How does the latest four thirds addition fit into the enthusiast DSLR market?
It?s interesting to consider how camera manufacturers try to differentiate their various offerings these days. The fact of the matter is that having a strong line-up of four or five DSLRs that sell in decent numbers is far more likely to increase profits than having just the one camera that sells excellently. Because of this manufacturers will identify a specific section of the market ? beginner, entry-level, enthusiast, professional ? and then launch models targeted at each, in the hope that customers will adopt a model at all price points.
To target more than one market at a time manufacturers will also release ostensibly similar models. For example, Canon?s recent 50D was not, insisted the manufacturer, a replacement for the 40D, even though it was essentially the same camera bar a few more megapixels and a slight LCD improvement.
On the face of things, it appears to be a similar case with the Olympus E-30. The new model features the same Four Thirds 17.3 x 13mm Live MOS sensor as is present in the E-3, though Olympus has seen fit to cram an extra couple of megapixels on it, taking the effective pixel count from 10.1MP to 12.3MP. With its extra pixels the new sensor can deliver a maximum image resolution of 4032 x 3024 pixels. The ISO range also remains the same, stretching from a low of ISO 100 up to ISO 3200 at the top end. As is the case with both the Olympus E-520 and E-3, the E-30 adopts both image stabilisation and dust-reduction technologies within the body of the camera, as opposed to the dust-only approach favoured by Canon and Nikon.
The similarities between the E-30 and the E-3 extend to the camera?s metering and focusing systems. Both models possess the same 11-point fully-biaxial focal point configuration, arranged in a three by three grid with points at the far left and right of the central horizontal line for extra focal flexibility. Both cameras also feature a 49-zone multi-pattern metering system, and are capable of a continuous shooting rate of 5fps.
One of the real standout features of the E-3 is its articulating LCD screen. The ability to remove the LCD screen out 180° from the back of the camera and then pivot it through about 270° on a horizontal axis, and then combine with Live View, was deemed a blessing to those who either like to shoot at unusual angles or those who use tripods below the conventional height. Those admirers will be pleased to know that the E-30 also features said LCD technology, with the added bonus being that Olympus has managed to stick an extra 0.2in on to the resolution of the E-3?s LCD, bringing that of the E-30 to 2.7in and 230k dot.
The main difference between the E-3 and E-30 are that the latter features a big round mode dial on the top with the PASM modes featured in the E-3, but with the addition of an Auto mode, five commonly used scene modes and an extra ?Art? setting that gives you access to six ?Art Filter? effects. These effects range from a ?pop art? style colour-pop effect, a misty ?soft focus? filter type setting or a vignette-style ?pin hole? filter. Essentially they take care of image post-processing in-camera, eliminating what Olympus labels ?complex image processing techniques?. Similar post-processing effects are normally found on compact cameras, so to be pushing them as the main selling point of a £1,000 DSLR seems a bit misguided.