Canon M3 vs Olympus E-PL1
The Canon EOS M3 and the Olympus PEN E-PL1 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2015 and February 2010. Both the M3 and the E-PL1 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on an APS-C (M3) and a Four Thirds (E-PL1) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 24 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 12.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS M3 and the Olympus PEN E-PL1? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon M3 and the Olympus E-PL1. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The M3 can be obtained in two different colors (black, white), while the E-PL1 is available in four color-versions (black, blue, yellow, white).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-PL1 is notably larger (10 percent) than the Canon M3. However, the E-PL1 is markedly lighter (9 percent) than the M3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M3 nor the E-PL1 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Canon M3||111 mm||68 mm||44 mm||366 g||250||n||Feb 2015||679|
|2.||Olympus E-PL1||115 mm||72 mm||42 mm||334 g||290||n||Feb 2010||599|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||116 mm||88 mm||59 mm||387 g||305||n||Oct 2020||599|
|4.||Canon M50||116 mm||88 mm||59 mm||390 g||235||n||Feb 2018||779|
|5.||Canon M6||112 mm||68 mm||45 mm||390 g||295||n||Feb 2017||779|
|6.||Canon M100||108 mm||67 mm||35 mm||302 g||295||n||Aug 2017||499|
|7.||Canon M5||116 mm||89 mm||61 mm||427 g||295||n||Sep 2016||979|
|8.||Canon M10||108 mm||67 mm||35 mm||301 g||255||n||Oct 2015||499|
|9.||Canon T6i||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||555 g||440||n||Feb 2015||749|
|10.||Canon T6s||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||565 g||440||n||Feb 2015||649|
|11.||Canon G7 X||103 mm||60 mm||40 mm||304 g||210||n||Sep 2014||699|
|12.||Canon M||109 mm||66 mm||32 mm||298 g||230||n||Jul 2012||599|
|13.||Olympus E-P3||122 mm||69 mm||34 mm||369 g||330||n||Jun 2011||799|
|14.||Olympus E-PL2||114 mm||72 mm||42 mm||362 g||280||n||Jan 2011||599|
|15.||Olympus E-PL3||110 mm||64 mm||37 mm||313 g||300||n||Jun 2011||599|
|16.||Olympus E-P1||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||n||Jun 2009||799|
|17.||Olympus E-P2||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||n||Nov 2009||799|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The E-PL1 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 12 percent) than the M3, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon M3 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-PL1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-PL1 is 32 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 2.0. The sensor in the M3 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-PL1 offers a 4:3 aspect.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 24MP, the M3 offers a higher resolution than the E-PL1 (12.2MP), but the M3 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.72μm versus 4.29μm for the E-PL1). However, the M3 is a much more recent model (by 5 years) than the E-PL1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
The resolution advantage of the Canon M3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the M3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-PL1 are 20.2 x 15.1 inches or 51.2 x 38.4 cm for good quality, 16.1 x 12.1 inches or 41 x 30.7 cm for very good quality, and 13.4 x 10.1 inches or 34.1 x 25.6 cm for excellent quality prints.
The M3 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Canon EOS M3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 12800, which can be extended to ISO 100-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-PL1 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200 (no boost).
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under review, the M3 provides substantially higher image quality than the E-PL1, with an overall score that is 18 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.3 bits higher color depth, 1.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|2.||Olympus E-PL1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.1||487||54|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||4K/24p||..||..||..||..|
|11.||Canon G7 X||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||23.0||12.7||556||71|
|13.||Olympus E-P3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.8||10.1||536||51|
|14.||Olympus E-PL2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.2||573||55|
|15.||Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52|
|16.||Olympus E-P1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.4||536||55|
|17.||Olympus E-P2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.4||505||56|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the M3 provides a higher video resolution than the E-PL1. It can shoot video footage at 1080/30p, while the Olympus is limited to 720/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The M3 and the E-PL1 are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. However, optional viewfinders – the EVF-DC1 for the M3 and the VF-2 for the E-PL1 – are available as accessories. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon M3 and Olympus E-PL1 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||2360||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||10.0||Y||n|
|11.||Canon G7 X||none||n||3.0||1040||tilting||Y||1/2000s||6.5||Y||Y|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The M3 has a touchscreen, while the E-PL1 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.The M3 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the E-PL1 does not have a selfie-screen.
The M3 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the E-PL1 uses SDHC cards. The M3 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the E-PL1 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS M3 and Olympus PEN E-PL1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|11.||Canon G7 X||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the M3 has a microphone port, which is missing on the E-PL1. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.
Both the M3 and the E-PL1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-PL1 was replaced by the Olympus E-PL2, while the M3 was followed by the Canon M6. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Olympus websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon M3 and the Olympus E-PL1? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS M3:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 12.2MP) with a 43% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (18 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.3 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.7 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.3 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/30p vs 720/30p).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.2 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 5 years of technical progress since the E-PL1 launch.
Advantages of the Olympus PEN E-PL1:
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (290 versus 250) out of a single battery charge.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (12 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in February 2010).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the M3 is the clear winner of the match-up (19 : 4 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon M3 and the Olympus E-PL1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the M3 or the E-PL1 perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Canon M3||4/5||o||75/100||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2015||679|
|2.||Olympus E-PL1||..||86/100||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||599|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||..||..||..||4.5/5||3.5/5||Oct 2020||599|
|4.||Canon M50||..||+||79/100||..||3.5/5||Feb 2018||779|
|5.||Canon M6||..||..||80/100||4/5||4/5||Feb 2017||779|
|6.||Canon M100||3/5||+||..||4/5||3.5/5||Aug 2017||499|
|7.||Canon M5||4/5||+||82/100||4/5||4/5||Sep 2016||979|
|8.||Canon M10||..||..||..||..||4/5||Oct 2015||499|
|9.||Canon T6i||5/5||..||75/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||749|
|10.||Canon T6s||5/5||+||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||649|
|11.||Canon G7 X||4/5||+ +||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||699|
|12.||Canon M||3/5||+||..||4/5||4/5||Jul 2012||599|
|13.||Olympus E-P3||..||83/100||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2011||799|
|14.||Olympus E-PL2||3/5||83/100||71/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2011||599|
|15.||Olympus E-PL3||3/5||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|16.||Olympus E-P1||..||+||66/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2009||799|
|17.||Olympus E-P2||3/5||+||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Nov 2009||799|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Canon M3 vs Olympus E-PL1
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Canon M3||Olympus E-PL1|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF-M mount lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2015||February 2010|
|Launch Price||USD 679||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Canon M3||Olympus E-PL1|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Four Thirds Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.3 x 14.9 mm||17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||332.27 mm2||224.9 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.8 mm||21.6 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6000 x 4000 pixels||4032 x 3024 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||3.72 μm||4.29 μm|
|Pixel Density||7.22 MP/cm2||5.42 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 12,800 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 25,600 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 6||Truepic V|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||72||54|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.8||21.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.8||10.1|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1169||487|
|Screen Specs||Canon M3||Olympus E-PL1|
|Viewfinder Type||Viewfinder optional||Viewfinder optional|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||2.7inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon M3||Olympus E-PL1|
|Focus System||On-Sensor Phase-detect||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||no Peaking Feature|
|Continuous Shooting||4.2 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDHC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon M3||Olympus E-PL1|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Near-Field Communication||NFC built-in||no NFC|
|Body Specs||Canon M3||Olympus E-PL1|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||250 shots per charge||290 shots per charge|
111 x 68 x 44 mm
(4.4 x 2.7 x 1.7 in)
115 x 72 x 42 mm
(4.5 x 2.8 x 1.7 in)
|Camera Weight||366 g (12.9 oz)||334 g (11.8 oz)|
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