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Christmas Gift Guide

Noise

Latitude

Quality, ISO 400

Noise, ISO 1600, raw vs. JPEG

Bokeh, 14-42mm lens

Sharpness

Color

Low-light white balance

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The camera's noise profile in JPEGs is just OK using the out-of-the-box settings. Photos look pretty clean through ISO 400, then detail degrades rapidly at ISO 800.

Read the full Olympus PEN E-PL3 review.

Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET

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If you shoot raw, there's plenty of latitude to bring up underexposed low-ISO shots without introducing too much noise. The original shot is on the left.

(1/125 sec, f5.6, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, 40-150mm lens at 150mm)

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

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At ISO 400, photos look quite clean, but the JPEGs at the default settings tend to look a little too crunchy for my taste due to overzealous sharpening.

(1/50 sec, f2.8, ISO 400, spot metering, AWB, 17mm lens)

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

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You can really see the artifacts of the default JPEG settings at ISO 1600, where detail in some areas is almost completely gone. If you're willing to trade off a slightly grainier look, though, the ISO 1600 shots may be quite usable when processed as raw.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

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The standard zoom lens renders very soft, round out-of-focus highlights.

(1/125 sec, f4.2, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, 14-42mm lens at 22mm)

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

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Overall, the lens/camera system can deliver nicely sharp photos, but small details can start too look a little oversharpened. Look, for example, at the schmutz on the green parts of the daisy. However, you'll probably only notice it if you display the images at full size, and this type of sharpening will deliver photos that are good for printing.

(1/200 sec, f2.8, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, 17mm lens)

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The E-PL3 renders pleasing, accurate colors under a variety of lighting conditions.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

The E-PL3 offers you the choice of how you want the low-light auto white balance to render the colors; corrected, as on the left, or preserving the warm tone conferred by indoor lights, as on the right.

(1/30 sec, f2.8, ISO 1600, spot metering, AWB, 17mm lens)

Read the full Olympus PEN E-PL3 review.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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