Olympus EVolt E-330
At a Glance
The Olympus EVolt E-330 ($1100 as of March 21, 2006) is an upgrade of the company's previous E-300 model. The E-330 is unique among midrange digital SLR cameras in allowing you to use its LCD screen as a viewfinder.
The E-330 has an improved body design (slightly smaller than the E-300), enhancements to a number of features, and an LCD screen that you can fold away from the camera for easier waist-level, or over-the-head shooting. The LCD viewfinder will appeal to macro shooters and product photographers, who won't have to crane their necks to look through a viewfinder.
With a 7.5-megapixel sensor (as opposed to the E-300's 8-megapixel sensor) the E-330 is the first SLR upgrade I've seen that offers a lower pixel count than its predecessor--though the slight difference in pixel count doesn't affect image quality.
The new EVolt's image quality is good, with good detail and sharpness. Like many other Olympus cameras, the E-330 comes with factory settings that add a big contrast and saturation boost to your images. If you think it's too much, you can easily tone down the effects by adjusting in-camera settings. If you shoot in RAW mode, you won't have this problem.
We tested the E-330 with the included kit lens--a 14-to-45mm lens that delivers a 35mm equivalent focal length of 28-to-90mm. The lens is small and well built with excellent edge-to-edge detail and no discernable vignetting (a flaw in which the center of an image is brighter than the extremities).
Though available lenses for the EVolt are fewer than for a Canon or Nikon SLR, Olympus has done a very good job of expanding the lens selection to include everything from a 7-to-14mm lens (14-to-28mm equivalent) to a 90-to-250mm (180-to-500mm equivalent) zoom for telephoto shooters. Choices within this zoom range include fish-eye, macro, teleconverter, and other lenses. Unfortunately, none of Olympus's lenses provide any form of electronic image stabilization--a useful feature to have when you're using a telephoto lens or shooting in low light.
The fairly bright optical viewfinder provides a detailed status readout. To use the LCD as a viewfinder, you simply press the Live View button on the back of the camera. The LCD viewfinder operates in two modes: One provides 92 percent coverage of your scene, but does not show accurate depth-of-field; the other provides 100 percent coverage and accurate depth-of-field, but requires you to focus manually. Olympus has wisely added a magnification feature that makes it easier to judge focus, as focusing manually on an LCD screen can be difficult.
For certain situations, the LCD viewfinder is very handy, but in general, people choose an SLR because they want a traditional through-the-lens camera experience. Moreover, LCDs are difficult to see in low light, and they don't show the full dynamic range of a scene, which can affect your creative decisions.
Instead of providing a separate status LCD, the EVolt E-330 relies on one LCD screen to display all camera information. The status readout is incredibly detailed, providing all of the relevant data on your camera's current configuration. Unfortunately, when you look through the viewfinder, the screen can be very annoying because it's always on, and this makes the optical viewfinder unusable in low-light conditions.
The E-330 provides a full complement of features, including priority, manual, and various custom scene modes. Three different spot meters accompany the matrix and center-weight metering systems.
Other nice upgrades over the E-300 include a slightly faster burst rate of 3 frames per second, the ability to adjust ISO sensitivity in increments of one-third stop, support for both CompactFlash and XD-Picture Card storage, and an effective in-camera noise filter for shooting at high ISOs.
The camera's interface is adequate, permitting relatively speedy access to essential controls. And the E-330 includes Olympus's excellent automatic sensor-cleaning mechanism to keep dust from marring your images.