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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



We tried various lenses during our testing, and can report that the kit lens is quieter than previous models, and redesigned a little to match the new bodies. We also got to use the striking all-metal M.Zuiko 12mm F2.0 lens. This little beauty can create great depth-of-field effects, and has a focus ring that snaps back to engage manual focus mode and reveal distance reference markings underneath. Unfortunately Olympus reckons this little beauty will retail for at least £600.

Olympus PEN E-P3 sample 5
We got some great depth-of-field effects from the 12mm F2.0 – click to enlarge – and see the gallery (above) for more samples

There’s also a 45mm F1.8 portrait lens, with a similarly striking appearance, but without the snap-back focus ring. It too was impressive quick in use, focusing quickly and almost silently, and will cost a far more reasonable £260.

Other accessories in a very cool-looking range include leather straps, body protectors and cases – along with some sixties-styled bags. More practically there’s a wireless flash gun, which also tilts for bouncing the flash, and giving a more natural looking effect.


The new PEN range, then, keeps its individual and stylish appearance, but seems to have fixed many of the flaws that dogged previous models – such as autofocus. It’s not the huge shake-up we were expecting, with the appearance and feel of the new cameras being very similar to their predecessors.

Current PEN owners lusting after a new model should be richly rewarded in practical terms, but may find it hard to part with the cash for something so superficially similar. In terms of pricing and release dates, Olympus is playing its cards close to its chest. They say the E-P3 will cost £800 for the body and new kit lens, and the usual ridiculous £749 for just the body. However, we’re unsure if those are actual street prices, or just inflated RRPs. It should be available in early august.

More frustrating though is the complete lack of pricing on the E-PL3, due around late August, and the E-PM1. The latter two should cost around the same price, but how much cheaper they are than the E-P3 is entirely down to speculation.

With all three models being identical in terms of image quality, it’s hard to judge between them until we get actual prices. As a very rough guide, we reviewed the E-P1 at £687 and the E-PL1 at £477, so a price gap of around £200 might be a good guess. The new bodies do include some odd design decisions, but between the three models there should be something for most people. We look forward to seeing them all in our labs over the coming months.

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