Olympus's mid-range E-PL3 is small, light and finished with a sturdy metal body. With super-fast autofocus is this the PEN Lite the ultimate Micro Four Thirds model...?
Olympus claims that, like the E-P3, this latest Lite model has the world’s fastest autofocus system. It also benefits from a variety of tweaks and improvements compared to the previous E-PL2 model – but can these changes escalate the latest Lite model to new heights?
Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 review – Features
The E-PL3’s feature list makes a variety of subtle improvements to the range, yet there are one or two bigger shakeups: the improved and super-fast autofocus is one big plus point; while the metal body and improved AVCHD movie mode set about to answer the criticisms of previous generation models.
The camera’s 12.3MP Live MOS sensor is the same Micro Four Thirds chip as found in all the other PEN models. This is one of Olympus’s strongholds: it’s a company not looking to push the megapixel race to the point of excess, which is of critical importance when dealing with the smaller-sized Micro Four Thirds sensor. There are tweaks however as a top-end ISO 12,800 sensitivity adds one extra stop compared to the E-PL2 model.
The other Olympus staple, its sensor-based image stabilisation system, also means handshake can be countered whatever lens is attached to the camera.
The E-PL3’s rear 460k-dot LCD is a 16:9 widescreen ratio, 3inches in size and mounted on a tilt-angle bracket for 85° upward and 45° downward rotation – ideal for waist or overhead work. While the E-PL3 has no built-in electronic viewfinder the inclusion of a standard hotshoe and Olympus’s Accessory Port 2 (AP2) connection does mean one can be attached. What may come as a surprise, however, is the omission of a built-in flashgun from this model. Instead there’s a small flashgun included in the box (well, there should be, but our pre-release sample didn’t include one). Some may see this as a step backwards given that the previous E-PL1 and E-PL2 models each featured one. On the upside it is possible to control external flashguns using the hotshoe-mounted flash as a trigger which makes the E-PL3 an advanced camera in the right hands.
A top speed continuous burst mode of 5.5fps means the E-PL3 makes for light work of successive snapping, though this is limited to 4.1fps if the image stabilisation system is activated.
Movie mode also sees a reworking. While the ability to shoot M-JPEG (AVI) files is still possible, a new 1080i Full HD AVCHD shooting option captures at 60 fields per second (output at 30fps from the sensor) with a solid 17Mbps data rate to keep the quality standard up.