E-30 production camera review

10/01/09 10/01/09

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E-30 Advanced Manual available HERE .


This is a lengthy article divided into 13 sections with links for ease of navigation. These are:


I have been asked by J-Marc Guillemaut from France, to provide a small glossary of the more common abbreviations I use throughout various articles appearing on this website. Abbreviations, while useful can be difficult to understand, especially for those whose native language is not English.

AEL/AFL = Auto Exposure/Auto Focus Lock

AF = Auto Focus

CCD = Charged Coupled Device

CD AF = Contrast Detect Auto Focus

CMOS = Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor

CW = Centre Weighted (metering)

DOF = Depth of Field

DSLR = Digital Single Lens Reflex camera

EFL = Equivalent Focal Length (on a 24x36mm film camera)

ESP = Electro Selective Pattern (metering)

EVF = Electronic Viewfinder

fps = frames per second

GN = Guide Number (flash)

jpg = Joint Photographers Expert Group (image file format)

I.S. = Image Stabilization

LCD = Liquid Crystal Display

MP = MegaPixels/Mega Photosites

OMZ = OM Zuiko (lens)

ORF = Olympus Raw File

OVF = Optical Viewfinder

PD AF = Phase Detect Auto Focus

RC = Remote Control

SSWF = Supersonic Wave Filter (body feature)

SWD = Supersonic Wave Drive (lens feature)

TIF = Tagged Image File (image file format)

TTL = Through The Lens

USB = Universal Serial Bus

ZD = Zuiko Digital (lens)

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Having chosen the E-3 as my personal camera (and having some reservations about its weight and ergonomics) I was especially interested to see what the new 'intermediate' model might offer. I also own and use the E-1, E-330 and E-400 so have a broad understanding of the challenges of the four-thirds concept and the problems Olympus can have in overcoming some of them. That said, I am a supporter of the company's philosophy and still believe that Olympus DSLR's and their lens systems deliver exceptionally good imaging. There's little doubt that Zuiko Digital lenses are some of the best ever developed, be they budget, professional or top pro grade; zoom or fixed focal length. I still subscribe to the mantra 'the lens is mightier than the sensor'.

The E-30 is designed to fit between the E-5XX and the E-X series, in terms of build, performance, capability and price. The E-30 is the 10th Olympus DSLR in just 5 years.

I received a pre-production sample of the E-30 on 2nd December from Olympus UK. The lens that came with the camera is the new ZD14-54 Mkll. The camera is firmware 0.8; the lens 1.0. I believe the commercial E-30 body will have an updated firmware of at least version 1.0. I have been asked NOT to post image samples from that unit and, of course, this inevitably means it's pointless speculating on performance from a firmware version that is in development. Obviously I have taken quite a few images with the camera and to date I'm quite impressed, but please don't ask for clarification - it would not be fair to Olympus.

Two weeks later I received the production unit from Olympus UK. I have it for about 12 days so there's plenty of time to test its capabilities. If you have any specific questions please email me over the coming holiday and I'll do my best to answer.

I'm going to take several sets of test images over the next few days. It takes quite a while to add these to my review so please don't expect them to be done immediately - please keep checking back.

In addition I have a conclusion to reach and write up. Much will depend on the cameras performance over the next few days but I will endeavour to have the whole review updated and completed by the end of the year.

I understand the E-30 has gone on sale in Japan so it might be wise to keep an eye on the Japanese websites for images from production cameras to study.

My time with the E-30 has been quite limited so I've not been able to explore all its features and capabilities.

More good news; I've been promised an early production E-30 too. Though I've not been given a date, I believe it will be middle to late December. That being so I have decided to review the camera in two parts. The first part will deal with the camera's handling, ergonomics and functions and the second part will follow when I get the production model and can publish images from it. This will at least allow any reader interested in the E-30 to get a 'feel' for the camera. I'm sure you can see my reasoning.


* Face & Background Control for beautifully balanced exposures of foreground subjects and background scenery

* Large viewfinder with 98% field of view & 1.02 magnification for accurate image control

* Easy-to-apply Art Filters for enhanced creativity (Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale&Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole)

* Multiple-exposure function with LCD monitor display of current view on top of previously captured image

* Comfortable viewing with Autofocus Live View

* Built-In flash (GN13) & wireless flash control directly from the E-30 body

* 6,9cm/2,7" Multi-angle HyperCrystal II LCD with Live View for greatest flexibility and real-time monitoring

* Newly developed 12.3 MP high speed Live MOS sensor with wide dynamic range

* Qualified image processing with new True Pic III

* Built-in I.S. with max. 5 steps efficiency

* During Live View shooting a choice of 9 different aspect ratios (4:3,3:2,16:9,6:6,5:4,7:6,6:5,7:5,3:4)

* World's fastest auto focus system for quick and precise capture perfection

* High burst rate (5fps, 12 RAW images buffer)

* 1/8000 sec. high-speed and high-precision shutter control & 1/250 flash synchronisation

* Fully biaxial high-speed 11 point AF system

* Great image performance and large variety of bright dedicated-to-digital lenses thanks to Four Thirds Standard

* High-precision, 49-zone metering system

* Auto gradation adjustment to prevent blown highlights and blocked-in shadows

* Live simulation function (effective monitoring)

* Pre-control over White Balance & exposure compensation

* Preview of shadow adjustment technology (SAT) for maximum image results

* 5x/7x/10x magnified view for precise focusing

* Spotless photography with a strong dust reduction system

* Ergonomic design of body, control buttons and GUI for easy operation

* AE/AF lock functionality for individual customisation

* High sensivity (ISO 100-3200)

* Accurate White Balance with two sensors

* High-speed data writing and lossless compression for quick processing

* Second control panel display for direct view

* Optional power grip ideal for portrait shooting and long battery life

* USB 2.0 High Speed

* Dual memory card slots (for xD-Picture Card and CompactFlash)

Headlines in RED show brand new features/developments not previously seen.

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In line with other E-system cameras the E-30 has a series of service screens and an error page (p.4). To access say, the shutter count (page 2 item R), follow this basic procedure:

1. Switch on and open the card door

2. Press OK and MENU together; this will bring up the basic camera description screen

3. Press up, down, left, right, shutter button and up button to get screen 1

4. Use right, down, left and up to cycle through the 4 pages

5. To return to normal just close the card door.

To see what each screen tells you read my descriptive article here .


Here's a selection of E-30 images from various angles:

E-30 front view: Note the new ZD14-54 appears identical to the old model with the exception of the fancy blue and chrome rings and of course the 'll' legend on the lens ID plate. The IR receiver is placed in the frontal aspect of the grip. The flash release is electronic, only working when the camera is ON.

E-30 side view: Here you can see the 'll' on the lens ID plate. The grip appears to be E-520 and note the card access door is 'slide back' to open. The buttons around the top panel are identical to the E-3.

E-30 side view with flash raised: This shows the size of the camera with flash up and ZD14-54mm lens fully extended. The rubber door to the base of the side panel covers the DC (9v) IN plug (proprietary) and also note the external flash synch plug on the front.

E-30 rear view with screen turned inwards and locked for maximum protection. In this case you would use the top panel for camera adjustments. Note the new 4-way controller with integrated ON/OFF switch and the general button arrangement very much along E-3 lines.

E-30 rear view with screen turned outwards and locked in position.

E-30 rear view with rear screen folded away from the body in a typically 'Macro' position. The multi-poseable screen adds great functionality to the useful Live View facility and is a boon for low ground shots.


The E-30 is finished in the now Olympus standard black 'crackle' type finish over a glass re-inforced plastic & part metal body shell/chassis. It has a substantial rubber covered grip with the same rubber material insert on the back plate indent for the right thumb and on the users left where there is also a small 'mini-grip' (bump) near the base plate on the frontal aspect. The weight of the camera definitely encourages two-handed use. With the addition of the HLD-4 battery grip the handling (in my opinion) improves as there is now more mass at the base of the camera for the lower part of the right hand to press against providing more balance.

The E-30 enjoys no dust or drip proofing as do the E-1 & E-3. Given the size and weight I believe this has been a purely commercial decision by Olympus, rather than one of design expedience. But, naturally, it does have the famous Olympus SSWF method of cleaning dust from the sensor, still the bane of many other DSLR systems as well as sensor based image stabilization.

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SIZE/WEIGHT: The new camera has a very similar look and 'feel' to the E-3 and when comparing the two machines side by side they obviously have a very similar or the same basic chassis. Note: the E-30 body is made from glassfibre reinforced plastics, whereas the E-3 body enjoys an immensely strong Magnesium alloy body. At 141.5 x 107.5 x 75.0 mm the E-30 is actually only 12% less in bulk to the E-3's 142.5 x 116.5 x 74.5 mm. The difference in height is attributable to the E-3's over-sized (and delightful) prism. In terms of weight however the difference is 19% between the E-30's 655g and the E-3's 810g and this is due to body construction and different viewfinder prism arrangements. Put simply, I was surprised at just how big and heavy the E-30 is; I was anticipating something smaller and lighter.

HLD-4: The E-30 can be fitted with The HLD-4 battery holder cum grip; the unit designed for the E-3. With this in place the combined camera and grip becomes even more E-3-esque and any small reductions in bulk and weight are virtually lost in the enlarged package. But, at least, my previous complaint about the E-3 not sharing the same grip as the E-1 and therefore not being a 'system' machine is partly eliminated. Hopefully and from now, Olympus will 'grow' the E-System as a 'true' camera system sharing interchangeable components.

COMMAND (MODE) DIAL: The obvious main differences between the two cameras is immediately noticeable on the top plate. The E-30 has reverted back to a manual command dial (knob) to select the basic operating mode. The knob, unlike other E-Cameras is on the shallow left shoulder and selects: P, A, S, M, AUTO, ART/SCN, and common modes of portrait, landscape, macro, sport & nightime. Other than the mode dial the top plates are very similar.

TOP PLATE & COMMAND SCREEN: I'm delighted to see the provision of the top command screen, a feature I feel to be almost a necessity, but I know others may disagree. The top screen is the same size as the E-3 with slight layout differences and reduced information. Reinstating the command dial (see above) means the buttons normally on the left shoulder have been moved to the upper left part of the back plate. Interestingly the E-30's FLASH button is entirely electronic requiring the power to be on before releasing the flash but allowing a further press to bring up flash options on the top panel and LCD.

REAR: The back plate is different from all other Olympus DSLRs. The E-30 rear has been redesigned. The biggest feature, the flip-out screen is larger (both physically and screen wise), the ON/OFF switch is incorporated into the 4-way control and gone is the card door release of the E-3. However, most of the direct access buttons are in very similar places. Base plate is virtually identical to the E-3.

FRONT: The front of the E-30 is a cross between the E-520 and E-3. It has a lower profile than the rather top-heavy E-3. I'm pleased to see a front control wheel in addition to the one on the back plate (I'm a fan of double wheels) and I also note there's an external flash synch plug. The small external WB sensor is on the left (looking at the camera) and the IR receiver has moved to lower front of the grip. Of greatest note is the provision of a dedicated 'preview' button that closes the aperture to its set value to enable the user to judge depth of field. On most other Olympus DSLR's (except E-3 & E-1) this is a function button choice.

I'm almost tempted to describe the E-30 as a 'reduced' E-3 (it's certainly not a 'mini E-3') but of course, there's more to it than that. Perhaps the description will give you an immediate 'sense' of the camera.


One reader has asked me to compare the E-30 to the E-1. The cameras are almost identical in dimensions with the E-30 slightly taller and slightly thicker in body (excluding the grip). The camera grips (not additional battery grips) feel very similar and weight-wise the E-30 and E-2 are almost identical (5gm difference). Perhaps I should have called the E-30 a resurrected E-1.

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For your various points of reference here's a legend of the E-30's business side:

E-30 rear view.

The layout of controls is generally recognisable as 'Olympus' but there's not a huge amount of difference between all DSLR's. What is important is how the lay-out works for you, the user. If a single layout was perfect all cameras would be the same but they're not, and this is where ergonomics comes in and designers spend lots of R&D money trying to achieve good ergonomics.

I had some reservations about the E-3; in the next few days we'll see if the E-30's modified layout has addressed any of my previous concerns, but in the mean time lets explore the camera.

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BATTERY & GRIP: The E-30 shares the BLM1 with most of the other E-system machines; good. There's nothing worse than having a multitude of different batteries and chargers. The battery door is removeable for storeage on the power post of the HLD-4, should you decide to add a grip to your system. Well done Olympus for making the grip interchangeable between the E-3 and E-30. For those not familiar with the HLD-4 it accepts 2 x BLM1's and provides additional Shutter, AF and Function buttons plus 2 control wheels allowing the camera to be fully utilised in portrait as well as landscape modes.

BATTERY PERFORMANCE: On an E-30 without grip, the BLM1 standard battery life appears good. I reckon in excess of 350 shots with normal reviewing. Using Live View this drops to around 200. Much depends on the age and condition of the battery and mine are by no means new. I've not had time to fully test my HLD-4 with the E-30.

MEMORY CARD(S): As with most other Olympus DSLR's the E-30 accepts (uses) either compact flash cards or xD. The E-30 can utilise the latest compact flash high speed writing technology. To me the only use the xD slot can possibly serve is for emergency storeage/transter. I detest these slow little cards. The card door does not have a separate lock or weatherproofing seals and only requires a pull towards the user for it to unlatch and flip open. Inside are the two memory card slots with the standard grey C/F card release peg.

ON/OFF: The on/off switch is integrated around the 4-way controller on the back plate. Push the switch down for on and the camera responds immediately with a burst of activity from the SSWF dust remover lamp and the busy light glows momentarily. This process takes about 1.75 - 2 seconds. The top panel activates showing the cameras current settings and you are ready to go. IF IS is enabled, the camera 'parks' the sensor shift mechanism with a quick BRRR... on shut-down. Otherwise shut-off is virtually instantaneous.

TOP (COMMAND) PANEL: The E-30 boasts a top plate command screen. Only the E-1 and E-3 are fitted with this second means of seeing, accessing and changing exposure information. The screen is approx 45mm x 20mm.

E-30 command panel.

The panel duplicates most viewfinder information read-out and also displays some of the exposure information that is shown on the super control panel when initiated. When working in challenging conditions with the LCD screen turned inwards for protection the top command panel is invaluable for rapid changing of exposure parameters. Here's an image of the panel in operation:

E-30 top command panel in use.

In addition the panel can be illuminated for use in dismal conditions by pressing the LIGHT button. This will also turn on the display panel on the FL-50 flash if fitted.

E-30 top control panel illuminated.

E-30 top command panel from the user manual.

Top Segment L to R: Drive/Remote/Self Timer; WB Comp; Selected WB Icons.

Mid Segment L to R: P(s); ISO; BRKT; shutter; aperture; exposure meter bar above; multi-exposure; meter mode; AF point.

Low Segment L to R: File type; Flash mode, Flash comp; AF/MF; Shots left; Battery.

The command panel on the E-30 is quite comprehensive but less so than the E-3 or E-1. For instance I can see no icon for buffer clearing when using burst shutter mode. That said it is a great addition setting the E-XX range above the E-XXX range in features. NOTE: The exposure meter bar is present only in M or A modes.


The E-30 has a rear LCD screen of 2.7" with a resolution of 230,00 dots with 15 levels of adjustment available. It is good but not exceptional. Reviewing your images is OK providing you don't increase the magnification too much. As with all other Olympus DSLR's if the magnification is increased beyond 7X no more file information is made available, so there is no more detail to be seen at the 10X & 14X settings.

When the monitor is used as the Super Control Panel its larger size makes the menus easier to read and discern on bright days. During my time with the E-30 there was no occasion where I could not read the LCD rear screen; even in direct and bright sunlight all I had to do was create a touch of shade with my hand and I could read it fine.

VIEWFINDER: The E-30 is quite heavy so when bringing it to the eye it's natural to use two hands, the right around the grip and the left under the lens mount. The camera has an accurate dioptre adjustment wheel on the left and the finder is surrounded with the same soft rubber eye-piece as fitted to the E-XXX series, though any E-camera eye-piece rubber will fit and the one from the E-3 is more comfortable. I note here that the exit pupil of the viewfinder is concave on the E-30 and flat on all other E-cameras. The viewfinder position is heavily biased to the left and for right-eye users this means your nose sits against the multi-angle screen hinge, rather than the screen itself; good news. However, for left eye users your nose will be pressed against the on/off switch! The viewfinder is quite large, substantially larger than the E-4XX and E-5XX series but not as large as the E-3 and is, of course, in the 4:3 format. It is crisp and quite bright (nothing like the OM series though) with the 11 AF point markers grouped around the central AF point within its circle. Below the view is the exposure information read-out in green. This is E-3 based and comprehensive showing:

E-30 viewfinder information - apologies for poor reproduction.

Left to Right Top: FP Flash, Metering Mode, Shutter speed, Aperture, Shooting Mode, Comp +/-, Buffer, IS, Auto ISO, Battery.

Left to Right Bottom: Flash ready, AF confirm, Flash comp, AE Lock, WB, Exposure, Bracket, ISO sensitivity.

NOTE: The ISO read-out is not on permanent display, it lights only when the ISO button is pressed. I'm not sure if this is a bug in the firmware, or by design. I haven't found any other use for this area of the read-out so it might be a bug.

Remember, the E-30 does NOT enjoy 100% coverage in its OVF so you are seeing a 98% crop from the centre. Yes, this is marginal and much better than the 95% crop of the E-XXX camera range, but still important to consider when composing.

There is no in-built viewfinder shutter provided. This means using those silly bits of black plastic that instantly go walkabout! I suppose this is another way of reducing cost. This minor gripe pertains to most Olympus Prosumer DSLR cameras and for most folks is a non-issue; however the fundamental problem of extraneous light entering the camera through the 'back-door' and skewing the metering is very real and should not be ignored.

USE OF ME-1: I was asked to test the ME-1 on the E-30. While it fits the camera and increases the size of the percieved image by 1.2x I found it produced an out of focus vignette around the periphery of the finder, worst in top left and bottom right corners. This was quite horrible. In addition, to read the viewfinder information bar I had to screw my eye downwards and that was distinctly uncomfortable after just a few seconds. The ME-1 proved no significant advantage when using manual focus either. All in all a disappontment and not recommended.

SHUTTER, SHUTTER SOUND, FRAME RATE & CF USE: The shutter speed range is very well specified and identical to the E-3. From 60 seconds to 1/8000th plus selectable 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 20, 25 & 30 minutes in BULB is quite generous. The shutter is not especially quiet or refined like the E-1 having the same sound as the E-3 but slightly lower in tone. (From this I'm assuming it is the E-3 shutter.) It has a metalic click/clack sound. It is, however, quieter than the E-XXX range of machines.

Frame rate when set to high is 5fps or may be user defined (1-4fps) when LOW is selected. Just as important is the buffer size and processing speed, as is the speed of the CF card you choose. With a 4GB SanDisk Extreme III CF card in the E-30, a burst of 5 frames in Large Fine JPG took only 4 seconds to write to card - impressive. The same burst of 5 frames in RAW+LF JPG took some 12 seconds to write to card. (However, with an xD card the whole process slows dramatically.) I find the whole performance of the camera simply excellent, nothing was delayed by internal processing - but I did not undertake sports events so cannot comment on that performance.

The E-30 works fine with the RM1 remote providing you enable this in the DRIVE setting. There are 2 remote settings; instant and 2 seconds. I use the remote a lot when testing, along with tripod and mirror lock-up to ensure vibration free shots. For anyone not familiar with the RM1 its 'Zoom' buttons control the shutter in BULB mode. The camera also worked fine with the cheaper Chinese copies.

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The E-30 shares the same 11 AF point system with the E-3, a great improvement over the 3-point AF version in other E-system cameras. Some users of other E-System machines complain about the relative lack of sophistication of the 3-point AF systems, both in number of points, accuracy and speed. In response Olympus brought about a combined approach of SWD lenses that address accuracy and speed issues, and an increased number of AF points. In addition, there's a choice of three AF patterns to suit most users. The E-30's AF system is highly configurable both in target, pattern and sensitivity. It appears identical to the E-3.

AF fine adjust This is a first and found in Menu Spanner 1 (i). This feature allows the user to register known vagaries of a lens for +/- 20 steps (settings for up to 20 lenses can be registered) for compensation. Try as I might I could not get this to work satisfactorily; whether this was a bug in the firmware or simply me not understanding the system I'm not sure, but I will revisit this when the production model arrives.

With the production model things are no clearer. Reading the manual rather suggests that each AF point can register a different value but each time I go through the procedure any over-ride I enter is applied globally to all points. I'm not even sure there's any benefit to having several AF points registering differently. If you have a prime lens that for example persistently back-focuses this registerable over-ride is a great tool and very welcome. But back-focus is a lens fault and will be applied to the whole flat field of view. I can also see that some zoom lenses just might have different focusing characteristics at telephoto and wide-angle ends leading to poor performance at certain focal lengths, but again these will be observed over the whole field of view. Maybe I need more time with this feature. I think this feature might be one that Olympus may come to regret when lenses are mis-registered with the camera and subsequently sent back under warranty for focus re-calibration.

The AF sensor array uses both vertical and horizontal sensitivities on the cross point axes. There is also a dedicated processor purely for the AF function. A new method of magnifying pixel density improves AF effectiveness in low-light conditions to a luminescence range of -2 to 19 EV. The system works as I have obtained accurate focus in almost no light conditions; the new system is very impressive and a huge improvement on the 3-point system..

Combined with SWD lenses (that provide a new means of motorising the lens movements in accurate and tiny steps that is both silent and virtually instant) the E-30's AF system is very fast and effective. The heightened processing power of the E-30 brings it all together to deliver an impressive performance.

IN USE: The selected AF point glows red on shutter half press and soon after the camera beeps and signals AF confirmation in the viewfinder - green spot; (NOTE: red AF point illumination does NOT indicate focus). The user has the choice of enabling the pointer square to be lit or not via the Spanner 1 D menu. The user can also choose the pattern from 3 basic choices; single point, single point dynamic (cross or partial cross shape of adjacent points enabled) and all points via the AF Pattern dedicated button. There is an over-ride provided in each selection allowing the user to move the pattern left, right, up or down, again via the dedicated button/wheel. Further customization is possible (Spanner 1 F) by the user being able to stipulate how the patterns cycle by selecting loop or spiral as well as determining AF point sensitivity; normal or small area (Spanner 1 E).

LOW LIGHT: As regards low light performance the E-30 is as good as the E-3; which is very good. The camera of course integrates with the FL series flashguns and with the 'R' series will provide wireless communication with up to 9 'R' flashes for complex lighting. In poor lighting conditions the camera alone (and if enabled in the menu) will use a strobe of light from the on-board flash to assist with AF. Many users are unhappy with this preferring to use either of the dedicated FL36/50 units as the flash itself emits a red beam for AF assist; another good reason to use an external flash. It is not possible to use both on-board with direct flash attachment, but off camera use of the FL series flashes can be enabled with the flash cable FL-CB5 (About £50.00).

Experience with my E-3 has taught me to re-learn how to better hold and aim the camera as well as being more proactive in selecting my focus point in the scene, the AF point(s) pattern and sensitivity. This has delivered more consistent and accurate AF lock/confirmation and, inevitably, shots. Those moving from the prosumer level Olympus DSLR with the old 3-point system will need to learn a new dicipline to get the best out of the enhanced AF system.

I noted the following from the E-3 and it pertains to the E-30 too; if you press the lens lock with the camera switched on this disconnects the information flow between lens and body. The camera will no longer auto focus, confirm focus, beep focus confirmation or display aperture information. I assume this is to save having to switch the camera OFF when changing the lens though I believe Olympus recommends switch off.


However, the improved 11 point AF system is not the entire story. The E30's companion lens, the new ZD14-54 (II) is not a SWD lens; it has been redesigned to deliver greater contrast AF performance to enable the E-30's boast of rapid 'imager AF' in Live View. And, indeed it works very well.

With the E-3 when working in Live View, to achieve focus the AEF/AEL button is pressed followed by a mirror flip to access the AF module under the mirror to obtain AF. After any adjustment necessary by either manual focus intervention or another AF sequence the shutter is pressed and there's another mirror flip sequence to capture the image - down; up - exposure - down; and up again to return to LV - a bit messy.

With the E-30, in LV mode, as soon as the shutter button is half pressed the green focus indicator square appears and focus is achieved silently, quickly and accurately - on the screen. On complete shutter press, obviously the mirror flips to allow exposure and then its return to LV position. But the process is rapid with virtually no lag; as soon as the shutter button is pressed the mirror flips down to be in the right place for exposure during which (and instantly) the mirror works as normal i.e. up-exposure-down and then the mirror flips back up to enable continuing LV. The only lag involved is the time it takes to mechanically flip the mirror and expose the shot which is only marginally slower than a 'normal' sequence - i.e. when not in LV mode. For users of LCD's rather than OVF's this will be a welcome and capable addition and certainly a better implementation than on any previous single imager Olympus DSLR. But, as long as DSLR's have a mirror and shutter, this mechanical lag simply cannot compete with the electronic shutter of the compact. Whether Olympus' implementation of micro 4/3rds will involve a conventional shutter as does that from the Panasonic G1, remains to be seen.

The new Imager AF system works with all contrast detect enhanced lenses, currently the ZD14-42mm; ZD40-150 (II); ZD25mm Pancake and the new ZD14-54mm (II). Of these, I tried all but the Pancake and each worked as described above with no significant lag. With the first version of the ZD14-54mm with the menu set to 'IMAGER AF' focus could be achieved from the sensor (no mirror flip) but it was quite slow and subject to hunting. When the shutter button was fully pressed the system immediately defaults to 'Hybrid AF' which leads to significant lag as focus confirmation is sought from the normal AF module after the first flip of the mirror and before the normal mirror sequence of up-exposure-down.

FACE DETECTION: Face Detect: The E-30 also facilitates 'face detection'. When enabled this feature recognises a face, frames it with a white box and gives preference to both focus and metering within this area thus ensuring the face is perfectly exposed. It is like a very clever spot exposure system. I did mess around with this feature but as there's only two of us here it was not possible to try on multiple faces. I can see this feature might be welcomed by many coming from the compact world, but to me anyway, it is little more than a gimmick (but that's just me). The face detect system works in any LV mode and with any lens including manual OM lenses.

Personally I'm still an OVF fan and while I can see the opportunities this new technology offers in certain situations, I'm not entirely convinced of its ultimate promise. To become 'compact' like the mirror will have to be replaced with EVF or go backwards to the semi-silvered type (ala E10/20) and the shutter has to be electronic - Oh! and a host of other technical issues to be resolved. But I'm old fashioned!


The main benefits of LV are:

(1) the user sees precisely the image about to be captured,

(2) there are occasions when it is more convenient or less intrusive to use the camera screen to compose,

(3) LV offers a level of familiarity to those coming from the compact world.

THREE LV MODES: Three choices for LV operation are offered via the main menu; AF Sensor, Hybrid AF and Imager AF; (earlier iterations of this technology such as the E-3 offered only one method, AF sensor).

Remember, regardless of which mode you select, pressing the LV (monitor) button flips up the mirror.

AF Sensor: In this mode no AF takes place regardless of half pressing the shutter button. Instead AF is achieved by pressing the AEL/AFL button. Pressing the AEL/AEF button invokes another flip of the mirror to achieve accurate AF via the AF sensor behind the mirror before the user can finally compose and capture. Effectively this involves 2 cycles of the mirror flip, one to enable AF and another to actually capture the image. This is the slowest method of capture using LV.

Imager AF (default): The E-30 has this new feature with certain lenses only. In this mode AF is achieved by using an 11 point contrast detect AF system superimposed over the feed from the imaging chip. This allows direct and accurate AF in Live View without the need to further flip the mirror. The user half presses the shutter button and can see AF taking place on the screen. When happy with the composition a full press of the shutter flips the mirror down to capture the image and back up again. This method only involves 1 flip of the mirror. This is the fastest method of capture using LV though this method of AF is not instantaneous and is slightly slower than using the true AF sensor.

Hybrid AF: As its name suggests this mode is a mixture of the other two modes. In Hybrid AF an approximate focus is achieved by a half press of the shutter button but true AF is taken from the cameras AF sensor behind the mirror during the mirror flip when the actual image is taken. If you use lenses that do not support contrast detect for integration with LV in Imager AF mode, that is all but the ZD14-54(II), 14-42, 40-150 and new 25mm pancake, the camera defaults to Hybrid AF to allow an on screen approximate focus but with the true focus taken from the real AF sensor in the camera body during the exposure. This method too only involves 1 flip of the mirror to capture the image; it is therefore, faster than AF Sensor method.


I've already had questions about the use of manual lenses on the E-30 and how well its new viewfinder fares against other E-Cameras. I've not had the opportunity to use a selection of lenses outside (as I did with the E-1 in this article here, but have extensively used my OM 90mm Macro indoors. To me, manual focus with the E-30 is the same as with the E-1 - in other words quite possible with a little care - and way better than with the remaining E-XXX series. In fact I'm confident enough to say that you could happily substitute E-30 for E-1 in my article about OMZ's on the E-1. And the E-30 gives you the additional benefit of Live View if you are working off a tripod. Also, in my recent experience of using OMZ's with the E-3, the exposure system is so much better on the E-3 that the over-exposure with OM lenses wide-open previously seen, is improved. As the E-30 shares the same metering system I'd expect the same outcome but I'd have to confirm this in the field. But, I think it's unlikely I'll have the time to conduct any 'serious' appraisal using OMZ's on the E-30 at this point in time.

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The INFO button assumes a different function in LV.

(1) On accessing LV by pressing the MONITOR button, the initial screen is an uninterrupted view through the lens subject to whichever aspect ratio you have enabled in the menu (4:3 / 3:2 / 16:9 / 6:6 / 5:4 / 7:6 / 6:5 / 7:5 / 3:4). The monitor is simply masked at the appropriate format. Don't forget that if you are recording in JPG only the image is processed with those areas of masking missing so you end up with a smaller file. Only RAW capture records the full frame scene.

Subsequent presses bring up:

(2) Whichever composition overlay you have enabled - GRID; GOLDEN SECTION; SCALE; all three will cycle!

(3) AF target that can be moved around the scene and enlarged by pressing the OK button and enlarged 7x or 10x.

(4) Live Histogram in bottom left of screen.

(5) Four small repeating reproductions of the scene with live representations of the effect of under or over compensation +/- 5 stops. AND by pressing the WB button and UP arrow key:-

(6) Four small repeating reproductions of the scene with live representaions of the effect of changing the white balance across the 11 presets + 1 custom WB (this software is a carry-over from certain compact models and is known as 'Perfect Shot EV or WB Preview'.

(7) Basic shooting information such as shutter speed, aperture, AF mode, metering mode, aspect ratio, file size, memory card and frames remaining.

Certainly these options are very useful in the studio or when doing macro work; it is good to know that Olympus are making the most of its LV feature.

You can also use the preview button (when enabled) to check DOF etc while using the 'Perfect EV or WB' screens in LV mode. If the conditions are too dismal the camera endeavours to turn up the signal (gain) to maintain a decent image on screen but ultimately this will degenerate into a B&W quite grainy image but only on the screen. The captured image will be fine.

My only observation to this point is that there are so many functions available and so many choices I begin to wonder if we are reaching the point of saturation.


A feature that has been offered previously in some Olympus DSLR's (particularly the E-3) is the ability to view images, magnified or not, side by side on the LCD - great for checking details. It is simple to access this feature with the E-30; enter review mode by pressing the review button and then press the AF Area button [---]. This places the next image on the card next to the one on the screen you have just been reviewing and you can cycle through the card contents with the 4-way controller just as you do when reviewing your images normally.


This is probably of interest to most readers; when enabled the level gauge takes screen precedence in none-LV and appears on the screen by default. Both horizontal and verticals are represented on the screen (see image below) with the display turning green when the camera is entirely level. The level gauge automatically alters when the camera is changed from landscape to portrait mode. Its appearance in the viewfinder is by displaying the horizontal axis as the exposure bar with the 'roll' simulated by the dotted line approaching either +/- ends. There is no vertical representation. In LV mode the level gauge becomes an additional overlay available by cycling the INFO button. Very ingenious and extremely useful.

Level gauge in landscape view; turn the camera to portrait and the gauge follows suit.

Having now used the E-30 for some time I have one small niggle with the level gauge and that is when you have it enabled it takes precedence over the 'normal' LCD display. This means that if you press the 'INFO' button to alter one of your settings the level gauge screen switches to blank (black) and requires an additional press to get to the super control panel. This does not apply if you press 'OK' or any of the direct access buttons; the screen responds immediately with the correct screen. This also holds when you wish to review your iamges - an extra press is required. Yes, I agree, it's a tiny issue but I thought it worth mentioning.


A new feature on the E-30 is its ability to take multiple exposures via a MENU (Camera 2) selection of 2, 3 or 4 frames. In use an icon appears in the top panel and begins to flash as soon as you take the first image. This is repeated on the super control panel output with the icon turning green after first exposure. When the sequence is complete the images are superimposed on the camera monitor to show you the effect. The combined images are stored as one jpg. By default if the review button is pressed during the sequence multi-exposure facility is switched off. At the end of the set sequence the feature is also turned off. I can see creative use for this.


In addition to the basic dial selection modes of P A S M and the now 'standard' 5 dial-in modes of Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sport and Night Portrait, the E-30 is equipped with a further 11 predetermined scene modes. These are Children, High Key, Low Key, DIS (Digital Image Stabilization or high ISO) Mode, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Documents, Panorama (requires xD card in slot), Fireworks and finally Beach and Snow. Olympus have not yet enabled user input that allows you to store personal settings for certain situations frequently used. This would simply be a firmware addition that is currently available in some higher end compacts and a feature that some folks might welcome over and above the two more powerful 'MyMode' settings. Just a thought.


These modes are an extension of the 'SCENE' modes and are: Pop Art; Soft Focus; Pale & Light colour; Light Tone; Grainy Film; Pin Hole. I can see they may be fun and they may have their uses the same as some of the 'scene' modes help the photographer by dialling in the basic camera settings for the particular circumstances.

I have tried the Art Modes and while they produce some quite nice image effects I'm not entirely convinced that someone buying this level of camera will use them. Perhaps I'm wrong but the E-30 is a serious piece of equipment rather than a toy and certainly the user can reproduce any of the special effects with moderate post processing. But for those who wish to reduce post processing to an absolute minimum (and the jpg engine in the E-30 is superb) then this feature allows for some creativity 'on the spot' so to speak.

They have their place, but are they a serious photographic tool? I'll let you decide; perhaps I'm too set in my ways.


In the short period of time I had the camera it was not possible to undertake any serious testing of the E-30's IS system.

That said, the IS unit fitted to the E-30 is the same as the E-3/E-520 so I have no reason to believe its performance will be any different (although unlike the E-3, it does enjoy both horizontal & vertical panning). I did some testing of the E-3 IS system some months ago and you can read the results here (or click link to section 6 on the top menu). I concluded that the IS system works but perhaps not delivering the 5 EV stops advantage the maker claims.

Demonstrating that body based IS is effective is pretty difficult and most testing methods have been subject to criticism. I'd suggest you read the article written by Andrzej Wrotniak as part of his E-510 review to get a good understanding. You can go to that article here.

Having now used two other cameras with IS (E-520 & E-3) I am convinced it is a really useful additional tool in the photographers armoury to deliver clean shots. The IS system works, without doubt. However, and like Andrzej, I'm not convinced the benefit is quite as great as the advertising material might suggest. Even so there is plenty to suggest that there is a demonstrable gain of around 2-2.5 full stops of EV, and for that I'm very grateful. This EV gain compensates those who consider E-system cameras do not enjoy the best of high ISO performance; in other words they can use lower ISO's instead, with IS delivering a shake-free image.

SEEING IS WORK: It is possible to demonstrate IS to yourself by mounting a long lens, switching to LV, selecting a target by cycling through INFO presses until you see the green rectangle, focus thereon and press OK which magnifies the target 5, 7 or 10x. Now note how much it is swaying around the monitor as you try to hold the camera steady. Now press the IS button - the result is (can be) dramatic - the image movement 'slows' down. You will also hear the IS mechanism working. This simple procedure, as demonstrated by Olympus technicians, will alay any doubts in your mind that the technology is working. An advantage of lens stabilization by Nikon for instance (v/s body stabilization here) is that the image in the view finder is also stabilized, which is useful for long lenses to allow careful framing; In live view mode, this benefit is here too.

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The screen menus in all Olympus DSLR's were updated around the time of the E-3. They all follow a similar basic format but some have more choices than others, camera dependent.

This is the E-30 MENU:

First page menu screens for Camera 1, Camera 2 and Edit functions.


* Card setup (All erase, format) dependent on card selected (see SPANNER 2, choice 2)

* Custom reset: (Reset, reset 1, reset 2) - reset to defaults or to the settings of your choice (MyMode)

* Picture mode: Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait, Monotone, Custom

* Gradation: Auto, Normal, High key, Low key

* Image quality: RAW; RAW & JPG; JPG size & compression customizable

* White balance: Auto, Sunlight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, White Fluorescent, Neutral White Fluorescent, Daylight Fluorescent, One-Touch, Custom White Balance - Color Temperature

* ISO sensitivity: Auto, 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500, 3200.

* Noise reduction: On, Off, Auto (long exposures only)

* Noise filter: Off, Low, Standard, High (determines noise reduction applied to images)


* Metering: ESP+AF, ESP, CW, Spot, Highlight Spot, Shadow Spot

* Flash RC mode: On/Off (controls wireless flashes FL36R/50R)

* Flash exposure compensation: -3EV to +3EV by 1/3EV increments

* AF mode: Single AF, Cont. AF, Manual focus, Single AF + MF, Cont AF + MF

* AF area: Single, Cross, All

* Anti-shock: Off, 1 - 30 secs selectable (Olympus' Mirror lock Up)

* AE bracketing: Off, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0EV, 5 frames/0.3EV. 5 frames 0.7 EV, 5 frames 1.0EV.

* WB bracketing: Off, 3 frames / +/- 2, 4, 6 steps

* Flash bracketing: Off, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0EV

* ISO bracketing: Off, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0EV

* Multiple Exposure: On/Off, Multiple Gain; Overlay.


* Slideshow: 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 49, 100 frames (selectable number of screen images shown)

* Auto rotate: On/Off (change captured portrait orientation)

* Edit: Choices over these: RAW Data Edit and JPEG edit: Shadow Adjustment, Redeye Fix, Crop, B&W, Sepia, Saturation, Resize

* DPOF print marking: One, All

* Copy all: Copies from one memory card to another (xD to CF or vise versa)

* Reset protect: On/Off

First page menu screens for Spanner 1 and Spanner 2 functions.


(A) AF/MF:

* AF illuminator: On/Off)

* Focus ring: Counterclockwise, Clockwise (direction of Focus By Wire focus rings)

* C-AF Lock: On/Off

* AF Area Pointer: On/Off

* AF Sensitivity: Normal/Small

* [---] Setup: Off; Loop; Spiral

* Reset lens: On/Off (resets lens to infinity when camera turned off)

* Bulb focusing: On/Off (selectable focus during bulb exposure)

* Live view AF: AF sensor, Hybrid AF, Imager AF (see above)


* Dial: you may select what the command dial(s) control:

(a) Program mode: Program Shift, Exposure Comp

(b) Aperture priority mode: Aperture, Exposure Comp

(c) Shutter priority mode: Shutter speed, Exposure comp

(d) Manual mode: Shutter Speed, Aperture)

* Dial direction: Dial 1, 2 (selectable for effect of turning the dial L or R)

* AE/AF lock viz:

(a) S-AF: Mode 1, 2, 3

(b) C-AF: Mode 1, 2, 3, 4

(c) MF: Mode 1, 2, 3

* AE/AF lock memory: On/Off (makes button sticky)

* Function button: Level Gauge; Face Detection, Preview, Live Preview, One-touch WB, Home Focus Point, Manual Focus, RAW quality, Test Picture, Program Mode, My Mode, Off (programmable button)

* My Mode setup: My Mode 1, 2 (programmable modes for favorite settings)

* Button timer: Off, 3, 5, 8 sec, Hold (direct button active memory)

* AE/AF lock: Function Button swap: On/Off (programmable button swap)

* Arrow pad lock: On/Off (AF area can be selected while shutter button is being pressed)


* Release priority S: On/Off (whether focus lock is required for shutter release)

* Release priority C: On/Off (as above, but in continuous AF mode)

* L FPS 1 - 4 selectable


* Beep: On/Off

* Sleep: Off, 1, 3, 5, 10 mins

* Backlit LCD: 8 sec, 30 sec, 1 min, hold

* 4 hour timer: Off, 4 hr (turns camera off after 4 hours)

* USB mode: Auto: Storage, MTP, Control, Easy PictBridge, Custom PictBridge

* Live view boost: On/Off (boosts screen brightness in low light in live view)

* LV Frame Rate: Normal; High

* Face detection: On/Off (in live view mode)

* Info Setting: Normal; High

* Level Gauge: On/Off


* EV step: 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV (selectable)

* ISO Step: 1/3, 1/2, 1EV (selectable)

* ISO Auto set: 100 - 1600 (selectable top limit of Auto ISO)

* ISO Auto: P/A/S/All (when auto ISO is available)

* AEL metering: ESP, CW, Spot, Spot Highlight, Spot shadow

* Bulb timer: 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 20, 25, 30 mins (selectable time for bulb mode)


* X-sync: 1/60 - 1/250 sec

* Slow limit: 1/30 - 1/250 sec

* Flash exp comp + exp comp: On/Off (selectable flash exposure compensation linked to exposure compensation)

* Auto pop-up: On/Off (selectable if flash pops up when required in auto or scene mode)


* All white balance compensation: Choices to set: All set: -7 to +7; and All reset

* Colour space: sRGB or AdobeRGB

* Shading compensation: On/Off (to help reduce vignetting)

* Image quality set: Large/Normal/Small, Superfine/fine/normal/basic (selectable size and compression)

* Pixel count: (selectable resolution for following sizes): Middle: 3200 x 2400, 2560 x 1920, 1600 x 1200; Small: 1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480

*Aspect Ratios: 4:3 / 3:2 / 16:9 / 6:6 / 5:4 / 7:6 / 6:5 / 7:5 / 3:4

*Aspect Shooting: All/LV


* Quick erase: On/Off (should camera prompt you to delete photo?)

* RAW+JPEG erase: JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG (decide what is removed when you delete a RAW+JPEG photo?)

* File name: Auto, Reset

* Priority set: No, Yes (first position of the highlighted box in All Erase or Card Format)

* dpi setting: Auto, Custom (allows setting of dpi)


* Cleaning mode: mirror lock up for manual sensor cleaning

* Exterior White Balance Detect: On/Off

* AF Focus Adjust: Set AF Data - Off/Default data/Lens data; Data List - registerable lenses

* Exposure Shift: ESP/CW/SPOT - +/- 1 in 1/6th steps

* Battery Type: 1/2/3 (Check Level is Alkaline)

* Battery Warning Level: Hi/Low in 5 steps (-2 0 +2)

* Level Adjust: Reset/Adjust

* Scene mode swap: Sport/Night Portrait, Underwater wide/macro (allows swapping on mode dial)


* Date/time: (to set)

* CF/xD: (which card slot to use)

* Edit filename: (change file naming system) with choices for AdobeRGB: Off, A-Z, 0-9; and sRGB: Off, A-Z, 0-9

* LCD brightness: Choices over Brightness: -7 to +7 and Color balance: -7 to +7

* Language: Selection of pre-installed plus further one downloadable

* Video out: NTSC, PAL

* Rec View: Off, Auto play, 1 - 20 secs (image review; auto play option enters playback mode after image recorded)

* Pixel mapping: (Re-maps/maps out bad pixels on the sensor)

* Firmware: (shows current firmware version of body and attached lens)

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ZD14-54 (II) LENS:

The E-30 came with the new version of the popular ZD14-54mm standard zoom lens. As I can't publish images from the E-30 all I can do for now is compare the old and new versions.

The Mark II lens sports the new chrome and blue rings immediately behind the filter ring/hood mount and the addition of the II on the lens ID plate. Otherwise it appears identical. However, some unscientific testing shows the new model hold its brightness much longer than the original. Here's the two lenses aperture openings/focal length data to compare:


14-17mm - f=2.8 - (14-18mm)

18-21mm - f=2.9 - (19-25mm)

22-25mm - f=3.0 - (26-34mm)

26-28mm - f=3.1 - (35-37mm)

29-35mm - f=3.2 - (38-43mm)

36-44mm - f=3.3 - (44-48mm)

45-50mm - f=3.4 - (49-51mm)

50-54mm - f=3.5 - (52-54mm)

It's plain to see the newer version holds its brightness better especially in the mid-ranges. This must be one of the ways the engineers improve the contrast allowing the sensor to perform contrast detect AF.

This may also be partially due to the circular aperture the new lens sports.

My own example of version one of the ZD14-54mm was returned to Olympus for re-calibration as it was rather soft. It will be interesting to compare the lens' performance on the higher MP count E-30 to see if lens resolution is on par.


I have undertaken some basic testing with the new lens. Barrel, pincushion, standard front/back focus test and some close-focus tests. My testing facilities are quite primitive but the results will give you an indication of performance in normal conditions.

Barrel (i.e. at 14mm): there is some barrel but not as much as expected; not a bad result. However there is some overall lack of sharpness with even more pronounced softness in the corners (bottom left especially) with the lens aperture wide open. I have no doubt this will sharpen as the aperture is closed but best to be noted here. This is reminiscent of the original ZD14-54mm.

Pincushion (i.e. at 54mm): Virtually no distortion; good to excellent result. Generally much sharper with little corner softening.

Lens wide open set to 54mm. Very similar areas of good focus either side of the 'focus line', excellent result.


I was extremely impressed with the close focus capabilities of the ZD12-60mm and was interested to see if the ZD14-54(mkll) would match it. Well, it doesn't, but it's performance is quite reasonable.

METHOD: I set up a target shot then lowered the camera and lens (set at 54mm) to the point where I could no longer achieve a focus confirmation and then raised the rig by about 5mm. I left the E-30 in A mode and let it calculate the exposure. I set the AF point of focus on the sharpened area of the dark blue pencil. Distance from focus point to CCD approximately 23cm; from focus point to front element approx. 8.5cm (5cm with ZD12-60mm). Here's the target shot followed by the crops f3.5; f5.6; f8.0; f11 and f16:

Close-focus target. AF point of focus is centre of the exposed wood on the dark blue crayon.

This shows how critical aperture and DOF is with close-up work. The point of focus is only about 5mm above the bank note but this shot taken with the lens wide open shows how the area 'behind' the point of focus is rendered unsharp.

At f=5.6 you can see the image is sharpening up but is still soft in places such as the Queen's eye.

At f=8.0 it is easy to see how sharp the image has become.

At f=11 there is further marginal sharpening but you really have to look.

At f=16 again a very slight sharpening but it is sharper.

NOTE: The point of focus sharpness does not alter throughout this sequence. The first set I did was spoiled by the centre AF point partially overlapping the edge of the crayon leading, in two of the five shots, to the wrong focus point and skewing the results. This is an easy mistake to make with this type of subject where there is some inherent depth, albeit just a few millimeters.


I am not a great fan of the original ZD14-54mm lens although it is a good workhorse with a reasonable zoom range and offers weatherproofing. Its lack of ED elements leads to my own (and many others) criticism that it is generally soft and in pure resolving terms can be equalled, if not beaten, by its lesser specified siblings such as the ZD14-42mm. It comes as no surprise therefore, that when its suspected replacement, the ZD12-60mm arrived, it was greeted with much acclaim as a revelation.

The new version of the old workhorse appears to be a virtual copy (other than its ability to enable CDAF) and I note still does not include any ED elements so it would be unreasonable to think it will offer any massive advancement in resolving power. And that, basically is my observation - the new lens is the same as the old version. Other than CDAF it offers nothing over the older version. Its phase detect AF speed is certainly no different to the old version on the E-3/E-30 or not.

In addition the contrast seems to be slightly down from the new lens compared to say the ZD12-60mm; these close-up images are not as 'punchy' as I've come to expect. (E-30 was set to NATURAL).

Rather than showing my standard 'DRAYCOTT HALL' sign test I've included many jpg's and RAW's in this article for download so you can judge the results against your own criteria. However, I did undertake the standard tests and the results were very much in line with the old ZD14-54mm lens. Over the years of testing lenses against my standard target I've concluded there's very little difference between any of the ZD lenses as far as pure resolving power goes. Yes some are slightly better than others but the differences are marginal and not likely to be seen in ordinary, everyday photography. By far more important are the choices Olympus offers over aperture speed, build quality and weatherproofing and this is what you pay for, not the slight variations in resolving power.


I'm somewhat concerned about the way four-thirds lenses are being developed. There are currently three types of four-thirds lens currently available; ordinary, CDAF and SWD. The Mkll ZD14-54 is a CDAF lens, meaning it can be used for 'off the CCD auto focus' without reference to the phase detect AF chip behind the mirror. It is the fourth lens from Olympus with this capability and seems to be a particular goal the company is pusuing. The CDAF capability is fine if you use the monitor for composition and I have no issue with it, as such. But it rather further divides the basic Olympus lens hierachy of standard, high grade and super high grade offerings into those that can CDAF and those that cannot. It seems perverse that the much vaunted ZD12-60mm so recently developed offers superior AF speed but does not offer CDAF and the new Mkll ZD14-54mm which is CDAF enabled is 'slower' than a standard SWD lens. I wonder if it is the company's intent to develop separate lines of lenses or is there a convergence anticipated? If so then the company should tell us their plans via their Lens Road Map so we, the people who fund Olympus, can plan our buying and usage strategy.

It looks like we might see two (or even three) types of Olympus DSLR kit; a top grade camera for (mainly) OVF use that utilises SWD high grade and/or Super High Grade lenses and a consumer grade camera for (mainly) monitor use that utilises the standard CDAF lenses. And, of course there is the possibility that the new micro four-thirds will employ yet another series of (possibly dedicated) lenses. Or, is the convergence already happening and Olympus insist that all its current cameras can use OVF and/or CDAF? For anyone on the outside thinking of buying into Olympus DSLR it must appear as confusing.

Personally I don't wish to have to upgrade all my expensive lenses to fully utilise some of the technological advancements already available, let alone those yet to be introduced. It is a bit of a muddle at the moment.

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As said, I was critical (and not alone) in my disatisfaction with the E-3's GUI, so is the E-30's any better? Well, I believe so. The improvements are marginal but seem to work. On the back plate for example the AFL/AEL and Review buttons are much nearer the users thumb; compressing the space between the top plate buttons also delivers a better feel; the smaller diameter rear wheel makes its use easier and in general the narrowing and tidying up of the area right of the screen has brought about a much nicer feel. All that said the E-30 is definately a two-handed camera. With the mode dial, flash, drive/metering, AF and bracketing buttons all requiring the left hand there's no way you can operate the camera one handed. I have tried the HLD-4 fitted and some of the handling is improved, but on balance, I think I prefer the E-30 without.


My abiding impression is that of size and weight. I really was expecting something smaller. Aesthetically I think it is refined and pleasing on the eye; well balanced to look at. It is beautifully made and exudes quality. It handles a little better than the E-3 - in my hands anyway, but of course, it does not have the wonderful E-3 viewfinder. I like the re-designed backplate, the larger screen and many of the new functions such as the level gauge. The latest version of contrast detect AF in LV is impressive; fast and quiet except for the inevitable mirror flip flaps.

My immediate concern is that of price. The prices I've seen on the Internet seem too high and put the E-30 in direct competition with the E-3; a suicidal pricing strategy. Hopefully, when commercially issued, the E-30 will sell below the current market price of the E-3 - not its original price.

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E-30 IN USE:

As said in the introduction I cannot reproduce any images from the E-30 I have on loan as it is Pre-production with trial firmware. I will complete the review as soon as I have the production model to hand. I'm sorry if this is disappointing but it is fair to Olympus. I've seen many E-30 images on-line and all with firmware version 0.8 so it's no surprise that these are not quite as polished as Olympus would like and give totally the wrong impression of the imaging/processing capabilities of the new camera.

*** LATEST NEWS!! ***

Ian Burley of Four Thirds User has the first samples from a production E-30 (hopefully the one I'll get next week) and has asked me to bring these to readers attention here. Download the images for your scrutiny.

Please come back in a week or so when I hope to have my hands on a production unit and can publish images, test results and opinion of my own.

Thanks to everyone for your continuing support - it really makes a difference.


Having made an error when taking the first set of test images by having GRADATION set to AUTO instead of NORMAL I have repeated the whole exercise even though the RAW files were available for anyone to process and re-set the gradation setting. I ran the previous RAW files through Studio 2 and noticed there was little difference between the two settings, but for the sake of completeness I now set out a new series of test images.

These were taken on Monday 22nd December '08. It's a good bright day (perhaps a little too bright for my purposes. E-30 is tripod mounted and set as follows:

A mode; Lens = ZD14-54mm (ll), f=6.3; ESP; ISO 100; RAW+LSF; IS=OFF; NF=OFF, GRADATION = NORMAL, No EV compensation; all else factory default; shutter tripped with RM1 remote. Then I raise the ISO to 200; 400; 800; 1600; 3200.

Here are the images - click on the image you wish to examine further to see and/or save the full size jpg (jpg approx 8MB). If you want to experiment with the RAW file click the appropriate link. Each RAW file is over 14MB. (Incidently, I now enjoy a very generous monthly bandwidth allowance so help yourself).

E-30; Image 1: ISO=100. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=100.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=200. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=200.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=400. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=400.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=800. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=800.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=1600. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=1600.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=3200. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=3200.


Is a straight duplication of the above set of images with identical camera settings but Noise Reduction set to LOW.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=100. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=100.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=200. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=200.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=400. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=400.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=800. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=800.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=1600. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=1600.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=3200. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=3200.


This set of test images shows the result of having the NOISE FILTER set to STANDARD. To save time and space only images taken at ISO 800, 1600 and 3200 are shown.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=800. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=800.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=1600. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=1600.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=3200. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=3200.


This set of test images shows the result of having the NOISE FILTER set to HIGH. To save time and space only images taken at ISO 800, 1600 and 3200 are shown.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=800. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=800.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=1600. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=1600.

E-30; Image 1: ISO=3200. Full EXIF in downloadable image. Click image to see/save full jpg.

RAW file here .

E-30; Crop from above: ISO=3200.


It seems to me the E-30 has very similar ISO performance characteristics to the E-3 (and maybe marginally better - I need to see more). The above results are perfectly OK up to ISO 800, quite acceptable to ISO 1600 and a 'little' ugly at ISO 3200 with no Noise Filter applied. That the E-30 has greater photosite density than the E-3 it is testimony to the engineers that the same (higher) ISO characteristics have been maintained with no apparent loss of detail by any 'stealth in-camera processing'. With Noise Filter enabled at its LOW setting the second set of results are better at high the higher ISO ratings and perhaps ISO 3200 is usable with smaller size prints.

With the Noise Filter set to low the results are pretty good with minimal loss of detail. Naturally loss of detail worsens as the filter is applied at stronger settings, but even so at ISO 3200 and N/F at maximum, the result is usable.

My chosen subject contains both highlight and shadow areas (probably more shadow areas) hence the choice of ESP metering. This is a typical bright UK Winters day with its milky white sky and is representative of conditions regularly presented to us UK photographers - high contrast, bright white skies and deep shadows. In deciding the exposure I consciously chose not to apply any minus compensation to bring down the highlights, but let the camera meter do its job. This was to avoid any criticism relating to later 'bringing up the shadows' leading to additional noise. Following my mistake on Saturday, in this session Gradation was set to NORMAL - this means OFF - thus eliminating any possible in-camera processing of shadow areas.

Given the right software and an experienced user more of the presented noise could be removed in post processing but I'm leaving that for the reader to download any of the files be they jpg or RAW to play around with. Sorry for the mix-up.


As weather permits I shall take more images for your perusal. Here's what I have so far from the E-30; more to come so please keep calling:

Tiny Blue-Tit on electrical line. ZD 50-200; ISO 400.

RAW file here .

My eldest son Robert is a tree surgeon and he offered to reduce a 50+ foot Beech tree in the garden over the Christmas holiday. These are three quick grab shots I took of the occasion. The conditions were not great for photography - freezing cold and foggy - and I grabbed the E-30 without really looking at the settings so these were taken in jpg only and all at ISO 1600. (All else in EXIF of full size jpg if you wish to download). Lens used: ZD14-54 Mkll.

As we all know, shooting against a white sky (in this case white fog) presents problems. The first image taken I used standard ESP to find it looked a little under-exposed on the monitor so I chose to spot meter for the rest which to me seem a tad over-exposed. This reflects on the photographer and not the machine as I didn't really have time to mess with the settings; the images are all untouched, straight from camera.

Here's Rob having just set up his safety harness anchor point at the highest safe place central to the rest of the tree.

Slightly wider aspect and this time spot metered - he must be mad! The mist around his face is condensing breath; it was a bitterly cold day (about minus 4).

Trimming back the extremities - my heart was in my mouth at this point.

On Friday 2nd January there was a brief lull in the bad weather in which I managed to get these two images with the new ZD14-54mm Mkll lens. There is lots of detail in both images to study how well the new lens delivers. Both full size jpg and RAW files available for download.

Arkengarthdale: Checking the sheep. ZD14-54 (ll); 14mm, f=5.0, 1/800th, ISO 400.

RAW file here .

Fremington Hall: ZD 14-54 (ll); 35mm, F=5.0, 1/1250th, ISO 400.

RAW file here .

The last day of having the E-30 on loan from Olympus proved bitterly cold but spectacular for its clear blue skies and a dusting of snow. Suitably armed I braved the conditions (!) and took many images with the ZD14-54mm (mkll) of which here are just three. NOTE: To protect the very bright highlights I applied -0.7EV compensation so the curves require lifting in post processing to suit your eye.

Looking due west towards the Cumbria border from Stang Foot. 19mm; f=11; 1/320th; ISO100; -0.7EV

RAW file here .

Lengthening shadows on Reeth Show field. 17mm; f=11; 1/200th; ISO100; -0.7EV

RAW file here .

Walkers on the foot of Fremington Edge. 26mm; f=11; 1/200th; ISO100; -0.7EV

RAW file here .

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I feel at home with the E-30; this is because I've been using the E-3 for a year and got used to the similar layout. However, the E-30 is better to handle, the controls have been slightly relocated and adjusted to deliver more pleasing ergonomics. Unlike the E-3, the camera doesn't seem to get in the way of itself. To me it is a definite notch up on the E-3 in the handling stakes. For folks upgrading from the E-4 & 5XX models the handling will seem strange to start with but will soon prove a revelation as it is well thought out and delivered. The engineers have listened to the E-3 critics and the E-30 is all the better for this.

The viewfinder is excellent; not as good as the E-3 but a huge improvement on the lower series of machines. I can happily manually focus my OM primes on the E-30 much the same as I could with the E-1. The E-30 viewfinder is very reminiscent of the E-1's but not identical.

From what I've seen to date, the image quality delivered by the E-30 is on par with the E-3 with the advantage of no apparent banding in high ISO shadows. The additional 2MP does not seem to improve perceived resolution but it offers advantages for cropping.

The new ZD14-54mm Mkll lens delivers excellent imaging with little fringing. Apart from the obvious conrast-detect AF capabilities and the ability to hold its innate speed better across the zoom range, it appears the same as the Mkl version.

The E-30 shutter (I guess) is the same unit as the E-3 though I've yet to see any 'life' claims that match the 150,000 actuations of the E-3. This is a small (but genuine) niggle to me as the camera is aimed at almost the same audience as that of the E-3.

Lack of body weatherproofing (by this I mean dust and drip proofing) will be an issue to some potential users, especially as the new lens is a 'Pro-Grade' unit and this seems a little odd, even contradictory. However, I suspect for the majority of buyers, this will not be a deal breaker.

I have been impressed with the E-30 so far. There's not a lot I can find to say against it other than already discussed above (and there's nothing major). Personally, I think it should have been slightly smaller and lighter, but that's just me. I think the E-30's biggest stumbling block will be its price and I look forward to seeing the marketing that comes with its launch and just where the company fixes its cost.

The big question is would I buy one? As an E-3 owner the answer is probably no, at least not yet. I prefer the E-30 ergononmics over the E-3 but whether this would persuade me to buy one I'm not sure. To me it comes down to the balance between the slight technological advantages of the E-30 (extra 2MP, better CD AF imaging and some potentially useful in-camera processing features) against the magnificent E-3 viewfinder, the E-3's superior build and its weatherproofing. I suspect I will be pondering this particular question for some time.

For those coming from the 'consumer' level machines such as the E-520 I'd say it boils down to price, pure and simple. If the company gets the E-30 price right it has huge potential as an upgrade path for existing E-System users as well as competition for mid grade offerings from the other makers. But the price has got to be right.

As Olympus users we have been spoiled by the great feature set of the current E-5XX series. The Olympus engineers must have struggled to find the midway point between the E-3 and the consumer grade machine. Whether they got it right only time will tell.

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Posted December 7th 2008 Copyright © 2008 John Foster