HD video (720p, H.264)
AU$899 AU$849 AU$799 AU$899


General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Olympus E-PL330.80.60.2
  • Sony NEX-C31.
  • Olympus E-P30.
  • Panasonic Lumix GF30.
  • Samsung NX1001.

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • Olympus E-PL34.2
  • Panasonic GF33.8
  • Olympus E-P33.2
  • Samsung NX1002.5
  • Sony NEX-C32.5

Olympus rates the battery at approximately 300 shots. The E-PL3 can also capture 5.5 frames per second in continuous mode with image stabilisation turned off. We also found that the E-PL3 slowed down to process images after about six frames shot in quick succession in continuous mode.

Image quality

As the internals of the E-PL3 are essentially the same as those found in the E-P3, our comments in regards to image quality are consistent between the two cameras. Please consult the E-P3 review for further analysis of image quality and image samples. The E-PL3 produces JPEGs with very good colours and pleasing saturation. The E-PL3 can reach ISO 12,800, but sensitivities above ISO 1600 show colour noise and loss of detail, particularly in low-light situations.

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