The Olympus E-3, which is Olympus’ flagship DSLR, was announced October 16, 2007 in the US. The E-3 has a 10.1 megapixel Live MOS sensor along with Olympus’ TruePic III™ digital processing engine. Additionally, Olympus touts the new autofocus system as the fastest AF speed in the world with the new ZUIKO SWD lenses.
As noted, Olympus has 3 new ZUIKO lenses:
- The ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 SWD, in combination with the E-3, delivers the fastest autofocus speed in the world;1
- The ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD focuses twice as fast as the previous ZUIKO DIGITAL lens with that focal length; and
- The ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-35mm f/2.0 SWD joins the existing ZUIKO DIGITAL 35-100mm f2.0 as the brightest fixed aperture lenses in their class.
Olympus E-3 Availability
Olympus E-3 Reviews
If you don’t mind the smaller Four Thirds sensor or being limited by 10.1 MP resolution (little room to crop), this is definitely a camera to own and use.
The system works perfectly okay for static subjects, and for some things—notably macro photography of non-moving subjects, especially close to the ground—it can work a lot better than the regular optical viewfinder.
The viewfinder and AF are two usual scapegoats, but with the E-3, Olympus has significantly improved both. The tunnel-vision of earlier Four Thirds viewfinders has been upgraded to a large and bright experience that inspires you to use the 4:3 aspect ratio. The older basic 3-point AF system has been replaced by a new 11-point system which with the right lens and conditions can perform extremely quickly.
What the Olympus E3 brings to the table is excellent images, a great build quality, and a lovely user experience, but fails to match the innovation of the E-1, or even other models from the Olympus range. Instead it’s taken the best bits, refined them and put them all into a very usable camera.
All in all the Olympus E-3 impressed greatly. It is a very well thought-out camera with emphasis on the user. That doesn’t go for many other camera brands.
Because of its great reliability, comprehensive feature set, and great image quality, the Olympus model should certainly appeal to the most advanced photo enthusiast. More importantly perhaps, the price is right! In fact, in the professional category, this one deserves my “Best Value” award. It’s not only the most affordable but offers excellent return on the investment, making Olympus competitive in the high-end category.
If you need a tough, durable and very capable camera to endure harsh conditions the E3 would be near the top of my list for any camera category. I shoot in many of these situations, can see the utility of the E3 in these circumstances, and would welcome being able to use it. The camera is just not very quick on its feet for general purpose photos or when a quick capture of an elusive moment is called for. And this so perfectly mirrors the DSLR scene in general.
It makes sense given that Olympus has pinned its hopes on the E-3 as its most serious digital contender to date. Still, the amount of time you’ll spend penitently wading through the manual will reward you with some seriously good images. Colours are lovely and true-to-nature, and although Olympus may not have quite cracked the old white balance conundrum when faced with tricky conditions, at least you can work around it.
Photographing with the Olympus E-3 is a bit like driving a sports sedan. You may not need the speed and power most of the time, but you’re sure glad it’s there when you do. Plus, you get comfort and style with your scoot. The E-3 is more than competent for everyday shooting, and its speed and burst depth handle demanding moments with ease. Then, when you’re pushing pixels, the E-3’s files help you get back to pushing shutters sooner.
Robert Watcher posted some thoughts and sample images from his in-store shooting spree with the E-3. Check his site out for more:
It’s pretty cool when you can see the white balance change on the screen before you take the shot. Made it very easy to select the right setting for the light, just by scrolling through the presets and stopping at the one that looked best.
Biofos.com: The excerpt below does not do this series of several hands-on reviews justice. Click through for a ton of information on the new E-3. (Thanks to John Begin for pointing this resource out.)
I’m glad Olympus set about improving the various processing algorithms with their conservative hat on. From colour to noise reduction it seems just about a perfect balance. I’m relieved as I was expecting some pretty aggressive non-selectable Noise Reduction.
The first thing I noticed was how fast the new auto focus is. Olympus is claiming that the E-3 combined with their new Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 SWD lens has the fastest auto focus currently available. It certainly feels like it could be the fastest, although controlled testing needs to be done. The camera is noticeably larger than the E-510 and has the sturdy solid build and professional feel that the E-1 had. It really feels and behaves like a professional digital SLR body.
The autofocus system is highly sensitive and significantly faster, with selectable 11 AF zones. Olympus says that the AF’s unique design uses a layered, slightly offset, CMOS sensor array to improve accuracy and low-light sensitivity. As a result, all 11 AF zones should be active cross-sensor types with any aperture lens. This may be the best AF system we’ve ever seen on an Olympus DSLR.
The Olympus E-3 is by far the most advanced Olympus digital camera I’ve used, very satisfying to shoot with, and one of the more compelling SLRs launched this season. Its design, though big, is ergonomically pleasing and handsome, and it gives you a feel of confidence and control. The E-3’s build matches the sturdy feel of Olympus’s high-end lenses, which are some of the tightest we’ve seen.
Official Olympus Resources
Olympus RAW codec for Vista
Free HLD-4 grip and backpack for Olympus UK customers.
The Official Olympus America E-3 Page
Where to Buy
First off, consider going to your local camera store (and I don’t necessarily mean Wolf Camera at the mall). By going to your local camera store, you’re supporting your community and you just might build a lasting relationship with people you can rely on when you need some help or answers. If you’re buying online, I recommend sticking with Amazon, B&H Photo or Adorama. These three vendors are reliable, trustworthy and generally have the best (legitimate) prices. Additionally, purchasing your camera through these links helps support this site.