The 11.8-megapixel Olympus E-3 replaces the E-1 as Olympus's range-topping 'professional standard' digital SLR.
Handling & Performance: Page 2
The E-3 is button heavy, all designed for quicker operation, and many of the buttons are dedicated to performing just one function. While this may seem daunting when you look at the camera, it’s preferable to multi-function buttons that require several presses and a multitude of dial turning to find the function you need. Among these buttons is the IS (Image Stabilisation), allowing two modes, normal and panning, the latter only operating on the vertical axis to allow you to track moving subjects on the horizontal plane. There are also individual WB and ISO buttons, though you can also access these through the LCD.
Some of the other buttons are multifunctional, including bracketing, AF and drive functions for example, but these are more likely to be used than the IS, WB and ISO buttons. Many of the functions of the buttons, and the way the camera performs, can be customised in the main menu, including the option to change the operating direction of the front and rear command dials. Like the E-1 before it, this allows the camera to be easily customised to the user’s preferences. It also makes it harder to criticise operational faults, as so much can be changed!
Unlike its entry-level brethren, the viewfinder of the E-3 is relatively large, and offers 100% viewing, though the 4:3 aspect ensures that it’s still smaller than its competitors such as the Nikon D300. It’s easy to view with glasses, though, thanks to the fairly high viewpoint, and the green LED readout inside is clear. The 11-point AF is an improvement and pretty quick at picking out the necessary AF points in auto mode, using the standard lenses. Alternatively, individual AF points can be selected, while auto and manual focus may be combined for fine-tuning or particularly tricky subjects. Unfortunately we didn’t get an SWD lens in time for this review.
Four Thirds v APS-C
Overall, the camera is really good to use and highly adaptable. The Four Thirds system is coming of age and proving itself as a worthy adversary against the APS-C brigade. The camera doesn’t live up to all the specifications of some of its peers, but has plenty of good points. However, while it’s being marketed as a pro camera, and has many of the requirements of that market, picture desks may baulk at the relatively low resolution. This is the camera’s main failing, but it is a minor point in the grand scheme of things. It has, after all, plenty of good points and is a joy to use, and there are very few situations where the E-3 would under-perform.