Olympus E-3 versus Olympus E-M1 II
The Olympus E-3 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in October 2007 and September 2016. The E-3 is a DSLR, while the E-M1 II is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-3 has a resolution of 10 megapixel, whereas the E-M1 II provides 20.2 MP.
The physical size and weight of the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-M1 II are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button 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 – the E-3 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M1 II is notably smaller (26 percent) than the Olympus E-3. Moreover, the E-M1 II is markedly lighter (34 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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-3) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M1 II). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-M1 II, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
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
|Olympus E-3 (⇒ rgt)||5.6 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||30.9 oz||750||YES||2007||1,699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft)||5.3 in||3.6 in||2.6 in||20.2 oz||440||YES||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.8 in||4.5 in||2.9 in||32.6 oz||1000||YES||2007||1,799||discont.||check|
|Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.9 in||2.8 in||1.5 in||15.1 oz||330||no||2016||1,199||latest||check|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.9 in||3.3 in||1.8 in||16.5 oz||310||YES||2015||1,099||latest||check|
|Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.6 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||30.8 oz||750||YES||2010||1,699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-620 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.1 in||3.7 in||2.4 in||18.4 oz||500||no||2009||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.1 in||3.7 in||2.4 in||18.9 oz||500||no||2009||449||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.1 in||3.6 in||2.1 in||15.5 oz||500||no||2008||599||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.4 in||3.6 in||2.7 in||18.9 oz||750||no||2008||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.6 in||4.3 in||3.0 in||24.7 oz||750||no||2008||1,299||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.1 in||3.6 in||2.1 in||15.3 oz||500||no||2007||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.4 in||3.6 in||2.7 in||19.0 oz||750||no||2007||799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.2 in||26.0 oz||750||YES||2003||1,699||discont.||check|
|Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.4 in||3.8 in||3.6 in||23.2 oz||400||YES||2017||1,699||latest||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 GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.2 in||3.1 in||2.5 in||17.2 oz||330||YES||2015||1,199||latest||check|
The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-3 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 15 percent) than the E-M1 II, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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.
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.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-M1 II offers a higher resolution of 20.2 megapixel, compared with 10 MP of the E-3. This megapixel advantage translates into a 42 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-M1 II has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.34μm versus 4.74μm for the E-3). However, it should be noted that the E-M1 II is much more recent (by 8 years and 11 months) than the E-3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the E-M1 II has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
Unlike the E-3, the E-M1 II has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (50MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. 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 consideration, the E-M1 II offers substantially better image quality than the E-3 (overall score 24 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.1 bits higher color depth, 2.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.2 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.
|Olympus E-3 (⇒ rgt)||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||no||21.6||10.5||571||56|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft)||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.7||12.8||1312||80|
|Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||no||22.1||12.0||679||67|
|Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||1080/60p||23.1||12.4||894||74|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.6||10.5||519||56|
|Olympus E-620 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||no||21.3||10.3||536||55|
|Olympus E-600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||no||21.5||10.3||541||55|
|Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||no||21.5||10.4||527||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-1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||4.9||2560||1920||no||-||-||-||-|
|Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/60p||-||-||-||-|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/60p||23.9||13.0||807||77|
|Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.5||12.6||806||75|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The E-M1 II indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-3 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-M1 II can use is 4K/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-M1 II has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the E-3 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-3, the Olympus E-M1 II, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Olympus E-3 (⇒ rgt)||optical||YES||2.5||230||swivel||no||8000||5.0||13||YES|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft)||2360||no||3.0||1037||swivel||YES||8000||18.0||no||YES|
|Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||922||fixed||no||8000||6.0||12||no|
|Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt)||2360||no||3.0||1037||swivel||YES||8000||10.0||no||YES|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2360||no||3.0||1037||swivel||YES||8000||10.0||no||YES|
|Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||920||swivel||no||8000||5.0||13||YES|
|Olympus E-620 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.7||230||swivel||no||4000||4.0||12||YES|
|Olympus E-600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.7||230||swivel||no||4000||4.0||12||YES|
|Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.7||215||fixed||no||4000||3.5||12||no|
|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-1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||1.8||134||fixed||no||4000||3.0||no||no|
|Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt)||3680||YES||3.0||1040||swivel||YES||8000||20.0||no||YES|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||3680||no||3.2||1620||swivel||YES||8000||12.0||no||YES|
|Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2360||no||3.0||1040||swivel||YES||8000||10.0||no||YES|
The E-M1 II is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the E-3 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on ebay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the E-3 was succeeded by the Olympus E-5.
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-3 or the Olympus E-M1 II – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Olympus E-3:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 440) on a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (15 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in October 2007).
Arguments in favor of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (20.2 vs 10MP), which boosts linear resolution by 42%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (24 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.1 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.3 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.2 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/30p video.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- 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 (1037k vs 230k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (18 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (134x91mm vs 142x116mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 302g or 34 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More modern: Reflects 8 years and 11 months of technical progress since the E-3 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-M1 II is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 7 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-3 or the E-M1 II 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Olympus E-3 (⇒ rgt)||88/100||HiRec||reviewed||reviewed||4/5||2007||1,699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||90/100 HiRec||HiRec||5/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2007||1,799||discont.||check|
|Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||82/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2016||1,199||latest||check|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||81/100 Silver||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2015||1,099||latest||check|
|Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||75/100||4/5||-||4.5/5||2010||1,699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-620 (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100||72/100 HiRec||4.5/5||reviewed||5/5||2009||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-600 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||-||-||4.5/5||2009||449||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft | rgt)||85/100||HiRec||4/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2008||599||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt)||87/100||HiRec||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||2008||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||71/100 HiRec||4.5/5||-||4/5||2008||1,299||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt)||86/100||HiRec||4/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2007||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt)||89/100||HiRec||3.5/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2007||799||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||Rec||reviewed||reviewed||-||2003||1,699||discont.||check|
|Panasonic G9 (⇒ lft | rgt)||..||..||..||..||..||2017||1,699||latest||check|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2017||1,999||latest||check|
|Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||82/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2015||1,199||latest||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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.
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