Review Date: November 15, 2011
Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur
Photoxels Gold Award – Interchangeable Lens Camera
The Olympus E-PL3 is an Interchangeable Lens Camera (ILC, aka “mirrorless DSLR”) targeted to beginner and serious amateur photographers. It has 12.3MP resolution on a Four Thirds (17.3 x 13.0 mm) Live MOS image sensor, built-in Sensor-shift Image Stabilization, and accepts interchangeable lenses on the micro Four Thirds mount.
The Olympus E-PL3 has very good image quality including very good low-light performance at ISO 200 with good detail preserved. Image quality is very good up to ISO 800, and ISO 1600 is very usable; at higher ISOs, images suffer from noise and loss of detail.
|Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm
3x Optical Zoom
(28mm, 35mm equivalent)
(84mm, 35mm equivalent)
One of the many advantages of an ILC camera is the ability to use interchangeable lenses suited to specific jobs. The Olympus E-PL3 comes with a M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R (35 mm equivalent focal length: 28-84 mm) 3x zoom retractable kit lens which has 7 circular blades, a minimum aperture of F22, and accepts 37mm diameter filters. In the above pictures, we show the coverage for 14mm [28mm equiv.] then 42mm [84mm equiv.].
The Olympus E-PL3 has full exposure flexibility with PASM modes, and Program Shift.
The camera also provides exposure compensation (with Auto Bracketing) and Custom (Manual) White Balance. A Histogram can be displayed in both Live and Playback modes.
Shutter speed ranges from 1/4,000-1 sec. in PA, 1/4,000-60 sec. in SM, plus B and T in Manual Mode.
The actual macro capability is a function of the lens you use. The 14-42mm kit lens allows you to focus only as close as 25cm (9.8 in.).
The AF Area can be manually moved to any of 35 focus areas by simply pressing the LEFT ARROW button and using the Directional Keys to select an AF area. AF is very fast in good light, takes about 1 sec. in low light with the help of the AF-assist illuminator.
There are three metering modes: Digital ESP (Multi-Pattern), Center-Weighted Average and Spot (plus Spot Highlight and Spot Shadow).
|Auto White Balance Indoors|
As the above two pictures show, the Auto White Balance (AWB) is not quite accurate indoors under artificial lighting [I have two energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs on the ceiling]. The Olympus E-PL3 allows WB to be set manually and this brings out the real colors. AWB works very well in natural light.
|ISO 400||ISO 800|
|ISO 1600||ISO 3200|
|ISO 6400||ISO 12800|
The Olympus E-PL3 has 7 or 19 ISO settings, depending on whether you choose 1 EV or 1/3 EV ISO steps in Custom Menu [Menu – Custom Menu – Exp/Metering/ISO – ISO Step] going from ISO 200 to ISO 1600, plus extended ISOs 3200 to 12800. [Note that in iAuto mode, the ISO range is 200-1600.] The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate the noise at the available ISO Speeds (in 1 EV ISO steps). At ISO 200 to 400, noise is under control. Noise starts to be slightly visible at ISO 800 but is still very acceptable up to ISO 1600. Noise (with detail loss) is quite visible at higher ISOs. Overall, very good noise handling.
CA is present in some, but not all, high contrast shots. The corner delimited by the red square at top right, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right, shows some slight purple fringing.
Our Long Shutter Speed test is a torture test for digital cameras. Here we test whether (and how well) a camera can lock focus, provide accurate WB and obtain a correct exposure in extreme low light situations. The E-PL3 passes the test easily, locking focus well, though getting a correct exposure in Manual mode takes patient trial and error.
The Olympus E-PL3 allows the use of a long shutter speed of up to 60 sec. in PASM modes, therefore allowing nice night photography. Generally, with image sensors, noise usually becomes more prominent at slow shutter speeds.
To test this noise reduction algorithm, we take a low-light indoors shot. I experiment a bit to obtain the optimum exposure, eventually settling on 60 sec. at F7.1. Even at this long shutter speed, the Olympus E-PL3’s noise reduction seems to be working great, producing a nice smooth blurring effect of the background.
Overall, the Olympus E-PL3 has very good image quality including very good low light capability, making it an easy choice for an ideal alternative to an entry-level DSLR.
View the Olympus E-PL3 Photo Gallery [In the Photo Gallery, click on the picture of the camera to return here.]