Again, I only had a day to get my first impressions of the Olympus E-3, and it was a preproduction camera. Still, I was able to gather a few impressions, mainly regarding the target public and whatnot.
The camera is built like a Soviet tank, only with impeccable quality control. It’s incredibly robust, capable of surviving water splashes or even water being poured on it. You know those promo shots of people standing on the camera? I tried that myself (And he’s not slightly built, either. -Ed.). Biblical downpours? No problem. Others tried to protect the camera, but after seeing me take pictures in the rain, they joined in the fun, much to the regret of their health. The people might have had a cold the next day, but the camera didn’t even bat a weather-sealed eyelid.
In addition to the three main features - sensor-based image stabilization, LiveView and sensor cleaning - there’s also a fourth one: the best swivel display currently on the market. It might sound like a novelty item, but it proves to be incredibly useful in practice.
When it comes to AF speed, viewfinder magnification and brightness, the Olympus E-3 proves to be perfectly satisfactory. Image quality is really good, too. It has its shortcomings, too, however, I don’t think that there’s any other camera with so many innovative features available on the market at this relatively low price. Whether these features are what you want is another matter, but to me, this is a camera that offers a lot for its money.
While the pricing isn’t finalized yet, it’s supposed to be in the EUR 1600 to EUR 1800 range, making it cheaper than the Nikon D300. Considering the free battery grip promotion, the Olympus E-3 proves to be incredibly competitive. It’ll be very interesting comparing it to Canon EOD 40d, Nikon D300 and Sony Alpha 700. If you already own a camera system, such differences might not mean much to you, but in comparison, the other three cameras should reveal quite a few shortcomings compared to the E-3.
Most of my colleagues tried to protect the Olympus E-3 from the rain.
Wiping the water off.
See how hard it rained? The things I do for this website ...
Olympus representatives weren’t even remotely concerned. They knew that a few drops of rain couldn’t harm the camera.
Though Panasonic were the first to implement a swivel display into an SLR camera, Olympus are to be commended for executing the idea so well.