Olympus E-500 vs E-PL3
The Olympus Evolt E-500 and the Olympus PEN E-PL3 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2005 and June 2011. The E-500 is a DSLR, while the E-PL3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-500 has a resolution of 8 megapixels, whereas the E-PL3 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-500||Olympus E-PL3|
|Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Four Thirds lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|8 MP, Four Thirds Sensor||12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor|
|no Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO 100-400 (100-1600)||ISO 200-12800|
|Optical viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|2.5" LCD, 215k dots||3.0" LCD, 460k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|2.5 shutter flaps per second||5.5 shutter flaps per second|
|Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|750 shots per battery charge||300 shots per battery charge|
|130 x 95 x 66 mm, 479 g||110 x 64 x 37 mm, 313 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus Evolt E-500 and the Olympus PEN E-PL3? 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.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-500 and the Olympus E-PL3. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The E-PL3 can be obtained in four different colors (black, silver, red, white), while the E-500 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-PL3 is considerably smaller (43 percent) than the Olympus E-500. Moreover, the E-PL3 is substantially lighter (35 percent) than the E-500. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-500 nor the E-PL3 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-500) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-PL3). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-PL3, 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, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.
|Olympus E-500»||130 mm||95 mm||66 mm||479 g||750||n||Sep 2005||599||Olympus E-500|
|Olympus E-PL3«||110 mm||64 mm||37 mm||313 g||300||n||Jun 2011||599||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-PL5« »||111 mm||64 mm||38 mm||325 g||360||n||Sep 2012||599||Olympus E-PL5|
|Olympus E-P3« »||122 mm||69 mm||34 mm||369 g||330||n||Jun 2011||799||Olympus E-P3|
|Olympus E-PL2« »||114 mm||72 mm||42 mm||362 g||280||n||Jan 2011||599||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PM1« »||110 mm||64 mm||34 mm||265 g||330||n||Jun 2011||499||Olympus E-PM1|
|Olympus E-PL1« »||115 mm||72 mm||42 mm||334 g||290||n||Feb 2010||599||Olympus E-PL1|
|Olympus E-450« »||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||440 g||500||n||Mar 2009||499||Olympus E-450|
|Olympus E-420« »||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||440 g||500||n||Mar 2008||599||Olympus E-420|
|Olympus E-520« »||136 mm||92 mm||68 mm||535 g||750||n||May 2008||699||Olympus E-520|
|Olympus E-410« »||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||435 g||500||n||Mar 2007||699||Olympus E-410|
|Olympus E-510« »||136 mm||92 mm||68 mm||538 g||750||n||Mar 2007||799||Olympus E-510|
|Olympus E-330« »||140 mm||87 mm||72 mm||637 g||750||n||Jan 2006||999||Olympus E-330|
|Olympus E-400« »||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||435 g||500||n||Sep 2006||699||Olympus E-400|
|Olympus E-300« »||147 mm||85 mm||64 mm||624 g||750||n||Sep 2004||799||Olympus E-300|
|Panasonic L10« »||135 mm||96 mm||78 mm||556 g||450||n||Aug 2007||599||Panasonic L10|
|Panasonic L1« »||146 mm||87 mm||64 mm||606 g||750||n||Feb 2006||999||Panasonic L1|
|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 retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same market segment. 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 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-PL3 uses a more advanced image processing engine (Truepic VI) than the E-500 (TruePic), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-PL3 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 8 MP of the E-500. This megapixels advantage translates into a 24 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-PL3 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.29μm versus 5.30μm for the E-500). However, it should be noted that the E-PL3 is much more recent (by 5 years and 9 months) than the E-500, 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-PL3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-PL3 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-500 are 16.3 x 12.2 inch or 41.5 x 31.1 cm for good quality, 13.1 x 9.8 inch or 33.2 x 24.9 cm for very good quality, and 10.9 x 8.2 inch or 27.6 x 20.7 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Olympus Evolt E-500 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 E-PL3 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (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 table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|Olympus E-500||Four Thirds||8.0||3264||2448||none||..||..||..||..||Olympus E-500|
|Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-PL5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||889||72||Olympus E-PL5|
|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-PM1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||21.0||10.3||499||52||Olympus E-PM1|
|Olympus E-PL1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.1||487||54||Olympus E-PL1|
|Olympus E-450||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.5||10.5||512||56||Olympus E-450|
|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-330||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||none||..||..||..||..||Olympus E-330|
|Olympus E-400||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||..||..||..||..||Olympus E-400|
|Olympus E-300||Four Thirds||8.0||3264||2448||none||..||..||..||..||Olympus E-300|
|Panasonic L10||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.3||10.8||429||55||Panasonic L10|
|Panasonic L1||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||none||..||..||..||..||Panasonic L1|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The E-PL3 indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-500 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-PL3 can use is 1080/60i.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the E-500 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-PL3 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the E-PL3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the VF-2. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-500 and Olympus E-PL3 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Olympus E-500||optical||n||2.5||215||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5||Y||n||Olympus E-500|
|Olympus E-PL3||optional||n||3.0||460||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||n||Y||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-PL5||optional||n||3.0||460||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0||n||Y||Olympus E-PL5|
|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-PM1||optional||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.5||n||Y||Olympus E-PM1|
|Olympus E-PL1||optional||n||2.7||230||fixed||n||1/2000s||3.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-PL1|
|Olympus E-450||optical||n||2.7||215||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.5||Y||n||Olympus E-450|
|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-330||optical||n||2.5||215||tilting||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Olympus E-330|
|Olympus E-400||optical||n||2.5||215||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Olympus E-400|
|Olympus E-300||optical||n||1.8||134||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5||Y||n||Olympus E-300|
|Panasonic L10||optical||n||2.5||207||swivel||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Panasonic L10|
|Panasonic L1||optical||n||2.5||207||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Panasonic L1|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The E-500 has one, while the E-PL3 does not. While the built-in flash of the E-500 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The E-PL3 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-500 does not have a selfie-screen.
The E-500 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards, while the E-PL3 uses SDXC cards. The E-500 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the E-PL3 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-500 and Olympus PEN E-PL3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Olympus E-500||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-500|
|Olympus E-PL3||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-PL5||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PL5|
|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-PM1||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PM1|
|Olympus E-PL1||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PL1|
|Olympus E-450||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-450|
|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-330||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-330|
|Olympus E-400||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-400|
|Olympus E-300||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-300|
|Panasonic L10||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic L10|
|Panasonic L1||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic L1|
Both the E-500 and the E-PL3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-500 was replaced by the Olympus E-510, while the E-PL3 was followed by the Olympus E-PL5. 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-500 or the Olympus E-PL3 – 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.
Arguments in favor of the Olympus Evolt E-500:
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 300) 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 heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2005).
Advantages of the Olympus PEN E-PL3:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 8MP), which boosts linear resolution by 24%.
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (Truepic VI vs TruePic).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60i 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 (460k vs 215k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5.5 vs 2.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (110x64mm vs 130x95mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 166g or 35 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.
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 9 months of technical progress since the E-500 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-PL3 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 5 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. 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-500 and the Olympus E-PL3 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-500 or the E-PL3 perform in practice. 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 where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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 assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, 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.
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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 1D Mark IV vs Olympus E-500
- Canon 7D vs Olympus E-PL3
- Canon T6s vs Olympus E-PL3
- Hasselblad X1D II vs Olympus E-500
- Kodak S-1 vs Olympus E-PL3
- Nikon D300S vs Olympus E-PL3
- Nikon L840 vs Olympus E-PL3
- Olympus E-500 vs Olympus PEN-F
- Olympus E-500 vs Panasonic ZS80
- Olympus E-500 vs Sony A99 II
- Olympus E-500 vs Sony RX100 IV
- Olympus E-PL3 vs Sony HX95
Specifications: Olympus E-500 vs Olympus E-PL3
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-500||Olympus E-PL3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Four Thirds lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2005||June 2011|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-500||Olympus E-PL3|
|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||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3264 x 2448 pixels||4032 x 3024 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.30 μm||4.29 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.55 MP/cm2||5.42 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||100-400 ISO||200-12800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100-1600 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||TruePic||Truepic VI|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||52|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||20.9|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||10.3|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||499|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-500||Olympus E-PL3|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||215k dots||460k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-500||Olympus E-PL3|
|Autofocus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||2.5 shutter flaps/s||5.5 shutter flaps/s|
|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-500||Olympus E-PL3|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-500||Olympus E-PL3|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||750 shots per charge||300 shots per charge|
130 x 95 x 66 mm
(5.1 x 3.7 x 2.6 in)
110 x 64 x 37 mm
(4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||479 g (16.9 oz)||313 g (11.0 oz)|
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