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MyFourThirds.com Meets Olympus and the E-300 Show
It was like any other day when we decided to give our Olympus Canada marketing contact a follow up phone call. To our fortune, Olympus was currently on a media tour of Canada with a stop in Toronto the next day (today - November 17) providing us with the opportunity to talk to the Olympus product manager and handle the yet-to-be released EVOLT E-300.
We were greeted very warmly with high acclaim for what MyFourThirds produces and words about how MFT causes a buzz around the Olympus office (a credit to all MFT members). Soon enough, business cards were exchanged, drinks ordered and the camera bag was opened.
First things first. We are not allowed to post sample images and we won't be mentioning all that has been discussed in and around the internet already (we all know where to get specifications and other details like screenshots of menus). Although we did receive a complete specification package detailing the EVOLT E-300, our impression of the camera will come from two perspectives: a) as a new DSLR owner and b) as a backup DSLR to the E-1.
EVOLT E-300 for the New DSLR Owner
Upon first picking up the E-300, you'll immediately notice it has a well moulded grip and a solid build quality to it. All control buttons (except the shutter release) is located at the back of the camera, as is the only display which is used for both image playback and all controls. The pop-up flash lifts high and is located off centre to help prevent red-eye. It is spring loaded and pops up with a solid *clunk* but it appears to require manual operation utilizing the mechanical button located at the back so it wouldn't pop up if low light was detected by the camera. What's more is the ability to use both an external flash for bounce and the pop-up flash for fill-in light at the same time.
For the DSLR novice, Olympus has put in place a "Scene" mode that goes above and beyond the existing pre-formated shooting modes. There are eleven pre-defined modes from landscapes to macro to night time shots. Each is described on the rear LCD with a sample photo followed by text describing the intended use for the mode. It would be nice to have included a description on how the mode works to help the photographer learn how to control these situations themselves. Just a thought.
EVOLT E-300 as a Backup DSLR to the E-1
Back to the beginning, when you pick up the E-300 you'll immediately notice it is lighter and noticeably smaller than the E-1. The hand grip is also smaller although it still maintains the same comfortable sculpted design. Build quality just about matches that of the E-1 and it retains many of the same controls (although they are not located in what we would describe as their usual locations).
What immediately threw us off is the lack of an LCD on the top panel. It took a bit of time to get used to using the LCD on the back to adjust the controls as did some of the buttons that have been moved around. Perhaps Olympus thought this button placement makes more sense (and we see how it could) but for the existing E-1 owner, you'll have to remember which camera you have in your hands. Another change is the control dial which would change the E-1 users' habits from using their index finger to making adjustments using the thumbwheel. While you can also use the thumbwheel on the E-1, its placement isn't as convenient as using the index dial in our opinion. On a final note regarding controls, there is no button available to switch shutter drive from single shot to multiple shot mode forcing the photographer to use the utililty menu on the LCD.
What hasn't been changed is the two-button click histogram menu and focus hunting in low light conditions. Mind you this was a prototype we were using so these capabilities may change before the release date. In preview mode, you now have the ability to zoom in at 10x as opposed to the E-1's 4x which is an added bonus.
Another difference between the E-1 that we're all used to and the new E-300 is when you look through the viewfinder, you get 95% coverage instead of 100%, which is still very good. It's almost as bright too. Camera settings are displayed in the viewfinder vertically along the right side of the view as opposed to the bottom. Once again, this is not a problem, it's just worth noting as it is something to adjust to.
Overall the camera had impressive build quality, it handled well and it takes our precious Digital Zuiko glass. We hope we didn't come out sounding as though we were knocking the changes in design from the E-1 to the E-300. We simply wanted to make our members aware of the differences (figuring out what is the same is easy). As a backup, this camera would be top notch. However if you are interested in purchasing the body without kit lens as your backup, you'll have to wait a couple of months after its release in mid-December to get the body only sale. Our message to Olympus is...don't make us wait!
The Super Sonic Wave Filter...Encore Performance!
The Olympus Product Manager did the "sugar on your CCD" trick that emphasizes one of the major advantages that Olympus has over it's competition. She demonstrated how a pack of sugar, conveniently poured over the CCD, would whisk away when the Super Sonic Wave Filter was activated during a power-on or via the LCD menu system.
Granted, she used a 'mocked up' E1 that had the CCD sensor mounted on the outside of the E1 unit, she assured us that dust would shake off the CCD and straight into a dust storage chamber that would hold enough dust for ten years! Theory or not, our membership can attest that this feature actually does work and it saves Four Thirds photographers a lot of grief.
A Parting Gift...
We've got to be on the up-and-up with all our MFT members. :-) We received a gift from the Olympus Marketing Manager. Below you can see the nifty little pen (two in fact) with the Olympus logo engraved that we were given at the end of the meeting. That said; we've requested that Olympus send us items to give away as prizes to our MyFourThirds.com members for events such as competitions. They said they would do their best and took our mailing address. We'll keep you posted on that progress.
It's been a busy day for us! We hope you've found this article insightful.
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