Evolt E-330

Evolt E-330

The E-330 is the first digital SLR camera to offer live image previews on its tilting LCD.


The Evolt E-330 is the first interchangeable-lens digital SLR camera that allows live previewing of images on its 2.5-inch LCD. For most photographers it's probably not a big deal, since SLR cameras let you see an accurate, through-the-lens image of your shot in the optical viewfinder. But live LCD framing can be handy when holding the camera up high to shoot over a crowd or down low for dramatic angles. And it can be invaluable for shooting small objects and ultra close-ups with the camera on a tripod - you don't have to straddle the tripod or use a step stool to look through the viewfinder.


An image viewed in the optical finder of a digital SLR first passes through the lens upside-down and is then reflected (hence the reflex) by a series of mirrors so you can see it correctly. However, the position of one of the mirrors prevents the transmission of a live image preview to the LCD. In the E-330, Olympus positions a small, second sensor in the reflex viewing path that allows the image to be displayed at about 95 percent of its size on the LCD - this mode is called Live View A. In Live View B mode, the mirror that's in the way is moved aside and locked in place so photos can be previewed exactly as the camera's 7.5-megapixel NMOS sensor, called Live MOS, will record them. Both methods work well when used appropriately, but each has its own nuances.


We used Live View A for general photography, but when we held the camera away from us, we had to remember to flip a lever to prevent light from backing into the viewfinder, which can cause underexposed images. In Live View A, you can use autofocus - but remember, you only see about 95 percent of the actual image you are shooting.


Live View B mode lets you see the actual size of the image the E-330's Live MOS sensor will capture. But in this mode, you have to manually focus the camera. We used this mode for close-ups with the camera on a tripod, moving a little green target box on the screen to perform a 10x magnification of sections of the image. We were then able to critically focus on those areas without moving the camera or zooming in, both of which would have required us to reframe the image. If macro or tabletop photography is your thing, this feature is priceless.


The E-330 delivered beautifully sharp pictures with virtually no noise up to and including ISO 400. And although ISO 800 is a bit noisy, it's tolerable. However, we found that the camera's noise-reduction feature (which can't be turned off) softened images a little too much for our liking at ISO 1600. Aside from that, exposures are right on, and color is near perfect.


The camera also has an excellent range of image-adjustment settings for color, tone, and sharpness, as well as lightning-fast writing to memory cards. Buttons and dials are in the right places, and the grip is extremely comfortable. We liked the option of being able to manually control the flash intensity, especially useful for close-ups. Menus could use a bit of work, though; that's always been Olympus' Achilles heel.


The bottom line. The E-330's live-view capability is a technological breakthrough that you'll find quite useful, especially when you're shooting at odd angles.


COMPANY: Olympus
CONTACT: 800-622-6372, www.olympus.com
PRICE: $999 (body only), $1,099 (with 14-45mm lens)
REQUIREMENTS: USB, Mac OS 10.1 or later
Excellent image quality. Live image previews on bright, 2.5-inch, tilting LCD. The 14-45mm lens is a gem.
Sluggish manual focus. Menus can be confusing. Images somewhat soft at ISO 1600.





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