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 – Performance

First thing’s first is the E-P3’s super fast autofocus system. It’s a much needed improvement that’s far faster than previous generation PEN models and whizzes into place when targeting static subjects or wider scenes. However, and here comes the ‘but’, Olympus’s in-house claim that it’s the ‘world’s fastest’ doesn’t apply to all situations. Sat side by side with a Panasonic Lumix G3 the focus is very, very similar. Where this differs, however, is once focus is acquired – the E-P3 will always quickly browse the nearby range when re-focusing, even when shooting the exact same frame, whereas the Lumix G3 will immediately acquire focus without searching the range, thus making it the faster of the two in this scenario. Furthermore the E-P3’s Subject Tracking AF just isn’t up to scratch. Although Continuous AF (AF-C) is great to have, it’s outsmarted in lower lighting conditions and doesn’t update rapidly enough for successful tracking on all occasions. Again, a decent spec DSLR will perform better in such a scenario. So although the E-P3’s focus is definitely very, very fast, it’s also not the best overall AF system out there. That’s not to detract for its merits however – it’s a vast and welcome improvement.

Olympus PEN E-P3 sample image

The E-P3’s new OLED screen is a great thing to behold, though bright sunlight will be problematic when it comes to composing. The touchscreen mechanism is sensitive and useful for pinpointing focus by pressing a finger to the screen itself, though do watch out for the ‘bordered off’ edge that prevents edge-to-edge focusing.

The E-P3’s sensor-based image stabilisation system also means sharper images whatever lens you have attached to the front. It can be switched off or set to Auto (IS1), Vertical correction only (IS2) or Horizontal correction only (IS3). These various options mean panning horizontally or vertically will still produce the desired results.

One of the E-P3’s drawbacks is that the battery life is only good for around 300-330 shots from a full charge. It needs to be used conservatively to avoid running out, so it’s a shame a higher capacity battery hadn’t been developed for this model.

  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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