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...?

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3

Image Quality:90%
Overall score:88%


  • Metal body, fast autofocus, wireless flash ability, good lower ISO image quality


  • Continuous and Tracking focusing speeds, no built-in flash (included hotshoe mount version instead), 16:9 ratio screen makes for small 4:3 image preview, high ISO image quality


Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Review


Price as reviewed:


Image Quality

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 review – Image Quality

E-PL3 review: Tone & Exposure

The E-PL3 tends to opt for slight underexpose, which one the one hand can help to save highlight detail but on the other can also leave shots looking a little too dark in the areas where it matters. Quick exposure compensation adjustment or exposure bracketing can help and can be particularly useful when shooting in bright sunlight as accurate exposure assessment on the LCD screen is tricky.

E-PL3 review: White Balance & Colour

The E-PL3’s Auto White Balance (AWB) errs towards a warmer, magenta cast. A little extra exposure goes some way to dialing out this colour cast, or manually adjusting the white balance to compensate.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 review sample image WEB

Art Modes – Olympus’s in camera effects – provide instant results that are most useable, including Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Grainy Film, Pop Art and others.

E-PL3 review: ISO Sensitivity & Image Noise

With the very same sensor and processing engine as the Olympus E-P3 the quality from the E-PL3 is an identical match.

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 review sample image WEB

The E-PL3’s ISO 200 is the camera’s lowest sensitivity, with no option for ISO 100 a disappointment. At this lowest ISO 200 setting shots are of good quality, sharp and defined through until ISO 400. There’s a slight dip in sharpness at ISO 800 due to processing but the results are still very good indeed and such issues posed few problems in real world shots. In lab tests the finer detail diminishes at ISO 1600, and this progresses further at ISO 3200. Colour noise is only a subtle background hint from ISO 1600 and above, though at ISO 6400 it becomes more noticeable and by ISO 12,800 a wash of red colour noise is problematic – the decision to add an extra stop of sensitivity has had little benefit.

Overall the E-PL3’s images are impressive considering its Micro Four Thirds sensor size. While higher sensitivities (over ISO 1600) aren’t quite as hot, we’re more impressed with the image noise reduction process than in the Panasonic Lumix G-series range.

E-PL3 review: Sharpness & Detail

The E-PL3’s 14-42mm collapsible kit lens is reasonably sharp, though other Micro Four Thirds lenses will open the door to yet crisper shots.

Fine detail at ISO 200-400 is a little soft and can’t quite be resolved to single pixel line detail. JPEG sharpening isn’t over the top but does see a boost from ISO 800 and above. ISO 1600 is where detail begins to diminish towards the finer end of the detail scale.

E-PL3 review: Raw vs JPEG

The E-PL3 also comes bundled with its own Raw conversion software to get you started if you’re new to image editing.
 The camera’s JPEG images display a touch more contrast and sharpness than their Raw counterparts before processing, but the extra flexibility that the ORF Raw files provide will allow you to push your images much further.

  1. 1. Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 review - Features
  2. 2. Design
  3. 3. Performance
  4. 4. Image Quality
  5. 5. Movie/Video Mode
  6. 6. Value & Verdict
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