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Olympus E-3 vs E-5

The Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-5 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2007 and September 2010. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-3 has a resolution of 10 megapixels, whereas the E-5 provides 12.2 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-3   Olympus E-5
Olympus E-3 Olympus E-5
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
10 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video 720/30p Video
ISO 100-3200 ISO 100-6400
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5" LCD, 230k dots 3.0" LCD, 920k dots
Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive) Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive)
5 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
750 shots per battery charge750 shots per battery charge
142 x 116 x 75 mm, 876 g 142 x 117 x 75 mm, 873 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-5? 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.

Body comparison: Olympus E-3 vs E-5

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-5 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-5
Compare E-3 versus E-5 top
Comparison E-3 or E-5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-5 are of equal size. However, the E-5 is slightly lighter (0 percent) than the E-3. 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 compare the optics available 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 camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-3» 142 mm 116 mm 75 mm 876 g 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
 
Olympus E-5« 142 mm 117 mm 75 mm 873 g 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
 
Nikon D300« » 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
 
Olympus E-450« » 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2009 499- i Olympus E-450
 
Olympus E-600« » 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 535 g 500 n Aug 2009 449- i Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620« » 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699- i Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-30« » 142 mm 108 mm 75 mm 701 g 750 n Nov 2008 1,299- i Olympus E-30
 
Olympus E-420« » 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2008 599- i Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-520« » 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
 
Olympus E-410« » 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699- i Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-510« » 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 538 g 750 n Mar 2007 799- i Olympus E-510
 
Olympus E-1« » 141 mm 104 mm 81 mm 738 g 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1
 
Sony A77« » 143 mm 104 mm 81 mm 732 g 470 Y Aug 2011 1,399- i Sony A77
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. 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 two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Olympus E-3 vs E-5

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 tend 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.

Technology-wise, the E-5 uses a more advanced image processing engine (TruePic V+) than the E-3 (TruePic III), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Olympus E-3 and Olympus E-5 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-5 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 10 MP of the E-3. This megapixels advantage translates into a 11 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-5 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.29μm versus 4.74μm for the E-3). However, it should be noted that the E-5 is much more recent (by 2 years and 10 months) than the E-3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.

The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-5 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-5 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 20.2 x 15.1 inch or 51.2 x 38.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 16.1 x 12.1 inch or 41 x 30.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 13.4 x 10.1 inch or 34.1 x 25.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-3 are 18.2 x 13.7 inch or 46.3 x 34.7 cm for good quality, 14.6 x 10.9 inch or 37.1 x 27.8 cm for very good quality, and 12.2 x 9.1 inch or 30.9 x 23.2 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Olympus E-3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-5 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

E-3 versus E-5 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-3» Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.610.557156Olympus E-3
 
Olympus E-5« Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956Olympus E-5
 
Nikon D300« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.112.067967Nikon D300
 
Olympus E-450« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.551256Olympus E-450
 
Olympus E-600« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.510.354155Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.353655Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-30« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.453055Olympus E-30
 
Olympus E-420« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.452756Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-520« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.410.454855Olympus E-520
 
Olympus E-410« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.110.049451Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-510« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.210.044252Olympus E-510
 
Olympus E-1« » Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920-----Olympus E-1
 
Sony A77« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.280178Sony A77

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The E-5 indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-3 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-5 can use is 720/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Olympus E-3 vs E-5

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-3 and the E-5 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), as well as the same magnification (0.575x). The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-3 and Olympus E-5 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-3»optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-3
 
Olympus E-5«optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-5
 
Nikon D300« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
 
Olympus E-450« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n Olympus E-450
 
Olympus E-600« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-30« »optical Y 2.7 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-30
 
Olympus E-420« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-520« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y Y Olympus E-520
 
Olympus E-410« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-510« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-510
 
Olympus E-1« »optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n Olympus E-1
 
Sony A77« »2359 Y 3.0 921 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 Y Y Sony A77
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.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-3 and the E-5 write their files to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

 

Connectivity comparison: Olympus E-3 vs E-5

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 Olympus E-3 and Olympus E-5 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-3»Y-----2.0---Olympus E-3
 
Olympus E-5«Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-5
 
Nikon D300« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D300
 
Olympus E-450« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-450
 
Olympus E-600« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-30« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-30
 
Olympus E-420« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-520« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-520
 
Olympus E-410« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-510« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-510
 
Olympus E-1« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-1
 
Sony A77« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Sony A77

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the E-3 and the E-5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-3 was replaced by the Olympus E-5, while the E-5 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus website.


Review summary: Olympus E-3 vs E-5

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-3 or the Olympus E-5 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Olympus E-3:

  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in October 2007).


Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-5:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 10MP), which boosts linear resolution by 11%.
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (TruePic V+ vs TruePic III).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 230k dots).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 10 months of technical progress since the E-3 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-5 is the clear winner of the contest (6 : 1 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 wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

E-3 01:06 E-5

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-5 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the E-3 and the E-5 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews: Olympus E-3 vs E-5

This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-3»88/100+ +oo4/5 Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
 
Olympus E-5«-75/1004/5-4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
 
Nikon D300« »+ ++ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
 
Olympus E-450« »--4/5-4/5 Mar 2009 499- i Olympus E-450
 
Olympus E-600« »----4.5/5 Aug 2009 449- i Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620« »88/10072/1004.5/5o5/5 Feb 2009 699- i Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-30« »-71/1004.5/5-4/5 Nov 2008 1,299- i Olympus E-30
 
Olympus E-420« »85/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Mar 2008 599- i Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-520« »87/100+ +4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
 
Olympus E-410« »86/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Mar 2007 699- i Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-510« »89/100+ +3.5/5o4.5/5 Mar 2007 799- i Olympus E-510
 
Olympus E-1« »-+oo- Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1
 
Sony A77« »91/10081/100-4.5/55/5 Aug 2011 1,399- i Sony A77
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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.

Olympus E-3:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-5:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-5

    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 Specifications
    Camera Model Olympus E-3 Olympus E-5
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date October 2007 September 2010
    Launch Price USD 1699 USD 1699
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-3 Olympus E-5
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 10 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3648 x 2736 pixels 4032 x 3024 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.74 μm 4.29 μm
    Pixel Density 4.44 MP/cm2 5.42 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100-3200 ISO 100-6400 ISO
    Image Processor TruePic III TruePic V+
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 56 56
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.6 21.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.5 10.5
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 571 519
    Screen Specs Olympus E-3 Olympus E-5
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.575x 0.575x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Swivel screen Swivel screen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-3 Olympus E-5
    Autofocus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 5 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy150 000 actuations150 000 actuations
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or XD cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-3 Olympus E-5
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Olympus E-3 Olympus E-5
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BLM-1 power pack BLM-5 power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)750 shots per charge750 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 142 x 116 x 75 mm
    (5.6 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
    142 x 117 x 75 mm
    (5.6 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 876 g (30.9 oz) 873 g (30.8 oz)

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