Olympus E-300 vs PEN-F
The Olympus Evolt E-300 and the Olympus PEN-F are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2004 and January 2016. The E-300 is a DSLR, while the PEN-F is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-300 has a resolution of 8 megapixels, whereas the PEN-F provides 20.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus Evolt E-300 and the Olympus PEN-F? 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-300 and the Olympus PEN-F 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 width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The PEN-F can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the E-300 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 PEN-F is notably smaller (28 percent) than the Olympus E-300. Moreover, the PEN-F is markedly lighter (32 percent) than the E-300. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-300 nor the PEN-F are weather-sealed.
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-300) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (PEN-F). Mirrorless cameras, such as the PEN-F, 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 would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Olympus E-300||147 mm||85 mm||64 mm||624 g||750||n||Sep 2004||799|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||125 mm||72 mm||37 mm||427 g||330||n||Jan 2016||1,199|
|3.||Canon 350D||127 mm||94 mm||64 mm||540 g||400||n||Feb 2005||899|
|4.||Leica Digilux 3||146 mm||87 mm||77 mm||606 g||750||n||Sep 2006||1,499|
|5.||Olympus E-M1 II||134 mm||91 mm||67 mm||574 g||440||Y||Sep 2016||1,999|
|6.||Olympus E-M5 II||124 mm||85 mm||45 mm||469 g||310||Y||Feb 2015||1,099|
|7.||Olympus E-M10 II||120 mm||83 mm||47 mm||390 g||320||n||Aug 2015||649|
|8.||Olympus E-P5||122 mm||69 mm||37 mm||420 g||330||n||May 2013||999|
|9.||Olympus E-620||130 mm||94 mm||60 mm||521 g||500||n||Feb 2009||699|
|10.||Olympus E-520||136 mm||92 mm||68 mm||535 g||750||n||May 2008||699|
|11.||Olympus E-410||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||435 g||500||n||Mar 2007||699|
|12.||Olympus E-510||136 mm||92 mm||68 mm||538 g||750||n||Mar 2007||799|
|13.||Olympus E-330||140 mm||87 mm||72 mm||637 g||750||n||Jan 2006||999|
|14.||Olympus E-400||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||435 g||500||n||Sep 2006||699|
|15.||Olympus E-500||130 mm||95 mm||66 mm||479 g||750||n||Sep 2005||599|
|16.||Panasonic GX8||133 mm||78 mm||63 mm||487 g||330||Y||Jul 2015||1,199|
|17.||Panasonic L1||146 mm||87 mm||64 mm||606 g||750||n||Feb 2006||999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-300 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 33 percent) than the PEN-F, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its 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.
Technology-wise, the PEN-F uses a more advanced image processing engine (TruePic VII) than the E-300 (TruePic), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the PEN-F offers a higher resolution of 20.2 megapixels, compared with 8 MP of the E-300. This megapixels advantage translates into a 59 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the PEN-F has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.34μm versus 5.30μm for the E-300). However, it should be noted that the PEN-F is much more recent (by 11 years and 4 months) than the E-300, 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 PEN-F has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Olympus PEN-F implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the PEN-F for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 25.9 x 19.4 inches or 65.8 x 49.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.7 x 15.6 inches or 52.7 x 39.5 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.3 x 13 inches or 43.9 x 32.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-300 are 16.3 x 12.2 inches or 41.5 x 31.1 cm for good quality, 13.1 x 9.8 inches or 33.2 x 24.9 cm for very good quality, and 10.9 x 8.2 inches or 27.6 x 20.7 cm for excellent quality prints.
Unlike the E-300, the PEN-F has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (40MP) 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).
The Olympus Evolt E-300 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 400, which can be extended to ISO 100-1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN-F are ISO 80 to ISO 25600 (no boost).
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 following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
| DXO |
|1.||Olympus E-300||Four Thirds||8.0||3264||2448||none||..||..||..||..|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||1080/60p||23.1||12.4||894||74|
|4.||Leica Digilux 3||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||none||..||..||..||..|
|5.||Olympus E-M1 II||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.7||12.8||1312||80|
|6.||Olympus E-M5 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|7.||Olympus E-M10 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.1||12.5||842||73|
|8.||Olympus E-P5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
|9.||Olympus E-620||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.3||10.3||536||55|
|10.||Olympus E-520||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.4||10.4||548||55|
|11.||Olympus E-410||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.1||10.0||494||51|
|12.||Olympus E-510||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.2||10.0||442||52|
|13.||Olympus E-330||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||none||..||..||..||..|
|14.||Olympus E-400||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||..||..||..||..|
|15.||Olympus E-500||Four Thirds||8.0||3264||2448||none||..||..||..||..|
|16.||Panasonic GX8||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.5||12.6||806||75|
|17.||Panasonic L1||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||none||..||..||..||..|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The PEN-F indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-300 does not. The highest resolution format that the PEN-F can use is 1080/60p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the PEN-F has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the E-300 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 viewfinder in the PEN-F offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the E-300 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the PEN-F has a higher magnification (0.62x vs 0.5x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-300 and Olympus PEN-F in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|4.||Leica Digilux 3||optical||n||2.5||207||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n|
|5.||Olympus E-M1 II||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||18.0||n||Y|
|6.||Olympus E-M5 II||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|7.||Olympus E-M10 II||2360||n||3.0||1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0||Y||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The E-300 has one, while the PEN-F does not. While the built-in flash of the E-300 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The PEN-F has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the E-300 does not have a selfie-screen.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the PEN-F is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Olympus PEN-F has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The E-300 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards, while the PEN-F uses SDXC cards. The E-300 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the PEN-F 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 Evolt E-300 and Olympus PEN-F and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|4.||Leica Digilux 3||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|5.||Olympus E-M1 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.0||Y||-||-|
|6.||Olympus E-M5 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|7.||Olympus E-M10 II||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
It is notable that the PEN-F offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the E-300 does not provide wifi capability.
Both the E-300 and the PEN-F have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-300 was replaced by the Olympus E-330, while the PEN-F 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.
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-300 or the Olympus PEN-F – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Olympus Evolt E-300:
- 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.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 330) on a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (33 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2004).
Advantages of the Olympus PEN-F:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (20.2 vs 8MP), which boosts linear resolution by 59%.
- 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 jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (TruePic VII vs TruePic).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.62x vs 0.5x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 134k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- 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 (10 vs 2.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (125x72mm vs 147x85mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 197g or 32 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- More modern: Reflects 11 years and 4 months of technical progress since the E-300 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the PEN-F is the clear winner of the contest (23 : 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 when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro 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-300 and the Olympus PEN-F 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 comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the E-300 and the PEN-F in practical situations. 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 expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.
|1.||Olympus E-300||..||..||+||o||4.5/5||Sep 2004||799|
|2.||Olympus PEN-F||..||..||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,199|
|3.||Canon 350D||..||80/100||+ +||o||..||Feb 2005||899|
|4.||Leica Digilux 3||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2006||1,499|
|5.||Olympus E-M1 II||5/5||+ +||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||1,999|
|6.||Olympus E-M5 II||5/5||+ +||81/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2015||1,099|
|7.||Olympus E-M10 II||4.5/5||+ +||80/100||5/5||5/5||Aug 2015||649|
|8.||Olympus E-P5||5/5||+ +||78/100||4.5/5||5/5||May 2013||999|
|9.||Olympus E-620||3/5||88/100||72/100||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2009||699|
|10.||Olympus E-520||..||87/100||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2008||699|
|11.||Olympus E-410||..||86/100||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Mar 2007||699|
|12.||Olympus E-510||..||89/100||+ +||3.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2007||799|
|13.||Olympus E-330||..||..||+||o||..||Jan 2006||999|
|14.||Olympus E-400||..||85/100||..||4/5||4/5||Sep 2006||699|
|15.||Olympus E-500||..||76/100||+ +||..||..||Sep 2005||599|
|16.||Panasonic GX8||5/5||+||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2015||1,199|
|17.||Panasonic L1||..||85/100||+||..||3.5/5||Feb 2006||999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, 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 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 your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Olympus E-300 vs Olympus PEN-F
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-300||Olympus PEN-F|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Four Thirds lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2004||January 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 799||USD 1,199|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-300||Olympus PEN-F|
|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||8 Megapixels||20.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3264 x 2448 pixels||5184 x 3888 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.30 μm||3.34 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.55 MP/cm2||8.96 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 400 ISO||80 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 1,600 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||TruePic||TruePic VII|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||74|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||23.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||12.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||894|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-300||Olympus PEN-F|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2360k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||1.8inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||134k dots||1037k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Swivel screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-300||Olympus PEN-F|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||2.5 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||up to 1/16000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or XD cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-300||Olympus PEN-F|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-300||Olympus PEN-F|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||750 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
147 x 85 x 64 mm
(5.8 x 3.3 x 2.5 in)
125 x 72 x 37 mm
(4.9 x 2.8 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||624 g (22.0 oz)||427 g (15.1 oz)|
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