Olympus E-P1 vs E-P3
The Olympus PEN E-P1 and the Olympus PEN E-P3 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in June 2009 and June 2011. Both the E-P1 and the E-P3 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 12.2 megapixels.
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 PEN E-P1 and the Olympus PEN E-P3? 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-P1 and the Olympus E-P3. 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.
Both cameras are available in three different colors (black, silver, white).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-P1 and the Olympus E-P3 are of equal size. However, the E-P3 is slightly heavier (4 percent) than the E-P1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-P1 nor the E-P3 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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog. Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.
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, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Olympus E-P1||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||n||Jun 2009||799|
|2.||Olympus E-P3||122 mm||69 mm||34 mm||369 g||330||n||Jun 2011||799|
|3.||Olympus E-PL2||114 mm||72 mm||42 mm||362 g||280||n||Jan 2011||599|
|4.||Olympus E-PL3||110 mm||64 mm||37 mm||313 g||300||n||Jun 2011||599|
|5.||Olympus E-PL1||115 mm||72 mm||42 mm||334 g||290||n||Feb 2010||599|
|6.||Olympus E-620||130 mm||94 mm||60 mm||521 g||500||n||Feb 2009||699|
|7.||Olympus E-P2||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||n||Nov 2009||799|
|8.||Olympus E-520||136 mm||92 mm||68 mm||535 g||750||n||May 2008||699|
|9.||Panasonic G10||124 mm||84 mm||74 mm||388 g||380||n||Mar 2010||499|
|10.||Panasonic GF1||119 mm||71 mm||36 mm||385 g||380||n||Sep 2009||749|
|11.||Panasonic GH1||124 mm||90 mm||45 mm||385 g||300||n||Mar 2009||899|
|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 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. 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 tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units 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 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 E-P3 uses a more advanced image processing engine (TruePic VI) than the E-P1 (TruePic V), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 12.2 megapixels. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the E-P1 and the E-P3 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the E-P3 is much more recent (by 2 years) than the E-P1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time.
The Olympus PEN E-P1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-P3 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many 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 review, the E-P1 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the E-P3 (overall score 4 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 0.3 EV in additional dynamic range, The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Olympus E-P1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.4||536||55|
|2.||Olympus E-P3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.8||10.1||536||51|
|3.||Olympus E-PL2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.2||573||55|
|4.||Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52|
|5.||Olympus E-PL1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.1||487||54|
|6.||Olympus E-620||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.3||10.3||536||55|
|7.||Olympus E-P2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.4||505||56|
|8.||Olympus E-520||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.4||10.4||548||55|
|9.||Panasonic G10||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||720/30p||21.2||10.1||411||52|
|10.||Panasonic GF1||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||720/30p||21.2||10.3||513||54|
|11.||Panasonic GH1||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/24p||21.6||11.6||772||64|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the E-P3 provides a better video resolution than the E-P1. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the E-P1 is limited to 720/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-P1 and the E-P3 are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. That said, the E-P3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the VF-3. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-P1 and Olympus E-P3 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The E-P3 has a touchscreen, while the E-P1 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.
The E-P1 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the E-P3 uses SDXC cards. The E-P3 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the E-P1 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
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 PEN E-P1 and Olympus PEN E-P3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
Both the E-P1 and the E-P3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-P1 was replaced by the Olympus E-P2, while the E-P3 was followed by the Olympus E-P5. 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 conclusions can be drawn? Is the Olympus E-P1 better than the Olympus E-P3 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Olympus PEN E-P1:
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 2009).
Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-P3:
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (TruePic VI vs TruePic V).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60i vs 720/30p).
- More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (614k vs 230k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 2 years of technical progress since the E-P1 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-P3 is the clear winner of the contest (8 : 2 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-P1 and the Olympus E-P3 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listing 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 remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-P1 or the E-P3 perform in practice. 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 expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera 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-P1||..||+||66/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2009||799|
|2.||Olympus E-P3||..||83/100||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2011||799|
|3.||Olympus E-PL2||3/5||83/100||71/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2011||599|
|4.||Olympus E-PL3||3/5||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|5.||Olympus E-PL1||..||86/100||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||599|
|6.||Olympus E-620||3/5||88/100||72/100||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2009||699|
|7.||Olympus E-P2||3/5||+||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Nov 2009||799|
|8.||Olympus E-520||..||87/100||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2008||699|
|9.||Panasonic G10||3/5||..||70/100||4/5||4/5||Mar 2010||499|
|10.||Panasonic GF1||..||85/100||69/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2009||749|
|11.||Panasonic GH1||..||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||899|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated 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. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? 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.
Specifications: Olympus E-P1 vs Olympus E-P3
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-P1||Olympus E-P3|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Micro Four Thirds lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||June 2009||June 2011|
|Launch Price||USD 799||USD 799|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-P1||Olympus E-P3|
|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||12.2 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4032 x 3024 pixels||4032 x 3024 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.29 μm||4.29 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.42 MP/cm2||5.42 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||720/30p Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 6,400 ISO||200 - 12,800 ISO|
|Image Processor||TruePic V||TruePic VI|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||55||51|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.4||20.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.4||10.1|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||536||536|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-P1||Olympus E-P3|
|Viewfinder Type||no viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||614k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-P1||Olympus E-P3|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-P1||Olympus E-P3|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-P1||Olympus E-P3|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||300 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
121 x 70 x 36 mm
(4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)
122 x 69 x 34 mm
(4.8 x 2.7 x 1.3 in)
|Camera Weight||355 g (12.5 oz)||369 g (13.0 oz)|
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