Skip to main content

The Olympus E-P3 — "Almost On Par"

It's cruel to compare at times. Consider, for example, everybody's favorite kicking boy, the FourThirds system, and it's evolutionary follow-on, µFourThirds. Today we're continuing to cover the E-P3's high-ISO performance.

The Phoblographer ran a high-ISO comparison test between the E-P3, the Canon 7D, and the Canon 5DMkII. Let's take a moment and compare some of the salient features of all three cameras used in the test.

E-P3 Camera Comparisons
ModelE-P360D7D5D MKII
Date ReleasedJune 2011August 2010August 2009September 2008
Price (body only)$800$1,000$1,700$2,500

Phoblographer is comparing the E-P3 against two cameras with progressively larger sensors introduced between two (7D) to three years (5D Mk II) prior to the E-P3. The conclusion comparing these three cameras (using the JPEG output from the E-P3) is:
Based on the image samples, the Canon 5D Mk II is still way ahead of the other two cameras. However, the EP3 is almost on par with the Canon 7D’s high ISO output results.
Almost. Yes, the 7D price is twice the E-P3's, and the 5D's four times that. But you could drop back to the Canon 60D, with the same sensor, a lovely 100% bright pentaprism view finder, and an equally lovely articulating screen on the back for just $200 more.

I've held the 60D. It reminds me a lot of the Olympus E-30, the 12MP DSLR Olympus announced in September 2008 for $1,300.

I'm not interested in spending $800 for a 2011 camera with "almost on par" high ISO performance compared against a sensor system that was introduced nearly two years ago with the 7D and is available on either Canon's 60D or (for less cost than the E-P3) Canon's T3i.

Using high ISO performance as a major purchasing criteria, I'd be better off spending a few hundred dollars more for a Canon 60D that has so many more features and considerably more potential.

Olympus AU has been cheekily tweeting to "get a real camera", and the URL redirects to I agree, get a real camera; buy Canon.


Two from the DxOMark website. First is a review of the E-P3's sensor, which states up front
"We have tested the PEN EP3, the latest 4/3 camera by Olympus and the first results are now available. The Olympus PEN EP3 apart from changes on the exterior, it is pretty much the same sensor as the Olympus PEN EPL2 and Olympus E5."
In comparing the E-P3 with my E-P2 and the E-PL2, there is indeed very little difference. If anything, my E-P2 is just marginally better than the E-P3 in all aspects except low-light ISO; the E-P3 has a score of 536 while my E-P2 has a score of 505. I doubt I (or anyone else for that matter) could tell the difference. If anything, the overall score of the E-P2 is five points higher than the E-P3. I know what the Olympus defenders will say; Olympus re-jiggered the sensor for better autofocus. But I stand by my original assessment; if the sensor's image quality is lagging with the rest of the industry in the price bracket it wants to compete in, then everything else is irrelevant.

DxOMark has been called irrelevant, especially when it shows low scores for your current camera when compared to others. I'm not comparing across brands, I'm comparing within the Olympus brand, where you really are comparing apples to apples. And when I see the numbers barely budge between models, from the E-3 to the E-P2 to the E-5 and the E-P3, then I call shenanigans on the whole shebang.

Update 2

Who knew that Twitter could be such a font of wisdom?
@zarias Remember that if your focus is on the tools of the trade then you have lost sight of the whole reason to be a photographer.
Yeah. From the same line of reasoning that says it's not the camera, its the photographer that takes the photograph. From the same platitude-spouting group that walk about with multiple-thousands-of-dollar Canons, Nikons, and Leicas dangling from their necks like so much expensive bling. I feel so inspired now.


  1. I agree. And in point of fact own all of the cameras except, of course, the EP-3. The 60D is delightful and works well. If the EP-3 is going to be someone's only camera I might advise them to look at a Canon.

    Don't even bother looking at the DXO Sensor Mark information. You'd never stray from Nikon.

    Happiest with the 7D. It handles well. That's a fluid metric.

  2. "Turning to sports, the winner of this week's Gulf Coast Golf Classic was Chi-Chi Rodriguez. Chi-Chi finished with a nine under par score. Hopefully, Mister Rodriguez will play up to par next competition."
    - Les Nessman, October 2, 1978.

    Any comparison that puts a 5Dmk2, 7D, and µ4/3 camera together is going to generate a meaningless result because each camera is the answer to a different question.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I'm in a really cranky mood.

    Hell hath no furry like a user scorned. And I'm feeling really scorned these days...

  5. Hi Bill

    to me they are all different tools. For carry around I like the m4/3 and I currently don't own a bigger digital camera.

    but what are you feeling scorned by?

  6. It's funny how one of the most visual differences between 4/3 and m4/3 and other systems is hardly ever mentioned. It's one of the key reasons I originally bought an E1 in 2003. And it remains a strong reason to stick with it: the aspect ratio. I just happen to prefer it over 3:2, especially in portrait orientation.

    Of course, you can apply the argument about cropping, that's all very well, but I'm not necessarily sure I'd be able to remember the crop I intended several weeks later when I finally get time to process my shots. And anyway, I enjoy real-time composition.

    The grass is always greener ...yet another wonderful platitude :-)


Post a Comment

All comments are checked. Comment SPAM will be blocked and deleted.

Popular posts from this blog

A Decade Long Religious Con Job

I rarely write inflammatory (what some might call trolling) titles to a post, but this building you see before you deserves it. I've been seeing this building next to I-4 just east of Altamonte/436 and Crane's Roost for nearly 12 years, and never knew who owned it. Today on a trip up to Lake Mary with my wife I saw it yet again. That's when I told her I wanted to stop by on the way back and poke around the property, and photograph any parts of it if I could.

What I discovered was this still unfinished eighteen story (I counted) white elephant, overgrown with weeds and yet still under slow-motion construction. It looks impressive with its exterior glass curtain walls, but that impression is quickly lost when you see the unfinished lower stories and look inside to the unfinished interior spaces.

A quick check via Google leads to an article written in 2010 by the Orlando Sentinel about the Majesty Tower. Based on what I read in the article it's owned by SuperChannel 55 WA…

Be Careful of Capital One Mailings

Capitol One ("What's in your wallet?") sent me a bit of deceptive snail mail today. I felt sure it was a credit card offer, and sure enough, it was. I open all credit card offers and shred them before putting them in the trash. Normally I just scan the front to make sure I don't miss anything; the Capital One offer made me stop for a moment and strike a bit of fear into my heart.

The letter's opening sentence read:
Our records as of December 30, 2009 indicate your Capital One Platinum MasterCard offer is currently valid and active.Not paying close attention during the first reading, I quickly developed this irrational worry that I was actually on the hook for something important, but I wasn't quite sure what. The letter listed "three ways to reply" at the bottom; via phone, the internet, and regular snail mail. I elected to call.

Once I reached the automated phone response system, the first entry offered was '1', to "activate my Capital …

cat-in-a-box channels greta garbo

So I'm sitting at my computer, when I start to notice a racket in back. I ignore it for a while until I hear a load "thump!", as if something had been dropped on the floor, followed by a lot of loud rattling. I turn around and see Lucy in the box just having a grand old time, rolling around and rattling that box a good one. I grab the GX1 and snap a few shots before she notices me and the camera, then leaps out and back into her chair (which used to be my chair before she decided it was her chair).

Just like caring for Katie my black Lab taught me about dogs, caring for Lucy is teaching me about cats. She finds me fascinating, as I do her. And she expresses great affection and love toward me without coaxing. I try to return the affection and love, but she is a cat, and she takes a bat at me on occasion, although I think that's just her being playful. She always has her claws in when she does that.

She sits next to me during the evening in her chair while I sit in mi…