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 – Movie/Video Mode
Movie modes in stills cameras are becoming evermore important and in this competitive market Olympus has upped its game and made the E-PL3 even better featured than its predecessors.
The main improvement comes down to capture format: the new AVCHD mode can record Full HD files using a decent 17Mbps data rate to maintain quality and files are better than the Motion JPEG process (though this is also available if you prefer AVI files direct from camera). However the 1920×1080 resolution is let down by the interlaced 60 fields per second frame rate. Interlaced capture means that even lines are captured on one pass of the sensor, followed by odds on the next pass. This is common at this level however, and the E-PL3 matches up to its nearest competitors in this department.
Where the camera pulls ahead, however, is by offering full control the recording process. Set the camera to ‘Movie’ on the top dial and it’s possible to use any of the P/S/A/M modes to set aperture and shutter for more dramatic exposure control. Exposure compensation and all focusing types can also be selected as you please. Leave the camera in any of the automated modes and it’ll happily adjust exposure and to great effect of course, but many of its competitors won’t provide full manual control.
While autofocus can be a little slow to play catch up it does slip effortlessly into focus within considered parameters – over- and under-focusing is seldom an issue.
For all its good there’s one major downside to the E-PL3’s movie mode, and that’s the inability to accurately frame a shot prior to recording. As a different portion of the sensor is used than when capturing stills (at any aspect ratio, including 16:9) the press of the one-touch record button will crop slightly into the frame. It’s subtle enough, but with all the other manual control available this is an oversight that should be adjusted for future generation models.