In a move that’s stirring the micro four-thirds pot, Olympus recently announced three new PEN models: the EP3, the EPL3 and the EPM1. The internals of all three cameras are largely the same, but they offer distinctly different form factors. So, which is it going to be: Papa Bear, Momma Bear, or Baby Bear?
First though, I’ve written about the advantages of and likely future of the camera line that’s taking the market by storm (see the conclusion of the three-part series here).
2 Guys Photo featured photographer, Ray Sachs, recently commented favorably on the flagship model, the EP3 (see here), though confided in us that he was at the same time playing around with its baby brother, the EPL3. One was going to be a keeper and one was going back.
Read on to see which he chose…
First of all, what’s the difference between them? From top to bottom below (all photos courtesy Olympus Corporation), the EP3, the EPL3 and the EMP1.
The short version is as follows:
- EP3 has the maximum number of external controls, a meaty (and interchangeable) grip, and feels a bit beefier to hold. It also has a built in flash and the screen is touch enabled if you’re into that sort of thing.
- EPL3 (L for “light”) is smaller and lighter, has a decent number of external do-hickeys and has a nice moveable LCD screen. It comes with an add-on flash which is cool, but just not if you want to use the attachable electronic viewfinder at the very same time.
- EMP1 (M for “mini”) is diminutive and quite pocketable (unless you have a biggish lens onboard) and possesses the bare minimum number of external controls, requiring a good bit of menu diving to fiddle with settings.
The EMP1 strikes me as a good second camera if you’re already into m4/3. If you want to head out to the nightclub, pop on one of the nice pancake fixed lenses and you’re good to go. I don’t see it as a main system shooter because I presume that anybody interested in an interchangeable lens cam is going to want to change up some lenses, thus adding to bulk. If you’re going to have bulk, get the more featured and easier to adjust body.
So then, I think the real question: which shall it be: the EP3 or the EPL3? Here’s what Ray Sachs had to say about it… at different points during his decision process…
Ray: My initial reaction was that it’s (the EPL3) too small and unbalanced to be my primary camera. Which would mean I either sell it or keep both the EP3 and EPL3 (hey, I had an EPL1 and EP2 for a while – having two bodies isn’t a bad way to go, particularly when traveling). But having used it for a couple of days, I’m really not sure. It’s growing on me to some extent. It’s certainly every bit as capable as the EP3 – I think the performance and IQ are nearly identical with a slight edge, if any at all, to the EPL3 because of its new shutter and faster burst rate (which is roughly meaningless to me). But the EP3 just feels so right in my hand (as the EP2 did) – it just feels like my CAMERA in some indescribable way where the EPL3 feels like a cool little gadget that I can use to take photographs.
But after shooting yesterday morning with the EPL3, I really really really like that flip up screen, like I did on the (Sony) NEX. The EPL3 looks and feels weird with any sort of big lens on it, but I took some shots back to back with the (Panasonic) 100-300 yesterday, with the VF2 on both cameras, and there’s no real difference. They both feel OK since you’re mostly supporting the lens anyway. And for the limited amount I shoot with a long lens, that shouldn’t be a deciding factor.
So I think the bottom line is I’m gonna have to live with both for a while and see which one I pick up most of the time.
Fast forward a few days, and Ray commented: I took the EPL3 into Philly for some street shooting this morning. I think I like the EP3 more as an all-around camera but the flip screen is so nice for street shooting that I think the EPL3 is my street camera of choice now, along with the (Ricoh) GRD3. Here are some shots:
A few days hence, Ray states: My thinking is evolving. I’m still planning to hold onto both to see which I grab when, but for me, the flip screen on the EPL3 is just too important to part with. So, even though I prefer the feel of the EP3 for anything where I wouldn’t be using the flip screen, my only decision at this point is whether to sell the EP3 or keep both. For folks who don’t use the flip screen much, I’d strongly recommend the EP3 as an all-around nicer, more solid, and more ergonomic camera. But if the flip screen matters, as it does to me, it’s the only game in town…
And finally, today, Ray tells us: So the EPL3 is gonna be it for m43 until and unless some long-rumored “pro” model actually shows up. Actually, I doubt I’d upgrade unless its sort of the m43 version of a NEX 7, with the flip screen, a somewhat updated sensor, and the nicer feel and ergonomics of the EP3. And if they can stick a great EVF in the flash hole without making the camera bigger, that would be nice too, but far from essential for me. Essentially an EP3 with the flip screen would have done it for me, but Olympus didn’t see fit to do that. But the ergonomics of the EPL3 are fine, just not AS nice as the EP3, which fit my hand like a glove.
Thank you, Ray, for your assessment and for the wonderful images. We’ll be interested to hear about your future experiences with the EPL3.
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The Olympus EP3 can be found here.
Posted by Rey