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231 of 233 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2011
I bought this camera after backpacking around the world with an "expendable" Nikon D40 digital SLR which I bought for just $420 - less than half the price of my new Olympus E-P3. Prior to that I shot film on SLRs. The Nikon took photos that were probably just as good as those from the E-P3. Why, then, did I buy the E-P3? Because of the weight. Anybody who has spent all day, every day, lugging an SLR around with them will know what I mean.

Size and weight are the two advantages that mirrorless cameras offer over SLRs. But once you make the decision to go mirrorless, it is critically important to choose the right format - otherwise you will box yourself into a corner with lenses. I opted for the micro four-thirds (M43) format (supported by Olympus and Panasonic) for the sole reason that there is a much greater selection of lenses for M43 cameras than for the competing Sony and Samsung mirrorless formats.

The three newest M43 cameras are the Olympus E-P3, Olympus E-PL3 and Panasonic G3, all of which have strengths and weaknesses.

After handling the E-P3 and its smaller and cheaper cousin, the E-PL3, in-store, I found that I much prefered the handling of the more expensive model. It is more solid in the hand, and it has an extra scroll-wheel that enhances the speed of choosing aperture settings (I usually shoot in aperture-priority mode). I also liked the touch screen. The negatives were the price and the lack of an articulating screen (which the E-PL3 and G3 have).

Choosing between the E-P3 and the $200 cheaper Panasonic G3 was more difficult. The G3 has an inbuilt electronic viewfinder, an articulating screen and a much better sensor (better photos in low light, without grainy "noise"). Ultimately I chose the E-P3 because, again, I prefered the handling and more solid feel (however, I would advise anybody thinking of buying the E-P3 to check out reviews of the Panasonic G3 and Olympus E-PL3).

The Olympus PEN E-P3 is significantly better than earlier PEN cameras in that it has addressed most of the criticisms leveled at those models. The most important criticisms related to slow auto-focus speeds (all models), sluggish handling (all models) and the lack of inbuilt flash (on the E-P2).

One area in which the E-P3 has made only limited progress, however, is in regards to image quality. The sensor is the same old 12mp clunker used on earlier PENs, which is disappointing given the US $900 price tag. For $300 less, entry-level Canon or Nikon dSLRs take better photographs.

I bought this sleek little beast with my heart, rather than my head, and I do not regret my decision. If you have a photographer's heart like mine, then you should buy this camera immediately. If you have a rationalist's brain, superior to my own, then you might want to consider the following pros and cons:


Image Quality - Olympus cameras are famed for producing great colours, and I have been very, very pleased with colours from this camera. Greens and yellows really come to life. Also, despite criticisms leveled at this camera for its low-light performance, I think it's usable at ISO 1600 as long as there are not too many shadows in the frame.

Handling - There are lots of buttons and dials on this camera. Advanced users will appreciate this. The solid metal body feels sturdy in the hand. The camera has been miniaturised while retaining just enough heft for stable shooting.

Speed - This camera is very, very fast. You can focus and shoot in an instant. Olympus claims that this camera is the fastest in the world. I cannot say whether that is true or not, but I can say that the E-P3 is very, very fast. Or have I said that already?

Build - Metal.

Screen - It's great. Very colourful and detailed. Best of all, it is a touch-screen. Coming from SLRs, I thought this was a gimmick, but I have been surprised to find that I absolutely love the touch screen. It's great for street-shooting, because you can set the camera to focus and shoot anywhere in the frame just by touching the screen. It focuses and fires accurately, and almost instantly. The Panasonic G3 also has this touch-shooting feature, but it did not seem so well implemented when I tried it in-store. Too many shots were out of focus on the G3, whereas they were sharp on the Olympus.

Lenses - All micro four-thirds lenses made by Olympus and Panasonic will work on this camera, meaning the user has lots of lenses to choose from.

IBIS - In-body image stabilisation. You can stick any lens on this camera and it will stablise it - even if the lens itself does not have built-in stabilisation. Lots of prime lenses fall into this category (eg. the superb Panasonic-Leica 25mm f1.4, the very good Panasonic 20mm f1.7 and the new Olympus 12mm f2).

Size - It's smaller and lighter than an SLR. This factor is critical. If you are not worried about size or weight then you should buy an SLR, because Nikon and Canon dSLRs at this price point do take slightly better pictures than the E-P3.

Okay, that was rather a long list of pros. Now for the cons:

Sensor - This camera has a 3-year-old 12 megapixel sensor that struggles in low light, producing ugly splotches of "noise" from ISO 1600 upwards. The cheaper Panasonic G3 has a better 16mp sensor that can shoot clean images at ISO 3200. Having said that, I have done some street-shooting at night with the E-P3 set at 1600 ISO and have found that I can live with the results, just. The main problem is blotchy shadow areas. Shooting at 1600 in brighter conditions (eg, to reduce camera shake or to freeze motion) produces perfectly good images. I do wish this camera had Panasonic's 16mp sensor, however. No doubt that will happen with the EP-4, but we might have to wait until mid-2012 for that.

Price - Yeah, it's expensive. A Nikon D3100 for $600 is better value, no doubt about it. But you will have to sacrifice portability if you buy a dSLR.

Menus - Olympus is famous for having convoluted menus. I must say that I have found the menus to be frustrating, especially for "setup" options such as choosing the directions in which to turn dials to make setting changes. There are two rear dials and two custom buttons that can be pre-set for variables such as shutter, aperture and white balance, but incredibly not for ISO (which, given the dodgy low-light performance of this camera, is a function I access a lot). It is possible to dedicate the down-button on the second scroll wheel for ISO, but only at the expense of eliminating the dedicated button for 2-second delay and single-frame/multi-frame shooting. Grr! On the other hand, I have found the touchscreen to be pretty useful for changing settings, including ISO.

Missing in Action - An articulating screen and an electronic viewfinder (the clip-on VF-2 and VF-3 viewfinders cost an extra $180 and $250 respectively).

Other image-quality points / conclusion:

The weak low-light image quality of the E-P3 is offset partly by its in-body image stabiliser. This means that the E-P3's body will stabilise lenses such as the Panasonic Leica 25mm, which does not have an inbuilt image stabiliser and is therefore not stabilised on the Panasonic G3, which has a better sensor.

The high cost of the E-P3 is also partly offset by the in-body image stabiliser, because you can use cheaper lenses (without built-in stablisers) on the E-P3. For example, the EP-3 will stablise a US $650 Olympus 9-18mm wide angle zoom, whereas Panasonic users wanting stabilisation at wide-angle must buy the Panasonic 7-14mm with inbuilt stabiliser, for around US $900.

Logically, I believe that the Panasonic G3 is a more sensible choice for beginners, people on tight budgets, and people who are unlikely to buy more lenses. However, photography is not solely about value for money and pixel-peeping image quality - it's also about enjoyment. Personally, I enjoy shooting with the E-P3 more than I do with its competitors.

I believe that most enthusiast photographers would feel the same way.

I would give this camera five stars, but I'm removing one for the noisy old sensor and the relatively poor value for money compared with the E-PL3 and G3.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2011
I used film cameras starting from the 1990s, switched to prosumer DC in 2003, and used DSLR for several years. In Jan 2011, I sold the DSLR and its two lenses, and decided to go mirrorless, finally settling on m43 and the Olympus PEN E-PL2. I was so satisfied with it that before my 19-day Switzerland family trip in August 2011, I purchased the E-P3 and relegated the E-PL2 to a backup camera. After my trip, I sold the E-PL2 since the E-P3 was much better in some critical areas and I did not need a backup when I would not be on any long trip in the near future.

Although images from the DSLR were very good, a major problem was that the DSLR gear was way too heavy. I took a lot of photos while travelling, much more than when staying in my home city. As a small man, it was a pain to carry the DSLR around, especially hiking with a backpack full of other essentials. A smaller and lighter camera with good image quality, suitable for long trips, was thus my prime concern. Before deciding on m43, I considered several mirrorless systems and different camera bodies.

(A) Sony NEX
The main problem with NEX is the lenses, not the camera bodies. Auto focusing is a must for me and there are too few native NEX lens choices at present, which is important when committing to a system. The existing NEX lenses are either optically slow and big, or smaller but having mediocre optical quality. There is not any good fast prime. The NEX may become more attractive in future, but not now. The small and thin NEX cameras with the big lens mounted are a bit unbalanced in my hand and look extremely ugly. The major advantage of NEX is its best-of-class image sensor. However, such advantage is somewhat negated by the lack of good fast lenses. The overall body plus lens package is larger and heavier than the m43 equivalent, and does not provide better image quality due to the less than satisfactory lenses.

(B) Samsung NX
I am a bit worried about the future of NX, as it seems not so popular. The existing lenses are better than those of NEX but the sensor seems even worse than that of the smaller m43. The overall package, like that of NEX, is somewhat bigger and heavier than m43, and does not provide better image quality.

(C) m43 - Olympus and Panasonic
m43 seems to offer the best balance between image quality and size/weight (body and lens). On one hand, the sensors are not as good as NEX. On the other hand, there are many lenses - good zoom lens and excellent fast primes such as the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 or the newer Olympus 12mm f/2.0 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8 (the latter two not yet announced at the time of my decision on m43). The comparable zoom lenses are so much smaller and lighter than the NEX ones and are much more balanced on the m43 camera bodies. There are also many, if not too many, m43 camera bodies to choose from. Among the m43 bodies, the Olympus ones have built-in body image stabilization (IBIS), usually giving two to three stops of advantage at low shutter speed. Olympus is also famous for the superb out of camera JPEG images. As Panasonic bodies do not have IBIS and not all m43 lens has lens-based image stabilization, finally I settled on the Olympus (kit lens for general use), and added the Panasonic 20mm (for low light and indoor) and the tiny Olympus 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 (for landscape and confined areas). These were the lenses that I took to Switzerland, much of the time hiking in the Alps. The E-P3 and the 3 lenses weighed less than the previous DSLR with just the kit zoom, and covered more optical range. With an Olympus body and the Panasonic 20mm f1.7, the combination of IBIS and f1.7 is more than enough to offset any sensor disadvantage against a NEX in low light situations (such as in a museum, restaurant, or church), since much lower ISO values can be used.

My feeling and experience with the E-P3 (and m43).


(1) Image quality comparable to DSLR and much better than prosumer DC or point-and-shoot.

(2) Excellent straight out-of-camera JPEG images with pleasing colours, no need for post-processing, suitable for persons like me who do not want to spend time on post-processing (BTW, I took 2800+ images in Switzerland with the E-P3 and cannot imagine the time required to post-process even a fifth of them).

(3) Much lighter and smaller than a DSLR, even with the couple of additional lenses (I prefer light and small lenses with good optical quality).

(4) Best balance between image quality and size/weight, IMHO the perfect camera for travellers.

(5) Very responsive and quick reactions, extremely fast and accurate auto-focusing in good light (faster than my older DSLR), rarely miss a shot due to sluggishness; simply a pleasure to take photos with it (the E-P3 is much more responsive and much faster in focusing than the E-PL2).

(6) Using the touch screen to set a focus point or to take a snapshot with a single touch (no such features on E-PL2) is very useful and user-friendly, no need to use the pre-focus then recompose method or other cumbersome method to specify the exact focus point.

(7) Feeling right, very balanced and comfortable in my smaller than average hands; although some may find the 4-way circular control wheel too small for their bigger hands.

(8) Well-built, good finishing, metal body shell and sturdy feel.

(9) Lots of customization options making it very user friendly to the more advanced photographers.

(10) Very handsome camera indeed, especially the silver version and cannot find anything equally attractive.

Not so Good:

(1) A bit expensive, the E-PL3 or E-PM1 (both not yet in stock when I purchased the E-P3 in early August) should be better value for money but those do not have the touch screen features and have fewer direct control buttons; a real dilemma. When E-P3's price drops, it will become less of a disadvantage.

(2) The OLED LCD is not very colour-accurate, and the images look better when printed or shown on a computer's monitor. [Update: This one can be fixed by setting the LCD to 'Natural' instead of the default 'Vivid' mode; one of the default settings related issues mentioned below.]

(3) The OLED LCD is a bit difficult to see under bright sun light (E-P3 is not alone, actually problem exists with most camera's LCD) and cannot be tilted or turned; and the optional electronic viewfinder costs extra money (so I do not have one).

(4) The high ISO images for sure can be better with a better sensor; but not a problem for landscapes and can use the Panasonic 20mm for low light shots.

(5) Need to twist the camera settings to get the most out of it; the default settings are not tuned for the best image quality.

(6) Not really pocketable with the protruding lens, even with a small prime, but a non issue if you have been using DSLR.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2011
I've owned several Olympus digital cameras over the years (E-1, E-330, E-3, E-PL1, and now the E-P3) and the E-P3 is by far be best Olympus digital camera to date. Not only is this camera extremely compact while still using the same DSLR-size image sensor found in Olympus DSLRs, but the new auto focus system inside this camera makes it one of the fastest focusing cameras on the market (depending on the lens you're using).

The 14-42mm R II kit zoom lens focuses extremely fast and is good enough for casual/vacation use but the real advantage of a camera like the E-P3 is the ability to use interchangeable lenses. My favorite lenses to use with this camera are the Olympus 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens, the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4, and the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lenses. I also have the 9-18mm zoom lens when I need to have a wide angle lens. I owned the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens for a while but it focuses slowly compared to the 17mm and 25mm lenses.

One feature that I didn't expect to use was the touchscreen display. I thought I'd just use the screen to compose my images like any other camera, but I discovered that it's really nice to be able to touch the screen EXACTLY where you want to focus and have the camera instantly take the picture.

In any case, the durable metal construction, built-in image stabilization, built-in wireless flash control, and decent 3fps burst shooting mode make the E-P3 a solid DSLR replacement if you're looking for DSLR quality without the bulk. I also have several Sony NEX cameras and lenses and I can tell you that as of November 2011 the Olympus system has a MUCH better selection of lenses ... and that has more impact on image quality than the differences between the Olympus image sensors and the Sony image sensors.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2011
Micro Four Thirds (m4/3s) have been a dream come true for those camera enthusiast who want the control, performance, and interchangeable lenses of a dSLR in a compact body type. The Olympus EP3 is the pinnacle of this achievement. Solid metal construction, bright and colorful OLED touch screen, pop up flash, and a host of manual controls, the EP3 has enough updates to be a real advancement from it's predecessors (EP1, EP2). Probably the biggest improvement is the AF speed, which is much faster than its predecessors (although still a contrast AF system). Improving this AF speed is the snappy ability to select focus points on your touch screen upon which the camera takes the shot once you've touched the screen. The dual processor also adds to the quickness of this camera speeding up processing time, especially when in art filter mode. The camera has a max ISO of 12800, although the realistic max is probably 1600 before the graininess makes the shot unusable. The EP3 also comes with 10 onboard art filters, so your shots can be preconceived with the filter in mind. You also finally get full 1080i HD video w/ stereo sound; clean and sharp videos albeit with a little jerkiness. The kit 14-42mm lens is quick and quiet both for pictures and video. The biggest gripe for me was the price. If Olympus added an electronic viewfinder (EVF) in the kit, I believe this camera would have been a real value (unfortunately, they don't). I considered the Panasonic G3 (the newest m4/3 offering from Panasonic), but decided I didn't want to get a plastic dSLR look-a-like; although the G3 seems to be the better value of the two. Nevertheless, I believe the Olympus offers a far more elegant camera in their EP3. Overall, the EP3 is not a camera that distances itself away from the previous models, but rather builds upon it. It is still more similar to its digital PEN siblings than say an entry level dSLR like the Canon T3i, but it is an entire step above and a step in the right direction.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2012
Update - This "Video Review" is a short clip taken in 720 HD that demonstrates the "Jello effect" that the in-body image stabilization causes in hand-held videos. Read this review for more details.

I wanted to love this camera, and as a still photography camera, I do hold it in high esteem. But any camera you buy these days should be expected to take acceptable video, and here the E-P3 disappoints.

The video quality has the potential to be awesome, with great detail and vivid colors, but with the camera's built-in image stabilization turned on, the captured video dances around and shimmies like Jello when you move the camera. This is especially true during pans or when zooming, but is also the case every time the image stabilization is called upon. So, jiggle the camera slightly, and your subjects jiggle in the most awful way. This, combined with the significant "rolling shutter" effect (which makes vertical lines appear to be "leaning" one way or another when panning), renders the video mode virtually useless. The video is actually more acceptable with the built-in image stabilization turned OFF (although rolling shutter effect is still present). But of course, that requires you to be using a tripod or have a super-human ability to not jiggle the camera during videos. Having owned and used a number of other cameras - including some inexpensive compact cameras - that take acceptable video, I could not believe that this rather expensive camera from Olympus could not take video that was at least on par with cameras costing a fraction as much. Believe it. If video is important to you, this camera is probably worthless to you. And this is the primary reason that I returned the camera after only a few days.

In fairness, I can foresee a couple of scenarios where the video might be acceptable: Scenario one is if you turn in-body image stabilization off and use a tripod, and don't do a lot of panning. Scenario two, which I didn't get to test in the short time I had this camera, is that certain Panasonic M43 lenses have an On/Off switch on the lens for Optical Image Stabilizaton (OIS). In this case you can turn the E-P3's in-body image stabilization off and turn the Panasonic lens's OIS on. (If the Panasonic lens doesn't have an On/Off switch, the OIS is off by default when used on an Olympus M43 camera. There are only a couple of Panasonic M43 lenses with the On/Off switch.) But using one of these Panasonic lenses - with OIS turned on and in-body IS turned off - MIGHT result in acceptable video. Who knows? It seems plausible.

Regarding this camera's ability as a still photography camera, it is really good. I love how customizable it is, and how much control you can exercise over every aspect of this camera's performance and handling. On one hand it is a camera with which a beginner can take stunning photos without diving very deep into the controls, and on the other hand there is virtually nothing you could wish for that you can't do. It is an extremely full-featured camera.

My favorite feature is the touch focus with shutter actuation enabled. You frame your photo on the screen, and then touch the area of the screen that you want the camera to focus on, and almost before your finger leaves the screen, the camera has focused and snapped the shot. (Using the latest Olympus and Panasonic M43 lenses, focus is VERY fast!) This camera has 35 focus areas, so you can be very specific about what you focus on. And the "feel" of the touch screen is good, as well - not quite as responsive as a new iPhone, but if you're an iPhone user you'll feel at home with the way this screen responds. By comparison, the Panasonic GX1 that I tried had a sluggish, unresponsive feel to its touch screen (reminding me very much of my frustrating older TomTom GPS). With the E-P3 you can tap the screen to focus and/or trip the shutter (you can set it for touch focus only or touch focus & shutter). But with the GX1, you have to "press" your finger on the screen and hold it there a moment to focus or trip the shutter. On the subject, I like that the E-P3 remembers your touch settings - either touch focus only or touch focus & shutter - when you power off and on. The Panasonic always defaults to touch focus only, and you have to go to a menu to change it back to touch focus & shutter, every time you power back on. I soon found myself annoyed at the Panasonic because of that, because I find touch focus & shutter to be one of the most useful features I've ever tried on any camera. It really helps you quickly get exactly the shot you envision, regardless of your frame composition.

Regarding image quality, I am very happy with the E-P3, although I wish it had the higher ISO capabilities and higher 16mp resolution of the GX1. I am VERY happy with the JPEG images of the E-P3. (I do not shoot much in RAW format.)

The E-P3 is a complex, highly customizable camera, and you would do well to read a number of reviews before deciding whether this camera is for you, as each reviewer will bring their own perspective. If you shoot primarily or exclusively still photos, the E-P3 needs to be high on your consideration list. But if video is important to you, look elsewhere.

Update - Clarification: My primary objection to the video of this camera is the awful "jiggling jelly" effect produced by the built-in image stabilization. I have fairly steady hands, but not perfect, so every time I am unsteady with the camera with IS on, the video distorts horribly with this "jiggle effect". The alternative is to turn IS off, and then you get the unsteady shaking typical of an unstabilized handheld video, or you must use a tripod. So except for tripod use, the video this camera takes is unacceptable because of the built-in image stabilization - you either use it and ruin your video, or you don't use it and have unacceptable video as the result of inevitable hand-held instability.

The rolling shutter effect is not as severe a problem, and in many cases can be compensated for by panning slowly, as one should normally do. But, it does not take into account moving subjects, such as children on a bicycle, people walking or running, and particularly even slow-moving cars, buses, or other vehicles. Any subject that moves across your field of view is subject to rolling shutter distortion. Some cameras are worse than others in this regard. You can find a YouTube video comapring the rolling shutter effect of the Nikon V1 vs the E-P3 by Googling "nikon v1 vs Oly EP 3 rolling Shutter", or go to [...]

There are many non-video cameras that do not exhibit these problems. My Panasonic FZ150 is one example of a still photography camera that takes wonderful video. Frankly, I can live with the rolling shutter issue. But the built-in image stabilization of the E-P3 is unacceptable for video use.

Update - 5/18/2012: I was able to try a Panasonic 45-200 lens with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), which has an external on/off switch for its OIS, on an Olympus E-PM1. The E-PM1 is identical in function to the E-P3, with fewer external controls in a smaller form factor, and has the same problems with video as the E-P3. Turning the built-in IS off, and turning the lens's OIS on, I was able to take excellent video with none of the problems that the camera's built-in IS causes. (Rolling shutter effect will still be present under certain circumstances.) Unfortunately, there are very few Panasonic OIS lenses with an external on/off switch, and those without the external switch default to "OIS off" mode when used on an Olympus camera. But if you have one of these Panasonic lenses with the external on/off switch, you will be able to take good hand-held video using that lens with the E-P3 or E-PM1.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 21, 2011
1. Background: I'm just an amateur but have had extensive experience will all kinds of cameras for years (ie film and digital). I had the E-P1 and currently use the E-5 etc...
2. I think most folks have accurately hit on the pros / cons of the E-P3; here are just my observations (in no particular order of importance):

a. Image quality: In the end, this is the most important thing to most photographers (although performance may determine if you get the image in the first place) and the bottomline is that the E-P3 is very capable of giving excellent images. These days, the bar has been set ridicuously high (in my opinion) in terms of high ISO performance. For those who really need high ISO performance, fair enough--> get a camera capable of the results you so desire. But for the vast majority of photographers, you are going to get excellent images from the E-P3 at base ISO (200). ISO 400-800 is definitely useable with some NR software. I haven't even tried ISO 1600...

b. Performance: autofocus: The focusing is definitely better with the m4/3 lens. However those who have the standard 4/3 lens (ex: 12-60mm), no matter what people are saying out there, the autofocus for those lens still substandard; it's better but still slow slow slow. The only reason I bring up the standard 4/3 lens is that despite the increasing number of m 4/3 lens, as far as quality lens, it's still lacking. Thus if I want to use a quality zoom, I have to utilize the standard 4/3 lens, but still have to use manual focus mode, which isn't bad, but it would be nice if the autofocus was useable.

c. Performance: frame rate: Why in the world does the E-P3 still have the same slowish frame rate of 3 fps??? That's what the E-P1 had. Furthermore, the E-PL3 has a faster frame rate of 5 fps. I mean, this is one of those really annoying things. But on the otherhand, the E-P3 is still a definite upgrade in this department in that the buffer size is noticably larger compared to the E-P1. Thus, even those it still has the same frame rate, the buffer size is larger and thus you can pragmatically get more shots off etc... But this is an example of where Olympus should have made some steps forward as opposed to essentially being static...

d. Ergonomics: Basically the same camera as the E-P1... which is a negative. The camera looks interesting (visually), but ergonomically it's pretty lame. The grip is lousy (too small) and the location of the dials on the back often means that you're thumb is going to touch something and mess up the settings, which then means you have to hold the camera is a funky manner. I'm still waiting for the large grip to become available (this is a positive step via Olympus); I'll have to see if this helps the situation.

e. Movie mode: I'm not into movies and thus won't comment other than to say, they appear to be good, good sound, easy to use.

f. Lack of viewfinder? I know it's a very personal issue for folks. It doesn't matter to me that much. I shot with SLRs for years and years and haven't any problems transitioning to the LCD and in fact perfer to the viewfinder for many instances. Of course, I also prefer the viewfinder for other shooting situation. As in life "it depends". As such,I have the VF-2; if you need the viewfinder, just buy the VF-2, which is very good, but also could be better.

g. Built in flash: I know this is another personal issue for folks--> but other than using it to trigger another flash, I can rarely see myself using a built in flash, simply because they're all lame. I do a fair amount of flash photography, but always use my external flash (Olympus FL-50). I'm in the camp where I would have much prefered putting in a built in viewfinder than a built in flash.

h. Menus: yea, very extensive. Even as someone who has owned the E-P1 and E-5, I have to sit down the read the manual because there are little nuggets of good that you'll miss if you don't discover the full potential of this camera. Very good indeed.

i. Sensor: I'm going to be in the minority that I'm not too concerned or miffed that the sensor is the same or similar to the E-P1. First of resolution: 12MP is enough for the vast majority of photographers, including serious photographers. I remember all of the professional pundits were decrying the resolution wars, but those same pundits are not criticising Olympus for sticking with "only" a 12MP sensor. Now those pundits are obsessed with high ISO performance... Just think for yourself and get the camera that actually works out for you and your type of photography. So, those who are able to test this camera will quickly realize that at moderate / normal ISO situations (200-400-800) this camera will give you excellent images and the 12MP resolution will be more than enough for most printing applications. With that being said, it is bad form for Olympus to release the E-P3 with the same sensor; I mean just from a marketing point of view. Even something like a 12MP sensor but with updated technology to improve the dynamic range in a meaningful way... Oh well...

2. Sorry for the tangential review. Bottomline, the E-P3 is a very solid camera, capable of excellent images. It just could have and really should have been a better camera than what was introduced. Nonetheless, from someone who has shot extensively with Contax / Zeiss, Nikon FM2, Sony R1 and A850, Pentax K5, Olympus 620 and now the excellent E-5, Ricoh GX 100, 200 and now GXR... from my point of view the E-P3 is not perfect, but highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2011
The E-P3 sits at the top of Olympus's current µ4/3 lineup, the long awaited successor to the E-P2 as their flagship Pen camera. One look at this body and its heritage is clear: it looks very similar to the E-P2 which it is replacing, and the E-P1 before it.

This body is technically better than the E-P2 in almost every single way. It's faster, it's smarter, it's got a touchscreen, it's got a pop-up flash. It's the culmination of every addition the Pen series has seen since the E-P2 came out two years ago. With the (optional) grip installed it handles almost exactly the same as the E-P2 does. This is clearly an evolutionary step forward for the Pen series, while continuing to nod to its heritage.

That said, let's get this out of the way: the guts of this camera are strikingly similar if not identical to the guts of the other two current Pens (the Olympus PEN E-PM1 and the Olympus PEN E-PL3). The (substantial) price premium for the E-P3 will not net you better image quality or more processing power; you're basically paying for the built-in flash, the all metal construction, the touchscreen, and the more traditional physical control layout. It's hard to claim that the E-P3 is a good value when its much cheaper siblings are so similar; if you don't specifically need any of the E-P3's body features, the lower cost models will be better choices.

There's really one thing that might make the E-P3's price point palatable: shooting with this camera feels like shooting with the E-P2, and it's a continuation of one of the best physical designs I've seen in a digital camera. Unlike the NEX cameras (upcoming 7 excepted), the lower end Pens, or the Panasonic GF3, this thing feels more like a camera and less like an iPod.

Here are some details:

- "tweaked" sensor: basically the same as the E-P2 and the other Pens. The JPEG engine seems to handle high ISO and shadow noise better, though, and ISO 1600 JPEGs are acceptable. ISO 3200 remains only practical when shooting RAW, and 6400 and 12800 are pointless unless you're printing very small or scaling down. Base ISO remains 200, and you can no longer automatically "pull" fake ISO 100 (it's not even selectable); in order to replicate ISO 100 you need to shoot at ISO 200 and overexpose by a stop. The camera helpfully tells you in the menu system which ISO values are recommended.

- fast autofocus: fast autofocus is fast. This is a massive boon and one of the most obvious improvements in this generation of bodies. The speed boost isn't limited to only the new kit lens, either; even old lenses will lock on more quickly. Right now Olympus rules this particular roost amongst the compact system cameras, albeit by a slim margin.

- pop-up flash: a huge win compared to the E-P2. The popup flash itself is a typical weak, non-bouncing affair, best used only as fill or in emergencies, but it can fire RC Olympus flashes (like the Olympus FL-36R) remotely without consuming the hot shoe. Pens rely on the shoe-mount accessory port for things such as Mics or the EVF, so having a not-shoe-mount way to fire remote flashes is a big deal.

- touchscreen: it's neat, for sure; you can either touch to focus (and then hit the shutter release button yourself) or touch to shoot (which focuses and shoots immediately when it has acquire focus). I'm somewhat dubious about this trick, as I'm an adherent to the center-focus-recompose school, but I have a notion that I can throw this camera into iAuto and hand it to my wife who should appreciate this feature. The display is gorgeous, too, and it (and the Olympus VF-2 Electronic ViewFinder) behave *dramatically* better in low light than they do on the E-P2. The grain is much more controlled and the framerate is much higher. One note about the screen: it's not recessed as it was on the E-P2. I already have a small scratch on it.

- AF assist lamp: a welcome addition, especially when using a flash in low light where there's not enough ambient light to focus on its own. Focus by lamp is pretty slow, however.

- menu system: pretty much the same system from the E-P2 (and Olympus DSLRs) but with a graphical overhaul and contextual help (I don't recall this in the E-P2). Basic options are readily accessible, but advanced settings are buried in the same 'ol convoluted gear menu system. Super control panel (which you probably want) is still around but was hard for me to find: go to "Gear D" -> "Control Settings" -> "P/A/S/M" -> "SCP" -> "On" (and optionally Live Control off). Oddly the touchscreen doesn't work in menus.

- kit lens: I guess it focuses faster than the old kit lens. Hard for me to really say, both are quite fast on this body. It's actually longer than the original kit lens when collapsed, but its diameter is smaller. I have no complaints about it, but I haven't shot with it very much either.

Bottom line:

If you're invested in the µ4/3 system, there's a lot to love about the E-P3, but the price point makes it a tough sell unless you simply have to have this style of body. If you like the general operation of the E-P2 and want a faster camera that handles the same way, the E-P3 fits the bill, but don't expect much of an improvement in image quality. If you aren't tied to the "feel" of this camera, you would be wise to give it a pass and look to the E-PL3 or E-PM1.

If you're a P&S user who wants something more than a P&S but not as big as a DSLR, there's pretty much nothing about this camera that should compel you to purchase it over much cheaper options. The Olympus PM1, NEX 5N, or the Panasonic GF3 make a lot more sense for somebody who isn't used to DSLR style controls.

If you're a DSLR user who wants a small camera that doesn't make any compromises on the physical interface, the E-P3 is Olympus's best option, and it finally gets pretty close to DSLR-level performance in some respects (although poor continuous AF and the poor high ISO/DR from the small sensor remain issues). To be honest, I have never used another digital camera that feels as good in hand as the E-P3 (excepting the E-P2 which feels virtually identical), and if this is something you value greatly then this camera should be near the top of the list. Of course, you might also consider the GH2 or NEX 7, depending on your priorities, price range, and choice of form factor.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2012
This is a difficult camera to review. Some aspects of it seem lacking for a 900 dollar camera released in 2011 (noise and burst rate) but the versatility, ease of use, build quality, and charm of this camera make it irresistible to me. I've taken 17,000 photos with it and still love using it. The camera never gets in the way, you can just pick it up and go. The E-P3 makes me want to take pictures, moreso than any other camera I've owned, including my brand new OMD.

The auto-focus is worlds ahead of my first MFT camera, the E-PL1. With the kit lens and most other native lenses, focus is near instantaneous with enough light. The 20mm f1.7 lens is still slow to focus, but that seems to be caused by the design of the lens, not the function of the body.

Images at reasonable ISO speeds are sharp and punchy. I shoot JPG's most of the time and only use RAW in challenging lighting. With good glass the quality of the images can be phenomenal. It's hard to use any point-and-shoot, even high-end ones after using a camera like this. The shutter noise is surprisingly solid and gives a nice feel to picture taking.

Controls: The vertical thumb wheel makes changing settings a breeze. It's impossible to go back to my E-PL1. The additional scroll wheel around the d-pad is also hugely helpful, though it's a bit fiddly at times. Combined with the amount of button customization, this camera is a joy to use.

Size: While it's not pocketable I find the size to be perfect. Especially if you put a nice pancake lens on it. Slip a battery in your pocket and sling the camera over your shoulder. I've never had so much fun carrying around such a capable camera without any hassle. I've traveled around Istanbul and Munich with the E-P3 and 20mm f1.7 Panasonic lens and never once felt like my gear was in the way. It's been to fairs, music festivals, concerts and parties with no issues.

Screen: The screen is light years better than the screen on the E-PL1. It's 3 times as sharp and physically larger. While the touch functions may seem gimmicky, they allow you to change the focal point in an instant without having to use the directional pad to move around the focus box. Just make sure you disable it while wearing it around your neck. The shutter can still be fired through a shirt. Extra points due to the fact that it's a capacitive screen (like most modern phones).

Battery Life: I never use the flash and turn it off instead of letting it idle. During my recent travels in Istanbul and Germany, I easily reached 550-600 shots per battery. Carrying one extra battery made it hard to not last the entire day. I'm sure flash usage and lots of idle time will reduce the battery-life to the 300 or so that the camera is rated for.

The camera exudes charm. While not the most important aspect of a camera, I'd be lying if I said that aesthetics don't matter and they help contribute to the feel of the camera. From the front or back, this camera looks the part. Build quality (minus one caveat, see the CONS section) is exceptional. The removable grip is a nice touch. I added the larger grip and haven't removed it since. Also, I've managed to get this camera into venues due to its under-the-radar, retro looks. DSLR's are prohibited in many venues, but either through a lack of knowledge about the E-P3 or because of its appearance (or both) I've been able to take it to many concerts and shows.

The battery door feels flimsy and I wish there had been a separate door for the memory card.

Video: Fortunately I don't take many videos. If I were seriously interested in video, I would deduct another star from the rating. To put it bluntly, if you move the camera, even slightly, the video becomes a jello-like exercise in frustration. Careful panning and framing can alleviate some of the wobble and turning off the in-body stabilization can help.

Blue Light: This may seem minor but the power indicator is annoyingly bright, especially in dark concerts or other dimly lit environments. I developed a way of holding the camera so my index finger covers the light and my middle finger fires the shutter. I've contemplated covering the light wit ha small piece of duct tape.

Pentile Display: While the display is generally wonderful, the pentile sub pixel arrangement can lead to issues when using an old manual focus lens. Because the screen shares sub pixels it's difficult to get super sharp lines which help show you when something is in focus. Using the magnify tool can help, but the screens resolution is sufficient (pentile issues aside).

Burst Mode: For a 900 dollar camera released in 2011 the burst rate is disappointing. 3 FPS may have been fine for the last generation but it is not up to current standards. Oddly enough, the E-PL3, and E-PM1 have better burst speeds and were released at the same time as this camera. The good news is that you can take as many JPG's as you want at 3FPS provided you have a card fast enough.

Noise at High ISO's: With my E-PL1 I felt comfortable shooting at ISO 1600. With the E-P3, I usually hesitate to go above 1250. The way the noise is distributed leads to a loss of contrast and smudging of details compared to the E-PL1. Otherwise, image quality is remarkably similar. If you are using decent imaging software, disable any noise reduction in the camera and do it in post. You'll get much better results that way.

I love this camera. I'm really struggling with selling it, even though at a technical level it's been outclassed in every category by the OMD. The OMD is a great camera but it's missing something. Whatever that something is, the E-P3 has it in spades.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2012
I'm not a pro photographer, just an avid amateur wanting to take great photos for my blog.


* It looks great! Don't pretend that's not part of the appeal. I like for the things I use every day to be beautiful. This camera looks good when you carry it and great when you leave it out. It simply invites you to pick it up and take photos.

* It feels solid and well made. It's not as light as the smaller versions, but it's a kind of pleasant weightiness. I can still operate it one-handed.

* The grip comes off; the camera can be used without it or with an optional larger grip. I love this, because I prefer to leave it off.

* It may not fit in your pocket, but it'll probably fit in your regular bag. It's less conspicuous to use than a dslr, you're less likely to attract unwanted attention.

* It produces images on par with some dslrs, without the bulk. Have a look at the Flickr group for this camera if you need convincing.

* The touchscreen is a must-have feature you never knew you needed. It works beautifully for thumbing through photos and for focusing and taking pictures.

* It focuses really fast. You touch the screen (or button) and it immediately clicks. I've gotten great shots I'd have missed with another camera.

* The colors are vibrant. If you don't like that, there are plenty of art filters.


* No articulated screen. Oh how I wish it had one!

* I don't care about the lack of viewfinder, but I do care that the external ones available are ugly and expensive.

* Price. It's worth the high price, but only just.

* It's hard to put down. I can't bear to leave it at home, even if I'm not going anywhere interesting. What if I miss a good shot? And whenever I see the camera, I want to use it. Very distracting.

If you're considering whether to buy this camera or a DSLR, you've probably read all kinds of technical stuff about sensor size and spent too much time squinting at comparison photos of wine bottle labels. I know, I've been there. I got loads of advice about what camera to buy, but the best advice I got was this:

The best camera for you is the one you'll use.

Buy the one that when you pick it up, you never want to put it down again. The specs matter far less than what YOU bring to the camera. Fancy features are nothing compared to what you can achieve through continually taking pics with a camera you love. For me, the E-P3 is one of those cameras.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2013
I purchased the E-P3 for $379 about the time the E-P5 was announced. Not because the E-P5 isn't a better camera, but because the price for what was the premium Pen in the line is amazingly low for what it offers. It offers fast AF, a nice touch screen, availability of a nice range of lenses, a much larger sensor than point and shoot cameras, great JPG engine, in-body IS, hot shoe and accessory port, good dual dial control interface, decent add on grip, and great IQ up to ISO1600 for the kind of money that doesn't make the wallet or wife/husband shreak in horror. What it doesn't offer is 1/8000 shutter max shutter speed, newest Sony sensor, 5-axis IS, or focus peaking. Of course you can get those feature now on the E-P5 for $700 more than the cost of this camera. But for what it is, this camera takes great pictures and video and offers step up features for a diminutive price. Currently, along with the GX1 is the best value around for a mirrorless sans electronic viewfinder. It would make a great first "serious" camera and is a great side kick for a larger DSLR system. It's a great time to be photographing!
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