Olympus E-PL3 Mirrorless Camera Review

The compact Olympus E-PL3 has a retro body design and is available in different colors. The camera has a large swivel LCD on the back which allows the user to flip the monitor up and down. This is handy but is not as flexible as a swivel monitor that allows side-to-side movement. The LCD screen is a standard TFT screen instead of the OLED system used by the Olympus E-P3.


The Olympus E-PL3 is the sibling of the E-P3. It has a classic, almost retro body design. It offers 12-megapixel resolution and a brand-new AF system. Compared to the E-P3 it uses a standard LCD screen instead of an OLED system.

The camera offers a large LCD screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio which is perfect for Full HD video recording that adds a little more space for menus and parameter info when shooting images.

The camera has a large mode dial on the top for choosing standard image modes (P, S, A, and M), scene modes, or special art effects.

The camera offers a large mode dial on the top to activate standard exposure settings and additional Scene and ART modes. The 24 Scene modes will help beginners while the ART modes create special effects like “Diorama/tilt shift miniature simulation” or “High Key,” among others. All these ART effects can be achieved by using imaging software but they are quite fun and very easy to handle in the camera. A combination of a four-way cursor field and setup dial on the back is where menu items are accessed and parameter changes are made. The beveled top with its additional function buttons is easily accessible in all camera positions—in standard shooting mode as well as when taking images with the LCD screen flipped upward.

The camera is very fast. Just like the E-P3 it uses a new and very fast AF system based on contrast metering; this means focus can be achieved within 0.1 second, making it a very spontaneous camera with which to work.

The standard test box shot shows the very intense contrast of all E-PL3 images. The gray background has a slightly reddish touch due to the automatic white balance settings, which tend toward a slightly warmer color reproduction.

In some situations the camera created very warm-looking images with a high magenta rate. The GretagMacbeth graphic shows this shift into the magenta direction.

Color: In some situations the camera created very warm-looking images with a high magenta rate. The standard test box shot shows a slight reddish touch in the gray background. In addition, the camera adds a higher magenta rate to skin tones, although it must be said that skin tone color in our test shots is very good.

Sharpness: The camera shows good resolution results in our tests. An ISO 12,233 chart was reproduced with 2686 lines per image height, which is near to the nominal resolution of 3024 lines in picture height. We noticed a lot of good details in our test shots. The hairs of the model and the red fabric of her T-shirt show a good differentiation even in difficult red nuances. The standard test box shot shows that the camera enforces sharpness by intense filtering. Nevertheless, the filtering intensity is acceptable and will create ready-to-print JPEGs. There is an additional advantage: the kit lens created very sharp photos even in the image corners, noticeable in the corners of the standard test box shot.

Noise: The camera showed very good results up to ISO 1600. In images taken with ISO 3200 there is clearly visible color noise, which is filtered and causes some color clouds in homogenous areas. This effect is clearly noticeable in images taken with ISO 6400. Images taken at ISO 12,800 are nearly useless and this speed should only be used for documentary photos when no additional light is available.

The camera has no built-in flash system, but is supplied with a small flash that is mounted on the accessory shoe.

Just like all test shots this portrait was shot in P-mode. The exposure settings are nearly perfect and the colors look very good. The red of the T-shirt is boosted a little by a higher yellow rate, but the skin tones are very fine.

The swivel monitor can be flipped upward and downward. This allows for comfortable shooting in many different camera positions, but lacks the flexibility of more articulated monitors.

• Stylish body, compact design
• Large swivel LCD
• Full HD video in AVCHD format
• Good resolution and color results

• Standard LCD instead of OLED (compared to Olympus E-P3)
• No ELV (electronic viewfinder—available as an option)
• No built-in flash, but has supplied small shoe-mount flash

Image Tech is where we publish web-exclusive lab reports on cameras. To read the reports please go the Shutterbug homepage at www.shutterbug.com and click on the Image Tech tab on the top navigation bar. New reports are published frequently, so check Image Tech for updates. The following reports are available now:
• Nikon P7100
• Olympus E-P3
• Panasonic FZ48
• Sigma SD1
• Sony SLT-A35
• Sony NEX-C3
• Panasonic GF3
• Leica M9-P
• Fujifilm Finepix X100
• Olympus E-PL2
• Samsung NX 11
• Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Lab results and test images supplied by BetterNet via Shutterbug’s TIPA (Technical Image Press Association) affiliation.