The Olympus E-P3 and 12mm f/2 lens Review
By Steve Huff
I can not believe I am sitting here writing a review for the new Olympus E-P3. Why? Well, it seems like just a few days go that I was writing about the E-P1 and then the E-P2, man…how time flies by!
Here we are with an E-P3 already and this time Olympus seems to have a semi-winner (more on that statement later). The camera has gone through some cosmetic changes, has gotten some speed enhancements, a couple of new “pro” style lenses, a touch screen OLED display, a built in flash, and a few other new things like high ISO capability and added Art filter effects. Olympus calls the sensor “new” but the image quality is just about exactly the same as the E-P1 and E-P2, so not so sure what the new sensor has added besides speed and higher ISO.
NOTE: ALL images in the review are OUT OF CAMERA JPEGS. NO RAW files were used because at the time of this writing there was no way to convert the RAW’s using Photoshop or Lightroom (what I use).
CLICK ON IMAGES TO SEE THEM HOW THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SEEN!
Chicago 2011 – E-P3, 12mm, f/2
Some argue it has better Dynamic Range but honestly, I have not seen anything different while shooting. Others say it has better color. I beg to differ. In fact, I think it has the same color as the E-P2 and E-P1, both of which had that “Olympus” color style. The E-P3 is no different.
As most of you may know, I was and still am a huge fan of the E-P2 and my one and only wish for an E-P3 was for a built in EVF. Something like the one in the Fuji X100 would have been sweet, but it appears Olympus has decided they want to still sell the external EVF which makes the camera all huge and much less portable. Hell, I have been wishing for a built in EVF since the E-P1! I feel that something like a nice and solid metal built E PEN series camera with a built in EVF would be a camera to contend with. Also, a swivel LCD like they have put in the new E-Pl3 camera that is coming out soon. THIS, to me, would have made me sell all of my cameras (besides the M9-P) and just keep the PEN as my take anywhere compact.
STATEMENT: All images in this review were shot as in camera JPEGS. No RAW images were used because at the time of this writing, lightroom or photoshop could not read the E-P3 RAW files.
The E-P3 with the 12mm lens. Shot my son Brandon on an Airplane as we travelled to Chicago.
E-P3. NEW SENSOR OR SAME SENSOR?
I have been shooting with the E-P3 and new 12mm f/2 lens for a while now and can say with 100% confidence that this is the best PEN camera and best Micro 4/3 lens to date. It is indeed an improvement to the E-P2 in many ways but it seemed at first that they were using the same old 12MP sensor (with new tropic 6 processing) that they used in the E-P1 and E-P2. It seems some websites are saying the sensor is new, and others are saying it is the same. I finally saw this from Olympus:
“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 new 12.3-megapixel Live MOS Image Sensor, TruePic VI Image Processor and new 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.”
So this appears to be a new sensor this time around but the IQ seems about the same as the previous PEN cameras which means that you will still get better image quality from the APS-C and full frame sensor cameras.
“Thats Hot” – This is the comment I get the most when I take out this set…
I’m getting great quality though but in my opinion, what is bringing the IQ of the PEN series up is this new 12mm lens BUT as I just stated, the overall IQ of the E-P3 is NOT up there with APS-C sized sensor cameras, though it is the best IQ I have seen in an Oly PEN camera. As for the new 12mm, I have not done any scientific testing (I never do) but from the real world photos I have seen so far, it is sharp corner to corner, has great color and contrast, and has much better build and feel than any previous M4/3 lens. The silver looks stunning on the camera and the manual focus is smooth as butter (though still fly by wire). Even though it is expensive and IMO, $200 more than it should be, this new lens is a reason to buy the E-P3, it is indeed pretty slick.
I STILL LOOOVVVEE the built in Grainy Black & White art filter! This gives you a great almost film like B&W right out of camera. This was shot with the 12mm wide open at f/2 – click image for larger view!
The bottom line after my research shows that this IS indeed a new Live MOS sensor. As stated though, I am not sure what the new sensor brings to the table besides the speed and ISO enhancements. It is still 12MP and still giving us about the same image quality. The upgrades of the E-P3 are in its speed, startup time, OLED touch screen display, on board flash, new grip, art filter additions, etc.
More from Olympus…
Outstanding New Features:
- 12.3 MP Live MOS Sensor – Utilizing new 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 – This new image engine, designed specifically for the Olympus PEN, features Real Color Technology for improved color reproduction and faster speeds;
- FAST AF – To meet the demand for focusing speed, Olympus has introduced the new FAST AF Tracking System. The FAST AF Tracking System features 35 focus points as well as new Tracking AF to ensure fast & accurate focus each and every time;
- Low Light Performance – AF Illuminator / Built In Flash / ISO to 12,800;
- Fast Shutter Response – Never miss a shot again with fast shutter response time of less than 60 milliseconds;
- Full HD Movie – Shoot up to 29 minutes of full 1080i HD video in either AVCHD or AVI formats; and
- 3-inch 614,000 pixel OLED Touch screen – Bright high-resolution screen features a newly-designed touch interface that provides an innovative touch display solution.
THE WORLDS FASTEST AUTO FOCUS!?!? This is what Olympus claims!
The auto focus is indeed blazing fast with the new 12mm f/2 lens and is some of the fastest AF I have seen in any camera PERIOD! Remember the slow AF of the E-P1 and E-P2? Well, no more! The AF on the E-P3 is almost instant (when using the 12mm) and now passes the Panasonic equivalents. From what I understand though this is all lens dependent. The new lenses like the 12mm and 45 1.8 will focus fast on the E-P3 but slower on the E-P1 and E-P2. The older lenses will have some improvement on the E-P3 but they won’t be blazing like the new lenses.
The blazing AF at work…f/4 with the 12mm and E-P3 – The AF is almost instantaneous.
So to get the most out of the super fast AF, you will need the newest lenses with the E-P3. The new kit zoom also focuses fast, and is smaller (and cheaper feeling) than the previous versions. Olympus claims this 35 point AF system is the fastest in the world and the E-P3 shares the same AF speed as their flagship 4/3 DSLR, the E-5. In good light, the AF is wicked fast. As the light gets lower the AF slows down a bit but I have NO complaints at all with the AF. It is FAST and accurate. I have not had one shot out of focus with the E-P3!
You can set the camera to use all 35 AF points or you can do what I do and use the center point only. I ALWAYS use the center point because when I use multiple focus points what I want in focus is never in focus as the camera chooses something else to focus on.
E-P3, 12mm, f/4
12mm at f/2 indoor mid-day
The Olympus PEN Matures
They say the 3rd time is the charm and I have no doubt the next “pro” PEN will be even better than this one but it seems to me that the system as a whole is maturing. We finally have a sleek sexy body with fast AF, we are finally getting some amazing lenses like the SUPERB 12mm f/2, the $399 45 1.8 and the Panasonic/Leica 25 Summilux 1.4. Even the Olympus 14-150 is a great lens.
Panasonic recently released the new micro 4/3 G3 which I played around with a bit but was totally un-interested in due to the cheap feel and body style. In fact, I preferred the G2 to the GH2 and G3. It seems to me that Panasonic is going backwards after the superb GF1 and G2, but that is just my opinion. Olympus seems to be heading forward, at least with the E-P3.
Again, the grainy B&W mode gives us greg B&W tones direct from camera. I do not mind the grain. Perfection is over rated 🙂
The PEN series are all MICRO 4/3 cameras!
For those who found this review on google while searching for Olympus E-P3 info, the E-P3 is a micro 4/3 camera, which means the sensor size is a 4/3 sensor. This is the standard for these cameras and there are always limitations with the smaller than APS-C or full frame sensor. Usually these 4/3 cameras lack in Dynamic Range and high ISO shooting but they make up for it with small size, small lenses, and great quality. There is also a huge fun factor involved with the PEN series and I find it much more fun to shoot than the Sony NEX-5, Ricoh GXR, and yes, even the Fuji X100. The E-P3 is also getting much closer to the quality of APS-C sensors with what appears to be improved DR and high ISO noise performance. I guess the “tweaked” sensor paid off somewhat!
The other reason the E-P3 is so much fun is because when you hold it, there is a feeling of quality and with the 12mm lens it is a beautiful looking combo. The speed of the camera and lens also lends itself well to street shooting, wether using AF or the Manual Focus snap feature. THIS COMBO is better than any other combo in the M4/3 arena, if you can deal with a wide 24m equivalent lens.
Here is my 1st look video that I recently posted that shows the camera and lens in more detail.
Quality of the E-P3 with 12mm Lens, it is SUPERB!
FULL SIZE OUT OF CAMERA JPEG – 12mm f/2 – click image for the full size JPEG
At the park… – 12mm, wide open! The White Balance and color is great, OOC JPEG!
Up close you do get some slight barrel distortion but remember that this is a really wide angle lens! The character of the lens is sharp, medium contrast, and with gorgeous color. The shot below is another in B&W mode but shows the distortion you can expect when shooting up close.
The 12mm at f/4
and this time at f/5.6…
The expensive $799 12mm lens Olympus has released is a beautiful lens, and actually pushes the limits of the E-P3 sensor. The build is nice but it is not Leica like. It is more Zeiss ZM like but much nicer in build and looks than ANY other Micro 4/3 lens to date. The silver color and all metal build is striking on the camera and while reviewing this camera and lens combo, I was approached a few times by people asking me what this cool camera was I was carrying. It is after all a VERY lovely looking piece of kit.
As for you guys, the questions I have been getting in my e-mail inbox is “Is this a good buy for $799?”, “Is the lens worth the high cost?”, and “how is the quality of this lens?”
The answer to these questions is simple. The price of $799, I feel, is a bit much. I think if Olympus released this at $599 it would be been a home run MUST BUY hit. At $799 it is a but much BUT, it is IMO the best lens made for Micro 4/3 to date. It has super fast focus for still AND silent fast focus for video. It’s build is solid and metal but the lens is still light, the manual focus feature where you snap the focus ring back for manual and to the front for full AF is genius. It seems like a wonderful street lens…leagues better than the kit zoom or 17mm. BUT for much less you can buy the wonderful Panasonic 14mm (my review of that lens on the E-P2 is HERE).
There is no question that this lens is a great quality piece of glass, BUT again…for $329 you can buy the Panasonic 14mm (28mm equivalent) and it is also a fantastic lens. Not as slick looking, not as fast of AF, not as wide (4mm equiv difference) and not as nicely built but it is $329 vs $799. Still, if money is not of a concern I would buy the Olympus 12mm lens if you are buying the E-P3. Me, personally, I would choose the 12mm just for that extra 4mm AND the snap focus feature that turns it from an Auto Focus to Manual Focus lens in an instant but I enjoy QUALITY camera gear as this is my #1 hobby AND my job. Nice gear inspires me to shoot it. This lens is no different. Quality wise, I have ZERO complaints with this 12mm lens. If you have the funds and want the coolest lens for your E-P camera and want a wide angle 24mm equivalent, then GO FOR IT! B&H seems to have it in sock most of the time HERE. Remember, every single image in this review was shot with the 12mm and E-P3.
My Mother who has more energy than me hoola hooping in the street…
Up close to some fresh baked Banana Bread 🙂
Shot at f/2, colors right of the camera
Wide open once again but up close – This lens can focus down to 0.2 meters!
High ISO Performance
One (slight) improvement of the E-P3 is that Olympus now gives us the opportunity to crank up to ISO 12,800 like the big gun SLR’s. Yes, 12,800! BUT… usually these cameras are not usable at these crazy high ISO’s (and the E-P3 is no different). The only camera I ever seen with truly incredible high ISO performance is the super pro Nikon D3s. With that said, the E-P3 does seem to do a little better at higher ISO… better than I see from the E-P2. It appears that in the JPEGS the camera does some aggressive Noise Reduction and many times the images are soft and somewhat smudgy. The lower the light of course, the more smudgy the results. But isn’t this the time when we want to use HIGH ISO the most?
Below are a few samples at higher ISO…make sure you click an image for a much larger view…
ISO 1600 – Panasonic 20 1.7 at 1.7 – Candle Light was the only light source – Converted from RAW
ISO 1250 – f/2 – click for larger
ISO 1600 – f/2 – click for larger and to see 100% crop
ISO 6400 – f/2 – click for larger
ISO 1600, f/2
TURN OFF THE IN CAMERA NOISE REDUCTION FOR MORE DETAIL IN YOUR HIGH ISO SHOTS!
ISO 3200 with NR turned OFF. Click images for larger view.
Below: ISO 12,800 – No noise reduction!
Overall I see an improvement over the E-P2, and just to have a somewhat usable ISO 6400 mode on the PEN is an achievment in itself. Not sure how much Olympus can further push the envelope with the Micro 4/3 sensor format but this is about as good as I have seen it. Bravo!
The E-P3 and 1080 HD Video. Is it better than the E-P2?
The video of the E-P2 was good. 720P HD quality was good enough for me but the new E-P3 raises the game with 1080 HD video recording. The only problem is that the video now has the JELLO effect if you shake the camera even a little bit. I mean, if you move the camera too much when recording video the effect is pronounced. I will upload a video here in the next day or two to show you this effect. If you plan on shooting video, I would recommend using a tripod or keep it REALLY steady when handheld or else you will get the odd effects that most DSLRS give you.
Other than that the video quality is really superb. Check out the clip below, and check out the lower light stuff where I shot some stuff at the Aquarium in Chicago.
UPDATE! If you turn off the in camera I.S. the Jello effect pretty much goes away. Here is another video of samples, including a low light sample.
The famous Olympus “ART FILTERS”!
The E-P1 had the 1st Art Filters from Olympus. The E-P2 expanded on these and now the E-P3 expands on them even more! We now have a slew of them with some old favorites and new twists on the old favorites.
The included filters are: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale and Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Gentle Sepia, Cross Process, Dramatic Tone.
My favorite is still the grainy B&W and that is really the only filter I use with the PEN. I occasionally will use the Cross Process or Dramatic Tone but for me, the Grainy B&W is THE Art Filter to use! Here are a few shots using some of the filters..
POP ART with Pinhole effect added
One with the kit zoom…
STREET shooting with the E-P3 and 12mm f/2 lens.
I took the E-P3 and 12mm with me for my 24 hour Las Vegas trip where I was reviewing the new Sony NEX-C3 but I have to admit, I had MUCH more fun with the E-P3 and 12mm. The E-P3 is a joy to use, hold and shoot. The AF is lightning fast and when walking the streets it is so fast you can just raise and shoot. I tested it out in combination with the B&W Art Filter which makes for a nice gritty rendering. I feel the 12mm makes for a GREAT street lens though it can be a bit wide, making you get up close and personal with your subject. I would rather shoot the E-P3 for this kind of shooting over just about any other small format camera. Yes, over the NEX, the Panasonic GF series, etc. I can’t stress enough how awesome the 12mm f.2 lens is. Expensive but for me, well worth it. I kept my review samples of the E-P3 and 12mm, and yes I paid full price. That right there says it all.
Also, the manual snap feature of the 12mm is AMAZING! I had the camera set at 4 feet for some shots and the camera was REALLY instantaneous as it didn’t even have to AF. If I wanted my 4 foot pre-set distance I would just pull the focus ring back. If i wanted my AF back I would push it back forward. This is a genius implementation and what makes the 12mm lens worth owning.
Some samples, click for larger. All shot at night and all should be wide open at f/2
A quick comparison of the 12mm f/2 vs the Sony NEX-C3 and 16mm – Both 24mm Equivilant lenses
I had a Sony NEX C3 here for a few days and did a quick comparison snapshot with it and the 16mm kit lens, which is also a 24mm equivalent. Many were telling me that the C3 had better corner performance, even with the kit lenses and from what i found after taking about 30 comparison shots is that it does NOT have any improvement over the NEX-3 or 5 in regards to corner sharpness with the kit lenses. Below are two shots. One taken with the NEX-C3 and 16mm at 2.8 and the other with the E-P3 and 12mm at 2.8. The NEX C3 and 16 has the soft blurred corners that we saw with the NEX 3 and 5 and this lens. The E-P3 is share corner to corner.
and a 100% crop – YOU MUST click the image for the larger size and full 100% crop view
My eyes are telling me that the Olympus is kicking the pants off of the NEX in this test, but it should! The E-P3 and 12mm combo is $1700. The NEX-C3 is $599, and the Sony 16mm is known for being soft. I just wanted to show this so people do not thing the NEX C3 is giving better corner performance with the kit lenses. Still soft as ever. If you stop down the 16,, to 5.6 it sharpens up nicely but at 2.8 it is soft.
The E-P3 vs all the others…and the bottom line conclusion.
I KNOW I will get asked “Which one should I buy”?, or “Is the E-P3 worth the upgrade from an E-P2”? Well, in comparison to the Fuji X100 or Ricoh GXR system with 28mm 2.5 module, the E-P3 with 12mm lens is more expensive than either. The Fuji comes in at $1199 while you can snag the beautiful Ricoh & 28 for $950 or so. The E-P3 with the 12mm lens is coming in at $899 plus $799 for a total of $1600. Quite pricey for a micro 4/3 camera system. Maybe this is why I felt that the Panasonic G3 seemed “cheap”…(because it is priced much lower).
The E-P3 is a camera like no other though. When I shoot with any PEN camera I have FUN. The camera inspires me to take it with me at all times. Its small, sleek, thin and light. The out of camera JPEGS are very good and many times I shoot it just with the B&W art filter as I really love the look it gives. But the big question is IMAGE QUALITY! How does the E-P3 compare to the other cameras? Well, in all reality it is up there and close but you will still get better overall image quality from the X100, X1, and Ricoh GXR. You will get a bit better Dynamic Range from the larger sensors as well but I can say that with all of the new enhancements in the E-P3, this is the best micro 4/3 camera to date…IN MY OPINION. The Dynamic Range of the E-P3 is the best of the Micro 4/3 cameras I have seen to date, in real world use, not charts.
The high ISO capability is indeed better, the camera is MUCH MUCH faster, the new OLED display is gorgeous (though can have a green tint when looked at on an angle), and I think that the new 12mm lens is the best M4/3 lens to date. If you are invested in the Micro 4/3 system then this camera is a worthy upgrade to all of the PEN cameras that came before it. This IS the PEN Flagship (at the time of this writing) so if you have an E-P1 it is 100% worth the upgrade. If you have an E-P2 you have to ask yourself if all of the new features and speed is worth the upgrade cost. I think it is. The new flash, the touch screen (which is actually pretty damn cool), the new dual core processor for speed, the new true pic 6 engine that allows for better processing and higher ISO use, and the new Olympus made sensor that while is still 12MP, does offer some improvements, again in ISO, Dynamic Range and color.
I have not yet been able to process any RAW files so it is tough to see if the DR is enhanced much over the E-P2 (I could easily tell with a RAW file). The bottom line is that the new E-P3 and 12mm lens is as good as it gets in the Micro 4/3 world for taking photos in every area. Body style, build, and output. Period!
Out of camera JPEG/Color!
UPDATE AFTER SHOOTING MORE WITH THE E-P3, AND buying my review sample!
So I have now had the E-P3 for a while and have been shooting with it EVERY DAY. Yes, even my Leica M9P has been sitting lonely on the shelf and today as I drove around with E-P3 in hand I asked myself what the heck I was doing? I have this work of art camera at home, the camera I adore and love, but I had been bringing out the E-P3 and 12mm with me every where instead! As I pondered the question I knew the answer but did not want to admit it or say it aloud. I mean, I am preferring taking out the little half frame E-P3 over m gorgeous and new $8,000 M9-P and the worlds best 50, the Leica 5o Summilux? Well, for the past 3 weeks I have indeed been enjoying the E-P3 more and I will tell you why.
- It’s SO small and light, even more so than the M9.
- It’s so quick and easy. I can raise the camera at any time and it focuses and fires almost instantly.
- The IQ is not up to the M9 league, no way…BUT it is VERY good and for my “snapshots” and family stuff it is more than enough.
- I can shoot JPEG and get superb quality! No messing with RAW files.
- It’s 12 MP, so the files are fast and easy to work with.
- The 12mm is one damn fine lens all the way around. After using it more and more I find it is worth the asking price. Not one regret in buying it. (though my wallet says otherwise)
- The out of camera color, in the right lighting is stellar. Auto white balance is the best Ive seen in any M4/3 cam as is exposure. Wow.
- MOVIES! I have been shooting more personal video lately and may actually do a whole project/mini documentary with the E-P3, 12mm, 25 1.4, and 45 1.8.
- The cool factor is also there in its look, feel…this IS the best Micro 4/3 camera to date IN MY OPINION!
WHERE TO BUY?
If you want to buy one, B&H sells them in Black, white and silver. They also sell the 12MM lens. If you get one, let me know how you like it!
PROS AND CONS OF THE E-P3 AND THE 12MM F/2 LENS
- Loaded with new features over the E-P2!
- SUPER fast AF, finally! 35 point AF is a screamer! (with newest lenses)
- New built in flash
- New OLED Touch Screen Display
- New Dual Core Processor
- New Sensor
- Better HIGH ISO performance
- Still the same great E-P build and style
- Added video record button
- Added 1080 HD Recording
- Mode dial now on the right with other controls
- Olympus finally releasing “pro” lenses
- New 12mm is best M4/3 lens to date in fit, finish, and performance
- New menu system is clean and easy to navigate
- Seems like it has better Dynamic Range
- Expensive with the 12mm lens, but not so bad with the kit zoom at $899.
- No built in EVF included. Again.
- No tilt/swivel LCD..again.
- High ISO can get a but smudgy but color stays good, turn off noise reduction for best results.
- Battery lasts for about 300 shots due to new focus system eating up the battery life.
- Jello effect in video is pretty pronounced this time around but if you turn off IS it goes away.
- Even with the new Dual Core processor, it is still choppy when recording video using some art filters (like B&W)
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Good job for the thorough review. I owned EP-3 with Panny 17mm f1.7 for almost 2 years. Photo shooting was superb. It’s on par almost with dsLR D60 or other entry level dslr. I am amazed with such a quick autofocus.
What I use nowadays are more into video photography. I find the auto focus is not good for video. One need to use manual or just could just me not too good in it.
Anyone can advise if you still using EP-3 for video? I am planning to go for GH3/GH4 in future.
I’d go E-M5II over a Gh4 any day for video. I shot them both side by side and due to the amazing new 5 Axis in the 5II, it excelled for video in all areas from quality to color to pro vibe due to the IS.
I sold my x100 & canon gear, yeah nuts, and picked up a PEN-2 with Kit Lens for $90 on ebay, also bought the Oly 12mm, and the cheapo 15mm f8 cap lens. I think the colour profile is a nice change from the red of canon, the blacks though rich tend to look plastic to me. For out and about it’s so easy to cart around pull out and shoot, a bargain for $90. I laugh watching others struggle with their DSLR’s on the street. For family, street, travel you can’t beat it and that Oly 12mm is superb, a little gem.
hai steve, i really interest with your review about olympus, i want to ask you , i want buy sony nex 6 or olympus pen ep3,i really confuse about both of them, can you give me the recomendation to me ? sony nex 6 or olympus pen ep3?
What do you feel the performance differences are between the E-P3 and the E-PM2. I am new to this and trying to learn the jargon. I have an E-PM1 and have had really good results with it.
Great review and you really brought out the beauty of the 12mm/F2 lens !
With regards to the more recent competitors how well do you think the EP3 stand now? I am now torn between the X20 and the EP3 for everyday shooting , both beautiful cameras. I shoot mainly street and landscapes. What are your thoughts on this?
Could you also give a short review on how well the kit lens and the 17mm pancake lens work on the EP3 as well? Singapore is giving a pretty attractive package for the both together with the body.
Looking forward to more reviews!
E-P3 beats the X20 easily. The 17 Pancake is good, but not “WOW” good. Renders in a flat way. I liked it but the other lenses are much nicer.
Great deal – Olympus E-P3 with 14-42 kit zoom lens is on sale for $369 only at Adorama. Here is the link=>http://www.adorama.com/IOMEP3B14.html
FULL PLASTIC BODY, covered by non-structural, thin metal external panels. PENs do not have metal bodies. The link below shows how all PEN models are constructed (it shows a different PEN model, but the construction is the same):
if one were to consider GX1 and EP3 – side by side – same lens and same shooting patterns – would one see a difference in the 16mp vs 12 mp and the true pic processing of Olympus vs that of LUMIX..
and thanks you steve for patiently putting all this together and getting the ideas and comments out – you are a true camera bodhisattva!!
In a nutshell….For low light shooting (Indoor uplights) , clear subject + blurred background, minimal photo blur when zoomed held by hand, which is better : OLYMPUS E-PL3 or Sony RX100 ?
Is it possible to shoot with mobile studio-flashlights ( example, elinchrom or falcon eyes 400wtt x2) with a Olympus Pen-EP3 or the E-PL5? I don’t know or the Pen-EP5 is coming anyway, maby then i should wait, but i don’t have the budget for the OMD-E5 right now, what my nr 1 wish is. So i thought in meantime,i go for the more little bit ‘professional skilled’ EP3 òr.. the epl5, which is a bit less “pro” then the E-Px version.
I love the manual settings and possibilities for using your own settings. I’m doing petphotography en portraits and i would like to make macro photo;s, from products. (Just for the fun i’m getting of it, i’m an advanced amateur and my dslr is getting to heavy and for street- and landscape photography it’s just like a stone what i’m “wearing” with me..)
So dear Steve, what kind of systemcamera ( non looking dslr) would u advice and is compatible with a home studio flashlight system? I mean, is that possible anyway with one of the PEN’s?
‘Cause if it’s not, then the omd must be the one..
I read a lot of reviews form forums, photosites, YOU of course ;-), but i can’t find any information about the use with portable lights.
Many thanks for your help. I’m a big fan from your website and almost everyday there 🙂
Greets from Jacqueline Herbert from the Netherlands!
Thanks for the review. I am planning to upgrade my 2006 (?) Evolt E-300. I see “Canon(s)” and “Nikons” everywhere in India but Olympus is really for those who love it !
I almost came back from Digital store to read some more reviews. But now, I know what I want to buy !
Hi Steve i was wondering what your thoughts were for an aspiring photographer who wants to step up from everyday point and shoots. I’m trying to decide on a good entry level camera. I’ve looked at the Nikon d3100 and am also interested in Micro 4/3. I have been shooting for about 2 years now. Any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks!
Olympus OM-D and good lenses
Fuji X-E1 and 14, 35mm
Sony NEX-5R or 6
All great cameras
Hi Steve! Thanks for the review, it was a joy to read. I’ve recently purchased the camera. However, I’ve had alot of difficulties in focusing. Currently I’m using the basic 14-42mm lens kit and I’ve a problem capturing portraits. The photos are always blur despite me half-pressing the shutter button for better focus. Can you kindly advise the ‘ideal’ settings to capture moving people as the ones you’ve taken of the kits above? Thanks!
The E-P3 and Kit Zoom – yo will need good light to get a shutter speed fast enough to capture a sharp image so make sure you are outdoors. Also you say you have an issue capturing a portrait but then ask for setting to capture moving people. So if you are trying to capture moving people portraits you are using the wrong lens. It is not really any setting in the camera but making sure you gave enough light and a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the movement. Seeing that the kit zoom is a slow aperture lens will make this harder. A lens like the Panasonic 20 1.7 would help quite a bit, or the Olympus 12mm, 45, etc.
I’ve been looking at getting a mirrorless camera recently and it’d be great if i could get some advise on the following cameras (under US$1000).
I am currently considering, for cameras with interchangable lens, the Panasonic Gx1, Olympus-PL3 and Olympus P3. Didn’t see any reviews for the first two on your site but am hoping you’d be able to help me a little in my decision. I’ve read that Oly-PL and the Oly-PL3 are pretty similar just that the latter is more compact and has the flip-out LCD screen which i do like very much for i am quite short haha. I am not looking to shoot in very low light conditions or very high speed (maybe just my cats moving about), but i’d love a camera with more vibrant colours. Would Panasonic or Olympus produce better images and colour? And which has better lenses?
As for cameras with no interchangable lens but with zoom, the Fuji x-10 caught my eye cause of the view finder, the pretty looks and the colours i saw in your review of it. Also, the Canon G1X (Would you be doing a review about it?) cause of the rugged exterior, the big sensor in a small body, everything that people who love it rave about except for the slow Autofocus. Is the autofocus rate on it really that slow, unsuitable for capturing images even on the street or is it about the same as the Fuji x-10? If so, which is awesomer?!
I’ve been reading some of your reviews and they are the best i’ve read so far and all your photos are so beautiful they make me want to buy all the cameras you review but that’s impossible so i’m hoping you can help me out. Thanks in advance!
i have been reading your blog and recommendations for a long time now. i do now own a silver with black leather skin for my EP3 to make it looking more like the omd series which is too sexy but expensive due to budget constrain! Can you reply to my email at firstname.lastname@example.org as i would have more questions to ask!
Right now may i ask for your opinion for a olympus 17mm f/2.5 lens…? as i have budget constrain on getting the 20mm lens! Is it really stupid of me to get the 17mm lens?
The 17 is softer than the 20 and slower. If you can stretch it, the 20 1.7 is a much better lens.
very good review. I was waiting for the OM-D while selling my 4/3 cameras and lenses. Since the OM-D is still not out for delivery (B&H, Adorama) I opted for a refurbished E-P3 and I”m really happy with it and saved $300. What was planned as an intermediate camera will now be a long term solution.
I paired the 12mm (also refurbished, $120 saved) with the Pana 20mm, Sigma 30mm and the 45mm, for super wide I got the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye. This is a nice prime setup and very light in weight.
For the E-P3 I prefer the (optional) bigger grip, it is more comfortable when using longer lenses (i.e. Pana 100-300mm) and it doesn’t bother me with the small pancake lens.
I always liked your unbiased and straight forward reviews, you add some tummy feeling to your rating and that is what we like to hear from pros.
Hi Steve can you tell me if it is possible to isolate one colour in say a black and white photo with the EP3. Cheers Cindy
Thanks for your review. I’ve read a bunch of reviews and come to the conclusion that I want a pen. I have been offered great prices for an EP3 or an EPL3 and I’m having trouble deciding between the two. I want the camera for travelling which makes me think that the compactness of the EPL3 would be better, but my understanding of it is that the reason its lighter is because it doesnt have a full metal body or a built-in flash and I’m worried that a drop in price = a drop in quality. Then again it seems from my reading that picture quality is equivalent and it has its own benefits like the tilting screen and size. I was wondering if you have an opinion on the EPL3.
Hi Steve, I really like your blog. There’s something about the art filters that not everyone realises I guess. With the software that you get with every pen model (Olympus viewer2) you will be able to add EVERY olympus art filter including the borders to your raw file! So If yoy just shoot in raw you can see later what art filter suits your photo best. This also means that you can purchase any pen model because the in camera art filters can be added later in pp.
I hope this will help people make a good choise.
Sadly, since posting my previous comment re focusing, I found a review that described exactly the same problem. I wish I had seen that review before purchasing the camera. I had read reviews praising the cameras quick/accurate focusing and chose it over others with a more “current” sensor for that reason. But inconsistent operation (focusing) is probably the worst fault a camera (or anything) can have. You can adjust for a known fault but you can’t do anything to correct for a random focus problem that (according to the review I read) needs a firmware upgrade to correct. I’m very disappointed in this camera (and the 2k+ USD I spent on it and lenses).
Here’s the review that mentions the problem that exactly mimics what I have been experiencing.http://www.digitalcamerareview.com/default.asp?newsID=4779&p=3
Well…I loved my EP3 but I have noticed that sometimes when it focus locks, the subject is actually not in focus. I use the center sensor and, using the 45mm Oly lens, I have found that outside in good light, focusing on the same object at the same range, sometimes the subject it incredibly sharp and sometimes it is quite soft.
I can’t come up with why this is happening. Yesterday I was outside and I was using aperture priority, each shot was at the same F1.8 setting, IS is off, shutter speed around 1/1000, etc. I shot some pics of a garden gnome (no, not a real one, a statue!) from about 4 feet distance. Some of the pics show every pore/crack in the concrete and are sharp enough to cut you; some of them look like they were intentionally shot with very soft focus.
Can’t figure it out but I have gone from thinking the EP3 is really great to wondering if it should go on ebay and I’ll go back to my Nikon DSLR that I was glad to no longer be carrying around. 🙁
THis may be a dumb question, but I can’t seem to find the answer anywhere (here or youtube or olympus etc.). Let’s say you have a tree in a field in the viewfinder and you want to zoom in on it / magnfify it. Is that done with a button on the camera or is it done by rotating the lens to get the tree “bigger” in the viewfinder before taking the picture.
Thanks. Your review was very helpful and I’m 99% sure is the camera for me. I will have to buy online since nobody actually has one near me in a store.
G’day from Australia, Steve. Great review of the E-P3 and great site as well. I came across it for the 1st time last night while searching for reviews of the M9. I currently use an E-P1 and was looking at the 12mm f2.0 lens. I feel I’m approaching a cross road of whether to stick with the Pen or move to DSLR. Well after reading some of your reviews I think I’ll continue on with the Pen.
Keep up the good work.
Hey Steve, I bought the E-P3 after reading all your reviews and have loved working with it – HOWEVER, I appear to have some strange noise artefacting even at 200ISO when pulling down highlights – it looks like vertical rain; it’s mainly in highlight areas as I said, but appears really linear, unlike any other camera’s noise I’ve seen.
I’ve sent a few samples to Olympus tech and they are being quite vague about it – I wonder if you mind taking a look at some samples and seeing if you have experienced anything like it in your images. There is no way I would put them on the internet (my web site) or print A3 (or even A4) as it looks like a camera phone image – but only in those areas……the good parts are really good.
Hi Steve! Your reviews rock! I just got my ep3 and love it, but had some back focusing issues today when shooting video. Can you share some recommended settings for shooting video, please? Thanks!
Great review Steve, thanx! So where can I get a cool black leather neckstrap like that?
Imhad the Fujifilm X100 for 1 week when I discovered it suffers from the so called SAB – Sticky Aperture Blade problem.
Many of the glowing reviews of the X100 are justified when considering the image quality and taking into account the short duration of most reviews. The reviewers will never encounter these systemic oroblems with certain cameras but the X100 SAB is a huge issue and affects perhaps 40-60% of that camera.
I was incredulous when I discovered my X100 was affected. Needless to say I returned the X100, and being invested in M43 with the EP1, GF1 and several lenses I opted for the EP3.
It’s a shame reviews dont update with the latest information on various cameras and their problems.
The X100’s reputation is murky now even in enthusiasts forums. I like supporting the underdog and Fujifilm certainly has a good concept and path in the X100 but its SAB problem has scared me off them for a good while.
Good review of the Olympus EP-3. A great camera alternative to a DLSR. It should be noted that the DLSR still takes better pictures. I purchased one as a substitute to bringing along a DLSR for my travels. The one problem that users of the EP-3 should be aware is the plastic mode shooting dial. The camera is solid and well built. After shooting multitude of shots the plastic mode shooting dial unglued itself from the camera body. It seems Olympus just glued the dial to the knob. Without the dial the camera is still usable as the dial just covers a rotating knob. You can rotate the knob and rely on the LCD to determine the shooting mode. I used a double side tape to stick the mode dial back to the knob. That is the only problem I discovered with the EP-3.
If you had to choose between Oly EP3 and Fuji X100, which would you choose?
Which of the two do you carry and shoot more often?
I’m extremely happy with my EP3, in all aspects, except when I’m out at night, it’s hit or miss.. And I’m looking at your X100 review, the IQ at high ISO and high ISO seems superb!
the IQ and high ISO seems superb* (I’ve been staring at a computer screen for hours)
Sorry for double post.
also Bon Qué Leica X1???
Thanks Steve for your brilliant site and amazing reviews which I never fail to “devour”.
As I know you are a fan of Oly and you like also the Panasonic pancake prime, I’d like to ask your opinion.
I am a happy owner of a GF1 and think the 20mm is pure bliss; recently I’ve been meaning to add some new gear (while keeping my Panny) and ended up being undecided between the EP 3 and the Fuji X100 which eventually I purchased also thanks to your beautiful review.
Being used to the crispy sharp details of the 20mm of my GF1 I have grown slightly disappointed with the soft touch of the Fuji lens and I am thinking about turning it back and get an EP 3 to use with the 20mm pancake: what do you think of the combination and what about this change?
Can the 20mm Panny pancake benefit from in body stabilization of the EP3?
Lastly … would you make this change and return the Fuji? I like it a lot, but can’t get used to the soft shots I get out of it despite the beautiful colors and the amazing hybrid VF…
I would VERY much appreciate your point.
Thanks and take care!
The Fuji lens is at its sharpest at f/4. At f/2 it is slightly soft but in a good way (portraits). The 20mm 1.7 as you know is wonderful but the only thing you should expect from an E-P3 over your GF-1 is speed. The IQ will be about the same (but with Oly color signature). The X100 is MUCH better in low light than the E-P3 but the E-P3 will focus faster.
Love your site, bought the K-5 and the 43 limited following your review and I enjoy it a lot.
Thinking of the Oly Pen as a second small camera. Have you tried the EPL3? How would you compare it to EP3?
Steve, it’s interesting to compare your reviews of the P3, G2, NEX-7, and V1 — and to imagine parallel reviews of a Graflex 6×9, Rolleiflex 6×6, Yashicamat 6×6, a Leica rangefinder, the Minoltina Al-S (my favorite inexpensive rangefinder), the Rollei 35S (my favorite small camera), an Olympus Pen-FT or OM system camera – and a couple of others of your choice. You put down the Lumix G3, where other reviews seem to lament certain dumbing down compared to the G2, but also applaud advances in the touchscreen operations and sensor platform (megapixels aside) which may make it and the GH2 the best micro4/3rds for IQ. Yet it seems that one can program the custom function buttons to substantially make up for some of the G3’s dumbing down while benefiting from the G3’s touted improved IQ (again, megapixels aside) – if discussions elsewhere are correct. (Andrzej Wrotniak, where art thou?)
Will Olympus respond in 2012 with a micro4/3rds system with built-in EVF (hopefully in rangefinder style like the NEX-7 and V1, rather than like the G1-G3), and advances in sensor and firmware to counter the G3 (and to some degree what the V1 can get from its sensor)? Alternatively, will the company break up or fold? Will another manufacturer push into the acceptable quality 14-20mm (35mm equivalent) focal length range of Oly and Panny (and the Sigma lens for 4/3rds) so that I can consider them as platforms for dramatic wide angle perspectives in a mirrorless camera? (The Sony 16mm is insufficiently wide angle for me.) Or will I decide to live with certain anti-enthusiast aspects in the G3 in order to conveniently use and supplement my 4/3rds lenses for a sufficiently wide range of focal lengths while keeping some form of built-in viewfinder? Or spend a bit more for the GH2?
If you had a chance to take the GX1, GH2, and G3 out for a spin sometime, to compare them for IQ and shooting feel, I hope this could be (A) fun for you, and (B) informative for all concerned (you and us).
Similar question to the above..
I am tossing up between a Fuji X10 and the EP-3? I generally would use it for street photography as I will be going overseas. I love the b/w grainy photos the EP-3 takes
After extensive research into this, factoring in my own preferences and needs as well as looking through most of the available cameras in this segment, I narrowed it down to these two, the x100 and e-p3….the choice I started out with a few months ago:)
I like the Olympus design a bit more…looks more dynamic and inspires you to go wild. The x100 has that precision instrument feel that makes you take your time and enjoy the experience in the different way.
However my frustration with my current gear has three key points:
– bad iso performance
– washed out image quality
– bad autofocus
I’m using the Canon rebel Xsi/450d. Btw. I find its controls unpleasing, having to press and hold an additional button if wanting to change aperture in full manual mode.
So basically, I want a camera that has superior IQ, better ISO performance and accurate focus. So basically the best of e-p3, x100 and nikon 1v combined:)
Taking into account that either of those come around to something over $1k, I guess image quality would mean the most to me. ISO performance would come second and fast focus third.
I love street photography and portraits + low light, a combination of both very often comes into play when chasing my 2 year old around with camera in hand.
Maybe I’m missing something, but I feel I’m getting the most bang for my buck with the x100.
If it weren’t for all those loud voices saying the x100 af sucks when you try to get the shot….
aussi bon que leica x1????
Hi Steve, I’m about to purchase X100 this weekend rather than E-P3. Please give me some opinion that my decision is right. Thank you.
Ovanger, I can’t speak for Steve, but I can give you my limited experience from trying it in the camera store: You can’t go wrong with the Fuji, unless you are using it for sports photography. The fixed lens and slower focus speed make it poorly suited for fast action at a distance. You can do it, of course, but most people wouldn’t.
The model I tried was used, so for all I know it had been dropped, but the reviews seem to say pretty much the same.
Hi Steve, Just bought an E-P3 after reading your review. I am impressed with the results after a couple of days on the street. I have one question:
Which mode have you set as the standard mode when shooting color? Natural, vivid, i-enh.., mute?
Looking forward to your Zuiko 45mm review.
I usually use a mix of them all. If I want bold color, I shoot vivid. Sometimes I use natural, and also use I-Enhance at times. As for the 45 review, it was posted a few weeks ago. Thanks!
Your review was interesting but highly subjective. As a matter of fact, all reviews are, which we tend to forget. I am in no doubt that it is a good camera, but to hold a camera at almost an armlength in order to shoot is to me, if not silly at least akward and not as steady as it can be by using a viewfinder. A focus being quick is of great importance as well as acuracy, but when the difference of speed regarding focusing amounts to milliseconds between the top notch cameras of mft, then it hardly deserves too much mentioning. Except in comparison to former models from Olympus. I walked about in London UK last monday, carrying a G3 from Panasonic, for 8 hours of walking. Thanks to a swivel display, a viewfinder and the old kit zoom of 14 – 45mm, it really made my day. Bessie, my trusted Nikon D700, stayed at home. So again, the mft is a great minimized system and all the recent models and makes are plenty good enough. The rest is a matter of liking. Albeit, I am looking forward to the Nex-7. But thank you Steve for keeping up the enthusiasm, it’s contagious.[img]undefined[/img]
That is why I use an EVF with the E-P3. Sometimes i use the back LCD (which is a superb OLED display) and sometimes I use the EVF. Most M4/3 cameras today are VERY good. All personal preference and choice – subjective as you said. I prefer the Oly body, controls and color over the G3 but the G3 has the EVF, swivel screen, etc that make it much more enjoyable to use. Much like the NEX-7. It has the swivel screen and amazing OLED EVF along with the dials making it the best body in the smaller camera class IMO. But at the end of the day, I think I may prefer the images coming from my E-P3 over the NEX and that boils down to the lenses like the 20 1.7, 12 f/2 and 45 1.8. Again, it is all subjective.
Well, that was a mighty quick answer which I honestly did not expect. But your answer makes me think or rather rethink about a closer look at the EP-3. I usually work with two cameras. An old habbit. I’ll get to see it first hand in a matter of days, a friend of mine just ordered one. I have been told that Olympus has come up with a new version of EVF, a one that can be secured in stead of the former one that’s rather loose. Are you able to verify that? Thanks again for your hard work of trying to answer all those questions out there. Your field tests,albeit subjective, are the best way and highly appreciated.
Thanks! The VF-3 is the new EVF that does lock in place and it is the one I have used extensively. It’s nowhere near the quality of the NEX-7 EVF but it works 🙂 – I like it. All the E-P3 needs now is focus peaking and a high res EVF BUILT in to a body.
Thanks again. Keep up the good work. I saw your review on the G2 and as a partner to my G3, which is great in many respects and not so in others, shall be good enough I guess primarily with my 45-200mm, when the full formats are not in use. Take care.
I just bought the E-P3 and really hope I made the right choice. Had a big battle of PEN vs. DSLR for the price. Your review really did help me along from some very strong recommendations from my local camera shop. Superior image quality vs. portability and more use…. the eternal question. This was a lot of money for me so I’m really hoping I made the right choice. The X100 is VERY seductive and I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have looked at it closer (after reading all of these reviews) but the interchangeable lenses of the E-P3 seem to add a good element of flexibility. It’s hard to choose when you can’t afford to have multiple cameras and the best of all worlds. The link a few comments above for the “pimp your E-P3” seems very cool and gets it looking just a little closer to the retro vibe of the X100. Wonder if it damages the body with sticky reside and/or how it holds up.
Well, after a bit more digging around on here it really seems that I should return the E-P3 and wait to see what the Sony NEX-7 has to offer. Seems like it is offers much more quality at just a little a slightly higher price. Though, once you factor in the need to get the range finder it’s about the same. Am I right to hold off? I feel like I jumped the gun.
Ovanger, I can’t answer for Steve, but I can offer a quick opinion. If you photograph kids or pets, go for the faster focus. The picture quality on the X100 is a little better, but not so much better that it will save pictures that you would otherwise lose. Incorrect focus, on the other hand, will ruin pictures, even if the bokeh is perfect.
Thanks Dave. It does help. I just can’t deny X100 is beautiful, classic and more retro look. I’m a fan of both.
Hi Steve. I just can’t decide which camera should i go between x100 or e-p3. They’re both are cool. E-P3 is great with the super fast and correct autofocus, art filters and the pro lenses. But it has smaller sensor, no optical viewfinder and the price is just too expensive with the prime lenses. x100 is killing with the APS-C sensor, hybrid viewfinder and less expensive than the E-P3, but the autofocus is barely incorrect, slow performance and it’s not interchangeable camera. I do need advice. Thank you. (your website is in my bookmark list)
Hi steve, I always enjoy your reviews. Your grainy film B/W snaps are awesome to me! Which grainy film mode do you usually use, mode I or II (less contrast I think)?
Hi steve, ive always loved your website but have never contributed anything. All i want to say is that you are an inspiration to folks like me who have somewhat lost the joys of photography after so many years. ( i started photography during the height of the film era… Now my kids ask me whats film…)
Keep it going. I hope things have taken a better turn for you on the personal front. (i can emphatise, having gone through a recent financial storm as well, resulting in the heartbreak of having to sell my beloved bicycles and cameras).
Thank you for your light, and God Bless.
Ps. How in the world do you get those lovely olympus colors? What color settings do you use? Got an E-PL2 but cant seem to match your lovely palette!
Thanks for the great reviews. In the review above you say “Even the Olympus 14-150 is a great lens.” but the the link goes to the 40-150. Which of the two do you prefer? I appreciate your help.
I found an analisys in spanish of the oly 12mm for MTF: http://www.dslrmagazine.com/pruebas/pruebas-tecnicas/olympus-m.zuiko-digital-ed-12-mm-f-2-la-prueba.html
I hope you like it. I like it too 🙂
(Sorry for my english).
Maybe u received this one many times but i needed to ask you
what would you buy ifstuck between this one and X100 and also you are a street art performer ?
One thing that concerns me is Olympus has stunning art affects in it without using any Adobe , what about X100 ?
Great reviews I have bought the ep3 with the 2 zooms. Didnt fancy the 17 oly after reading the 12 mm and pany 20 reviews. Love the ep3. It’s the first enthusiast camera I’ve had since my om4. The only thing missing is
The VF and the om4 multispot metering. I have splashed out on a VF 2 and love it. But would have given up the flash to get it built I to the camera. I am shooting loads again and the camera is never far away. Will be saving for some prime lenses. Thanks for your reviews.
This may be of Interest. You can now ‘Pimp’ your E-P1, 2 or 3 with this:
Good article Steve. I have also recently bought the E-P3 + EVF, and love the setup. Hve teamed it up with the 12mm/2 Zuiko and the 2.8/21 Xeiss Biogon: It’s possible to see examples on Flickr Hewlbane. They deliver well, very well. Once again, thank you for the excellent article.
I bought the E-PL3 and fell in love with the articulating screen. The ability to shoot at waist level is very helpful and makes a more stable platform. And the reduced size and weight sealed the deal.
Went on to buy a full complement of lenses. I bought the EP1, but sold it because it was not responsive. The E-PL3 is a whole different camera.
Your review inspires me to take videos. Keep up the good work.
A nice review, as always. Bought the Leica DLux 5 and X100 on the strength of your review. Have recently been seriously considering getting rid of my Canon 7d and lenses as i use my two smaller cameras a helluva lot more due to their portability and IQ. so have looked at the E-P3 as a replacement. but then i have to face another quandary. Do i then sell my Leica and X100? Oh the agony of choice.
I have just found my new camera bag addition…..
Thanks, shessh.. I thought you might give me a simple YES.. LOL.. I think I’ll take a shot on the E-P3 with Panny 20..
This is a great and inspiring review. your pictures are great and you really make use of the wide angle ! (not everybody does 🙂 I don’t really believe in making assumptions about the “new” or not-so-new sensor just by jpgs. testing this with RAW would make more sense. comparing jpgs is more about comparing the image processor and less about the capabilities of the sensor. don’t want to complain, looking forward to your pana-leica 25mm which I might get along with a G3 or GF3 … or maybe the olympus (you almost convinced me 🙂
Hi Steve.. I have X-100 and ready to pull trigger on E-P3 with Panny 20 1.7.. whata ya think? good combo? maybe add viewfinder?
Only you can answer that question!
The picture of the kiddo with his face in the mesh is one of the best photos I have ever seen of yours.
Thanx for the review 🙂 how does this lens compare to the 9-18 olympus and the 7 to 14 panasonic zooms?
Thanks for the review. I like the fact that you identified what parts were your opinion, and what parts were quotes from other sources. Olympus is playing with some very big dogs in that price range, but I suspect the price will come down once they sell off the old epl2 and other similar inventory.
It seems like it would be a good camera for chasing around kids, which is most of what I do. No camera is perfect, but all I need is something that can focus on a moving 3-year-old, and take a good picture even with the speed cranked up.
The technology advances and MFT have enabled me to get pictures of my son that would have required a DSLR and a fast lens just a few years ago.
Steve – great review of a promising looking camera. How would you say the lens compares to the Pentax Limited models? Too bad Pentax don’t have a mirrorless K-mount body as they could have provided some healthy competition with their fine pancakes.
I’ll never give up my FA Limiteds but it would be great to have a quality, compact camera with a decent 35-40mm equivalent pancake.
Enjoyed the review very much Steve, you’ve communicated how this all-new combo suits your style and becomes an extension of your vision and shooting habits. Among your samples there’s something for nearly everybody.
I’m coming around to µ4/3 now that it’s a more fleshed out series and has gear to suit most pursuits (outside the DSLR specialty areas–sports, wildlife, etc.). IMHO the two new Oly primes are the strongest signal yet they’re going to tackle the pro/advanced amateur market. We’ll surely see a body with integrated EFV.
Have you had your mitts on an E-PL3 yet? I’m more interested in that model due to the tilting display and am curious about the handling differences between it and the E-P3. It, a viewfinder (VF2 or VF3) and a couple primes would be a wonderful travel kit.
that wow bao restaurant looks familiar! Was that photo taken in Chicago?
Superb review and pictures as always Steve.
Got an E-P1 with 14-42 kit lens that have not filled the 16MB memory card once due to the autofocus, but have seen several E-P3 tests that shows that this is solved.
Have you compared the 12mm with 14-42mm/40-150mm/14-150mm ?
If I go for the E-P3 what would you be your choices to have in the bag – 14-42+40-150mm or 14-150mm (for allround use) ? Also considering a pancake or the extreme cool 12mm later.
Are the low-light, high-ISO shots of the sink straight from the camera? Still mulling a switch from my 2.5-yr-old Canon Rebel, and no way can my XSi get that clean a shot at 1600.
Yes, everything is straight from camera JPEG. No PP and no outside NR. NR in camera was set to “Auto” I believe.
That’s not surprising, about the XSi. I think the latest PENs can match or better all but the latest generation of APS-C based cams.
I also find that the “auto gradation” feature is best left off unless the scene really calls for it, because it introduces shadow noise in trying to hold the highlights and boost the shadows for best dynamic range.
There’s something odd about a couple of the pictures, as in a selective focus effect – the first one, with the lady walking, the area below her dress goes abrutply out of focus (not really motion blur, pavement is as well) yet the depth of field then extends on all the way down to the red trolley. Same thing happens with the blue car – its tires are blurred-out, yet the fender, which is in front, is in focus. But the windshield is also quite in focus, even the red car/truck behind, but not the house immediately behind the blue car and before the red truck!
I admit I haven’t read the whole review, too tired today, but I find those two images odd (nothing against artistic effects if any, just a quick look to see how combo performs).
Steve – great review as always! An important point I disocvered using my own E-P3. If you turn off the image stabilisation when shooting video, the jelly problem is almost entriely gone! Please test it out yourself :).
WIll try but I love the IS so turning it off defeats the purpose of IS with video. Hmmmm. I find the Jelly can be eliminated with careful movement while shooting video. Just holding it steady does the trick.
There is no mechanical IBIS for video anyway. It’s poorly implemented software IS in camera. E-P3 has real IBIS only for still photos.
If needed, shaking reduction can be done better in post-processing, so there is no point in using IS during video shooting.
Video: To get rid of jelly effect disable image stabilization.
I have to say that based on the samples provided it looks like Steve had a lot more fun with the Oly as compared to the Fuji. I agree that the IQ isn’t up to X100, but the compositions seem to be more fluid, which I guess is owing to the faster AF and smoother operation — or maybe Steve is just feeling refreshed after his European sojourn 😉
Thanks 🙂 could be the faster operation of the camera. It IS more fun to shoot with. Could be the 24mm field of view, or could be that I am in Chicago on a real vacation 🙂 Who knows. I do like the E-P3 for WHAT IT DOES DO GOOD. Speed, fun, IS, great lens (12mm), etc. THANKS AGAIN!
Question is, will you let the x100 go and keep the EP-3 as a companion for M9? 🙂
No, X100 stays. E-P3 would stay if I could afford it but can’t. $1700 is a bit of cash when I already have a few cameras.
Good photography Steve. Particularly the grainy black & white filter images – first one with the priest statuette, and at the end of the article (water bottle at her feet,) the color Diorama image, and the family photographs after the article. Very nice.
Thanks Omer, when I test cameras and lenses I try my best to make the photos somewhat interesting. It not always possible to get good shots as I am ALWAYS reviewing something but I try to get more than walls, statues, and random tree leaves. Thanks for the kind words. I had fun this week visiting family in Chicago. Back home to AZ Sunday!
My optionsto buy a new camera are:
– Fuji X100 (around 1200$)
– Oly EP3 + upcoming Leica 25mm (around 1400$)
– Oly EP3 `+ 12mm (around 1600$)
– Upcoming Nex7 (unknown price)
Hard to decide…
Easy decision. IOf you want a camera now, get the Fuji X100. If you want to wait for the Sony NEX 7 to compare, then get the Sony or Fuji, whichever you like better.
LoL, so anything but m4/3 then? =)
I think the NEX-7 looks fantastic, but it also looks larger than the m4/3 bodies. Almost to the point that it would be easy just to jump to a DSLR. Also, I would not be very confident that I would have more than one decent lens for NEX in the near future (not counting legacy, of course, if that is your thing).
Well, I love 4/3 cameras but the sensors are smaller. I like the Olympus Pen series camera, the EP 2 and 3, but I had already purchased a Sony NEX 5. now that I’ve seen what this sensor can produce, it’s hard to go backwards. But, I do like the lenses on the Olympus and other features. It all depends on what you want the most out of a camera. For me, it’s a good sensor, something in APS-C or bigger. I like shooting in low light without flash, so the APS-C comes in handy. I don’t know the physical size of an Olympus, but I don’t find the Sony NEX 5 to be big. But, it certainly isn’t small. LOL! It isn’t the size of a Canon S95. So it’s always a trade-off. Pick a sensor size or a camera size. It’s all up to you.
Add USD250 for the EVF to the EP3 and the decision might come easier ;). First rumors are that the NEX7 will be priced at USD1000 (body only).
EP3 +12mm +EVF =1850 or so
X100 +NEX7+18mm = USD 2300 or so. So for a few dollars more you can get a much more powerful tool kit.
E-P3 and Panasonic 25 1.4 will be killer. Ive seen the combo in action…and it is a Panny, Leica just allows them to use their name and glass design. Leica does not make the lens.
So, it´s better oly 12mm than that 25mm suposed to be leica?
No I wouldn’t say that. The 25 1.4 is going to be amazing (my guess) and is a 50mm equivalent. The Oly is a 24mm. Would be great to own BOTH, a 24 and 50. The Panny will give more shallow depth of field and will be better for portraits, etc.
Are you refusing the cite the Leica name on the panny or is it not branded?
If Leica have their name on it, it’s a leica! Leic-a it or not 🙂 .. you see what I did there.. heh
First off, thanks for putting your time into all these reviews. Long time book marker here. It sure is exciting times for cameras. It reminds me of the 90s when computers were advancing fast. As a former m43 owner (EP2) I think I will continue to pass on m43. Built in VF for the NEX7 is a big deal.. Oly & Pany better pay attention…although the lens selection I realize is weak… sigh.. Why can’t one of these manufacturers listen to the enthusiast?
I’ll stick with my five year old M8 & Samsung TL500 for now.
I am really amazed by the statement that Panasonic is going backwards although it is using new sensor and every website that tested image quality and not quality of plastic agreed that IQ is superior to any other micro 4/3 camera and it costs significantly less than Oly Pen EP3 whose IQ, as stated here didn’t change at all.
I think that this was supposed to be camera review website i. e. review what is image quality like (it is known that panasonic has very fast focus) and not fashion review website but I guess that I got it wrong as the conclusion is that summer 2012 Oly pen collection is nicer looking than Panasonic.
It’s a “real world” review site… not shooting newspapers/charts type website. Camera feel/user friendly/fun factor and his personal opinion are the emphasis here.
Using newspapers/charts type for all other websites is a bit old and certainly not true. What does that mean anyway? sites like Sean Reid’s, Luminous Landscapes, Imaging resource etc consider both technical and “real’world” performance and usability as well. But they don’t have fashion apeal rubric, that’s why they are not enough real world probably…
Some people will assume that the sensor is probably good enough, and are more interested in what a camera is like to actually use. Moreover, several sites already perform these in-depth image quality tests, so why duplicate the effort? I’d much rather read about someone’s experience using a camera than about whether it’s marginally better at high ISOs than its competitors.
that’s why it’s good to take all websites with a grain of salt. Go and try the cameras that intrigue you. Also, check out other websites for a more well-rounded review. Don’t go by any one website. And always try to handle the gear yourself. EVeryone’s opinion is going to be different.
I say Panny is going backwards for a few reasons.
#1 – After the awesome GF-1 they pretty much killed that line with the GF-2 and now GF-3, making them more consumer oriented and basic. If they would have expanded on the GF-1 strengths they could have made a killer GF-2.
#2 – The G2 was a nice camera. Felt good, nice size, EVF, etc. The G3 feels cheap, looks cheap, menu is more complicated, and the IQ is basically just a bit sharper in output than the PEN series. They are going backwards in design and function and slightly improving the sensors and sharpness which wow some people. I am not a fan of the G3 after shooting with it. Sorry.
#3 – Panasonic seems to think smaller = better. I prefer what Oly is doing right now, but just my opinion. Looks and feel are important, not just a slightly sharper sensor.
What about the GH2 though ? A pretty class leader in terms of a stills/video hybrid with some of the best ergonomics and controls of any camera I’ve owned. Tons of custom function buttons, sliders etc, and a great EVF with auto switching to the touch LCD, the very cool “free” 2.4x ETC crop in video mode which is pretty awesome, 16.2meg multi-aspect sensor, lightening fast AF etc.
I’ve owed nearly all the m4/3 bodies, including the EP3 now and certainly wouldn’t say the GH2 is a step behind any of them.
“The Fuji comes in at $1199 while you can snag the beautiful Ricoh & 28 for $950 or so. The E-P3 with the 12mm lens is coming in at $899 plus $799 for a total of $1600.”
Actually, in order to compare it to the X100, you need to add a viewfinder, so it’s $899 plus $799 plus $250, for a total of $1948. Even with the less expensive Panasonic 14mm, it’s $1499.
At that price, it’s in a pretty expensive neighborhood, and there are lots of attractive alternatives.
That is like saying to compare the X100 to the PEN we have to make it an interchangeable lens camera, add image stabilization and take away the VF. I compare camera to camera – we all know the E-P3 does not have a VF and we know the X100 is not an interchangeable lens camera. 🙂 But yes, it is expensive with the 12.
Thanks for the very helpful review, Steve. I noticed you didn’t mention image stabilization when comparing the E-P3 with the X100 and other larger sensor cameras. If I’m not carrying a tripod and in a church like the one you had an ISO 1600 photo of, it might be fair to compare that photo with an ISO 3200 or even 6400 from the Fuji, since I’d need a faster shutter speed without stabilization.
The IS is good to have but 3200 on the Fuji would have been cleaner than the 1600 on the PEN. It’s a limitation of the sensor. With some light its ok, but when it gets dark the PEN can’t keep up.
A week into my new EP3 with 17mm and I am loving it. I have my eye on the 12mm but still wish Olympus release a 17mm MSC all metal lens like the 12mm. Steve is so right about the Black and White art filter, it’s my favorite too! I second the idea for the pro version with a tilt up lcd screen, add a retina like version similar to iPhone resolution! I have tried the 12mm lens at the camera store and it is indeed lightning fast.
Glad you are enjoying it! The 17 is also a great little lens 🙂 I love the B&W art filter as its so easy. For snapshots or family shots I do not need to be spending time in SIlver Efex to convert all the shots. I just shoot RAW + Art Filter and i have the B&W and color. The out of camera B&W’s are great using that filter. If you like grit and grain, its hard to beat for causal shooting.
Sandy, the EP3 focuses just as fast on the 14-42 MSC and 9-18 MSC lenses as it does on the 12mm.
Nice pics, great option for someone starting wit nothing but I will stck to Nex (Nex7 seems like an anything else killer). I think the small sensor shows it’s limitations too much at high ISO…. Thanks for sharing
The NEX 7 does indeed look slick. Cant wait for that one as I have been wanting a built in EVF in the PEN or NEX.
I’ve always liked the 24mm view over 28mm. So, I guess I am interested. The price is a concern though. Being a GF1 shooter, amongst others, I’d like to see the aesthetic view of it on a black GF1, solely because I prefer a stealthier appearance which this shiny lens may not provide.
A note on the seemingly fast AF with the 12mm lens. It is a 12mm lens after all, and even at f2 the DOF on that lens will be pretty deep. Hell at around 8ft, it will have everything from 4ft to infinity in reasonably sharp focus. Since no examples of the 45 are out that I know of, I will hold judgment on the AF and put it off to DOF.
You keep saying that APS sensors still have better image quality. Can you show me in what way? Thanks.
Larger = better. Assuming other technological developments are parallell. And when it comes to sensors, APS-C is where most of the development is done, honestly. The newest Sony sensor (the 16mp one, not the upcoming 24mp one), is good enough that it’s starting to get close to the full frame sensors from yesteryear.
If Panasonic and Olympus pushed as much into sensor development as possible, 4/3 still wouldn’t be able to surpass APS-C until the users of those sensors stopped pushing tech. Larger is just better, when all other things are equal.
If you want lots of maths, or tests, or pictures, or whatever; just do a few web searches, though dxo-mark is probably a good place to start.
Thanks for yet another great review Steve! I certainly prefer my X100 over any pen (had e-p1, p2 and epl1), and I think the price is just too high with the 12mm combo! Now with stunning viewfinder in X100 don’t think I could ever go to composing the shot with LCD!
Yes, the price is a bit too high. I agree 100%!
This is making it really hard for me to resist the EP3 😀
One question though: I’m not so interested in a wide lens like the 12mm, so I’m wondering, how well the Panasonic 20mm would perform on this camera? From what I understand it’s a good lens, and nice and small and light, too.
I don’t have an E-P3, but I can tell you that the Panasonic 20mm is fantastic on an E-PL2.
Compared to the kit zoom, you don’t have to pixel-peep to see the difference; it’s easily visible on an 8×10 print, for instance.
Plus, it’s tiny, feather-light, and half the price of the 12mm.
20mm is a must have for m43.. IMHO can’t go wrong.
I agree, the 20 i a must for all Micro 4/3 shooters.
I can tell you that sweet Panny 20 hardly ever comes off my EPL1. If it does, it’s for the Panny 14, but the 20mm has caused me to switch entirely over to shooting 40mm equiv. I’ve all but abandoned zoom lenses.
Anyone interested by this camera should really hold on and wait for upcoming NEX-7 and GF-PRO announcements before making any decision.
Steve, thanks for the review. I can snag one of the famous Digilux 2 for a good bargain, but reading all the good news about the new PENs – I am not sure whether to spend the money on this classic. Is the IQ in your view still a reason to buy one? Or shall I go with the “new combos” … Any advice by anyone is highly appreciated. Have a great weekend! Stefan
By the way, I hope “6” is doing well after his short hospital episode. Wish him all the best and we miss him here!
Which color you like best Steve for the EP3 body, silver or black?
Both look pretty nice. The silver is a bit shiny and the black more discreet so all depends on the look you like best.
hmm… price IS a concern! How is the new kit zoom? is it any good? I might just stick with my old plan to buy X100 (I saved up the money, but currently unemployed/recent grad. hopefully my interview this month will work out and then I can buy it without feeling irresponsible).
The new kit zoom is the same but with fast focusing capabilities. IQ wise it appears the same, but I did not use it extensively. As for price, it is a concern for most but not for all 🙂 Great camera, a bit overpriced with the 12mm, but super fun to use and can give great quality as long as the ISO doesn’t go too high.
Well, as a recent engineering grad, price is a concern to me right now :(, but hopefully I’ll be richer in the future. But then again, I wanna get a Leica some day… what I mean is I WILL get a Leica M one day (one of my many personal goals). Anyways, 12mm seems like a great lens from your review, but for now, if I do get EP3, I’ll probably go for the Panasonic 20mm. You should do a review on the new oly 45mm f1.8. Seems like it would be a great addition to get a shallow depth of field for portraits.
I`m waiting for new Leica 25mm to make a decission. The combo EP3+Leica 25mm seems to be a winner. I hope you review that lens and help me to decide on a future buy.
Anyway, i think this combo is expensive. Not worth the money. And no so good image quality for the price. For the same money you can have a entry DSLR, a good prime and get much better shots. Asuming you want quality, not portability.
Waiting for Leica 25mm…
The Panasonic 25 will be amazing. Saw some stuff from it today and it blew me away. Color, DOF, etc. THAT is a lens I will be reviewing for sure.
The Olympus does have the fun factor thing going, but it’s hard to go back to a smaller sensor. If the price were much cheaper. Maybe. Great review. Love the camera though.
Good review Steve. I agree with most of your points. I love the build, look and shot to shot feel of this camera but am not also not seeing a big step up in IQ from my E-PL1. Besides for marketing purposes I really don’t understand why this camera allow you to go up to 12,800 ISO. 3200 is already considered expanded so going to 12,800 leads to unusable images! I think this camera is really great for the micro 4/3 enthusiasts not focused on video, but I really think the E-PL3 looks like the more exciting Olympus product. I can’t wait for my 12mm prime to get here as I really love your shots with it.
I agree, 12,800 is useless. The 12mm though is a lens I really fell in love with, and I usually don’t fall in love with Micro 4/3 glass.
Great review, thank you. But your comments about price made me thinking. If you ad the EVF, the EP3 with the 12mm, new 25 and 45mm mft primes costs as much as a used M8 with 2-3 excellent Zeiss ZM or CV lenses. And the X100 starts to look like a real bargain with its superior sensor, excellent lens and unmatched VF!
Nice point but no way you can get an M8 and 2-3 Zeiss lenses for $2800 🙂 The E-P3 is a TOTALLY different kind of camera from the M8, so buying one of the other would depend on what kind of camera you want. Manual vs Auto? Video vs None? Small, light and fast vs medium and slow. EVF vs rangefinder…
The E-P3 is not a camera that should be considered if one is wanting an RF.
Beautiful little camera. Thanks for the review Steve.
Thanks for reading!
Great review as usual Steve. You have a good eye for 24mm. Olympus really does make a nice body, and their color is fantastic. For better or worse though I am selling my e-p2, 20mm, VF-2, 9-18mm and 35mm SLR magic to finance the x100 I received today — a purchase I made based mostly on your and Ken Rockwell’s reviews (totally different styles of reviewing, but you both speak truth about what a camera is for, and what it can really do). Keep up the good work brother.
Congrats on the X100! Let me know how you like it after a couple of weeks. Thanks!
Thanks for the review Steve how would you compare it against the GF1 20 1.7 package, i really don’t like touch screens, partial ones included.
I don’t care for touch screens either which is why I left the E-P3’s off. The E-P3 is a better camera than the GF1, no question in my mind. The 20 1.7 is awesome, but a totally different lens than the 12/2.
hi steve, can we see some samples from E-P3 + 20 1.7? The 12mm really is out my reach…
Thanks for the review Steve. Did you try it out with any Leica lenses?
I did, but as before, I am not a fan of shooting Leica glass with Micro 4/3 or the NEX. If I shoot Leica, Ill shoot the m9. With these bodies it is way too slow and cumbersome IMO. Good results can be had though, no doubt. I am just more of a fan of the M 4/3 bodies, using them with their native lenses. More fun factor, which is what these cameras are mostly about. Fun but Serious.
I think I’ll stick to the X100. Or better yet an Epson R-D1x or M8