Canon R vs Olympus E-PL3
The Canon EOS R and the Olympus PEN E-PL3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2018 and June 2011. Both the Canon R and the E-PL3 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a full frame (Canon R) and a Four Thirds (E-PL3) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 30.1 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 R and the Olympus PEN E-PL3? 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 physical size and weight of the Canon R and the Olympus E-PL3 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. 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 E-PL3 can be obtained in four different colors (black, silver, red, white), while the Canon R is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-PL3 is considerably smaller (48 percent) than the Canon R. Moreover, the E-PL3 is substantially lighter (53 percent) than the Canon R. It is worth mentioning in this context that the Canon R is splash and dust resistant, while the E-PL3 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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.
Concerning battery life, the Canon R gets 370 shots out of its LP-E6N battery, while the E-PL3 can take 300 images on a single charge of its BLS-5 power pack. The power pack in the Canon R can be charged via the USB port, so that it is not always necessary to take the battery charger along when travelling.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Canon R||139 mm||98 mm||84 mm||660 g||370||Y||Sep 2018||2,299|
|2.||Olympus E-PL3||110 mm||64 mm||37 mm||313 g||300||n||Jun 2011||599|
|3.||Canon R6||138 mm||98 mm||88 mm||680 g||360||Y||Jul 2020||2,499|
|4.||Canon RP||133 mm||85 mm||70 mm||485 g||250||n||Feb 2019||1,299|
|5.||Canon 6D Mark II||144 mm||111 mm||75 mm||765 g||1200||Y||Jun 2017||1,999|
|6.||Canon 6D||145 mm||111 mm||71 mm||770 g||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|7.||Leica Q2||130 mm||80 mm||92 mm||718 g||370||Y||Mar 2019||4,995|
|8.||Leica M10||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595|
|9.||Nikon Z6||134 mm||101 mm||67 mm||675 g||310||Y||Aug 2018||1,999|
|10.||Nikon D750||141 mm||113 mm||78 mm||750 g||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|11.||Olympus E-PL5||111 mm||64 mm||38 mm||325 g||360||n||Sep 2012||599|
|12.||Olympus E-P3||122 mm||69 mm||34 mm||369 g||330||n||Jun 2011||799|
|13.||Olympus E-PL2||114 mm||72 mm||42 mm||362 g||280||n||Jan 2011||599|
|14.||Olympus E-PM1||110 mm||64 mm||34 mm||265 g||330||n||Jun 2011||499|
|15.||Olympus E-PL1||115 mm||72 mm||42 mm||334 g||290||n||Feb 2010||599|
|16.||Sony A7 III||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||610||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|17.||Sony A7R||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||465 g||340||Y||Oct 2013||2,299|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. 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-PL3 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 74 percent) than the Canon R, which puts it into a different market segment. 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 imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its 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 R features a full frame sensor and the Olympus E-PL3 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-PL3 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the Canon R has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-PL3 offers a 4:3 aspect.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
With 30.1MP, the Canon R offers a higher resolution than the E-PL3 (12.2MP), but the Canon R nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.36μm versus 4.29μm for the E-PL3) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the Canon R is a much more recent model (by 7 years and 2 months) than the E-PL3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
The resolution advantage of the Canon R implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the Canon R for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 33.6 x 22.4 inches or 85.3 x 56.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 26.9 x 17.9 inches or 68.3 x 45.5 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 22.4 x 14.9 inches or 56.9 x 37.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-PL3 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 Canon R has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Canon EOS R has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 40000, which can be extended to ISO 50-102400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-PL3 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the Canon R provides substantially higher image quality than the E-PL3, with an overall score that is 37 points higher. This advantage is based on 3.6 bits higher color depth, 3.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Canon R||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.5||13.5||2742||89|
|2.||Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52|
|3.||Canon R6||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4k/60p||24.2||14.3||3394||90|
|4.||Canon RP||Full Frame||26.2||6240||4160||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|5.||Canon 6D Mark II||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||1080/60p||24.4||11.9||2862||85|
|6.||Canon 6D||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|7.||Leica Q2||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/30p||26.4||13.5||2491||96|
|8.||Leica M10||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|9.||Nikon Z6||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/30p||25.3||14.3||3299||95|
|10.||Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|11.||Olympus E-PL5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||889||72|
|12.||Olympus E-P3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.8||10.1||536||51|
|13.||Olympus E-PL2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.2||573||55|
|14.||Olympus E-PM1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||21.0||10.3||499||52|
|15.||Olympus E-PL1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.1||487||54|
|16.||Sony A7 III||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.7||3730||96|
|17.||Sony A7R||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.6||14.1||2746||95|
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 Canon R provides a higher video resolution than the E-PL3. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/60i.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the Canon R has an electronic viewfinder (3690k dots), which can be very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-PL3 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the E-PL3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the VF-2. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon R and Olympus E-PL3 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|5.||Canon 6D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||6.5||n||n|
|16.||Sony A7 III||2359||n||3.0||922||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
One feature that is present on the Canon R, but is missing on the E-PL3 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.Both cameras have an articulated rear screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This feature will be particularly appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the Canon R is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the Canon R and the E-PL3 write their files to SDXC cards. The Canon R supports UHS-II cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s), while the E-PL3 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 R and Olympus PEN E-PL3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|5.||Canon 6D Mark II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|16.||Sony A7 III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
It is notable that the Canon R has a microphone port, which is missing on the E-PL3. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.
The Canon R is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Canon. In contrast, the E-PL3 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the E-PL3 was succeeded by the Olympus E-PL5. 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 the Canon R better than the Olympus E-PL3 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Canon EOS R:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (30.1 vs 12.2MP) with a 60% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (37 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (3.6 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (3.2 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (2.5 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60i).
- 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.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2100k vs 460k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (8 vs 5.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (370 versus 300) on a single battery charge.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.1 vs 2.0).
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports Ultra High Speed (UHS-II) SDXC cards.
- More modern: Reflects 7 years and 2 months of technical progress since the E-PL3 launch.
Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-PL3:
- More compact: Is smaller (110x64mm vs 139x98mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 347g or 53 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (74 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in June 2011).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the Canon R is the clear winner of the match-up (26 : 5 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 R and the Olympus E-PL3 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 the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the Canon R and the E-PL3 in practical situations. 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 expert reviews 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 R||4/5||o||79/100||4.5/5||4/5||Sep 2018||2,299|
|2.||Olympus E-PL3||3/5||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|3.||Canon R6||5/5||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2020||2,499|
|4.||Canon RP||4/5||+||..||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2019||1,299|
|5.||Canon 6D Mark II||4/5||+||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2017||1,999|
|6.||Canon 6D||5/5||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|7.||Leica Q2||..||..||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||Mar 2019||4,995|
|8.||Leica M10||4.5/5||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595|
|9.||Nikon Z6||5/5||..||..||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2018||1,999|
|10.||Nikon D750||5/5||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|11.||Olympus E-PL5||3/5||+ +||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||599|
|12.||Olympus E-P3||..||83/100||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2011||799|
|13.||Olympus E-PL2||3/5||83/100||71/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2011||599|
|14.||Olympus E-PM1||..||86/100||71/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2011||499|
|15.||Olympus E-PL1||..||86/100||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||599|
|16.||Sony A7 III||..||+ +||89/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|17.||Sony A7R||5/5||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||2,299|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
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 R vs Olympus E-PL3
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 R||Olympus E-PL3|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Canon RF mount lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2018||June 2011|
|Launch Price||USD 2,299||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Canon R||Olympus E-PL3|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Four Thirds Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||224.9 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||21.6 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||30.1 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6720 x 4480 pixels||4032 x 3024 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.36 μm||4.29 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.48 MP/cm2||5.42 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 40,000 ISO||200 - 12,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 102,400 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 8||Truepic VI|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||89||52|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||24.5||20.9|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.5||10.3|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||2742||499|
|Screen Specs||Canon R||Olympus E-PL3|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||3690k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||2100k dots||460k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Swivel screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon R||Olympus E-PL3|
|Focus System||On-Sensor Phase-detect||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||no Peaking Feature|
|Continuous Shooting||8 shutter flaps/s||5.5 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||YES||no E-Shutter|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-II||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon R||Olympus E-PL3|
|USB Connector||USB 3.1||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||no Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Bluetooth Support||Bluetooth built-in||no Bluetooth|
|Body Specs||Canon R||Olympus E-PL3|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||370 shots per charge||300 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||USB charging||no USB charging|
139 x 98 x 84 mm
(5.5 x 3.9 x 3.3 in)
110 x 64 x 37 mm
(4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||660 g (23.3 oz)||313 g (11.0 oz)|
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