Olympus E-PL6 vs Sony NEX-3
The Olympus PEN E-PL6 and the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in May 2013 and May 2010. Both the E-PL6 and the NEX-3 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a Four Thirds (E-PL6) and an APS-C (NEX-3) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 14 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-PL6 and the Sony Alpha NEX-3? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-PL6 and the Sony NEX-3 is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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-PL6 can be obtained in four different colors (black, silver, red, white), while the NEX-3 is available in three color-versions (black, silver, red).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-3 is somewhat larger (2 percent) than the Olympus E-PL6. However, the NEX-3 is markedly lighter (9 percent) than the E-PL6. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-PL6 nor the NEX-3 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-PL6) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-3). 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 would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Olympus E-PL6||111 mm||64 mm||38 mm||325 g||360||n||May 2013||599||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony NEX-3||117 mm||62 mm||33 mm||297 g||330||n||May 2010||599||ebay.com|
|3.||Olympus E-PL10||117 mm||68 mm||39 mm||380 g||350||n||Oct 2019||599||amazon.com|
|4.||Olympus E-PL9||117 mm||68 mm||39 mm||380 g||350||n||Feb 2018||599||ebay.com|
|5.||Olympus E-M10 III||122 mm||84 mm||50 mm||410 g||330||n||Aug 2017||649||ebay.com|
|6.||Olympus E-PL8||115 mm||67 mm||38 mm||357 g||350||n||Sep 2016||549||ebay.com|
|7.||Olympus E-M10 II||120 mm||83 mm||47 mm||390 g||320||n||Aug 2015||649||ebay.com|
|8.||Olympus E-M10||119 mm||82 mm||46 mm||396 g||320||n||Jan 2014||699||ebay.com|
|9.||Olympus E-PL7||115 mm||67 mm||38 mm||357 g||350||n||Aug 2014||599||ebay.com|
|10.||Olympus E-P5||122 mm||69 mm||37 mm||420 g||330||n||May 2013||999||ebay.com|
|11.||Olympus E-PL5||111 mm||64 mm||38 mm||325 g||360||n||Sep 2012||599||ebay.com|
|12.||Olympus E-PM2||110 mm||64 mm||34 mm||269 g||360||n||Sep 2012||499||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony NEX-3N||110 mm||62 mm||35 mm||269 g||480||n||Feb 2013||499||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||117 mm||67 mm||42 mm||314 g||470||n||May 2012||599||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony NEX-5N||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||269 g||460||n||Aug 2011||699||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||110 mm||60 mm||33 mm||225 g||400||n||Jun 2011||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 naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same market segment. 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. 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-PL6 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony NEX-3 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-3 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-PL6 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the NEX-3 offers a 3:2 aspect.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Olympus E-PL6 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixels, compared with 14 MP of the Sony NEX-3. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.76μm versus 5.11μm for the NEX-3). However, it should be noted that the E-PL6 is much more recent (by 3 years) than the NEX-3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
The Olympus PEN E-PL6 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 25600, which can be extended to ISO 100-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are ISO 200 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.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|1.||Olympus E-PL6||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.5||12.0||717||68|
|3.||Olympus E-PL10||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||23.3||13.1||1324||76|
|4.||Olympus E-PL9||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||23.1||12.8||1162||74|
|5.||Olympus E-M10 III||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||23.1||12.8||1120||74|
|6.||Olympus E-PL8||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||23.0||12.6||1030||73|
|7.||Olympus E-M10 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.1||12.5||842||73|
|8.||Olympus E-M10||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||884||72|
|9.||Olympus E-PL7||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.7||12.4||873||72|
|10.||Olympus E-P5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
|11.||Olympus E-PL5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||889||72|
|12.||Olympus E-PM2||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.7||12.2||932||72|
|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 also of capturing video footage. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the E-PL6 provides a higher video resolution than the NEX-3. It can shoot video footage at 1080/30p, while the Sony is limited to 720/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-PL6 and the NEX-3 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-PL6 and the FDA-SV1 for the NEX-3 – are available as accessories. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-PL6, the Sony NEX-3, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Olympus E-PL6||optional||n||3.0 / 460||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||n||Y|
|2.||Sony NEX-3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0/s||n||n|
|3.||Olympus E-PL10||none||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.6/s||Y||Y|
|4.||Olympus E-PL9||none||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.6/s||Y||Y|
|5.||Olympus E-M10 III||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.6/s||Y||Y|
|6.||Olympus E-PL8||optional||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||n||Y|
|7.||Olympus E-M10 II||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||Y||Y|
|8.||Olympus E-M10||1440||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||Y||Y|
|9.||Olympus E-PL7||optional||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||n||Y|
|10.||Olympus E-P5||optional||n||3.0 / 1037||tilting||Y||1/8000s||9.0/s||Y||Y|
|11.||Olympus E-PL5||optional||n||3.0 / 460||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||n||Y|
|12.||Olympus E-PM2||optional||n||3.0 / 460||fixed||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||n||Y|
|13.||Sony NEX-3N||optional||n||3.0 / 460||tilting||n||1/4000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5/s||Y||n|
|15.||Sony NEX-5N||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0/s||n||n|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5/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-PL6 and the NEX-3 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-PL6 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the NEX-3 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 Olympus E-PL6 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.
The E-PL6 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-3 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The E-PL6 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the NEX-3 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-PL6 and Sony Alpha NEX-3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Olympus E-PL6||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Sony NEX-3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Olympus E-PL10||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|4.||Olympus E-PL9||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|5.||Olympus E-M10 III||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|6.||Olympus E-PL8||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|7.||Olympus E-M10 II||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|8.||Olympus E-M10||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|9.||Olympus E-PL7||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|10.||Olympus E-P5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|11.||Olympus E-PL5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Olympus E-PM2||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Sony NEX-3N||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Sony NEX-5N||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
Both the E-PL6 and the NEX-3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The NEX-3 was replaced by the Sony NEX-3N, while the E-PL6 was followed by the Olympus E-PL7. Further information on the features and operation of the E-PL6 and NEX-3 can be found, respectively, in the Olympus E-PL6 Manual (free pdf) or the online Sony NEX-3 Manual.
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-PL6 and the Sony NEX-3? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-PL6:
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/30p vs 720/30p).
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (8 vs 7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 3 years of technical progress since the NEX-3 launch.
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-3:
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 460k dots).
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in May 2010).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-PL6 is the clear winner of the match-up (7 : 2 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 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-PL6 and the Sony NEX-3 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 remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-PL6 or the NEX-3. 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.
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.
|1.||Olympus E-PL6||..||..||..||..||..||..||May 2013||599||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony NEX-3||..||..||..||70/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||599||ebay.com|
|3.||Olympus E-PL10||..||..||4/5||77/100||..||4/5||Oct 2019||599||amazon.com|
|4.||Olympus E-PL9||..||+||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2018||599||ebay.com|
|5.||Olympus E-M10 III||..||+||5/5||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2017||649||ebay.com|
|6.||Olympus E-PL8||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Sep 2016||549||ebay.com|
|7.||Olympus E-M10 II||4.5/5||+ +||..||80/100||5/5||5/5||Aug 2015||649||ebay.com|
|8.||Olympus E-M10||4/5||..||..||80/100||5/5||5/5||Jan 2014||699||ebay.com|
|9.||Olympus E-PL7||4/5||+||..||..||5/5||4/5||Aug 2014||599||ebay.com|
|10.||Olympus E-P5||5/5||+ +||..||78/100||4.5/5||5/5||May 2013||999||ebay.com|
|11.||Olympus E-PL5||3/5||+ +||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||599||ebay.com|
|12.||Olympus E-PM2||3/5||..||..||77/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||499||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony NEX-3N||3/5||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||4/5||..||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2012||599||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony NEX-5N||3/5||+ +||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||3/5||+ +||..||74/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||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.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 80D vs Sony NEX-3
- Canon D30 vs Olympus E-PL6
- Canon G7 X vs Sony NEX-3
- Leica M Typ 262 vs Olympus E-PL6
- Nikon D5500 vs Olympus E-PL6
- Nikon D610 vs Olympus E-PL6
- Olympus E-PL6 vs Sony A6500
- Olympus E-PL6 vs Sony A7C
- Panasonic G5 vs Sony NEX-3
- Panasonic GF2 vs Sony NEX-3
- Sony H300 vs Sony NEX-3
- Sony HX90V vs Sony NEX-3
Specifications: Olympus E-PL6 vs Sony NEX-3
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-PL6||Sony NEX-3|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Micro Four Thirds lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||May 2013||May 2010|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-PL6||Sony NEX-3|
|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||14 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4608 x 3456 pixels||4592 x 3056 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||3.76 μm||5.11 μm|
|Pixel Density||7.08 MP/cm2||3.84 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 25,600 ISO||200 - 12,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 25,600 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||TruePic VI||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||68|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||22.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||12.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||830|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-PL6||Sony NEX-3|
|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||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-PL6||Sony NEX-3|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||8 shutter flaps/s||7 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||no Intervalometer|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||Lens stabilization only|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Single or Dual Card Slots||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-PL6||Sony NEX-3|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-PL6||Sony NEX-3|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||360 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
111 x 64 x 38 mm
(4.4 x 2.5 x 1.5 in)
117 x 62 x 33 mm
(4.6 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
|Camera Weight||325 g (11.5 oz)||297 g (10.5 oz)|
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