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Olympus PEN E-P3 Review

First saw the Olympus PEN E-P3 back in September during our trip to Hong Kong. It was eventually launched in the Philippines in October with a suggested retail price of Php44,750 (includes a MSC-M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED m14-42mm II R f3.5/5.6 zoom lens). Check our full review after the jump.

Prior to using the Olympus EP-3, I’ve never had any inclination towards micro 4/3 cameras. I felt like they’re too big for a point-and-shoot replacement and not as powerful as the big dSLR.

That perception was changed when I used the Olympus PEN E-P3. This unit was sent to us by the local distributor of Olympus to test out and I’ve brought it on several trips both local and abroad.

I was also lucky to be in the company of a long-time Olympus user so I had a few lessons on some of the unique features of the camera.

The PEN EP-3 is relatively small and light and can pass of as an over-sized point-and-shoot camera. It’s not too cumbersome when carried on a neck-strap and doesn’t attract a lot of attention from security guards when you’re in the malls.

The loaner unit comes with two lenses — a 12mm M. Zuiko f/2.0 wide-angle lens and another variable zoom lens (14-42mm M. Zuiko f/3.5-5.6) which is better suited for walk-around photography and is the one that’s included as a kit lens.

The PEN EP-3 feels very solid — the body is made mostly out metal or aluminum alloy with a removable rubber grip in the front (you can see the big screw there). The design still resembles the old PEN series.

Aside from the usual controls controls and buttons, the OLED display is also a touchscreen so navigating and zooming in to photos and videos is more convenient. It also helps in selecting AF points, shutter release and navigating menus.

And speaking of the OLED screen, I must say it displays really clear and crisp images that’s rich in colors (reminds me of the display of the HTC Desire).

And while there’s Live View when you take pictures, there’s no view-finder to speak of so when you’re taking pictures on a bright sunny day, it’s kinda hard to see thru the screen. You’ll have to get the optional electronic viewfinder that can be attached on the hotshoe.

Nonetheless, the camera is pretty straight-forward, easy to use and understand, light and handy even when carried around the neck the whole day.

There’s a built-in flash the pops up form the top left corner but a hot-shoe is also available if you want to connect a more powerful external flash (sold separately).

The hardware specifications of the PEN E-P3 is pretty decent and actually matches those of the entry to mid-level dSLRs in the market.

Olympus PEN EP-3
12.3-megapixel Live MOS Sensor
Micro Four Thirds Mount
4/3″ Hi-Speed Live MOS sensor
1920×1080, 60i video recording (AVCHD Format)
2x digital zoom
ISO 100 – 12800
60-1/4000 sec shutter speed
3fps continuous shooting
3.0″ OLED touch display
Live View
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS-I compatible) storage
Eye-Fi compatible
USB 2.0
mini HDMI port

Noteworthy features include a built-in image stabilization, 1080i video recording, the pop up flash, and the very fast-focus.

If you’re comfortable with adjusting the settings, the Manual Mode will give you that liberty. However, several presets can also be used with the dial settings — M, A, S, P, SCN, iAuto, ART and Video.

As for image quality, I’d leave it to the sample photos I took using the Olympus PEN to speak for themselves as I am already pretty impressed with the output.

Taken during our KL, Malaysia tour with NuffNang bloggers.

The camera focuses really fast and manages to take really good photos even if you just set it on iAuto mode. Colors are really vivid, images are well saturated and evenly-exposed.

The macro shots here looked great. You can see the colors of the greens really pop out.

Chicken Rice at Pavillion Mall, KL; Makahiya plant in Tagaytay and Beef Noodles in streets of KL.

The PEN E-P3 has 10 in-camera Art Filters. In this set, I used the Soft Focus filter to take portraits.

Noelle of Kikay Runner, Kring of Funny Sexy and Helga of Ditz Revolution

The Diorama filter is also a nice one. It miniaturizes the images to make it look distant and small. Great when you’re taking the picture from above.

Finally, with this one, I used the Dramatic Tone filter which is actually my favorite settings when doing outdoors.

Splendido in Batangas; Tagaytay, Cavite and Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

You can check the entire photo gallery here for the original JPG images.

The camera can also handle low-light conditions pretty well but once you crank up the ISO to 1600 all the way up to 12800, then it becomes grainy and noisy. It’s still pretty decent at ISO 1600 and lower but I don’t recommended setting it any higher.

Long exposures like this one below is relatively clean and even. All you need is a steady tripod.

The camera takes both RAW (.orf) file format, JPEG or both with each RAW file reaching 15MB in size.

Battery life of this camera is actually good. Been using it in Malaysia last week and it’s still running one the same juice today. Granted, I wasn’t shooting photos like crazy but I’ve already taken shots in the hundreds.

After using the Olympus PEN EP-3 for a couple of weeks, I’ve certainly grown very fond of it. It’s versatile and has the power of an entry-level dSLR, minus the size and weight.

It’s got the fancy shots of most point-and-shoot cameras and the ability to pick the right lens (both Olympus and Panasonic) for the right conditions as well as other accessories. Olympus definitely has a winning combination with the PEN E-P3.

My biggest and only concern with this unit is the price tag — at Php44,750, it has already crossed the lines of many dSLR like the Nikon D5100 or the Canon 60D. In short, it’s kind of expensive.

But if you’re the kind that’s already tired of bringing along large and heavy camera and gears, then the Olympus PEN E-P3 offers that convenience. It’s like having a Canon S95 and a Canon 600D in one small yet powerful camera.

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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10 Responses

  1. E-PM1 User says:

    try checking out E-PM1 (mini series). It’s smaller than E-P3 but has the same specs (E-P3, E-PL3 and E-PM1 have same specifications). I bought one from Philip Ng, Olyclub member and olympus dealer (direct from red-dot philippines, official distributor of olympus in PH), so no worries in warranty because you may avail it from Reddot itself (1.5 years shop warranty), NOT the dealer (personal warranty). I got it with the price of 24k. It’s mall price is about 27k. :)

    • ej says:

      sir, ask ko lang po saan ang store ni Philip Ng? bibili po kase ako ng isa sa Pen series..baka mas mura sa kanya :) number din po pla ni Philip Ng. thanks ng marami

  2. manny c says:

    Nice review sir, one question is this micro 4/3 shoot as fast as dslr? I mean you don’t wait for few seconds to take shot after shot.

  3. Gregg says:

    I like Pentax Q than this

  4. Name: says:

    how does this compare to the panasonic line of micro 4/3’s? :)

  5. Angela says:

    in love with this cam talaga!!! amazing! parang ang gaganda rin ng pics namin dito! hahaha! :D nice meeting you abe! :D

  6. gen says:

    i recently bought my epl3. but my pix never turned this way. could be my settings. can you help?

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