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
|42mm, ISO 200
ISO 200, 1/60s
+2 (+0.7 EV)
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.
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 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.