Olympus E-P3 was introduced on 30th of June. As name says it is the third version in E-P series which I use. I am interested because Olympus promises now to correct the slow AF which hampered previous models. All in all the responsivity of this camera should be at a totally new level.
I created a simple test arrangement to get a real world understanding on E-P3´s AF speed. A sat at a table with my elbows leaning on table. On the others side of table I had a newspaper (at 1m distance) and directly behind there´s a plant across the room at 5m distance. I set both E-P3 and E-P2 to do single-AF at a press of shutter button AND shutter is activated only after focusing is done. Other settings: Program AE, ISO 400, single shot mode, medium JPG, only center focusing spot active.
Now I aimed focusing spot at newspaper and pressed shutter button until camera focuses and shutter goes, aimed focusing spot at plant and pressed shutter button until camera focuses and shutter goes, aimed focusing spot towards newspaper and pressed… I went on doing this until I counted 75 shots. The number 75 is not important. The point was to make enough shots so that slight differences between each single shots become averaged when shooting with both cameras. I repeated the same drill for four lenses:
1) The new Olympus m4/3 kit zoom lens 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 II R. Tested at 42mm focal length.
2) Olympus m4/3 zoom lens 40-150mm 1:4-5.6. Tested at 50mm focal length.
3) Olympus 4/3 zoom lens 12-60mm 1:2.8-4 with Novoflex m4/3 adapter. Tested at 50mm focal length.
4) Panasonic Lumix G 20mm 1:1.7
Then I looked into EXIF data of first and last shot of each series to see the time difference between them. I divided this time by number of shots to get the average time for aiming camera and focusing and exposing each shot.
These are my results:
E-P3 E-P2 E-P3 is faster by
1) 0,82s 1,41s 42%
2) 0,89s 1,46s 39%
3) 1,96s 2,26s 13%
4) 0,87s 1,54s 44%
I have no way to know how long it took to aim the camera between each shot but it was not much. Just turned the camera a few degrees up or down. Olympus gives a shutter response time of ONLY 60ms for E-P3. My conclusion is that E-P3 is in practise twice as responsive camera as E-P2. With older 4/3 system DSLR lenses the lens is the restricting factor. I would guess that these lenses would benefit of a new firmware for m4/3 bodies.
So how responsive E-P3 is then? Olympus claims it to be the fastest focusing camera of all system cameras. Lets see!
I repeated the same test with Nikon D3x and three Nikon lenses:
5) AF-S Micro Nikkor 105mm 1:2.8 G
6) AF Nikkor 85mm 1:1.4 D
7) AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm 1:2.8 G. Tested at 24mm focal length.
Results for differences between these three lenses are logical and should be familiar to everyone who has used them. Wide angle zoom 14-24mm is fast because there the distance to move focusing element is so short. Other than that look at E-P3! E-P3 is faster (with three consumer grade lenses) than Nikon. It´s responsiveness is up (or should I say down) there with a super fast professional DSLR with 10 fold price tag!
Same test with the new Olympus M. Zuiko 12mm 1:2.0 lens. This lens is Olympus´ first lens that which they consider as belonging to the top level in their three level lens grading.
Test result with E-P3 0,74s. E-P2 was not tested because speed difference is already known.
Already while testing the new kit zoom lens I was somewhat distracted by Live View refresh rate. Live View goes off and back on with each image, as sensor is reseted before and after exposure. (I did not have record view on, just viewfinder image). With this 12mm lens, it is quite obvious that now the restricting factor is not focusing but other functions of camera. Mere focusing back and forth is a lot faster, also faster than Nikon 14-24mm. With this lens focusing is done immediately as you press the button. How ever, this result tells how fast you can take two consecutive images with varying focusing distances. Focusing is very fast but the responsivity of a Live View camera like E-P3 is not yet quite there with a professional reflex camera like D3x.