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Olympus E-PL2 vs E-PL3

The Olympus PEN E-PL2 and the Olympus PEN E-PL3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in January 2011 and June 2011. Both the E-PL2 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-PL2   Olympus E-PL3
Olympus E-PL2 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
720/30p Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 200-6400 ISO 200-12800
Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
3.0" LCD, 460k dots 3.0" LCD, 460k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 5.5 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
280 shots per battery charge300 shots per battery charge
114 x 72 x 42 mm, 362 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-PL2 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: Olympus E-PL2 vs E-PL3

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-PL2 and the Olympus E-PL3 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.

Both cameras are available in four different colors (black, silver, red, white).

Size Olympus E-PL2 vs Olympus E-PL3
Compare E-PL2 versus E-PL3 top
Comparison E-PL2 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 (14 percent) than the Olympus E-PL2. Moreover, the E-PL3 is markedly lighter (14 percent) than the E-PL2. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL2 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 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.

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)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-PL2» 4.5 in 2.8 in 1.7 in 12.8 oz 280 n Jan 2011 599- i Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL3« 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.5 in 11.0 oz 300 n Jun 2011 599- i Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PL5« » 4.4 in 2.5 in 1.5 in 11.5 oz 360 n Sep 2012 599- i Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus XZ-2« » 4.4 in 2.6 in 1.9 in 12.2 oz 340 n Sep 2012 599- i Olympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-P3« » 4.8 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 13.0 oz 330 n Jun 2011 799- i Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PM1« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.3 in 9.3 oz 330 n Jun 2011 499- i Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL1« » 4.5 in 2.8 in 1.7 in 11.8 oz 290 n Feb 2010 599- i Olympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P1« » 4.8 in 2.8 in 1.4 in 12.5 oz 300 n Jun 2009 799- i Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2« » 4.8 in 2.8 in 1.4 in 12.5 oz 300 n Nov 2009 799- i Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic G10« » 4.9 in 3.3 in 2.9 in 13.7 oz 380 n Mar 2010 499- i Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic GF2« » 4.4 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 10.9 oz 300 n Nov 2010 549- i Panasonic GF2
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 two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same market segment. 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Olympus E-PL2 vs E-PL3

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.

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-PL3 uses a more advanced image processing engine (Truepic VI) than the E-PL2 (Truepic V), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Olympus E-PL2 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-PL2 and the E-PL3 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the E-PL3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 5 months) than the E-PL2, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

The Olympus PEN E-PL2 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-PL3 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

E-PL2 versus E-PL3 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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-PL2» Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL3« Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952Olympus E-PL3
 
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-P3« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651Olympus E-P3
 
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
 
Panasonic G10« » Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.141152Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic GF2« » Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.210.350654Panasonic GF2

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the E-PL3 provides a better video resolution than the E-PL2. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the E-PL2 is limited to 720/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Olympus E-PL2 vs E-PL3

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-PL2 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-2 for the E-PL2 and the VF-2 for the E-PL3 – are available as accessories. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-PL2 and Olympus E-PL3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar 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-PL2»- n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL3«- n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PL5« »- n 3.0 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus XZ-2« »- n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/2000s 5.0 Y Y Olympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-P3« »- n 3.0 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PM1« »- n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL1« »- n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P1« »- n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2« »- n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic G10« »202 n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.6 Y n Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic GF2« »- n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n Panasonic GF2

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The E-PL2 has one, while the E-PL3 does not. While the built-in flash of the E-PL2 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-PL2 does not have a selfie-screen.

The E-PL2 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the E-PL3 uses SDXC cards.

 

Connectivity comparison: Olympus E-PL2 vs E-PL3

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-PL2 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
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-PL2»Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL3«Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PL5« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus XZ-2« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-P3« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PM1« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL1« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P1« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic G10« »Ymono---mini2.0---Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic GF2« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF2

Both the E-PL2 and the E-PL3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-PL2 was replaced by the Olympus E-PL3, 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: Olympus E-PL2 vs E-PL3

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-PL2 and the Olympus E-PL3? 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-PL2:

  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2011).


Reasons to prefer the Olympus PEN E-PL3:

  • 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 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 114x72mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 49g or 14 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (5 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-PL3 is the clear winner of the contest (8 : 2 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.

E-PL2 02:08 E-PL3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-PL2 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the E-PL2 and the E-PL3 in practical situations. 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: Olympus E-PL2 vs E-PL3

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
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-PL2»83/10071/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599- i Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL3«+ +72/1004.5/5-4/5 Jun 2011 599- i Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PL5« »+ +-4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599- i Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus XZ-2« »+-4.5/54/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599- i Olympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-P3« »83/10074/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799- i Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PM1« »86/10071/1004.5/5-4.5/5 Jun 2011 499- i Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL1« »86/10069/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599- i Olympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P1« »+66/1004/54/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799- i Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-P2« »+69/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799- i Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic G10« »-70/1004/5-4/5 Mar 2010 499- i Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic GF2« »82/10070/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2010 549- i Panasonic GF2
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Olympus E-PL2:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-PL3:
Check Ebay offers

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. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-PL2 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-PL2 Olympus E-PL3
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Micro Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date January 2011 June 2011
    Launch Price USD 599 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-PL2 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 720/30p Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 200-6400 ISO 200-12800 ISO
    Image Processor Truepic V Truepic VI
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 55 52
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.4 20.9
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.2 10.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 573 499
    Screen Specs Olympus E-PL2 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 460k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-PL2 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 SDHC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-PL2 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-PL2 Olympus E-PL3
    Battery Type BLS-5 power pack BLS-5 power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)280 shots per charge300 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 114 x 72 x 42 mm
    (4.5 x 2.8 x 1.7 in)
    110 x 64 x 37 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 362 g (12.8 oz) 313 g (11.0 oz)

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