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Olympus E-P3 vs E-PL3

The Olympus PEN E-P3 and the Olympus PEN E-PL3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public in June 2011. Both the E-P3 and the E-PL3 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.

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-P3   VS Olympus E-PL3
Olympus E-P3 Olympus E-PL3
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Micro Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
1080/60i Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 200-12800 ISO 200-12800
Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
3.0" LCD, 614k dots 3.0" LCD, 460k dots
Fixed touchscreen Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 5.5 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
330 shots per battery charge300 shots per battery charge
122 x 69 x 34 mm, 369 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 PEN E-P3 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.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Olympus E-P3 and the Olympus E-PL3 are illustrated 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 width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The E-P3 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, white), while the E-PL3 is available in four color-versions (black, silver, red, white).

Size Olympus E-P3 vs Olympus E-PL3
Compare E-P3 versus E-PL3 top
Comparison E-P3 or E-PL3 rear

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 notably smaller (16 percent) than the Olympus E-P3. Moreover, the E-PL3 is markedly lighter (15 percent) than the E-P3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-P3 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. 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. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-P3» 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799iOlympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL3« 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599iOlympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-M10 II« » 120 mm 83 mm 47 mm 390 g 320 n Aug 2015 649iOlympus E-M10 II
 
Olympus E-M10« » 119 mm 82 mm 46 mm 396 g 320 n Jan 2014 699iOlympus E-M10
 
Olympus E-P5« » 122 mm 69 mm 37 mm 420 g 330 n May 2013 999iOlympus E-P5
 
Olympus E-PL5« » 111 mm 64 mm 38 mm 325 g 360 n Sep 2012 599iOlympus E-PL5
 
Olympus XZ-2« » 113 mm 65 mm 48 mm 346 g 340 n Sep 2012 599iOlympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-PL2« » 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599iOlympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PM1« » 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 265 g 330 n Jun 2011 499iOlympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL1« » 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599iOlympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P1« » 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799iOlympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2« » 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Nov 2009 799iOlympus E-P2
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 listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-PL3 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 25 percent) than the E-P3, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.

 

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. 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.

Olympus E-P3 and Olympus E-PL3 sensor measures

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-P3 and the E-PL3 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. Moreover, the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation.

The Olympus PEN E-P3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 12800. The Olympus PEN E-PL3 offers exactly the same ISO settings.

E-P3 versus E-PL3 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. The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-M10 II Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.112.584273Olympus E-M10 II
 
Olympus E-M10 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388472Olympus E-M10
 
Olympus E-P5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.489572Olympus E-P5
 
Olympus E-PL5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388972Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus XZ-2 1/1.7 11.8 3968 29761080/30p20.411.321649Olympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PM1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i21.010.349952Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.148754Olympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.453655Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.450556Olympus E-P2

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60i).

 

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The E-P3 and the E-PL3 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. However, optional viewfinders – the VF-3 for the E-P3 and the VF-2 for the E-PL3 – are available as accessories. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-P3, the Olympus E-PL3, and comparable cameras.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-P3optional n 3.0 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-M10 II2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 Y Y Olympus E-M10 II
 
Olympus E-M101440 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 Y Y Olympus E-M10
 
Olympus E-P5optional n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 1/8000s 9.0 Y Y Olympus E-P5
 
Olympus E-PL5optional n 3.0 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus XZ-2optional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/2000s 5.0 Y Y Olympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PM1optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL1optional n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P1none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2optional n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y Olympus E-P2

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The E-P3 has one, while the E-PL3 does not. While the built-in flash of the E-P3 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-P3 does not have a selfie-screen.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-P3 and the E-PL3 write their files to SDXC cards. The E-P3 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the E-PL3 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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-P3 and Olympus PEN E-PL3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-M10 IIYstereomono--micro2.0Y--Olympus E-M10 II
 
Olympus E-M10Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--Olympus E-M10
 
Olympus E-P5Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--Olympus E-P5
 
Olympus E-PL5Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus XZ-2Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PM1Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL1Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-P2

Both the E-P3 and the E-PL3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-P3 was replaced by the Olympus E-P5, 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.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-P3 and the Olympus E-PL3? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-P3:

  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (614k vs 460k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.


Reasons to prefer the Olympus PEN E-PL3:

  • 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 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (110x64mm vs 122x69mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 56g or 15 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-PL3 emerges as the winner of the match-up (6 : 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 sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

E-P3 04:06 E-PL3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-P3 and the Olympus E-PL3 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 remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-P3 or the E-PL3. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. 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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cam
era
  labs  
dp
re
  view  
e
photo
  zine  
ima
ging
resource
photo
graphy
  blog  
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-P383/10074/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799iOlympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL3+ +72/1004.5/5..4/5 Jun 2011 599iOlympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-M10 II+ +80/1005/55/55/5 Aug 2015 649iOlympus E-M10 II
 
Olympus E-M10..80/1005/54.5/55/5 Jan 2014 699iOlympus E-M10
 
Olympus E-P5+ +78/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2013 999iOlympus E-P5
 
Olympus E-PL5+ +..4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599iOlympus E-PL5
 
Olympus XZ-2+..4.5/54/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599iOlympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-PL283/10071/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599iOlympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PM186/10071/1004.5/5..4.5/5 Jun 2011 499iOlympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL186/10069/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599iOlympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P1+66/1004/54/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799iOlympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2+69/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799iOlympus E-P2
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Olympus E-P3:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-PL3:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, 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.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-P3 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 Specifications
    Camera Model Olympus E-P3 Olympus E-PL3
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Micro Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date June 2011 June 2011
    Launch Price USD 799 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-P3 Olympus E-PL3
    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 12.2 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 1080/60i Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 200-12800 ISO 200-12800 ISO
    Image Processor TruePic VI Truepic VI
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 51 52
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 20.8 20.9
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.1 10.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 536 499
    Screen Specs Olympus E-P3 Olympus E-PL3
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 614k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input Touchscreen no Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-P3 Olympus E-PL3
    Autofocus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 5.5 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support UHS-I no
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-P3 Olympus E-PL3
    External Flash Hotshoe 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-P3 Olympus E-PL3
    Battery Type BLS-5 BLS-5
    Battery Life (CIPA)330 shots per charge300 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 122 x 69 x 34 mm
    (4.8 x 2.7 x 1.3 in)
    110 x 64 x 37 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 369 g (13.0 oz) 313 g (11.0 oz)

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