Olympus launches PEN E-P3, E-PL3 and E-PM1

Olympus has just launched, worldwide, its slew of new cameras, lenses and accessories. The three new camera models include updates to the PEN E-P2 and E-PL2, as well as the new E-PM1 with a similar form factor (for the body) as the Olympus XZ-1. New and repackaged lenses are also being launched.

The new Truepic VI engine and sensor promise enhanced image quality and, together with the new auto-focusing system, deliver much faster auto-focus  on these new cameras.

Olympus PEN E-P3, with the 12 mm, f/2.0 lens.

Olympus PEN E-P3, with the 12 mm, f/2.0 lens.

Olympus PEN E-PL3, with the 40-150 mm II R kit lens and retro lens hood.

Olympus PEN E-PL3, with the 40-150 mm II R kit lens and retro lens hood.

Olympus PEN E-PM1, with the 14-42 mm II R kit lens and retro lens hood.

Olympus PEN E-PM1, with the 14-42 mm II R kit lens and retro lens hood.

The Olympus PEN E-P3 is here. And some of its new powerful features have also been made available to its “Lite” and “Mini” cousins: the E-PL3 and E-PM1 respectively.

Two new lenses – a 12 mm f/2.0 lens and a 45 mm f/1.8 lens – have also been introduced together with the new cameras. At the same time, two existing kit lenses has been repackaged into the 14-42 mm II R and the 40-150 mm II R to match the design of the new cameras, although the functionality remains unchanged. A new external wireless-capable flash – FL300R – was also unveiled.

The PEN E-P3 and the 12 mm f/2.0 lens is scheduled for release in Singapore on July 22, 2011, while the other camera models and lenses will only be available later. As of today’s launch, only the E-P3 was ready for shooting, while the E-PL3 was not ready to be powered on. For the E-PM1, only a mock-up was viewable in a display case.

Prices in Singapore are yet to be determined, although Adorama is taking preorders online for the PEN E-P3 (US$899 with kit lens), the 12 mm f/2.0 lens (US$799) and the 45 mm f/1.8 lens (US$399).

The launch in Singapore at the National Geographic Store in VivoCity is one of 6 venues worldwide holding the event at the same time.

“The much faster autofocus speed is achieved through the combination of four components making up the FAST <Frequency Acceleration Sensor Technology> autofocus system introduced in these new cameras,” Terada Toshiyuki (寺田 利之), Group Leader of the Product and Marketing Planning Group in Olympus told me.

The long awaited worldwide product launch from Olympus.“This includes a new LiveMOS sensor which is driven twice as fast as current sensors, faster calculation of the contrast detection autofocus, faster communications between the camera and the lens, and reduction of the lag in activating autofocus when the shutter release button is pressed,” elaborated the Tokyo-Shinjuku based guest.

Trying out the E-P3 unit myself, I found the auto-focus almost instantaneous – even in low-light. It certainly feels much faster than the previous incarnations of cameras in the PEN series.

I found the touch-screen really addictive and easy to use – simply point at the subject you want to focus on, and the camera focuses quickly on it and takes the snapshot. No more fiddling with buttons and menu systems just to select from a limited number of focus points.

You can also use the touch screen to pre-focus in prefocus mode – simply tap the main screen where the main subject is and the camera focuses but does not release the shutter. Press the regular shutter release button to take the snapshot.

The previous PEN cameras came with auto-tracking of subjects. This works with the touch-screen as well.

Olympus claims that image quality has also been improved with the new sensor and Truepic VI engine. More realistic colour reproduction and selective brightening of back-lit subjects without the addition of noise are some of the advanced features touted.

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