Olympus E-30 Review

Olympus E-30 Review

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To sit happily with the company’s flagship and much higher-priced DSLR the Olympus E-30 had to forgo a few bells and whistles — but then it added a few that should delight photographers with high ambitions but little skill.

Olympus E-30 1.jpg

The Olympus E-30 has 12.3 million pixels on its Live MOS sensor — two megapixels and a bit more than the E-3!

The E-30 is smaller and lighter than many maker’s top end models… that’s how Olympus does things. With relatively few external controls, the LCD menu options will take you pretty well anywhere you want to go.

Using the Four Thirds system you can attach lenses from companies such as Leica, Panasonic and Sigma… oh and Olympus of course!

Olympus E-30 Features

oly_e-30-back.jpgLive View is available on the 6.9 cm LCD screen, backed up by a bright optical finder that gives you a rundown on the camera’s status: aperture, shutter speed, ISO setting, meter setting and shot count.

The camera can shoot at a rate of five full res frames for as long as you hold down the button and your memory card keeps writing.

You can also preset the rate of shooting anywhere from one to four frames per second.

Art Filter Selection: I’ve often looked with suspicion at DSLRs that have scene modes that have little more appeal than sheer novelty but in the Art Filter selection, the camera sure pressed my buttons.

North Curl Curl no filter.jpg

North Curl Curl Grainy Film filter.jpg

North Curl Curl Pop Art filter.jpg

Choose from Grainy B&W (pictured above), Pop Art (pictured above), Soft Focus, Pale & Light Color, Light Tone and Pinhole. Two that took I particularly liked were Grainy Film and Pinhole… having messed around with colour to B&W conversion in Photoshop I fell upon the E-30’s approach with some excitement. The results are stunning.

There are other scene modes: Children, High and Low Key, Candle Light etc… ideal for the less courageous and with limited experience.

A feature not seen often is multiple exposure: the E-30 can shoot a final, layered collection of two, three or four shots. The brightness of each can be set to half, a third or fourth of the final single exposure. You can also begin with a RAW image and layer extra shots over it. Then, if you’re really adept, you can compress your layer of four and lay another four over it!

The E-30’s maximum image size of 4032×3024 gives a sharp 34×26 cm print at 300 dpi. The camera also offers other aspect ratios: like 4:3, 3:2, 6:6, 5:4, 16:9 and more. The images are written to memory as uncropped RAW images, complete with a suggested border indicating the chosen aspect ratio. A nice touch.

Image stability has four settings: on and off plus one each for panning a moving subject with the camera panning horizontally or panning vertically (some call this tilting). This allows you to capture a moving subject minus the shake but with a desirable blurring of the background.

Auto focus is well treated and uses an eleven point detection system plus the option of single frame AF detection (S-AF), continuous subject tracking (C-AF) plus manual focus. Each of these can be manually fine tuned.

The shutter speed range runs from 60 seconds to 1/8000 second — plus Bulb for time exposures. Flash sync is at 1/250 second.
Image capture can be in RAW or JPEG or RAW+JPEG, with the latter in variable qualities; Live View’s brightness level and frame rate can be adjusted; face detection is available.

And one final novelty: a Level Gauge can be called up in the viewfinder and LCD screen. You would be surprised at how often you shoot pictures off level. I was!

Comment

An easy camera to use. The exposure metering is right on the button and the auto focus system very responsive.
Art Filters are a winning feature and the options in flash are worth investigating… first and second shutter curtains plus the ability to control output manually.

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Image quality: very, very good. But you will be a little surprised at the noticeable barrel distortion in the 14-42mm kit lens.

Olympus E-30 Specifications

  • Image Sensor: 12.3 million effective pixels.
  • Metering: ESP multi-pattern; centre-weighted; spot.
  • Effective Sensor Size: 17.3×13.00mm.
  • Memory: xD-Picture Card and CompactFlash cards.
  • Image Sizes (pixels): 4032×3024, 3200×2400, 2560×1920, 1600×1200, 1280×960, 1024×768, 640×480.
  • File Formats: JPEG, RAW.
  • ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 3200.
  • Flash: Auto, red-eye reduction, red-eye reduction slow sync, first and second curtain sync, forced on and off, manual.
  • Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC.
  • Dimensions: 141.5×107.5×75 WHDmm.
  • Weight: Approx. 655 g (minus battery).
  • Current Prices: The Olympus E-30 is currently priced at Amazon at $949.95 (body only) and $1,049.95 (body plus f3.5-5.6/14-42mm kit lens.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • Hanz October 5, 2010 05:40 pm

    Thank you for this article. I find it amazing at how many people get hung up on this small sensor issue, and noise issue. When film camera's were the peoples choice, there was not near the extras available as found in digital cameras today and photographers were happy. People today are too fussy. Sure there is some noise in high ISO but come on look at the other features this camera offers in comparison to their rivals. No matter what camera you have you are all going to do some sort of post editing. So why not tweek the noise a bit with photoshop CS5. There are other noise reduction programes that really make noise a non issue. So the bottom line is, if you want a great camera buy the E-30 and if noise is still an issue buy ninja or photoshop cs5.

  • Aryan October 2, 2009 06:05 pm

    Olympus E-30 Is a very nice camera but not for that price.The fair price for this camera with the lens is £450-£550.

  • Bull Rhino September 4, 2009 02:46 pm

    I never got a real good look at the Pentax K7 because It had not been officially released yet and the best legitimate price was, and I think still is, $1299 for the body only. There were several things that went into my decision. I've known for years that the Olympus/Zuiko lenses are top notch, but so are Nikkor. My final determining factor was based on reading the reviews at www.dpreview.com, and really more than just reading them but studying the photos that they took. DPReview has some set photos they take with every camera. I opened up both the Nikon D90 and the Oly E-30 side by side on my 24" monitor so I could see them very clearly and the Oly had the very slight edge to both my own and my wife's eyes. Of course there were a lot of very nice comments about it also. On the question about the smaller chip. That was also a concern of mine but I read several places where the advantage to the smaller chip is that the pixels are closer together. In other words, less space between pixels. Two of my children have Nikons and they are a fine camera, as you know. The good news is no matter which way you go you will have an excellent camera. With the Nikon you won't have to worry about sneers from know-nothing equipment snobs who probably couldn't take a decent photo if their life depended on it. I find that really good photographers are hardly ever brand name snobs no matter which brand they use.

  • LifeSparkle September 4, 2009 06:11 am

    How does it go in low-light situations?

  • Paul C September 4, 2009 03:43 am

    Bull Rhino - I am also debating between the Nikon D90 and Pentax K7, can you share with us your reasons for choosing the E-30 instead? You weren't concerned with the smaller sensor size for the four-thirds system?

    Thanks!

  • Rob Wilson September 4, 2009 01:42 am

    Glad to see this review and the follow-on comments. I've opted to get the E-620 after months of research; now trying to figure out the right lens combo, while saving my pennies for the big plunge. I can hardly wait to get my hands on this camera.....

  • Bull Rhino September 1, 2009 03:42 am

    To be accurate, the standard kit lens at the price quoted by the author is 14-42. However, for about $390 more, or $1439 U.S. Dollars you can get the kit with the 14-54 mm zoom. Besides the additional 12 mm of zoom you get a much faster lens. The 14-42 f stop is 3.5-5.6 while the 14-54 is 2.8-3.5. I opted for the less expensive kit and put the $390 towards the 100mm Macro and the 70 to 300mm lenses. I was very impressed at how sharp even the 70-300mm is even at a full 300mm. If you aren't familiar with the 4 thirds system, the 35mm equivilant for focal length is double. So, a 14-42 is 35mm film camera equivilant to 28-84, and the 70-300 is obviously equivilant to 140-600mm.

  • Devon Hammond September 1, 2009 02:01 am

    RE my last post:
    I take it back.
    It costs £1,400 in the UK. Sigh. Anything for a profit nowadays isn't it?

  • Devon Hammond August 31, 2009 11:18 pm

    Can someone explain to me why it costs $1,000 in America and £1,000 in the UK? ... Exchange rates would put it at ~£600, and even with shipping+insurance from the US it wouldn't cost £1,000!
    I'm tempted to go to the forums and ask a trusted member to buy it in the US then ship it to me in the UK, I'm not paying an extra £400 for a camera that isn't worth that! Rediculous.

  • Jeff August 31, 2009 10:17 pm

    I'm actually a little surprised that the E-30 has that much barrel distortion at 14mm with the kit lens. I've got the 14-42mm from the E-510, and there effectively no barrel distortion to it at all, even in close up shots.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdelamater99/3345608334/

  • Charles L August 31, 2009 01:43 pm

    one correction, the kit lens for the E30 isn't the 14-42, it's the 14-54. Every review has said the distortion from the 14-42 is better or similar to other kit lenses, about 1-1.4%. The 14-54 improves on that.

  • Bull Rhino August 31, 2009 12:54 pm

    Enjoyed your article. I had looked around a lot and was debating between the Nikon D90 and the new Pentax K7 when I ran across the Olympus E-30. I bought the E-30 and have had it for a couple months now. I'm a former professional photographer who's been away for many years into video, but I'm excited to get back into the still photo groove. I've tried many of the features and still have tons to learn about this great camera. I'm going to take a closer look at those art filters that up until now I kind of thought were toys. We shall see. Thanks again for the reminder.

  • Alex August 31, 2009 12:06 pm

    Interestingly, I know a sales rep who is doing well selling the E-30 (and 620) based, in part, because of the art filters.

  • Christoph August 31, 2009 12:04 pm

    I am really amazed how well the new Olympus cameras perform. The swivel display is a great tool, and the improved dynamic range saved many highlights in my pictures already :) I have yet to see what the art filters can do for me. For people who can't afford the E-30, the E-620 is an interesting choice, as it features the same sensor and swivel display.

    These are some of my best shots made with the E-620:
    A shrine in southern Japan
    http://www.focx.de/2009/08/26/aoshima-jinja-%E9%9D%92%E5%B3%B6%E7%A5%9E%E7%A4%BE/
    A classic bee-on-flower macro
    http://www.focx.de/2009/08/27/in-der-mittagssonne/
    A 180°-night-panorama
    http://www.focx.de/2009/08/25/miyazaki-%E5%AE%AE%E5%B4%8E%E5%B8%82-nachtpanorama/

    All images made with the E-620 are also tagged as such on my flickr photo-stream:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/focx/