We take an up-close, hands-on look at the latest Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus
The PEN E-P3 is the third-generation Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus and it's a beauty. It's a 12.3-megapixel camera that can take different lenses and it's perfect for just about any user. Enthusiasts will love the manual controls and advanced features that are available, while beginners will be able to take stunning shots simply by using auto mode. Art filters are also available, and they are a lot of fun to use.
Pictured here is the silver model we're currently reviewing (it also comes in black). The two silver lenses are the 40-150mm (the tall one) and the 14-42mm (the short one), which ship with the PEN E-P3 twin lens pack (it costs about $1200). The attached lens is a 9-18mm wide angle lens that costs $799 on its own.
Read our full review: [[artnid:397715|Olympus PEN E-P3]]
Here is the P3 sitting naked without a lens. The 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor can capture up to 120 frames per second of image detail, which is then fed into the camera's sixth-generation TruePic image processor (which is dual-core) and allows it to focus much faster than almost any camera on the market. That's Olympus's claim in testing that was reportedly undertaken in daylight situations from 1m away.
The PEN E-P3 feels very solidly constructed and is a pleasure to use. It's controls are simple and responsive. The top of the camera has a mode dial, the shutter button (which Olympus says has much improved half-press performance than the previous generation PENs), a function button (which is preset for exposure compensation) and the power button. You can see that there is a built-in stereo microphone just in front of the hot-shoe (it can accept an external mic, too) and the pop-up flash sits on the left side.
This is what the flash looks like when it's up. It has a mechanical release button that sits on the back of the body.
We're not fans of the blue power LED, which we think is just way too bright and distracting (it's much brighter than it looks in the photo).
The battery and memory card slot into the compartment at the bottom of the camera. Having the SD card in this compartment can be inconvenient when shooting with a tripod, as you'll have to take the tripod off whenever you want to remove the card to upload your results. However, this camera does support Eye-Fi cards, too.
The rear controls are simple to use. There is a dedicated video recording button (the camera can shoot at Full HD in the AVCHD format), as well as a focus zoom button, another function button (this one is preset to change the colour saturation), a playback button, a delete button, an info button (for showing or hiding screen details) and a menu button. A standard five-way menu controller is present and it has a rotatable ring that allows you to change the shutter speed in manual mode. The thumb dial above it allows you to change the aperture. There is no dedicated ISO button.
As well as physical controls, the 3in OLED screen has a touch capability that allows you to focus by pointing anywhere on the screen (you can tell by the smudges we left on it). A screen shutter is also available so that when you touch the screen, the camera will focus on that point and then automatically take a picture.
The right side has a compartment for the output ports: it has a USB 2.0/AV-out port and a mini-HDMI port.
A more up-to-date and slicker-looking menu interface is present in the PEN E-P3. it looks elegant and it's simple to navigate.
Along with a new menu system, it also has improved Art filter capabilities. Olympus says that the PEN E-P3 can apply all available Art filters to a single shot, which means you won't even have to decide on a specific filter -- just take your shot and then let the camera apply them all.
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