Back in May 2001 Olympus began to make noises about a professional five megapixel Four Thirds format digital SLR, two years after that in June 2003 they revealed the E-1. After much hinting, several 'accidental' leaks and some four and a half years, Olympus has today announced the ten megapixel E-3 professional digital SLR. We had been promised an E-3 before embargo to enable us to produce a preview but that for reasons best known to Olympus this fell through so all we can provide you with is a press release, specs and a couple of images. Body only price will be £1099 in the UK.

UPDATE: Phil: Here we are at one minute past embargo and despite being told very clearly that there were no cameras available for preview we see at least one other site with a hands-on preview, make of that what you will.

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Press Release:

The Olympus E-3: An all-round professional masterpiece

London, 17 October 2007 – It’s here: The new flagship of the Four Thirds Standard-based Olympus E-System. The E-3 gives photographers a high-performance tool that is primed for any assignment and satisfies the most stringent demands for D-SLR photography. It represents the ultimate choice for the professional photographer and provides the highest levels of speed and image quality as well as Live View capabilities and the ultimate in reliability.

The E-3 features the world’s fastest* auto-focusing speeds thanks to an advanced AF system and new ZUIKO DIGITAL SWD (Supersonic Wave Drive) lenses. Matched with shutter speeds of up to 1/8000th sec. and 5fps sequential shooting (with a 19 image RAW buffer in burst mode), the E-3 gives photographers a crucial edge to help capture that decisive shot.

Ensuring the best image quality in the widest range of situations, this new professional model also incorporates a powerful built-in image stabilisation system which is capable of compensating against the effects of camera shake to the equivalent of up to 5 EV steps. This is complemented by a 10 Megapixel High Speed Live MOS sensor and Olympus’ TruePic III image processing engine. Together with the ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses – which are custom-made for the needs of D-SLR photography – photographers can rely on optimal results each time.

Meanwhile, the camera’s Live View capabilities provide the freedom to shoot with more versatility: Whether wanting to keep eye-contact with the subject or shooting above the head or close to the ground, compositions can be framed with ease on the 2.5”/6.4cm multi-angle HyperCrystal LCD, which also faithfully displays the effect of camera adjustments in real time.

In addition to Live View, photographers can also choose to use the camera’s large viewfinder which provides 100% coverage. Like all Olympus E-System cameras, the E-3 incorporates the most effective dust reduction system available – the Supersonic Wave Filter. Reliability of the camera system is further heightened under all types of shooting conditions thanks to dust and splashproof protection of both body and most E-System lenses. Moreover, a shutter life of 150,000 operations guarantees that the E-3 will tolerate the treatment of even the most active photographer with ease.

The Olympus E-3 will be available from the end of November 2007. The body only will be available for approximately £1099, the kit with the 14-54mm lens for approximately £1499 and the kit with the new 12-60mm lens for approximately £1699.  For further information call 0800 0720070 or visit www.olympus.co.uk.

Speed – never miss an opportunity

The E-3 boasts the world’s quickest* autofocus system. It is based on a fully-biaxial high-speed 11-point AF system with both horizontal and vertical sensor lines to give a total of 44 different data points from which the correct focus is accurately calculated. In addition, pixel multiplication technologies are used to boost performance in low light (-2EV at ISO 100). Meanwhile, fast shutter speeds of up to 1/8000th sec. provide the ability to freeze action dead in its tracks – no matter its pace. And giving users an advantage over the clock when every second counts, shooting speeds of up to 5fps in full Megapixel mode are possible (with 19 image RAW buffer in burst mode).

Image quality – picture perfect performance

To counteract the effects of image blur caused by shakes, the Olympus E-3 incorporates a highly advanced, built-in image stabilisation system. It is extremely effective and utilises the breakthrough Supersonic Wave Drive (SWD). This means sharper shots every time – no matter which lens is used – and less need to use a tripod as compensation up to 5 EV steps is provided. The IS system features two modes: One for shakes along both the x and y axes, while another stabilises only the y axis – which is ideal for following moving subjects during sports photography.

Significantly contributing to the camera’s excellent imaging performance is the 10 Megapixel High Speed Live MOS sensor. Its attributes for delivering high image quality are boosted even further thanks to integration of the advanced TruePic III image processor which improves noise suppression, enhances colour reproduction and enables faster processing speeds. And together with lenses from the award-winning ZUIKO DIGITAL range, the camera returns nothing less than perfect depictions. 

Live View – unprecedented control

The E-3 provides photographers with the convenience of a continuous Live View on its multi-angle, 2.5”/6.4cm HyperCrystal LCD. This allows for truly unique shots from the most unusual perspectives, as it enables experimentation with completely new shooting styles. Photographers can do and see more as they needn’t stay glued to the viewfinder. Thanks to the option of LCD magnification of 5x, 7x and 10x, accurate focusing during macro shooting is also made easy. In addition, the effects of Shadow Adjustment Technology (SAT), White Balance and Exposure Compensation can be viewed directly on the LCD in real time: So, what you see is really what you get.

Reliability – exceptional durability

The E-3 also takes viewfinder performance up a notch. Full professional level coverage of 100% plus 1.15x magnification enhances framing ease even when using the eyepiece.

  • Since the development of the world’s first dust protection system in 2003, Olympus has continuously improved on it so that it still remains the most effective solution available today. The critically acclaimed Supersonic Wave Filter ingeniously protects the High Speed Live MOS sensor from dust and other foreign particles that could otherwise compromise image quality and serves as a symbol of Olympus’ long-standing commitment to imaging excellence.

Its magnesium alloy construction combined with dust and splashproof protection lets the E-3 go wherever the action is: No matter at a rainy football game or on the dusty plains of the Serengeti. The power grip and a wide selection of lenses are equally protected against the elements, thereby considerably reducing the risk of downtime as the E-3 is always ready for the next assignment no matter the conditions. And with a shutter life of 150,000 operations, professionals will really come to appreciate this model’s extreme reliability.

Ideal selection

Naturally, low light doesn’t put an end to shooting opportunities. In addition to the built-in flash (GN13), the E-3 allows wireless control of flash units, such as the new Olympus FL-36R and FL-50R, in up to three groups – enhancing lighting options dramatically.

In addition, the E-3 boasts flawless automatic white balance. This is due to a hybrid detection system which employs a dedicated white balance sensor in conjunction with the image sensor. The combination of colour data from two different sources results in stunningly faithful colour reproduction.

A complete D-SLR system

Adhering to the Four Thirds Standard, the E-3 is optimised for the special demands of digital photography and provides photographers with a superior level of flexibility and freedom. Cross-manufacturer compatibility ensures a future-proof investment that users can rely on. 32 lenses and three lens converters are available to date, including many from the award-winning ZUIKO DIGITAL range, which is designed for the specific demands of digital SLR photography. Furthermore, Four Thirds enables a smaller, lighter lens construction which means photographers benefit from more mobility and control, thus increasing the likelihood of magnificent imaging results.  
 
In addition to the many lenses which include the recently-introduced ZUIKO DIGITAL SWD models for attaining the world’s fastest* autofocus speeds, a wide and exciting range of E-System accessories await professionals looking to customise their photographic experience with the E-3. For flash control without the need for cables, Olympus offers the FL-50R and FL-36R wireless flash units. And for assignments that go into overtime, the Power Grip HLD-4 provides long-lasting battery power and conveniently includes a shutter release button on its side to make the quick capture of shots in portrait format just as simple as landscapes. Two new eye-cups (DE-P3 and DE-N3) are also available to broaden the camera’s dioptre correction adjustment capabilities. Shifting the dioptre either up or down by 3m-1, an expansive total range spanning -6m-1 to +4m-1 is possible. Moreover, the optional FS-3 Focusing Screen provides a grid matte screen in the viewfinder on which the image area is divided into 4 x 6 sections to assist in framing (purchase & installation via Olympus Service Dept. only).
 
With the E-3, Olympus answers the demand for uncompromising endurance, speed and image quality. This professional D-SLR will commence sales at the end of November 2007.

*      Among interchangeable lenses for D-SLR cameras. In combination with the new Olympus ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-60mm, 1:2.8-4.0 SWD and E-3, as of October 17 2007, according to survey by Olympus.

For further technical information, see also:

The Olympus E-3 – main features:

Speed

  • World's fastest autofocus* for quick and precise image capture
  • Fully-biaxial high-speed 11-point AF system
  • 1/8000th sec. high-speed and high-precision shutter control, X: 1/250
  • 5fps sequential shooting with 19 image RAW buffer

Image Quality

  • High-performance built-in image stabiliser to stabilise all lenses
    (up to 5 EV steps) with two modes
  • High Speed 10 Megapixel Live MOS sensor
  • Qualified image processing with new TruePic III
  • High image quality with a variety of bright dedicated-to-digital ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses

Live View

  • 2.5”/6.4cm multi-angle HyperCrystal LCD for greatest flexibility
  • Real-time effect monitoring
  • Pre-control over white balance and exposure compensation
  • Preview of Shadow Adjustment Technology (SAT)
  • 5x/7x/10x magnified view for precise focusing – especially for macro shots

Reliability

  • Large viewfinder with professional-level coverage of 100% and 1.15x magnification for accurate image control
  • Spotless photography with most effective dust reduction system (Supersonic Wave Filter)
  • Splashproof body and lens system
  • Professional quality shutter life of 150K operations

Additional features of the Olympus E-3:

  • Based on the Four Thirds Standard
  • Ergonomic design of body, control buttons and GUI for easy operation
  • AE/AF lock functionality for individual customisation
  • Second display for Super Control Panel
  • ISO 100-3200 for wide-ranging sensitivity
  • Accurate white balance with two sensors
  • Built-in flash (GN13) and wireless flash control directly from the camera body.
  • Wireless flash control in up to 3 groups (separate press release available for Olympus FL-50R and FL-36R flash units)
  • High-speed USB 2.0 interface
  • High-speed data writing and lossless RAW compression for quick processing
  • Simultaneous writing of RAW and JPEG
  • Dual memory slot for CompactFlash and xD-Picture Cards
    (incl. support for UDMA High-Speed CF cards and Microdrive)

New accessories for the Olympus E-3:

  • Power Grip HLD-4 for ideal portrait shooting and long battery life
  • Wireless flash units FL-50R and FL-36R
  • Soft rubber dioptre-correcting Eye-cups DE-P3 (+3m-1)
    and DE-N3 (+3m-1)
  • Focusing Screen FS-3 grid matte screen dividing image area in 4 x 6 sections. (Purchase & installation via Olympus Service Dept. only)

New ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses:

ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-60mm (24-120mm) 1:2.8-4.0 SWD

  • Supersonic Wave Drive AF system: World’s fastest* AF system when combined with Olympus E-3
  • 5x zoom
  • 25cm closest focusing distance
  • Mechanical manual focusing
  • Circular aperture diaphragm
  • Extreme wide angle capabilities from 12mm (24mm)
  • Splashproof

            (Available November 2007)

ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 50-200mm (100-400mm) 1:2.8-3.5 SWD

  • Supersonic Wave Drive AF system: Ultra-fast AF speeds
    (2x faster than current 50-200mm lens)
  • 4x zoom
  • 1.2m closest focusing distance
  • Mechanical manual focusing
  • Circular aperture diaphragm
  • Lens hood with slide-window for PL filter
  • Splashproof

      (Available November 2007)

ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-35mm (28-70mm) 1:2.0 SWD

  • World’s first standard zoom with 1:2.0 aperture across entire focal range
  • 2.5x zoom
  • Ultra-fast Supersonic Wave Drive AF system
  • Mechanical manual focusing
  • Circular aperture diaphragm
  • Lens hood with window for PL filter
  • Splashproof

      (Available early 2008)

ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 70-300mm (140-600mm) 1:4.0-5.6

  • 4.3x zoom
  • Extreme telephoto capabilities to 300mm (600mm)

(Available October 2007)

ZUIKO DIGITAL 2.0x Teleconverter EC-20

  • Doubles the focal length of the master lens
  • Attachable with all ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses: From Fisheye and Macro to Super Telephoto
  • Digital-specific converter: Thin, compact and high image quality
  • Splashproof

(Available November 2007)
 Figures in brackets show 35mm camera equivalents

Due to adherence to the Four Thirds System, the Olympus E-3 is compatible with all ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses as well as all other Four Thirds-based lenses available.

Olympus E-3 specifications

Price (body only) UK: £1099
Body material Magnesium alloy
Sensor

• 4/3 type Hi-Speed Live MOS sensor
• 17.3 x 13.0 mm active area
• 11.8 million total pixels
• 10.1 million effective pixels
• RGB (Primary) color filter array
• Fixed low pass filter (anti-alias filter)
• Hybrid IR cut filter (hot mirror)

Dust suppression Supersonic Wave Filter
Image processor TruePic III
Image stabilization

• "Supersonic Wave Drive" (in-body sensor shift)
• Two modes: Horizontal+Vertical, Vertical only
• Up to 5 EV Compensation (claimed)

Image sizes • 3648 x 2736
• 3200 x 2400
• 2560 x 1920
• 1600 x 1200
• 1280 x 960
• 1024 x 768
• 640 x 480
File formats • RAW
• RAW + JPEG
• JPEG (EXIF 2.2)
JPEG compression • SHQ (1/2.7)
• HQ (1/4)
• SQ (1/8 or 1/12)
Lenses • 4/3 standard lens mount
• Range of ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses available
• Multiply focal length by 2 for 35 mm equiv. FOV
Auto focus • 11-point TTL Phase Difference Detection
• Automatic or manual point selection
• EV -2 to 19 (ISO 100) detection range
Focus area selection • Automatic
• Manual
Focus modes • Single shot AF
• Continuous AF
• Manual focus
AF lock Yes, shutter release or AE/AF button
Manual focus Focus by wire
AF assist lamp Yes, flash strobe (flash must be raised)
Exposure modes • Auto
• Program AE (with shift)
• Aperture priority AE
• Shutter priority AE
• Manual
Sensitivity

• Auto
• ISO 100
• ISO 125
• ISO 160
• ISO 200
• ISO 250
• ISO 320
• ISO 400
• ISO 500
• ISO 640
• ISO 800
• ISO 1000
• ISO 1250
• ISO 1600
• ISO 2000
• ISO 2500
• ISO 3200

Metering system • 49-zone multi-pattern
• Range: 1 to 20 EV (50 mm F2, ISO 100)
Metering modes • Digital ESP
• Center-Weighted Average
• Spot (2%)
• Highlight based spot
• Shadow based spot
AE Lock • AE/AF lock button
• With shutter release half-press
AE Bracketing • 3 frames
• 1/3, 1/2, 0.7 or 1.0 EV steps
Exposure steps 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV
Exposure compen. • -5.0 to +5.0 EV
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps
Shutter speed • 60-1/8000 sec
• Bulb (up to 4 hours, default 8 mins)
Flash X-sync speed • 1/250 sec
• 1/4000 sec (Super FP mode)
Aperture values Depends on lens: 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps
White balance • Auto
• Overcast
• Shade
• Tungsten
• Sunlight
• Fluorescent 1
• Fluorescent 2
• Fluorescent 3
• 4 custom presets
• Kelvin (2000 - 14000 K)
WB fine tuning • Red - Blue: +/- 7 steps
• Green - Magenta: +/- 7 steps
WB Bracketing • 3 frames
• 2, 4 or 6 mired steps
Color space • sRGB
• Adobe RGB
Image parameters • Picture mode (Vivid, Natural, Portrait, Muted, Monotone, Custom)
• Saturation (5 levels)
• Sharpness + Contrast (5 levels)
• Contrast (5 levels)
• B&W filter (Yellow, Orange, Red, Green)
• B&W/Sepia toning (Yellow, Orange, Red, Green)
• Gradation (High Key, Normal, Low Key)
Drive modes • Single
• Continuous
• Self-timer
• Remote control
Continuous • 5.0 fps
• RAW: 1 frames maximum
• JPEG: Up to card capacity @ HQ 1/8 (with high speed media)
Self-timer • 2 sec
• 12 sec
• Anti Shock: 1-30 sec delay
Flash • Auto electronic pop-up
• TTL auto / manual
• Guide no. 13
• Sync modes: Auto, Red-eye reduction, Slow syncro with red-eye reduction, Slow syncro, 2nd curtain slow syncro, Fill-in, Off, Bracketing
• Flash power: Up to +/- 3EV in 1, 1/2, or 1/3 EV steps
External flash • Hot shoe
• TTL Auto FP / TTL auto for Olympus dedicated flash (FL-20, FL-36, FL-50)
• Modes: Auto, Manual, Red-eye reduction, Slow syncro with red-eye reduction, Slow syncro, 2nd curtain slow syncro, Fill-in for exclusive flash.
• Flash power: Up to +/- 2EV in 1, 1/2, or 1/3 EV steps
Wireless flash control

• Triggered and controlled by built-in flash unit
• Compatible flash units: FL-50R, FL-36R
• Modes: TTL Auto (TTL pre-flash mode), Auto, Manual, FP TTL Auto, FP Manual
• 4 channels
• 3 groups

Viewfinder • Eye-level TTL Optical Pentaprism
• Field of view approx. 100%
• Magnification 1.15x with a 50mm lens and -1 dioptre
• Dioptre adjustment -3 to +1 dioptre
• Built in eyepiece shutter
• Focusing screen: Interchangeable type
• Mirror: Quick return mirror
Top display information • Activated AF points
• BKT notification
• B/W mode notification
• Drive mode
• Exposure compensation indication
• Exposure mode
• Flash mode
• Focus mode
• ISO
• Metering mode
• Number of storable frames
• Record mode
• White balance
• White balance compensation value
Super Control Panel information • Metering mode
• Exposure mode
• Aperture value
• Shutter speed
• Exposure level view
• Flash compensation value
• Exposure compensation indication
• AE bracketing
• ISO
• Colour space
• Picture mode
• Gradation
• Colour saturation compensation value
• Sharpness compensation value
• Contrast compensation value
• White balance
• White balance compensation value
• Noise reduction
• AEL notification
• Flash mode
• Focus mode
• AF frame
• Drive mode
• Record mode
• Number of storable frames
• Memory card
• Battery indicator
Live View information • 100% field of view
• Exposure adjustment preview
• White balance adjustment preview
• Gradation auto preview
• Gridline displayable
• 7x/5x/10x magnification possible
• MF/S-AF
• AF frame display
• AF point display
• Shooting information
• Histogram
Orientation sensor Yes
LCD monitor • 2.5" HyperCrystal TFT LCD monitor (wide viewing angle, semi-transmissive)
• 230,000 pixels
• 100% frame coverage
• 15 step brightness adjustment
Playback functions • Single
• Magnify (2 - 14x)
• Index (4, 9, 16, 25 frames)
• Calendar view
• Rotation
• Light box view
• Slide show
• Histogram (Lum / RGB)
• Highlight & Shadow point warning
Editing • RAW development
• JPEG editing (B&W, Sepia, Red eye reduction, Color saturation, Resize, Shadow Adjustment Technology)
Fn button

Off, one-touch WB, test picture, preview, Live View, AF home setting, MF, record format, exposure mode, My Mode, underwater modes

Storage • Compact Flash (Type I and II) / Microdrive
• xD- Picture card
Print compatibility • EXIF 2.2
• Print Image Matching
• DPOF
Connectivity

• USB 2.0 (Hi Speed)
• Video Out (NTSC / PAL)
• Ethernet (10/100)
• IR Remote control (optional)

Power BLM-1 1500 mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery (supplied & charger)
Dimensions 142 x 116 x 75 mm (5.6 x 4.6 x 2.9 in)
Weight (no batt) 800 g (1.8 lb)