camcorders

Olympus E-P3 DSLR Video Review

The E-P3 is the first Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus to offer Full HD 1080p recording. This new feature, along with the variety of manual video controls and numerous recording options, make the E-P3 one of the best compact cameras we've seen for recording movies.

June 30, 2011
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Introduction

The E-P3 is the first Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus to offer Full HD 1080p recording. This new feature, along with the variety of manual video controls and numerous recording options, make the E-P3 one of the best compact cameras we've seen for recording movies.

Also announced today were the E-PL3 and PEN Mini from Olympus, both of which offer Full HD 1080p video recording like the E-P3. Read our news piece about all three of the new Olympus cameras here.

Color & Noise

We were pleased with the way the Olympus E-P3 captured colors in our video testing, but, according to our imaging software, the camera didn’t record colors with top-notch color accuracy. At best, the camera managed a color error of 4.62 and a saturation level of 88.69%—both of which are good, but not great, scores. Still, we were happy with the way the colors looked in our tests, and the camera did do a much better job than the Olympus E-PL2 in this test. See our full "color performance review":http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Olympus-E-P3-Digital-Camera-Review/Video.htm, including color swatches and crops.

As is the norm for video-DSLRs, the Olympus E-P3 did a fantastic job limiting the amount of noise in its recorded videos. In our bright light test, noise levels averaged at 0.32%. This very low amount of noise is less than the other three cameras we compared the E-P3 to (all of which did well in this test in their own right). See our full "noise performance review":http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Olympus-E-P3-Digital-Camera-Review/Video.htm, including crops and comparative analysis.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Motion & Sharpness

In general, we liked the way the E-P3 captured motion. Like most DSLRs that record video, however, the camera did have some trouble spots. Its rolling shutter stood out as being rather bad. For those who aren’t in the know, a rolling shutter produces a wobble effect when a camera is panned back and forth rather quickly. The issue wasn’t as bad as what we saw from the Panasonic G3, but it seemed a tiny bit worse than what we saw from last year’s Olympus E-PL2. Basically, you’ll probably have to avoid using the camera to make quick pans. See our full "motion performance review":http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Olympus-E-P3-Digital-Camera-Review/Video.htm, including video clips.

The Olympus E-P3 showed us sharp video in much of our testing, but the camera took a step backwards when we conducted our sharpness test that looks at video in motion (with the camera panning back and forth). In this test, the E-P3 measured a horizontal sharpness of 625 lw/ph and a vertical sharpness of 600 lw/ph. Read our full "sharpness performance review":http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Olympus-E-P3-Digital-Camera-Review/Video.htm#videosharpness.

Low Light

We tested the Olympus E-P3 to see how much light the camera needed to record an image that would pass the illumination standards for broadcast (50 IRE). The camera needed 19 lux of light to produce an image that was bright enough to pass, which is a fairly disappointing score. Most high-end camcorders these days are capable of producing an image of the same brightness with just 10 lux of light or less. Read our full "low light sensitivity performance review":http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Olympus-E-P3-Digital-Camera-Review/Video.htm#lowlightsensitivity.

The E-P3 actually produced more accurate colors in our low light test than it did in our bright light test. We should probably stop being surprised by this, though, as it has become a very common occurrence with video-capable DSLRs (the E-PL2 did the same thing). The camera managed a color accuracy of 3.42 in low light, along with a very good saturation level of 96.4%. Both of these numbers were obtained using the Natural color mode and a manual white balance. See our full "low light color performance review":http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Olympus-E-P3-Digital-Camera-Review/Video.htm, including comparative images and analysis.

Noise results for the E-P3 in low light were very good. The camera averaged nose levels of 0.67%, which is roughly double the amount of noise the camera showed us in our bright light test. More noise in low light is common and normal, however, so this increase is perfectly fine—especially since the E-P3 had lower noise levels than the competition (it’s noise percentage was nearly identical to last year’s E-PL2). See our full "low light noise performance review":http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Olympus-E-P3-Digital-Camera-Review/Video.htm, including crops and comparative images.

Conclusion

Olympus_E-P3_FinalProduct002_Vanity.jpg
The addition of Full HD 1080p recording may steal the headlines, but the real joy of recording video with the E-P3 stems from the camera's slick interface and good design. On the E-P3, Olympus lets you record video in nearly any camera mode, or you can work within the dedicated video record mode for a more simplified experience. By organizing things like this, Olympus avoids the confusing quirks that are often associated with video recording on DSLRs.

We love the set of manual controls available on the camera in video mode, but we are a bit disappointed that the controls can't be set while recording is taking place. This problem, along with some handling issues (the LCD can't rotate), are the only major gripes we have as far as the E-P3's video features are concerned. The camera didn't put up great numbers in our low light sensitivity test, but we were pleased with its low light video recording overall. Its image was a lot cleaner and sharper than previous Olympus models, and its numbers in our testing were among the best we've seen from a compact video-capable DSLR.

To read our full conclusions for the Olympus PEN E-P3 including analysis of the camera's video handling and audio options, plus see sample videos and photos, visit the full review at "DigitalCameraInfo.com":http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Olympus-E-P3-Digital-Camera-Review.htm.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

What's Your Take?

All Comments