Olympus E-3 Review
We've been eagerly awaiting the release of the Olympus E-3 ever since the E-1 came out. You can choose to buy it with the body only, or a kit which comes with the f/2.8-3.5 14mm-45mm lenses. For this review though, we chose to use the more pricey f/2.8-4.0 12mm-60mm lens.
The Olympus E-3 has a solid body that's very durable. It's weather, slash, and dust proof. It's not that heavy, but not that light. When we held it in our hands, it felt comfortable, thanks to the deep rubber grip.
The controls and layout is okay, at first glance. You have the usual front/back dials, the LCD screen, and dedicated buttons for the most common functions. However, all is not perfect. Some of the controls felt a bit outdated. You can get around this by using the Super Control Panel, which enables you to tweak the settings from a single screen.
But there are some redundant design aspects worth mentioning. The CF doors has a lock, and so does the battery door. We're all for security (we've used cameras where batteries fell out commonly), but this may be a tad redundant and overkill. It can really ruin your shooting groove. We much rather prefer what the Sony A700 does to address these issues. With the A700, you can lock out all of the controls. But to remove this lockout, just press the shutter release. Whenever there's a long period of inactivity, it re-locks the controls.
We're not the only ones that have an issue on the awkward design/interface of the Olympus E3. Reading experts reviews online, this is a common complaint of the E3. Some of the buttons are simply laid out in awkward locations. For instance, the exposure lock button is smaller than usual, and hard to find.
But anyway, enough with the negative, on with the positives, and the E-3 is chock filled with them.
The viewfinder is one of the strengths in the Olympus E-3. It's large, features a 1.1 times magnification, and even better: 100% coverage. It has a comfortable eyecup, and makes your shooting experience so much better. The only minor gripe we have is that when you use an ISO level of 2000 or more, the display will keep blinking.
The Olympus E-3 also features a live view mode. Like most cameras with live view, it needs a mirror flip up in order to prefocus, which leads to slower speed. You can twist the LCD in various directions, which is always convenient. In addition, you can also use the LCD to preview image stabilization effects. We wish the LCD screen was a bit bigger, since most cameras have 3 inch LCD screens, but it's not a major deal.
The 10-megapixel MOS sensor that the E-3 uses may seem underwhelming to most consumers, but we think it should be sufficient for most practical purposes. Most people won't need prints a lot bigger than 11 X 15. But we do agree a few more megapixels would allow for much larger print sizes.
Image stabilization is built-in, which is always a plus. This of course means every lens that you use will be stabilized. You don't even notice it at times, since it's super quiet.
The shutter sound makes some noise though, and could potentially be a disturbance wherever you go. We wish more camera makers would pay attention to shutter sound. It's such a big deal because it interrupts performances, weddings, concerts, you name it. The top-end cameras from Nikon and Camera are certainly quieter than the E-3.
Performance for the E-3 is great. Let's look at the performance numbers. From start up to first shoot is 1.3 seconds, which is a tad slow. But focus to shoot is just .3 seconds with no flash, and .6 seconds with the flash. Shot to shot is .5 seconds, and .6 seconds with the built-in flash. Continuous shooting speed is also speedy, at 4.9 frames per second, though not the top of the class.
We didn't test the Olympus E3 on fast action, but we hear it performs OK with sports. If you do plan on shooting fast action shots, we recommend pairing this camera with the auto focus module, and the SWD lenses. Overall, the Olympus E3 is among the fastest cameras in its class, and performance is one of the strengths here.
The image quality is also pretty good, with excellent color accuracy, and automatic white balance. The E-3 tends to underexpose, but just a little. The max ISO is 3200, which should be suffice for most users, but we do wish it was a little higher. Using an ISO of 1600, prints of our shots at 11 X 15 showed only tiny amounts of noise. Overall, the E3 offers better noise handling than most cameras in higher ISO sensitivities.
We used the f/2.8-4.0 12mm-60mm lens when reviewing this camera, but think Olympus lenses are high quality, even the low-end ones. Generally speaking, Olympus lenses have fewer quality control problems than Canon, Nikon or other brands.
- 10.1 megapixels
- ISO 100 to 3200
- 2.5 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels
- 100% coverage viewfinder
- Magnesium alloy body
- Pop-up flash
- Hot shoe
- Great image quality
- Quick performance, fast auto focus
- Solid Body that is weather proof
- LCD is flexible/twistable
- Internal stabilization
- Viewfinder offers 100% coverage
- Low resolution
- LCD screen is small
- Clumsy, awkward interface and design
Even though the Olympus E3 may have some interface quirks (small, hard to feel buttons, awkward locations, etc), its performance and image quality is above average for its class. It's versatility is its main selling point. It's great for shooting landscapes, sports, you name it. It's also a tough, durable camera that should withstand the harshest of weather conditions.
If you do plan on buying the Olympus E3, remember that Olympus has just 13 pro-quality lenses. Make sure that is a factor in your buying decision. It's important to also ask yourself whether features such as live view, and built-in image stabilization are must haves.
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
Where to Buy It:
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Prices last updated on: Wed, 22 Jan 2020 13:18:27 PST