Olympus E-PL3 vs Sony A5100
The Olympus PEN E-PL3 and the Sony Alpha A5100 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in June 2011 and August 2014. Both the E-PL3 and the A5100 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a Four Thirds (E-PL3) and an APS-C (A5100) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Olympus E-PL3||Sony A5100|
|Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Micro Four Thirds lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor||24 MP, APS-C Sensor|
|1080/60i Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO 200-12,800||ISO 100-25,600|
|Viewfinder optional||No viewfinder, LCD framing|
|3.0 LCD, 460k dots||3.0 LCD, 922k dots|
|Tilting screen (no touchscreen)||Tilting touchscreen|
|5.5 shutter flaps per second||6 shutter flaps per second|
|In-body stabilization||Lens stabilization only|
|300 shots per battery charge||400 shots per battery charge|
|110 x 64 x 37 mm, 313 g||110 x 63 x 36 mm, 283 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus PEN E-PL3 and the Sony Alpha A5100? 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.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-PL3 and the Sony A5100. 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 A5100 is available in two color-versions (black, white).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A5100 is somewhat smaller (2 percent) than the Olympus E-PL3. Moreover, the A5100 is markedly lighter (10 percent) than the E-PL3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL3 nor the A5100 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-PL3) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (A5100). 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.
Concerning battery life, the E-PL3 gets 300 shots out of its BLS-5 battery, while the A5100 can take 400 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack. The power pack in the A5100 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.
|Olympus E-PL3||110 mm||64 mm||37 mm||313 g||300||n||Jun 2011||599|
|Sony A5100||110 mm||63 mm||36 mm||283 g||400||n||Aug 2014||549|
|Olympus E-PL5||111 mm||64 mm||38 mm||325 g||360||n||Sep 2012||599|
|Olympus XZ-2||113 mm||65 mm||48 mm||346 g||340||n||Sep 2012||599|
|Olympus E-P3||122 mm||69 mm||34 mm||369 g||330||n||Jun 2011||799|
|Olympus E-PL2||114 mm||72 mm||42 mm||362 g||280||n||Jan 2011||599|
|Olympus E-PM1||110 mm||64 mm||34 mm||265 g||330||n||Jun 2011||499|
|Olympus E-PL1||115 mm||72 mm||42 mm||334 g||290||n||Feb 2010||599|
|Olympus E-P1||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||n||Jun 2009||799|
|Panasonic GF5||108 mm||67 mm||37 mm||267 g||360||n||Apr 2012||499|
|Panasonic GF3||108 mm||67 mm||32 mm||264 g||300||n||Jun 2011||549|
|Panasonic GF2||113 mm||68 mm||33 mm||310 g||300||n||Nov 2010||549|
|Sony RX100 IV||102 mm||58 mm||41 mm||298 g||280||n||Jun 2015||999|
|Sony A5000||110 mm||63 mm||36 mm||269 g||420||n||Jan 2014||449|
|Sony A6000||120 mm||67 mm||45 mm||344 g||360||n||Feb 2014||599|
|Sony NEX-3N||110 mm||62 mm||35 mm||269 g||480||n||Feb 2013||499|
|Sony RX100||102 mm||58 mm||36 mm||240 g||330||n||Jun 2012||649|
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.
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A5100 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.
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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to 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 Sony A5100 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the A5100 is 63 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.5. The sensor in the E-PL3 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the A5100 offers a 3:2 aspect.
With 24MP, the A5100 offers a higher resolution than the E-PL3 (12.2MP), but the A5100 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 4.29μm for the E-PL3). Yet, the A5100 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 1 month) than the E-PL3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A5100 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A5100 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-PL3 are 20.2 x 15.1 inches or 51.2 x 38.4 cm for good quality, 16.1 x 12.1 inches or 41 x 30.7 cm for very good quality, and 13.4 x 10.1 inches or 34.1 x 25.6 cm for excellent quality prints.
The A5100 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Olympus PEN E-PL3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A5100 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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. Of the two cameras under consideration, the A5100 offers substantially better image quality than the E-PL3 (overall score 28 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.9 bits higher color depth, 2.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.4 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52|
|Olympus E-PL5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||889||72|
|Olympus E-P3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.8||10.1||536||51|
|Olympus E-PL2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.2||573||55|
|Olympus E-PM1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||21.0||10.3||499||52|
|Olympus E-PL1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.1||487||54|
|Olympus E-P1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.4||536||55|
|Panasonic GF5||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/60i||21.4||11.6||618||61|
|Panasonic GF3||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/60i||20.6||10.0||458||49|
|Panasonic GF2||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/60i||21.2||10.3||506||54|
|Sony RX100 IV||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||4K/30p||22.8||12.6||591||70|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the A5100 provides a faster frame rate than the E-PL3. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/60i.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-PL3 and the A5100 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-PL3, the Sony A5100, and comparable cameras.
|Sony RX100 IV||2359||n||3.0||1228||tilting||n||1/2000s||16.0||Y||Y|
One feature that differentiates the E-PL3 and the A5100 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-PL3 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the A5100 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.Both cameras have an articulated rear screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This feature will be particularly appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies.
The E-PL3 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A5100 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A5100 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the E-PL3 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
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 Sony Alpha A5100 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Sony RX100 IV||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the E-PL3 has a hotshoe, while the A5100 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.
The A5100 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Sony. In contrast, the E-PL3 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the E-PL3 was succeeded 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 Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-PL3 and the Sony A5100? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-PL3:
- More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
- 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.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 2011).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A5100:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 43%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (28 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.9 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.4 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.4 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/60i).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 460k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (400 versus 300) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 1 month of technical progress since the E-PL3 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A5100 is the clear winner of the contest (15 : 4 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-PL3 and the Sony A5100 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 A5100 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.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.
|Olympus E-PL3||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||..||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|Sony A5100||+||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2014||549|
|Olympus E-PL5||+ +||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||599|
|Olympus XZ-2||+||..||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||599|
|Olympus E-P3||83/100||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2011||799|
|Olympus E-PL2||83/100||71/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2011||599|
|Olympus E-PM1||86/100||71/100||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Jun 2011||499|
|Olympus E-PL1||86/100||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||599|
|Olympus E-P1||+||66/100||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2009||799|
|Panasonic GF5||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2012||499|
|Panasonic GF3||82/100||71/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||549|
|Panasonic GF2||82/100||70/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Nov 2010||549|
|Sony RX100 IV||+ +||85/100||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2015||999|
|Sony A5000||+||..||4.5/5||o||4.5/5||Jan 2014||449|
|Sony A6000||+||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Feb 2014||599|
|Sony NEX-3N||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499|
|Sony RX100||+ +||78/100||4/5||5/5||5/5||Jun 2012||649|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated 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 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.
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 a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
- Canon S120 vs Sony A5100
- Canon SX50 vs Sony A5100
- Canon XTi vs Olympus E-PL3
- Fujifilm GFX 50R vs Olympus E-PL3
- Nikon Coolpix A vs Sony A5100
- Olympus E-300 vs Sony A5100
- Olympus E-PL3 vs Olympus E-PL9
- Olympus E-PL3 vs Sony A850
- Olympus E-PL3 vs Sony NEX-3
- Panasonic S1 vs Sony A5100
- Sony A5100 vs Sony A6500
- Sony A5100 vs Sony RX100
Specifications: Olympus E-PL3 vs Sony A5100
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 Model||Olympus E-PL3||Sony A5100|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Micro Four Thirds lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||June 2011||August 2014|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 549|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-PL3||Sony A5100|
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||17.3 x 13.0 mm||23.5 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||224.9 mm2||366.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||21.6 mm||28.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12.2 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4032 x 3024 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.29 μm||3.91 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.42 MP/cm2||6.55 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60i Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||Truepic VI||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||52||80|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||20.9||23.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.3||12.7|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||499||1347|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-PL3||Sony A5100|
|Viewfinder Type||Viewfinder optional||no viewfinder|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||460k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-PL3||Sony A5100|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||5.5 shutter flaps/s||6 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||Lens stabilization only|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-PL3||Sony A5100|
|External Flash||Hotshoe||no Hotshoe|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-PL3||Sony A5100|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||300 shots per charge||400 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
110 x 64 x 37 mm
(4.3 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
110 x 63 x 36 mm
(4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in)
|Camera Weight||313 g (11.0 oz)||283 g (10.0 oz)|
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