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:


Image Quality

Olympus PEN E-P3 review – Image Quality

Olympus E-P3 – Tone & Exposure

In bright sunlight it can be tricky to assess exposure so the bracketing feature came in particular use. Shots are well-exposed for the most part, with a good range of tones.

Olympus E-P3 – Colour & White Balance

Auto White Balance can produce shots that are a little warm, particularly in a studio environment where magenta casts are noticeable. In everyday environments we were happy with the realistic colours produced in shots, and these are well maintained even to the higher ISO settings (ISO 12,800 excluded). Art Modes provide instant in-camera results and all the options have practical uses, such as the Sepia example below:

Olympus PEN E-P3 sample image

Olympus E-P3 – ISO Sensitivity & Image Noise

ISO 200 is the lowest available setting, an ongoing trend in recent productions from a variety of manufacturers. We’d rather see an ISO 100 (or even ISO 80) option rather than such a high starting point. Saying that ISO 200-800 produce crisp and clean images that, considering the Micro Four Thirds sensor (it’s smaller than that found in most DSLRs and other Compact System Cameras), is an achievement.

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 ISO 6400 it becomes more noticeable and at ISO 12,800 a wash of red colour noise is problematic.

All in all there’s plenty of detail considering the smaller sensor size, something that shows keeping the resolution to a ‘safe’ level really pays off.

Olympus E-P3 – Sharpness & Detail

It is possible to resolve fine detail at ISO 200, though very fine single pixel lines don’t always stand out individually and processing can blur away the detail somewhat. Standard sharpening isn’t over the top, though does see a boost from ISO 800 and above where there are more signs of processing. ISO 1600 is where detail begins to diminish at the fine end of the scale, though that’s still an impressive result for a Micro Four Thirds camera.

  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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