Expert Review of Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Mirrorless Kit 14-42mm Black
Olympus, the electronic giant had launched its Pen range of Micro Four Thirds mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras also known with the E-P1 in 2008. It's new predecessor Olympus PEN Lite E PL3 SLR is the third generation of the range that leaves the previous PEN camera design which followed the “Old is gold” mantra with the 60s design mixed and grinded to perfect with 21st century digital imaging technology behind and flaunts a modern sleek and elgant look. The Pen flagship front runner Olympus PEN Lite E P3 SLR is like an elder brother to E PL3 as E PL3 is almost like a compact, sleek and more efficient version of the prior. Olympus PEN flagship is now also joined by a third Pen, the entry-level E-PM1, also known as the Pen Mini. With the E-PL3, the company has slightly deviated from its classic looks version of PEN cameras when it comes to size. It's significantly smaller, though not much lighter than its predecessor and sports a new 16:9 screen that can flip up and a redesigned 12.3 Megapixel sensor. There is no built in flash now which is instead replaced by a clip-on unit and there's a new AF assist lamp to augment the capabilities of the improved 35-point contrast detect AF system. Another striking feature is that Olympus PEN Lite E PL3 can shoot 1080i60 video in AVCHD format and improves on E-PL2's continuous shooting with a top speed of 5.5 frames per second. With built-in sensor-shift image stabilisation and an ISO sensitivity range that now enlarges to a huge 12800 ISO its low light performance is considerably improved.
Design and Build Quality
Olympus Pen E-PL3 is not very different from its predecessor in terms of weight but it is really smaller. But what catches the eye on the word go is the new awesome designing. The retro styling burns in flames of past and is replaced by a compact, sleek and ultra modern look. Despite the flip-up screen Olympus E-PL3 is significantly slimmer than E-PL2 and misses the built in flash., Olympus has slimmed the body by extending the lens mount on the front panel. The other thing noticeable by its absence is the front grip. Demoted on the E-P3 to a clip-on accessory, it's disappeared from the E-PL3 altogether leaving the front plate a featureless lacquered expanse. The E-PL3 isn't as comfortable in the hand as the E-PL2 was, but it's undeniably better looking.
Focus and Face Detection
What leads the new and better features of Olympus Pen Lite E-PL3 is the auto focus, which is remarkably speedy, so much such that Olympus claims it to be the fastest in the world a title which is shared by Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 which also trends the same system. The newly-developed 35 point system is incredibly responsive, finding an instant lock in most cases, with a newly-added AF-assist lamp lending a helping hand when the light levels start to drop. Accuracy is impressive, with the camera's autofocus system proving to be unfazed by off-centre subjects. The focal length that is works on is 14 mm to 42 mm. Efficient face detection of a maximum of 10 faces in a single frame accompanies Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3.
Lens and Image Stabilization
Olympus Pen Lite E-PL3 comes with the M. Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R MSC kit zoom lens. The R stands for 'Renewed', but aside from some cosmetic differences this is essentially the same kit lens as boxed with the E-PL2. It has a retracting design which makes it reasonably compact, especially compared with the stabilised kit zooms for the Sony NEX-C3 and Lumix GF3. Micro Four Thirds lenses have a crop factor of two, making the 35mm equivalent range 28-84mm. Like all Pen models, the E-PL3 body is fitted with sensor-shift image stabilisation. There are three modes, 1 works on both axes, 2 is vertical only, for panning shots and 3 is horizontal only, for portrait mode panning.
Screen and Menus
Most of the rear of the camera is sported by a 3 inch LCD with anti reflection coatings with image display resolution of 460,000 dot pixels. The camera has made a move from the popular 3:2 aspect ratio to 16:9, and being able to flip the screen either up or down, NEX-style is a marked improvement. While it doesn't help with portrait shooting I found being able to flip the screen up improved visibility in bright conditions as well as being more comfortable when shooting from low angles. But it also needs to be said that, though it's ideal for movie shooting, for 4:3 aspect ratio stills shooting a significant portion of the screen is unused resulting in large black bars down either side of the screen.Though Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 doesn't have an optical viewfinder both optical and electronic viewfinders are available as hotshoe mounted accessories that plug into the AP2 accessory port just below the hotshoe in the rear panel.
What really powers Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 is BLS-1 Li-Ion battery, though the camera is also compatible with the older BLS-5 models. The quoted battery life is 330 shots using CIPA’s standard testing methods. The E-PL3 is compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards and cards with a speed class of at least 6 are recommended for movie recording.
Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3's best excellence movie mode is 1080i60 which is programmed as an AVCHD file at an average bitrate of 17Mbps. There's also a 13Mbps option at the same resolution and two 720p settings at 17Mbps and 13Mbps. Finally, there's a 720p option that records editing-friendly Mjpeg files at 30fps and a standard resolution 640x480 mode.
Sensor is probably the reason why camera works. Sensor converts and optical image into an electrical signal and hence, the imaging is processed. The 12.3 Optical Resolution of Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 is worked upon by Live MOS image sensor.
Very fast Auto Focus
Simple control layout
1080p HD movies
Mic a little sensitive
No built-in flash
No integral EVF
No built-in front grip