We've had a quick chance to have a look at the new Olympus E-30, so have put together a brief hands-on report. This mid-level DSLR offers many features of the more expensive E-3, with a host of new functions pulled together in slightly smaller format. So what does the E-30 offer to entice the semi-professional shooter into the Four Thirds fold?

Olympus E-30 brief hands-on

The price gap between the upper-entry-level Olympus E-520 and more expensive E-3 has always suggested there is room for a mid-range DSLR to sit between them. What's not been so clear is what features could be removed from the E-3 or added to the E-520 that would justify the increased price over one without cannibalizing sales of the other. The E-30 is Olympus's answer to that challenge.

The obvious headline change over its forebears is the use of a new 12.3 megapixel Live MOS sensor that we suspect is closely related to the one we saw in the Panasonic G1. In addition is a new processing engine, dubbed TruePix III+ that helps provide many of the camera's new image processing features.

Side-by-side E-520, E-30 and E-3

The E-30 is considerably larger than the E-520, both is width and height but is less tall than the E-3, thanks to its new viewfinder.

The prism-type viewfinder, with its 1.02x magnification and 0.98x coverage is around 10% larger than the pentamirror unit included in the smaller E-System cameras while allowing the E-30 to be over 1cm (0.3 inches)smaller than the E-3. Olympus says the new unit is 60% of the volume of the E-3's prism and just 50% of the weight, helping the E-30 weigh-in around 20% lighter than its big brother.

The E-30 is marginally smaller than its APS-C competitors. (Here seen between the Canon 50D and Nikon D90

The other obvious exterior feature is the camera's tilt and swivel LCD. It's a 2.7", 230,000 dot unit, meaning it can show the same level of detail as the E-3, though not in the same league as the latest offerings from several other manufacturers that are beginning to feature 920,000 dots on screens of similar sizes.

Like its mid-range peers, a battery grip (HLD-4) is available. It also offers a distinctly professional 1/8000th sec fastest shutter speed and 1/250th sec maximum flash sync speed.

But its on the software side of things that sees the biggest changes. First of all there are the 'Art Filters' that provide a series of image effects, such as Pale & Light Color, Pop Art and Pin Hole Camera modes. The E-30 can also shoot in nine aspect ratios (including 3:4 which presumably does more than simply suggest you turn the camera 'round and the interestingly described 6:6).

The E-30 can detect both pitch and roll and has the option to correct for both. There are a variety of Art Filters, selected from when the mode dial is in the Art/Scn position

On the more practical side of things is the ability to automatically correct for both pitch and roll, meaning perspective correction for converging verticals as well as simply straightening horizons. Also present is the ability to fine-tune the phase-detect autofocus that allows adjustment of each of the 11-autofocus points individually.