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The menu system itself is exceptionally detailed and will be a little overwhelming for beginners, and a thorough read of the manual is strongly recommended, however this is another one of those annoying cameras that has its main manual on CD-ROM only. Come on Olympus, if you’re expecting us to shell out nearly £800 for a camera, at least have the courtesy to include a printed manual.
Performance-wise, the E-330 is a bit of a mixture. Its start-up time is about two seconds, rather slower than the effectively instant start up times of most DSLRs. It can shoot 10 shots in around six seconds in SQ quality mode and continuous shooting, somewhat slower than the 3fps claimed in Olympus’ press materials.
It produces some fairly hefty file sizes. RAW mode files are over 12MB each, and SHQ JPEGs are nearly 5MB. Shooting in the preferred SHQ+RAW mode a 1GB CompactFlash card will only hold 52 shots. The E-330 also has a slot for xD-Picture cards, so packing in a lot of storage isn’t a problem.
The Digital ESP metering system is superb, but I did have a few problems with the AF system refusing to lock on to nearby subjects, especially at close range, or failing to lock on to moving objects.
Fortunately the superb quality of the images makes up for a few minor problems. The E-330 uses a new “Live MOS” sensor which at 7.2MP is actually smaller than the sensor in the E-300, however the image quality is much improved. Having used both the Canon 30D and the E-330 in the past week, I have to say that although I preferred the handling and performance of the Canon, I prefer the pictures from the Olympus. Although they are slightly smaller in actual pixel size, they are around twice the size in terms of megabytes at the highest quality JPEG setting. I found the colour rendition to be both smoother and more subtle, with better overall saturation. With the relatively low compression there is plenty of fine detail in the default JPEG files, and even more if you shoot in RAW and convert in Photoshop.
The supplied 14-45mm lens is also optically superb, although I hated the fly-by-wire manual focusing control. Olympus optics have a good reputation, and there is a decent range of E-Series lenses available.
This is a camera that you could use professionally and be assured of good results. Although it may look a little strange, it performs as well as any of its direct mid-range competitors. It has a full range of professional options, including excellent colour options. The live monitor view is a very welcome bonus on an excellent camera.