Rear of Camera Controls

The E-3's rear control layout will be familiar to anyone who's used any of the E-Series cameras since the original E-1, though the gradual 'button creep' we've seen as the range has progressed has reached a new high here. The increased size of the body has been seen as an opportunity to add even more (there are 17 levers and controls on the rear alone). From the top we've got the AEL/AF-L button and secondary control wheel, both of which are very close to the eyepiece. This makes reaching them when shooting quite a stretch unless you're blessed with very long thumbs (and using the wheel with the AE-compensation button is almost impossible).

To the right of these (on the thumb rest) are the 'Fn' (customizable function) and AF point buttons. To the right of the screen are the play mode button, the four-way controller (with 'OK' button in the middle), IS mode button, the main on/off switch and the card door release lever.

The extra height of the body has allowed Olympus to squeeze four more buttons under the screen, though unfortunately the recess they sit in means they're slightly fiddly to get at, particularly if the camera is sat on a tripod. Overall the buttons are a little on the small side for our liking, and if you've got big fingers (or heaven forbid try to use the camera wearing gloves) prepare to be frustrated.

That all said, we're all for keeping important controls easily and quickly accessible, and the E-3 scores points for allowing almost totally menu-free operation most of the time. It's just that the design and layout of the buttons (not just on the back of the camera) doesn't seem particularly well thought out, and it takes a long, long time to get to the point where you can use all the controls in a completely fluid manner - if ever.

Buttons (Shooting mode)

Play mode

Enters a shooting priority play mode, you can return to shooting mode at any time by pressing the shutter release half-way or by pressing this button again.
4-way arrow keys

As usual the four-way controller is used to navigate menus and the 'Super Control Panel' on the rear screen and make selections (using the OK button). The left and and right arrow keys are also used to select AF points when using the Single Area AF modes.
OK Control panel setting change

Press the OK button to change settings directly on the Control Panel display, navigate around the display using the four way controller.

Image Stabilization mode

Press this button and turn the front dial (or press the left/right keys) to switch between the three IS modes:

 • OFF Image stabilizer is off
 • I.S. 1 Image stabilizer is on
 • I.S. 2 This is used when panning in the horizontal direction to achieve a blurred background. The horizontal image stabilizer is turned off, and only the vertical image stabilizer is activated.

INFO 'Super Control Panel' display

Turns the 'Super Control Panel' on and off (displayed on the main color LCD). Unlike consumer E-system cameras there is only one level of information available (detailed).

Enters the camera menu (described later in this preview).
Live View

Switches to Live View mode, this causes the shutter to open and the mirror to raise (hence the viewfinder can not be used in this mode). Press again to cancel.
Card cover lock release

Push this lever to the right to release the card compartment cover lock.

Buttons (Play mode)

In play mode the multi-direction controller is used to browse through images, left / right move an image at a time, up / down jump ten images.

Protect / Unprotect

Protects (or unprotect's) the current image, this sets the file system 'Read Only' flag which means you can't accidentally delete the image using the erase button, however this does not protect against formatting of the storage card (an extra 'This card contains protected images, really format?' dialog would be good).
Fn FUNCTION (Fn) button

In play mode the Fn button offers a fast way to magnify the image (jumps to 10x magnification view).
Split screen mode

In play mode the AF button activates a split screen 'Lightbox' view that allows you to compare two shots side by side.
Exit play mode

Returns to shooting mode, you can achieve the same by half-pressing the shutter release button.


Displays a 'Yes / No' confirmation dialog to delete the current image. If images have been marked (using the OK button) you can delete multiple images in a batch.


Enters the camera menu (described later in this review).
INFO Information Display

Rotates through the six different levels of information display:

 • No overlaid information
 • Basic overlay (quality, filename, file number)
 • More overlay (quality & size, date & time, filename, file number)
 • Histogram with detailed information (Y, R, G, B histograms)
 • Large histogram overlay
 • Blinking highlights (and quality)
 • Blinking shadows (and quality)
OK Mark / Unmark image

Allows you to mark or unmark (tick mark) images as you browse, marked images can then be deleted or copied as a batch.

Front controls

On the right side of the lens mount is the lens release button, on the left side the depth of field preview button.