Olympus E-P3 vs Sony A99 II
The Olympus PEN E-P3 and the Sony Alpha ALT-A99 II are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in June 2011 and September 2016. The E-P3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the A99 II is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (E-P3) and a full frame (A99 II) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 42.2 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 PEN E-P3 and the Sony Alpha ALT-A99 II? 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-P3 and the Sony A99 II. 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 A99 II 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 Sony A99 II is considerably larger (77 percent) than the Olympus E-P3. Moreover, the A99 II is substantially heavier (130 percent) than the E-P3. It is noteworthy in this context that the A99 II is splash and dust-proof, while the E-P3 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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.
|Olympus E-P3||4.8 in||2.7 in||1.3 in||13.0 oz||330||n||Jun 2011||799|
|Sony A99 II||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||29.9 oz||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|Canon 5DS R||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Nikon D850||5.7 in||4.9 in||3.1 in||35.5 oz||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Olympus E-P5||4.8 in||2.7 in||1.5 in||14.8 oz||330||n||May 2013||999|
|Olympus E-PL5||4.4 in||2.5 in||1.5 in||11.5 oz||360||n||Sep 2012||599|
|Olympus E-PL2||4.5 in||2.8 in||1.7 in||12.8 oz||280||n||Jan 2011||599|
|Olympus E-PL3||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.5 in||11.0 oz||300||n||Jun 2011||599|
|Olympus E-PM1||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.3 in||9.3 oz||330||n||Jun 2011||499|
|Olympus E-PL1||4.5 in||2.8 in||1.7 in||11.8 oz||290||n||Feb 2010||599|
|Olympus E-P1||4.8 in||2.8 in||1.4 in||12.5 oz||300||n||Jun 2009||799|
|Olympus E-P2||4.8 in||2.8 in||1.4 in||12.5 oz||300||n||Nov 2009||799|
|Panasonic GX1||4.6 in||2.7 in||1.5 in||11.2 oz||320||n||Nov 2011||699|
|Panasonic G10||4.9 in||3.3 in||2.9 in||13.7 oz||380||n||Mar 2010||499|
|Sony A7R II||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||22.0 oz||290||Y||Jun 2015||3,199|
|Sony A7S II||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||22.1 oz||370||Y||Sep 2015||2,999|
|Sony A99||5.8 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||28.6 oz||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
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-P3 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 75 percent) than the A99 II, 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.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Olympus E-P3 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony A99 II a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A99 II is 283 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.0. The sensor in the E-P3 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the A99 II offers a 3:2 aspect.
With 42.2MP, the A99 II offers a higher resolution than the E-P3 (12.2MP), but the A99 II nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.52μm versus 4.29μm for the E-P3) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the A99 II is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 2 months) than the E-P3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the A99 II has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A99 II implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A99 II for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 39.8 x 26.5 inches or 101 x 67.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 31.8 x 21.2 inches or 80.8 x 53.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 26.5 x 17.7 inches or 67.3 x 44.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-P3 are 20.2 x 15.1 inches or 51.2 x 38.4 cm for good quality, 16.1 x 12.1 inches or 41 x 30.7 cm for very good quality, and 13.4 x 10.1 inches or 34.1 x 25.6 cm for excellent quality prints.
The A99 II has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Olympus PEN E-P3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha ALT-A99 II are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-25600.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 consideration, the A99 II offers substantially better image quality than the E-P3 (overall score 41 points higher). The advantage is based on 4.6 bits higher color depth, 3.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.1 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.
|Olympus E-P3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.8||10.1||536||51|
|Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
|Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|Olympus E-P5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
|Olympus E-PL5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||889||72|
|Olympus E-PL2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.2||573||55|
|Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52|
|Olympus E-PM1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||21.0||10.3||499||52|
|Olympus E-PL1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.1||487||54|
|Olympus E-P1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.4||536||55|
|Olympus E-P2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.4||505||56|
|Panasonic GX1||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60p||20.8||10.6||703||55|
|Panasonic G10||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||720/30p||21.2||10.1||411||52|
|Sony A7R II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||13.9||3434||98|
|Sony A7S II||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||4K/30p||23.6||13.3||2993||85|
|Sony A99||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the A99 II provides a better video resolution than the E-P3. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/60i.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A99 II has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), which can be very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-P3 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the E-P3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the VF-3. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-P3 and Sony A99 II in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
|Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|Sony A7R II||2400||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
|Sony A7S II||2400||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The E-P3 has one, while the A99 II 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 A99 II 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.
The E-P3 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A99 II uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A99 II features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the E-P3 only has one slot. Both cameras can use UHS-I cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s.
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 Sony Alpha ALT-A99 II and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Sony A99 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|Canon 5DS R||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Sony A7R II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|Sony A7S II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the A99 II offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the E-P3 does not provide wifi capability.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A99 II (unlike the E-P3) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
The A99 II is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Sony. In contrast, the E-P3 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the E-P3 was succeeded 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 and Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-P3 and the Sony A99 II? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Olympus PEN E-P3:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- More compact: Is smaller (122x69mm vs 143x104mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 480g or 57 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (75 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 2011).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha ALT-A99 II:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (42.2 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 90%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (41 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (4.6 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (3.3 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2.1 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60i).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1229k vs 614k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- 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 (12 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (490 versus 330) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 2 months of technical progress since the E-P3 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A99 II is the clear winner of the contest (25 : 8 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-P3 and the Sony A99 II place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings 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-P3 or the A99 II 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.
|Olympus E-P3||83/100||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2011||799|
|Sony A99 II||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|Canon 5DS R||+||83/100||5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Nikon D850||+ +||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Olympus E-P5||+ +||78/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||May 2013||999|
|Olympus E-PL5||+ +||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||599|
|Olympus E-PL2||83/100||71/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2011||599|
|Olympus E-PL3||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||..||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|Olympus E-PM1||86/100||71/100||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Jun 2011||499|
|Olympus E-PL1||86/100||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||599|
|Olympus E-P1||+||66/100||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2009||799|
|Olympus E-P2||+||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Nov 2009||799|
|Panasonic GX1||+||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Nov 2011||699|
|Panasonic G10||..||70/100||4/5||..||4/5||Mar 2010||499|
|Sony A7R II||+ +||90/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Jun 2015||3,199|
|Sony A7S II||+||..||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Sep 2015||2,999|
|Sony A99||..||84/100||4.5/5||o||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|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 comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
- Canon 760D vs Sony A99 II
- Canon G7 X Mark II vs Olympus E-P3
- Canon T7i vs Olympus E-P3
- Fujifilm X-A1 vs Sony A99 II
- Leica D-LUX Typ 109 vs Olympus E-P3
- Leica X-U Typ 113 vs Olympus E-P3
- Nikon D1 vs Olympus E-P3
- Olympus E-P3 vs Sony A99
- Olympus E-PL9 vs Sony A99 II
- Panasonic G80 vs Sony A99 II
- Panasonic GH5s vs Sony A99 II
- Sony A7 vs Sony A99 II
Specifications: Olympus E-P3 vs Sony A99 II
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-P3||Sony A99 II|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Micro Four Thirds lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||June 2011||September 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 799||USD 3,199|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-P3||Sony A99 II|
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||17.3 x 13.0 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||224.9 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||21.6 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12.2 Megapixels||42.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4032 x 3024 pixels||7952 x 5304 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.29 μm||4.52 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.42 MP/cm2||4.90 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60i Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||50 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||TruePic VI||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||51||92|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||20.8||25.4|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.1||13.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||536||2317|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-P3||Sony A99 II|
|Viewfinder Type||Viewfinder optional||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2400k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||614k dots||1229k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fully flexible screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-P3||Sony A99 II|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||12 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-P3||Sony A99 II|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-P3||Sony A99 II|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||330 shots per charge||490 shots per charge|
122 x 69 x 34 mm
(4.8 x 2.7 x 1.3 in)
143 x 104 x 76 mm
(5.6 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||369 g (13.0 oz)||849 g (29.9 oz)|
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