Olympus E-3 SLR Review

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Olympus E-3 dSLR

Posted 12/27/2007

Click on the E-3 to take a QuickTime VR tour

The E-3, the flagship of Olympus' Digital SLR line, combines speed and durability in a splash-proof magnesium alloy body. Early to embrace Live View and Dust Reduction features in a dSRL, Olympus now appears to offer the fastest autofocus in the world. Body-Integrated image stabilization , a 10-megapixel Live MOS image sensor, Supersonic Wave Drive and one of the largest and most accurate viewfinders prove Olympus is not sitting on their laurels but is still an innovator in photographic technology.

Are you ready for the "World's Fastest Autofocus" dSLR? Used in combination with the Zuiko Digital SWD ED 12-60mm f2.8-4 lens, the E-3's new AF system is the world's fastest. The newest SWD (Supersonic Wave Drive) lenses focus twice as fast as previous Zuiko Digital lenses with the same focal length. Happily, every lens receives some benefit from the new AF, not just SWD lenses. Olympus credits a unique Twin cross type, 11 point AF sensor based on their micro-sensing technologies as a key to the E-3's rapid focusing.

An amazing 1/8000-second, high-speed, precision shutter is available for you to shoot that gazelle while on safari or your child at the soccer match. The E-3 can also capture images at the highest quality setting at a rate of 5 frames per sec. The camera's durable shutter mechanism is rated up to 150,000 cycles to withstand heavy use. The 10-megapixel Live MOS Image Sensor delivers high-resolution images for largeer print sizes, and TruePic III digital processing engine ensures high-speed image processing, accurate color and improved detail - with lower image noise.

Live View composition is available using the 2.5-inch, free-angle LCD that renders an accurate representation of your scene. Additionally, the E-3's wide-angle display, with 360-degree articulation, makes composition and image viewing possible from almost any angle. While altering settings like white balance and exposure, you can precisely view corrections before the image is captured. Live View can make life much easier when shooting macro shots for example when you can't get close to the eyepiece. Of course, you'll appreciate the 100% accurate, high eye point, optical viewfinder too.

Housed in a rugged magnesium-alloy body with splash and dust protection, the E-3 is the perfect choice for photographers shooting in difficult situations. The E-3 is built with a new casting technology to create a stronger magnesium chassis for greater durability. The E-3's dust reduction system eliminates dust particles on the sensor by silently vibrating a dizzying 30,000 times per second. Data collected from a dedicated temperature sensor is used to compensate for changes in operating temperature.

The E-3 provides Mechanical Image Stabilization, which compensates for camera movement up to 5 steps EV. The built-in SWD image stabilization is available for every lens attached to the camera body, so there is no need to purchase image stabilized lenses. And the Zuiko Digital lenses are designed specifically for the demands of digital photography.

E-3 Digital SLR Features

  • High-performance 10.1-megapixel Live MOS Sensor
  • The World's Fastest Auto Focus
  • Continuous shooting of up to five frames per second
  • 1/8000-second high-speed, high-precision shutter
  • Exclusive Supersonic Wave Drive Image Stabilization System
  • Olympus TruePic III digital image processing system
  • Four-Thirds lens mount with Digital Specific Lenses
  • Live View shooting
  • 2.5-inch swivel Live View LCD
  • Supersonic Wave Filter Dust Reduction System
  • 100% accurate optical viewfinder
  • Rugged magnesium-alloy construction
  • Shutter mechanism tested to 150,000 cycles
  • Supports CompactFlash Type I/II, Microdrive, xD-Picture Card (Dual-Slot)
  • DCF, DPOF compatible/Exif, PRINT Image Matching III
  • Changeable Focusing screen
  • 11 point full-twin cross AF sensor
  • ISO 100 - 3200
  • 7 Picture modes
  • USB 2.0 High Speed for storage and camera control (MTP mode is available), video out
  • Lithium-ion rechargeable battery (BLM-1) and charger

The Olympus E-3 Professional Digital SLR's MSRP is $1,699.

In the box you'll find the E-3 body, Li-ion battery BLM-1, Li-ion battery charger BCM-2, USB cable, Video cable, Shoulder strap, OLYMPUS Master CD-ROM, Instruction manual, Warranty card.

Physical Views

Olympus E-3 dSLR

Olympus E-3 dSLR

Olympus E-3 dSLROlympus E-3 dSLR

Olympus E-3 dSLR

Olympus E-3 dSLR

Olympus E-3 and a Panasonic L10 for size comparison

Olympus E-3 dSLR

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Olympus E-3 Specifications

Product typeSingle-lens reflex Live View digital camera with interchangeable lens system
MemoryCompactFlash Type I/II, Microdrive, xD-Picture Card (Dual-Slot)
Lens mountFour Thirds Mount
Image Pickup Unit
Product type High-speed Live MOS Sensor
Effective pixels 10.1 million pixels
Total pixels Approx. 11.8 million pixels
Aspect ratio 1.33 (4:3)
Image sensor size 17.3 mm (H) x 13.0 mm (V) / 0.68 in. (H) x .512 in. (V)
Filter array Primary color filter (RGB)
LPF Fixed type
IR cut filter Hybrid type
Dust reduction Supersonic Wave Filter (dust reduction system for image sensor)
Recording formatDCF, DPOF compatible/Exif, PRINT Image Matching III
File formatRAW (12-bit), JPEG, RAW+JPEG
Recording image size[RAW] 3648 x 2736 pixels
[JPEG] 3648 x 2736 pixels - 640 x 480 pixels
File size RAW: 3648 x 2736 compressed Approx. 11MB

Large: 3648 x 2736 Super fine (1/2.7 compressed) Approx. 6.8MB
3648 x 2736 Fine (1/4 compressed) Approx. 4.7MB
3648 x 2736 Normal (1/8 compressed) Approx. 2.2MB
3648 x 2736 Basic (1/12 compressed) Approx. 1.5MB

Middle: 3200 x 2400 Super fine (1/2.7 compressed) Approx. 5.3MB
3200 x 2400 Fine (1/4 compressed) Approx. 3.7MB
3200 x 2400 Normal (1/8 compressed) Approx. 1.7MB
3200 x 2400 Basic (1/12 compressed) Approx. 1.1MB
2560 x 1920 Super fine (1/2.7 compressed) Approx. 3.6MB
2560 x 1920 Fine (1/4 compressed) Approx. 2.2MB
2560 x 1920 Normal (1/8 compressed) Approx. 1.1MB
2560 x 1920 Basic (1/12 compressed) Approx. 0.7MB

Small: 1600 x 1200 Super fine (1/2.7 compressed) Approx. 1.3MB
1600 x 1200 Fine (1/4 compressed) Approx. 0.8MB
1600 x 1200 Normal (1/8 compressed) Approx. 0.5MB
1600 x 1200 Basic (1/12 compressed) Approx. 0.3MB
1280 x 960 Super fine (1/2.7 compressed) Approx. 0.8MB
1280 x 960 Fine (1/4 compressed) Approx. 0.5MB
1280 x 960 Normal (1/8 compressed) Approx. 0.3MB
1280 x 960 Basic (1/12 compressed) Approx. 0.2MB
1024 x 768 Super fine (1/2.7 compressed) Approx. 0.5MB
1024 x 768 Fine (1/4 compressed) Approx. 0.4MB
1024 x 768 Normal (1/8 compressed) Approx. 0.2MB
1024 x 768 Basic (1/12 compressed) Approx. 0.1MB
640 x 480 Super fine (1/2.7 compressed) Approx. 0.2MB
640 x 480 Fine (1/4 compressed) Approx. 0.2MB
640 x 480 Normal (1/8 compressed) Approx. 0.1MB
640 x 480 Basic (1/12 compressed) Approx. 0.1MB
Product typeEye-level single-lens reflex viewfinder
Field of viewApprox. 100%
Viewfinder magnificationApprox.1.15x (-1m-1, 50mm lens, infinity)
Eye pointApprox. 20 mm (-1m-1)
Diopter adjustment range-3.0 - +1m-1
Focusing screenChangeable at a service center (Neo Lumi-Micro Mat screen supplied, possible to change to grid mat type)
Eyepiece shutterBuilt-in type
EyecupInterchangeable type EP-5/6/7, EP-7 is supplied (Magnifier Eyecup ME-1 is available)
Viewfinder informationAperture value, Shutter speed, Record mode, AF confirmation mark, Flash, WB, AE lock, Number of storable still images, Exposure compensation value, Metering mode, Battery warning, Exposure mode, AF frame (super impose), IS, Bracket, ISO value
Live View
Live ViewLive MOS Sensor for still picture shooting is used, 100% field of view, Exposure adjustment pre-view, White balance adjustment pre-view, Gradation auto pre-view, Grid line displayable, 5x/7x/10x magnification possible, MF/S-AF, AF frame display, AF point display, Shooting information, Histogram.
AFPhase-difference detection system with mirror down.
Preview Function (depth of field)Dedicated optical depth of field Preview button;
function can also be assigned to Fn button
Live Preview (Live View)Can be checked when Fn button is set to Live Preview mode
Image stabilizer
System Built in (Imager shift image stabilizer)
Mode 2 modes (2 dimensional activation, 1 dimensional activation)
Effective compensation rangeMax. 5 EV steps (depends on lens and shooting conditions)
Product type HyperCrystal LCD (semi-transmissive TFT color LCD)
Size 2.5 inches
Total pixels Approx. 230,000 pixels
Playback field of view 100%
Brightness control Auto/Manual 15 levels
AF system TTL phase-difference detection system
Focus mode Single AF (S-AF) / Continuous AF (C-AF) / Manual Focus (MF) / S-AF + MF / C-AF + MF
Focusing point 11 points full-twin cross AF sensor
Focusing point selection Single point, Group area, All points are selectable.
AF luminance rangeEV -2 to 19 (at 20°, ISO 100)
AF illuminatorBuilt-in flash (external flash available)
AF lock Locked at first position of Shutter button in Single AF mode / AEL button (customizable)
Focus tracking Interlocked with Continuous AF mode
Focus aid Available
Exposure Control
Metering system TTL open-aperture metering system
(1) Digital ESP metering (49-point multi pattern metering) (2) Center weighted average metering
(3) Spot metering (approx. 2% for the viewfinder screen. Highlight / shadow bases are available)
Metering rangeEV 1 - 20 (Digital ESP metering, Center weighted average metering, Spot metering)
(At normal temperature, 50mm f2, ISO 100)
Exposure mode (1) P: Program AE (Program shift can be performed) (2) A: Aperture priority AE (3) S: Shutter priority AE (4) M: Manual
Underwater program AE Available to set to Fn button
ISO sensitivity AUTO (ISO 100 - 3200) / Manual (ISO 100 - 3200), 1/3 or 1 EV steps
Exposure compensation +/- 5 EV in 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps selectable
AE lock AEL button (customizable)
Exposure bracketing 3 or 5 frames in 0.3, 0.7, 1EV steps selectable
ISO bracketing 3 frames in 0.3, 0.7, 1EV steps selectable
White Balance
Auto WB system Hybrid detection system with High speed Live MOS sensor and dedicated external sensor.
Preset white balance 7 settings (3000K - 7500K) Lamp (3000K), Fluorescent 1 (4000K), Fluorescent 2 (4500K), Fluorescent 3 (6600K), Daylight (5300K), Flash (5500K), Cloudy (6000K), Shade (7500K)
White balance compensation +/- 7 steps in each R-B/G-M axis (in Auto WB / Preset WB mode / One touch WB)
Custom white balance 1 setting can be registered at Kelvin temperature (2000K - 14000K)
One-touch white balance 4 custom settings can be registered
White balance bracketing 3 frames in 2, 4, 6 steps selectable in each R-G/G-M axis.
Color Mode
Color matrix sRGB, Adobe RGB
Picture Mode
Mode Vivid, Natural, Portrait, Muted, Monotone, Custom (default setting: Natural)
In custom mode, basic 5 modes and adjustment is available.
Adjustment parameter Contrast, Sharpness and Saturation level available in 5 steps for Vivid, Natural, Portrait and Muted
Contrast and Sharpness level available in 5 steps for Monotone.
In custom mode, gradation level available in 4 steps.
Filter effect Yellow, Orange, Red or Green filter available for Monotone
Picture tone Sepia, Blue, Purple or Green tone available for Monotone
Gradation 4 levels (auto, high key, normal, low key)
Product typeComputerized focal-plane shutter
Shutter speed P(Ps), S, A, M mode: 60 - 1/8000 sec.
Bulb: 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV steps selectable.
Self-timer Operation time: 12 sec., 2 sec. (cancel available)
Remote cable release Available (with optional RM-CB1 Remote cable.)
Optical remote control Operation time: 2 sec., 0 sec., bulb control available (with optional RM-1 remote control)
Anti shock mode Available (1 to 30 sec selectable)
Drive mode Single-frame shooting, Sequential shooting H, Sequential shooting L, Self-timer, Remote control
Sequential shooting speed Approx. 5 frames/sec. in sequential shooting H, 1 to 4 fps selectable in sequential shooting L.
Max. recordable pictures on sequential shooting RAW mode: Max. 16 frames.
JPEG mode: Depends on compression ratio and no. of pixels (Large normal mode: up to card capacity with SanDisk Extreme III or faster CF Cards)
Integrated Flash
Built-in flash Retractable flash, GN=13 (ISO 100.m)
Compatible external flash FL-50R, FL-36R, FL-50, FL-36, FL-20, STF-22, SR-11
Flash control mode TTL Auto (TTL pre-flash mode), Auto, Manual
Flash mode Auto, Red-eye reduction, Red-eye reduction slow sync., Slow sync at 1st curtain, Slow sync at 2nd curtain, Fill-in, Manual (1/4, 1/16, 1/64), Off.
Synchronization speed 1/250 sec. or less, Super FP up to 1/8000 sec.
Flash intensity control Up to +/- 3 EV in 1/3 EV steps
Flash bracketing 3 frames in 0.3, 0.7, 1 EV steps selectable.
Wireless Flash Control
Compatible external flash FL-50R, FL-36R
Control methodTriggered and controlled by built-in flash light
Flash control modeTTL Auto (TTL pre-flash mode), Auto, Manual, FP TTL Auto, FP Manual.
Number of channels4 channels
Group setting 3 groups
Control panel
InformationWB setting, WB compensation notification, B/W mode notification, Record mode, Exposure mode, ISO sensitivity BKT notification, Flash mode, Drive mode, Recordable still image number, Storable number of images, Exposure compensation value, Metering mode, Activated AF points, Focusing mode.
Back light timer8 sec.
Super control panel
Information (shooting)Exposure mode, Shutter speed, Aperture value, Exposure compensation value bar, Exposure compensation value Flash compensation value bar, Flash compensation value, ALE notification, Flash compensation notification NR notification, BKT notification, AF illuminator deactivated notification, Color space, Flash mode ISO sensitivity, Drive mode, WB setting, WB compensation value, Picture mode, Metering mode, Focusing mode File name, Image parameter, Gradation, Date, Storable number of images, Record mode, Battery warning.
Information (shooting)Exposure mode, Shutter speed, Aperture value, Exposure compensation value bar, Exposure compensation value Flash compensation value bar, Flash compensation value, ALE notification, Flash compensation notification NR notification, BKT notification, AF illuminator deactivated notification, Color space Wireless channel setting, Built-in flash intensity, Group setting
Playback modeSingle-frame, Index (4/9/16/25 frames), Calendar, Close-up ( 2 - 14X), Slideshow, Picture rotation (auto mode available), Light box
Information displayHistogram (independent luminance / RGB available), Highlight / Shadow point warning, AF frame, Shooting information
Languages US: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Additional one language is possible to download.
Reset & custom setting
Custom reset 2 setting recordable
My mode 2 setting recordable
Image Editing
Erasing function Single frame, All frames, Selected frames
Protect function Single frame, Selected frames, Release protect (Single/All selected)
Copy between media Single frame, All frames, Selected frames
RAW picture editing RAW development
JPEG editing Resize (producing another file), Gradation auto
Print function Print reservation (DPOF), Direct print (PictBridge compatible)
PC interface USB 2.0 High Speed for storage and camera control (MTP mode is available)
Video connector Video out (Video: NTSC/PAL selectable)
Flash attachmentHot shoe
DC-in Yes (AC-1 compatible)
Power Requirements
Battery BLM-1 Li-ion battery (included)
CR123 x 3 with LBH-1
Sleep mode Available (1, 3, 5, 10 min., off selectable)
No. of recordable pictures (with 50% flash light) Approx. 610 shots (optical viewfinder) (with BLM-1 under CIPA testing standard)
Power battery holder HLD-4 compatible
Dimensions 5.6 in. (W) x 4.58 in. (H) x 2.9 in. (D /(142.5 mm (W) x 116.5 mm (H) x 74.5 mm (D) (excluding protrusions)
Weight 1.79 lbs./810 g (body only)
Operating Environment
Temperature 0 - 40° (operation) / -20 - 60° (storage)
Humidity 30 - 90% (operation) / 10 - 90% (storage)
Splash proof

NOTE: These specifications are as represented by the manufacturer.

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