Olympus PEN Mini vs Lite vs E-P3

If you’re in the market for your first mirrorless or micro-4/3rds camera, you might have your eyes on the new Olympus lineup, which includes 3 different models. Which one is right for you? Dive into this comparison to find out…

What’s in common?

Before we look at how they differ, let’s look at what they share in common, which is actually quite a lot…

  • 12MP CMOS sensor, which dates back several years. Although it draws the ire of some commentators, we think the image quality is rather pleasing despite the higher noise than the competition.
  • Blazing fast 120Hz 35-point autofocus array. This is possibly the most significant improvement in the PEN series to date.
  • HD video modes, including 1080p, 720p, etc.
  • ISO range from 100-12,800 (200-1600 in Auto)

What’s different? 

PEN Mini (E-PM1)

As the name suggests, its the smallest of the lot. Although not much smaller than the Lite in dimensions, it is 50g lighter. Like the Lite, it has a clip on flash, while the E-P3 has one built-in. Also like the Lite, it shoots at 5.5fps, faster than the E-P3. Although it has far fewer external controls than the other two models, but they are easily accessible. It sports the lowest price tag at $500, being the cheapest micro 4/3rds camera to date, yet containing much the same functionality as the E-P3.

PEN Mini (E-PM1) Front View

PEN Mini (E-PM1) Rear View

PEN Mini (E-PM1) Top View

PEN Lite (E-PL3)

Probably the most differentiating factor of this model is the tilt-screen LCD, which the other models lack. For anyone who’s used one, you know the value it brings. It has the same clip-on flash and 5.5fps ability as the Mini, as mentioned above. Size-wise, its quite a bit smaller than the E-P3, and 50g lighter to boot. Despite being smaller, it does manage to pack in plenty of custom controls. It lacks the hand grip which it once had.

PEN Lite (E-PL3) Front View

PEN Lite (E-PL3) Rear View

PEN Lite (E-PL3) Top View

Olympus PEN E-P3

If any of these models says “serious camera” with its looks, then it’s the EP3. While the previous two have taken a nod from compact models, the EP3 is unashamedly traditional, as the digital PEN line started out. If you care about screen resolution, it has more than it’s two siblings, with 614K vs 460K pixels. It also has a built-in flash while the others have a clip-on flash. It has two control wheels, and more customization options than the other models. Oddly enough, it has the slowest continuous drive mode, at only 3fps.

PEN E-P3 Front View

PEN E-P3 Rear View

PEN E-P3 Top View

Part of the reason I wrote this comparison is to help myself decide on a mirrorless camera. After doing the research, it seems that the Mini packs most of the same punch as its older brothers, with identical performance and image quality, so that’s the one I’ll probably go for. Stay tuned for a dedicated review!

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