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Olympus E-P1 vs Panasonic GF3

The Olympus PEN E-P1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in June 2009 and June 2011. Both the E-P1 and the GF3 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 12 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-P1
versus
Panasonic GF3
Olympus E-P1   Panasonic GF3
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Micro Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
12.2 MP – Four Thirds sensor 12 MP – Four Thirds sensor
720/30p Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 100-6,400 ISO 160-6,400
No viewfinder, LCD framing No viewfinder, LCD framing
3.0" LCD – 230k dots 3.0" LCD – 460k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed touchscreen
3 shutter flaps per second 3.2 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
300 shots per battery charge300 shots per battery charge
121 x 70 x 36 mm, 355 g 108 x 67 x 32 mm, 264 g
Olympus E-P1:
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Panasonic GF3:
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus PEN E-P1 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3? 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.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Olympus E-P1 and the Panasonic GF3 are illustrated 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 E-P1 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, white), while the GF3 is available in five color-versions (black, brown, pink, red, white).

Size Olympus E-P1 vs Panasonic GF3
Compare E-P1 versus GF3 top
Comparison E-P1 or GF3 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GF3 is notably smaller (15 percent) than the Olympus E-P1. Moreover, the GF3 is markedly lighter (26 percent) than the E-P1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-P1 nor the GF3 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 following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Olympus E-P1 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799i
2.
 
Panasonic GF3 108 mm 67 mm 32 mm 264 g 300 n Jun 2011 549i
3.
 
Olympus E-P3 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799i
4.
 
Olympus E-PL2 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599i
5.
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599i
6.
 
Olympus E-PL1 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599i
7.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699i
8.
 
Olympus E-P2 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Nov 2009 799i
9.
 
Olympus E-520 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699i
10.
 
Panasonic GF5 108 mm 67 mm 37 mm 267 g 360 n Apr 2012 499i
11.
 
Panasonic G3 115 mm 84 mm 47 mm 336 g 270 n May 2011 599i
12.
 
Panasonic G10 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 388 g 380 n Mar 2010 499i
13.
 
Panasonic G2 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 428 g 360 n Mar 2010 599i
14.
 
Panasonic GF2 113 mm 68 mm 33 mm 310 g 300 n Nov 2010 549i
15.
 
Panasonic GF1 119 mm 71 mm 36 mm 385 g 380 n Sep 2009 749i
16.
 
Panasonic GH1 124 mm 90 mm 45 mm 385 g 300 n Mar 2009 899i
Note: 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 GF3 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 31 percent) than the E-P1, 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.

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Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. 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, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic GF3 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-P1 offers a slightly higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 12 MP of the GF3. This megapixels advantage translates into a 0.8 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 4.33μm for the GF3). Moreover, it should be noted that the GF3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 11 months) than the E-P1, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of individual pixels.

The Olympus PEN E-P1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 are ISO 160 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

E-P1 versus GF3 MP

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. Of the two cameras under review, the E-P1 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the GF3 (overall score 6 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.453655
2.
 
Panasonic GF3 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.610.045849
3.
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651
4.
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355
5.
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952
6.
 
Olympus E-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.148754
7.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
8.
 
Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.450556
9.
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855
10.
 
Panasonic GF5 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.411.661861
11.
 
Panasonic G3 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60i21.010.666756
12.
 
Panasonic G10 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.141152
13.
 
Panasonic G2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.349353
14.
 
Panasonic GF2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.210.350654
15.
 
Panasonic GF1 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.351354
16.
 
Panasonic GH1 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/24p21.611.677264

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the GF3 provides a better video resolution than the E-P1. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Olympus is limited to 720/30p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The E-P1 and the GF3 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. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic GF3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Olympus E-P1none n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n Y
2.
 
Panasonic GF3none n3.0 / 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.2/s Y n
3.
 
Olympus E-P3optional n3.0 / 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0/s Y Y
4.
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y Y
5.
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n3.0 / 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5/s n Y
6.
 
Olympus E-PL1optional n2.7 / 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0/s Y Y
7.
 
Olympus E-620optical n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y Y
8.
 
Olympus E-P2optional n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n Y
9.
 
Olympus E-520optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y Y
10.
 
Panasonic GF5none n3.0 / 920 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
11.
 
Panasonic G31440 n3.0 / 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
12.
 
Panasonic G10202 n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.6/s Y n
13.
 
Panasonic G21440 n3.0 / 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 2.6/s Y n
14.
 
Panasonic GF2optional n3.0 / 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 2.6/s Y n
15.
 
Panasonic GF1optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
16.
 
Panasonic GH11440 n3.0 / 460 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One feature that differentiates the E-P1 and the GF3 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-P1 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the GF3 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.

The E-P1 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the GF3 uses SDXC cards.

Connectivity comparison

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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
2.
 
Panasonic GF3-stereo / mono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
4.
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
5.
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
6.
 
Olympus E-PL1Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
7.
 
Olympus E-620Y- / ----2.0---
8.
 
Olympus E-P2Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
9.
 
Olympus E-520Y- / ----2.0---
10.
 
Panasonic GF5-stereo / mono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Panasonic G3Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
12.
 
Panasonic G10Ymono / ---mini2.0---
13.
 
Panasonic G2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
14.
 
Panasonic GF2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic GF1Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Panasonic GH1Ystereo / -Y-mini2.0---

It is notable that the E-P1 has a hotshoe, while the GF3 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.

Both the E-P1 and the GF3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-P1 was replaced by the Olympus E-P2, while the GF3 was followed by the Panasonic GF5. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus and Panasonic websites.

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Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-P1 or the Panasonic GF3 – 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.

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus PEN E-P1:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in June 2009).

ilogo

Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3:

  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60i vs 720/30p).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (460k vs 230k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • More compact: Is smaller (108x67mm vs 121x70mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 91g or 26 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (31 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 11 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the GF3 is the clear winner of the contest (8 : 4 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 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.

E-P1 04:08 GF3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-P1 and the Panasonic GF3 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 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-P1 and the GF3 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.

Expert reviews

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], digitalcameraworld [DCW], 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Olympus E-P1..+..66/1004/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799i
2.
 
Panasonic GF33/582/100..71/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 549i
3.
 
Olympus E-P3..83/100..74/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799i
4.
 
Olympus E-PL23/583/100..71/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599i
5.
 
Olympus E-PL33/5+ +..72/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599i
6.
 
Olympus E-PL1..86/100..69/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599i
7.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/100..72/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699i
8.
 
Olympus E-P23/5+..69/1004/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799i
9.
 
Olympus E-520..87/100..+ +4.5/54.5/5 May 2008 699i
10.
 
Panasonic GF53/5......4.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 499i
11.
 
Panasonic G33/5+ +..75/1004.5/55/5 May 2011 599i
12.
 
Panasonic G103/5....70/1004/54/5 Mar 2010 499i
13.
 
Panasonic G2......72/1004/54.5/5 Mar 2010 599i
14.
 
Panasonic GF23/582/100..70/1004.5/54.5/5 Nov 2010 549i
15.
 
Panasonic GF1..85/100..69/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2009 749i
16.
 
Panasonic GH1..+ +..72/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 899i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted 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, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Olympus E-P1:
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Panasonic GF3:
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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.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-P1 vs Panasonic GF3

    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 Specifications
    Camera Model Olympus E-P1 Panasonic GF3
    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 549
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-P1 Panasonic GF3
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    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
    Crop Factor 2.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixels 12 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4032 x 3024 pixels 4000 x 3000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.29 μm 4.33 μm
    Pixel Density 5.42 MP/cm2 5.34 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/30p Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 6,400 ISO 160 - 6,400 ISO
    Image Processor TruePic V Venus FHD
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 55 49
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.4 20.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.4 10.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 536 458
    Screen Specs Olympus E-P1 Panasonic GF3
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder no viewfinder
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-P1 Panasonic GF3
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 3.2 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
    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 no
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-P1 Panasonic GF3
    External Flash Hotshoe no Hotshoe
    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 Panasonic GF3
    Battery Type BLS-1 DMW-BLE9
    Battery Life (CIPA)300 shots per charge300 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 121 x 70 x 36 mm
    (4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)
    108 x 67 x 32 mm
    (4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 355 g (12.5 oz) 264 g (9.3 oz)
    Olympus E-P1:
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    Panasonic GF3:
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