Olympus E-P3 Review

Using the Olympus E-P3

Record Mode

Press the power button and about a half second later, the E-P3's live view is up and running.

As I mentioned at the start of the review, autofocus performance has improved in a BIG way on the E-P3, courtesy of its new Live MOS sensor, which has double the "drive speed". According to Olympus, the E-P3 can focus faster than any camera on the market -- even those really expensive ones that sports photographers use. For best results, you'll want to use an MSC lens, a label which most of the newer Micro Four Thirds lenses carry. With the 14 - 42 mm kit lens, expect focus times between 0.1 and 0.3 at wide-angle, and 0.5 - 1.0 seconds at telephoto (this one really seemed to depend on the available light). Low light focusing was hit-or-miss. Sometimes the camera focused quickly (in a second or less), while other times it hunted back and forth for two seconds before (usually) locking focus.

Shutter lag wasn't an issue, nor would I expect it to be. Shot-to-shot delays are virtually non-existent, except for when the flash is being used, where you'll wait about two seconds before you can take another photo.

There is no quick way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken -- you'll have to enter playback mode for that. To save you a button press, you can set Auto Review to "Auto Playback" and the camera will go there after a photo is taken.

The E-P3 can shoot at many different resolutions, though only four are available at any one time (in addition to RAW). Both the middle and small image sizes can be adjusted, and you can also choose to unlock a "Super Fine" quality setting, as well. Since I don't have official numbers from Olympus yet, this chart is ripped from the E-PL2 review.

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 2GB SD card (optional)
4032 x 3024
RAW 14.0 MB 108
4032 x 3024
Super fine 8.4 MB 202
Fine 5.9 MB 290
Normal 2.7 MB 640
Basic 1.8 MB 954
3200 x 2400
Super fine 5.6 MB 308
Fine 3.4 MB 510
Normal 1.7 MB 1008
Basic 1.2 MB 1494
2560 x 1920
Super fine 3.2 MB 538
Fine 2.2 MB 790
Normal 1.1 MB 1552
Basic 800 KB 2286
1920 x 1440
Super fine 1.8 MB 946
Fine 1.3 MB 1392
Normal 700 KB 2692
Basic 500 KB 3908
1600 x 1200
Super fine 1.3 MB 1346
Fine 900 KB 1986
Normal 500 KB 3786
Basic 400 KB 5506
1280 x 960
Super fine 900 KB 2088
Fine 600 KB 3028
Normal 300 KB 3786
Basic 300 KB 5506
1024 x 768
Super fine 600 KB 3188
Fine 400 KB 4486
Normal 300 KB 8078
Basic 200 KB 11014
640 x 480
Super fine 300 KB 7126
Fine 200 KB 10096
Normal 200 KB 17308
Basic 100 KB 20192

Whew, that's a very long list... and that's only at the default 4:3 aspect ratio, too (there are four more to choose from).

You can take a RAW image alone, or with a JPEG at the size of your choosing. To see how much space a RAW+JPEG combo takes, just "do the math" using data from the above chart. I explained the benefits of the RAW format earlier in the review.

Help screens are a new addition to the E-P3's menu system

The E-P3 has a restyled version of the menu found on its predecessor. It looks good, is easy to navigate, and you can see a description of any of the menu items by pressing the Info button. The menu is divided in several tabs, covering shooting, playback, custom, Accessory Port, and setup options. Do note that the custom and AP menus must be turned on in the setup menu in order to see them. Ready to take a trip through the E-P3's menus? Let's do it!

Shooting Menu 1
  • Card setup (All erase, format)
  • Custom reset setting (Reset, MySet 1-4) - reset to defaults or to the settings of your choice
  • Picture mode (i-Enhance, vivid, natural, muted, portrait, monotone, custom, pop art, soft focus, pale & light color, light tone, grainy film, pin hole, diorama, cross process, gentle sepia, dramatic tone) - more below
  • Image quality
    • Still picture (RAW, Large/Fine, Large/Normal, Middle/Normal, Small/Normal, RAW + Large/Fine, RAW + Large/Normal, RAW + Middle/Normal, RAW + Small/Normal) - you can customize what JPEG sizes/qualities are on this list in the custom settings
    • Movie (AVCHD Full HD fine, AVCHD Full HD normal, AVCHD HD fine, AVCHD HD normal, M-JPEG HD, M-JPEG SD
  • Image aspect (4:3, 16:9, 3:2, 6:6, 3:4)
Shooting menu 2
  • Drive (Single shot, sequential, 2 or 12 sec self-timer)
  • Image stabilizer (Off, mode 1, 2, 3) - see below
  • Bracketing - see below
    • AE bracket (Off, 2 frames/0.3EV, 2 frames/0.7EV, 2 frames/1.0EV, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0 EV, 5 frames/0.3EV, 5 frames/0.7EV, 5 frames/1.0EV, 7 frames/0.3EV, 7 frames/0.7EV)
    • WB bracket
      • Amber-blue (Off, 3 frames/2 step, 3 frames/4 step, 3 frames/6 step)
      • Green-magenta (Off, 3 frames/2 step, 3 frames/4 step, 3 frames/6 step)
    • Flash bracket (Off, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0 EV)
    • ISO bracket (Off, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0 EV)
    • Art bracket (on/off) - take multiple Art Filter shots with one exposure
  • Multiple exposure - see below
    • Frame (Off, 2 frame)
    • Auto gain (on/off)
    • Overlay (on/off)
  • Flash exposure compensation (-3EV to +3EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Flash RC mode (on/off) - for wireless flash control
  • Digital teleconverter (on/off) - 2X digital zoom, which is best avoided
Playback Menu
  • Slideshow
    • Start
    • Background music (Off, beat, cool, joy, melancholy) - the last choice is surprisingly upbeat given its name
    • Effect (Fade, falling photos, photo line)
    • Slide (All, still picture, movie)
    • Slide interval (2 - 10 sec)
    • Movie interval (Short, full)
  • Auto image rotation (on/off)
  • Edit
    • Select image
      • RAW data edit
      • JPEG edit
      • Voice caption
    • Image overlay (2 - 3 image merge)
  • DPOF print marking (One, all)
  • Reset protect (on/off)
Custom Menu - must be turned on via the setup menu
  • AF/MF
    • AF mode - see below
      • Still picture (S-AF, C-AF, MF, S-AF+MF, C-AF+TR)
      • Movie (S-AF, C-AF, MF, S-AF+MF, C-AF+TR)
    • Full-time AF (on/off) - the camera is always focusing, even without the shutter release pressed; reduces focus times at the expense of battery life
    • AF area (All target, single target, group target) - first is 35-point auto, second lets you select any single point, and the third lets you position a "group" of 9 points in the frame
    • Focus point button setup (Off, loop, spiral) - how focus points are selected when using the dials
    • Reset lens (on/off) - sets focus to infinity when camera is turned off
    • Bulb focusing (on/off) - whether you can adjust the focus during a bulb exposure
    • Focus ring (Clockwise, counterclockwise) - since the focus ring is electronic, you can pull this off
    • MF assist (on/off) - automatic center-frame enlargement in manual focus mode
    • Set home - select a default AF area setting; you can jump to it quickly by redefining one of the Function buttons
    • AF illuminator (on/off)
    • Face priority (Off, on, on w/eye priority, on w/right eye priority, on w/left eye priority) - yes, you can set the camera to focus on a specific eye!
  • Button/Dial
    • AE/AF lock - how exposure and focus are locked; I'll let the manual explain the details
      • S-AF (Mode 1, 2, 3)
      • C-AF (Mode 1, 2, 3, 4)
      • MF (Mode 1, 2, 3)
    • AE/AF lock memory (on/off) - whether the lock "sticks" when you let go of the button
    • Button function - define what the customizable buttons do
      • Function 1 button (Off, AE/AF lock, DOF preview, one touch white balance, AF area home position, manual focus, RAW+JPEG, test picture, MySet 1-4, backlit LCD, Live Guide, digital teleconverter)
      • Function 2 button (Off, exposure compensation, DOF preview, AF area home position, manual focus, RAW+JPEG, backlit LCD, IS mode, digital teleconverter, 2
      • Movie recording button (Off, AE/AF lock, movie recording, DOF preview, one touch WB, manual focus, test picture, MySet 1-4, backlit LCD, Live Guide, digital teleconverter)
      • Four-way controller: right (Flash mode, ISO, white balance, dial lock, exposure compensation)
      • Four-way controller: down (Drive, ISO, white balance, dial lock, exposure compensation)
    • Dial function - choose what the control dials do in P/A/S/M mode, the menus, and in playback mode
    • Dial direction
      • Exposure (Clockwise, counterclockwise)
      • Menu (Clockwise, counterclockwise)
    • Dial lock (on/off) - disables the control dial until you press up on the four-way controller
  • Release
    • Release priority S (on/off) - whether focus lock is required for shutter release
    • Release priority C (on/off) - same as above, but for continuous AF mode
  • Display/Sound/PC
    • HDMI
      • HDMI out (1080i, 720p, 480p/576p)
      • HDMI control - lets you control the camera from your TV remote, assuming your TV supports such a thing
    • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
    • Thumbnail/Info settings
      • Playback setting
        • Image only (on/off)
        • Overall (on/off)
        • Histogram (on/off)
        • Highlight & shadow (on/off)
        • Lightbox (on/off)
      • Live view setting
        • Displayed grid (Off, complex, rule-of-thirds, cross hairs, diagonal)
        • Histogram (on/off)
        • Highlight & shadow (on/off)
        • Multi view (on/off) - better known as Perfect Shot Preview
        • Level gauge (on/off) - turn on the electronic level here
        • Image only (on/off)
      • Thumbnail setting
        • 4 images/screen (on/off)
        • 9 images/screen (on/off)
        • 25 images/screen (on/off)
        • 100 images/screen (on/off)
        • Calendar (on/off)
    • Record control setting - choose which menus are available in each shooting mode
      • iAuto mode
        • Live guide (on/off)
        • Live control (on/off)
        • Super control panel (on/off)
      • P/A/S/M mode
        • Live control (on/off)
        • Super control panel (on/off)
      • Art mode
        • Art menu (on/off)
        • Live control (on/off)
        • Super control panel (on/off)
      • Scene mode
        • Scene menu (on/off)
        • Live control (on/off)
        • Super Control panel (on/off)
    • Picture mode settings - choose which of the Picture Modes/Art Filters is listed in the Picture Mode menu
    • Histogram setting - set the point at which the histogram shows over or underexposure
      • Highlight (245-255)
      • Shadow (0-10)
    • Mode guide (on/off) - shows a description of the shooting mode when the mode dial is turned
    • Live view boost (on/off) - brightens the live view in very low light situations
    • Art live view mode (Mode 1, mode 2) - whether priority is given to accurate preview or frame rate
    • Playback close-up mode (Mode 1, mode 2) - how the playback zoom feature works
    • Info off (10 secs, hold) - how long the indicators on the LCD stay visible
    • Face priority AF (on/off)
    • Backlit LCD (8, 30, 60 secs, hold) - how long the OLED backlight stays on
    • Sleep (Off, 1, 3, 5 mins)
    • Beep (on/off)
    • Volume (0-5)
    • USB mode (Auto, storage, MTP, print)
  • Exposure/Metering/ISO
    • EV step (1/3, 1/2, 1 EV)
    • Metering (Digital ESP, center-weighted, spot, spot w/highlight control, spot w/shadow control)
    • AE Lock metering (Auto, center-weighted, spot, spot w/highlight control, spot w/shadow control)
    • ISO (Auto, 200 - 12800) - everything's been moved up a stop on the E-P3
    • ISO step (1/3, 1 EV)
    • ISO Auto set
      • High limit (200 - 12800) - max it will go up to
      • Default (200 - 12800) - starting point
    • ISO Auto (P/A/S, all modes) - when auto ISO is available
    • Bulb timer (1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 20, 25, 30 mins) - preset a time for bulb mode
    • Anti-shock (Off, 1/8 - 30 secs) - adds a delay before a photo is taken, to reduce risk of blur
  • Flash custom
    • X-sync (1/60 - 1/180 sec)
    • Slow limit (30 - 1/180 sec)
    • Flash exp comp + exp comp (on/off) - links flash exposure compensation with exposure compensation
  • Quality/Color/WB
    • Noise reduction (Off, on, auto) - for long exposures
    • Noise filter (Off, low, standard, high) - for everything else
    • White balance (Auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, flash, one touch 1/2, color temperature) - see below
    • All white balance compensation
      • All set (-7 to +7) - in either the amber/blue or green/magenta directions
      • All reset
    • Keep warm color (on/off) - maintains a warm tone under incandescent lighting
    • Flash + WB (Off, auto WB, flash WB) - what white balance setting is used with the flash
    • Color space (sRGB, AdobeRGB)
    • Shading compensation (on/off) - supposed to help reduce vignetting
    • Image quality set (Large/Medium/Small, Superfine/fine/normal/basic) - select the size and quality of the four JPEG image quality slots
    • Pixel count - select the resolution for these two sizes
      • Middle (3200 x 2400, 2560 x 1920, 1920 x 1440, 1600 x 1200)
      • Small (1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480)
  • Record/Erase
    • Quick erase (on/off) - whether camera prompts you to delete a photo
    • RAW+JPEG erase (JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG) - what's removed when you delete a RAW+JPEG photo
    • File name (Auto, reset)
    • Edit file name - you can change the first few characters of the file name, for each color space
    • Priority set (No, yes) - initial position of the cursor when All Erase or Card Format is selected
    • dpi setting (Auto, custom) - the latter lets you select the dpi of your choosing
    • Copyright settings - new to the E-P3
      • Copyright info (on/off)
      • Artist name
      • Copyright name
  • Movie
    • Movie mode (P, A, M, Art filter 1-10) - select the shooting mode used when the mode dial is set to movie
    • Movie + Still (on/off) - whether the last frame of the movie is saved as a still image
    • Movie sound recording (on/off)
  • Utility
    • Pixel mapping - gets rid of bad pixels
    • Exposure shift (ESP, center-weighted, spot) - lets you fine-tune the exposure metering from -1EV to +1EV, in 1/6EV increments
    • Battery warning level (-2 to +2) - how quickly the low battery warning comes on
    • Level adjust - calibrates the electronic level
    • Touch screen settings (on/off) - you can turn the touch features off here
    • Eye-Fi (on/off)



Accessory Port Menu

  • Olympus PENPAL Share - more on this below
    • Please wait - the worst-named item in camera menu history; for receiving images or waiting to be discovered by another device
    • Address book
      • Address list - view the paired devices
      • Search timer (5 - 30 secs) - how long the camera spends looking for a Bluetooth host
      • New pairing - pair with a new device
    • My Olympus PENPAL - shows the name, address, and supported services of the attached PENPAL
    • Picture send size (Small, medium, large) - what size image is sent to the Bluetooth device
  • Olympus PENPAL Album - for managing the images stored in the PENPAL
    • Copy all
    • Reset protect
    • Album memory usage - shows current memory usage and space remaining
    • Album memory setup (All erase, format album)
    • Picture copy size (Medium, large)
  • Electronic viewfinder
    • EVF adjust
      • Brightness (-7 to +7)
      • Color temperature (-7 to +7)
Setup Menu
  • Date/time (set)
  • Language
  • LCD adjust
    • Brightness (-7 to +7)
    • Color balance (-7 to +7)
  • Rec View (Off, auto play, 1 - 20 secs) - post-shot review; the auto play option enters playback mode after a photo is taken
  • Custom/AP menu display - you have to turn these menus on if you want to see them
    • Custom menu display (on/off)
    • Accessory Port menu display (on/off)
  • Firmware - displays the firmware version of the body and attached lens

While I described as many of the options as I could up there, some of the options require more than a single sentence. So, here's some further explanation about some of the most interesting options in the menu.

Picture Mode menu Editing the Natural picture mode

Let's start with the Picture Mode feature. A Picture Mode contains contrast, sharpness, saturation, and gradation (shadow brightening) settings. There are several presets, including vivid, natural (the default), or muted colors, portrait for smooth skin tones, and monotone for black and white shooting. There's also an i-Enhance option (which is the default in iAuto mode), which finds the primary color in a photo and boosts the saturation and contrast of just that color. You can tweak the aforementioned settings for each of the presets, with the monotone option also letting you add a filter or tint to the image. There's also a custom option lets you select a Picture Mode as a starting point, and you can then adjust the settings I just mentioned, plus gradation. You'll also find all of the Art Filters in the Picture Mode menu, which allows you to use them in shooting modes other than the dedicated Art mode. You can select which Art Filters are shown on the list, so you don't have to scroll past filters that you'll never use.

There are three different image stabilizer modes to choose from on the E-P3. Mode 1 is for everyday shooting. Mode 2 is for horizontal panning, while mode 3 is for vertical panning. You can also turn the IS system off entirely, which is a good idea if you have the camera on a tripod.

There are a whopping five types of bracketing on the E-P3. You can bracket for exposure (taking 2 to 7 shots per sequence), white balance (in both the amber-blue and green-magenta directions), flash exposure (3 shots), ISO (also 3 shots), and now Art Filters. Art Filter bracketing allows you to take one exposure but get photos with as many filters applied as you want!

The E-P3 has the same multiple exposure feature as the other members of the PEN family. This lets you take two exposures and combine them into a single image. You can also overlay new images onto an existing one. You can leave the brightness of each image untouched, or you can turn on the "auto gain" feature to make things blend in better. In playback mode, you can use the image overlay feature to combine up to three RAW photos that you've already taken into one, in much the same way.

The E-P3 has a ton of white balance options, including the bracketing feature that I mentioned above. You have the usual presets like sunlight and cloudy, and you can also use a white or gray card to get accurate color in more unusual lighting. If any of those need further tweaking, you can fine-tune things in the amber-blue and/or green-magenta directions (for one WB setting or all of them at once, if you wish). You can also set the white balance by color temperature, with a wide range of 2000 - 14000 Kelvin.

The PENPAL sits atop last year's E-PL2

Now I want to take a moment to tell you more about the PENPAL, an optional accessory that debuted with the E-PL2. The PENPAL is a Bluetooth receiver that attaches via the hot shoe, and plugs into the Accessory Port. In addition to its Bluetooth talents, the PENPAL can also store up to 2600 of your photos. Once attached to the camera, your first mission is to get the PENPAL paired up with another Bluetooth device. Doing this is harder than it should be, due to the clunky interface on the camera. Once you're paired up, you can transfer your photos to your phone or other device. After that's done, you need to figure out what to do with them, since there's no app on the other end to handle the incoming file.

Let's do our photo tests now, shall we?

Our macro test subject, taken with the 14 - 42 mm kit lens, looks very nice. The colors are quite saturated -- especially the reds, and the image is nice and sharp. I don't see any signs of noise or other unusual artifacts, and I sure wouldn't expect that from a camera in this class.

The minimum distance to your subject depends on the lens you're using. For the 14 - 42 mm kit lens, it's 25 cm, while the 17mm pancake lens has a minimum distance of 20 cm. Olympus doesn't make any dedicated Micro Four Thirds macro lenses, but Panasonic has an F2.8, 45mm Leica lens available that'll work just fine.

The night shots, taken with the also-restyled Olympus F4.0-5.6, 40 - 150 mm lens, turned out pretty well. Taking in plenty of light was a piece of cake, as you've got full control over the camera's shutter speed. There is some highlight clipping present, but it's not as bad as on some older Micro Four Thirds cameras. While the buildings are sharp from one edge of the frame to the other, you can spot slight detail loss due to noise reduction -- not something I like to see at ISO 200. Purple fringing levels are moderate.

Now let's use this same night scene to see how the E-P3 performed at higher sensitivities:

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12800

There's a bit more detail smudging at ISO 400 and 800, but it's not horrible. That changes at ISO 1600, where enough detail is lost that the corners of the skyscrapers are disappearing. Things go downhill rapidly after that, with the top two settings being unusable. My advice is to keep the sensitivity below ISO 800 in low light, and switch to RAW for ISO 1600 and 3200.

Look for our studio ISO test in a moment.

Straight out of the camera

After using Redeye Fix in playback mode

I wasn't too surprised to see some redeye in the flash photos that I took with the E-P3, seeing how close the flash and lens are. I used the removal tool in playback mode to try to get rid of it, but it only worked on one eye (your mileage may vary). The best thing to do to avoid redeye entirely is use an external flash (or just turn up the lights).

14 - 42 mm kit lens

17mm kit lens

Since there are two kit lenses available for the E-P3, I've got distortion tests for both of them. The 14-42 has mild-to-moderate distortion, and you can see the real world consequences of that in this photo. This lens is sharp from corner to corner and vignetting wasn't a problem either. As for the 17mm pancake lens (which I tested way back in my E-P1 review), it was fairly mild barrel distortion, good sharpness, and no vignetting.

Now it's time to see how the E-P3 performed in our studio ISO test. Since these photos are taken under consistent lighting, you can compare the results with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. And with that, let's take a look at the crops!

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12800

The first three crops, covering ISO 200 - 800, are all very clean. At ISO 1600 you start to see some hints of noise, but it's still very usable. Things change at ISO 3200, though, where you really see a noticeable drop in both detail and color saturation. Things go downhill rapidly after that, with lots of detail smearing and noise, so I'd avoid using those settings, at least as JPEGs. The E-P3's performance here is pretty average for a Micro Four Thirds camera. Cameras with larger sensors, such as Sony's NEX-5, do a better job in the noise department.

Can we makes those ISO 3200 and 6400 shots look better by shooting RAW and post-processing? Let's take a look:

ISO 3200

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
ISO 6400

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

You don't have to be a professional camera reviewer to see the benefits of shooting RAW and doing some easy post-processing (noise reduction and sharpening). Yes, the processed images have more noise, but they have a heck of a lot more detail, too. The visible noise should blend away when you print or downsize the photos.

RAW conversions added 10/3/11

I was generally pleased with the photo quality on the E-P3. Exposure was generally spot-on, with only occasional underexposure. Like other Micro Four Thirds cameras, the E-P3 will clip highlights at times, though it doesn't seem as bad as previous models. Colors were generally accurate, though they were a bit "warmer" than I would've liked, at times. Images are a bit soft, especially with the 14 - 42 mm kit lens, and you can solve that issue by increasing the sharpness in the Picture Mode that you're using. I did notice that there are signs of noise reduction in the shadow areas of photos, even at ISO 200. You can see some of this in the shadows in this photo (check the windows and under the roof). Really blue skies have some mottling, as well. This is all pretty minor, and will likely not show up in your prints, but it's worth pointing out nonetheless. You can try turning down the noise filter to see if that helps, or shoot RAW. In terms of grain-style noise, you won't see that until ISO 3200, as the test above illustrates. Purple fringing is typically a lens issue, and there were mild to moderate amounts with the 14 - 42 mm lens that came with my camera.

Don't just take my word for all this. Have a look at our photo gallery and see if the E-P3's image quality meets your needs!

Movie Mode

The E-P3's movie mode has been greatly improved upon since the E-P1/P2. You can now record Full HD video 1920 x 1080 / 60i video (sensor output is 30p) with stereo sound for up to 29 minutes (I think you'll hit the 4GB file size limit after 22 mins at the Full HD fine setting, though). The camera uses the AVCHD codec, which is easy to view on an HDTV and not-so-easy to edit and share on your Mac or PC. You have two quality levels to choose from (high and normal), with bit rates of 20 and 17 Mbps, respectively. The E-P3 uses pixel binning to reduce "jaggies" on diagonal lines in your videos.

If you don't need to record at Full HD, then you can downsize to 720p. These movies are recorded at 1280 x 720 at 60p, again using the AVCHD codec. The E-P3 also offers the good 'ol M-JPEG codec, for those who want something that's easier to work with. You can record at 1280 x 720 or 640 x 480, both at 30 frames/second, though recording stops when the file size reaches 2GB (which doesn't take long).

The E-P3 has the ability to focus continuously while recording a movie, including tracking a designated subject as they move around the frame (face detection is not available, however). This also means that you can zoom in and out with your heart's content. The 14 - 42 mm MSC lens focuses quietly and relatively quickly, though it struggles a bit with rapidly moving subjects. One thing you cannot use in movie mode is the sensor-shift image stabilization system. Instead, there's a digital IS system, which increases the focal length a bit.

There are full manual controls available in movie mode, though you need to set the mode dial to the movie position to get to them. Once there, you can adjust the shutter speed, aperture, or ISO manually. You can also apply any of the ten art filters to a movie, though some of them will significantly reduce the frame rate. The Movie+Still image option will save a full resolution still image of the last frame of your movie, automatically. You can take a still photo as you're recording, but the current clip will stop and a new one will begin after the image is saved.

Here are two sample movies for you, both of which contain subjects in motion. I converted the AVCHD files using Final Cut Pro X (ugh), and have also included the original MTS files, which you can view or convert at your leisure.

Click to view movie (15.5 MB, 1920 x 1080, 30 fps, QuickTime/H.264 format)
Download original MTS file (26 MB)

Click to view movie (28.4 MB, 1920 x 1080, 30 fps, QuickTime/H.264 format)
Download original MTS file (54.8 MB)

Playback Mode

The E-P3's playback mode is more-or-less the same as before, and that's fine with me. Basic features include slideshows (now with transitions), DPOF print marking, image protection, voice captions, and zoom & scroll (playback zoom). The playback zoom and thumbnail view features can be operated with the touchscreen, and it works quite well.

Calendar view

Photos can be viewing one-at-a-time or as thumbnails of varying sizes (some of which are tiny). You can also navigate to photos that were taken on a certain date by using the calendar view shown above. There is also a side-by-side comparison tool (called lightbox here), but I've never been able to get it to work on Olympus cameras of late.

JPEG edit menu Shadow adjustment technology in action

The E-P3 has the ability to edit both JPEG and RAW images, though the former is a lot easier to use than the latter. The JPEG editing feature lets you brighten shadows (see above right), remove redeye, crop a photo, change the aspect ratio, apply the e-Portrait skin smoothing filter, adjust saturation, or convert it to black and white or sepia. Photos can also be rotated and resized.

The RAW data edit feature is handy, but not as easy to use as it could be. Instead of just adjusting the RAW properties right there in playback mode (as you can on Nikon's cameras), you first need to set the desired settings in the record menu, and then return to playback mode to use the RAW edit function. The resulting image is saved as a JPEG.

Something else you can do in playback mode is overlay RAW images. You can select two or three images and combine them into one photo. You can adjust the gain for each of the photos.

One thing that's sorely missing from the E-P3's playback mode is any sort of movie editing feature. You can't even trim unwanted footage off the beginning or end of a clip, which sure comes in handy.

By default, the camera doesn't show you much information about your photos. However, a quick press of the info button will give you a lot more, including histograms and "blinking" over and underexposed areas of your photo.

The E-P3 between photos instantly in playback mode. You can do this with the four-way controller, main dial, or by swiping your finger on the touchscreen.