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 :-)


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