The E-PL series has always been positioned as the more affordable and simplified alternatives to their flagship E-P cameras. Add in some slight shuffling and the latest E-PL3 camera (now dubbed the PEN Lite) now stands in between its higher-end cousin (E-P3) and a simpler, smaller series, the E-PM1 or otherwise known as PEN Mini. The mid-range E-PL3, replacing the half-year old E-PL2, still offers a combination of functionality and performance traits within a smaller package.
Off the bat, the E-PL3 takes a slight detour from its predecessor’s retro look; instead it takes on the understated and minimalist design that’s reminiscent of the Olympus XZ-1. The overall result is classy, sleek and pleasing to the eye. Like the XZ-1, the E-PL3’s front is flat and made out of lacquered metal. To streamline the size and thickness of the camera, there’s no hand grip or built-in flash on the camera. Instead, for the latter, you get a clip-on unit that utilizes both the hot shoe and accessory port. The lack of a hand grip keeps the camera small – and in some cases, too small and flat in fact for comfortable handling while shooting.
The selling point for the E-PL3 is noticeably its sturdily-built 3.0-inch tilt screen, a handy addition for a EVF-less camera; take note though, it is not a touchscreen like the one on the E-P3. Overall, the E-PL3 is a solidly-constructed looker with accessible and well-made controls that are further enhanced by a straightforward user interface. There might be a steep learning curve for those who have never encountered an Olympus camera in their lives, but the interface is generally easy to use once you get the hang of it.