Olympus pen e-p3

At the lower sensitivity settings the P3 is capable of resolving an impressive level of detail, on a par with some SLRS that have larger (APS-C sized) sensors. Noise also appears to be pretty well controlled in JPEGs taken at ISO 3200. Luminance noise is visible, but not objectionable and could even be described as the type of grain that you might occasionally want to add to enhance the atmosphere of a shot.

Push the sensitivity to ISO 6400, however, and noise (and the camera's attempts to remove it) becomes more troublesome. Even when sized to make relatively small prints, these images taken with the Noise Reduction set to standard look soft and lack details. At 100% on-screen, there's a fair amount of blurring of detail and some image elements lack any definition. We would avoid using sensitivity settings of ISO 6400 or higher. To be fair to Olympus, every setting from ISO 3200 upwards is outside of the native range.

At the time of writing Olympus had still not made its raw conversion software for the P3 available and it will be interesting to compare the JPEG results with the simultaneously captured raw files.

Colour

Our images reveal that the E-P3 generally handles colours well and photographs look natural, but have punch straight from the camera. The general purpose ESP metering system also takes most situations in its stride and the P3's wide dynamic range means that bright areas don't burn out unexpectedly. The tone adjustment facility proves useful in very high contras scenes, although not surprisingly, applying the maximum level of shadow brightening and highlight darkening results in flat images that have the typical HDR (high dynamic range) appearance.

Auto focus

Olympus's improved AF system is very fast in good light, but when light levels fall it goes the same way as most other contrast detection systems and becomes slower and hesitant. The tracking AF system can also only cope with relatively slow moving subjects and it isn't a viable option for sports photographers.

Dynamic range

Although the P3's tonal adjustment feature proves useful in high contrast situations, the P3 has an impressively wide dynamic range, especially for a Four Thirds camera. Highlights don't burn out too quickly and shadows don't block-up earlier than they should so that images have a full range of tones with subtle gradations.