Olympus E-P3 Review

 
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Olympus E-P3 Viewfinder

Olympus E-P3 External Electronic Viewfinder

The Olympus E-P3 retains the E-P2's accessory port, which allows use of either a VF-2 external electronic viewfinder--which may be included in certain product bundles, and can also be purchased

When slotted into the hot shoe, the viewfinder mates to a small female connector that's ordinarily concealed behind a cover that doubles as a hot shoe cap. The viewfinder itself also includes a cap to protect its corresponding male connector, and when the caps are removed, they can be slotted together for safe keeping. The connector provides electronic connections with which to provide a live view signal that's similar to that of the LCD display, although with a significantly higher resolution. The viewfinder assembly includes a mechanism to provide smooth articulation through a 90-degree arc, allowing viewing anywhere from directly behind to directly above the camera body.

Shown here mounted on the E-P2, the Olympus VF-2 external viewfinder accessory tilts upwards approximately 90 degrees, great for shooting low to the ground.

The LCD panel used in the E-P3's external viewfinder yields the same 1.15x magnification as the pentaprism viewfinder of the Olympus E-5 digital SLR, although with a slightly lower eyepoint of 18mm. It offers 1,440,000 dot resolution, particularly impressive because it's significantly higher than that of the Olympus E-P3's own LCD panel. The generous magnification and high resolution are complemented by a 100% field of view, refresh rate of 60 frames per second, 400cd brightness (double that of the average EVF at the time of the E-P2's launch, according to Olympus), and a 300:1 contrast ratio (said to be triple the norm). Subjectively we found the display provided a high refresh rate, and showed very little tearing or ghosting. Thanks to individual pixels for red, green, and blue colors there are also no RGB shifts or artifacts, something which can be a problem on LCOS-based electronic viewfinders which alternate colors from each specific pixel location.

The Olympus E-P3's removable viewfinder also includes two built-in controls. There's an EVF/LCD button to select which display should be active, and the bezel of the eyepiece acts as a diopter correction knob providing -3 to +1 diopters of adjustment.

Olympus E-P3 Full-time Live View

By its nature, the Olympus E-P3 is always in "Live View" mode: In that respect, it's like any point & shoot digicam with a rear-panel LCD that works as its viewfinder. The differences with this camera are that it has interchangeable lenses, and has a larger sensor to provide better low-light performance than typical pocket cameras.

The Olympus E-P3's electronic viewfinder essentially mirrors the output of the main LCD display, but with a significantly higher resolution. As you change exposure settings, the display changes to reflect what the captured image will look like, also known as "exposure simulation." Much like the E-P3's main LCD display, Olympus has provided both brightness and hue adjustments for the electronic viewfinder, which can be found on the Electronic Viewfinder page of the Accessort Port menu.

Several display modes are available, allowing for information overlays including a live histogram. The information display in record mode can include shutter speed and aperture, exposure mode, flash mode, ISO sensitivity setting, metering mode, AF mode, number of available images, resolution, aspect ratio, image stabilizer mode, drive mode, white balance, focus confirmation, battery status, etc. Through the Custom menu, you can also enable one of four styles of grid displays.

 

Viewfinder Test Results

Accuracy
Very good accuracy from the LCD monitor.

50mm, LCD

The Olympus PEN E-P3's LCD monitor proved very accurate in record mode, showing just slightly over 100% coverage with our Olympus Zuiko Digital 50mm f/2.0 low distortion prime. Very good results here. Since the electronic viewfinder is optional, we didn't test its accuracy with the E-P3, but we expect similar accuracy.

 

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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