Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Review


Overview of the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Camera

For those who are looking for digital cameras using interchangeable lens, one of the most popular options is the Olympus PEN family of cameras. The PEN cameras have been sold for several years currently, and there has been a wonderful collection of performance and style with this PEN family.

The latest one – the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 camera is also called the PEN Lite. It is another nice model added to the family. While the image quality is great and the performance is fast, its price is very reasonable. It has one of the best widescreen LCD that I have witnessed in the market which is targeted at consumer photographers. Besides, the camera’s aspect ratio at a rare 3:4 ratio brings you photos which are vertically aligned and you don’t have to turn the camera.

Although this is not a perfect camera because there are still quirks with flash images, it is a nice option to consider. The model will not disappoint you.

Summary of the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Camera


  • The resolution is 12.3 megapixels
  • Optical zoom: N/A, uses interchangeable lenses
  • The 3.0-inch widescreen LCD has the 460,000-pixel resolution
  • The image size is 4032 x 3024 at maximum
  • The camera use a rechargeable Li-Ion battery
  • The dimensions are 2.50 x 4.31 x 1.46 inches
  • The camera weighs 11.04 ounces (with the battery and memory card included)
  • It includes an image sensor using the CMOS technology which is measured 17.3 x 13.0 mm
  • A full HD 1080p movie mode is supported


  • Overall camera performance is very good
  • Camera is stylish and thin
  • Images are extremely sharp
  • Autofocus works fast and accurately
  • Widescreen LCD is one of the best you’ll find
  • Centered flash is great for producing good image quality


  • Price is a bit higher than the PEN Mini, which also was just released
  • Some images shot with a flash will have a shadow from the lens
  • In auto mode, camera sometimes selects a depth of field that’s too narrow, leaving part of the frame out of focus
  • Some menu items are hidden, until you activate them
Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Camera Buyer Review

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Camera Review for Buyer

Detail Review of the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Camera

Image Quality

The image quality of images shot with the PEN Lite E-PL3 camera is extremely outstanding. The pin sharp autofocus is for almost all of the time. Even when a slightly off focus happens, it is still close enough to bring you most usable photos. Your photos will have the good colors and, you don’t have to worry about the camera shake at all.

In automatic mode, the performance of the camera is very good. Sometimes, the camera will try to shoot photos at a small depth of field, and part of the image might be off the focus, especially in a photo of a close distance. In this case, you just need to change into a manual mode and set a larger depth of field.

Sometimes, you might see a shadow in the image when the flash is turned on, depending on the angle at which you choose for the photo. This is another problem with the E-PL3 camera.

There are three image formats that you can select, including: RAW, JPEG, or RAW+JPEG. Beside the rare vertical ratio of 3:4 in which you can shoot vertical photos without have to turn the camera, there are other options such as: 4:3, 1:1, 3:2, and 16:9. In term of movies recording, some different movie resolutions are available to help you make nice videos.

The performance of the movie mode with the PEN Lite camera is very good. The speed of the autofocus is fast for shooting movies and the manual zoom can be used as well. Besides, a still image photo can be taken while you are recording movie. But it will be a little bit inconvenient when it stops the movie’s recording at that spot.


You will easily find that the response times with the PEN Lite are pretty fast, which is similar with most advanced cameras. The delays from shot to shot are minimal. Just when you are use the flash, a pause happens because it requires a little time to recharge. Both the startup speed and shutter lag are very fast. Besides, the autofocus works greatly and accurately. If you can obtain an accurate autofocus with the E-PL3, the camera simply won’t fire. Therefore, you should have to move around a little bit to get the accurate focuse before the shutter button is pressed.

One very nice feature with this Olympus camera is that you can decide the duration that you want to leave the photo on screen for review before shooting it. The time range is from zero to 20 seconds, , in 1 second intervals.

With the short and wide design, the widescreen LCD with the E-PL3 seems really large. This LCD is also very sharp and you can select up to different brightness settings for your photos. Because there is no viewfinder with this camera, the good news is that the LCD is of such a high quality. You can tilt the LCD with 45 degrees around a horizontal axis in either direction. This option is great for taking photos at odd angles.

Despite the price point, the LCD with the PEN Lite is one of the greatest one that I have seen in the current market.

For those who are trying to learn the advanced photography, there are a lot of explanations of each menu feature or each mode dial option on the DIL camera screen. With the clean-looking organization and easy-to-use feature, the overall menu structure is great for beginners. However, unless you choose to display the menus, some of them are hidden. Therefore, keep in mind that you can’t find a specific feature.

To make your photos nicer, you can also apply interesting specialty features. Those features include a 3D mode, a pop art effect, dramatic effect, a diorama effect and a grainy effect.


Similar to most DIL cameras, the PEN Lite E-PL3 is pretty thin and small, which is an all plastic DIL camera. Like all PEN family cameras, the model I tested was black with silver trim, is a stylish looking model. Because it is lightweight, it is very convenient to hold and use, as I thought. You may just need one hand to hold this camera if you want. However, in cases of manually turning the zoom lens, finally, you will have to use two hands for most of the time.

The power button, shutter button and mode dial along with a hot shoe are located on the top panel of the camera while the four-way control is on the back panel. And there includes a spin dial. Additional buttons such as playback and movie buttons are positioned on a slightly angled panel which lays between the top and back panels.

Different from other PEN models, the flash on the PEN Lite can be removable. This flash is attached to the camera’s hot shoe. The flash unit is not anywhere near the size of the Speedlite units which is commonly found with DSLR cameras. Despite being pretty small, the flash unit with the PEN Lite is effective. This is unlike some other PEN models, where you can see the flash in the upper right corner of the camera (as viewed from the front).

Like another great feature, the flash can be flipped down when you want to keep the camera’s size pretty small. It still sticks up a little bit, but it’s a nice design component.

One disadvantage with this centered flash is that your photos could end up with some shadows from the lens as I mentioned before, depending on the angle you choose to shoot the image. The problem will be less for a smaller lens. You should try some interesting angles to preventing the flash from causing a shadow with the lens.

There was an inclusion of a 14-42mm lens with the unit I reviewed. The size of this lens is about twice as wide as the thin PEN Lite camera body. It requires you to manually turn the lens to zoom, but both manual focus and autofocus are available with this camera.


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