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:


Movie/Video Mode

Olympus PEN E-P3 review – Movie/Video Mode

Olympus E-P3 – Movie/Video Quality

The E-P3 offers two choices here: AVCHD and M-JPEG. The former, a first in the PEN series, means good quality 1080i files where file sizes are kept to a minimum. However, to use the MTS files off-camera you’ll need to process the clips into a more useable format such as MOV (this can be actioned using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie at no extra cost, so long as your operating system’s up to date). The M-JPEG option is like taking a series of still JPEG images and compressing them into an AVI video file – the final quality is not as good, the file size is larger, but the format can be used straight from camera with no processing. There’s the best of both worlds here.

As per many competitor cameras the ‘Full HD’ resolution needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as the interlaced (i) capture can cause some blurring issues compared to (unavailable) progressive (p) capture. However, the 20Mbps data rate means lots of detail in files, so resulting quality is very good indeed.

The one very big nuisance is that even with the 16:9 borders marked out on the rear screen and the mode dial set to Movie, pressing the one-touch movie button still causes the camera to ever so slightly crop into the frame. As such accurate pre-framing is not a possibility.

Olympus E-P3 – Movie/Video Record Time

At fullest 1080i quality files can be recorded up to 22minutes. Using the M-JPEG feature this is limited to 7minutes due to the larger file size (and 2GB file size limitation). Step down in resolution to 720p and the E-P3 can record for 29minutes (or up to 4GB max due to file size limitation).

Olympus E-P3 – Movie/Video Focusing Modes

Another top area, the E-P3 provides Single (AF-S), Continuous (AF-C) or Manual (MF) focusing options. All are very successful, particularly continuous focus that slips between subjects with ease. It can falter somewhat with close-up focusing, but is generally ideal for point-and-shoot capture. The lens is near silent too so no irritating focusing sounds will be picked up during capture.

Olympus E-P3 – Movie/Video Manual Control

Another strong area, the E-P3 offers full manual control for its movie capture. This means full shutter and aperture control and the use of exposure compensation. However all these settings can only be set before commencing recording – a frustration as the exposure compensation really ought to be available at the very least during recording. Manual focus also lacks any zoom assist for fine tuning focus, another misgiving as there’s a magnification button available on the camera’s rear that’s out of use during recording. Still, overall this is a very well specified movie camera that will see of the likes of many DSLRs and CSCs.

Olympus E-P3 – Movie/Video Sound

The stereo sound is of good quality, but the lack of any 3.5 or 2.5mm mic jack means there’s a strict limitation on which microphones can be used. At present Olympus makes its own Accessory Port-fitted mic, but adding this will mean attaching anything else via that fitting isn’t possible. A more suitable solution (E-P4, anyone?) would be to provide a mic fitting for third party microphones.

  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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