Olympus Pen Lite (E-PL3) hands-on

Olympus recently announced a trio of updates to its Micro Four Thirds Pen range; the E-P3, E-PL3 and E-PM3 and guess what - we managed to bag some hands-on time with the new "Lite" model at the European event so we can tell you what to expect when it goes on sale later in the year. 

The Pen Lite, as the name suggests, this is a diet version of the E-P3 and acts as the middle man in what has been a significant stats update to Olympus's mirrorless setup.

Just like its bigger brother, the E-P3, the Lite has retained the ultra-fast autofocus which is said to outpace all compact system camera competition. In-body image stabilisation and Full HD movie recording are also included in the camera package. One major difference with the Lite is that it has a vari-angle 3-inch rear screen. Unlike the E-P3 however the display is not touch sensitive.

Pocket-lint were only given a very brief period of time to play with the Lite, which remained in the hands of Olympus staff much longer than ours. From the time we had we did notice that the E-PL3 handled really well. Picking the camera up feels like grasping a very high end compact, the metallic finish is nice to hold and the body grips well in the hand. The Lite feels so much like a compact in fact that it was surprising to be able to switch lenses, let alone benefit from a proper specced 12-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor. 

The silver top complete with mode select wheel matches nicely with Olympus's shiny M.Zuiko Pen lenses. It also has a satisfyingly meaty shutter button, which doesn't have that squishy feel of some of the cheaper entry level cameras. To the right of the LCD display is a dedicated click wheel for camera control. At first glance we felt this could have done with being a bit bigger, it did however work well with menu navigation.

The dedicated video recording button is particularly useful, meaning you can switch instantly to 1080i AVCHD video. Which we might add looked great on the 3-inch display. 

The new TruePic VI sensor in the E-PL3 brings with it increased Art Filter functionality. This means Olympus's in-built photo effects software is now super charged. Allowing you to stack filters on top of each other and even view things like grainy black and white effect direct through the camera's screen. 

Having handled all three of Olympus's new Pen lineup we are definitely swaying towards the E-PL3 as a favourite. Whilst is loses the OLED touchscreen of the flagship E-P3 and dedicated left-right wheel for manual control, it just feels like the logical size for a camera system of this capability.

The E-P3 is priced in at £800, a lot for a Micro Four Thirds system without a viewfinder. Olympus are yet to confirm the cost or release date of the E-PL3, but that extra price drop combined with similar functionality makes the middle-kid of the Pen family a much more tempting choice. Expect more from Pocket-lint on the E-PL3 when we get a chance to put the camera through its paces properly. 

Mirrorless? Or do you like a finder?



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