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Olympus E-1 versus Olympus E-3

The Olympus E-1 and the Olympus E-3 are two semi-professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in June 2003 and October 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-1 has a resolution of 4.9 megapixel, whereas the E-3 provides 10 MP.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Olympus E-1 and the Olympus E-3 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the E-1 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Olympus E-1 vs Olympus E-3 front
E-1 versus E-3 top view
E-1 and E-3 rear side
Body view (E-1 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-3 is notably larger (12 percent) than the Olympus E-1. Moreover, the E-3 is markedly heavier (19 percent) than the E-1. Cameras that are intended for semi-professional or professional use are sometimes a bit bulkier in order to provide them with the necessary ruggedness. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Olympus E-1 (⇒ rgt) 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 YES 2003 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft) 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 YES 2007 1,699discont. check
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.7 in 3.4 in 3.0 in 21.4 oz 750 no 2006 1,499discont. check
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 YES 2010 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 no 2008 699discont. check
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.3 in 3.0 in 24.7 oz 750 no 2008 1,299discont. check
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 no 2007 699discont. check
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 19.0 oz 750 no 2007 799discont. check
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.5 in 3.4 in 2.8 in 22.5 oz 750 no 2006 999discont. check
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 no 2006 699discont. check
Olympus E-500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.6 in 16.9 oz 750 no 2005 599discont. check
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 3.3 in 2.5 in 22.0 oz 750 no 2004 799discont. check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 YES 2017 1,999 latest check
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.7 in 3.4 in 2.5 in 21.4 oz 750 no 2006 999discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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 are more costly to manufacture and tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Olympus E-1 and Olympus E-3 sensor measures
Sensor size

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-3 offers a higher resolution of 10 megapixel, compared with 4.9 MP of the E-1. This megapixel advantage translates into a 43 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-3 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.74μm versus 6.76μm for the E-1). However, it should be noted that the E-3 is much more recent (by 4 years and 3 months) than the E-1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of individual pixels.

E-1 versus E-3 MP
Sensor resolution

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Olympus E-1 (⇒ rgt) Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920 no - - - -
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.6 10.5 571 56
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352 no - - - -
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 720/30p 21.6 10.5 519 56
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.4 10.4 548 55
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 no 21.3 10.4 530 55
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.1 10.0 494 51
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.2 10.0 442 52
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352 no - - - -
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no - - - -
Olympus E-500 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448 no - - - -
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448 no - - - -
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/60p 23.9 13.0 807 77
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352 no - - - -
The E-3 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The E-1 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-1 and the E-3 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-1, the Olympus E-3, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Olympus E-1 (⇒ rgt) optical YES 1.8 134 fixed no 4000 3.0 no no
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft) optical YES 2.5 230 swivel no 8000 5.0 13 YES
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 207 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 swivel no 8000 5.0 13 YES
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.7 215 fixed no 4000 3.5 12 YES
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.7 230 swivel no 8000 5.0 13 YES
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 3.0 10 no
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 3.0 12 YES
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 tilting no 4000 3.0 13 no
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 3.0 10 no
Olympus E-500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 2.5 13 no
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 1.8 134 fixed no 4000 2.5 11 no
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3680 no 3.2 1620 swivel YES 8000 12.0 no YES
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 207 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no

Both the E-1 and the E-3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The E-1 was replaced by the Olympus E-3, while the E-3 was followed by the Olympus E-5.

Summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Olympus E-1 better than the Olympus E-3 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-1:

  • More compact: Is smaller (141x104mm vs 142x116mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 138g or 16 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 2003).

Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-3:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (10 vs 4.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 43%.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 134k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has a higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years and 3 months of technical progress since the E-1 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-3 is the clear winner of the contest (9 : 3 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.

E-1 03:09 E-3

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-1 or the E-3 handle or 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 where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Olympus E-1 (⇒ rgt) - Rec reviewed reviewed - 2003 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft) 88/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed 4/5 2007 1,699discont. check
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - - 2006 1,499discont. check
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 75/100 4/5 - 4.5/5 2010 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) 87/100 HiRec 4.5/5 4/5 4.5/5 2008 699discont. check
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 71/100 HiRec 4.5/5 - 4/5 2008 1,299discont. check
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) 86/100 HiRec 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 699discont. check
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) 89/100 HiRec 3.5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 799discont. check
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) - Rec reviewed 3.5/5 - 2006 999discont. check
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 - 4/5 - 4/5 2006 699discont. check
Olympus E-500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 76/100 HiRec - - - 2005 599discont. check
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) - Rec reviewed reviewed 4.5/5 2004 799discont. check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 1,999 latest check
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 Rec - reviewed 3.5/5 2006 999discont. check

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, 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 comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Other comparisons

In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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