Olympus E-3

Following a four year hiatus, Olympus has released its new flagship digital SLR and successor to the E-1, the Olympus E-3.


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The successor to the Olympus E-1 dSLR has been talked about for years. Since the E-1's launch in 2003, the Japanese company has concentrated mainly on entry- to mid-level dSLRs, though it has mentioned a replacement model for the E-1 from time to time. Finally, Olympus has announced the new E-3, a camera that brings together all the best features in its line of dSLRs. Here are some initial thoughts about the new camera.

Those familiar with the E-series from Olympus will know that the cameras are relatively light for its class, starting from a mere 435 grams for the E-500 to 660 grams for the E-1. The E-3 isn't particularly heavy, either, when compared to other dSLRs, but at 810 grams, it is certainly not as light as its predecessors. It will be competing in the same space as the Canon EOS 40D and Nikon D300, which at 740 grams and 825 grams respectively, are very similar to the E-3.

Getting a group photo with the photographer in it is possible with the built-in swivel screen.

Framing shots using the LCD display (live view) is a dSLR feature pioneered by Olympus that's also been incorporated into the E-3. Though not as big as some of the 3-inch camera displays in the market, the 2.5-inch LCD on the E-3 has a useful capability. Like some prosumer cameras, the LCD screen can be flipped out and swiveled to face different directions. These two features, live view and the flexible screen, make it possible to frame shots that would have been difficult to do with other dSLRs. For example, it is now possible to hold the camera above the head and still be able to frame a shot -- useful for capturing a photo through a crowd. Someone using the E-3 can also take a self portrait as the LCD can be swiveled to face the front, though we suspect most photographers will prefer to stay behind the lens.

Aside from the LCD, the viewfinder on the E-3 has also been improved. It now shows 100 percent of what the camera will capture. A magnification factor of 1.15 times further helps to enlarge the viewfinder image.

Notice the SWD mechanism which helps to make autofocusing fast using this 12-60mm lens.

Olympus claims that the E-3 has the fastest autofocus among dSLRs. While we cannot immediately verify this, we certainly did find the focusing extremely speedy compared to cameras we have used. A part of this is dependent on the SWD (Supersonic Wave Drive) feature found on some of its lenses. The innovation is in the motor on the lens, which we managed to catch in action thanks to a special demonstration set with a see-through case.

Like the E-510 just before it, the E-3 has a 10.1-megapixel sensor. That is similar to the Canon 40D's but has fewer pixels than the 12-megapixel Nikon D300.

Other features of the E-3 include an image stabiliser built into the body, 11-point autofocus sensoring and dust reduction using its SSWF (Supersonic Wave Filter) technology. The Olympus camera uses the Four Thirds system and lens mount.

Though targeted at professionals, Olympus faces a huge challenge in convincing long-time photographers to switch over to its cameras. After all, most of them are already used to a particular system (such as Nikon's or Canon's) and has invested heavily in the compatible lenses and accessories.

Notwithstanding, the E-3 has several few innovative features that will appeal to serious photographers. Those already using the Four Thirds system will certainly look forward to the culmination of Olympus' dSLR technologies in the E-3.

The Olympus E-3 is available now, priced at AU$2,499 for the body only, or AU$3,599 with the 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 SWD Standard Wide Zoom kit lens. Check back soon for our full review.

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Apa
9
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Apa posted a review   

The Good:dust reduction, image quality, colours, fits big hands, setup of buttons, manual capability, easy of use in P mode, auto-focus, zuiko lens quality, build quality

The Bad:night pictures, not as many service points as the big two, lens for e-3 available only form zuiko (others fit but with side effects.)

This is the most demanding camera I had, and I like it more than my nikon d200 which I used for a company for which I used to work. It handles very well in desert conditions due to it's dust reduction and sealing, but a use of brush is still needed. I could take pictures in the middle of dust storm and the inside of the camera and SWD lens was still clean as new. Water-proofing works as advertised. The camera took some beating, and survived intact. Sadly, the lens didn't (not surprisingly, it was awful.)

The camera is recommended by me for bad conditions, nature, or simply anything not out of ordinary. It will not handle as well in sport photography or night (the only drawback is the iso/noise tolerance, because when properly stabilized it can generate beautiful night pictures while the lower iso is used.)

spaddler
10
Rating
 

spaddler posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Build quality, sensor quality, superb lenses (in pro and super-pro grades), remote flash capability, live-view for those tricky situations. Price.

The Bad:Looks generic. Doesn't have the individualism of the E-1. I prefer the door closure mechanisms on the E-1. Still no PC synch socket built into FL series flashes.

I like the Olympus design philosophy. A company not afraid to go it alone with new ideas (that are often adopted later by the pack).

jimroy
9
Rating
 

jimroy posted a review   

The Good:If you don't own legacy SLR lenses, Olympus offers a designed for digital suite of lenses and four thirds sensor which are lighter overall than a similar Canon or Nikon camera/lens combo. As well in-body stabilization means you don't have to keep buying expensive in lens stabilization with each lens. The camera is weatherproof - no fear of heavy rain or the beach.

The Bad:If you are taking a lot of your photos in very low light and want the best quality the E-3 is not your first choice. Likewise if you want point and shoot convenience rather than being able to configure almost eveything on the camera this is too much camera for you. If however you want a virtually no compromise camera for the prosumer that is excellent value for the money - take a serious look at the E-3.

I've had a E-3 since November 16, 2007 and am very happy with it. The E-3 offers comparable to superior performance in respect to image quality, stabilization, dust busting, live view, etc. along with a robust body.




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User Reviews / Comments  Olympus E-3

  • Apa

    Apa

    Rating9

    "This is the most demanding camera I had, and I like it more than my nikon d200 which I used for a company for which I used to work. It handles very well in desert conditions due to it's dust reduct..."

  • spaddler

    spaddler

    Rating10

    "I like the Olympus design philosophy. A company not afraid to go it alone with new ideas (that are often adopted later by the pack)."

  • jimroy

    jimroy

    Rating9

    "I've had a E-3 since November 16, 2007 and am very happy with it. The E-3 offers comparable to superior performance in respect to image quality, stabilization, dust busting, live view, etc. along w..."

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