Olympus E-3 vs E-P1
The Olympus E-3 and the Olympus PEN E-P1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in October 2007 and June 2009. The E-3 is a DSLR, while the E-P1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-3 has a resolution of 10 megapixels, whereas the E-P1 provides 12.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Olympus E-3||Olympus E-P1|
|Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Four Thirds lenses||Micro 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||No viewfinder, LCD framing|
|2.5" LCD, 230k dots||3.0" LCD, 230k dots|
|Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|5 shutter flaps per second||3 shutter flaps per second|
|In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Weathersealed body||Not weather sealed|
|750 shots per battery charge||300 shots per battery charge|
|142 x 116 x 75 mm, 876 g||121 x 70 x 36 mm, 355 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus PEN E-P1? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-P1 is provided 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-P1 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, white), while the E-3 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-P1 is considerably smaller (49 percent) than the Olympus E-3. Moreover, the E-P1 is substantially lighter (59 percent) than the E-3. It is worth mentioning in this context that the E-3 is splash and dust resistant, while the E-P1 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. 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 compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-3) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-P1). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-P1, 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 adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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.
|Olympus E-3»||5.6 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||30.9 oz||750||Y||Oct 2007||1,699||Olympus E-3|
|Olympus E-P1«||4.8 in||2.8 in||1.4 in||12.5 oz||300||n||Jun 2009||799||Olympus E-P1|
|Nikon D300« »||5.8 in||4.5 in||2.9 in||32.6 oz||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799||Nikon D300|
|Olympus E-P3« »||4.8 in||2.7 in||1.3 in||13.0 oz||330||n||Jun 2011||799||Olympus E-P3|
|Olympus E-PL2« »||4.5 in||2.8 in||1.7 in||12.8 oz||280||n||Jan 2011||599||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3« »||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.5 in||11.0 oz||300||n||Jun 2011||599||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-5« »||5.6 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||30.8 oz||750||Y||Sep 2010||1,699||Olympus E-5|
|Olympus E-600« »||5.1 in||3.7 in||2.4 in||18.9 oz||500||n||Aug 2009||449||Olympus E-600|
|Olympus E-620« »||5.1 in||3.7 in||2.4 in||18.4 oz||500||n||Feb 2009||699||Olympus E-620|
|Olympus E-P2« »||4.8 in||2.8 in||1.4 in||12.5 oz||300||n||Nov 2009||799||Olympus E-P2|
|Olympus E-30« »||5.6 in||4.3 in||3.0 in||24.7 oz||750||n||Nov 2008||1,299||Olympus E-30|
|Olympus E-420« »||5.1 in||3.6 in||2.1 in||15.5 oz||500||n||Mar 2008||599||Olympus E-420|
|Olympus E-520« »||5.4 in||3.6 in||2.7 in||18.9 oz||750||n||May 2008||699||Olympus E-520|
|Olympus E-410« »||5.1 in||3.6 in||2.1 in||15.3 oz||500||n||Mar 2007||699||Olympus E-410|
|Olympus E-510« »||5.4 in||3.6 in||2.7 in||19.0 oz||750||n||Mar 2007||799||Olympus E-510|
|Olympus E-1« »||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.2 in||26.0 oz||750||Y||Jun 2003||1,699||Olympus E-1|
|Panasonic GH1« »||4.9 in||3.5 in||1.8 in||13.6 oz||300||n||Mar 2009||899||Panasonic GH1|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as 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-P1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 53 percent) than the E-3, which puts it into a different 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.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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 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-P1 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.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-P1 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-P1 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-P1 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 8 months) than the E-3, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.
The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-P1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-P1 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 PEN E-P1 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400 (no boost).
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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"). 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.
|Olympus E-3||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.6||10.5||571||56||Olympus E-3|
|Olympus E-P1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.4||536||55||Olympus E-P1|
|Nikon D300||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||none||22.1||12.0||679||67||Nikon D300|
|Olympus E-P3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.8||10.1||536||51||Olympus E-P3|
|Olympus E-PL2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.2||573||55||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-5||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.6||10.5||519||56||Olympus E-5|
|Olympus E-600||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.5||10.3||541||55||Olympus E-600|
|Olympus E-620||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.3||10.3||536||55||Olympus E-620|
|Olympus E-P2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.4||505||56||Olympus E-P2|
|Olympus E-30||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.3||10.4||530||55||Olympus E-30|
|Olympus E-420||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.5||10.4||527||56||Olympus E-420|
|Olympus E-520||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.4||10.4||548||55||Olympus E-520|
|Olympus E-410||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.1||10.0||494||51||Olympus E-410|
|Olympus E-510||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.2||10.0||442||52||Olympus E-510|
|Olympus E-1||Four Thirds||4.9||2560||1920||none||..||..||..||..||Olympus E-1|
|Panasonic GH1||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/24p||21.6||11.6||772||64||Panasonic GH1|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The E-P1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-3 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-P1 can use is 720/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-3 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-P1 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-3 and Olympus E-P1 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Olympus E-3||optical||Y||2.5||230||swivel||n||1/8000s||5.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-3|
|Olympus E-P1||none||n||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||Y||Olympus E-P1|
|Nikon D300||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||Y||n||Nikon D300|
|Olympus E-P3||optional||n||3.0||614||fixed||Y||1/4000s||3.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-P3|
|Olympus E-PL2||optional||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3||optional||n||3.0||460||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||n||Y||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-5||optical||Y||3.0||920||swivel||n||1/8000s||5.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-5|
|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-P2||optional||n||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||Y||Olympus E-P2|
|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|
|Panasonic GH1||1440||n||3.0||460||swivel||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Panasonic GH1|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The E-3 has one, while the E-P1 does not. While the built-in flash of the E-3 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The E-3 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the E-P1 does not have a selfie-screen.
The E-3 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards, while the E-P1 uses SDHC cards. The E-3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the E-P1 only has one slot.
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 PEN E-P1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Olympus E-3||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-3|
|Olympus E-P1||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-P1|
|Nikon D300||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D300|
|Olympus E-P3||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-P3|
|Olympus E-PL2||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-5||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-5|
|Olympus E-600||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-600|
|Olympus E-620||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-620|
|Olympus E-P2||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-P2|
|Olympus E-30||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-30|
|Olympus E-420||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-420|
|Olympus E-520||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-520|
|Olympus E-410||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-410|
|Olympus E-510||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-510|
|Olympus E-1||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-1|
|Panasonic GH1||Y||stereo||none||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic GH1|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Olympus E-3 (unlike the E-P1) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the E-3 and the E-P1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-3 was replaced by the Olympus E-5, while the E-P1 was followed by the Olympus E-P2. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus website.
So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-P1? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Olympus E-3:
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 300) on a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in October 2007).
Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-P1:
- 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 compact: Is smaller (121x70mm vs 142x116mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 521g or 59 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (53 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 8 months) more recently.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-3 emerges as the winner of the contest (12 : 9 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-P1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings 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-P1 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts 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.
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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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.
- Canon 550D vs Olympus E-3
- Canon G1 X Mark II vs Olympus E-3
- Canon T5i vs Olympus E-P1
- Canon XTi vs Olympus E-3
- Fujifilm GFX 50R vs Olympus E-P1
- Fujifilm X-E3 vs Olympus E-P1
- Leica M-E Typ 240 vs Olympus E-P1
- Leica S Typ 006 vs Olympus E-3
- Nikon D1 vs Olympus E-P1
- Nikon P7800 vs Olympus E-3
- Olympus E-P1 vs Panasonic GH5s
- Olympus E-P1 vs Sony RX100
Specifications: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-P1
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||Olympus E-3||Olympus E-P1|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Four Thirds lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||October 2007||June 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 1699||USD 799|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-3||Olympus E-P1|
|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|
|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||55|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.6||21.4|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.5||10.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||571||536|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-3||Olympus E-P1|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||No viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Swivel screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-3||Olympus E-P1|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||5 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or XD cards||SDHC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-3||Olympus E-P1|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|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-P1|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Not weather sealed|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||750 shots per charge||300 shots per charge|
142 x 116 x 75 mm
(5.6 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
121 x 70 x 36 mm
(4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)
|Camera Weight||876 g (30.9 oz)||355 g (12.5 oz)|
Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.