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Olympus adds three models to its PEN family, including a pocket-friendly point-and-shoot

The Olympus PEN series is one of the most popular Micro-Four-Thirds, high-end compacts out there – and they know it. That’s why we’re getting three new PEN cameras from the manufacturer. The lineup will now include the E-P3, the E-PL3, and the E-PM1.

E-P3

Olympus E-P3 black frontThe E-P3 is its new flagship PEN and uses the same look as its predecessors, now featuring an optional faux leather grip to attach to the chassis. Otherwise it looks quite similar – why mess with a good thing? Of course the real upgrade is inside: The E-P3 brings the series up to DSLR quality with new sensor and processor technology. Other big changes from the E-PL3 include Olympus’ first touchscreen capable camera as well as a 3D option. We were lucky enough to get our hands on one of the first units, so see our review for more details, but here’s a quick breakdown of the specs:

  • 3-inch, 614K pixel OLED touchscreen
  • 12.3 million pixelsHigh speed imager AF
  • 2-1/4000 second shutter speed
  • 10+ scene selections
  • 200-12800 ISO sensitivity
  • 321 grams (body only)
  • 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor
  • TruePic VI Image Processor

It will be available in August for $899.99 in black, white, and silver.

E-PL3

e-pl3The most notable addition to the E-PL3 is its tilting, 3-inch, 460K pixel LCD display. It’s clear Olympus is packing its new models with technology that has become appreciated by many users, but not necessarily expected. The flexible screen gives you better visibility which might address complaints about screen brightness and glare in outdoor shooting some users have expressed. It also features a 12.3-megapixel Live MOS Image Sensor, and in our testing with the E-P3, this definitely addressed some of the low-light issues holding back former PEN units. The TruePic VI Image Processor also means the very near elimination of shutter lag and remarkably fast AF. Olympus significantly shaved off how long it takes these cameras to focus, which wasn’t a huge problem before. But if you were somewhat dismayed by this feature compared to DSLRs, then you should be impressed. It also a new in-camera UI, making better use of that 3-inch space, and a subtle redesign for the hardware controls. Olympus has packed a few more art filters into the lineup as well, giving users 10 creative options, as well as the ability to capture one shot and process it in multiple filters. Like the E-P3, it includes 3D capability. Price and availability have yet to be announced.

E-PM1

e-pm1While the PEN series has been a hit for Olympus, the high prices and somewhat advanced controls isolate – even scare off – entry level users. The E-PM1 addresses and is a pocketable six inches with a simplified UI for beginners and stands up next to the highly capable point-and-shoots we’ve seen from Nikon and Canon recently. It’s an important device to offer, as consumers become more tech savvy and master their electronics more quickly. Outgrowing a point-and-shoot can happen all too fast, and now beginners can have easy access to quality shots as well as the option to get their manual shooting feet a little wet. The camera features the 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor and ISO sensitivity up to 128000, along with that speedy AF. The E-PM1 has a 3-inch, 460K pixel LCD display, and while there’s no tilt or touschreen, the camera features many of the improvements its fellow releases do. The art filter updates and streamlined in-camera UI is included, but can be utilized via its parred down manual controls. The E-PM1 will be available in purple, pink, brown, white, silver, and black. Release and pricing have yet to be announced – the latter of which could be a deciding factor for the camera.