Pentax K-3 versus Olympus E-M1
The Pentax K-3 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2013 and September 2013. The K-3 is a DSLR, while the E-M1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (K-3) and a Four Thirds sensor. The Pentax has a resolution of 24.1 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 15.9 MP.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Pentax K-3 and the Olympus E-M1. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the K-3 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M1 is somewhat smaller (7 percent) than the Pentax K-3. Moreover, the E-M1 is substantially lighter (38 percent) than the K-3. Cameras intended for semi-professional or professional use tend to be a bit bulkier in order to give them the necessary ruggedness. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.
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. Hence, you might want to study the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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 comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Pentax K-3 (⇒ rgt)||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.0 in||28.2 oz||560||YES||2013||1,299||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft)||5.1 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||17.5 oz||350||YES||2013||1,399||discont.||check|
|Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.5 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||26.6 oz||920||YES||2013||1,199||discont.||check|
|Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.4 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||950||YES||2013||1,199||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.9 in||3.3 in||1.8 in||16.5 oz||310||YES||2015||1,099||latest||check|
|Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.7 in||3.2 in||1.8 in||14.0 oz||320||no||2014||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.8 in||2.7 in||1.5 in||14.8 oz||330||no||2013||999||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.8 in||3.5 in||1.7 in||15.0 oz||..||YES||2012||1,299||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.2 in||3.1 in||2.5 in||17.2 oz||330||YES||2015||1,199||latest||check|
|Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.2 in||3.7 in||3.3 in||19.8 oz||500||YES||2014||1,499||discont.||check|
|Pentax K-3 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.0 in||28.2 oz||720||YES||2015||1,099||latest||check|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.7 in||2.6 in||2.1 in||16.0 oz||350||YES||2016||1,399||latest||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||21.1 oz||350||YES||2014||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A77 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.2 in||22.8 oz||480||YES||2014||1,199||latest||check|
|Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.1 in||3.5 in||4.0 in||28.7 oz||420||YES||2013||1,299||discont.||check|
The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The K-3 was somewhat cheaper (by 7 percent) than the E-M1 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. 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. 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 tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Pentax K-3 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-M1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-M1 is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the K-3 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-M1 offers a 4:3 aspect.
With 24.1MP, the K-3 offers a higher resolution than the E-M1 (15.9MP), but the K-3 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 3.75μm for the E-M1) due to its larger sensor. 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. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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"). Of the two cameras under review, the K-3 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the K-3 (overall score 7 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.7 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 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.
|Pentax K-3 (⇒ rgt)||APS-C||24.1||6016||4000||1080/60i||23.7||13.4||1216||80|
|Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||23.0||12.7||757||73|
|Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||22.5||11.6||926||68|
|Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.2||13.7||1256||83|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||884||72|
|Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
|Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60i||22.8||12.3||826||71|
|Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.5||12.6||806||75|
|Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||23.2||12.8||791||74|
|Pentax K-3 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.1||6016||4000||1080/60i||23.6||13.6||1106||80|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.5||13.7||1405||85|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|Sony A77 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||-||-||-||-|
|Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||22.9||12.6||474||69|
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 K-3 provides a higher frame rate than the E-M1. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60i, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-M1 has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the K-3 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Pentax K-3 and Olympus E-M1 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Pentax K-3 (⇒ rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1037||fixed||no||8000||8.3||13||YES|
|Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft)||2360||no||3.0||1037||tilting||YES||8000||10.0||no||YES|
|Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||1040||swivel||YES||8000||7.0||12||no|
|Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1229||fixed||no||8000||6.0||12||no|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2360||no||3.0||1037||swivel||YES||8000||10.0||no||YES|
|Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1440||no||3.0||1037||tilting||YES||4000||8.0||5.8||YES|
|Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||no||no||3.0||1037||tilting||YES||8000||9.0||7||YES|
|Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1440||no||3.0||610||tilting||YES||4000||9.0||no||YES|
|Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2360||no||3.0||1040||swivel||YES||8000||10.0||no||YES|
|Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2359||no||3.0||1036||swivel||YES||8000||12.0||17||no|
|Pentax K-3 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1037||fixed||no||8000||8.3||no||YES|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2300||no||3.0||922||tilting||YES||4000||11.0||6||YES|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||YES|
|Sony A77 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2359||YES||3.0||1229||full-flex||no||8000||12.0||12||YES|
|Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1440||YES||3.0||1229||tilting||no||3200||10.0||10.2||no|
Both the K-3 and the E-M1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The E-M1 was replaced by the Olympus E-M1 II, while the K-3 was followed by the Pentax K-3 II.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Pentax K-3 better than the Olympus E-M1 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Pentax K-3:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (24.1 vs 15.9MP) with a 25% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (7 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i vs 1080/30p).
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (560 versus 350) on a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
Arguments in favor of the Olympus OM-D E-M1:
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 303g or 38 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the K-3 is the clear winner of the match-up (10 : 5 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.
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 K-3 or the E-M1 handle or perform in practice. 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 where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Pentax K-3 (⇒ rgt)||-||83/100 Gold||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2013||1,299||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft)||HiRec||84/100 Gold||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2013||1,399||discont.||check|
|Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||83/100 Gold||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2013||1,199||discont.||check|
|Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2013||1,199||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||81/100 Silver||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2015||1,099||latest||check|
|Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||80/100 Gold||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2014||699||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-P5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||78/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2013||999||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||80/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2012||1,299||discont.||check|
|Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||82/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2015||1,199||latest||check|
|Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||5/5||5/5||5/5||2014||1,499||discont.||check|
|Pentax K-3 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2015||1,099||latest||check|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||1,399||latest||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||82/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2014||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A77 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||80/100 Silver||4.5/5||4/5||5/5||2014||1,199||latest||check|
|Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||80/100 Gold||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2013||1,299||discont.||check|
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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
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