Olympus’ Evolt E-330, an upgrade of the company’s previous E-300 model, is unique among mid-range digital SLR cameras for two reasons: First, it’s the only DSLR currently available that allows you to use its LCD screen as a viewfinder, and second, it’s the first time I’ve seen an upgrade that offers a lower pixel count than its predecessor—though the slight difference in pixel count won’t affect the image quality.
With a 7.5-megapixel sensor (as opposed to the E-300’s 8-megapixel sensor), the E-330 boasts an improved, slightly smaller body design, enhancements to a number of features, and an LCD screen that, in addition to functioning as a viewfinder, can be folded away from the camera for easier waist-level, or over-the-head shooting.
While the lower pixel count is not significant enough to impact image quality, the LCD viewfinder will appeal to macro shooters and product photographers, both of which benefit from not having to crane their necks to look through a viewfinder.
The Evolt E-330’s image quality is good, offering fine detail and sharpness. As with many Olympus cameras, the E-330’s factory settings add a big contrast and saturation boost to your images. Personally, I think it’s too much, but you can easily tone down these effects by using in-camera settings. If you’re shooting in raw mode, you won’t have this problem.
We tested the E-330 with the included kit lens, a 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens that delivers a 35mm equivalent focal length range of 28-90mm. The lens is small and well-built with excellent edge-to-edge detail and no discernable vignetting.
The Evolt lens selection, though interchangeable, is not as large as that of Canon or Nikon DSLRs. Olympus has done a very good job of expanding the lens selection to include everything from a 7-14mm lens, (14-28mm equivalent) to a 90-250mm (180-500mm equivalent) zoom for telephoto shooters. A fisheye, macro, teleconverter, and other lenses within this zoom range are also available. Unfortunately, none of Olympus’ lenses provide any form of electronic image stabilization, which can be a big help to telephoto and low light shooters.
A different view
While the E-330 provides a good, fairly bright optical viewfinder with a detailed status readout, you can also press the Live View button on the back of the camera at any time to use the LCD as a viewfinder. The viewfinder operates in two modes: One provides 92 percent coverage of your scene, but does not show accurate depth-of-field, while the other provides 100 percent coverage and accurate depth-of-field, but requires you to focus manually. Olympus has wisely added a magnification feature that makes it easier to judge focus, as focusing manually on an LCD screen can be difficult.
For certain situations, the LCD viewfinder is very handy, but in general, people choose an SLR because they want a traditional through-the-lens camera experience. Moreover, LCDs are difficult to see in low light, and don’t show the full dynamic range of a scene, which can affect your creative decisions.
The Evolt E-330 doesn’t provide a separate status LCD, but instead relies on the LCD screen to display all camera information. The status readout is incredibly detailed, providing all of the relevant data on your camera’s current configuration. However, when looking through the viewfinder, the always-on screen can be very annoying, and in low-light conditions it makes the optical viewfinder unusable.
The E-330 provides a full complement of features, including Priority and Manual modes as well as various custom scene modes. This model has three different spot meters alongside the matrix and center-weight metering systems, so the E-330 does a good job with metering.
Other nice improvements include a slightly faster burst rate of three frames per second; the ability to adjust ISO sensitivity in 1/3 stop increments; support for both CompactFlash and xD-Picture Card storage; and an effective in-camera noise filter for high-ISO shooting.
The camera’s interface is decent, providing relatively speedy access to essential controls. And the Evolt continues to include Olympus’ excellent automatic sensor-cleaning mechanism.
|Image Quality||Very Good|
Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable
|Zoom/Focal Length||28-90mm (35mm equivalent)|
|Media Slots||CompactFlash (1); xD Picture Card (1)|
|Size (wxhxd)||5.1 inches x 2.6 inches x 3.9 inches|
|Weight (in ounces)||2.0 lbs|
Macworld’s buying advice
The Olympus Evolt E-330 is a good camera, but its standout feature-the LCD viewfinder-is not that useful. Both the Nikon D50 ( ) and the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT ( ), offer better image quality and a broader assortment of lenses. But, if you absolutely need a camera with interchangeable lenses and an LCD viewfinder, the E-330 is a solid choice.
[ Ben Long is the author of Complete Digital Photography, 3rd Edition (Charles River Books, 2004). ]Olympus Evolt E-330 Digital SLR