JPEGs from the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 are detailed, faithfully coloured and pleasingly saturated by default.
The E-PL3's metering system generally copes well with high contrast situations, as demonstrated by the successful capture of both shadow and highlight detail in this image.
On its default colour setting, JPEGs straight out of the camera deliver pleasing colours with just the right amount of saturation.
An example of the sort of result you get when shooting with the E-PL3's Grainy B&W Art Filter – quite an extreme effect, but it works well with high contrast subjects.
The E-PL3's manual controls enable you to set the aperture and shutter speed, so you can be in charge of the depth of field and/or amount of movement recorded in your shots.
Shooting with a relatively wide aperture, it's easy to create images with a shallow depth of field that ensures the focus remains squarely on your main subject.
The E-PL3's 12.3MP CMOS sensor records plenty of fine detail and handles noise well – as shown in this image shot at ISO 1600.
The range of tones captured is impressive, making it easy to create well-balanced shots under bright or stormy conditions.
An example of the results you can get with Olympus' Pin Hole Art Filter – the dark vignette really enhances moody scenes in particular.
The E-PL3's sensor does a good job of recording subtle tonal variations, enabling us to capture a pleasing image of this partially sunlit landscape against the darker sky.
The 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens that's part of the standard E-PL3 kit (other options are available) proves to be a useful everyday lens, albeit with a drop in sharpness levels when zooming in.
Our ISO sensitivity tests in the lab reveal that the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 performs better than the Panasonic GF3 and Samsung NX11 across the board, and it also manages to outdo Sony's NEX-C3 at some settings.
Viewing images at 100% reveals relatively noise-free images right up to ISO 800, although colour fidelity and the level of sharp detail are well maintained up until ISO 6400. Beyond this point, noise becomes more obvious, but we'd say shots remain usable throughout much of the E-PL3's upper sensitivity range.
ISO 12800 is very noisy and colours look a little muddy, but it's still there if you can't bear to miss an important low-light photo opportunity.