The Olympus E-PL3: Third generation PEN 'Lite' adds tilting LCD screen to straight-up technical innovation
Olympus has done it again. In every aspect a feast for the eyes, the E-PL3 builds on the success of the easy to use and compact E-PL1 and E-PL2 Digital PEN cameras.
In the impressively chic brushed metal 12.3 megapixel E-PL3, Olympus once again provides digital SLR image quality in convenient compact size for anyone who finds DSLRs overly complex, and this time around has even found space to shoehorn in a tilting LCD screen for increased framing flexibility. So, even if you consider yourself an amateur, you'll soon be shooting like a pro.
Inspired by the head turning original PEN series designed by Yoshihisa Maitani, which shifted over 17 million units worldwide, and aimed at fans of fuss free photography, the mid-range E-PL3 also continues the PEN tradition of offering super image quality and unlimited creative freedom with no associated hassle. What's more, with aluminium finish it looks like a dream as well as handling like one.
FAST AF: World's fastest autofocus system
A case in point, the E-PL3 has inherited some of the latest technologies incorporated in the equally new flagship E-P3 model, including the advantage of the world's fastest auto focus system among interchangeable lens cameras.
Plus with 35 separate focus points spread over almost the entire sensor it is even possible to zero focus in on subjects tucked away in the corners of the screen display.
An AF illuminator for lower light work plus AF tracking technology further ensure that subjects stay sharp no matter where they are in the frame, and even when they dip in and out of it. No special skills are required of the photographer as thanks to the E-PL3's Full Time AF facility it is, as it sounds, 'always on'.
Tilting LCD makes life easy and composition simpler
Whether you are serious about the art of photography or a casual happy snapper, the ability to adjust the framing angle of the E-PL3's 3-inch, 460,000 dot resolution LCD screen is a huge bonus this time around, as well as the useful feature being a first for the PEN range and putting it streets ahead of rivals.
Now photographers can adjust their field of vision, allowing for pictures and video to be taken from hitherto awkward angles, such as low to the ground or over the heads of a crowd, thereby enhancing creativity and dynamism. And all this from a still compact and portable chassis, making it as easy to take great pictures with the E-PL3 as pointing and shooting.
Effortless operation via Live Guide and fast access buttons
The E-PL3 builds on the success of its forbears and once again sports a lightweight and compact design to aid portability, the look of which is both classic and contemporary.
In order to achieve results like the professionals with the minimum of effort, the E-PL3 once again features the E-PL1 and E-PL2's revolutionary Live Guide, selectable in HD movie mode as well as when shooting stills, and allowing photographers to watch in real time the results of changing functions and settings before even taking a shot.
For example, depth of field can be adjusted to make a shot more dramatic by moving an onscreen slider up or down, with users quickly able to master those little settings that make all the difference in terms of more professional looking shots – such as motion and background blur, colour intensity, lighting mood and brightness.
In addition menu settings have now been made more user friendly, with each selection triggering a pop up window detailing how it works. Olympus has additionally fitted a row of fast access buttons on top of the camera next to the shutter release so users really can't miss them.
In-body image stabilisation banishes the bane of blur
Unlike on other comparable cameras, Image Stabilisation is built into the body, so the camera automatically counteracts blur with any lens you attach.
Full HD 1080i video with stereo sound
On the E-PL3, movie quality has to be seen to be believed; with a 60Hz frame rate, and the option of shooting in AVCHD or 720P HD motion JPEG compression formats, there are the options of watching footage back either on Full HD TV or your PC's monitor. Either way, the results will look great as, whether shooting video or 12.3 megapixel photos, the PEN Lite is designed to deliver a consistently high performance.
What's more the E-PL3 features HDMI output, so it can be hooked up directly to an HDTV.
Latest generation TruePic VI processor
As with the Olympus Digital PEN E-P3 and E-PM1 'Mini' models that sit above and below the E-PL3 in the Micro Four Thirds compact system camera range, this new iteration benefits from the incorporation of the latest generation image processor, the TruePic VI engine. Needless to say this addition makes the camera all-round faster and more responsive.
Creative Magic: Art Filters & Art Filter Bracketing
Turn your memories into works of art. A choice of six Art Filters, including Dramatic Tone options, are available to instantly give both your images and movies a unique look and feel. Just select the desired Art Filter before taking a picture or shooting a movie; the effect is then shown directly on the LCD in Live View Mode. Plus, at the touch of a button these can be combined with up to five additional Art Filter effects. These include the new Starlight and White Edge.
- Dramatic Tone: Boosts the contrast to give images visual punch and a more dynamic atmosphere. This filter is accessible whether shooting stills or movies.
- Diorama: This lends images a miniature model village feel by narrowing depth of field and enhancing colour and contrast.
- Pop Art: Enhances colours, making them stronger and more vivid to create high-impact pictures in the style of Pop Art.
- Soft Focus: Creates a soft tone, which gives pictures an ethereal, otherworldly atmosphere without obscuring details such as hair or flower petals.
- Grainy Film: Recreates the effect of grainy, high-contrast monochrome pictures. The strong presence and dramatic atmosphere amplify the impact of the subject.
- Pin Hole: Reduces the peripheral brightness like an image seen through a pinhole camera. Added to this is a unique colour tone and the results have an air of secrecy or otherworldliness.
High image quality free from camera shake, plus whisper quiet lens
As the latest addition to the Pen camera range, the E-PL3 comes with the sculpted and near silent M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 II R lens, providing a versatile equivalent of 28-84mm in 35mm film terms. This lens, one of 20 available to E-PL3 users, has the advantage of not only providing faster focusing, but also preventing the audible whirr of the lens' mechanics that can otherwise ruin the audio track of your home movies.
What's more, with up to ISO12800 light sensitivity (up from the E-PL2's ISO6400) aiding shooting in lower light conditions without flash for more naturalistic results, shutter speed of up to 1/4000th per second, and high speed sequential shooting at 5 frames per second (fps), the E-PL3 is fully equipped to provide the best marriage with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL lens system.
Another advantage of the Olympus system is that its lenses are lighter than rivals', as they don't require built in 'IS' of their own. What's more the supplied lens also features a swappable decorative ring, so you can match the lens to the body colour of the PEN camera you've chosen.
Extensive accessories, ever expanding lens range
Other potential must have accessories include the FL-300R external flash in silver with the wireless flexibility and the affordable and tiltable new Electronic Viewfinder with a 100% viewing angle and 920,000-dot resolution. Attached via the E-PL3's Accessory Port 2, it's excellent for shooting in bright sunshine or with a telephoto lens.
What's more the E-PL3 is not only compatible with 20 Micro Four Thirds lenses, it also offers access to 27 Four thirds system and more than 500 other lenses via adapter.
High capacity SDXC and Eye-Fi card compatible
The carry anywhere E-PL3 further takes the worry out of photography and offers almost unlimited memory expansion possibilities by providing compatibility with the new SDXC removable media card format.
This affords high storage capacities of up to a gargantuan 2TB to ensure you don't run out of space for those many thousands of photos and videos at an inopportune moment – thereby making the E-PL3 as 'future proof' as possible. Wireless transfer is also possible due to compatibility with (optional) Eye-Fi media cards.
Make light work of low-light conditions: Simply attach the bundled Olympus FL-LM1 Flash to your PEN in seconds and it will illuminate your shots whenever you need it. And it's just as quick to detach, so no extra weight the rest of the time. You'll find it included when you open the box to discover your new PEN.
Newly developed high speed Live Mos sensor with wide dynamic range
With its 12.3 effective megapixel High Speed Live Mos sensor, Multi Exposure mode for combining up to three top quality Raw images – the outstanding photo heritage provided by the Olympus Pen range shines through.
Add in a Supersonic Wave Filter dust protection system to prevent any undesirables attaching themselves to the camera's sensor when swapping lenses and the result is consistent excellence, no matter how relatively unskilled the user may be.
The Olympus PEN E-PL3 is available in black, white, silver or red in the following configurations:
- E-PL3 Kit with M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 II R lens
- E-PL3 Double Zoom Kit* with M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 II R and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm 1:4.0-5.6 R lenses
* Silver is not available in Double Zoom Kit configuration.