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Olympus E-PL3 vs XZ-2

The Olympus PEN E-PL3 and the Olympus XZ-2 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in June 2011 and September 2012. The E-PL3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the XZ-2 is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (E-PL3) and a 1/1.7-inch (XZ-2) sensor. The E-PL3 has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the XZ-2 provides 11.8 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-PL3
versus
Olympus XZ-2
Olympus E-PL3   Olympus XZ-2
Mirrorless system camera Fixed lens compact camera
Micro Four Thirds lenses 28-112mm f/1.8-2.5
12.2 MP – Four Thirds sensor 11.8 MP – 1/1.7" sensor
1080/60i Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 200-12,800 ISO 100-12,800
Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
3.0" LCD – 460k dots 3.0" LCD – 920k dots
Tilting screen (no touchscreen) Tilting touchscreen
5.5 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
300 shots per battery charge340 shots per battery charge
110 x 64 x 37 mm, 313 g 113 x 65 x 48 mm, 346 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus PEN E-PL3 and the Olympus XZ-2? 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 XZ-2. 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 XZ-2 is only available in black.

Size Olympus E-PL3 vs Olympus XZ-2
Compare E-PL3 versus XZ-2 top
Comparison E-PL3 or XZ-2 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus XZ-2 is somewhat larger (4 percent) than the Olympus E-PL3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL3 nor the XZ-2 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the XZ-2 has a lens built in, whereas the E-PL3 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the E-PL3 and their specifications in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus XZ-2 113 mm 65 mm 48 mm 346 g 340 n Sep 2012 599ebay.com
3.
 
Olympus Stylus 1 116 mm 87 mm 57 mm 402 g 410 n Oct 2013 699ebay.com
4.
 
Olympus E-PL5 111 mm 64 mm 38 mm 325 g 360 n Sep 2012 599ebay.com
5.
 
Olympus E-P3 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799ebay.com
6.
 
Olympus E-PL2 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599ebay.com
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 265 g 330 n Jun 2011 499ebay.com
8.
 
Olympus XZ-1 111 mm 65 mm 42 mm 275 g 320 n Jan 2011 499ebay.com
9.
 
Olympus E-PL1 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599ebay.com
10.
 
Olympus E-P1 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799ebay.com
11.
 
Panasonic GF5 108 mm 67 mm 37 mm 267 g 360 n Apr 2012 499ebay.com
12.
 
Panasonic GF3 108 mm 67 mm 32 mm 264 g 300 n Jun 2011 549ebay.com
13.
 
Panasonic GF2 113 mm 68 mm 33 mm 310 g 300 n Nov 2010 549ebay.com
14.
 
Pentax MX-1 122 mm 61 mm 51 mm 391 g 290 n Jan 2013 499ebay.com
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. 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 imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Olympus E-PL3 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Olympus XZ-2 a 1/1.7-inch sensor. The sensor area in the XZ-2 is 81 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 4.4. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Olympus E-PL3 and Olympus XZ-2 sensor measures

With 12.2MP, the E-PL3 offers a slightly higher resolution than the XZ-2 (11.8MP), but the E-PL3 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.29μm versus 1.91μm for the XZ-2) due to its larger sensor. However, the XZ-2 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 2 months) than the E-PL3, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The Olympus PEN E-PL3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus XZ-2 are ISO 100 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.

E-PL3 versus XZ-2 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.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952
2.
 
Olympus XZ-2 1/1.7 11.8 3968 29761080/30p20.411.321649
3.
 
Olympus Stylus 1 1/1.7 11.8 3968 29761080/30p20.711.617951
4.
 
Olympus E-PL5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388972
5.
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651
6.
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i21.010.349952
8.
 
Olympus XZ-1 1/1.7 10.1 3664 2752720/30p18.810.411734
9.
 
Olympus E-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.148754
10.
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.453655
11.
 
Panasonic GF5 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.510.057350
12.
 
Panasonic GF3 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.610.145950
13.
 
Panasonic GF2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.210.350654
14.
 
Pentax MX-1 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/30p20.411.320849

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, but the E-PL3 provides a higher frame rate than the XZ-2. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60i, while the XZ-2 is limited to 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-PL3 and the XZ-2 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 XZ-2 – are available as accessories. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-PL3 and Olympus XZ-2 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n3.0 / 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5/s n Y
2.
 
Olympus XZ-2optional n3.0 / 920 tilting Y 1/2000s 5.0/s Y Y
3.
 
Olympus Stylus 11440 n3.0 / 1040 tilting Y 1/2000s 7.0/s Y Y
4.
 
Olympus E-PL5optional n3.0 / 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0/s n Y
5.
 
Olympus E-P3optional n3.0 / 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0/s Y Y
6.
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y Y
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5/s n Y
8.
 
Olympus XZ-1optional n3.0 / 614 fixed n 1/2000s 2.0/s Y Y
9.
 
Olympus E-PL1optional n2.7 / 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0/s Y Y
10.
 
Olympus E-P1none n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s n Y
11.
 
Panasonic GF5none n3.0 / 920 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
12.
 
Panasonic GF3none n3.0 / 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.2/s Y n
13.
 
Panasonic GF2optional n3.0 / 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 2.6/s Y n
14.
 
Pentax MX-1none n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/8000s 1.0/s Y Y
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The XZ-2 has a touchscreen, while the E-PL3 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

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 XZ-2 does not have a selfie-screen.

The Olympus XZ-2 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-PL3 and the XZ-2 write their files to SDXC 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 XZ-2 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
2.
 
Olympus XZ-2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Olympus Stylus 1Ystereo / mono--micro2.0Y--
4.
 
Olympus E-PL5Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
5.
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
6.
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
8.
 
Olympus XZ-1Ymono / ---mini2.0---
9.
 
Olympus E-PL1Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
10.
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
11.
 
Panasonic GF5-stereo / mono--mini2.0---
12.
 
Panasonic GF3-stereo / mono--mini2.0---
13.
 
Panasonic GF2Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
14.
 
Pentax MX-1-stereo / mono--mini2.0---

Both the E-PL3 and the XZ-2 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The E-PL3 was replaced by the Olympus E-PL5, while the XZ-2 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the features and operation of the E-PL3 and XZ-2 can be found, respectively, in the Olympus E-PL3 Manual (free pdf) or the online Olympus XZ-2 Manual.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Olympus E-PL3 better than the Olympus XZ-2 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Advantages of the Olympus PEN E-PL3:

  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.2 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i versus 1080/30p).
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Accepts interchangeable lenses, so that lens characteristics can be altered.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in June 2011).


Reasons to prefer the Olympus XZ-2:

  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1 EV of extra DR).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 460k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • Ready to shoot: Has an integrated lens, whereas the E-PL3 necessitates an extra lens.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (340 versus 300) out of a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 2 months) more recently.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the XZ-2 emerges as the winner of the match-up (8 : 6 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 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 06:08 XZ-2

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-PL3 and the Olympus XZ-2 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best Travel-Zoom Camera listings 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 remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-PL3 or the XZ-2 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.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Olympus E-PL33/5+ +..72/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus XZ-24/5+....4.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599ebay.com
3.
 
Olympus Stylus 1..+ +....4.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 699ebay.com
4.
 
Olympus E-PL53/5+ +....4.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599ebay.com
5.
 
Olympus E-P3..83/100..74/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799ebay.com
6.
 
Olympus E-PL23/583/100..71/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599ebay.com
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1..86/100..71/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 499ebay.com
8.
 
Olympus XZ-14/5....74/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 499ebay.com
9.
 
Olympus E-PL1..86/100..69/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599ebay.com
10.
 
Olympus E-P1..+..66/1004/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799ebay.com
11.
 
Panasonic GF53/5......4.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 499ebay.com
12.
 
Panasonic GF33/582/100..71/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 549ebay.com
13.
 
Panasonic GF23/582/100..70/1004.5/54.5/5 Nov 2010 549ebay.com
14.
 
Pentax MX-13/5....74/1004/54/5 Jan 2013 499ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

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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 XZ-2

    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 XZ-2
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens Micro Four Thirds lenses 28-112mm f/1.8-2.5
    Launch Date June 2011 September 2012
    Launch Price USD 599 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus XZ-2
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor 1/1.7" Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 7.6 x 5.7 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 43.32 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 9.5 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 4.4x
    Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixels 11.8 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4032 x 3024 pixels 3968 x 2976 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.29 μm 1.91 μm
    Pixel Density 5.42 MP/cm2 27.26 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60i Video 1080/30p Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 12,800 ISO 100 - 12,800 ISO
    Image Processor Truepic VI TruePic VI
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 52 49
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 20.9 20.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.3 11.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 499 216
    Screen Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus XZ-2
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 460k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus XZ-2
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 5.5 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse Photographyno IntervalometerIntervalometer built-in
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-PL3 Olympus XZ-2
    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 XZ-2
    Battery Type BLS-5 Li-90B
    Battery Life (CIPA)300 shots per charge340 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 110 x 64 x 37 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
    113 x 65 x 48 mm
    (4.4 x 2.6 x 1.9 in)
    Camera Weight 313 g (11.0 oz) 346 g (12.2 oz)
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