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 PEN Lite E-PL3 review – Performance
For those looking for a point-and-shoot model the E-PL3 will take control of settings when set to its iAuto (intelligent auto) mode. Art Modes and a variety of Scene options also feature alongside the more advanced manual settings – making it an easy to use the camera whatever your level. If you’ve got higher end projects in your mind then the E-PL3 can even control external flashguns wirelessly (4 channels in 3 groups).
Recent Compact System Camera releases have seen dramatic increases in autofocus speed and the E-PL3 is no exception. With an AF system as per the E-P3, Olympus claims the latest PEN models have the world’s fastest autofocus system. Yup, you read that right – faster than any DSLR or other camera type. While we agree it’s very fast and on par with Panasonic’s GF3/G3 models, there are situational hurdles that don’t maintain that super speed throughout. Pop the camera into continuous AF (C-AF) or its tracking mode (C-AF TR) and it can be painfully slow to keep up with subjects, exacerbated by low light conditions causing a further struggle. Ignoring that aspect, however, and focus speeds can be some 25% faster than the previous generation model. Plus the latest 35-point AF arrangement (which covers all but the far horizontal reaches of the screen) is vast compared to the old 11-point system. A quick left tap on the d-pad and it’s possible to manually select any one of these AF points, which are each backed up against one another in a grid arrangement. All in all these steps make focusing impressive for the most part and a big step up from the E-PL2 model.
From fast autofocus to a fast burst mode of 5.5fps, the E-PL3 can shoot up to 8 RAW+JPEG shots in succession before a brief pause, or up to 10 JPEG Fine files (tested using a Class 10 SDHC card). The buffer is quick to clear, particularly when shooting JPEG only. However the image stabilisation (IS) system will restrict the burst speed to 4.1fps when activated.
Power is dealt with via the rechargeable li-ion battery that provides 330 shots per charge according to Olympus’s official figures. It’s the same battery as found in the E-P3 and, all things considered, we found the total number of shots achievable to be a little on the low side. Some extra juice per charge would go a long way for the PEN range, though with the Lumix G-series providing a similar low ratio of shots per charge the Olympus isn’t the only culprit in this department.