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Olympus E-PL3 vs E-PM1

The Olympus PEN E-PL3 and the Olympus PEN E-PM1 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public in June 2011. Both the E-PL3 and the E-PM1 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   Olympus E-PM1
Olympus E-PL3 Olympus E-PM1
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 100-12800
Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
3.0" LCD, 460k dots 3.0" LCD, 460k dots
Tilting screen (no touchscreen) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
5.5 shutter flaps per second 5.5 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
300 shots per battery charge330 shots per battery charge
110 x 64 x 37 mm, 313 g 110 x 64 x 34 mm, 265 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-PM1? 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-PL3 vs E-PM1

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-PL3 and the Olympus E-PM1. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The E-PL3 can be obtained in four different colors (black, silver, red, white), while the E-PM1 is available in six color-versions (black, silver, brown, pink, purple, white).

Size Olympus E-PL3 vs Olympus E-PM1
Compare E-PL3 versus E-PM1 top
Comparison E-PL3 or E-PM1 rear

In this particular case, the Olympus E-PL3 and the Olympus E-PM1 have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. However, the E-PM1 is markedly lighter (15 percent) than the E-PL3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL3 nor the E-PM1 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 adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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.

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-PL3» 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.5 in 11.0 oz 300 n Jun 2011 599- i Olympus E-PL3
 
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-PL5« » 4.4 in 2.5 in 1.5 in 11.5 oz 360 n Sep 2012 599- i Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus E-PM2« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.3 in 9.5 oz 360 n Sep 2012 499- i Olympus E-PM2
 
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-PL2« » 4.5 in 2.8 in 1.7 in 12.8 oz 280 n Jan 2011 599- i Olympus E-PL2
 
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-P2« » 4.8 in 2.8 in 1.4 in 12.5 oz 300 n Nov 2009 799- i Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GF5« » 4.3 in 2.6 in 1.5 in 9.4 oz 360 n Apr 2012 499- i Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic GF3« » 4.3 in 2.6 in 1.3 in 9.3 oz 300 n Jun 2011 549- i Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic G2« » 4.9 in 3.3 in 2.9 in 15.1 oz 360 n Mar 2010 599- i Panasonic G2
 
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 retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The E-PM1 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 17 percent) than the E-PL3, 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Olympus E-PL3 vs E-PM1

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. 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-PL3 and Olympus E-PM1 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-PM1 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-PL3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-PM1 are ISO 100 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

E-PL3 versus E-PM1 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-PM1« Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i21.010.349952Olympus E-PM1
 
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-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 G2« » Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.349353Panasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF2« » Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.210.350654Panasonic GF2

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60i).

 

Feature comparison: Olympus E-PL3 vs E-PM1

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The E-PL3 and the E-PM1 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-PL3 and the VF-2 for the E-PM1 – are available as accessories. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-PL3 and Olympus E-PM1 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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-PL3»- n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PM1«- n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL5« »- n 3.0 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus E-PM2« »- n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PM2
 
Olympus E-P3« »- n 3.0 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL2« »- n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL1« »- n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P2« »- n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GF5« »- n 3.0 920 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic GF3« »- n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.2 Y n Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic G2« »1440 n 3.0 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n Panasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF2« »- n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n Panasonic GF2
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-PM1 does not have a selfie-screen.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-PL3 and the E-PM1 write their files to SDXC cards.

 

Connectivity comparison: Olympus E-PL3 vs E-PM1

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-PM1 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-PL3»Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PM1«Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL5« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus E-PM2« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Olympus E-PM2
 
Olympus E-P3« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL2« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL1« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P2« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GF5« »-stereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic GF3« »-stereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic G2« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF2« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF2

Both the E-PL3 and the E-PM1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-PL3 was replaced by the Olympus E-PL5, while the E-PM1 was followed by the Olympus E-PM2. 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-PL3 vs E-PM1

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-PL3 and the Olympus E-PM1? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Advantages of 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.


Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-PM1:

  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 48g or 15 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (17 percent cheaper at launch).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (2 points each). 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-PL3 02:02 E-PM1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-PL3 and the Olympus E-PM1 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-PM1. 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.

Expert reviews: Olympus E-PL3 vs E-PM1

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
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-PL3»+ +72/1004.5/5-4/5 Jun 2011 599- i Olympus E-PL3
 
Olympus E-PM1«86/10071/1004.5/5-4.5/5 Jun 2011 499- i Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL5« »+ +-4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599- i Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus E-PM2« »-77/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499- i Olympus E-PM2
 
Olympus E-P3« »83/10074/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799- i Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL2« »83/10071/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599- i Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PL1« »86/10069/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599- i Olympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P2« »+69/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799- i Olympus E-P2
 
Panasonic GF5« »--4.5/54/54.5/5 Apr 2012 499- i Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic GF3« »82/10071/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2011 549- i Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic G2« »-72/1004/54/54.5/5 Mar 2010 599- i Panasonic G2
 
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.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price 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.

Olympus E-PL3:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-PM1:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-PL3 vs Olympus E-PM1

    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-PM1
    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 599 USD 499
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus E-PM1
    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 100-12800 ISO
    Image Processor Truepic VI TruePic VI
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 52 52
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 20.9 21.0
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.3 10.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 499 499
    Screen Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus E-PM1
    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 Tilting screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus E-PM1
    Autofocus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 5.5 shutter flaps/s 5.5 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus E-PM1
    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-PM1
    Battery Type BLS-5 power pack BLS-5 power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)300 shots per charge330 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 110 x 64 x 37 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
    110 x 64 x 34 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 313 g (11.0 oz) 265 g (9.3 oz)

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