Olympus' latest ILC achieves midlevel greatness
The Bottom Line
If you don’t mind its lack of a grip, the PL3 will likely appeal to you. While you can’t expect the same level of AF tracking or burst speed that a pro-level DSLR would give you, for everyday shooting this camera will provide image quality and AF speed significantly better than you’d get with most compacts.
Snapshooters looking for an even smaller and less expensive Olympus might be better suited to the new Pen Mini (aka the E-PM1, $500, street, with the same lens). Sharing most of the guts of the PL3, it should yield similar-quality images (see sidebar). While Panasonic’s GX1 does beat the PL3 in some ways, it’s also more expensive ($800 with an equivalent zoom lens).
And if the viewfinder gives you a reason to consider Panasonic’s GF3, it’s worth noting that this Olympus has a hot-shoe that allows you to add an electronic viewfinder or one of the company’s other fun, useful accessories, such as the PenPal for sending photos to Android or Blackberry phones (sorry iPhone users, the PenPal won’t work for you). The PL3’s tilting LCD also gives it an edge over the GF3.
So for shooters who value both style and function, the Olympus Pen E-PL3 could be the right ILC. But photographers who obsess over grips and crave power will likely gravitate toward the Pen E-P3 or the Panasonic Lumix GX1.
IMAGING: 12.3MP effective Four Thirds sized LiveMOS sensor captures images at 4032x3024 pixels each, with 12 bits/color in RAW capture.
STORAGE: SD, SDHC, or SDXC stores JPEG, ORF RAW, RAW + JPEG, or MPO files.
VIDEO: Up to 1920x1080i60 or 1280x720p60 AVCHD; built-in stereo mic; contrast AF with continuous AF in video mode.
BURST RATE: Full-sized JPEGs up to card capacity at 3 fps; RAW up to 17 frames at 3 fps.
AF SYSTEM: TTL contrast detection with 35-area Multi-AF, 1-area selectable AF, or 9-area selectable group.
SHUTTER SPEEDS: 1/4,000 to 60 sec, plus B (1/3-EV increments).
METERING: TTL metering with 324-area evaluative, centerweighted, and spot (approximately 1% of screen).
ISO RANGE: ISO 200–12,800 (in 1/3-EV increments).
FLASH: Built-in pop-up with TTL autoflash; GN 33 (feet, ISO 200), covers 14mm angle of view. Flash sync to 1/180 sec. Wireless control of accessory flash units.
MONITOR: 3-inch OLED touchscreen with 614,000-dot resolution.
OUTPUT: Hi-Speed USB 2.0; mini-HDMI video.
BATTERY: Rechargeable BLS-1 Li-ion, CIPA rating 330 shots.
SIZE/WEIGHT: 4.8x2.7x1.4 in., 0.8 lb with an SD card and battery.
STREET PRICE: $900 with 14–42mm f/3.5–5.6 or 17mm f/2.8 lens.