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Olympus E-PL3 vs E-P1

The Olympus PEN E-PL3 and the Olympus PEN E-P1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in June 2011 and June 2009. Both the E-PL3 and the E-P1 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-PL3   VS Olympus E-P1
Olympus E-PL3 Olympus E-P1
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 720/30p Video
ISO 200-12800 ISO 100-6400
Viewfinder optional No viewfinder, LCD framing
3.0" LCD, 460k dots 3.0" LCD, 230k dots
Tilting screen (no touchscreen) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
5.5 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
300 shots per battery charge300 shots per battery charge
110 x 64 x 37 mm, 313 g 121 x 70 x 36 mm, 355 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus PEN E-PL3 and the Olympus PEN E-P1? 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-PL3 and the Olympus E-P1. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The E-PL3 can be obtained in four different colors (black, silver, red, white), while the E-P1 is available in three color-versions (black, silver, white).

Size Olympus E-PL3 vs Olympus E-P1
Compare E-PL3 versus E-P1 top
Comparison E-PL3 or E-P1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-P1 is notably larger (20 percent) than the Olympus E-PL3. Moreover, the E-P1 is markedly heavier (13 percent) than the E-PL3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL3 nor the E-P1 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. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

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-PL3» 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.5 in 11.0 oz 300 n Jun 2011 599iOlympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-P1« 4.8 in 2.8 in 1.4 in 12.5 oz 300 n Jun 2009 799iOlympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-PL5« » 4.4 in 2.5 in 1.5 in 11.5 oz 360 n Sep 2012 599iOlympus E-PL5
 
Olympus E-PM2« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.3 in 9.5 oz 360 n Sep 2012 499iOlympus E-PM2
 
Olympus E-P3« » 4.8 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 13.0 oz 330 n Jun 2011 799iOlympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL2« » 4.5 in 2.8 in 1.7 in 12.8 oz 280 n Jan 2011 599iOlympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PM1« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.3 in 9.3 oz 330 n Jun 2011 499iOlympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL1« » 4.5 in 2.8 in 1.7 in 11.8 oz 290 n Feb 2010 599iOlympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P2« » 4.8 in 2.8 in 1.4 in 12.5 oz 300 n Nov 2009 799iOlympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GF5« » 4.3 in 2.6 in 1.5 in 9.4 oz 360 n Apr 2012 499iPanasonic GF5
 
Panasonic GF3« » 4.3 in 2.6 in 1.3 in 9.3 oz 300 n Jun 2011 549iPanasonic GF3
 
Panasonic GF2« » 4.4 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 10.9 oz 300 n Nov 2010 549iPanasonic GF2
 
Panasonic GH1« » 4.9 in 3.5 in 1.8 in 13.6 oz 300 n Mar 2009 899iPanasonic GH1
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 E-PL3 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 25 percent) than the E-P1, 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.

 

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. 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.

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.

In terms of chip-set technology, the E-PL3 uses a more advanced image processing engine (Truepic VI) than the E-P1 (TruePic V), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Olympus E-PL3 and Olympus E-P1 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-PL3 and the E-P1 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the E-PL3 is much more recent (by 2 years) than the E-P1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

The Olympus PEN E-PL3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-P1 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

E-PL3 versus E-P1 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 following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.453655Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-PL5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388972Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus E-PM2 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.712.293272Olympus E-PM2
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651Olympus E-P3
 
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-P2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.450556Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GF5 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.411.661861Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic GF3 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.610.045849Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic GF2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.210.350654Panasonic GF2
 
Panasonic GH1 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/24p21.611.677264Panasonic GH1

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 E-PL3 provides a higher video resolution than the E-P1. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60i, while the E-P1 is limited to 720/30p.

 

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-PL3 and the E-P1 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. That said, the E-PL3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the VF-2. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-PL3 and Olympus E-P1 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-PL3optional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-P1none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-PL5optional n 3.0 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus E-PM2optional n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PM2
 
Olympus E-P3optional n 3.0 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-P3
 
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-P2optional n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GF5none n 3.0 920 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic GF3none n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.2 Y n Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic GF2optional n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n Panasonic GF2
 
Panasonic GH11440 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Panasonic GH1
The E-PL3 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the E-P1 does not have a selfie-screen.

The E-PL3 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the E-P1 uses SDHC 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-PL3 and Olympus PEN E-P1 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-PL3Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-PL5Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus E-PM2Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PM2
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-P3
 
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-P2Ystereonone--mini2.0---Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GF5-stereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic GF3-stereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic GF2Ystereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF2
 
Panasonic GH1YstereononeY-mini2.0---Panasonic GH1

Both the E-PL3 and the E-P1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-P1 was replaced by the Olympus E-P2, 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 is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-PL3 and the Olympus E-P1? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


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 framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (460k vs 230k 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 (5.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (110x64mm vs 121x70mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 42g or 12 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years of technical progress since the E-P1 launch.


Advantages of the Olympus PEN E-P1:

  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in June 2009).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-PL3 is the clear winner of the match-up (11 : 1 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-PL3 11:01 E-P1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-PL3 and the Olympus E-P1 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 partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-PL3 or the E-P1. 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 where reviews by experts come in. 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.

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-PL3+ +72/1004.5/5..4/5 Jun 2011 599iOlympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-P1+66/1004/54/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799iOlympus E-P1
 
Olympus E-PL5+ +..4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599iOlympus E-PL5
 
Olympus E-PM2..77/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499iOlympus E-PM2
 
Olympus E-P383/10074/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799iOlympus E-P3
 
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-P2+69/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799iOlympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GF5....4.5/54/54.5/5 Apr 2012 499iPanasonic GF5
 
Panasonic GF382/10071/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2011 549iPanasonic GF3
 
Panasonic GF282/10070/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2010 549iPanasonic GF2
 
Panasonic GH1+ +72/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2009 899iPanasonic GH1
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Olympus E-PL3:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-P1:
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 use the search menu below. 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-PL3 vs Olympus E-P1

    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-PL3 Olympus E-P1
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Micro Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date June 2011 June 2009
    Launch Price USD 599 USD 799
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus E-P1
    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 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 200-12800 ISO 100-6400 ISO
    Image Processor Truepic VI TruePic V
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 52 55
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 20.9 21.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.3 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 499 536
    Screen Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus E-P1
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional No viewfinder
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 460k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus E-P1
    Autofocus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 5.5 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus E-P1
    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-PL3 Olympus E-P1
    Battery Type BLS-5 BLS-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)300 shots per charge300 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 110 x 64 x 37 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
    121 x 70 x 36 mm
    (4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)
    Camera Weight 313 g (11.0 oz) 355 g (12.5 oz)

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