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Compared to...

The E-3 is one of those cameras that is almost impossible to pigeonhole; on paper it competes directly with the 'semi pro' models such as Canon's EOS 40D and Nikon's D300 - it's in the same price bracket and offers a similar specification. But the E-3 is also sold as a professional camera aimed at the same working photographers currently in the market for a Canon EOS 1D Mark III or Nikon D2X. Here it scores well on price and size/weight, has the requisite weather sealing and brings a tilting screen and in-body image stabilization to the table, but in some areas (burst mode, resolution) it looks a little underpowered.

So the E-3, on paper, sits somewhere near the top of the 'high end enthusiast' or 'semi pro' trees, and has a number of features that allow it to confidently dip at least a toe into the high-end professional SLR pool too. We'll look more closely at the E-3's suitability for professional users later, but for now we've decided, after much discussion, that it makes sense to compare it to the cameras it is nearest to in price and functionality, which means the Canon EOS 40D, Nikon D300 and Sony DSLR-A700 (we haven't forgotten about the Pentax K10D, but we've run out of space on this page). In a comparison like this the E-3 looks like a strong contender (on paper at least); it wouldn't fare so well if it were pitched against 'real' professional models.

Positives versus the competition

  • Built-in sensor-shift stabilization (over the EOS 40D and D300)
  • Articulated screen (though see below)
  • Weather sealed body ('splash proof' - all others have varying levels of 'weather proofing')
  • Customizable mirror lock-up
  • Proven dust busting technology (SSWF)
  • Highlight and Shadow spot metering modes
  • High shutter life
  • External white balance sensor (hybrid system)

Negatives versus the competition

  • Lower resolution screen (compared to A700 and D300). Also smallest screen here.
  • D300 and 40D have higher burst rates
  • No dedicated AF illuminator lamp (neither does EOS 40D)
  • Cannot delete in record review
  • Only two custom mode memories
  • D300 has contrast detect AF, 14-bit RAW, more focus points, more sophisticated metering sensor and several other features not found on any other camera in this class.
 

Olympus E-3

Canon EOS 40D

Nikon D300

Sony DSLR-A700
Price (body only) $1700 [check] $1300 [check] $1800 [check] $1400 [check]
Quality zoom price • Olympus 14-54 mm
• F2.8-F3.5
• 28-108 mm equiv.
• $500
• Canon 17-85mm IS
• F4.0-F5.6
• 27.2-136 mm equiv.
• $600
• Nikon 18-200mm VR
• F3.5-F5.6
• 27-300 mm equiv.
• $750
• Sony 16-105mm DT
• F3.5-F5.6
• 24-157.5 mm equiv.
• $550
Dust removal • SSW filter • Self-cleaning filter
• Anti-static coating
• Dust delete data
• Self-cleaning filter
• Dust-off image
• Sensor-shift shake
• Anti-static coating
Environmental sealing • Splash proof
• Dust proof
• Sealed lenses available
• Environmental seals on battery and CF compartment doors • Weatherproof seals throughout
• Some sealed lenses
• Weatherproof seals throughout
Sensor type Live MOS CMOS CMOS CMOS
Sensor size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 22.2 x 14.8 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm 23.5 x 15.6 mm
Sensor area 225 mm² 329 mm² 373 mm² 367 mm²
Image Stabilization Built-in sensor shift Lenses only Lenses only Built-in sensor shift
Effective pixels 10.1 million 10.1 million 12.3 million 12.3 million
Aspect ratio 4:3 3:2 3:2 3:2
FOV crop 2.0x 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x
Image size 3648 x 2736 3888 x 2592 4288 x 2848 4272 x 2848
Live View • Yes
• Up to 10x magnify
• Mirror flip AF
• Yes
• Up to 10x magnify
• Mirror flip AF
• Different modes
• Yes
• Up to 1:1 pixel view
• Contrast detect AF
• Mirror flip AF
No
Lens support • Four Thirds • Canon EF / EF-S • Nikon F mount • Sony Alpha
• Minolta A-type
File formats JPEG, RAW (ORF) JPEG, RAW (CR2) JPEG, TIFF, RAW (NEF 12-bit / NEF 14-bit) JPEG, RAW (ARW), cRAW (ARW)
Auto focus • 11 point
• 11 cross-type
• -2 to 19 EV
• 9 point
• 9 cross-type
• -0.5 to 18 EV
• 51 point
• 15 cross-type
• -1 to 19 EV
• 11 point
• 1 double cross-type
• 0 to 18 EV
• Eye-start AF option
AF illuminator Flash strobe Flash strobe White lamp Red lamp pattern
AF adjustment No No Yes, body and per lens No
Metering sensor 49 zone 35 zone 1005 pixel RGB 40 segment
Metering range 1 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV
Metering modes ESP, CWA, Spot, Highlight spot, Shadow spot Evaluative, Partial, Spot, CWA 3D Color Matrix, CWA, Spot Multi-segment, CWA, Spot
Exp. comp. +/- 5.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV +/- 5.0 EV +/- 3.0 EV
Exp. comp. EV steps 0.3, 0.5 or 1.0 EV 0.3 or 0.5 EV 0.3, 0.5 or 1.0 EV 0.3 or 0.5 EV
Manual EV steps 0.3, 0.5 or 1.0 EV 0.3 or 0.5 EV 0.3, 0.5 or 1.0 EV 0.3 or 0.5 EV
Sensitivity range (boost setting) 100 - 3200 100 - 1600, (3200) (100), 200 - 3200, (6400) 100 - 1600, (3200, 6400)
Auto ISO adjust Max & Min ISO selectable No Max ISO & Min shutter speed selectable Max & Min ISO selectable
Shutter speed 60 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec
Shutter life 150,000 exposures 100,000 exposures 150,000 exposures 100,000 exposures
Continuous rate (high) 5.0 fps 6.5 fps 6.0 fps (8.0 fps with battery grip) 5.0 fps
Continuous buffer • Unlimited JPEG
• 19 RAW
• 75 JPEG
• 17 RAW
• 100 JPEG Norm
• 17 RAW
• Unlimited JPEG
• 18 RAW / 25 cRAW
White balance • 7 presets
• Color temp (K)
• Manual (4 mem.)
• 6 presets
• Color temp (K)
• Manual
• 7 presets
• Color temp (K)
• Manual (4 mem.)
• 6 presets
• Color temp (K)
• Manual (3 mem.)
Image parameters • 5 presets / 1 user
• Saturation +/- 2
• Contrast +/- 2
• Sharpness +/- 2
• Gradation (3)

• 6 presets / 3 user
• Saturation +/- 4
• Contrast +/- 4
• Color tone +/- 4
• Sharpness 0-7

• 4 presets
• Saturation +/- 3, A
• Contrast +/- 3, A
• Brightness +/- 1
• Hue +/- 3
• Sharpness 0-9, A
• Quick adjust +/- 2
• 13 presets / 3 user
• Saturation +/- 3
• Contrast +/- 3
• Brightness +/-3
• Sharpness +/- 3
• Zone -1 to +2
Noise reduction control 4 levels 1 additional level 4 levels 3 levels
DR / Shadow adjust. Shadow adjustment None Active D-Lighting (4 levels) DRO (3 modes plus 5 manual settings)
Built-in flash • Manual pop-up
• Guide no. 13 (ISO 100)
• Electronic pop-up
• Guide no. 13 (ISO 100)
• Manual pop-up
• Guide no. 12 (ISO 100)
• Manual pop-up
• Guide no. 12 (ISO 100)
External flash • Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
Flash sync speed 1/250 sec 1/250 sec 1/250 sec (1/320 sec reduced Guide no.) 1/250 sec
Customizable controls • Fn button
• AEL/AFL button
• Dials
• SET button
• AF-ON button
• AE lock button
• Dials
• FUNC button
• FUNC+dials
• Multi-selector cent.
• Preview button
• AE-L/AF-L button
• Dials
• Custom button
• Preview button
• AF/MF button
• AEL button
• Dials
User memories 2 via menu 3 via dial positions 4 via menu 3 via 1 dial position
Storage • CF (inc. UDMA)
• xD-Picture Card
CF (inc. UDMA) CF (inc. UDMA) • CF (inc. UDMA)
• MS Duo / Pro Duo
Viewfinder • 100% coverage
• 1.15x magnification
• 95% coverage
• 0.95x magnification
• 100% coverage
• 0.94x magnification
• 95% coverage
• 0.9x magnification
LCD monitor • 2.5" TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 922,000 dots
• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 922,000 dots
LCD articulation Yes (flip-out & twist) No No No
Top panel LCD Yes Yes Yes No
Battery 10.8 Wh 10.3 Wh 11.1 Wh 11.8 Wh
Battery status 4 stages 5 stages • Percentage (%)
• Shots since charge
• Battery aging
Percentage (%)
Vertical grip Yes, HLD-4 Yes, BP-E2N, BP-E2 & WFT-E3/E3A (WiFi) Yes, MB-D10 Yes, VG-C70AM
Mirror lock-up Yes, 1-30 sec Yes, custom function No, exposure delay Yes, with self-timer
Other features • RAW development
• JPEG edit
• Custom 'My Menu' • On demand viewfinder grid
• GPS record with optional cable
• Retouching
• Included IR remote
Video output Composite Composite HDMI (up to 1080i) HDMI (up to 1080i)
Dimensions 142 x 116 x 75 mm
(5.6 x 4.6 x 2.9 in)
146 x 108 x 74 mm
(5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 in)
147 x 114 x 74 mm
(5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in)
142 x 105 x 80 mm
(5.6 x 4.3 x 3.3 in)
Weight (no batt) 800 g (1.8 lb) 740 g (1.6 lb) 825 g (1.8 lb) 690 g (1.5 lb)
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