The EP-3 uses a standard size Micro Four Thirds (MFT) Live MOS sensor with an effective resolution of 12.3-megapixels, backed up by Olympus’ TruPic VI image processor.
While the default aspect is, of course, 4:3, there are also options to shoot in 3:2, 16:9 and 6:6, all at a reduced maximum resolution. Maximum output at full resolution is 4032 x 3024 pixels, although you can also choose to record at Medium and Small settings in all aspects. There are two JPEG compression settings: Fine and Normal.
The EP-3 is able to shoot continuously at a maximum rate of 3fps, which isn’t all that quick. The camera’s sensitivity range, however, stretches from a base of ISO 200 up to ISO 12,800 – one extra stop than the EP-2 could manage. For greater control, ISO values rise in small increments rather than simply ‘doubling up’ as is more common. In practical terms, this means you can set the EP-3 to ISO 640 if you think a situation warrants it, whereas many other cameras would limit you to a choice of either ISO 400 or 800.
Traditionalists will be pleased to learn that the EP-3 offers the regular quartet of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and fully Manual shooting modes. Backing these up is a fully Automatic option, a number of Scene modes and 10 individual Art filters.
These Art Filters are hardly new to Olympus cameras, indeed Olympus was the first manufacturer to really push them on digital cameras with the launch of the E-30 back in 2008. The EP-3 gets ten Filters in total, two more than the EP-2, and they are: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Mini, Cross-Process, Gentle Sepia, and Dramatic Tone.
Unlike its predecessor, the EP-3 gets a pop-up flash, neatly housed inside the camera body on its left shoulder. Offering a Guide Number of 10 (at ISO 200) it’s activated by a button on the back and can be used to trigger remote flashguns should you wish to get creative with off-camera flash. In addition, there’s also the option to set its power output manually, which is a neat touch and in keeping with the EP-3’s general theme of flexibility.
Despite the addition of a pop-up flash to the EP-3, the multi-purpose hot-shoe – or Accessory Port, as Olympus calls it – remains in place. This gives you access to a wide range of PEN accessories tailor-made for it – from optical and electronic viewfinders, to external microphone adaptors and even modules that allow you to transfer your images via Bluetooth.
The back of the EP-3 is fitted with an all-new 3-inch, 610k-dot OLED screen that offers bags of contrast and saturation, alongside generous viewing angles. While the screen is easy enough to see in generally bright conditions outdoors, it does get harder to see in direct sunlight.
The EP-3 can shoot in both JPEG and 12-bit Raw, or in deed both simultaneously. Should you wish to shoot in JPEG, you have the option of five Picture Mode colour profiles, each of which will give your images a predetermined look, and all of which can be further fine tuned for contrast, sharpness, saturation and gradation. The five presets are: i-Enhance, Vivid, Natural, Muted and Portrait. In addition, there’s also a B&W option that comes with filter and split-tone options, and a blank Custom profile.
Movie enthusiasts are well catered for, with the EP-3 offering 1920 x 1080p Full HD movie recording in either 60i/20Mbps or 60i/17Mbps quality, along with 1280 x 720 HD options at 60p in both 20Mbps and 17Mbps. Movies recorded at these settings are stored in the AVCHD format. Sound is recorded in stereo via two microphones on top of the camera, and while there’s no external microphone input, there is an external microphone adaptor available that slots into the Accessory Port.