After many months of rumour and speculation, Olympus has finally announced the long-awaited replacement for its aging E-1 professional DSLR. The new E-3 will go on sale at the end of November priced at around £1099 body-only.
Olympus has surprised many people by opting for a 10.1-megapixel sensor, similar to its existing E-510 and E-410 DSLRs, when most of the other professional DSLRs on the market offer higher resolutions. However the camera's other features more than make up for any lack of resolution. It features the same live monitor view technology as the E-501 and E-410, with a twist-and-flip 2.5-inch, 230k pixel HyperCrystal LCD monitor, as well as a separate LCD display panel on the top plate for shooting data. Sensor hygiene is handled by Olympus' successful Supersonic Wave Filter system, which uses high-frequency vibration to shake dust off the sensor, and camera shake should also be a thing of the past with a body-integral moving-sensor image stabilisation system which is claimed to provide 5EV of extra low-speed stability, which is significantly 1EV better than Canon's claimed performance for its lens-based optical IS system.
The E-3's performance claims are impressive. It has what Olympus is describing as the world's fastest autofocus system, with 11 bi-axial (cross-shaped) sensors giving 44 focusing data points, and improved low-light performance due to something called "pixel multiplication technology", whatever that is, which Olympus claims gives the camera a -2EV performance advantage at 100 ISO.
The E-3 is equipped with the TruPic III image processor, giving improved noise suppression, enhanced colour reproduction and faster processing speeds. The camera can shoot at a continuous five frames a second in full resolution, with an image buffer big enough for 19 RAW-mode shots. The available ISO settings range from 100 to 3200, and maximum shutter speed is an impressive 1/8000th of a second. Data transfer is also very fast, with compatibility with UDMA High-Speed CompactFlash (CF) cards.
Since the E-3 is aimed at professionals, build quality and reliability are obviously important factors. The body is made from light but strong magnesium alloy, with splash and dust proof environmental seals. A battery grip and a range of lenses are available which also feature splash and dust proof seals. The shutter mechanism is designed to have an operational life of over 150,000 shots. The E-3 measures 142 x 116 x 74.5mm and weighs 800g body-only.
As well as the £1099 body-only price, the E-3 will be available as a kit with a 14-54mm lens for approximately £1499, or with the new 12-60mm lens for approximately £1699.