During Olympus' sneak preview for their E-1 at photokina 2002 emphasis
was placed on the digital SLR's Four Thirds imaging system. At the high-fashion
product roll out in New York's Bryant Park, so much importance was made
of the company's medical imaging accomplishments I expected the ghost
of Albert Schweitzer to start playing the organ in the background. Because of
all this, I didn't take a hard enough look at the camera and give it the
perspective it deserved. Overlooked in all the hoopla was what the E-1 really
is: the digital successor to the OM-1. It's a small, precision SLR that
makes wonderful photographs.
If the E-1 is an Olympus OM-1, what does that make the new E-300 EVOLT? It's
a digital Pen F. If you don't know what that is, the Pen F was a small,
precision, half-frame SLR that, much like the new E-300, uses a side swing mirror
to lower its profile and a porrofinder, instead of a prism (see sidebar). Students
looking for extra credit can visit Skip Williams' homage site on Olympus
Pen cameras (www.skipwilliams.com/olympus/pen-lit.htm)
to read and download PDF files of authentic Olympus documentation about the
with the introduction of the E-300 EVOLT will be two new lenses.
The 14-45mm (28-80mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens is expected
initially to be bundled with the E-300 EVOLT as a kit, while the
40-150mm (80-300mm) f/3.5-4.5 zoom is one that portrait and fashion
photographers are gonna love.
I was the first journalist to see the E-300 EVOLT prototype and when I opened
the box, my first impression was that it was small; bigger than a Pen F but
smaller than an E-1. The prototype's design and build quality showed that
this is a camera that any pro already using the E-1 system will want to carry.
Its top shell and inner body are die-cast aluminum, the lens mount is made of
steel, and ergonomics are superb.
It's the perfect stealth camera. A quick glance makes it look like a point-and-shoot
camera, but the ability to use the
E-system's lenses gives it versatility no point-and-shoot--no matter
the resolution--can match. Oh yeah, the E-300 EVOLT is an 8-megapixel camera,
and while nobody at Olympus would verify that this chip might appear in a future
E-1 or similar pro camera, a spokesperson said it was a "harbinger."
(Look it up, kids.)
The E-300 EVOLT can crank out 2.5 frames per second at all camera settings and
capture images in TIFF, JPEG, raw, and even raw + JPEG file formats. It has
an optional HLD-3 Battery Holder that holds two individual li ion rechargeable
batteries that look a lot like the ones inside Canon's EOS 10D. When attached
to the body like a motor drive might, it's almost as tall as an E-1 save
the low-slung pentamirror keeps it a bit shorter. The finder, by the way, provides
94 percent of the captured image area and it's centered. Some SLRs may
show 92-96 percent but the area is not centered and can be off to the side somewhere.
The camera's 1.8" LCD preview screen is a new type called Enhanced
HyperCrystal and has a 160Þ viewing angle so you don't have to stack
people on top of each other like they're auditioning for a re-make of
The Monkees to see pictures you just made. Controls will be familiar to E-1
users and really anybody who has ever used any Olympus digital cameras. What
is new are 17 scene-specific modes that will help users make photos of Fireworks,
Night Scenes, as well as old standbys such as Action. Newcomers will get up
to speed fast--it's intuitive, not cryptic.
the optional HLD-3 Battery Holder attached the E-300 EVOLT grows
in size and power and can hold two BLM-1 li ion battery packs..