The Olympus E-PL3 - One of the best selling digital cameras of last year.

As promised this is the first post in what is going to be a farewell look at the cameras I'm going to be selling. 

After my NEX-7 the E-PL3 is the longest serving camera I have. It is also, due to deals and discounting one of the best selling digital cameras on the planet. It frequently tops the Amazon lists and recently was revealed as the second best selling mirrorless digital camera in Japan last year. A LOT of people own and use one of these. So what have they got?

Well as far as I'm concerned its one of the most beautiful cameras ever made. I've frequently described the top plate as like a scaled up precision watch. It also has a beautiful metallic finish which the E-PL5 doesn't have. Its light and its small. If I'm truthful its actually too small for me to handle comfortably. Some of the buttons are very difficult to use, particularly if you live in a country that has a winter and you shoot outdoors. It also has that somewhat irritating slight delay on the shutter button, which many m4/3 cameras have. 

Most of the tens of thousands of people who have bought it I'm sure use it with just the screen to compose on. It is a pretty good screen, but for me the camera only really works when used with one of the add-on Olympus viewfinders. I've used both the VF-2 and VF-3 with mine and of the two I prefer the VF-2. The VF-3 isn't much cheaper but isn't as crisp and clear either. Leica have re-badged the VF-2 for their cameras that use add-on EVF's, so I guess thats a pretty strong recommendation. 

Its a 12MP camera, so a decent size but somewhat upstaged by recent developments in m4/3. I've never seen that as a significant disadvantage particularly and obviously neither do all the people who have bought one in the last year. It doesn't of course have the high ISO improvement of the OM-D or GH3 and I won't claim that its particularly great at ISO 1600 upwards, either with the raw files or the out of camera jpgs. But at the lower ISO settings it produces a very good looking file. 

In terms of what you can buy these days its a bit middle of the road, but from the amount that its sold it obviously does the job for a lot of people. I can't claim to have used it an awful lot, because I haven't and again if I'm truthful, its a camera I've kept so long because I like the look of it and the idea of it, more than I actually like using it. When I have taken it out I've found it a bit sluggish. Its pretty nippy at focusing and the metering is accurate, but I do dislike that delayed shutter. I've also always preferred the eye sensor in cameras like the OM-D, the Panasonic GH2 and GH3 and NEX-7, that switches between EVF and screen without having to press a button. 

It also has a base ISO of 200. Previous E-P's and E-PL's had the option of ISO 100 which I always used, but the E-PL3 doesn't. This means that even at its lowest ISO setting, even slight under exposure tends to noise up the shadows somewhat, giving that trademark m4/3 look of slightly "grainy" images when viewed at 100%. There is no doubt in my mind that the E-PL5 is a better camera overall and with the same sensor as in the OM-D there is an improvement in the image quality across the ISO's. However the E-PL5 doesn't have that wonderfully sleek metallic look and feel and when the pictures both cameras take are printed out or published in a magazine I suspect that the difference is very difficult to see.

At the price you can buy one of these for these days its an absolute bargain, which I'm sure is one of the reasons it has proved so popular, particularly since its now at a price that works for lots of people. Though current m4/3 cameras have improved the format and lead us to expect more, the E-PL3 still looks good and still takes a great picture and you can't really ask for more than that. I'll miss it.

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.

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