Olympus E-PL3 Review

August 29, 2011 | Gavin Stoker | |

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#1 Frank

Scoring in relation to E-P3- Lower price but lower scorenfor value, morefeatures but lower score for features, same image quality but lower score there too. What gives?

12:59 pm - Monday, August 29, 2011

#2 Jim McDermott

You really should think about standardizing your comments, particularly with regard to image quality. It’s no good saying one camera’s IQ is ‘excellent’, while another’s is ‘very good’, and then, as you have here, making your main IQ comment on, of all things, art filters! Who cares? What about the base IQ?

1:17 pm - Monday, August 29, 2011

#3 mel

I bought the E-PL3 as an upgrade from my E-PL1 and took the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens off the old camera and put it on the E-PL3, relegating the kit lens to the E-PL1.  With the f1.7 lens I seldom need a flash, but I find it easy to carry the flash in it’s little pouch in my pocket in case I need it. I don’t understand the flack about the external flash????

I also bought the VF-3 viewfinder and use it on my
XZ-1 which really benefits from it in bright light and we have plenty of bright light in Az.

I have a little case for the Pen Lite and I can carry the xz-1 in my pocket. I can use the VF-3 on either camera so I am set.  I used to carry a Canon DSLR with lenses and although the Olympus gear won’t get the same quality photos, I’m not making 40” posters so I can’t really see enough difference to make me want a DSLR again. I get very nice shots with my two cameras and I’m more into photography, than gear. The smaller cameras suit my purpose exactly. I know there are a lot of “fanboys” out there for different brands that think differently, but I love the new E-PL3.

6:53 pm - Monday, August 29, 2011

#4 seoras

“I used to carry a Canon DSLR with lenses and although the Olympus gear won’t get the same quality photos, I’m not making 40” posters so…”

Actually there is no reason not to get ‘quality’ images. Its all relative to your subject matter. The quality of sensors are amazing these days, across the board. I recently purchased an epl-1 and its GREAT !, I still love my (old) E3 and will use it for my commercial work, especially as its weather sealed. However, if out and about these days on a casual basis I take the epl-1 knowing it will give me ‘quality’ images if needed. Its an ideal travel camera being so lite.

Imaging resource (http://www.imaging-resource.com) do a good test by making actual prints.

Now; if I can get ‘quality’ printed images from my epl-1 I doubt the E-PL3 will be worse. The end media output should be the bottom line, not viewing at 100% on a screen.

A little last mention, something that rarely does; 4/3 is a wonderful format.


8:25 pm - Monday, August 29, 2011

#5 Kristy

I actually have a question about the EP-3 .. Does anybody know if you can actually buy it in a store in the U.S ? Or when it might be out in stores in the U.S ? I would love to be able to see it before buying, thank you so much !

1:54 am - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#6 robertodiez30

Gavin, you should try whith this word in Wikipedia: Objectivity

A LX5 user.

4:40 am - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#7 robertodiez30

Gavin, you should try with this word in Wikipedia:

5:11 am - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#8 mattgrayson

I used to work as a photographer and my photographic supervisor once told me to use a particular style of photography. 3 weeks later after adopting his advice, he told me to change it again citing that the style I was using wasn’t flattering the clients enough. I mentioned that he had told me to change and his reply was:
“just because I thought that 3 weeks ago, doesn’t mean I think that now.”
It’s a worthwhile philosophy that I incorporate when reading and writing reviews. Times and technology change - rapidly in the digital camera sector - and I don’t think that what score was given previously can be compared to this. Even with the same sensor, different programming will have been input to the processor on the newer camera.
I wouldn’t be surprised that if the older camera was reviewed today, it would receive a lower score simply due to our expectations changing over time.

9:23 am - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#9 Fred

here is what Dp says
The E-P3’s biggest problem, through, is that its 12MP sensor is essentially the same as that which we first saw in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 almost three years ago, and in the face of rapid progress from other manufacturers it’s now looking distinctly dated

3:14 pm - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#10 Tina Edwards

Matt Grayson

Re. your comments on the inconsistency in the scoring (image quality) of the E-P3 and the E-PL3: -

You might just as well say that scoring depends on the mood you’re in when writing a review. That’s how it comes across to me - arbitrary.

So the E-P3’s sensor, which is the same as the E-PL3’s has morphed over the period of three or so weeks? Really?!!

And, what is the ‘different programming’ you mentioned that’s caused this amazing transformation?

Your comments don’t make sense to me and they don’t inspire confidence in the review.

10:13 pm - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#11 Fabio

I can’t believe you did it again: in the review of Olympus E-PL3 you used again “Fine” setting only when “SuperFine” is available…

What a shame!!!

9:53 am - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#12 Frank

@Tina Edwards- Matt Grayson didn’t write this review. He’s just tailing put of turn.

11:37 am - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#13 fred schumacher

The distinguishing mark of humans is that, unlike other animals, their culture mutates rapidly. Increase that mutation by several orders of magnitude, and that is what is happening to electronic products today, including digital cameras.

There is tremendous pressure on the industry to upgrade their products constantly. Change that would have taken 10 years on film cameras now occurs in 6 months in the digital world. Realistically, the industry can’t deliver that kind of change, but the consumer monster demands it.

I was looking through an Annie Leibovitz book recently, which had a photo that looked like it was shot on 3200 ASA recording film. The image quality was atrocious. I’m sure no digital camera today would have such poor output, yet the slightest reduction in image quality at high E.I. settings is jumped on as a fatal flaw.

We live within limits, and not all things are possible. There are always trade-offs.

1:00 pm - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#14 Tina Edwards


I’m aware that Matt Grayson didn’t write this review. I was replying specifically to the comments he made, not Gavin Stoker’s. He is also a reviewer on this website and, as such, is supposed to offer expert advice.

Gavin Stoker’s scoring for the image quality of the E-PL3 is however, in my opinion, bizarre. The E-P3 has the same sensor, and as far as I can tell from the spec., the E-PL3 only differs from the E-P3 in terms of design and features. There can’t be that much of a discrepancy in terms of image quality, so what has he based his score on?

Interestingly, although the E-PL3 is less expensive than the E-P3 he’s given them the same score in the value for money category.It’s the inconsistencies in the evaluations that I question here.

Getting back to Matt Grayson’s comments - it should be obvious that all three cameras in the new Pen range have the same sensor. They’re all being released within a few weeks of each other. To make the comments he made is potentially disheartening and misleading for prospective buyers of these cameras.

At the end of September the E-PM1 is going to be on sale. What’s the score for that camera’s image quality going to be? I don’t think that sensor technology moves quite as fast as Matt Graysom imagines and it certainly doesn’t evolve in camera of its own accord.

I won’t be surprised though if the E-PM1 receives an image quality score of 3.5! It’s about as logical as M.G.‘s comments.

2:23 pm - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#15 seoras

Well said Tina.

I would suggest that PhotographyBlog review (sic) their own scoring system, especially with image quality as the differentiation between sensors is becoming so subtle.
As pointed out before its the media output that ultimately counts. Actually its what you do with what you have that matters. Annie Leibovitz grainy images are (I’m sure) no less stunning for being grainy.


4:26 pm - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#16 mel

If you have read enough camera reviews you soon realize that the reviewers are more interested in using cutesy little phrases and showing off their writing skills than reviewing the cameras.  They have to find something to slam and quite often it is something that only they are aware of—the casual user could care less. “wheel is too easy to turn, wheel is too hard to turn, etc”

The main gripes I see about this camera is the external flash and the lack of grip.  I don’t use a flash much so the external flash in my pocket to use if necessary and a “flipbac” grip have done away with those gripes as far as I am concerned.  You have to think about what your use of the camera is about, not what some reviewer who is being paid to be critical says.

4:54 pm - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#17 blb

@Mel: I’m curious about your actual use of the xz-1 and the epl1 (now 3).  I’ve always had a camera, but have only recently become more serious about developing my skills and style.  I have a dslr that I’ll probably keep for my kids’ sports, etc., but hate carrying it around.  I wouldn’t say that I’m a true “street” photographer as I don’t go out looking to capture strangers, but urban landscape/architecture and abstracts do have my interest.  As you have experience with two of the cameras I’m considering (the other being a G12 for the viewfinder and controls), I’m wondering how you use each.  When do you reach for the xz and when for the epl?  And, functionally, do you see much IQ difference between them?  Thanks.

5:57 am - Saturday, September 3, 2011

#18 mel

My first digital camera (I still have it) is an Olympus C50 zoom which is about 9 or 10 years old. I have had Fuji’s, Panasonics, Canons,  and I’m now down to my present Olympuses.  At one time I had a Canon DSLR and several lenses, but I usually take most of my pictures when I am with my family so I decided that was too much gear to haul around.  I then got a Canon G-10 which is still quite a hunk, but I soon got rid of it and bought a Canon SD4000is which has a F2 lens and will fit under your baseball cap.

At about that time the 4/3 cameras came around and I bought an E-PL1, which for the most part gave me the image quality and the portability I wanted.  Even then I sometimes got tired of the thing hanging around my neck and since I was using it with the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens most of the time I occasionally felt restricted by the 40mm lens so I bought the XZ-1 which has a little more range.  The image quality of the XZ-1 is great for my use and I get clear pictures and great low light quality due to the
F1.8 lens which is great even at 112mm.

I am very pleased with the image quality of both cameras.  I’m sure some pixel counters would find fault with both of them and the reviewers have had gripes about them but I am not blowing up shots to make 40” posters so I am happy.

I carry the E-PL1 or 3 in a fanny pack with the viewfinder and the flash and I carry the xz-1 in my pocket.  I use them both with a wrist strap and both have “flipbac” grips on them to make them more stable. I use the 4/3s with the 40mm lens most of the time and this forces me to frame my shots a little more carefully and I get a slightly better IQ with the larger sensor.  Once in a while I need a wider angle or a closer view and I use the EX-1.  Sometimes I have the XZ-1 at hand and just use it.  It doesn’t disappoint me in the image quality.

I always take a camera on trips by car and on cruises.  I have published several picture books and the largest photo I have blown up was a two page full bleed center fold in a large coffee table book.  I also shot a wedding of a close friend’s daughter and made a picture book for the brides family as a gift,  /Their family liked it better than the professional photographers pictures and they then bought ten more from me for their friends and family. I’m certainly not a professional, but I really enjoy taking pictures.

I shoot most of the time in Aperture mode, with the shift on the E-PL3 it is versatile.  I use the scene modes once in a while (sunset and portrait) and if I am in a hurry the auto mode is good.

I just like taking pictures and the Olympus gear is a good compromise of the gear that is out there.  It is small and portable and the IQ is good enough for me.  My wife still uses the Canon SD800IS I gave her years ago and it gets good shots too, but I can easily pick out a picture she took compared to one I took with the Olympus.  It is all a matter of the kind of work you will do and what quality you are happy with.  I’m a happy camper.

7:13 pm - Saturday, September 3, 2011

#19 blb

Thanks, Mel.  That is very helpful.

4:41 am - Sunday, September 4, 2011

#20 Dmstraton

I think the image quality comments are bizarre as well.  Its the same sensor as the E-P3.  Period.

I have GH2, which is supposed to be a step up in IQ, and from what I see yeah, maybe in luminosity and sure detail, but color rendition from Olympus is better, AWB is better, exposure is better.  The skin tones are light and day better on the Oly.

This camera and EP-3 (I looked at that one too), are built very well, another thing that Panasonic fails at.  I have always thought Panasonic products looked and feel a bit cheap, and the GH2 is no exception - lots of plastic switches and knobs.  The GF and new Gs look really cheesy to me.  This Oly does not have near the features as the GH2, but guess which one I am keeping?  The one that feels sturdier, is smaller, looks and feels quality.  I can’t say the same for Oly kit lens though…but it is 25% smaller than the same range in the Panny.  Main point, I pay more for overall build, fit and finish…where is that in the value equation?

Anyway, my main camera is a 5D2 - there is no comparison.  I don’t expect there to be.  I do have a camera with a fixed normal (20 1.7) not much bigger than Canon G series and is worlds apart IQ wise. 

The AF on this camera is

2:31 pm - Sunday, September 4, 2011

#21 Howard

That was a great straight forward reply.  I have had many different cameras over the years with the E- PL2 being my favorite go too camera providig great image quality and ease of use aong with style.
Regarding the consistency of the scoring on this site…like many other reviews and final scores..they’re subjective.  In all fairness the Reviewers give us enough information and access to the other comments to help us make decisions regarding equipment needs.
If someone tells you to boil the water before you drink it and you then drink the water boiling, who then is at question?
My two cents.

7:00 pm - Wednesday, September 7, 2011

#22 Tina Edwards


I expect most people who read camera reviews are capable of thinking critically about the review content. Most people, I imagine, are more than capable of deciding if a particular camera is suitable for them whether they agree with the review or not.

I haven’t read any reviews that tell their readers to go out and buy a particular camera. Anyone who buys a camera solely on the strength of a review would, obviously, only have themselves to blame if they didn’t like the results.

With regard to the E-PL3 review - the camera has the same sensor as the E-P3. Reviewers obviously have their own opinions/preferences regarding the cameras they review, e.g Gavin Stoker might prefer the E-P3 to the E-PL3. He might not like Olympus cameras at all. However, I think it’s reasonable to expect some consistency/objectivity in scoring from professional reviewers.

At the very least they could explain why, having reviewed two cameras with the same sensor, one’s image quality has been found more wanting than the other. It would be a lot more helpful than simply downgrading the score.

10:35 am - Thursday, September 8, 2011

#23 Ingan-eng

PL3’s tilting LCD falls into the “good enough” category prefered by pros as it articulates less than what you have in the G3. Fully articulated lcd of the G3 may have more shooting angles but it is a novelty feature in the world photography mostly used in art than in PJ works. A case of “less is more than good enough”

1:44 am - Friday, November 4, 2011

#24 mel

My comments regarding reviewers were not aimed at this site in particular, but toward reviewers in general.  I agree they provide a valuable service; you need to just take it with a grain of salt and make up your own mind depending on your own needs.  Weigh the information, throw out the nit picking and make a decision.

5:01 pm - Friday, November 4, 2011

#25 Patty

This camera is phenomenal. Outstanding range/depth of focus for landscapes. At the aquarium – didn’t need any special setting in any light – when flashed used 95% of the time no flash back in the glass. The built in wide angle setting is a dream. Seldom have to change lenses.

I am an advance armature photographer. I have won a couple of awards for some of my pictures. I shoot landscape, family, animal, macro and aquariums. Most cameras I end up using manual settings and cover the flash with tissue to avoid flash backs. I feel like I was buying a new camera every couple of years because the one I have doesn’t meet my expectations. Every picture I take with this camera is a WOW in quality of focus.  I also had a small camera for when I didn’t want to pack in my SLR and all the attachments. This camera gives everything a big SLR camera has but in a smaller. No more lugging around big SLR camera and lenses.

8:02 pm - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

#26 roik

As an EPL2 owner, about the only thing the EPL3 has that the EPL2 lacks is the tilt screen.  I covet the tilt screen.  However, the little built in flash of the EPL2 is more important to me for fill flash situations, and they removed the built in flash from the EPL3, which I think was a dumb move.  Optics and image quality on the EPL2 are also equivalent to the EPL3.  In summary, I will not be upgrading to the EPL3, because the EPL2 is so stinkin’ great on its own merits.

5:43 pm - Saturday, June 9, 2012

#27 Ditta Angelica

so i bought this camera and took some photos at night. almost all picture have a red eye. how to make remove it? and then if i change it to night scene, the shutter speed are very low. how to change it? thanks

4:28 pm - Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Entry Tags

hd video, hd, 3 inch LCD, compact system camera, csc, 12 megapixel, RAW, olympus, DSLR, micro four thirds, tilting, 1080i, EVF, compact system, PEN, lite, e pl3, epl3, e-pl3, Olympus E-PL3 Review, epl 3