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Home arrow Digital Camera Reviews arrow Olympus > arrow Olympus E-3 Digital Camera Review
Olympus E-3 Digital Camera Review


Digital Camera Review by: Katrina Putker


There’s no point denying the stronghold that Nikon and Canon currently have over the high-end enthusiast and professional digital SLR market, but that’s not to say it will stay that way forever - especially when Olympus can produce a competitive unit with all the appropriate stylings and functions expected of a semi/professional DSLR: introducing the Olympus E-3.

Upon initial handling it is obvious that the E-3 is ready to play it with the big boys: its rugged metal alloy body weighs 810g (without lens), is as solid as a rock and equally durable, and has weatherproof sealing that means dust and splashes needn’t be a concern. There are upwards of 30 buttons, dials and input/outputs on the body alone, not to mention a 270-degree 2.5” swivel HyperCrystal LCD screen. So, if you haven’t had DSLR experience before, take a deep breath and get ready for a whole new shooting experience!

Be warned though, you will need to read the comprehensive 156-page instruction manual cover-to-cover in order to get the most out of the E-3. Thankfully, it does double as a shooting guide with hints and tips for most situations included and you won’t be too overwhelmed with excessive camera-speak - just simple explanations and diagrams throughout.

Marketed as having “the world’s fastest autofocus” (when using the Olympus Zuiko Digital 12-60mm SWD lens) the E-3 boasts an 11-point AF sensor along with all of the sophisticated and customisable functions expected of a higher-end DSLR: optional metering modes, bulb shooting, hot shoe for an external flash unit, RAW and JPEG shooting, exposure compensation, optional bracketing, multiple focusing modes, noise reduction, and self-timer, as well as the option for program, manual, aperture or shutter speed priority shooting.

The E-3 also has an impressive ISO range of 100-3200 but, as is common, shooting at 3200 means the amount of visible noise is significant but at least Olympus doesn’t attempt to pretend otherwise as some manufacturers do. They point out quite clearly in the manual that the higher the ISO, the greater the amount of graininess, which is the case in many cameras but the user isn’t always so honestly informed of this fact.

A personal favourite feature is the 270-degree swivel screen. All DSLRs should have them in my opinion. It expands the user’s shooting possibilities by providing the option to shoot above your head, at your hip or by your feet - which you can do with any camera - but with the E-3 swivel screen you can correctly compose; there’s no guesswork involved. It also gives you the option to turn the screen toward your subject so they can see the shots as they are taken and is a great feature too to help protect your screen from scratches as it can be ‘closed’ to face in towards the camera body and out of harm’s way.

The E-3 has an internal image stabiliser, which allows for shake compensation of up to 5 EV steps depending on focal length and what Olympus calls “user characteristics.” Five frame per second sequential shooting is also available, although this slows slightly when shooting in RAW mode.

The E-3 kit includes the camera body, a strap, dedicated battery and charger, USB and video cables, software (Olympus Master 2), a manual and a warranty card. It doesn’t include a lens, which actually means you get to spend your money on a lens that will suit your specific needs rather than on something generic. You also have the option to use either CompactFlash or xD-Picture cards with the E-3, which allows for greater flexibility and storage capacity.

Having the option to use either the viewfinder or a live view on the LCD is another nice touch by Olympus. A user’s preference for either may change depending on the conditions or the subject so again, it allows for additional flexibility when shooting, which can only be a good thing.

When using the live view for an extended period however, the temperature of the image pick-up mechanism can rise to a point where images shot with a high ISO appear overly noisy and with uneven colour. At this point, it is important to lower the ISO or give the E-3 a break for 10 minutes to ensure the integrity of your images are not compromised.

Both the main and sub-menus on the E-3 are well set out and easy to follow, which is important in order to help control and adjust the numerous functions and settings available. A slight downfall of the E-3 is the clunkiness of the shutter, especially when in live view mode. Overall, this may make no difference except for those who often find themselves in shooting situations where a level of discreetness is required e.g. weddings, awards ceremonies or presentations, shooting animals or children etc.medal-gold-r.jpg

Comfortable grip pads (so comfortable they are almost unnoticed) appear in all of the relevant places and combine well with the E-3’s grip section on the body to make for a comfortable hold overall. For me, the distance between the shutter and the main dial was that little bit far apart so as to make operating the two in conjunction feel slightly unnatural but given more time and a greater familiarity with the camera, this may not remain an issue.

If you have had previous DSLR experience or you are enthusiastic and patient enough to take the time to learn, then the Olympus E-3 is a camera you should consider before making any final purchases. Dare not to conform and you may be well rewarded for that decision.


Appearance rating 4 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
4 stars
Value for money 4 stars
RRP (AUD) $2499
Effective Pixels 10 Million mega pixels
Image Sizes 7 Sizes
Compaitble Lens
ZUIKO Digital, FourThirds System lens
Lens Mount
FourThirds mount
Dust Filter
SuperSonic Wave Filter
Resolution Settings From 640 x 480 to 3648 x 2736
Shooting Modes1 Vivid, Natural, Muted, Monotone (default setting: Natural)
Shooting Modes2 Sepia, Blue, Purple or Green tone available for Monotone
Focus Tracking Interlocked with Continuous AF mode
AF Lock
Locked at first position of Shutter button in Single AF mode / AEL button (customizable)
Sensor Size
17.3mm x 13.0mm
Field Of View 100%
Remote Control
Operation time: 2 sec., 0 sec., bulb control available (with optional RM-1 remote control)
Sequential Shooting
Approx. 5 frames/sec. in sequential shooting H, 1 to 4 fps selectable in sequential shooting L. RAW mode: Max. 17 frames.
Focus Modes
Single AF (S-AF) / Continuous AF (C-AF) / Manual Focus (MF) / S-AF + MF / C-AF + MF
Shutter Speeds P(Ps), S, A, M mode: 60 - 1/8000 sec. Bulb: up to 30 min. (selectable longest time in the menu. Default: 8 min.)
ISO 80 - 3200 and Auto
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 2.5 inch LCD display
Viewfinder Eye-level TTL Optical

Built-in flash (can be deactivated), or AF assist beam on optional Olympus dedicated flashes.

3 frames in 0.3, 0.7, 1 EV steps selectable.

Hot Shoe Yes
White balance Auto, 7 Presets, and 1 Custom at Kelvin temperature (2000K - 14000K)
Self Timer Yes, 2 and 12 seconds
Movie Options Yes. Limited only by memory card size.
Video Out Yes. PAL or NTSC
Storage Type CompactFlash card (Type I and II), Microdrive, xD picture card. (Dual slot). UDMA support
Image / Audio Formats

Image: RAW (12-bit), JPEG, RAW+JPEG

DCF, DPOF compatible/Exif, PRINT Image Matching III

Connectivity USB 2.0 High Speed for storage and camera control
Power Source D-7ACA AC Adapter with CB-MA1 Power coupler
Battery Options BLM-1 Li-ion battery (included). AC in - Yes (AC-1 compatible)
Dimensions 142.5 mm (W) x 116.5 mm (H) x 74.5 mm (D)
Weight 810g (body only)



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In Greek mythology, Mt.Olympus is the home of the twelve supreme gods and goddesses. Olympus was named after this mountain to reflect its strong aspiration to create high quality, world famous products.

"Olympus" has been used as a trademark since the time of Takachiho Seisakusho, the predecessor of Olympus Corporation.

In Japanese mythology, it is said that eight million gods and goddesses live in Takamagahara, the peak of Mt.Takachiho. The name "Olympus" was selected as the trademark because Mt.Olympus, like Mt.Takachiho, was the home of gods and goddesses. This trademark is also imbued with the aspiration of Olympus to illuminate the world with its optical devices, just like Takamagahara brought light to the world.

Takachiho Seisakusho was renamed Takachiho Optical Co., Ltd. in 1942 when optical products became the mainstay of the company. In 1947, the name was changed again to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. in an attempt to enhance its corporate image.

And in 2003, the company made a fresh start as Olympus Corporation, to show its willingness to establish a dynamic corporate brand by unifying the corporate name and the well-known brand.

In recent years, Olympus Corporation has focused on "Opto-Digital Technology" as its core competence, technological strengths that competitors cannot easily imitate, to maximize corporate value and to become one of the top optical instrument manufactures.

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