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Timings & File Sizes

In use the overall feeling from the E-300 is that it's fast and responsive and has been designed in such a way that you are never held up by any of the shooting processes. The buffering system works well and CF write speeds are good enough that you can almost always take the next shot or change a setting. The E-300's startup time of two seconds is faster than the Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel) however it's still slower than the Nikon D70's "instant on" and indeed some other newer digital SLR's *. Although I seriously doubt a two second startup delay will have any serious impact on shooting. Another area where Olympus could have done better is the buffer size and usage, at full resolution you can't shoot more than four frames continuously before the buffer is full. You then have to remove your finger from the shutter release and re-press it, which can get a little cumbersome.

* Several E-300 owners have pointed out that this is because of the E-300's SSWF cleaning when the camera is switched on. We can't confirm if the actual cleaning procedure delays the camera's startup (chances are it's still going through its power-up sequence while the cleaning is going on) but yes, granted, the 2 seconds includes 'cleaning' the CCD.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on an SHQ (3264 x 2448) JPEG image (approx. 5,200 KB per image).

The media used for this test were:

  • 1 GB SanDisk Extreme III CF card (Type I)
  • 1 GB Lexar Pro 80x CF card (Type I)
  • 4 GB Lexar Pro 80x CF card(Type I, FAT32)
Action
Details
Time, secs
(SanDisk 1 GB)
Time, secs
(Lexar 1 GB)
Time, secs
(Lexar 4 GB)
Power Off to On *1   2.0 2.0 2.0
Power On to Off   0.7 0.7 0.7
Record Review *2
RAW
1.0 - 1.5 1.0 - 1.5 1.0 - 1.5
Record Review *2
JPEG
1.0 - 1.5 1.0 - 1.5 1.0 - 1.5
Play
RAW
0.3 0.3 0.3
Play
JPEG
0.3 0.3 0.3
Play Image to Image
RAW
0.3 0.3 0.3
Play Image to Image
JPEG
0.3 0.3 0.3

*1

This timing was taken from the moment the power switch was turned to on to the moment the camera's AF system started to focus (by holding down the shutter release from power on).

*2 This is the amount of time between pressing the shutter release and the image being displayed on the LCD monitor. If the CF interface was currently (or recently) active review takes around one second, it's slightly slower at other times.

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/500 sec, F2.8), ISO 200. We observed that no matter what the image quality setting, ISO or CF card used the continuous frame rate was always 2.5 fps (+/- 0.1 fps).

The tests carried out below measured the following results for RAW, JPEG SHQ and HQ:

  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst, this was always four
  • Next shot - How soon after a burst you can take another (requires a second press)
  • Full write - How soon after a burst the CF light goes out (the burst is written)

The media used for these tests were:

  • 1 GB SanDisk Extreme III CF card (Type I)
  • 1 GB Lexar Pro 80x CF card (Type I)
  • 4 GB Lexar Pro 80x CF card(Type I, FAT32)

1 GB SanDisk Extreme III

Image type
Number of frames
Next shot
Full write
3264 x 2448 RAW 4 2.6 sec 11.1 sec
3264 x 2448 JPEG SHQ 4 0.8 sec 8.0 sec
3264 x 2448 JPEG HQ (1/4) 4 0.8 sec 6.0 sec
1600 x 1200 JPEG SQ (1/2.7) Unlimited n/a n/a

1 GB Lexar Pro 80x

Image type
Number of frames
Next shot
Full write
3264 x 2448 RAW 4 2.7 sec 11.7 sec
3264 x 2448 JPEG SHQ 4 0.8 sec 8.1 sec
3264 x 2448 JPEG HQ (1/4) 4 0.8 sec 6.0 sec
1600 x 1200 JPEG SQ (1/2.7) Unlimited n/a n/a

4 GB Lexar Pro 80x (FAT32)

Image type
Number of frames
Next shot
Full write
3264 x 2448 RAW 4 2.6 sec 12.0 sec
3264 x 2448 JPEG SHQ 4 1.0 sec 8.1 sec
3264 x 2448 JPEG HQ (1/4) 4 0.8 sec 6.1 sec
1600 x 1200 JPEG SQ (1/2.7) Unlimited n/a n/a

As specified the E-300 shoots at 2.5 frames per second for up to four frames at full resolution, to be honest this is pretty disappointing, while it's a match for the Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel) that camera is now fifteen months old and we really would have expected Olympus to one-up it in this respect.

I also fail to understand why Olympus has chosen to program the E-300 so that it blocks shutter release once four shots have been taken. A better approach (and one taken by many other manufacturers) would be to keep shooting at a slower rate if the shutter release button is held down.

UPDATE: Olympus has contacted me to inform me that if we had carried out our continuous shooting test with HQ set to 1/8 (approx. 1,600 KB per image) we should have been able to get about 10 buffered frames before the camera stops. This is all very well but the 1/8 setting is pretty heavy compression and will lead to image artifacts.

File Flush Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card. Timing was taken from the instant the shutter release was pressed to the time the CF activity indicator beside the CF door went out. The E-300 will begin writing images as soon as it can and continue to write 'in the background' while you take further shots / change settings. You cannot enter play mode while buffered images are being written to the storage card.

The media used for this test were:

  • 1 GB SanDisk Extreme III CF card (Type I)
  • 1 GB Lexar Pro 80x CF card (Type I)
  • 4 GB Lexar Pro 80x CF card(Type I, FAT32)
Image type
Time, secs
(SanDisk 1 GB)
Time, secs
(Lexar 1 GB)
Time, secs
(Lexar 4 GB)
Approx.
size
3264 x 2448 TIFF 5.6 5.9 5.9 23,900 KB
3264 x 2448 RAW + SHQ *1 5.9 6.0 5.9 18,997 KB
3264 x 2448 RAW 3.8 4.0 4.0 13,797 KB
3264 x 2448 JPEG SHQ 2.8 3.0 3.0 5,200 KB
3264 x 2448 JPEG HQ (1/4) 2.4 2.6 2.5 3,400 KB
3264 x 2448 JPEG HQ (1/8) 1.8 1.9 1.8 1,500 KB
1600 x 1200 JPEG SQ (1/2.7) 1.6 1.7 1.8 1,200 KB

*1 File size reported here is the size of the RAW and JPEG files added together.
*2 The E-300 begins writing approximately 0.5 seconds after the shutter release is pressed so you must subtract 0.5 seconds from the above timings to get the actual write time.

A very impressive performance, around four seconds for a RAW (approx. 4.8 MB/sec) and three seconds for a very high quality JPEG (approx. 3.0 MB/sec), this will ensure you'll almost never be left waiting for the camera to finish writing images even if you choose to shoot RAW exclusively. The use of a 4 GB card (its size requires the use of the FAT32 filesystem) has no detrimental effect on write times. The E-300 writes considerably faster than similarly priced D-SLR competition and even its big brother, the E-1. Kudos Olympus.

Card performance: JPEG SHQ burst

Card Olympus E-300, write speed (JPEG SHQ files)
1 GB SanDisk Extreme III 3,135 KB/sec
1 GB Lexar Pro 80x 3,080 KB/sec
4 GB Lexar Pro 80x (FAT32) 3,080 KB/sec

Card performance: RAW burst

Card Olympus E-300 , write speed (RAW files)
1 GB SanDisk Extreme III 5,091 KB/sec
1 GB Lexar Pro 80x 4,709 KB/sec
4 GB Lexar Pro 80x (FAT32) 4,789 KB/sec

Cardbus 32-bit CF Adapter benchmark

Card Cardbus 32-bit CF Adapter, write speed (RAW files)
1 GB SanDisk Extreme III 10,091 KB/sec
1 GB Lexar Pro 80x 9,188 KB/sec
4 GB Lexar Pro 80x (FAT32) 9,279 KB/sec

The results above were produced by measuring the write time for a burst of shots, this gives a more accurate measurement of actual throughput. Note that the CF cards used were all high speed and in our fastest device (the Delkin Cardbus 32-bit CF Adapter) were capable of around 9.8 MB/sec.

Battery life

The E-300 has the same BLM-1 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery as we saw in the E-1 and C-8080 Wide Zoom, at 7.2V, 1500 mAh it has plenty of capacity and does seem to last and last. Over several long shooting sessions (and a couple at sub-zero temperatures) the camera never indicated a low battery. Olympus estimate 400 shots with a fully charged battery.

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Comments

reanim888

Amazing!
The Olympus E-300 functions far more like a DSLR in terms of shot to shot recording rate, but still a bit slow when contrasted with Canon and Nikon’s sub-$1,000 offerings. The E-300 will capture subsequent images with just .59 seconds between. This remains slightly behind the XT’s .33 seconds and the D70’s .35 seconds recording rate, but still far beyond most compact models.

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