Updated (September, 2012): Compare the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 vs Olympus PEN E-PL5

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Reasons to buy the Olympus PEN E-PL3

Panorama
In-camera panoramas
Stitches together multiple photos into a panorama
3D
Takes 3D photos
View photos in 3D on 3D televisions
Shutter lag
Barely any delay taking photos
241 ms shutter lag
 

Reasons to buy the Olympus PEN E-PL2

Panorama
In-camera panoramas
Stitches together multiple photos into a panorama
Built-in flash
Built-in flash
External flash not needed
 
Differences | Recommendations | Similarities | Competitors | Appearance | Discussion

differences

Advantages of the Olympus PEN E-PL2

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Startup delay Less startup delay 1300 ms vs 2100 ms
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Around 40% less delay when turning on
Color depth Better color depth 21.4 bits vs 20.9 bits
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Distinguishes 0.5 more bits of color
Overall image quality Slightly better image quality 55.0 vs 52.0
Help
Around 10% better image quality
Built-in flash Built-in flash Yes vs No
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A built-in flash is useful for taking indoor shots where there is little light
Olympus PEN E-PL2 Learn more about
the Olympus PEN E-PL2

Advantages of the Olympus E-PL3

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3D Takes 3D photos Yes vs No
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Combines multiple photos into a 3D image
Movie format Higher resolution movies 1080p @ 30fps vs 720p @ 30fps
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Shoots higher resolution Full HD (1080p) video
Shutter lag Significantly less shutter lag 241 ms vs 434 ms
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More than 40% less delay when taking photos
Focus points More focus points 35 vs 11
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Set focus accurately within the frame
Lowest price Significantly cheaper $278.00 vs $1,259.90
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The best price we've seen is $982 cheaper (4.5x less)
Battery life Slightly longer battery life 300 shots vs 280 shots
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Around 10% more shots per battery charge
Continuous shooting Shoots slightly faster 5.5 fps vs 3 fps
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More than 80% faster continuous shooting
Size Smaller 109x63x37 mm vs 115x72x42 mm
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Around 30% smaller
Light sensitivity Better maximum light sensitivity 12,800 ISO vs 6,400 ISO
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The E-PL3's maximum light sensitivity is 1 f-stop better
Weight Lighter 313 g vs 362 g
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More than 10% lighter
Thickness Thinner 1.5" vs 1.7"
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More than 10% thinner
Light sensitivity (boost) Has boost ISO 12,800 ISO vs None
Help
Allows taking photos in darker situations, often at the cost of additional noise in the image
Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Learn more about
the Olympus E-PL3
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recommendations

Which camera do we recommend? Relative to the best recent mirrorless cameras, and ignoring price

Olympus PEN E-PL2 Olympus PEN E-PL2 42
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        42 Olympus PEN E-PL3 Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3
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              similarities

              Compared to recent mirrorless cameras

              Common Strengths Common Weaknesses
              Image stabilization Good image stabilization Help
              Sensor shift
              Lens availability Many lenses available Help
              40 lenses
              Movie continuous focus Focus continuously recording movies Help
              Makes it easy to get in-focus movies
              Sensor cleaning Self cleaning sensors Help
              Avoids dust in your photos
              Longest exposure Very long exposure times Help
              60 seconds
              External flash Each supports an external flash Help
              Better lighting
              Fastest shutter speed Slow max shutter speed Help
              1/4000 of a second
              HDR Neither has in-camera HDR Help
              You could do HDR manually
              Dynamic range Poor dynamic range Help
              PEN E-PL2:10.2 EV
              E-PL3:10.3 EV
              Screen flips out No flip-out screens Help
              Less flexible
              True resolution Capture low resolution images Help
              12.2 MP
              Supports 24p No support for 24p Help
              Missing that film look
              Touch screen No touchscreens Help
              More buttons
              Screen resolution Low resolution screens Help
              460k dots
              Focus points Few focus points Help
              PEN E-PL2:11
              E-PL3:35
              External mic jack Neither has an external mic jack Help
              Limited to the in-camera mic
              Color depth Poor color depth Help
              PEN E-PL2:21.4 bits
              E-PL3:20.9 bits
              Battery life Few shots per battery charge Help
              PEN E-PL2:280 shots
              E-PL3:300 shots
              Viewfinder No viewfinders Help
              Can only preview photos on the screen
              Sensor size Very small sensors Help
              Four thirds 17.3x13.0mm
              Overall image quality Low image quality Help
              PEN E-PL2:55.0
              E-PL3:52.0
              Weather sealed Neither is weather sealed Help
              Need to shelter it from weather
              Low light performance Above average noise at high ISO Help
              PEN E-PL2:573 ISO
              E-PL3:499 ISO

              dxomark

              DXOMark

              competitors

              Shared Competitors

              Advantages

              Disadvantages

              Olympus PEN E-PL5

              Olympus PEN E-PL5

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $438 with 14-42mm lens

              Overall image quality Has significantly better image quality
              Color depth Has significantly more color depth
              Sensor type Has a CCD-family sensor
              Olympus PEN E-PM2

              Olympus PEN E-PM2

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $437 with 14-42mm lens

              Overall image quality Has significantly better image quality
              Color depth Has significantly more color depth
              Olympus PEN E-PM1

              Olympus PEN E-PM1

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              Startup delay Has slightly more startup delay
              Olympus PEN E-PL1

              Olympus PEN E-PL1

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $550 with 14-42mm lens

              Fastest shutter speed Has a slower max shutter speed
              Panorama Lacks a built in panoramas
              Olympus PEN E-P3

              Olympus PEN E-P3

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $649 body only

              Screen resolution Has a slightly higher resolution screen
              Touch screen Has a touch screen
              Lowest price Is slightly more expensive
              Canon EOS M

              Canon EOS M

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $236 body only

              $315 - $970 with 18-55mm lens

              Overall image quality Has slightly better image quality
              Screen resolution Has a significantly higher resolution screen
              Longest exposure Much shorter exposures
              Panorama Lacks a built in panoramas
              Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1

              Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $349 body only

              $570 with 14-42mm lens

              True resolution Takes slightly higher resolution photos
              Touch screen Has a touch screen
              Sensor type Has a CCD-family sensor
              Panorama Lacks a built in panoramas

              Olympus PEN E-PL2 Competitors

              Advantages

              Disadvantages

              Olympus PEN E-P2

              Olympus PEN E-P2

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $289 body only

              $700 with 17mm lens

              Lowest price Significantly cheaper
              Battery life Slightly longer battery life
              Shutter lag Much more shutter lag
              Panorama Lacks in-camera panoramic stitching
              Olympus OM-D E-M5

              Olympus OM-D E-M5

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $599 body only

              $699 with 14-42mm lens

              Dynamic range More dynamic range
              Overall image quality Significantly better image quality
              Panorama Lacks in-camera panoramic stitching
              Sensor type Has a CCD-family sensor

              Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3 Competitors

              Advantages

              Disadvantages

              Nikon 1 J1

              Nikon 1 J1

              Mirrorless interchangeable-lens

              $189 - $699 with 10-30mm lens

              Autofocus Faster video autofocus
              Continuous shooting Shoots much faster
              Image stabilization No image stabilization
              Panorama Lacks in-camera panoramic stitching

              appearance

              Olympus PEN E-PL2 Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3
              Olympus PEN E-PL2 Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3
              Olympus PEN E-PL2 Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3

              discussion

              Olympus PEN E-PL2
              PEN E-PL2
              Olympus

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              Olympus PEN Lite E-PL3
              PEN E-PL3
              Olympus

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              Showing 3 comments

              Avatar for Nas Nas (1:34 PM, January 07, 2012)
              E-pl3 has 16:9 3'' screen. For actual still shots you need to crop down to 4:3 which effectively gives you a 2.4'' screen with black bars on either side.
               
              Avatar for Snapsort Snapsort (2:37 PM, November 18, 2011)
              Thanks for pointing that out, we've fixed up the E-PL2 specs!
               
              Imyourmom (7:48 AM, November 18, 2011)
              the e-pl2 does not have an external mic jack. Both e-pl2 and e-pl3 require the sema hot shoe adapter.