Olympus has announced three new additions to its Micro Four Thirds PEN camera family, and two new lenses. There's no increase to the now familiar 12.3 megapixel count but the new E-P3, E-PL3 and E-PM1 do come with a newly-developed sensor, a brand new image engine and a huge ISO range. The new flagship E-P3 is also laying claim to the world's fastest autofocus title and benefits from a bright OLED touchscreen display to the rear.
Having the performance of a digital SLR and the portability of a point-and-shoot compact in one camera is an appealing prospect. All of the new PEN additions announced by Olympus have been treated to a new 12.3-megapixel Live MOS Image Sensor with RGB filter array, a TruePic VI Image Processor specifically for the Olympus PEN and a new frequency acceleration sensor technology (FAST) autofocus system with a contrast detection system. The latter features 35 separate focus points covering almost all of the sensor and 3 x 3 selectable groups within the 35-point area.
The new cameras come with an AF illuminator, an ISO range that tops out at 12,800 and three modes of in-body image stabilization. There's a 3D Photo Mode using the two shot horizontal pan technique and up to 10 Art Filters. Home movie makers are offered full 1080/60i HD video in either AVCHD or AVI Motion JPEG formats with uncompressed CD-quality Dolby Digital sound recording. Users are also offered multiple photo aspects, SDHC/SDXC/UHS-1/Eye-Fi memory card compatibility, mini-HMDI and USB 2.0 connectivity and newly-designed user interfaces.
The new flagship Olympus PEN E-P3 has a similar pixel count and body shape to the EP-2 released at the end of 2009 but almost everything else has changed. To the rear of the classically-styled, all metal 4.8 x 2.72 x 1.35-inch (121.92 x 69 x 34.29 mm) body sits a 3-inch, 614,000 dot OLED touchscreen display with a 176-degree angle of view.
Other features of note include thumb control of aperture and exposure time without having to scroll through menus courtesy of a rotational dial and a sub-dial, a useful level guide that detects the camera's pitch and roll while in Live View and a built-in flash. It has a body only weight of 13.01 ounces/368.82g (including Lithium-Ion battery and memory card) and offers about 330 shots per charge.
The PEN E-P3 will be available in August in black, silver or white for US$899.99 and comes with either a re-sculpted M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 14-42mm II R f3.5/5.6 II R zoom lens (28mm-84mm equivalent) or the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f2.8 prime lens.
At the time of writing, Olympus hasn't revealed any pricing information for its new PEN E-PL3 but it will come in the same lens kit options as the E-P3. This 4.31 x 2.50 x 1.46-inch (109.47 x 63.5 x 37.08 mm) camera sports a tilting 3-inch, 460,000 dot LCD display, a dedicated HD video record button and a bundled accessory flash. It will be available in black, silver, white or red.
The new PEN E-PM1 will be packaged with a MSC M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED m14-42mm II R f3.5/5.6 Zoom Lens only and joins the PEN family as its smallest and lightest member - having dimensions of 4.31 x 2.50 x 1.33 inch (109.5 x 63.7 x 34mm) and a body-only weight of 7.65 ounces (217g). Like the E-PL3, we've not been told the price but we do know that it will come in a choice of purple, pink, brown, white, silver or black, gets a new and simplified user interface and streamlined button structure, has a dedicated HD video button and its battery should be good for about 330 shots.
The Olympus range of Micro Four Thirds lenses now grows to eight thanks to the addition of two new Movie & Still Compatible (MSC) lenses, which are both said to benefit from a near-silent, high-speed lens drive mechanisms.
The new M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f2.0 lens is a single-focal-length, wide-angle lens with a full-metal body and a snap focus ring. It's available now for US$799.99.
It's joined by the M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f1.8 portrait lens, which features a shallow depth of field for bokeh effects and will cost US$399.99 when made available in September.
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