Olympus E-PL3: Video and Image Quality

by Jerry Jackson Reads (1,946)
Editor's Rating
6.80

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • 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

Video Quality
No modern camera would be complete without the ability to record HD video, and E-PL3 is no exception. Older Olympus PEN cameras were limited to shooting HD video at a resolution of 1280 x 720, the E-PL3 shoots up to 29 minutes of full 1080i HD video in either AVCHD or AVI formats. To get a handle on baseline video quality, we’ve included samples of the video playback below. Overall we found the video quality to be quite good – smooth, crisp, and highly detailed.

To download the original file in its native resolution and format, click the link below.
Sample Video File Download

As with any modern DSLR, the E-PL3 gives the ability to capture video in aperture priority for depth of field control and allows single auto focus or continuous AF with compatible lenses when shooting video. As previously mentioned, you’ll want to use a lens that carries the Olympus Movie and Still Compatible (MSC) label so that you won’t hear the AF noise in your video. In terms of the continuous AF during video, the E-PL3’s AF system still gets confused when you pan the camera or there are multiple high-contrast objects moving in the foreground and background. Of course, you can still shoot video in manual focus mode if you don’t want to deal with the possibility of auto focus problems.

Image Quality
Default images out of the E-PL3 were very pleasing in terms of image quality and color accuracy. The new TruePic VI dual-core image processor with “Real Color Technology” improves color reproduction and color gradation (color transitions) of specific colors and fine details (particularly with greens, yellows and magenta. Image sharpness is good with the 14-42mm kit lens but images are rendered a little “harsh” for typical portraits.

In addition to the basic color options, Olympus’s Art Filter technology allows you to use a number of different creative filters to give your images a more artistic look. While the E-P3 features 10 different art filters, the E-PL3 has only six (this camera lacks the Pale Light & Color, Light Tone, Gentle Sepia and Cross-Process filters). My personal favorite filters are the “grainy film” filter which simulates high-speed monochrome film, “pin hole” which adds dark corners and an old-fashion color palette, and “dramatic tone” which gives the images a grunge-like appearance. You can also add borders to the art filters if that is something that interests you.

It’s true that the 12-megapixel image sensor lacks the impressive resolution of newer 16-megapixel and 24-megapixel cameras. Still, you can produce some huge prints with a 12-megapixel image file and if you mostly display your images online you’ll never notice the difference between a screen-sized image from a 12-megapixel camera and a 24-megapixel camera. At the end of the day, the “relatively” low resolution of this camera shouldn’t be a problem.

Multi metering did a good job overall with most scenes but highlight clipping is an obvious problem (bright parts of the photo turn completely white with no image detail being recorded in those areas). Center-weighted and spot metering options are available and I found that the E-PL3 did a better job correctly exposing light skin tones when the camera was set to spot metering. Auto white balance was also good overall, but shot warm in the studio under incandescent light. There are seven standard presets plus two custom presets and a Kelvin color temperature option available in addition to auto.

Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

The noise performance of the Olympus E-PL3 is on par with the latest micro Four Thirds cameras, but images appear slightly noisier than what you see from cameras using APS-C image sensors (Sony NEX-5N, Fujifilm X100, etc.). Images up to ISO 800 are reasonably noise free but you start to see some heavy grain above ISO 800 and beyond ISO 3200 the noise/grain becomes distracting in the image.

Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 200
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 400
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 800
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 6400, 100% crop
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 12800
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
ISO 12800, 100% crop

Overall, the latest generation of Olympus image sensors is doing a good job delivering decent high ISO performance but there is only so much you can do with an image sensor that is physically smaller than the APS-C size sensors in most DSLRs and larger mirrorless cameras.

Additional Sample Images

Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image
Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image Olympus E-PL3 Sample Image


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