Olympus PEN E-P3 review

Review Date : Mon, 11 Jul 2011

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With the world’s fastest autofocus system is the latest PEN the best Compact System Camera yet? The What Digital Camera Olympus PEN E-P3 review reveals all…

Pros: Built-in flash (finally), fast autofocus, OLED screen, manual movie and CAF features
Cons: Poor subject tracking, a little expensive, no standard microphone port, poor battery life

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...

Olympus PEN E-P3 review - Features



















The E-P3 has a 12.3MP Micro Four Thirds standard Live MOS sensor at its core, coupled with a new and improved TruePic VI image processing engine. Unlike many other manufacturers, Olympus has so far refused to up the megapixel count, instead relying on that ‘sweet spot' of enough resolution married with decent final quality as a result of not over-populating the sensor. In the latest incarnation stills sensitivity ranges from ISO 200 all the way up to ISO 12,800 at full resolution.

Gone is the LCD technology as found on the previous E-P2 model, with the E-P3 embracing the new: on the rear is a 3in, 610k-dot OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screen for lower power consumption, improved black-to-white contrast ratio and more fluid playback. Not only that but it's touch-sensitivity means touchscreen control for the likes of There is no built-in viewfinder, however, though the Olympus Accessory Port and hotshoe is available for an additional accessory should you so wish.

Olympus PEN E-P3 sample image

 

The E-P3's new ‘FAST (Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology) AF' is said to be the world's fastest, and is achieved by using a faster sensor that now outputs at 120 frames per second (twice the refresh rate over the previous E-P2's 60fps outage) coupled with an improved AF unit, new focusing algorithm and a control system that's always ready to go when the shutter's pressed. A new AF illuminator lamp also features for assisting focus in darker conditions.

Although the autofocus may be fast, the E-P3's three frames per second (3fps) burst mode remains the same as the model before it. Although not an unreasonable speed, many expect a faster burst rate.

As well as stills the E-P3's movie mode now offers AVCHD or Motion-JPEG capture at Full HD 1080i. An on-board microphone captures stereo sound and although there's no 3.5mm jack for external microphones the Accessory Port can accommodate a specific Olympus SEMA-1 external microphone (sold separately).

The new built-in flash gun is a much needed addition to the range, plus the inclusion of wireless control means it's possible to fire off-camera flash guns too. Such high end features are what makes the PEN stand out from the crowd.

As is synonymous with the PEN range, the E-P3 continues the legacy of Art Filters. There are 10 main options in total - including Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Grainy Film and more - plus some can be ‘stacked' with others for even more dramatic results straight from camera. Other modes include multiple aspect ratio formats (4:3, 3:2, 6:6, 16:9) and Picture Mode that allows a choice of Natural, Vivid, Portrait, plus many more and is the access point for Art Modes when in manual control modes.


Digital SLR Reviews

Price as reviewed

£799.00

Scores

Scores
Features 17/20
Design 18/20
Image Quality 18/20
Performance 18/20
Value 17/20
Overall Score 88%

User Score