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Olympus E-PL3 vs Panasonic GF2

The Olympus PEN E-PL3 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in June 2011 and November 2010. Both the E-PL3 and the GF2 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 12 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   Panasonic GF2
Olympus E-PL3 Panasonic GF2
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Micro Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 12 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
1080/60i Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 200-12800 ISO 100-6400
Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
3.0" LCD, 460k dots 3.0" LCD, 460k dots
Tilting screen (no touchscreen) Fixed touchscreen
5.5 shutter flaps per second 2.6 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
300 shots per battery charge300 shots per battery charge
110 x 64 x 37 mm, 313 g 113 x 68 x 33 mm, 310 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus PEN E-PL3 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2? 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 Panasonic GF2

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-PL3 and the Panasonic GF2. 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.

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

Size Olympus E-PL3 vs Panasonic GF2
Compare E-PL3 versus GF2 top
Comparison E-PL3 or GF2 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GF2 is notably larger (9 percent) than the Olympus E-PL3. However, the GF2 is slightly lighter (1 percent) than the E-PL3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL3 nor the GF2 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» 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599- i Olympus E-PL3
 
Panasonic GF2« 113 mm 68 mm 33 mm 310 g 300 n Nov 2010 549- i Panasonic GF2
 
Olympus E-PL5« » 111 mm 64 mm 38 mm 325 g 360 n Sep 2012 599- i Olympus E-PL5
 
Olympus XZ-2« » 113 mm 65 mm 48 mm 346 g 340 n Sep 2012 599- i Olympus XZ-2
 
Olympus E-P3« » 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799- i Olympus E-P3
 
Olympus E-PL2« » 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599- i Olympus E-PL2
 
Olympus E-PM1« » 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 265 g 330 n Jun 2011 499- i Olympus E-PM1
 
Olympus E-PL1« » 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599- i Olympus E-PL1
 
Olympus E-P1« » 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799- i Olympus E-P1
 
Panasonic GF5« » 108 mm 67 mm 37 mm 267 g 360 n Apr 2012 499- i Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic G3« » 115 mm 84 mm 47 mm 336 g 270 n May 2011 599- i Panasonic G3
 
Panasonic GF3« » 108 mm 67 mm 32 mm 264 g 300 n Jun 2011 549- i Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic G10« » 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 388 g 380 n Mar 2010 499- i Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic G2« » 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 428 g 360 n Mar 2010 599- i Panasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF1« » 119 mm 71 mm 36 mm 385 g 380 n Sep 2009 749- i Panasonic GF1
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as 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. The GF2 was somewhat cheaper (by 8 percent) than the E-PL3 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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 Panasonic GF2

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.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Olympus E-PL3 and Panasonic GF2 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-PL3 offers a slightly higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 12 MP of the GF2. This megapixels advantage translates into a 0.8 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-PL3 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.29μm versus 4.33μm for the GF2). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the E-PL3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 7 months) than the GF2, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.

The Olympus PEN E-PL3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

E-PL3 versus GF2 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar 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-PL3» Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952Olympus E-PL3
 
Panasonic GF2« Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.210.350654Panasonic GF2
 
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-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-P1« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.453655Olympus E-P1
 
Panasonic GF5« » Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.411.661861Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic G3« » Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60i21.010.666756Panasonic G3
 
Panasonic GF3« » Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.610.045849Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic G10« » Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.141152Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic G2« » Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.349353Panasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF1« » Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.351354Panasonic GF1

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 Panasonic GF2

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-PL3 and the GF2 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 DMW-LVF1 for the GF2 – are available as accessories. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-PL3, the Panasonic GF2, and comparable 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-PL3»- n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y Olympus E-PL3
 
Panasonic GF2«- n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n Panasonic GF2
 
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-PL2« »- n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-PL2
 
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
 
Panasonic GF5« »- n 3.0 920 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic G3« »1440 n 3.0 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Panasonic G3
 
Panasonic GF3« »- n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.2 Y n Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic G10« »202 n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.6 Y n Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic G2« »1440 n 3.0 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n Panasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF1« »- n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Panasonic GF1

One feature that differentiates the E-PL3 and the GF2 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-PL3 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the GF2 has to rely on optical image stabilization in OIS-equipped lenses to achieve the same effect.

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 GF2 does not have a selfie-screen.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-PL3 and the GF2 write their files to SDXC cards.

 

Connectivity comparison: Olympus E-PL3 vs Panasonic GF2

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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 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
 
Panasonic GF2«Ystereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF2
 
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-PL2« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-PL2
 
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
 
Panasonic GF5« »-stereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic G3« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic G3
 
Panasonic GF3« »-stereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic G10« »Ymono---mini2.0---Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic G2« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF1« »Ymonomono--mini2.0---Panasonic GF1

Both the E-PL3 and the GF2 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The GF2 was replaced by the Panasonic GF3, 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 and Panasonic websites.


Review summary: Olympus E-PL3 vs Panasonic GF2

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-PL3 and the Panasonic GF2? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer 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.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5.5 vs 2.6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 7 months after the GF2).

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Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2:

  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in November 2010).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-PL3 emerges as the winner of the contest (5 : 3 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-PL3 05:03 GF2

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-PL3 and the Panasonic GF2 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 remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-PL3 or the GF2 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: Olympus E-PL3 vs Panasonic GF2

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 (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
 
Panasonic GF2«82/10070/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2010 549- i Panasonic GF2
 
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-PL2« »83/10071/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599- i Olympus E-PL2
 
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
 
Panasonic GF5« »--4.5/54/54.5/5 Apr 2012 499- i Panasonic GF5
 
Panasonic G3« »+ +75/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2011 599- i Panasonic G3
 
Panasonic GF3« »82/10071/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2011 549- i Panasonic GF3
 
Panasonic G10« »-70/1004/5-4/5 Mar 2010 499- i Panasonic G10
 
Panasonic G2« »-72/1004/54/54.5/5 Mar 2010 599- i Panasonic G2
 
Panasonic GF1« »85/10069/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2009 749- i Panasonic GF1
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
Panasonic GF2:
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 Panasonic GF2

    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 Panasonic GF2
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Micro Four Thirds lenses Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date June 2011 November 2010
    Launch Price USD 599 USD 549
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-PL3 Panasonic GF2
    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 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4032 x 3024 pixels 4000 x 3000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.29 μm 4.33 μm
    Pixel Density 5.42 MP/cm2 5.34 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60i Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 200-12800 ISO 100-6400 ISO
    Image Processor Truepic VI Venus FHD
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 52 54
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 20.9 21.2
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.3 10.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 499 506
    Screen Specs Olympus E-PL3 Panasonic GF2
    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
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-PL3 Panasonic GF2
    Autofocus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 5.5 shutter flaps/s 2.6 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationLens stabilization only
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in 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 Panasonic GF2
    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 Panasonic GF2
    Battery Type BLS-5 power pack DMW-BLD10 power pack
    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)
    113 x 68 x 33 mm
    (4.4 x 2.7 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 313 g (11.0 oz) 310 g (10.9 oz)

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