Live View off: Shooting information / settings changes

With live view off you can optionally display a Control Panel on the LCD monitor, this provides both an overview of camera settings as well as a method for changing settings. Press OK to access the options, move around and press OK again to change a setting. Unlike the lowlier models in the E-system range the E-3 only offers one level of information ('lots').

Overall we weren't that impressed with the E-3's control system (the external buttons, the incomprehensible top panel LCD and the interminable menus), but the 'Super Control Panel' is the saving grace, without which the camera would be almost too annoying to use. Other manufacturers could learn a thing or two from this feature.

An example of the information display which provides a summary of current camera settings and exposure. Press the OK button to access any displayed setting, move around using the 4-way controller and OK again to change.
Changing White Balance Changing Picture Mode

Live View on

The E-3 features the same Live View functionality as all the other current models in the Olympus range, though the marginally faster and noticeably quieter mirror mechanism means it's marginally less annoying to use. To activate live view you simply press the button on the rear of the camera (below the LCD). You can change the image overlay in live view mode by pressing the INFO button. Below you can see the four default views followed by the three optional grid overlay views.

Note that every time you switch Live View mode on the screen displays a reminder to flip the switch on the side of the viewfinder to close the eyepiece blind (this is to stop the metering being affected by light entering from the viewfinder).


Changing settings in Live View

In live view mode pressing the OK button displays a semi-transparent settings overlay as shown on the left below, this not only provides a summary of current camera settings but allows you to navigate and change any setting you wish (as above).

Live View: Auto Focus

Like the other cameras in the E-System the E-3 provides for Auto Focus in Live View,and once again it does so by closing the shutter and dropping the mirror so that the AF sensor can be used. During AF the Live View is darkened and frozen and returns when the camera has achieved a focus lock or has given up trying, this can take as little as 0.5 seconds (it feels fractionally faster than the E-510 / E-410, but not enough to make a significant difference when shooting). Using Live View adds around 0.6 seconds to the shutter lag (we measured it as 0.68 sec with live view on, 0.03 sec with it off).

This example animation is slowed down to around half its normal speed, it actually took around 0.6 seconds for the camera to drop the mirror, focus lock and raise it again before returning the live view with the steady green focus indicator.

The sequence you're seeing here is: live view before focus, half-press shutter release, screen darkens and freezes (mirror down, AF), focus complete (mirror up), live view returns.

Live View: Exposure sequence

In Live View mode the shutter release sequence is; mirror down, measure exposure, mirror up, shutter release (open / close), mirror down, live view enabled. This clearly means that there is a short period where the screen blacks out (around half a second). This sequence: live view before exposure, depress shutter release button, shot taken (screen blank), record review image appears and returns to live view. As mentioned, it feels a little faster than the E-510 (mainly because the mirror moves a little faster), but in reality the difference in overall shutter lag (including focus) or pre focus lag is very small.

Initial view Half-press the shutter (this brings up a display showing the focus points currently being used).
Full press of the shutter freezes (and darkens) the on-screen image. The mirror drops and the camera focuses. Once focus is locked the green dot appears (very fleetingly) on the screen and the mirror lifts again to take the shot.
The screen goes blank for the duration of the exposure. After a short delay the record review image appears (in whichever display mode you were last using in Playback), or - if you've turned record review off, the camera returns to live view.

Live View: Manual Focus magnification

The E-3 features magnified Live View feature; simply press the INFO button until the magnify loupe appears. You can reposition the loupe anywhere in the scene then press OK to magnify. Select between 7x and 10x view by turning the main dial.

During magnification Returned to full frame view

Live View: Low Light performance and 'Boost'

Live View performance in low light is surprisingly good, though in very dim conditions the picture starts to get a little grainy and eventually gets too dark to see. There is a Live View boost option, which amplifies the screen image as light levels drop (and eventually flips to monochrome, as below), but there are a couple of issues you should be aware of when using this option.

Firstly since the Live View boost attempts to keep a constantly bright preview image you can't preview the effect of exposure compensation or manual exposures (without the boost on the screen image fairly accurately reflects the exposure, getting dark if it's under exposed, bright if it's over exposed). This also causes a problem if you use the live histogram; since this is measured from the preview image it no longer reflects the actual metered exposure if you use the boost (basically manual exposures or exposure compensations are not reflected in the live histogram). It would be nice if the live view display (either with or without the boost function) simulated exposure (as, for example, the Canon 40D does), certainly if it had this as an option.

Dark scene Dark scene + F22 DOF preview

Live View: Depth of Field preview

One advantage of Live View is that you can get an exact representation of focus point and depth of field on the LCD screen. In the example below the image on the left is at F5.6, on the right at F22 with the DOF preview button held. Note that, further to the live view boost issues mentioned above the boost kicks in automatically when you press the DOF preview button (even if you've got it disabled), so the scene doesn't darken when the lens is closed down.