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Hands on: New Olympus PEN models – E-P3, E-PL3 and E-PM1

These three brand-new PEN cameras should provide something for everyone



Inside all three new models is a new 12.3-megapixel sensor and TruePic VI image processing. It’s too early to say how this combination compares to the competition from Panasonic and others, but we were impressed with the results from our brief session of snapping around Borough Market in London. Even on these pre-production samples, colours were accurate and vibrant and images sharp. As with previous PENs, we saw some purple fringing on high-contrast edges towards the corner of the frame (see below).

Olympus PEN E-P3 sample 3
On this image crop you can see the purple fringing – click on this image to enlarge it

One of the key criticisms we had of previous PEN models was the speed of the autofocus system. The new models have all been hugely improved in this regard. Focus searching is massively reduced, thanks to the addition of a focus-assist light. We still found that outside of its range, and in low-light conditions, it could struggle to get a lock. But generally things have improved immensely, with fast and accurate autofocus being the norm.

Focus did appear to be an issue in video clips though, with the camera jumping back and forth between focus points while we shot a busy street. We’d left everything on automatic admittedly, but it still seemed a bit keen to adjust for the most temporary change in the scene. A smaller aperture would have kept everything crisp without all this jumping about.

Here’s some test footage, check out the focus shifts on the shop signs – click through to YouTube for the full HD version

Except for this possible issue, there’s a lot of positives to be taken from the new Full HD video mode. Shooting in AVCHD format at 1080i and up to 60fps, it’s a definite step up from the previous 720p Motion JPEG efforts of previous models. Our test footage looked pretty impressive, and the new stereo microphone produced clean-sounding audio. Still this is one area that needs serious testing before we jump to any conclusions.

Turn to page 4 for lenses, accessories and pricing …

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