Olympus E-P3 vs Sony NEX-5
The Olympus PEN E-P3 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in June 2011 and May 2010. Both the E-P3 and the NEX-5 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a Four Thirds (E-P3) and an APS-C (NEX-5) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 14 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Olympus E-P3||Sony NEX-5|
|Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Micro Four Thirds lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor||14 MP, APS-C 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, 920k dots|
|Fixed touchscreen||Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|3 shutter flaps per second||7 shutter flaps per second|
|In-body stabilization||Lens stabilization only|
|330 shots per battery charge||330 shots per battery charge|
|122 x 69 x 34 mm, 369 g||111 x 59 x 38 mm, 287 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus PEN E-P3 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-P3 and the Sony NEX-5 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The E-P3 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, white), while the NEX-5 is available in two color-versions (black, silver).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-5 is notably smaller (22 percent) than the Olympus E-P3. Moreover, the NEX-5 is markedly lighter (22 percent) than the E-P3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-P3 nor the NEX-5 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-P3) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-5). 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 want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|Olympus E-P3»||4.8 in||2.7 in||1.3 in||13.0 oz||330||n||Jun 2011||799||Olympus E-P3|
|Sony NEX-5«||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||10.1 oz||330||n||May 2010||699||Sony NEX-5|
|Olympus E-P5« »||4.8 in||2.7 in||1.5 in||14.8 oz||330||n||May 2013||999||Olympus E-P5|
|Olympus E-PL5« »||4.4 in||2.5 in||1.5 in||11.5 oz||360||n||Sep 2012||599||Olympus E-PL5|
|Olympus E-PL2« »||4.5 in||2.8 in||1.7 in||12.8 oz||280||n||Jan 2011||599||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3« »||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.5 in||11.0 oz||300||n||Jun 2011||599||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-PM1« »||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.3 in||9.3 oz||330||n||Jun 2011||499||Olympus E-PM1|
|Olympus E-PL1« »||4.5 in||2.8 in||1.7 in||11.8 oz||290||n||Feb 2010||599||Olympus E-PL1|
|Olympus E-P1« »||4.8 in||2.8 in||1.4 in||12.5 oz||300||n||Jun 2009||799||Olympus E-P1|
|Olympus E-P2« »||4.8 in||2.8 in||1.4 in||12.5 oz||300||n||Nov 2009||799||Olympus E-P2|
|Panasonic GX1« »||4.6 in||2.7 in||1.5 in||11.2 oz||320||n||Nov 2011||699||Panasonic GX1|
|Panasonic G10« »||4.9 in||3.3 in||2.9 in||13.7 oz||380||n||Mar 2010||499||Panasonic G10|
|Sony NEX-5R« »||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||9.7 oz||330||n||Aug 2012||749||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-F3« »||4.6 in||2.6 in||1.7 in||11.1 oz||470||n||May 2012||599||Sony NEX-F3|
|Sony NEX-5N« »||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||9.5 oz||460||n||Aug 2011||699||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-C3« »||4.3 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||7.9 oz||400||n||Jun 2011||599||Sony NEX-C3|
|Sony NEX-3« »||4.6 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||10.5 oz||330||n||May 2010||599||Sony NEX-3|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as 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 NEX-5 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 13 percent) than the E-P3, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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 imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Olympus E-P3 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony NEX-5 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-5 is 62 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.5. The sensor in the E-P3 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the NEX-5 offers a 3:2 aspect.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 14MP, the NEX-5 offers a higher resolution than the E-P3 (12.2MP), but the NEX-5 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.11μm versus 4.29μm for the E-P3) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-P3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 1 month) than the NEX-5, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Sony NEX-5 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the NEX-5 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 15.3 inch or 58.3 x 38.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 12.2 inch or 46.7 x 31 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.3 x 10.2 inch or 38.9 x 25.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-P3 are 20.2 x 15.1 inch or 51.2 x 38.4 cm for good quality, 16.1 x 12.1 inch or 41 x 30.7 cm for very good quality, and 13.4 x 10.1 inch or 34.1 x 25.6 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Olympus PEN E-P3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 12800. The Sony Alpha NEX-5 offers exactly the same ISO settings.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the NEX-5 offers substantially better image quality than the E-P3 (overall score 18 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.4 bits higher color depth, 2.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|Olympus E-P3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.8||10.1||536||51||Olympus E-P3|
|Sony NEX-5||APS-C||14.0||4592||3056||1080/60i||22.2||12.2||796||69||Sony NEX-5|
|Olympus E-P5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72||Olympus E-P5|
|Olympus E-PL5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||889||72||Olympus E-PL5|
|Olympus E-PL2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.2||573||55||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52||Olympus E-PL3|
|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-P1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.4||536||55||Olympus E-P1|
|Olympus E-P2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.4||505||56||Olympus E-P2|
|Panasonic GX1||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60p||20.8||10.6||703||55||Panasonic GX1|
|Panasonic G10||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||720/30p||21.2||10.1||411||52||Panasonic G10|
|Sony NEX-5R||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||23.7||13.1||910||78||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-F3||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||22.7||12.3||1114||73||Sony NEX-F3|
|Sony NEX-5N||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||23.6||12.7||1079||77||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-C3||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||720/30p||22.7||12.2||1083||73||Sony NEX-C3|
|Sony NEX-3||APS-C||14.0||4592||3056||720/30p||22.1||12.0||830||68||Sony NEX-3|
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, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60i).
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-P3 and the NEX-5 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 FDA-SV1 for the NEX-5 – are available as accessories. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-P3 and Sony NEX-5 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Olympus E-P3||optional||n||3.0||614||fixed||Y||1/4000s||3.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-P3|
|Sony NEX-5||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5|
|Olympus E-P5||optional||n||3.0||1037||tilting||Y||1/8000s||9.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-P5|
|Olympus E-PL5||optional||n||3.0||460||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0||n||Y||Olympus E-PL5|
|Olympus E-PL2||optional||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3||optional||n||3.0||460||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||n||Y||Olympus E-PL3|
|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-P1||none||n||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||Y||Olympus E-P1|
|Olympus E-P2||optional||n||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||Y||Olympus E-P2|
|Panasonic GX1||optional||n||3.0||460||fixed||Y||1/4000s||4.2||Y||n||Panasonic GX1|
|Panasonic G10||202||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.6||Y||n||Panasonic G10|
|Sony NEX-5R||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-F3||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||Y||n||Sony NEX-F3|
|Sony NEX-5N||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-C3||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||n||n||Sony NEX-C3|
|Sony NEX-3||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0||n||n||Sony NEX-3|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The E-P3 has one, while the NEX-5 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 NEX-5 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 NEX-5 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The E-P3 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the NEX-5 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-P3 and Sony Alpha NEX-5 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Olympus E-P3||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-P3|
|Sony NEX-5||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-5|
|Olympus E-P5||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-||Olympus E-P5|
|Olympus E-PL5||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PL5|
|Olympus E-PL2||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PL3|
|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-P1||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-P1|
|Olympus E-P2||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-P2|
|Panasonic GX1||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic GX1|
|Panasonic G10||Y||mono||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic G10|
|Sony NEX-5R||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-F3||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-F3|
|Sony NEX-5N||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-C3||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-C3|
|Sony NEX-3||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-3|
Both the E-P3 and the NEX-5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The NEX-5 was replaced by the Sony NEX-5N, 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 and Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Olympus E-P3 better than the Sony NEX-5 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-P3:
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
- 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.
- More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 1 month after the NEX-5).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha NEX-5:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (14 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 9%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (18 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.4 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.1 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 614k 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 (7 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (111x59mm vs 122x69mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 82g or 22 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (13 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in May 2010).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-5 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-P3 and the Sony NEX-5 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-P3 or the NEX-5 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 why expert reviews are important. 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 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, 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? 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 1300D vs Olympus E-P3
- Canon 5D vs Sony NEX-5
- Canon 6D Mark II vs Sony NEX-5
- Canon 70D vs Olympus E-P3
- Canon G12 vs Olympus E-P3
- Canon SX60 vs Sony NEX-5
- Leica D-LUX 5 vs Sony NEX-5
- Leica M Typ 262 vs Sony NEX-5
- Nikon 1 V3 vs Sony NEX-5
- Nikon W300 vs Olympus E-P3
- Panasonic FZ2000 vs Sony NEX-5
- Pentax KP vs Sony NEX-5
Specifications: Olympus E-P3 vs Sony NEX-5
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 NEX-5|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Micro Four Thirds lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||June 2011||May 2010|
|Launch Price||USD 799||USD 699|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-P3||Sony NEX-5|
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||17.3 x 13.0 mm||23.4 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||224.9 mm2||365.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||21.6 mm||28.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12.2 Megapixels||14 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4032 x 3024 pixels||4592 x 3056 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.29 μm||5.11 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.42 MP/cm2||3.84 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||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||51||69|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||20.8||22.2|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.1||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||536||796|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-P3||Sony NEX-5|
|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||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-P3||Sony NEX-5|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||No Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000/s||1/4000/s|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||7 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||Lens stabilization only|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-P3||Sony NEX-5|
|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||Sony NEX-5|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||330 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
122 x 69 x 34 mm
(4.8 x 2.7 x 1.3 in)
111 x 59 x 38 mm
(4.4 x 2.3 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||369 g (13.0 oz)||287 g (10.1 oz)|
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