Olympus E-P3 review

This upgrade of the E-P2 currently tops the Olympus range. The E-P3 is a camera to satiate enthusiast as much as consumer, even though its 12.3-megapixel resolution has stayed the same since 2009. While the E-PL3 has lost a flash, Olympus’ flagship model has finally gained one, plus it offers the best build quality on test, thanks to the preponderance of metal. Inevitably, this doesn’t make the E-P3 the most portable option, especially with whisper quiet 14-42mm kit lens attached, but it’s clearly the most impressive compact system camera Olympus has produced.

The handgrip is now removable to show off more of the faceplate, and the rear monitor, while fixed, is now a 3in touchscreen and deploys OLED rather than LCD technology for better contrast and a more life-like display. While its exterior remains delightfully retro, the innards are bang up to date; and you’ll find that alternating between physical buttons and virtual controls quickly becomes intuitive and actually saves time. The E-P3 also features the same Live Guide as the E-PL3, and there are 10 digital filter effects, two more than its E-P2 forebear. Dramatic Tone worked best for us with its intense, gritty look; miniature mode was less effective than that offered by rivals.

Utilising contrast-detection autofocus the E-P3 is blisteringly fast – indeed like the E-PL3 it features what Olympus claims is the ‘world’s fastest AF’ among interchangeable lens cameras. We tested it alongside Panasonic’s DMC-GF3 and can declare a draw, however. From startup we were able to take a picture as fast as our forefinger could find the shutter release button, which is on a par with any DSLR. Battery life was good for 330 shots.

While the kit lens isn’t as sharp as a DSLR with its own standard zoom, it is the cheapest option. Those with higher demands and deeper pockets may like to go for the metal-and-glass-construction 12mm prime lens. 

 Olympus’ third-generation E-P3 is unarguably the finest interchangeable lens compact the company has produced

OUR VERDICT

The Olympus E-P3 may be expensive at £800 with standard zoom, but for once the expense is justifiable. The E-P3 oozes class, and picture and video quality largely live up to its peerless impression.