By Patrick Avenell (Follow me on Twitter)

SYDNEY, NSW: Olympus has launched its 2011 range of compact system cameras (CSC), with three ranges to be released by the end of September 2011. The flagship camera in these Micro Four-Thirds ranges is the E-P3, which will be released in the third week of July.

The other two ranges due to be released are the Lite (E-PL3) and Mini (E-PM1) ranges, which will available at retail in the third week of August and September respectively.

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Although Olympus were tight-lipped on pricing at the launch press conference, did learn that the E-P3 will be RRP $999 (single lens kit) and RRP $1,199 (double lens kit). This camera is available in black and silver.

The two lenses available at launch are also new. There’s the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm F2.0 and the 45mm f1.8. Individual RRPs for these two lenses has not been disclosed.

Major features of the E-P3 include what Olympus called the world’s fastest autofocus among interchangeable lens type digital cameras (as at 30 June 2011). Although we were not able to test this claim against other models at the launch, we can report that the preview model we briefly trialled did have a lightning fast autofocus.

Other features include improved image quality from the 12.3-megapixel High Speed Live MOS sensor, HD AVCHD video capture (at 1080i), a new TruePic VI image engine and an OLED screen with touch control.

Click here to read about Olympus' aggressive new marketing campaign.

Also included on the E-P3 are art filters, including Grainy, Dramatic and Pop Art. In our brief exploration of these filters, we were impressed with both the results and the OLED screen.

These core features of the E-P3 are also available on the Lite and Mini ranges, which differentiate themselves by being smaller and having LCD screens instead of OLED screens. The Lite will be available in black, red, silver and white. The Mini will be available in black, brown, pink, white, silver and purple.

The new Olympus PEN E-P3 with the 45mm f1.8 lens. This will be RRP $999 when released in July 2011.

The Olympus Lite (E-PL3), due in the third week of August 2011.