The latest Olympus Pen models are claimed to have the fastest AF of any interchangeable-lens camera. We find out how the new E-P3 handles and if it lives up to this bold statement
Build and handling
The Olympus Pen E-P3 is similar in size to the E-P2, give or take a few millimetres. This makes it quite large in compact system camera terms as the competition has slimmed down over the years, although it will fit into a large coat pocket should you wish to venture out without a camera bag. The camera feels solid, thanks to its metal body, and it weighs a reassuring 321g (plus battery).
One significant change to the handling is the new interchangeable grip on the front. The included grip is slightly raised to give an acceptable amount of stability for this type of camera, but this can be removed for a completely flush design or replaced with a more significant grip. There is also a choice of colours and designs for the grips should you wish to customise the look of your camera. Most users, however, are unlikely to change the supplied option.
The top of the camera has been kept fairly clean, with just a single function button accompanying the power and shutter buttons. The flash remains nicely hidden beneath a panel until deployed.
Although the E-P3 features a touchscreen, the menu and control features are mostly restricted to the buttons and dials, which is a slight relief as too much screen pressing can slow handling. The only on-screen adjustments come in the focusing and magnification controls, and for the live guide controls when in iAuto mode.
For manual control the thumb wheel and rotational functionality of the multi-controller dial mean that shutter and aperture can be controlled easily. The quick menu – accessed by the OK button – provides most of the required quick functions. The two function buttons can be customised for your most-used functions, such as manual focus or raw shooting, although annoyingly neither ISO nor metering can be set here.
The increasing importance of video in cameras such as this means that a direct movie record button now also sits on the back, allowing you to record from any mode. Like the models before it, the E-P3 also features an accessory port below the hotshoe, allowing you to attach an electronic viewfinder, or items such as a macro light or microphone.
Serious videographers would probably have preferred to see a regular 3.5mm mic port, too, but this is sadly missing.
Shooting with the E-P3 is generally an enjoyable experience. The slightly larger size means you can take a solid hold of the camera and the controls fall easily to the hand. I found the strap eyelets a little restrictive, particularly on the right as it sits under your first finger.
Also, the function and info buttons can be swapped around to make the function button more easily accessible. Using the rear screen to compose your shot results in a holding position that is less stable than with an eyepiece, but as the camera is quite light, with one hand on the lens I felt I could achieve a satisfactory stance.