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Olympus E-330 EVOLT Review

March 2006 | By Phil Askey


Review based on a production E-330

On January 26th 2006 over a year since the introduction of the E-300 Olympus revealed the 7.5 million pixel 'live view' successor, the E-330. The E-330's biggest differentiation to any other digital SLR is its capability to deliver a live view on the LCD monitor (in the same manner as a prosumer / consumer all-in-one digital camera). For those new to digital SLR's this is difficult to achieve because of the mirror / shutter mechanism, the mirror is in the light path in view mode to provide an image to the viewfinder, this means that no image can be projected onto the main sensor. Additionally most large D-SLR sensor don't have video out capability. Other changes over the E-300 include a flip-out LCD screen and a range of feature improvements inherited from the E-500.

Live View

The E-330 achieves live view in one of two ways; in A Mode ('Full-time live view') the mirror stays in place and you can continue to use the viewfinder, the live view image is produced using a small secondary CCD sensor in the viewfinder chamber (as suggested by me five years ago). In B Mode ('Macro live view') the mirror flips up, the shutter opens and the live view is provided by the E-330's unique 'Live MOS' sensor. There are significant differences between the two modes:

UPDATE 22/06/06: With the introduction of firmware 1.2 the E-330 now provides an Auto Focus feature in Live View B mode, it achieves this by dropping the mirror (blanking the Live View), focusing and then returning to Live View. This will obviously be slower than Auto Focus in viewfinder mode.

 
A Mode
(full-time live view)
B Mode
(macro live view)
Method Using small CCD sensor in viewfinder chamber Using 'Live MOS' sensor with mirror up and shutter open
Auto focus Yes Yes, with firmware 1.2
Metering Normal *1 Not indicated *2
Viewfinder Available Unavailable (mirror up)
Frame coverage 92% 100%
Shutter release Normal Delayed approx. 1 sec *3
Frame assist Passport modes Golden section, Grid, Scale
Live view magnify No Yes, 10x
Depth of field Not representative Absolutely accurate
DOF preview Yes, via button Yes, via button

*1 The user manual does note that the most accurate metering is only available in this mode with the eyepiece shutter closed (because of stray light entering view the viewfinder).
*2 The E-330's metering sensor is in the viewfinder chamber and so exposure is only measured when the shutter release is pressed.
*3 Because the mirror has to come down and the shutter close before the exposure can be taken (also for metering, see *2).

Compared to the E-300 EVOLT feature and specification differences

 
Olympus E-330 EVOLT

Olympus E-300 EVOLT
Sensor • 4/3 Type 'Live MOS' (NMOS)
• 7.5 million effective pixels
• Kodak 4/3 Type CCD
• 8.0 million effective pixels
Image sizes • 3136 x 2352
• 2560 x 1920
• 1600 x 1200
• 1280 x 960
• 1024 x 768
• 640 x 480
• 3264 x 2448
• 3200 x 2400
• 2560 x 1920
• 1600 x 1200
• 1280 x 960
• 1024 x 768
• 640 x 480
Metering sensor New 49 area (7 x 7 matrix) Unspecified
Metering modes • Digital ESP
• Center-Weighted Average
• Spot
• Highlight based spot
• Shadow based spot
• Digital ESP
• Center-Weighted Average
• Spot
ISO sensitivities • Auto (ISO 100 - 400)
• 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 *
* With ISO Boost set to On
• Auto (ISO 100 - 400)
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800 *
• ISO 1600 *
* With ISO Boost set to On
Noise filter • New High ISO noise filter
• Optionally enabled
Unspecified
HQ compression options • 1/2.7
• 1/4
• 1/8
• 1/12
• 1/4
• 1/8
Focus modes • S-AF
• C-AF
• MF
• S-AF & MF
• C-AF & MF
• S-AF
• C-AF
• MF
• S-AF & MF
MF bracketing Yes No
WB bracketing • 3 frames
• 5, 10 or 15 mired steps
• 3 frames
• 1, 2 or 3 steps
Continuous • 3.0 fps
• RAW: 4 frames
• JPEG: 15 frames max
• 2.5 fps
• RAW: 4 frames
• JPEG: 4 frames
My Mode Yes No
B&W Mode Selectable filters Fixed monochrome filter
Custom WB 1 memory 3 memories
Kelvin WB 2000 - 14000 K 2000 - 10000 K
Flash bracketing Yes No
Scene modes • Portrait
• Landscape
• Landscape & Portrait
• Night Scene
• Night Scene & Portrait
• Children
• Sports
• High Key
• Low key
• D Image Stabilization
• Macro
• Natural Macro
• Candle
• Sunset
• Fireworks
• Documents
• Panorama
• Beach & Snow
• Under Water Wide
• Under Water Macro
• Portrait
• Landscape
• Landscape + Portrait
• Night Scene
• Night Scene + Portrait
• Macro
• Sunset
• Candle
• Fireworks
• Documents
• Museum
• High Key
• Beach & Snow
• Sport
Info. display • Two levels
• Color selectable
One level
Record review Any of the seven play display modes Single image, no histogram
Play display modes • No overlaid information
• Basic overlay
• More detailed overlay
• Thumbnail, AF point, 4 way histogram
• Large histogram overlay
• Blinking highlights
• Blinking shadows
• No overlaid information
• Basic overlay
• More detailed overlay
• Large histogram overlay
• Blinking highlights
• Thumbnail, AF point, info
Play magnify Up to 14x Up to 10x
Play index 4, 9, 16, 25 frames, Calendar 4, 9, 16 frames
Play marking Yes, batch erase and copy No
Red-eye fix Yes, play mode 'Edit' No
Storage • Compact Flash
• xD-Picture Card
Compact Flash
Viewfinder • Side mounted Porro Finder
• 94% field of view
• 1.0x magnification
• Clip-fit eyecup
• Eye-piece shutter
• Side mounted Porro Finder
• 94% field of view
• 1.0x magnification
• Fixed eyecup
LCD monitor • 2.5" TFT LCD monitor
• 215,250 pixels
• Wide viewing angle
• Flip-out and up
• 1.8" TFT LCD monitor
• 134,000 pixels
Live view on LCD Yes, two modes No
Dimensions 140 x 87 x 72 mm (5.5 x 3.4 x 2.8 in) 147 x 85 x 64 mm (5.8 x 3.4 x 2.5 in)
DC-IN No Yes
Weight • No battery: 539 g (1.2 lb)
• With battery: 617 g (1.4 lb)
• No battery: 580 g (1.3 lb)
• With battery: 624 g (1.4 lb)

Live MOS Sensor technical information

(A Press Release provided by Olympus)

Features

The Live MOS Sensor offers image quality comparable to a Full Frame Transfer (FFT) CCD sensor with the low power requirements of a CMOS sensor, and is noteworthy for its high-quality imaging capabilities over an extended period of time. Simplified circuitry that reduces the distance from each photodiode to its corresponding on-chip microlens assures excellent sensitivity and image quality even when light strikes it at a high angle of incidence.

  • Resolution: 7.5 megapixels, with excellent low-light performance characteristics.
  • Grain: low-noise technologies assure reduced graininess.
  • Tonal range: Simplification of the transfer register and other circuitry results in a large photodiode surface area for FFT-CCD-level sensitivity and responsiveness.
  • Low power consumption: Power requirements are approximately half those of FFT-CCD sensors.
  • High speed: Simple circuit structure contributes to faster processing overall.

Redesigned Sensor Elements with Greater Photosensitive Surface Area

The Live MOS Sensor takes advantage of the simplified circuit requirements and thinner layer structure of NMOS type sensors to offer a larger photosensitive surface area. In addition, circuit technology refinements were made to boost light utilisation efficiency and improve image quality.

A new transfer mechanism for photodiode signal readout enabled us to reduce the number of circuit paths to two, the same as in a CCD sensor, and thereby minimise the surface area that is unresponsive to light. By effectively enlarging the photosensitive surface area and enabling it to capture light that was previously lost, we were able to achieve both high sensitivity and superior image quality. We also developed a new low-noise photodiode signal amplification circuit to further improve sensitivity.

Low-Noise Technology for Significantly Improved Imaging in Low-Light Environments

A dedicated processing technology developed for use in 5V (design specifications: 2.9V) low-voltage systems is employed to significantly reduce noise. Operating signal noise was also considered, and the sensor photodiodes were deeply embedded in silicon to isolate them from noise-causing elements on the chip surface. As a result, images are clearer, and the graininess and white noise that often appear when shooting in low light are suppressed. Thanks to this technology, low-light performance is improved overall, and a clear image can be obtained even when shooting in very dim light.


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

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This article is Copyright 2006 Phil Askey and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on eproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey

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