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Olympus PEN E-PL3 Flash


Although the Olympus E-PL3 lacks any internal flash strobe, it provides for external flash strobes courtesy of a hot shoe--but note that it is shared with the accessory port, so use of flash or accessories is an either / or proposition.

The E-PL3 comes bundled with an accessory flash which has a guide number of 10 meters at ISO 200 equivalent (that works out to about 7m at ISO 100).

Flash modes include Auto, Fill-in, Red-eye Reduction, Slow Synchronization (1st curtain), Slow Synchronization (1st curtain)/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Synchronization (2nd curtain), Manual (Full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64), and Off.

The E-PL3's hot shoe is compatible with the FL-50R, FL-36R, FL-50, FL-36, FL-20, FL-14, and FL-300R strobes. Flash sync is possible between 1/60 and 1/160 second, and the E-PL3 also allows Super FP flash between 1/125 and 1/4,000 second, if supported by the attached flash. Flash exposure compensation is available within a range of +/- 3.0 EV, in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps. Finally, the E-PL3 supports four-channel wireless flash with the bundled strobe acting as a master, and off-camera flash strobes configured in up to 4 groups.


Bundled Flash Test Results

Coverage and Range
A weak flash despite being external, with somewhat narrow coverage.

14mm, ISO 200
f/3.5, 1/60s
42mm, ISO 200
f/5.6, 1/60s
Normal Flash,
ISO 200, 1/60s
+2 (+0.7 EV)
Slow-Sync Flash,
ISO 200, 1/6s
+3 (+1.0 EV)

Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was uneven at wide-angle (14mm), but much more uniform (albeit quite dim) at full telephoto (42mm). In our Indoor Portrait flash test, the Olympus E-PL3 underexposed our subject despite using an external flash, and a higher-than-average base ISO of 200. +0.7 EV flash compensation produced the brightest exposure (+1.0 EV was actually slightly dimmer), though it was still dim. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced much better results at +1.0 EV aided by the slower 1/6 second shutter speed, though with a stronger orange cast from the ambient room lighting.


Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see EPL3FL06W.JPG
1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL07W.JPG
1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL08W.JPG
1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL09W.JPG
1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL10W.JPG
1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL11W.JPG
1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 200
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see EPL3FL12W.JPG
1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL13W.JPG
1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL14W.JPG
1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL15W.JPG
1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL16W.JPG
1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 200

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see EPL3FL06T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL07T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL08T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL09T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL10T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL11T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 200
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see EPL3FL12T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL13T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL14T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL15T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 200
Click to see EPL3FL16T.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 200

ISO 200 Range. Flash exposure started out dim at 6 feet at wide-angle, then became dimmer as distance increased. At telephoto, flash exposures were even dimmer at 6 feet than they were at wide-angle, and gradually became dimmer as distance increased. Poor results here especially considering base ISO is 200 (we used to test flash range at ISO 100 if the camera supports it, but found many small cameras these days need at least ISO 200). You can always use a more powerful external flash, though.


Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
f/4.0
Click to see EPL3FL_MFR082M0200.JPG
8.2 feet
ISO 200

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. The Olympus PEN E-PL3's bundled flash has a Guide Number (GN) of 10 meters at ISO 200. That works out to about 8.2 feet at f/4. In the shot above, the E-PL3 did not perform as Olympus says it will, producing a dim exposure at the rated distance. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100 (when supported), to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.