The Olympus Pen E-PL3 (also known as the Olympus Pen Lite) delivers fast performance and pleasing images, but experts say it's saddled with video flaws that plagued earlier Pen models. Like the E-PL2 (*Est. $600) and the bulkier, more expensive E-P3 (*Est. $900), the E-PL3 suffers from "jelly vision" (wavy vertical lines) while recording video, say critics. Additionally, the camera's sensitive built-in mic "picks up sound from all directions," including that of the zoom lens and even hand movement, says PCMag.com's Jim Fisher. Still, Lori Grunin at CNET finds that despite its setbacks, the E-PL3's 1080i HD movie mode provides excellent exposure, color and sharpness.
Otherwise, the 12.3-megapixel E-PL3 features the same interchangeable lens system as its Micro Four Thirds predecessors. However, at 4.3 inches wide and 2.5 inches tall, the E-PL3's slimmer profile comes at the expense of the E-PL2's front panel hand-grip and built-in flash. Instead, Olympus provides an accessory flash unit that conveniently slips onto the hot shoe/accessory port. You can also use that port to add an external viewfinder (*Est. $220) or the Olympus Penpal Bluetooth dongle (*Est. $55), which enables you to upload your photos to the web. Critics like the 3-inch tilt/flip LCD (exclusive to the E-PL3) that adjusts for low angles and overhead shots, though some testers find the new 16:9 widescreen format less useful for stills than video; resolution drops from 614,000 dots to 460,000. It also lacks the Panasonic DMC-GH2's (*Est. $900 with kit lens) touch-screen interface.
On all other counts, the E-PL3 continues the functionality of its Pen siblings: it offers plenty of manual controls, shoots in RAW format and features an Art Filter mode, which lets you apply filters such as Pop Art and Soft Focus to JPEG images while you're shooting. Performance-wise, the E-PL3 clocks shots faster than its E-PL2 predecessor (5 frames per second vs. 2.9), has quicker autofocus and delivers equally sharp photos, though images soften at longer focal lengths and low-light shots fare better with the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 (*Est. $550). The E-PL3 comes bundled with the 14-42 mm zoom lens (24-84 mm equivalent), but a 17 mm pancake lens (*Est. $300) is also available.
Reviews at PhotographyBlog.com, CNET, DPReview.com, CameraLabs.com, Engadget.com and PCMag.com all provide detailed evaluations of the Olympus E-PL3, while user reviews at Amazon.com comment on extended use.
Although the Olympus E-PL3 "doesn't deliver the image quality or performance" of the Sony NEX-C3, Jim Fisher still considers it a solid compact interchangeable lens camera. Fast shooting and a tilting LCD impress, but the camera's video mic "picks up sound from all directions" and scrolling through the E-PL3's menu is "a bit frustrating."
Review: Olympus Pen E-PL3 , Jim Fisher, Aug. 15, 2011
Gavin Stoker questions whether the loss of "essential features like a proper handgrip and built-in flash" compensate for a svelte E-PL3. Despite the camera's affordability and tilting LCD, the E-PL3 "feels slightly compromised in the pursuit of style." Nevertheless, sharp images help earn the E-PL3 a Recommended rating.
Review: Olympus E-PL3 Review, Gavin Stoker, Aug. 29, 2011
Editors find the compact Olympus E-PL3 a "pleasingly-designed camera that handles well," but an aging 12-megapixel sensor lags behind rivals that also offer touch-screen functionality. Fast performance and a tilt-screen LCD receive high marks, but a "fiddly" control dial, noisy low-light images and disappointing video image stabilization keep the E-PL3 from nabbing the site's Gold award.
Review: Olympus Pen Lite / E-PL3 Review, Editors of DPReview.com, Sept. 2011
Users "swayed by looks alone" may be sold on the "cute" Olympus E-PL3, says Darren Murph, but beyond the surface lie "jelly vision" video and a frustrating menu system that makes it "difficult" to tweak settings. Fast autofocus, long battery life and a "gorgeous" compact design are pluses, but the E-PL3 is no match for the "superior" Sony NEX-C3.
Review: Olympus Pen E-PL3 Micro Four Thirds Camera Review, Darren Murph, Aug. 29, 2011
For Lori Grunin, the Olympus E-PL3's tilting LCD, fast performance, "excellent" RAW images and affordable price make it a camera to easily appreciate. However, "wobbly" video disappoints and the camera's missing hand grip may annoy some shooters. Still, the E-PL3 nabs a 4-star rating for its "excellent" balance of size, features, photo quality and value.
Review: Olympus Pen E-PL3 with 17mm Lens (Silver), Lori Grunin , Oct. 7, 2011
6. Camera Labs.com
Ken McMahon compares the Olympus E-PL3 to its Panasonic and Sony competitors and finds that its "excellent" image quality, fast performance and customizable menu make it deserving of high recommendation. He also likes the tiltable LCD. However, the 16:9 screen format is better for videos than stills.
Review: Olympus Pen E-PL3 Review, Ken McMahon, Nov. 2011
There are only a few Olympus E-PL3 owners who offer feedback here, with reviews almost evenly divided: Two users praise the camera's compact design and image quality, while one says it's nearly "impossible" to track moving subjects in continuous shooting mode.
Review: Olympus Pen E-PL3 , Contributors to Amazon.com