Olympus E-PL5 vs Sony NEX-3N
The Olympus PEN E-PL5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-3N are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2012 and February 2013. Both the E-PL5 and the NEX-3N are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a Four Thirds (E-PL5) and an APS-C (NEX-3N) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 16 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus PEN E-PL5 and the Sony Alpha NEX-3N? 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-PL5 and the Sony NEX-3N. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The E-PL5 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, white), while the NEX-3N 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 NEX-3N is somewhat smaller (4 percent) than the Olympus E-PL5. Moreover, the NEX-3N is markedly lighter (17 percent) than the E-PL5. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL5 nor the NEX-3N 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-PL5) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-3N). 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 following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Olympus E-PL5||111 mm||64 mm||38 mm||325 g||360||n||Sep 2012||599||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony NEX-3N||110 mm||62 mm||35 mm||269 g||480||n||Feb 2013||499||ebay.com|
|3.||Olympus E-PL9||117 mm||68 mm||39 mm||380 g||350||n||Feb 2018||599||ebay.com|
|4.||Olympus E-PL8||115 mm||67 mm||38 mm||357 g||350||n||Sep 2016||549||ebay.com|
|5.||Olympus E-M10 II||120 mm||83 mm||47 mm||390 g||320||n||Aug 2015||649||ebay.com|
|6.||Olympus E-M10||119 mm||82 mm||46 mm||396 g||320||n||Jan 2014||699||ebay.com|
|7.||Olympus E-PL7||115 mm||67 mm||38 mm||357 g||350||n||Aug 2014||599||ebay.com|
|8.||Olympus E-P5||122 mm||69 mm||37 mm||420 g||330||n||May 2013||999||ebay.com|
|9.||Olympus E-PL6||111 mm||64 mm||38 mm||325 g||360||n||May 2013||599||ebay.com|
|10.||Olympus E-PM2||110 mm||64 mm||34 mm||269 g||360||n||Sep 2012||499||ebay.com|
|11.||Olympus E-PL3||110 mm||64 mm||37 mm||313 g||300||n||Jun 2011||599||ebay.com|
|12.||Panasonic G6||122 mm||85 mm||71 mm||390 g||340||n||Apr 2013||599||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony A5000||110 mm||63 mm||36 mm||269 g||420||n||Jan 2014||449||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony A5100||110 mm||63 mm||36 mm||283 g||400||n||Aug 2014||549||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony NEX-F3||117 mm||67 mm||42 mm||314 g||470||n||May 2012||599||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony NEX-3||117 mm||62 mm||33 mm||297 g||330||n||May 2010||599||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||287 g||330||n||May 2010||699||ebay.com|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The NEX-3N was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 17 percent) than the E-PL5, 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Olympus E-PL5 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony NEX-3N an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-3N is 62 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-PL5 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the NEX-3N offers a 3:2 aspect.
With 16MP, the NEX-3N offers a higher resolution than the E-PL5 (15.9MP), but the NEX-3N nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.78μm versus 3.76μm for the E-PL5) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the NEX-3N is a somewhat more recent model (by 5 months) than the E-PL5, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The Olympus PEN E-PL5 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-3N are ISO 200 to ISO 16000 (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.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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.
|1.||Olympus E-PL5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||889||72|
|3.||Olympus E-PL9||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||23.1||12.8||1162||74|
|4.||Olympus E-PL8||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||23.0||12.6||1030||73|
|5.||Olympus E-M10 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.1||12.5||842||73|
|6.||Olympus E-M10||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||884||72|
|7.||Olympus E-PL7||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.7||12.4||873||72|
|8.||Olympus E-P5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
|9.||Olympus E-PL6||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.5||12.0||717||68|
|10.||Olympus E-PM2||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.7||12.2||932||72|
|11.||Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52|
|12.||Panasonic G6||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||21.3||11.5||639||61|
|Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the NEX-3N provides a faster frame rate than the E-PL5. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-PL5 and the NEX-3N 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-3 for the E-PL5 and the FDA-SV1 for the NEX-3N – are available as accessories. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-PL5 and Sony NEX-3N along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Olympus E-PL5||optional||n||3.0 / 460||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||n||Y|
|2.||Sony NEX-3N||optional||n||3.0 / 460||tilting||n||1/4000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|3.||Olympus E-PL9||none||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.6/s||Y||Y|
|4.||Olympus E-PL8||optional||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||n||Y|
|5.||Olympus E-M10 II||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||Y||Y|
|6.||Olympus E-M10||1440||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||Y||Y|
|7.||Olympus E-PL7||optional||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||n||Y|
|8.||Olympus E-P5||optional||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/8000s||9.0/s||Y||Y|
|9.||Olympus E-PL6||optional||n||3.0 / 460||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||n||Y|
|10.||Olympus E-PM2||optional||n||3.0 / 460||fixed||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||n||Y|
|11.||Olympus E-PL3||optional||n||3.0 / 460||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5/s||n||Y|
|12.||Panasonic G6||1440||n||3.0 / 1036||swivel||Y||1/4000s||7.0/s||Y||n|
|13.||Sony A5000||none||n||3.0 / 461||tilting||n||1/4000s||3.5/s||Y||n|
|14.||Sony A5100||none||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||6.0/s||Y||n|
|15.||Sony NEX-F3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5/s||Y||n|
|16.||Sony NEX-3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0/s||n||n|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0/s||n||n|
|Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.|
One feature that differentiates the E-PL5 and the NEX-3N is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-PL5 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the NEX-3N 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-PL5 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-3N uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The E-PL5 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the NEX-3N 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-PL5 and Sony Alpha NEX-3N and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Olympus E-PL5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Sony NEX-3N||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Olympus E-PL9||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|4.||Olympus E-PL8||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|5.||Olympus E-M10 II||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|6.||Olympus E-M10||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|7.||Olympus E-PL7||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|8.||Olympus E-P5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|9.||Olympus E-PL6||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Olympus E-PM2||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Olympus E-PL3||Y||stereo / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Panasonic G6||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|13.||Sony A5000||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|14.||Sony A5100||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|15.||Sony NEX-F3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Sony NEX-3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the E-PL5 has a hotshoe, while the NEX-3N does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.
Both the E-PL5 and the NEX-3N have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The E-PL5 was replaced by the Olympus E-PL6, while the NEX-3N was followed by the Sony A5000. 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? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-PL5 or the Sony NEX-3N – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Olympus PEN E-PL5:
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (8 vs 4 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.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2012).
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha NEX-3N:
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i versus 1080/30p).
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 56g or 17 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (480 versus 360) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (17 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (5 months) more recently.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the match-up finishes in a tie (6 points each). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape 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-PL5 and the Sony NEX-3N 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 incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-PL5 or the NEX-3N 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 why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.
|1.||Olympus E-PL5||3/5||+ +||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||599||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony NEX-3N||3/5||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499||ebay.com|
|3.||Olympus E-PL9||..||+||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2018||599||ebay.com|
|4.||Olympus E-PL8||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Sep 2016||549||ebay.com|
|5.||Olympus E-M10 II||4.5/5||+ +||..||80/100||5/5||5/5||Aug 2015||649||ebay.com|
|6.||Olympus E-M10||4/5||..||..||80/100||5/5||5/5||Jan 2014||699||ebay.com|
|7.||Olympus E-PL7||4/5||+||..||..||5/5||4/5||Aug 2014||599||ebay.com|
|8.||Olympus E-P5||5/5||+ +||..||78/100||4.5/5||5/5||May 2013||999||ebay.com|
|9.||Olympus E-PL6||..||..||..||..||..||..||May 2013||599||ebay.com|
|10.||Olympus E-PM2||3/5||..||..||77/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||499||ebay.com|
|11.||Olympus E-PL3||3/5||+ +||..||72/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599||ebay.com|
|12.||Panasonic G6||4/5||+ +||..||..||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2013||599||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony A5000||3/5||+||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2014||449||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony A5100||4.5/5||+||..||..||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2014||549||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony NEX-F3||4/5||..||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2012||599||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony NEX-3||..||..||..||70/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||599||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||3/5||+ +||..||71/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||699||ebay.com|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, 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 comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
- Canon 1D Mark III vs Sony NEX-3N
- Canon 500D vs Sony NEX-3N
- Canon 760D vs Olympus E-PL5
- Leica M-E Typ 240 vs Sony NEX-3N
- Leica V-LUX 4 vs Olympus E-PL5
- Nikon D500 vs Olympus E-PL5
- Olympus E-P7 vs Sony NEX-3N
- Olympus E-PL5 vs Panasonic GH5s
- Olympus E-PL5 vs Panasonic LX100 II
- Olympus E-PL5 vs Sony A7
- Panasonic GF7 vs Sony NEX-3N
- Sony A77 II vs Sony NEX-3N
Specifications: Olympus E-PL5 vs Sony NEX-3N
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-PL5||Sony NEX-3N|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Micro Four Thirds lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2012||February 2013|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 499|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-PL5||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||17.3 x 13.0 mm||23.4 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||224.9 mm2||365.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||21.6 mm||28.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||15.9 Megapixels||16 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4608 x 3456 pixels||4912 x 3264 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||3.76 μm||4.78 μm|
|Pixel Density||7.08 MP/cm2||4.39 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 25,600 ISO||200 - 16,000 ISO|
|Image Processor||TruePic VI||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||72||74|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.8||22.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.3||12.5|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||889||1067|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-PL5||Sony NEX-3N|
|Viewfinder Type||Viewfinder optional||Viewfinder optional|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||460k dots||460k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-PL5||Sony NEX-3N|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||8 shutter flaps/s||4 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||Lens stabilization only|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-PL5||Sony NEX-3N|
|External Flash||Hotshoe||no Hotshoe|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-PL5||Sony NEX-3N|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||360 shots per charge||480 shots per charge|
111 x 64 x 38 mm
(4.4 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
110 x 62 x 35 mm
(4.3 x 2.4 x 1.4 in)
|Camera Weight||325 g (11.5 oz)||269 g (9.5 oz)|
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