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Olympus E-PL3 vs Panasonic GF3

The Olympus PEN E-PL3 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public in June 2011. Both the E-PL3 and the GF3 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 versus Panasonic GF3
Olympus E-PL3 Panasonic GF3
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 200-12,800 ISO 160-6,400
Viewfinder optional No viewfinder, LCD framing
3.0 LCD, 460k dots 3.0 LCD, 460k dots
Tilting screen (no touchscreen) Fixed touchscreen
5.5 shutter flaps per second 3.2 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 108 x 67 x 32 mm, 264 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-GF3? 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-PL3 and the Panasonic GF3 is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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 GF3 is available in five color-versions (black, brown, pink, red, white).

Size Olympus E-PL3 vs Panasonic GF3
Compare E-PL3 versus GF3 top
Comparison E-PL3 or GF3 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GF3 is somewhat larger (3 percent) than the Olympus E-PL3. However, the GF3 is markedly lighter (16 percent) than the E-PL3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL3 nor the GF3 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.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599i
 
Panasonic GF3 108 mm 67 mm 32 mm 264 g 300 n Jun 2011 549i
 
Olympus E-PL5 111 mm 64 mm 38 mm 325 g 360 n Sep 2012 599i
 
Olympus XZ-2 113 mm 65 mm 48 mm 346 g 340 n Sep 2012 599i
 
Olympus E-P3 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799i
 
Olympus E-PL2 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599i
 
Olympus E-PM1 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 265 g 330 n Jun 2011 499i
 
Olympus E-PL1 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599i
 
Olympus E-P1 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799i
 
Panasonic GF5 108 mm 67 mm 37 mm 267 g 360 n Apr 2012 499i
 
Panasonic LX7 111 mm 68 mm 46 mm 298 g 330 n Jul 2012 499i
 
Panasonic G10 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 388 g 380 n Mar 2010 499i
 
Panasonic G2 124 mm 84 mm 74 mm 428 g 360 n Mar 2010 599i
 
Panasonic GF2 113 mm 68 mm 33 mm 310 g 300 n Nov 2010 549i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

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 GF3 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies 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 Panasonic GF3 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 GF3. 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 GF3). It is noteworthy in this context that 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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 are ISO 160 to ISO 6400 (no boost).

E-PL3 versus GF3 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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.

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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
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952
 
Panasonic GF3 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.610.045849
 
Olympus E-PL5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388972
 
Olympus XZ-2 1/1.7 11.8 3968 29761080/30p20.411.321649
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355
 
Olympus E-PM1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i21.010.349952
 
Olympus E-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.148754
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.453655
 
Panasonic GF5 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.411.661861
 
Panasonic LX7 1/1.7 10.0 3648 27361080/60p20.711.714750
 
Panasonic G10 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.141152
 
Panasonic G2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 3000720/30p21.210.349353
 
Panasonic GF2 Four Thirds 12.0 4000 30001080/60i21.210.350654

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60i).

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-PL3 and the GF3 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 Panasonic GF3 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
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
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
 
Panasonic GF3none n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.2 Y n
 
Olympus E-PL5optional n 3.0 460 tilting Y 1/4000s 8.0 n Y
 
Olympus XZ-2optional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/2000s 5.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-P3optional n 3.0 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-PM1optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
 
Olympus E-PL1optional n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-P1none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y
 
Panasonic GF5none n 3.0 920 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Panasonic LX7optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 11.0 Y Y
 
Panasonic G10202 n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.6 Y n
 
Panasonic G21440 n 3.0 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n
 
Panasonic GF2optional n 3.0 460 fixed Y 1/4000s 2.6 Y n

One feature that differentiates the E-PL3 and the GF3 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-PL3 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the GF3 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.

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 GF3 does not have a selfie-screen.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-PL3 and the GF3 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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 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
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo---mini2.0---
 
Panasonic GF3-stereomono--mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-PL5Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Olympus XZ-2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereo---mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereo---mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-PM1Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-PL1Ystereo---mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereo---mini2.0---
 
Panasonic GF5-stereomono--mini2.0---
 
Panasonic LX7Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Panasonic G10Ymono---mini2.0---
 
Panasonic G2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Panasonic GF2Ystereomono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the E-PL3 has a hotshoe, while the GF3 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.

Both the E-PL3 and the GF3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The GF3 was replaced by the Panasonic GF5, 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

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-PL3 and the Panasonic GF3? 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 framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
  • 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 3.2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.

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Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3:

  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 49g or 16 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-PL3 emerges as the winner of the contest (6 : 3 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding 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 06:03 GF3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-PL3 and the Panasonic GF3 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 the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the E-PL3 and the GF3 in practical situations. 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

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.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Olympus E-PL3+ +72/1004.5/5..4/5 Jun 2011 599i
 
Panasonic GF382/10071/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2011 549i
 
Olympus E-PL5+ +..4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599i
 
Olympus XZ-2+..4.5/54/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599i
 
Olympus E-P383/10074/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799i
 
Olympus E-PL283/10071/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599i
 
Olympus E-PM186/10071/1004.5/5..4.5/5 Jun 2011 499i
 
Olympus E-PL186/10069/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599i
 
Olympus E-P1+66/1004/54/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799i
 
Panasonic GF5....4.5/54/54.5/5 Apr 2012 499i
 
Panasonic LX7+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2012 499i
 
Panasonic G10..70/1004/5..4/5 Mar 2010 499i
 
Panasonic G2..72/1004/54/54.5/5 Mar 2010 599i
 
Panasonic GF282/10070/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Nov 2010 549i
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 rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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 GF3:
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 GF3

    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 GF3
    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 549
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-PL3 Panasonic GF3
    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 - 12,800 ISO 160 - 6,400 ISO
    Image Processor Truepic VI Venus FHD
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 52 49
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 20.9 20.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.3 10.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 499 458
    Screen Specs Olympus E-PL3 Panasonic GF3
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional no viewfinder
    Viewfinder Magnification
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 460k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen Fixed screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-PL3 Panasonic GF3
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 5.5 shutter flaps/s 3.2 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 GF3
    External Flash Hotshoe no 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 GF3
    Battery Type BLS-5 DMW-BLE9
    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)
    108 x 67 x 32 mm
    (4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 313 g (11.0 oz) 264 g (9.3 oz)

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