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Olympus E-3 Digital SLR Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £900.00

It’s taken Olympus over 4 years to update its professional model the E-1 and release the E-3, which is a long time in digital camera terms. Although Olympus and Panasonic were the pioneers of Live View systems, the feature is now almost a standard fixture, even on pro models, so there’s no surprise to see the same system here. What is quite surprising is Olympus’ decision to only go with 10MP on the E-3, especially considering other manufacturers recent reliance on higher pixel counts at this price point (and below). However Nikon kept the D3 at just 13MP, and considering the smaller sensor size of the E-3, perhaps Olympus are just being wise. More pixels, at smaller sizes are a sure fire way of potentially adding image noise after all.

Olympus has also camera-based image-stabilisation from its consumer range to the E-3, another feature we’ve seen on recent models from other manufacturers, but which Olympus was a pioneer of, if not the inventor.

Lets take a quick at that sensor again though. the E-3’s sensor offers 10.1 million effective pixels from a total of 11.8MP, and being an NMOS (or LiveMOS) sensor, can feed a live image of the scene to the LCD. This sensor also features in Panasonics L-10, and the two companies have worked closely together to improve the Four Thirds system. Powering the data conversion, the E-3 has the latest Olympus TruePic III processor, claiming it offers better noise suppression, truer colour and fast processing. The camera offers 5fps over 19 Raw files, which isn’t the fastest on the market, even at this price point – but I doubt Olympus is pitching this camera at sports and news photographers.

The sensor has SuperSonic Wave sensor cleaning, firing a supersonic blast at the sensor to dislodge dust. This was first seen on the E-1 and again, similar systems have been incorporated into other manufacturers’ cameras since then. The other major aspect of the sensor, mentioned earlier, is the inclusion of on-camera image stabilisation, and Olympus claims this offers up to five stops slower shutter speeds using SWD (Supersonic Wave Drive) lenses and still avoiding camera shake.

Metering is performed via a 49-zone digital ESP meter, and has Olympus’s unique highlight and shadow spot metering – previously seen on the entry-level cameras, and originating in the 1980s on the OM series. Closely tied to the metering is the camera’s White Balance, and Olympus has added a dedicated WB sensor, which combines data from the main sensor to produce a more accurate white balance. There’s also a full complement of WB features, including bracketing and tone sliders.

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