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…

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Olympus PEN E-P3

Overall score:88%
Image Quality:90%


  • Built-in flash (finally), fast autofocus, OLED screen, manual movie and CAF features


  • Poor subject tracking, a little expensive, no standard microphone port, poor battery life


Olympus PEN E-P3 Review


Price as reviewed:



Olympus PEN E-P3 review – Design

Design-wise the E-P3 doesn’t look very different to the E-P1 and E-P2 models that came before. The metal finished body is the same size as before, as this area of the PEN range is more about style than miniaturisation – the forthcoming E-PM1 is reserved for that. The addition of the built-in flash does mean that the arrangement is now slightly different, with the mode dial shifting over to the shutter button side of the camera.

Olympus E-P3 front News | What Digital CameraOne new quirk of the E-P3 is the addition of an add-on grip that screws into the front of the camera. The idea here is that other different designs will also be available for puchase so you can individualise and ‘jazz up’ your PEN however you so wish.

The new touchscreen is only used for a limited number of tasks. It’s possible to switch between touch shutter (to focus and fire a shot by pressing the screen) and AF Area (to select the focal area on screen) or deactivate the touch sensitivity. The quick and main menus are not responsive to touch, instead requiring the usual buttons to select options. This is a bit of a missed trick – having a quick menu with user-defined options that can be quickly selected by (quite literally) hand could make for improved shooting. A similar feature can be found on the Panasonic Lumix G3 where it’s possible to not only select options from the Quick Menu but customise what features in the menu too.

Olympus E-P3 rear 3Q | News | What Digital CameraThe E-P3 has two main dials on the rear – a rotating d-pad with the usual four-way controls and OK button, plus a rotational thumbwheel-like dial above this. Having two dials means DSLR-like control and is particularly useful for manual control settings, though the proximity of both dials makes for a unique form of control. Switching your thumb between one dial and the next is very easy as they’re well positioned.

There are also two function (Fn1 and Fn2) buttons for quick access to particular settings. Although these are customiseable the list of options that can targeted to each button isn’t as extensive as we’d liked to have seen. It’s not possible to assign ISO sensitivity to either, for example, meaning the Quick Menu needs to be used more often than you may wish.

  1. 1. Olympus PEN E-P3 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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