Olympus E-P3 Review

August 11, 2011 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The E-P3 is the latest flagship Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus. Allegedly featuring the world's fastest auto-focus system, the Olympus E-P3 also offers a 12.3-megapixel High Speed Live MOS sensor, 610K dot OLED touch-screen, a pop-up flash and external flash hot-shoe, sensitivity settings of ISO 200-12800, 1080i/60fps high-definition video recording with stereo sound, built-in image stabilisation and 3fps continuous shooting. The Olympus E-P3 is available now in black, silver or white for £799 / $899 with the new 14-42mm kit zoom lens.

Ease of Use

The third generation of Olympus' mirror-less Micro Four Thirds system flagship digital 'Pen' has arrived with us, once again with the aim of providing the usability of a compact with the performance of a DSLR. Whilst perhaps its arrival has been to less fanfare and interest than greeted the original E-P1, with its very similar retro styling, the jump from its successor the E-P2 to the E-P3 is arguably greater than that from E-P1 to E-P2.

While its forebear's addition of an accessory port to allow for the attachment of an electronic viewfinder and the likes of a stereo microphone was chiefly its greatest improvement, the new E-P3 goes further still. While it's not a textbook revolution when compared to its predecessor, it at least feels more than just mere refinement.

There's first a price tag the match of a mid range DSLR to contend with though. The least expensive option, and the one that will hold the greatest appeal for those looking to adopt a Pen for the first time, is to go for the bundle that includes the camera body and second generation 14-42mm 'MSC' zoom lens, claimed to be quieter in operation than the previous optic. Supported by built-in sensor shift image stabilisation, undoubtedly the greatest improvement witnessed is when utilising auto focus for shooting video, sharpness drifting briefly as you pan between subjects before snapping into focus. This camera and lens bundle is a manufacturer's suggested £799, but at least that's £100 cheaper than the E-P2 was with kit lens on launch. The UK's largest e-tailer was selling the combo for £765 at the time of writing.

With white or black body choices also offered, we had the silver version of the E-P3 in for review and, with its brushed stainless steel exterior recalling an old fashioned cigarette case, it's perhaps inevitable that memories of 2009's original E-P1 come flooding back, as the subsequent E-P2 was originally available only in black. But, as we have suggested, although there are similarities the E-P3 is a slightly different beast, and largely the better for it.

That's just as well, as with every day that passes there is increased competition in the Compact System Camera (CSC) market, with Sony NEX-C3 and Pentax Q system models recently added. The closest rival for the Olympus E-P3 is probably, however, still Panasonic's Lumix DMC-GF2, an older but still current CSC. However Panasonic has indirectly done Olympus a favour by pitching its more recent offering in the GF3 at a younger, more mass-market audience, leaving the field wide open for Olympus to sweep in with a new top-end enthusiast model and grab the glory. If you're weighing up which one to go for and have the budget not to be concerned purely about price, then the Olympus E-P3's feature set in our opinion amalgamates some of the best attributes of both Panasonic models.

For starters the E-P3 is the first digital Pen to arrive with us featuring touch screen operation, although, as with most Panasonic G-series models, you can for the most part get away without using it much at all, as there are a plethora of physical buttons ranged alongside it, which are either dedicated to specific functions or can be customized to suit. Indeed, the screen's implementation here hasn't led to a cleaner or more pared-down minimalist look for the Pen, as say the touch screen on Panasonic's latest GF3 has.

So, dare we suggest this is a feature implemented because it could be, rather than should be? That comment would be justified, perhaps, if the 3-inch 4:3 aspect ratio screen wasn't also an OLED panel, as opposed to common-or-garden LCD, with a super bright 610k-dot resolution. That's quite a jump up from the 230k dots LCD of its forebear and about time too. Images look particularly vivid with plenty of contrast when viewed on the E-P3's screen and happily this carries over when results are downloaded to your desktop. When viewing the default setting JPEGs, and when the AF gets it right, the E-P3's shots deliver plenty of bite.

Olympus E-P3 Olympus E-P3
Front Rear

Low light sensitivity has been boosted on this latest Pen, jumping from ISO6400 to a semi pro-like ISO12800. This is partly down, says Olympus, to the implementation of a noise reducing Venus Engine VI processor. However we did find the auto focus struggles to lock on to target in lower light, the lens 'hunting' to no avail.

Unsurprisingly the E-P3 retains the Olympus USP of on-board Art Filters, which are also worth singling out for praise, with the new appearance of Dramatic Tone mode being, as its name suggests, especially gritty and vivid. These filters can be applied to Full HD video as well as stills, recordable in AVCHD or reduced resolution Motion JPEG formats, which helpfully ups the E-P3's game.

The E-P3 is also the first flagship Pen to - finally - feature a built-in flash, here of the pop up variety which means it has been neatly and unobtrusively sunk into the top plate, as with Panasonic's GF series models since the start. Only included on the more consumer orientated E-PL models until now, integral flash has been a big omission for the Pen lineage and so we're pleased to see it implemented here, activated with press of a dedicated button sitting just behind. It's also cleverly been added without adding to the bulk.

Feeling robust and reassuringly solid in the palm thanks to the retained metal Tonka-toy-like build in the palm, Olympus hasn't thrown the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to the E-P3's design and the overall look and feel, apart from the notable exceptions already mentioned, remains mainly unchanged from the E-P1, which is a good thing. The E-P3's dimensions are 122x89.1x34.3mm, so, even with the newly added ability to unscrew the handgrip, it's still one for camera bag rather than pocket if test lens attached, with a body-only weight of 321g (a smidgeon lighter than the E-P2's 335g). Without the handgrip, unscrewed in the field with the aid of a coin, the solidity is sufficient to be able to still hold the camera nice and steady when shooting handheld, and without the workmanlike black plastic grip the camera actually looks a lot more stylish, its brushed metal faceplate fully on show.

The Live Guide first seen on the E-PL1/E-PL2 has been implemented here. This lets users try out picture adjustments with the aid of an onscreen slider bar to adjust the likes of depth of field and see the results in real time before pressing the shutter release button with accessibility extended beyond iAuto mode. We also get a less welcome (but also avoidable) scroll wheel at the back, encircling the Olympus' multi directional control pad.

From the front of the E-P3 it's pretty much business as usual, with chunky lens release button to the left of the lens mount and Micro Four Thirds system logo directly beneath. What hasn't changed and surprisingly so, given that it's been two years since the E-P1, is the camera's resolution. The E-P3 keeps a 12.3-megapixel resolution from a 4/3-rds type Live MOS sensor, whereas rivals in Sony's NEX-C3 and Panasonic GH2 are fielding 16 megapixel chips.

Olympus E-P3 Olympus E-P3
Pop-up Flash Side

Like the Panasonic, which also utilises contrast rather than phase detection AF, Olympus is claiming the world's fastest auto focus system among interchangeable lens cameras with the E-P3. We were lucky enough to have a Panasonic GF3 in our possession at the same time as the Pen and can testify that in terms of the swiftness of locking focus onto target the two are identically matched.

It's when gazing down on the Olympus' top plate however that change is much more noticeable. While the vacant hotshoe sits directly above the lens, the recessed shooting mode dial that was formerly to its right hand side, again if viewing the camera lens-on, has swapped to the opposite side of the hotshoe to make room for embedded flash. Rather than being recessed any longer, the coin-like shooting mode dial is now proudly raised and has been given a surrounding ridged edge for easier purchase. The options on the dial have however remained the same as the E-P2's, the shooting options being program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, video, scene modes, Art Filters and - the most obviously highlighted of all - iAuto mode. Art Filters have also swelled from eight to ten in number. Dramatic Tone, added here alongside the self explanatory 'Gentle Sepia' as we've noted worked the best for us, adding an intensely gritty, look, as if a photograph has been photo copied and vividly hand coloured.

As with its predecessor in the E-series the Art Filter digital effects are applied at the time of capture which means write speeds are inevitably a couple of seconds longer than for regular images. When shooting using certain filters, such as Diorama or Dramatic Tone, the screen's refresh rate slows, though not as dramatically as on the E-P2, providing a real time preview of how the eventual image may look.

Controls adjacent to the shooting mode dial have also shifted around slightly; the little indicator bulb for the Sonic Speed Wave Filter of the E-P2 has vanished, the adjacent shutter release button is now slightly smaller but just as usable, and the dedicated exposure compensation button of the E-P2 has become a non specific user attributable 'Fn2' function button, on our review sample given over to adjusting exposure compensation (+/- 3EV). The on/off button has on the E-P3 now shifted right to the camera edge, where it's slightly less prominent than before and requires a more precise fingernail press to get a response. Almost too easy to overlook in comparison to the larger changes are a pair of stereo microphones located just in front of the hotshoe and directly above the lens mount.

Despite the switch around we didn't find ourselves missing the previous layout when using the E-P3 on a daily basis and the slightly smaller controls are, we feel, a small price to pay for the welcome inclusion of flash, the activation of which meets an instant response, sound-tracked by a satisfyingly robust 'clunk' as it's raised approximately an inch above the body on a spring-loaded Meccano-like mechanism.

Press down on the top plate power button and the Olympus E-P3 readies itself for action in a second or so; that is, as ever, if you've first manually unfurled the retractable 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens (equivalent to 28-84mm in 35mm terms). Otherwise you're faced with a text message on a blank OLED screen asking you to perform this action before a picture can be taken, which is slightly irritating. For street photographers for whom the E-P3 is otherwise ideal, the business of extending the lens does inevitably lengthen the time between seeing something that might make a good picture and actually being able to take said picture. If wide angle is your want there is of course the alternative of Olympus' gorgeously metal build 12mm prime lens announced alongside the E-P3, which we were able to briefly try out and which makes for a perfect accompaniment if you want to get up and running quicker. But, with a massive £749 price tag, it's hardly an impulse purchase.

Olympus E-P3 Olympus E-P3
Front Front

Squeeze down halfway on the shutter release button and as previously indicated the E-P3 very nearly instantaneously responds, the screen very briefly blurring before snapping back into focus, AF point flashing up in green with accompanying bleep of confirmation.

Take the shot and even when shooting RAW and Fine (top quality) JPEG in tandem there's a wait of an acceptable three seconds before the shot is fully committed to card. Buffer memory is such however that you don't have to wait that long to squeeze off another shot if the opportunity presents itself.

Moving to the backplate of the E-P3, again the lineage from the E-P2 to this model is clear. While the accessory port, now an Accessory Port 2, has been retained directly below the vacant hotshoe, and the spacing of the control layout is similar, some of the button functions have switched around between the E-P2 and E-P3 however.

The first control button we come to, top right of the screen and that was formerly an auto exposure/auto focus lock button has disappeared entirely, to find a smaller red video record button in its place. Press this to record, or stop recording, no matter which shooting mode is otherwise selected on the top dial. There are now five smaller buttons to the right of the screen rather than the four larger ones on the E-P2. So, ironically perhaps, now that we have a touch screen to share the operational tasks, we actually have more buttons alongside it on the E-P3 than before.

The next button on the vertical strip of five is for enlarging an image up to 10x in shooting mode to aid manual focusing (with up to 14x available in playback mode), and immediately below, a double use button that zooms out and presents images as a series of thumbnails when in playback mode, or, as a default in a capture mode, calls up the aforementioned Live Guide on screen. The focus options here are single shot AF, continuous AF, manual focus, single AF plus MF, or the now ubiquitous continuous AF tracking.

The Live Guide options are presented as a colourful toolbar on the left hand side of the screen. From the top we have the ability to change colour saturation, from 'clear & vivid' to 'flat & muted', next down is the ability to alter 'colour image', which translates as shifting the tone between warm and cool via slider bar, with the third option shifting brightness/exposure between a simple bright and dark. The fourth option down is probably the most interesting/effective in that it provides the ability to incrementally blur the background of your shot by again dragging an indicator on a slider - thus providing a similar shallow depth of field effect to that achievable with a DSLR and suitable aperture.

Olympus E-P3 Olympus E-P3
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

For its fifth Live Guide option Olympus has retained the curiously named 'Express Motions', which to us has always sounded more like a bowel movement than the actual emphasizing of subject motion by introducing blur. Well, in fact, there's the option to both blur any movement or stop it in its tracks, again achievable by dragging a slider indicator. The last option on this tool bar is a on-board shooting hints and tips manual, with the usual 'suspects' of photographing children and pets given the most prominence ('take a picture at their height level' being a summation of the level of advice imparted). We even get tips, as a bit of closet advertising, for attaching Olympus accessories, such as lens converters.

Just below these two mid backplate buttons are dedicated and self-explanatory playback and image deletion buttons. The button above the four-way control pad on the E-P2 that was a singular function button is now the info button, and what was the info button on the E-P2 is now the menu button on the E-P3. Still with us? Again, because all these buttons are clearly marked, and they're largely the same if in a different order, switching from the E-P2 to E-P3 didn't leave us scratching our heads.

Apart from the continuous shooting/self timer option on the E-P3's backplate control dial/pad, the other three options to be found on this pad have changed. The dedicated ISO setting on the E-P2 has given way to exposure compensation on the E-P3, which feels like an unusual choice. White balance has been usurped by a flash settings option, which is more sensible, as is the ability to manually specify the AF point. Of course dragging a finger, and so the AF point, around the screen will achieve the same end, though inadvertently subsequently taping it will cause the shutter to fire. Yes, this facility can be deactivated by prodding the relevant shutter button icon on the touch screen, but it's just as easy to accidentally turn it on again; even via an action as incongruous as the button of your shirt connecting with the screen as you're wearing the E-P3 on a neck strap, or the thumb of your left hand straying as you handle the camera.

While chunky lugs for attaching said strap hang at either side of the camera, thankfully out of the way of fingers and controls, on the right hand flank, if viewing the camera from the back, we find a pair of covered ports for joint USB/AV output and mini HDMI output respectively. This cover, being a weaker plastic element amidst the surrounding brushed metal, is one of the very few flimsy points on the outwardly covetable camera.

Also plastic-y, but more reassuringly chunky, is the flip open cover protecting the joint battery and card compartment at the E-P3's base, which again is unaltered from the E-P1. There is the option here to use all varieties of SD media card, up to and including SDXC cards. Slightly off-centre is a screw thread for attaching a tripod.

The PS-BLS1 rechargeable lithium ion battery supplied with the E-P3 is good for around 330 shots; we were using the camera on and off over a two week period and the battery icon was only beginning to flash red towards the end of the second week. While all of the above may be suggesting to anyone who has formerly considered owning a digital Pen that now might be a good time to jump in, what of the pictures that the E-P3 produces. Can, or should we, expect any change from its predecessors?

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12.3 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.

As we found when we reviewed the E-P2, the images straight out of the camera are more colourful than we'd formerly expected of Olympus and going by previous examples, even with the camera's default Natural colour setting selected instead of Vivid (i-Enhance, Muted and Portrait being the other Picture Mode options). Thus the E-P3 comes up trumps both for landscapes and portraits.

We weren't expecting to see a pronounced difference between this and the E-P2, so some of our comments about that former model still stand. For example we were unsurprised to find instances of visible pixel fringing when zooming in to check detail, if not to an insurmountable degree. There's some slight barrel distortion visible when shooting at maximum wideangle on the provided lens, as most evidently witnessed on our white brick wall test shots, but again this isn't to an unacceptable degree. Mostly results are as pin-sharp as we'd expect from a CSC - meaning sharper than your average compact if not quite as razor sharp as a larger piece of glass and DSLR sensor can provide.

You'll also want to play with the new Art Filters Dramatic Tone and Gentle Sepia if trading up from an E-P1 perhaps, the former for us producing the most striking results with a little experimentation. Generally the digital effects that worked the best were pop art, pinhole and dramatic tome; the others we rarely used.

Using our second-generation 14-42mm test lens, at maximum ISO12800 setting on the E-P3 reveals a uniform dusting of noise plus softened detail not a lot worse than the appearance of ISO6400, the top whack light sensitivity setting on its E-P2 predecessor. By way of contrast, at ISO6400 we're getting a result comparable to what rival cameras offer at ISO1600, which means that while there is some noise visible without zooming in, it's not at an unattractive level and we'd still be happy using this setting if pushed. In other words a usefully broad ISO range is capable of delivering usable results, so in this instance is more than just a way of delivering a more impressive looking spec list.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Olympus E-P3. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting, with JPEG on the left and the RAW equivalent on the right:


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)


ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

File Quality

Olympus offers two JPEG quality settings - Fine and Normal. Naturally, you may opt to save your photographs in the camera's raw file format (ORF). Raw+JPEG shooting is available.

12M Fine (100% Crop) 12M Normal (100% Crop)
12M RAW (100% Crop)  


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are just a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes by changing the Picture Modes.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)



The Olympus E-P3 features a pop-up flash that has multiple modes including Forced On, Forced Off, Auto, Slow Sync, Rear-Curtain Sync and almost any of these combined with red-eye reduction. It can also serve as an AF assist light or as a controller for wirelessly slaved FL-36R or FL-50R units. In addition to the on-board unit, the Olympus E-P3 also has a hot-shoe for system flashes, and a PC sync terminal for studio strobes. The pictures below were taken of a white ceiling from a distance of 1.5m, with and without the built-in flash.

Flash Off - Wide Angle

Flash On - Wide Angle

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto

Flash On - Telephoto

ISO 64 ISO 64

And now for some portraits. The pop-up flash of the Olympus E-P3 did not really cause a red-eye effect, so the only noticeable difference between the Forced On and Forced On with Red-Eye Reduction settings is that the second causes the subject's pupils to contract.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Olympus E-P3 lets you dial in shutter speeds of up to 60 seconds and has a Bulb mode as well for exposure times as long as 30 minutes, which is very good news if you are seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 15 seconds at ISO 200. We've included a 100% crop to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Image Stabilisation

The Olympus E-P3 comes with a sensor-shift image stabilisation (IS) system, which allows you to take sharp hand-held photos at slower shutter speeds than with cameras that lack this feature.

Focal Length / Shutter Speed

Off (100% Crop)

On (100% Crop)

28mm / 1/10th Second

Off (100% Crop)

On (100% Crop)

84mm / 1/10th Second

Art Filters

The Olympus E-P3 offers 10 different Art Filters, which allow you to quickly apply an artistic effect to a photo before taking it (JPEG images only). The most useful of these is Soft Focus, because the FourThirds system lacks a dedicated soft focus lens, and the effect would require advanced knowledge of layers, blurring methods and blending modes if you were to reproduce it in post-processing. Note that applying the Art Filters slows the camera down somewhat as the camera takes several seconds to process and save the image.

Pop Art

Soft Focus


Pale&Light Color

Light Tone


Grainy Film

Pin Hole

Diorama Cross Process
Gentle Sepia Dramatic Tone

Picture Modes

Olympus' Picture Modes are essentially pre-set combinations of saturation, contrast and sharpness, except for the new i-Enhance mode that aims to optimise each photo individually. You can tailor each Picture Mode to your needs. The following examples demonstrate the differences across the available Picture Modes.









Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus E-P3 camera, which were all taken using the 12.3 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Olympus E-P3 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Olympus RAW (ORF) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920 x 1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 15 second movie is 40.4Mb in size.

Product Images

Olympus E-P3

Front of the Camera

Olympus E-P3

Front of the Camera

Olympus E-P3

Front of the Camera

Olympus E-P3

Front of the Camera / Flash Raised

Olympus E-P3

Front of the Camera

Olympus E-P3

Isometric View

Olympus E-P3

Isometric View

Olympus E-P3

Isometric View

Olympus E-P3

Isometric View


Olympus E-P3

Front of the Camera

Olympus E-P3
Isometric View
Olympus E-P3
Isometric View
Olympus E-P3
Isometric View
Olympus E-P3
Rear of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Olympus E-P3
Rear of the Camera / Turned On
Olympus E-P3
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Olympus E-P3
Rear of the Camera / Function Menu
Olympus E-P3
Rear of the Camera / OK Menu
Olympus E-P3
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Olympus E-P3
Rear of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Rear of the Camera / Function Menu
Olympus E-P3
Top of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Bottom of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Top of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Bottom of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Side of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Side of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Side of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Side of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Front of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Front of the Camera
Olympus E-P3
Memory Card Slot
Olympus E-P3
Battery Compartment


Interestingly, the argument for/against the E-P3, now that were have a Micro Four Thirds 'CSC' camera in its third iteration, is not whether it's good enough to completely replace a DSLR - as with its predecessors we'd argue image quality falls slightly short (but only slightly) - but moreover whether the 'improvements' are pronounced enough to justify this completely new model. Especially now that the Compact System Camera market is becoming, if not yet crowded, then at least increasingly busy.

While with the exception of it missing a built-in flash we were perfectly happy with the E-P2 until the E-P3 came along, this new model is enough of a change, and indeed a larger one than that separating the E-P1 and E-P2, to suggest Olympus has played its hand well. This is to suggest that E-P1 owners who have held off upgrading until now, may find it harder to resist the E-P3 than the E-P2. As we remarked at the outset of the review, now its co-development partner seems to be aiming at the mass market with its third generation compact model in the GF3 - which has the advantage of being able to be squeeze, albeit uncomfortably into a trouser pocket - Olympus has a potential chance to snap up the disillusioned enthusiast.

Yes, £799 is a lot to ask of a compact camera with kit lens, but anyone picking up a Pen will quickly be convinced by its solidity. As with the likes of a Leica X1, you literally feel that you're getting what you're paying for in this instance. Plus, the E-P3 is £100 less if going by suggested price, than its forebear was on launch, with street prices shaving almost another £50 off.

A strong '4.5 out of 5' then and a Photography Blog recommendation for the Olympus E-P3, by some distance the best Pen yet. Until that is, probably, we take a look at the E-PL3 Pen 'Lite' and E-PM1 'Mini'.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 3.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Olympus E-P3 from around the web.

pcmag.com »

The Olympus PEN E-P3 Micro Four Thirds camera offers a pleasing mix of a smaller-than-SLR body, fast performance, and beautiful images, but for the best pictures possible you still need a true D-SLR.
Read the full review »

whatdigitalcamera.com »

The latest Olympus PEN, the E-P3, arrives with the promise of the PEN Lite (E-PL3) and PEN Mini (E-PM1) also due in the not-so-distant future. It looks to be a PEN overhaul, with the E-P3 adding a much needed built-in flash gun, an updated AVCHD movie mode and, the biggest headline of them all, the world's fastest autofocus system. The E-P3 claims to even outdo DSLR autofocus speeds. Is the latest PEN true to its word, can it deliver performance like no other, and is this the best Compact System Camera yet? The What Digital Camera Olympus PEN E-P3 review reveals all...
Read the full review »

dcresource.com »

The Olympus E-P3 ($899) may look like the E-P1 and E-P2 that came before it, but it sports some pretty significant changes. Olympus has addressed every complaint I had with the originals (and then some), making the E-P3 an interchangeable lens camera to be reckoned with
Read the full review »

neocamera.com »

The Olympus PEN E-P3 is the flagship Micro Four-Thirds SLD from Olympus. This digital camera is built around a 12 megapixels Four-Thirds sensor with a maximum ISO of 12800, unlimited 3 FPS full-resolution output and 1080p HD video capability. It features built-in image stabilization, dual control-dials and a dual-axis digital level. The E-P3 is a relatively compact ILC with an interchangeable hand-grip, a built-in popup flash and a hot-shoe with an accessory port which supports an optional add-on EVF.
Read the full review »


Body material Metal
Lens mount Micro Four Thirds
Image Sensor
Type 4/3 '' Live MOS sensor
Effective pixels 12.3 Megapixels
Filter array Primary colour filter (RGB)
Aspect ratio & area 4:3 / 17.3 x 13.0 mm
Full resolution 13.1 Megapixels
Type TruePic VI
Dust reduction filter Supersonic Wave Filter
IR cut filter Hybrid type
LPF filter Fixed type
Live View
Displayed information Aperture, Shutter speed, Auto bracket, AE lock, Focus mode, Shooting mode, Battery check, My Mode, IS activating mode, Internal temperature warning, Face / Eye detection mode, Record mode, ISO, Sequential shooting mode , White Balance, Metering mode, Exposure compensation value, AF frame display, AF confirmation mark, Shooting information, Spot metering area, Super FP, Flash status, Touch Panel Condition, Focal length, Eye-Fi condition, Flash mode, Histogram
AF type Contrast detection system
100% field of view Approx. 100 %
Magnification levels 5 / 7 / 10 / 14 x
Image Stabiliser
Type Sensor shift
Modes Two-dimensional, vertical or horizontal activation
Shutter speed range 2 - 1/4000 s (not available when Bulb is selected)
Focusing System
Method Contrast Detection AF system (when non high-speed contrast AF compatible lens is used, it works as MF assist)
Focus areas 35 points / Automatic and manual selection
AF lock Yes , Locked by first position of shutter release button in single AF mode, AE/AF lock button (customised)
Modes Manual focus, Single AF, Continuous AF, Single AF + MF, AF Tracking
AF illuminator Yes
Face Detection extension Eye Detect AF: Off, Left side priority, Near side priority, Right side priority
Full time AF Yes
Manual focus Yes , With enlarged focusing area
Exposure System
Modes Programme automatic, i-Auto, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Scene Modes, Art Filter
Exposure compensation +/- 3 EV ( 1, 1/2, 1/3 steps )
Exposure bracketing 2 / 3 / 5 frames ( +/- 1/3, 2/3, 1 EV steps )
7 frames ( +/- 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 EV steps )
ISO bracketing 5 frames ( 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps )
AE lock Yes (Fn1/Rec button)
My Mode 4 settings storable
Enhancement function Shadow Adjustment Technology
Scene Modes
Number of scene modes 24
Modes Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Landscape with Portrait, Macro, Sports, Night Scene, Night Scene with portrait, Children, High key, Low key, Digital Image Stabilisation, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Documents, Panorama, Fireworks, Beach and Snow, Fisheye converter, Macro converter, 3D, Wide converter
Max. number of frames 2 frames (shooting)
3 frames (editing)
Auto gain control Yes
Frame assistance Live View
Light Metering
Method TTL open aperture light metering
Zones 324 zones Multi-pattern Sensing System
Detection range 0 - 20 EV (17mm f2.8, ISO 100) Digital ESP, centre-weighted average metering, spot metering
Modes ESP light metering, Spot metering, Centre weighted metering, Highlight, Shadow
Art Filter
Variation / Effect Available
Modes Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Dramatic Tone, Gentle Sepia
Auto ISO 200 - 12800 (customisable, default ISO 200 - 1600)
Manual ISO 200 - 12800
Shutter type Computerised focal-plane shutter
Self timer 2 s / 12 s
Shutter Speeds
Shutter speed range 1/4000 - 60 s (in 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps)
Bulb mode Up to 30 minutes (selectable longest time in the menu, default: 8 minutes)
White Balance
AUTO WB system Advanced detection system with Live MOS sensor
Manual White balance (One-Touch) Yes
White balance bracketing 3 frames / +/- 2, 4, 6 mired steps
One-touch white balance 2 custom settings can be registered
Custom WB 1 setting can be registered at Kelvin temperature (2000K - 14000K)
Preset values Tungsten, Flourescent 1, Sunlight, Flash, Overcast, Shade
Auto Flash adjustment Off / Auto WB / Flash
Keep warm colour On / Off
Sequence Shooting
Speed (H) Approx. 3 fps
RAW Mode 17 frames (with Toshiba SDXC UHS-I card R95 W80 model Premiugate series "Class 10" 8GB)
JPEG Mode Depends on compression ratio or number of pixels (Large normal mode: approx. 17 with Toshiba Super High Speed type "Class 6" 4GB)
Image Processing
Colour space sRGB / AdobeRGB
Sharpness + Contrast 5 levels
Contrast 5 levels
Saturation 5 levels
Black & White filter Yellow, Orange, Red, Green
Black & White toning Sepia, Blue, Purple or Green in Black & White mode
Picture mode i-Enhance, Vivid, Natural, Portrait, Muted, Monotone, Art Filter
Gradation 4 levels (auto, high key, normal, low key)
Engine TruePic VI
Art Filter bracketing Available
Tele converter effect 2 x
Internal Flash
Modes AUTO, Manual, Manual (Full, 1/4, 1/16, 1/64), Red-eye reduction, Slow synchronisation with red-eye reduction, Slow synchronisation, Slow synchronisation 2nd curtain, Fill-in, Off
Type pop-up
Flash compensation +/- 3 EV ( 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps )
Guide number 10 (ISO 200)
Manual settings Full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64
X-sync speed 1/180 s
External Flash Control
X-sync speed 1/180 s / 1/4000 s (Super FP Mode)
Modes Auto, Red-eye reduction, Slow synchronisation, 2nd curtain and slow synchronisation, Fill-in for exclusive flash, Manual
Intensity +/- 3 EV ( 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps )
Note: Some functions are only available if they are supported by the external flash.
Wireless Flash Control
Number of channels 4 channels
Compatible external flash FL-50R, FL-36R, FL-300R
Control method Triggered and controlled by built-in flash light
Group setting 3 groups
Available when used together with cameras compatible with the Olympus wireless RC flash system.
Monitor type OLED - Touch Panel
Monitor size 7.6 cm / 3.0 '' (3:2)
Resolution 610000 dots
Brightness adjustment +/- 2 levels
Colour balance +/- 3 levels Vivid (default) / Natural
Level Gauge
Detection 2-axis
Display Rear LCD monitor
Super Control Panel
Displayed information Battery indicator, Record mode, Shutter speed, Aperture value, Exposure compensation indicatior, ISO, AE bracketing, AF frame, Focus mode, AEL notification, Face detection, Number of storable frames, Metering mode, Exposure mode, Exposure level view, Flash compensation value, Colour space, Gradation, Colour saturation compensation value, Sharpness compensation value, Contrast compensation value, White balance, White balance compensation value, Noise reduction, Flash mode, Drive mode, Internal temperature warning, Histogram
Recording Formats
RAW 12 bit
RAW & JPEG Yes parallel recording
Aspect ratio 4:3 / 3:2 / 16:9 / 6:6 / 3:4
MPO (3D) Yes
Image Size
RAW 4032 x 3024 compressed / 13.8 MB / frame
4032 x 3024 Fine (compression: 1/4) / 5.9 MB / frame
4032 x 3024 Normal (compression: 1/8) / 2.7 MB / frame
2560 x 1920 Normal (compression: 1/8) 1.1 MB / frame
1024 x 768 Normal (compression: 1/8) / 0.3 MB / frame
Still Image Recording
EXIF 2.2
Movie Recording System
Recording format AVCHD / AVI Motion JPEG®
Image Stabilisation Mode Yes Digital Image Stabilisation
HD Movie quality Full HD 1920 x 1080 (16:9) 60i, 20Mbps (AVCHD)
Full HD 1920 x 1080 (16:9) 60i, 17Mbps (AVCHD)
HD 1280 x 720 (16:9) 60p, 17Mbps
HD 1280 x 720 (16:9) 60p, 13Mbps
HD 1280 x 720 (16:9) / 30fps (AVI Motion JPEG®)
Movie quality 640 x 480 / 30fps (AVI Motion JPEG®) 14min.
Max. recording time 29 min (HD) (AVCHD)
22 min (20Mbps)
14 min (SD) / 7 min (HD) (AVI Motion JPEG®)*
Max. file size 4 GB (AVCHD)
2 GB (Motion-JPEG)
Exposure Modes Aperture priority, Art Filter, Manual, Programme automatic, Shutter priority
Sound Recording System
Internal microphone Stereo
External microphone Optional
Recording format Dolby Digital (AVCHD)
Stereo PCM/16bit, 48kHz, Wave Format Base (Motion-JPEG)
Image footage 30 s
Speaker Yes
View Images
Modes Index, Calendar, Zoom, Slide show, Movie, Single
Light box Yes
Histogram in playback mode Yes
Shooting information Off / On
Erase / Protect / Copy Function
Erase modes Single, All, Selected
Image protect mode Single frame, Selected frames, All Frames, Release protect (Single/All selected)
Image Editing
RAW data edit Yes
Red-eye reduction Yes
Sepia Yes
Black & White Yes
Resize Yes
Correction of saturation Yes
Shadow Adjustment Yes
Trimming Yes
e-Portrait Yes
Menu languages in camera English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Czech, Dutch, Danish, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Croatian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Greek, Slovak, Turkish, Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Serbian
Customisation Options
Fn Button Yes
My Mode 4 settings storable
Media SD Memory Card (SDHC, SDXC, UHS-I compatible) Class 6 is recommended for Movie shooting
HDMI™ Yes Mini connector (type C) *
USB 2.0 High Speed Yes
Combined V & USB output Yes NTSC or PAL selectable
* "HDMI", the HDMI logo and "High-Definition Multimedia Interface" are trademarks or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing LLC.
Eye-Fi Card compatible Yes
Bluetooth® Yes (with optional adapter PENPAL)
Power Supply
Battery Lithium-Ion Battery
Sleep mode 1, 3, 5, 10 min. and off selectable.
Live View shooting 330 images (100% with Live View)
Temperature 0 - 40 °C operating temperature / -20 - 60 °C storage temperature
Humidity 30 - 90 % operation humidity / 10 - 90 % storage humidity
Dimensions (W x H x D) 122.0 x 69.1 x 34.3 mm (without protrusions)
Weight 321 g (without battery and card)
Grip Exchangable
Available Colours Black, Silver, White

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