On the upside, the autofocus system truly is a monumental improvement over the E-P2. It's shockingly quick, and ranks up there with many of the higher-end DSLR rigs that we've handled. The bundled 14-42mm kit lens is rather handy, and it's not awkwardly large, either. The company threw in its 12mm wide-angle pancake as well, and while it did a similarly great job, the $800 price tag on that glass alone is almost shameful. In fact, just thinking of it brings us back to the biggest argument against this form factor: if you're going to invest thousands in lenses, shouldn't you invest in a marginally larger body with far more amenities? At any rate, take a dive into our sample galleries for a taste of what this guy offers.
On the movie side, the 720p quality is just beautiful... if you've got it mounted on a tripod. Even the slightest hand movement introduces a disgusting amount of "jelly," as is showcased in our samples below. It's a shame, really -- you can pretty much bet that whatever video you shoot handheld will be marred by an impossible-to-miss jelly effect. Olympus rates the battery for 330 shots, and in our testing we managed just over 200 snaps mixed with a half-hour of video and untold minutes of idly leaving the LCD on. Not particularly longevous, but it should be plenty to get you through the average vacation day.
At $900, the E-P3 kit is a far better value than the E-P1
before it, primarily due to the overhauled autofocus system and stunning OLED touchpanel. But when you realize what kind of money you'll be pouring into lenses -- objects that make this guy far less portable from a holistic viewpoint -- the reality starts to sink in. This is still a pricey luxury aimed at a niche, albeit one that's growing by the day. In our estimation, the only meaningful size savings associated with a Micro Four Thirds rig is in the body itself, and if you plan on using the kit lens alone, you may be fine. But if you plan on actually taking advantage of the whole interchangeable lens
function, you could be better off buying glass for a smaller Digital SLR.
For those dead-set on this category, though, the E-P3 doesn't innovate enough from an image quality standpoint to justify an upgrade, and for newcomers, that $900 price point is awfully hard to swallow. Here's hoping the E-P4 will hit with an MSRP that doesn't give us so much pause.