Olympus E-PL3: Performance

September 27, 2011 by Jerry Jackson Reads (30,762)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 7
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 4
    • Performance
    • 7
    • Expandability
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 6.80
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

One of the main reasons to purchase a compact interchangeable-lens camera (other than the ability to mount different lenses) is the size of the image sensor. The micro Four Thirds sensors used in the Olympus Pen series typically deliver better image quality than a compact point-and-shoot camera. Does the E-PL3 keep pace with other mirrorless cameras or not?

Shooting Performance
The E-PL3 powers up fairly quickly, and you should be able to capture an image in less than two seconds. Continuous rates vary based on whether or not you have image stabilization enabled: 4.1 frames per second (fps) with IS on or 5.5 fps with IS off. Interestingly, both the continuous/burst speeds are faster than the more expensive Olympus E-P3.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Olympus E-PL3 0.01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 0.01
Samsung NX10 0.05
Sony alpha NEX-5 0.05

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Olympus E-PL3 0.13
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 0.22
Sony alpha NEX-5 0.39
Samsung NX10 0.50

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Olympus E-PL3 11 5.5 fps
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 20 4.2 fps
Samsung NX10 12 3.3 fps
Sony alpha NEX-5 2.6 fps

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

Shutter lag came in at 0.01 seconds – making the E-PL3 just as fast as the speedy Olympus E-P3. AF acquisition at 0.22 seconds makes this camera as fast or faster than any other mirrorless camera we’ve reviewed. That said, AF acquisition times are always lengthened under dim lighting conditions.

Olympus includes a “clip-on” flash that slides into the camera’s hot shoe and connects to the accessory port above the LCD. This flash has a guide number of 10 meters at ISO 200. By default, flash exposures are set using the camera’s TTL auto metering, but you can also manually control the flash output from 1/64 to full strength. The E-PL3’s hot shoe is also compatible with the FL-50R, FL-36R, FL-50, FL-36, FL-20, FL-14, and FL-300R flashes.

Olympus lists a battery life of the E-PL3 at about 330 images using a CIPA standard (interesting how this is identical to last year’s Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 cameras). Of course, if you use the included clip-on flash (which uses the camera’s battery for power) for all your images then the battery life will be greatly reduced.

Lens Performance
The new M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R kit lens works as expected and delivers noticeably faster AF speed and is absolutely silent when focusing (making it ideal for shooting video). Like all Four Thirds models, the E-PL3 registers a 2x crop factor, meaning the 14-42mm kit lens performs like a 28-84mm zoom in familiar 35mm terms.

My only complaint about the new 14-42mm kit lens is the plastic lens mount (plastic just feels out of place when using the metal-bodied camera). Another thing to keep in mind about the E-PL3 is that it doesn’t remain particularly “compact” when the zoom lens is in the shooting mode. You have to “extend” the lens barrel on the 14-42mm lens in order to take photos and that essentially defeats the purpose of such a small camera. The only truly “compact” or “pocketable” lenses are pancake style prime lens such as the Olympus 17mm f/2.8 or one of the several Panasonic Lumix pancake lenses.



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