Olympus has officially announced not one, not two, but three new interchangeable lens cameras; the PEN E-P3, PEN E-PL3 and the PEN E-PM1.

The launch includes a whopper of an update for its cutting edge mirrorless PEN range in the form of the E-P3. This camera boasts a revamped set of specs, particularly in the movie and AF department.

According to Olympus, the E-P3 is the fastest auto focusing interchangeable lens camera currently on the market. This is due to a clever 35 area multiple AF system, which uses image contrast detection to snap the focus as quick as possible.

The 35 focus points also put the camera on a par with some of the more expensive top end DSLR offerings, allowing highly specific focusing on objects and easier tracking of motion when snapping. Until we get any real time to play with the camera it is difficult to say whether Olympus's focussing claims are true, but expect us to be pitting it against some of the top DSLR competition.

It boasts a TruePic VI image processor to help give the focussing that extra speed boost as well powering the tap sensitive 3-inch OLED display that sits on the back of the camera. Olympus has also considered those with particularly greasy mits, including an anti fingerprint coating on the panel. 

The OLED display can be used to select focus points, take a picture or make use of the Live Guide which helps with things like aperture and shutter speed. The more serious photographer can use the addition of two dials for more in depth control of the camera. These settings can be viewed either on the back of the camera or in the optional electronic viewfinder.

The 12.3-megapixel MOS sensor is capable of picking up 1080i video at 60fps using the AVCHD codec. A 720p Motion Jpeg codec can also be used for those who like to do more in complex video editing on the computer. Stills can also be shot in 3D using the MOS sensor.

ISO-wise, the E-P3 is touting a potent 12800 capability, meaning plenty to play with in low light. That said, a smaller sensor does usually mean plenty more noise problems, so don't expect DSLR quality in dark shooting situations.

Olympus keeps up the compatibility with its e-system, meaning access to just about everything in the Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds range as well as some other glass using an adapter. 

The other cameras in Olympus' new line up, the E-PL3 and E-PM1, act as baby brothers to the E-P3, boasting similar specs but smaller sizes - thus making them potential rivals for the Panasonic Lumix GF3.

The E-PL3 incorporates a tiltable 3-inch LCD but retains the powerful TruePic VI, autofocus speed and 1080i video recording. It is to ship in either black, white, silver or red forms.

The E-PM1 is a tiny interchangeable lens camera and boasts easy to use snapping modes. Aimed more at the beginner photographer, the E-PM1 or PEN Mini, still manages to maintain the ultra-high speed auto focus mode. The PEN Mini also keeps it vibrant, arriving in no less than six different colours. 

The compact system camera market is becoming somewhat crowded ever since it came into existence with the launch of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, back in 2008. As well as Panasonic's Lumix range, which shares the Micro Four Thirds format with Olympus, we also have models from Sony with its Alpha NEX range, the Samsung NX family and the recently announced Pentax Q - all of which all offer similar features.

The E-PM1 and E-PL3 are yet to be confirmed price-wise, but expect an early Autumn release. The E-P3 however has been priced, with a 14-42 lens kit and E-P3 costing £799 on August release.


The E-PL3 is priced in at £549.99 with a 14-42 mm II R zoom lens.

Can the Olympus do it? Or is the DSLR still the king of focus?