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Olympus E-3 versus Olympus 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 megapixel, whereas the E-5 provides 12.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus 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. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the E-3 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-5
Compare E-3 versus E-5 top
Compare E-3 and 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 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 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» 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
Olympus E-5« 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
Nikon D300« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Olympus E-600« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.9 oz 500 n Aug 2009 449- i Olympus E-600
Olympus E-620« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.4 oz 500 n Feb 2009 699- i Olympus E-620
Olympus E-30« » 5.6 in 4.3 in 3.0 in 24.7 oz 750 n Nov 2008 1,299- i Olympus E-30
Olympus E-420« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2008 599- i Olympus E-420
Olympus E-520« » 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 n May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
Olympus E-410« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 n Mar 2007 699- i Olympus E-410
Olympus E-510« » 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 19.0 oz 750 n Mar 2007 799- i Olympus E-510
Olympus E-1« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. 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 Olympus 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 megapixel, compared with 10 MP of the E-3. This megapixel 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.

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 image quality. 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-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

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 Olympus 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 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. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Olympus E-3»optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-3
Olympus E-5«optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-5
Nikon D300« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
Olympus E-600« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-600
Olympus E-620« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-620
Olympus E-30« »optical Y 2.7 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-30
Olympus E-420« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n Olympus E-420
Olympus E-520« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y Y Olympus E-520
Olympus E-410« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Olympus E-410
Olympus E-510« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-510
Olympus E-1« »optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n Olympus E-1

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

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-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

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.

Review summary: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus 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? 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.

E-3 01:06 E-5

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality 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. This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

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»88/100HiRecrevrev4/5 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« »HiRecHiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Olympus E-600« »----4.5/5 Aug 2009 449- i Olympus E-600
Olympus E-620« »88/10072/1004.5/5rev5/5 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« »85/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2008 599- i Olympus E-420
Olympus E-520« »87/100HiRec4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
Olympus E-410« »86/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2007 699- i Olympus E-410
Olympus E-510« »89/100HiRec3.5/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2007 799- i Olympus E-510
Olympus E-1« »-Recrevrev- Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1

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.

 

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. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, kindly get in touch, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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