We’re seeing more and more moms slowly untethering themselves from their trusty smartphone cameras and going back to real cameras for special events that require oh, slightly better resolution and maybe even a zoom lens that works? I recently spent some time checking out one from Olympus and I’ve got the scoop on why this could be a great deal for you.

Olympus PEN E-PL3 camera

Don’t miss the details on how to win your own from Cool Mom Tech after the jump!

Now one thing to know is that the Olympus PEN is no “my first
camera” camera. This is a serious bit of equipment for photography
enthusiasts (or those who want to be), even if it has the approachable
look of a point-and-shoot and some intuitive basic features.

fact one of the benefits of upgrading from a more basic camera is the ability to do
more with your lenses–it comes with a decent zoom lens to get you
started, but you can swap in others.

I really like this 12.3 megapixel camera for is its portable size and manageable
weight–even more so considering the flash is detachable, so you can pop
it off if you know you’ll just be running around outside taking
pictures bright sunlight all day.

Olympus PEN E-PL3 side view
Olympus PEN E-PL3 side view

The Olympus PEN features a tilting 3″-wide LCD screen that lets me hold
the camera over the heads of other parents in the auditorium and
still see what I’m shooting–plus decent image stabilization which I can
definitely use. I love the easy compatibility with the Eye-Fi wireless memory card
for easy photo downloads; and the in-camera filters (think Instagram)
and basic editing functions makes it convenient to play around with the
look of your photos without using more software.


a parent you’ll also appreciate the eye-detect feature, plus a super
fast auto-focus; kids don’t always hold still until the camera–and
you–are ready. I also like the soft portrait function which pretty much
makes everyone look great.

Now I’d say the biggest challenge is that when you commit to Olympus, you commit to Olympus. It comes with its own free editing software and photo management system which definitely requires some (okay, a lot)
of time to learn, but gives you more power and control than say iPhoto
or most free online programs. It will also take you some time to read
the manual and really learn the camera. It’s not like you can just turn
it on and start shooting, except for using its most basic functions. And
as far as performance, I like the quality of my photos, though I
haven’t quite mastered the low-light pics. That may be a factor of me
not being a genius with manual settings, but I did find it a little
frustrating to keep trying different settings only to realize the next
day I had no great shots after a nighttime party.

I will say if
you’re not someone who really enjoys spending time adjusting settings
and swapping lenses this may be a bit too much camera for you. I do find myself
reaching for something simpler when I just need to grab a shot of the
kids or tuck a teeny camera into my pocket. But if you are more photographically gifted than I am (and more
patient), you’ll find the functionality of the PEN E-PL3 is really
sweet. Especially at a price comparable to bulkier, less conveinent
DSLRs. –Liz

The Olympus PEN E-PL3 has a list price of $599, but it’s on sale for $449.99 direct from Olympus USA. I haven’t found it cheaper anywhere else, except for $399 on eBay, but if you shop there do a little investigating into the sellers first. Thanks to Olympus for providing a camera to Cool Mom Tech for review.

EXTRA-EXTRA-COOL: WIN IT!! We’ve got an Olympus PEN E-PL3 for one super lucky Cool Mom Tech subscriber. Just in time for the holidays too! To enter, make sure you subscribe to Cool Mom Tech, then keep on eye on your inbox next week for our December newsletter which will have entry details. New and old subscribers are eligible to win. We’re rooting for you!