Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 review

The new downsized PEN CSC boasts an extremely fast autofocus system

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Olympus pen lite e pl3

The loss of some the previously-mentioned much-loved features seen on the previous Olympus PEN Lite E-PL2 may grate on some existing E-PL2 owners and potential E-PL3 upgraders' nerves.

Only you can decide whether the tilting screen, new sensor and faster performance are enough to justify upgrading to the E-PL3, particularly so soon after the initial launch of the E-PL2, just over six months prior to this new model's introduction.

The asking price of £549.99 at the time of the camera's launch has already dropped on the high street, with a price tag closer to the £500 mark if you shop around online.

Your hard-earned cash does bag you the 14-24mm kit lens, plus that flash unit that's missing from the camera body itself. So, taking into account the features and the superb build quality that the E-PL3 has to offer, we're inclined to say it's worth the money.

The E-PL3 looks stylish and feels like it's really built to last. Plenty of beginner-friendly features are on hand to get you started, with the full complement of manual controls available once your skills develop, so it'll grow with you.

The new AF system is nothing short of excellent and – overall – this camera puts in a good performance in terms of image quality.

We liked

The simple interface, fast AF performance and tilting LCD add to the user-friendliness, responsiveness and versatility of the E-PL3.

The stylish design and metal finish combine to produce a solid, good-looking camera.

We disliked

Noise at the upper end of its ISO sensitivity range means the camera would benefit from being coupled with a faster lens to get the best shots in low light.

There also aren't many differences when compared to the older E-PL2, so potential upgraders may be put off.

The lack of built-in flash means you have to invest in an external one to improve low-light performance.

Final verdict

Putting the previously mentioned, potentially contentious issues aside for a moment, there's no doubting that Olympus has succeeded in creating a mini-marvel with the PEN Lite E-PL3.

It's beautifully engineered, stylish and puts in a blisteringly quick performance. As a compact system camera in its own right, we have to say it offers one of the best user experiences we've encountered to date, and as such we'd happily recommend it to a budding enthusiast in search of lightweight alternative to an entry-level DSLR.

Tech Specs

Product TypeMirrorless Camera with Lens
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Green CompliantYes
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Effective Camera Resolution12.3 Megapixel
USBYes
HDMIYes
Wide AngleYes
Product FamilyPEN
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), Eye-Fi Card
Image StabilizationDigital, Optical
ColourBlack
Optical Zoom3x
Brand NameOlympus
FeaturesFace Detection, Live View, Continuous Shooting Mode, Self-timer
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsMotion JPEG (AVI), AVCHD
Weight (Approximate)265 g
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityWEEE
Image Sensor Size4/3" (18 mm x 13.50 mm)
Maximum Image Resolution4032 x 3024
Display Screen TypeLCD
Height63.7 mm
Width109.5 mm
Depth37.3 mm
Focal Length14 mm to 42 mm (Lens 1)
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
External FlashIncluded
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerOlympus Corporation
Product ModelE-PL3
Product NamePEN E-PL3 Mirrorless Camera
Product LinePEN
Exposure Control
  • Program AE
  • Aperture Priority AE
  • Shutter Priority AE
  • Manual
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberV205031BE000
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.olympus.co.uk
Marketing Information

Over the last couple of years, Olympus PEN has made a name for itself with retro-styled, easy-to-use, compact system cameras that take very high-quality pictures. The new PEN Lite (E-PL3) does that and more. It gives you all the creativity and interchangeable lenses of an SLR camera, but with none of the hassle - and none of the bulk.

Package Contents
  • PEN E-PL3 Mirrorless Camera
  • 14-42mm Lens
  • Flash FL-LM1
  • BLS-1 or BLS-5 Battery
  • BCS-1 or BCS-5 Battery
  • Micro Four Thirds Body Cap (BC-2)
  • Shoulder Strap
  • USB Cable CB-USB6
  • Audio/Video Cable CB-AVC3
  • Software CD-ROM
  • Operating Instructions
  • Warranty Card
Limited Warranty2 Year