Olympus E-30

Though it has been surpassed by its competitors in video and image capturing capabilities, the E-30 presents a fun alternative to a run-of-the-mill dSLR.


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Targeted towards enthusiasts, high-level amateurs and photo hobbyists, the E-30 finally fills the hole in the Olympus dSLR line-up between the entry-level E-420 and E-520 cameras, and the high-end, professional E-3. For the body only, expect to pay a price of AU$1,799. Throw in the new 14-54mm kit lens and the price will put a dent in your pocket to the sound of AU$2,219.

Design
If you've held any of the previous iterations of Olympus cameras, you'll feel right at home with the E-30. Button configuration, textures and layout all remain similar to the E-520. Its stature is just a little smaller than the E-3 as the prism hump is slightly reduced, and the body itself is lighter at 655 grams.

Compared to its competitors, it is smaller than both Canon's 50D and Nikon's D90 by a fraction; this is also helped by the E-30's four thirds system which is standard on the company's dSLRs.

The E-30 takes the best bits from the E-520 and the E-3, and looks like a serious prosumer digital camera. (Credit: Olympus)

One of the most striking features of the E-30 is the free-angle LCD screen which can be rotated to sit against the back of the camera, facing outwards. We like it a lot more than similar versions that have popped up on other dSLRs like Sony's alpha series.

Flanking the screen on the right-hand side are the standard playback buttons and navigation keypad, and underneath sit a host of additional buttons including live view.

Features
Housing a new 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor and a free-angle, rotating 2.7-inch LCD screen, the E-30 has clearly taken cues from many of the trends currently affecting the dSLR and compact camera market.

Of most interest to us, though, is this new feature called Art Filter. Essentially, it's a set of six preset modes which you can access through the Art/Scn option on the mode dial, and includes such options as film grain, pop art, and pinhole. It applies a range of effects to your image in-camera, rather than during post-processing, and although it might seem a bit gimmicky at first, in practice it's actually a whole lot of fun. Scroll down for some pictures of these modes in action.

The other intriguing functionality is how the E-30 supports multiple exposures. Rather than fiddling around with separate images in post-processing, the camera will automatically merge up to four frames together, in-camera.

The viewfinder covers 98 per cent of the field of view, plus the E-30 also has the ability to shoot in nine different aspect ratios, 16:9, 3:2, 5:4, 7:6, 6:5, 7.5, 3:4, 4:3 and 6:6. Olympus claims a continuous shooting rate of 5 frames per second, and a battery life of 750 shots. We bemoan the continued support for the xD format; fortunately, there is also a slot for the more standard Compact Flash.

Provided with the camera is a brand new lens from Olympus, the 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5II Standard Wide Zoom, which is splash and dustproof (note that the body of the E-30 is not).

Performance and image quality
Overall, we have to say we were impressed with how the E-30 handled most situations we threw at it. While we wouldn't want to be using the E-30 for intense low-light photography at anything over ISO 1,600, in general, the camera performed respectably in our noise test. Start-up time took around 1.5 seconds, and it was ready to shoot almost immediately afterwards.

The E-30 performed pretty well in our ISO test, but note the general yuckiness at ISO 3,200. Click image to enlarge. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

For the company who pioneered the live view system, the E-30's incarnation of the technology is a little disappointing. In bright situations it coped well, refreshing at a reasonable rate, but flick the mode dial into Art Filter and experience substantial delays using live view. We put the reason down to the E-30 previewing the effect on screen. We also had a significant complaint with the autofocus system, which was incredibly loud and slow when live view was active. It took at least 2 seconds to obtain focus, coupled with a weird whirring noise. Switching back to the viewfinder seemed to solve the problem, thankfully.

Our favourite feature on the E-30 was by far and away the art filters. There were only six options: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, and Pinhole, though Olympus hinted that extra settings may appear in future models. Naturally, processing time for these images was a little longer than standard shots but the waiting was worth it as we were able to achieve some stunning effects with minimal effort.

Oh so retro ... the film grain Art Filter in action produces a lovely, washed out effect complete with small artefacts characteristic of high speed black and white film.
(Credit: Alexandra Savvides/CBS Interactive)

As for the kit lens, the 14-54mm coped admirably; it displayed only moderate barrel distortion at its widest, and little to no vignetting. Across all focal lengths its pictures were very sharp too, and we loved how the apertures were relatively wide for a telephoto.

Inside the E-30, its menu system still seems to be caught in the Olympus menus of old — think Windows 3.1 and you're halfway there. We'd love to see the graphical interfaces of future Olympus dSLRs updated to be more in line with its competitors. Functionality was not a problem; we just couldn't stand the grainy, pixel-filled view.

Unfortunately, there was no sign of video mode on the E-30. Olympus has said it's still some time off, and considering that HD video is nowhere to be seen on its compact range, we're not holding our breath.

We must also mention the charger that Olympus provided with the camera. Its cord was ridiculously short, meaning that the battery was left dangling off the power point. It also took an incredibly long time to reach full charge.

Conclusion
For those who have already invested in the four thirds system, the E-30 is a great upgrade. It's versatile and robust for advanced photographers, yet still simple enough for a keen beginner to pick up and play with. If you don't need water and dustproofing, and can stomach the hefty price tag, we would recommend this camera over the larger, professional grade E-3.

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Chris
8
Rating
 

Chris posted a review   

The Good:Takes great photos, easy to use, quick access buttons and wheels work well

The Bad:ISO settings and quality nowhere near the Canon

I upgraded from an E-420 to this one. I was considering the E-620, but am really glad I went for this one. If you are mostly going to be shooting using the automatic settings, don't bother, get an E-620 instead, but the moment you switch to manual this comes into it's own with the controls making it so easy to update settings quickly and on the fly, the FourThirds lenses are really good, I replaced the 14-48 from my E-420 with the 14-52 above and it's a beautiful lens, and they are so much more compact than equivalent lenses on a Canon or Nikon would be.

It takes photos beautifully, can take as many shots on continuous mode as you'd ever want to take, and is just a joy to use.

The only thing that makes me occasionally wish I'd gone for a Canon instead is the low light shooting. You can't really take nice photos in anything higher than ISO 800, and it tops out at 3200. ISO 3200 looks worse than the sample on the Canon D60 review that was taken at ISO 12,600. But other than this one annoyance it's a beautiful camera and I absolutely love it!

 

shuk84 posted a comment   

The Good:Great camera, tough build and all the settings you need

The Bad:nil

reat camera, well, tough build, not big, so easy to transport. Image stabilization and Olympus lenses plus a better sensor makes it a winner.

castle
10
Rating
 

castle posted a review   

The Good:Great camera, tough build and all the settings you need. Good quality in every aspect, including image quality, which is prime, design based on functionality.

The Bad:Well, none. Probably some will say it's expensive, but that's the price for it's quality. If you want cheaper, grab and e420 or e520 cause ZD lenses are worth it.

Great camera, well, tough build, not big, so easy to transport. Image stabilization and Olympus lenses plus a better sensor makes it a winner.
The editor's review is at least funny about the bad aspects. Let me tell you what is all about. Live view might be laggy or some settings were bad, anyway, who will use live view on that camera ? The menu and graphics are not antiquated, but simple so it doesn't have to drawn your battery just to do some settings. Cooler graphics take more power and the Olympus are set on mobility, so what you prefer. a cool looking menu that drains 50% more power or one that does it's job and consumes less ? And, about loud auto focus, well I guess the kit lenses are not top quality, so what can you expect.. put some top lenses on it and it will fly. Other than that, what professional uses live view anyway ?




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User Reviews / Comments  Olympus E-30

  • Chris

    Chris

    Rating8

    "I upgraded from an E-420 to this one. I was considering the E-620, but am really glad I went for this one. If you are mostly going to be shooting using the automatic settings, don't bother, get a..."

  • shuk84

    shuk84

    "reat camera, well, tough build, not big, so easy to transport. Image stabilization and Olympus lenses plus a better sensor makes it a winner."

  • castle

    castle

    Rating10

    "Great camera, well, tough build, not big, so easy to transport. Image stabilization and Olympus lenses plus a better sensor makes it a winner.
    The editor's review is at least funny about the ..."

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