Olympus E-30 - First Impressions Competition

The Olympus E-30 is the latest E-System camera and introduces a number of innovative new features which will be of huge interest to our members and subscribers.

We had a competition, where any Safari Group members who purchased a ticket for our groundbreaking Exhibition Event had a rating star attached to their diary entries - the highest rated (i.e. most informative / entertaining / useful) entries were given to Sean Reid, to choose a winner of a FREE E-30 Kit, kindly supplied by Olympus UK.

Kind Regards

Brian

Saturday
Dec062008

E-30 Kit Competition Rules

Here are the rules of our competition for the E-30 Kit, being kindly supplied by Olympus in January.

1. The competition will be to provide your personal impressions / review of the E-30 based on your hands-on appraisal during the week of our Safari Group exhibition. You can include images (taken by yourself at the event) to illustrate your piece, but no images will be published from the pre-release E-30 itself. Your review must have no more than 1000 words. It can be argued that less is more - so please don't pad out a 500 word piece to 1000 words!

2. Entries will close on 14th December 2008. Competition open to all ticket holders of the Sunday Exhibition Event.

3. Entries should be submitted to me by e-mail - and will all be posted annonymously on our coordination website on Monday 15th of December. The entire Safari Group membership will be encouraged to read, and rate each entry using a star rating system.

4. Rating will be conducted from Monday 15th December to Sunday 21st December.

5. A short list will be compiled based on the star ratings, and the winner will be chosen from this short list by an independent reviewer.

6. The winner will be announced on Monday 22nd December. The prize will be presented to the winner in January at an appropriate Safari Group event.

7. Neither Olympus nor The Olympus Photo Safari Group will make any claim over the ownership or exclusive rights to the use of your review.

If you would like to offer your impressions for our team review, but not considered for the competition, please state this clearly in your e-mail, and your entry will be included in our combined report following the competition.

I hope this is sufficiently clear, please post a comment below if you have any further questions.

Kind Regards

Brian

Sunday
Dec072008

And the winner is...

I have the very great pleasure of announcing the results of our Safari Group E-30 Kit competition...

Here are the ratings of all 17 impression pieces, voted by our Safari Group members below...

The numbers below are :
Impressions Piece - Rating out of 6 / Number of people rating

1 - 4.0 / 61 (David Gaunt)
2 - 3.4 / 81 (John Crouchley)
3 - 3.4 / 98 (Shirley Hollis)
4 - 3.8 / 99 (Steve Hallam)
5 - 2.7 / 100 (Mick Logan)
6 - 3.0 / 102 (Rod Souter)
7 - 3.8 / 103 (Andrew Cooper)
8 - 3.4 / 101 (Philip Storry)
9 - 4.3 / 103 (Vaughan Williams)
10 - 4.3 / 105 (Simon Angier)
11 - 3.0 / 103 (Tom Stoneham)
12 - 2.2 / 102 (Alan Tucker)
13 - 3.6 / 106 (Michael Knowles)
14 - 3.5 / 107 (Pete Delaney)
15 - 4.2 / 109 (Alex Bampton)
16 - 4.1 / 109 (Bruce Clarke)
17 - 4.3 / 110 (Rich Simpson)

I took the top 5 rated impression pieces, and e-mailed them without ratings to professional photographer, writer and reviewer Sean Reid, who very kindly accepted my invitation to choose a winner from this shortlist :

A) 9 - 4.3 / 103 (Vaughan Williams)
B) 17 - 4.3 / 110 (Rich Simpson)
C) 15 - 4.2 / 109 (Alex Bampton)
D) 10 - 4.3 / 105 (Simon Angier)
E) 16 - 4.1 / 109 (Bruce Clarke)

I first discovered Sean as a writer/reviewer when I read his 2nd opinion review of the Olympus E-1 here :
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/e1-2nd.shtml

Sean has a highly respected professional review site here :
http://www.reidreviews.com/reidreviews/

Which is funded entirely by his subscribers - something I found very refreshing in a world of advertiser supported, high traffic websites.

Here is Sean's verdict...

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hi Brian,

After much reading and re-reading of the five reviews I've chosen the piece that gave me the best sense of what the E-30 might be like to work with. As you instructed, I didn't look at writing style or structure per se but rather at content. I found the most useful review to be "C".

That piece is grounded more in observation/description than in opinion (a distinction that I think is important in reviewing) and it's approach was practical.

Now, of course, there were many aspects of the other four reviews which were quite useful and which were not necessarily all discussed in review C. To be sure, then, my best sense of the camera came from
reading all five reviews.

Thanks for asking me to participate in this interesting process.

Cheers,

Sean

Sean Reid
Photographer
http://www.still-photo.net
Publisher
http://www.reidreviews.com

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So, a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Alex Bampton, who wins the first prize - a complete E-30 Kit.

My heartfelt thanks to all 17 reviewers who contributed to this competition - the following top rated contributors will each receive an ME-1 eyepiece
magnifier.

Vaughan Williams, Rich Simpson, Simon Angier, Bruce Clarke.

The prizes will be presented at an appropriate Safari Group event in January.

Merry Christmas!

Brian

Sunday
Dec142008

Seventeen E-30 Impressions... 1/17 ~ David Gaunt

It was a fantastic opportunity at the Safari Group Exhibition to have an early hands-on review of the new Olympus E-30 and the new Zuiko Digital 14-54 Mark ll lens. The E-30 promises much as a camera in its own right as well as offering pointers to new features that may be added to the E-3 replacement whenever that is released so I was doubly keen to have a look at the new E-30.

On first picking up the E-30 the E-3 pedigree was obvious in the design. The E-30 body looked very similar in style and size to that of the E-3 with two immediate differences: the weight was considerably less and there was a command dial on the top left for selecting the shooting mode. Both these differences are very welcome. The command dial allows selection of the standard exposure modes: shutter, aperture etc as well as a range of scene modes. Anybody familiar with other Olympus E-series cameras would quickly be at home with the E-30 camera as the button symbols and layout follow the usual Olympus style. The button labels that were traditionally green are now blue which aids visibility. On the downside the card-door, USB port and on-off button did not have the same solid construction as the E-3 and felt a little flimsy to handle.

The on-off button is part of the new four-way button and on turning on the E-30 for the first time the most noticeable difference was the new level gauge which is visible in the view finder and top panel. Some simple test shots showed that the level gauge was very sensitive and suggest it will be useful for getting the horizon and verticals straight in photographs. Even working diligently with the E-3 a number of my photos end up with the horizon slightly out so this feature promises to save much post-production editing.

After testing the new level gauge I had a good look around the E-30 viewfinder. The viewfinder is bright although it is not quite in the same league as the E-3’s. The E-30 has the same 11 Auto Focus point system as the E-3 and sports several other pro-features such as up to 1/8000 sec flash synchronisation and five-frame per second burst shooting rate. All these features position the E-30 as the next camera above the current E-520. Like the E-420 and E-520 the E-30 features live view auto-focus so the mirror can remain up whilst using Live View. This is a vast improvement over the E-3 that has to move the mirror up and down between focusing and Live View. The E-30 has an articulating Live View screen which is slightly larger than that on the E-3. The E-30 also has the excellent Olympus anti-dust mechanism and in-camera image stabilisation. As such the E-30 has pulled together many of the best features from the E-520 and E-3 cameras as well as adding some new features unique to the E-30.

The most significant new feature in the E-30 is the new 12 megapixel sensor. Is the increase from 10 megapixel to 12 megapixel import? Absolutely; this is a very welcome move forward. The additional megapixels are very welcome as they increase resolution and give you more scope for selective cropping whilst maintaining a high dpi when printing out the final photograph. The potential downside of increasing the number of megapixels is that since the sensor size is unchanged the actual individual pixel size must be decreased which brings with it the potential for increased noise. The E-30 review camera had pre-release camera firmware version 0.8 which means that Olympus had not finalized the firmware prior to the Safari Group Exhibition event. Taking this into consideration I took some sample photographs specifically to test the noise level on the new sensor. By using the same lens on an E-3 and E-30 meant it was possible to do a direct comparison on the resulting noise levels at various ISO levels. Even allowing for the E-30 having pre-production firmware the noise level at ISO 800 was significantly better than the E-3’s. At ISO 1600 noise started to become more visible but was still much better than that on the E-3. Overall Olympus have successfully increased the number of megapixels and at the same time reduced the image noise levels.

In summary the E-30 is a very welcome and useful addition to the Olympus range bringing together some of the best features from the E-520 and E-3 cameras and adding new, unique enhancements such as the level gauge and much improved sensor.

Sunday
Dec142008

Seventeen E-30 Impressions... 2/17 ~ John Crouchley

I had my chance to play with an E30 at the Photo Safari group meeting.

I started using Olympus cameras with a C5050Z. After a couple of years I upgraded to an E500, loving the lack of shutter lag and the ability to control depth of focus. Earlier this year I upgraded from an E500 to an E3. The prime features of the E3 over the E500 which attracted me were

  • Live view with large articulating LCD – the one thing I really missed from the C5050Z – great for macros, and for holding the camera above your head when in crowds.
  • 11 fully functional focus points – the 3 of the E500 really were not enough.
  • Speed of start-up and focus – outstanding.
  • Image stabilization in the camera body – really good at longer focal lengths.
  • Good clear viewfinder with the information section below rather than to the right – essential for me as I wear glasses and could never see all of the info in the E500.


So we get onto the E30. I am delighted to say that it has all the above benefits of the E3.

The E30 feels light in the hand (compared to the E3) but still solid and well made. It balanced well with the 14-54mm lens provided and really felt like an extension of my arm. The buttons are all positioned well for my hand. The E30 also has (which I would love to have in the E3) an integrated level sensor – this appears in the LCD and is visible in the finder by half depressing the shutter button for a second. Another feature I would love to see in the E3, and which I was not able to test properly in the E30, is the auto gradation which as I understand it allows a different effective ISO for sections of the same exposure – thus giving an enhanced dynamic range.

I note that the body has a white balance sensor – so presumable auto white balance is considerably improved on the E3 – I rarely use it much preferring to set a specific balance and then adjust in post processing. The USB connector is on the back of the E30 and is easily accessed, the USB cover is attached by a tether – a great idea as these little bits of plastic are easily lost.

The E30 also has face recognition to assist the auto focus, many scene modes and art filters etc. which give it the capabilities of the modern compact cameras and will appeal to those who do not do much post processing.

In summary had the E30 come out a year earlier I would have preferred it as my E500 replacement. Indeed I shall now probably sell the E500, buy the E30 and use it as my daily camera, the E3 being used for special shoots and wet weather.

Sunday
Dec142008

Seventeen E-30 Impressions... 3/17 ~ Shirley Hollis

My “try before you buy” impressions of the E30

As an E510 user with no experience of an E3 or an E1 I was excited at the prospect of getting my hands on a brand new camera with the opportunity to try before I buy.

After waiting in a small queue I got my hands on its diminutive body and felt my way around its buttons, dials and screens. It is different from the E510 and it would take a while for me to get used to, but for me that is part of the enjoyment of a new camera. Time didn’t allow a detailed analysis of any of the features, but I did get to navigate around some of the menus and take a few images at the high end of ISO, use the in camera flash and test out the dynamic range. My first impressions, which I am told are often lasting impressions, were very favourable.
I spent most of my time with the camera on these three aspects so I will deal with each one in turn.

The high ISO images were good, when zoomed in there was noise, but much less than would have been expected from the E510 at the same ISO, of course that is a subjective statement and I was not able to view on a large screen, but I am confident that this camera would perform well in low light with more than acceptable results.

The flash images were very good, sharp with good colour and powerful enough to take some clear images in the conference room with no dark areas.

The most impressive images taken were testing out the dynamic range. The camera was pointed directly towards one of the very bright windows; in front of the window was a group of people enjoying lunch. The dynamic range was very good with detail in the highlights and the shadows; I know I would not be able to achieve this with my E510 without using some substantial post processing. I would probably buy the camera for this feature alone.

The buttons and dials were not instinctive to a new user and I did have to ask where certain features could be found, but I am sure that that would be remedied after a few hours shooting and in conjunction with the manual.

Of course I haven’t mentioned many of the new features of the E30 as I did not have time to investigate further, I did see the tilting screen, which I would be very useful for certain types of photography, and watched carefully as others handled the camera. My hands are probably smaller than many and the camera size suited me well but I suspect it may be too small for some.

In the short time available to look at this camera I found that it sat comfortably in the hands, performed well in areas that have traditionally been considered a problem and with a wealth of additional features, some of which will be useful and some less so.