The Olympus E-P3 and 12mm f/2 Very 1st Look Video!

The Olympus E-P3 and 12mm f/2 Very 1st Look Video!

This morning I slept in late due to being up half the night tossing and turning and not long after I stumbled out of bed my doorbell rang. It was my buddy, the FED EX MAN! In his hands he had a box with the Olympus E-P3 and 12mm f/2 lens inside. An expensive combo for Micro 4/3 with the body and kit zoom coming in at $899 and the 12mm lens coming it at $799. I opened the box, threw in the battery (which was 1/2 charged) and shot off a few frames in my backyard to see how this 12mm looks. I am not posting any images YET as they all sucked but I can tell you guys right now that this is probably the FINEST Micro 4/3 lens made to date. If only Oly had put in a built in EVF…THAT would have been amazing. I suspect they will do so soon though to go against the rumored Sony NEX-7. We shall see!


Below is my 1st look video. It is NOT a review but just my 1st look, showing you the lens, the camera, the LCD, etc. My full review of this combo will be coming within 2 weeks so keep an eye out for it! Until then, enjoy the video!

B&H currently has this listed as IN STOCK with the 14-42 kit zoom in black. Also, the 12mm f/2 is also in stock at B&H HERE!

Here is some info on the E-P3:

Blending the classic feel of an all metal body with the highly popular Micro Four Thirds trend in photography,Olympus presents their E-P3 PEN Digital Camera. This version of the E-P3 includes an ED m14-42mm II R f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens as well, to get you out shooting from day one. Highly desired for many reasons, Micro Four Thirds cameras provide an easily transportable body (this one with the look and feel that only a metal body can bring to hand) along with numerous lens options and the features and functions of a full-sized DSLR camera.

The E-P3 has a 12.3Mp Live MOS Sensor and the TruePic VI Image Processor which work together to produce stunningly detailed images at fast speeds. In addition, the camera also has Olympus’ FAST AF Tracking System. FAST AF provides 35 focus points along with Tracking AF for fast and accurate focusing on each shot. Other performance considerations include the 12,800 ISO capabilities, an AF Illuminator, and a built-in flash, not to mention blazing shutter speeds with a response time of less than 60 milliseconds.

Still images can be taken using RAW, JPEG, or a combination of the two. And, 3D still images can even be captured as well in the MPO format. Of course, more than a still camera, the E-P3 also captures HD video. You can take up to 29 minutes of 1080/60i video in either AVCHD or AVI formats. No matter, video or still, all files can be stored to external flash memory, including SD, SDHC, SDXC, and UHS-1 cards. Olympus recommends Eye-Fi Class 6 cards for video recording.

The E-P3 has a bountiful set of on-camera controls and menu options, all of which are displayed on the beautiful 3.0″ touch screen OLED display. As is one of the hallmarks of the Micro Four Thirds genre, small in size though it may be, the E-P3 is not short on options. Aside from a bevy of metering and exposures modes, the camera also hosts numerous picture modes, art filters, Live Guides, and white balance modes, among others. Your pictures will be truly your own, utilizing the full range of choices presented by the E-P3; you can even choose to shoot in panorama mode. Other highlights worth mentioning include 3 modes of image stabilization, noise reduction, and basic in-camera image editing.

12.3Mp Live MOS Sensor
Utilizing Fine Detail Processing Technology for greater detail in the photograph, the sensor is optimized to maximize the performance of all M. Zuiko digital lenses in all shooting conditions
TruePic VI Image Processor
The TruePic VI Image processor delivers excellent dynamic range, expanded color accuracy and fidelity, plus reduced noise, all the way up to 12,800 ISO.”Fine Detail Processing” technology captures more details in every nuance
Lenses for Every Shooting Challenge
The Olympus PEN MICRO Four Thirds family features eight fully-compatible MICRO Four Thirds lenses. The legendary Olympus Zuiko Digital Four Thirds range of 27 high-quality lenses, OM-series and other manufacturers’ lenses can be attached to Olympus PEN cameras with optional adapters. The Olympus PEN E-P3 comes packaged with the movie and still compatible (MSC) ED m14-42mm II R f3.5/5.6 zoom lens (28mm-84mm equivalent)
Fast AF
To meet the demand for focusing speed, Olympus has introduced the FAST AF Tracking System. The FAST AF Tracking System features 35 focus points as well as Tracking AF to ensure fast and accurate focus each and every time
Low Light Performance
The E-P3 provides stellar low light performance with a combination of the AF illuminator, a built-in flash, and ISO up to 12,800
Fast Shutter Response
Never miss a shot again with fast shutter response time of less than 60 milliseconds
HD Movie Capture
A simple, one-touch button allows you to record movies with ease and simplicity, for up to 29 minutes of 1080i HD video. Choose between AVCHD or AVI for amazing clarity right from your camera
3.0″ Touch Screen OLED (614K dots)
The 3.0″ display is a touch interface that gives you the ability to choose AF points, release the shutter, and navigate menus. The VGA equivalent display lets you see richer detail and smoother images with higher contrast and richer blacks
Classic. Compact. All Metal.
A classic, compact, all metal body offers maximum portability for capturing stunning photos and videos anywhere you care to take it
Superior Image Quality
A large 12.3Mp Live MOS Image Sensor delivers the highest quality images. Take great photos in low-light environments thanks to the camera’s built-in flash, AF illuminator and ISO up to 12,800. To improve color and speed, the Olympus PEN E-P3 features the TruePic VI Image Processing Engine. Photos and HD videos taken with the PEN E-P3 will be crisp and clear thanks to three modes of in-body image stabilization. Image stabilization built into the camera’s body enables photographers to take advantage of this feature with every lens. The camera’s award-winning Supersonic Wave Filter patented Dust Reduction System vibrates to remove dust and other particles from the front of the image sensor, capturing it on an adhesive membrane every time the camera is turned on
Blazing Speed
The Olympus PEN E-P3 uses a variety of features to achieve speed rivaling that of the professional Olympus E-5 DSLR. Focus and shoot faster with the camera’s 12.3Mp Live MOS Image Sensor, TruePic VI Image Processor and FAST AF Tracking System. The Olympus PEN E-P3 offers 35 separate focus points spread over nearly the entire sensor, enabling the camera to pin-point focus accuracy on small subjects wherever they appear in the frame. Selectable 3×3 groups within the 35-point area are especially effective when shooting active subjects. The camera’s fast shutter response time ensures that you will never miss the shot, even in the toughest shooting environments
Creative Freedom
Olympus PEN series cameras put you in the director’s chair, offering even more freedom to the creative shooting experience and enabling instant experimentation, feedback and gratification. For the first time, the Olympus PEN E-P3 features full 1080 60i HD Video. Push the direct HD video button to instantly start filming your HD video with a choice between ACVHD and AVI formats with uncompressed CD-quality 16 bit/44.1KHz Linear PCM stereo recording or AC3 Dolby Digital AudioIn-camera features such as Art Filters, Multiple Exposure and In-Camera Editing enable photographers to capture the world as they see it. The Olympus PEN E-P3 features 10 Art Filters: Diorama, Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia and Dramatic Tone. The camera also features nine Art Filter variations and enhancements, including Pale and Light Color II, and five Art Filter Effects, including new Star Light and White Edge. The Art Filter Bracketing function helps you develop multiple pictures utilizing different Art Filters with a single shot, making it possible to experiment with several different photographic effects at the same time. Photographers can use Art Filters in all shooting modes: shutter priority, aperture priority, manual and program auto modes for expanded control. All Art Filters can be applied to both still shots and Standard Definition or HD movies. Art Filters set the Olympus PEN E-P3’s images and videos apart from the pack. Since they’re built into the camera, Art Filters can help you achieve dramatic results on the go without the need for a computer or editing softwareThe Olympus PEN E-P3 shoots dynamic 3D photos in any situation from macro to landscape. Recreate a sense of depth like that of the original scene. Simply select the 3D Photo Mode, release the shutter, and slowly pan until the camera automatically takes a second image from a slightly different perspective. The 3D data is processed in-camera resulting in an .MPO file, the universal industry 3D format for easy display on 3D televisions or laptops
Expanded Control Combined with Ease of Use
Controlling the Olympus PEN E-P3 is simple with its next-generation, three-inch, touch-sensitive 614,000 pixel OLED display. Consuming much less energy than the traditional LCD, this display has a wide 176 degree angle of view and is bright enough to compose images even in harsh midday light. With the camera’s intuitive graphic user interface and touch screen, it is easy to capture a picture, change camera settings or navigate the Live Guide controls by simply touching the screen. Going through a day’s photos is easy by scrolling through and enlarging photos with the tap of a fingerThe Olympus PEN E-P3’s built-in, pop-up flash makes it easy to illuminate low-light subjects, reduce red-eye and fill in dark areas. The camera is compatible with SDHC, SDXC and UHS-1 memory cards for greater speed and capacity and can be utilized with the Olympus PENPAL or various Eye-Fi cards for instant wireless uploads to your favorite social or photo sharing websitesOlympus has added a rotational dial, sub-dial and two function buttons to the back of the PEN E-P3 so photographers can make rapid changes to menu settings and maximize the camera’s performance. With a thumb, photographers can adjust aperture and exposure time in an instant without switching between menu selections. Hands-on shooters will appreciate the two customizable buttons they can assign to favorite functions. Photographers will appreciate how the camera’s mode dial enables access to basic settingsThe Level Gauge in the Olympus PEN E-P3 is a tremendous benefit for architectural photographers who must ensure that images of buildings are as centered and true as the walls of the buildings themselves. This feature detects the camera’s pitch and roll during Live View operation so photographers can make sure subjects appear where they should in the frame

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  1. We’ll start of with the greatness of this lens. This lens is the best constructed m4/3 yet. It is optically amazing and fast. The autofocus is ultra silent and quick (I only have Pani bodies). The feel of this lens is magnificent. When you pull back the ring to manual focus, it has hard stops and the focus speed is variable depending on how fast you turn the ring. While not up to the quality of Leica (what is?), this lens is a true gem. There are currently only 2 m43 lenses that go this wide (7-14 and 9-18) and they are bigger, heavier, and 2 stops slower. I am not sure why the m43 bunch is caught up on the 28mm length but this lens is a welcome step in the right direction.

  2. I would hang on to the EP2 and pick up the E-PL2 as a second body and that way you get an option of a tilt up screen?

  3. I have the EP3 for less than a week and really love it. Focus speed with the 17mm is “ok” but I don’t know if I an ready to spring for the 12mm. I am waiting for Steve’s thoughts on some real world shooting.

  4. Olympus EP-3 got a NEW sensor with several improvements including better ISO handling up to 12800. Have not read all the posts but the first ones claims same sensor, and this is wrong. Digitalrev tv on shows comparison on autofocous with Nikon D7000 and EP-1 vs EP-3 ISO comparison and there are big differences. One other test on youtube iv just seen shows that the EP-3 has faster autofocus than Canon 7D which is impressive, EP-3 new processor checks autofocus 120 times pr second.

    It`s all the small changes that are not visible that makes this a much powerfull camera than the E-P1. More processor power means much faster autofocus, better picture processing, much faster handling of filters and startup time.

      • Yes, all sites that I’ve read say that it is the same old sensor with minor tweaks and new processing engine. They do say that focusing is very fast which is nice improvement and is now on par with panasonic and entry level DSLRs but doesn’t change the fact that they are using the same 4 year old sensor while Panasonic has made 2 new sensor since.

        If things were the same I would buy Olympus because I think that they have long history in photography and are not huge corporation like panasonic but to be quite hones, in the end they all have a goal to sell cameras and I don’t want to pay extra money for nice make-up and old components

      • Elaine, you’ve mentioned twice now that you wish they’d put an APS-C sensor into the PEN cameras, but how would it still be m4/3 then ??

        The larger area of the APS-C sensor would mean all the current lenses than a m4/3 user already has would render with a black circle due to not being designed for the area of the bigger sensor. So everyone would have to buy all new lenses for a new camera and that just doesn’t make much sense to me.

        Strength of m4/3 is that there are a bunch of great lenses from several brands. NEX is great for a larger sensor but the selection of native glass is weak at the moment, and also due to covering a larger sensor, the lenses themselves need to be larger.

  5. Very spiffy looking camera, almost hits that gotta have desire the old half frame PEN SLRs give me to this day. I love that little 24mm too!.

    However I could not stomach that price thinking about the Nex7 over the horizon, or Nex-C3 now. Heck even the X100 kinda sours the EP3 in my mind; its sensor is just too damn old and under performing to the likes of APS-C in the same price bracket. Olympus will always have their fanboys to fill their coffers like Ricoh does; so I guess it wast marketed to the likes of me; A proud M9, Nex3 and F200EXR owner; I get ‘around’ as a consumer in that way marketers loathe.

    • Sure other systems have better IQ, but does IQ alone make one want to pick up a camera and shoot ? Sure its fun for a day or two to walk around snapping at everything and then looking at the files 100% in PS, but then what ? After the “wow, the files are so clean” newness wears off or the “look how sexy this camera looks” phase is over, then your left with how well it actually works, how are its ergonomics, features, lens selection and more.

      I’ve had the NEX5 and its a fantastic camera but just tired of waiting for native glass. Had the X100 as well and got tired of the quirks with the focus and framing.

      Picked up a GH2 (and also EP3) and while they certainly don’t have the same IQ, in terms of the big picture I’m finding I like shooting with them more. Got a good choice of lenses with more out very shortly. 12mm f2.0, 25mm f1.4, 45mm 1.8 etc. Very fast and accurate AF, no issues with shooting buffers, waiting for the camera to power up etc. They just plain both work and take pretty good images overall.

      Comes down to whats more important overall, having a camera that performs as you’d expect it to with some nice affordable lens in focal lengths you want or maximum IQ ?

      I’m not saying either choice is more right or wrong, but for me, when I stepped back and really looked at it, it was obvious that I’d rather have a camera that lets me enjoy taking more pictures of more things much easier. I’m not even printing anything I shoot most of the time, usually its just a web photo shared with friends. Heck, my iPhone works for that many a times.

      After I did all the comparison shots with my Nikons again the NEX, X100’s, M9 etc, and opened all the side by side 100% views in PS, and wasted lots of time looking at edge performance etc, got down to simply shooting some photos and I found those things really didn’t matter that much to me.

      I was like when I was young and used to spend tons of money on my car. Custom exhaust, headers, all that stuff. Thousands of dollars for a little extra performance that maybe you’d only see on the track. Driving down the road going 50 mph is rushhour traffic hardly mattered. That was the real world I drove in, not on a racetrack after all.

      Now I could care less about what my car looks like, who it impresses etc. I want good milage, safety, room for kids etc. Things change, things that once seemed important when your all wrapped up in a certain world sometimes no longer matter.

      Differences in certain models at iso800 viewed at 100% become that way for me. They just stopped being that important. They aren’t going to make or break an image.

      A well composed shot with any camera on the market is still going to be a great photo. Just about using what feels and works best in your hand.

      If for example your a shooter than loves a VF, then no matter how great of files the NEX produces, your not going to like it.

      Whats the good of the IQ of its sensor if you never take pictures with it because you don’t bond with the camera ??

  6. I’ve got the 12mm f2.0 now in addition to the 14mm f2.5 and I’m so torn. I love the looks of the 12mm on my black EP3, but hate is flashy chrome on my GH2 (not sure if I”m keeping GH2 or EP3 for that matter)

    The 14mm f2.5 is about $500 cheaper and more than half the size and weight as well, and still very very good optically. Its an impressive little ‘lens caps’ lol.

    24 vs 28mm isn’t really that huge of difference, nor is half a stop of extra speed. I like the solid build of the Oly 12, but I also love the feather weight of the 14mm

    I thought the MF ability was going to be cool, but honestly, both GH2 and EP3 focus so fast and accurate I’m not really using MF, and given the massive DOF of a 12mm lens anyways, its not like you really have to do much to zone focus it as your basically already at hyperfocal.

    No point in keeping them both but which one to keep……… driving me crazy

  7. Just a quick note to suggest that your test for AF speed may not necessarily reflect AF speeds in real world situations (ie. if you were testing more in-depth would prefer to see it with a more telephoto lens, larger working aperture and greater distances between objects).

    Who knows how Olympus does it’s algorithms, however with the test as you performed it, the lens would potentially not even need to adjust itself (ie. at the f8 you used the DOF of a 12mm lens on this camera means everything between 2 feet to infinity should be in focus anyway simply using the hyperfocal point with no further adjustments required).

  8. Hola desde Mexico!!!
    Hi Steve, congrats in ur last workshop by the next one, for sure i will have my US VISA PASS, i am watting for the next one,…now on this ep3…how about a match EP3/12mmf2 vs Fuji X100…it is a fair fight or what do u think??

  9. Love the site, can’t wait to see more about this body/lens combo! Maybe in the full review you can see if you can go 5 minutes without mentioning the Leica M9, that’d be nuts!

  10. I am looking forward to your review and hope to hear your thoughts on how it compares to the x100. I’m debating between the E-P3 with the 12mm and/or the Panasonic Leica 25mm, or the Fuji X100. It will be great to hear the opinion of someone who has shot with both.

  11. Hi Steve,

    Could you test the Voigtlander 25mm 0,95 on the EP3? I know is in stock now in the US and it would be interesting to see your opinion.

  12. I’m loving my 12mm. It’s probably the finest AF lens I’ve ever owned. If you like the Pentax DA Limited’s this new Oly 12mm is one step up from those IMO. It takes equally great build quality and adds a silent and FAST autofocus motor. I still can’t get over how fast it focuses with the E-P3. It is equally a joy to use in manual focus mode thanks to the MF clutch. Absolutely love it. I can’t wait until Oly has an entire set of these. I want a 22mm/1.4, a 45mm/1.4, and a 70mm/1.4 to go along with the 12mm ASAP.

  13. Loved your short video but you have ruined me by flashing that M9 my friend! Come bring your wife out to Hawaii so we can all get together and maybe just maybe she can encourage my wife to accept an M9 purchase! Anyway, really looking forward to yur comments and direction with the EP3

  14. In one of the previous threads you said “Panasonic, at least IMO, is dropping the ball and letting Oly overtake them in the best of the M4/3 bodies. ”

    What do you mean by this? Panasonic developed new sensor for G3 which according to all reviews has superior image quality in every aspect than previous 4/3sensors while Olympus just put the same old sensor in slightly more stylish bodies and is charging 300 dolars more than Panasonic. It should be about image quality and inovation surely and not about packag?

    • Well when I tried out the G3 I really disliked the cheap feel of the body as well as the shape. To me, the G2 was much better in this regard. The menu system was odd and it did nothing for me. The GF2 was the same thing. GF1 was great, the GF2 body was awful IMO. I have not seen any new Panasonics that wowed me. I tried the GH2 and also was not a fan. Had it for 3 weeks but could not get into it.

      WIth Oly I love the body style of the E-P1-3. They are solid, feel great and the controls are just how they should be for a camera like this. The new lenses rock, the in body IS is great, the sensor cleaning is wonderful, the IQ is really really good enough for 98% of shooters and the fun things like art filters add to the experience.

      Looking at the latest from Panny and then from Oly, I would have to stick on the Oly side. BUT as with everything else, just MY opinion. I guess I am kind of like a movie reviewer…most never agree with them as everyone is different.

      • Thanks for the reply. I agree that body design of Oly ep-1,2,3 is attractive, I borrowed friend’s e-p2 for a short trip and image quality is nice but coming from Canon 5dmkII nothing special really. I am interested in more portable camera but my main concerns are image quality, price and some things that make composition easier-EVF and swivel screen and it looks that either panasonic g3 or sony a 33 fits this description better. I think that Olympus is cashing on the style over substance way too much but then what to say about Leica. Different priorities I guess.

        Thanks again for your reply

        • Leica has style and substance! Best 35mm digital and lenses you can buy IMO. 🙂 I have a 5DII here testing something out and it just sits due to its massive size, loud shutter and heavy weight. Id take the M9 or PEN or RCOH over it any day when heading out the door and my images would not suffer in the slightest. Again, all personal opinion! See how we all differ? Thanks for YOUR comments! Always welcome.

          • There is a difference between personal opinion, belief and preference and clever marketing but offcourse it is your website and nice to see that it is succesfull

        • Speaking as a G3 owner – the G3’s strengths are small size, light weight, and great composition tools.. I get better pictures than my GF1, and it’s easier to compose unusual angles and wide-angles thanks to the EVF and swivel screen. So much so that I’ve grown fond of “ugly duckling” form factor because I know it’s going to work with me to give me great pictures, and it’s light enough I hardly notice it hanging from a neck strap.

          But the technical image quality doesn’t match my fiancee’s A550 or my brother’s D90 – both beat it from a sheer technical perspective. But I can’t stand to use either of their cameras, (and they can’t stand trading DSLRs with each other!). I personally get no joy from DSLRs, and without joy I don’t find myself taking great pictures. The G3’s a nice sweet spot that lets me do my best work.

          • I agree. Olympus has restyled the camera, which is nice, but with the same sensor. That drives me nuts. I wish they’d put an APS-C sensor in the thing. I like the ergonomics, and the 12mm lens. I don’t like the sensor so much now that other cameras have APS-C sensors in them like the Fuji, Leica, Samsung and Sony. D-SLRs may be big, but they do deliver.

            I have been on the fence with the Olympus series for a long time. Each time they come out with yet another camera, I think about getting it. But the sensor is a deal killer for me. This is why I chose the Sony. I love the Sony NEX series because of the sensor, not so much the kit lenses, as I do see their limitations, but I have taken some beautiful photos with the kit lenses. Imagine what a better lens combo will do? Also, I have the ability to use different lenses on it. Some people scoff at this, but again. I’ve seen some beautiful pictures from the Sony. So, Olympus has the cool factor that I like, but Sony has the sensor that I love. The menu issues are gone for me with the Sony. I find it super easy to use. Olympus filters are cool, but again, the sensor. Argh! it’s hard to go backwards in sensor size.

        • I agree Steve…I’m selling my 5dII on ebay right now with all my gear, in part due to seeing sites like yours. I’ve got the Fuji X100 and that’s going to be my 35mm lens. Then, I’m going to get a M9 with a 50mm for my Leica system! no more clunky camera!

      • Hi Steve, how is the E-P3’s dynamic range and metering? I have a GF1 and G3, and it seems to me that the G3’s dynamic range isn’t any better than the GF1. However, the G3’s metering does a much better job of working within the sensor’s DR limits, giving much more consistent results than the GF1 in contrasty conditions; it’s almost like it’s given me an additional stop of DR in actual pictures. I’m curious if the E-P3 has made similar strides.

      • I totally agree regarding the Panasonic bodies! I’ve only experience with the GF1 and loved it. With both GF2 and GF3 I have lost interest in Panasonic and decided to sell my GF1 and instead I’ve gotten the X100. Haven’t looked into the G/GH-bodies. I’m curious about what Panasonic will do later in regard to the rangerfinder style/OVF-body rumors, but if I were to buy a new M43 today it would probably be the E-P3 with the 12mm lens. I like the design and look, but haven’t seen it in real life yet.

        On a side note, I tried to get into street photography with the GF1 but felt the shutter sound was too loud. Hope they manage to make it more quiet. My D7000 is more quiet…

    • This is wrong, there are both a new sensor in E-P3 and new processor that kick ass compared to the painfully slow E-P1

  15. Hi Steve, I just picked up the ep3 with the 17mm yesterday. I am going to try to shoot native square ratio with an eyefi card directly connected to an iPhone, sort of a hybrid approach to iphoneography I suppose. I looked at the 12mm and was tempted, it would be nice if Olympus gave I the option of purchasing a body only but the 17mm looks pretty cool for now anyway. I have to admit I am dizzy from all the menu items. I also have a D700. I am anxious to read your fine thoughts and suggestions to using the EP3 in the real world.

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