by Tony Gomez
Published Spring ’09
A New Creative And Fun 12MP D-SLR
Olympus’ E-series D-SLRs have a long history, continued with their flagship E-3 D-SLR, but with point-and-shoot digital cameras, there is relentless pressure to introduce ever more affordable D-SLR models, so Olympus has recently introduced the E-30. The E-30 can be thought of as a “scaled down E-3”, with many of the same features— but at a more affordable $1,100, body only price point. The most appropriate word I can use to describe the new E-30 is FUN. It’s got many professional features, inherited from its E-3 big brother, but there are also many cool creative features like Art Filters and Scene Modes.
One of the most interesting creative controls available in the new Olympus E-30 is the Art Filter setting. The Mode Control dial easily puts you into Art Filter/Scene Mode setting, and once you’re there a colorful menu screen offers you six Art Filter types: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, and Pin Hole. Choosing any particular Art Filter is as simple as scanning down the menu list and selecting which Art Filter you wish to apply to an image. My personal favorites are Pop Art, Grainy Film, and Pin Hole because these three particular filter effects are the most dramatic. The creation of these Filter effects occurs within the camera right after you capture the image. There is no further need to download the original image into Photoshop, or some other image processing program, and laboriously alter it until you get the final effect.
With the Pop Art Filter, the image captured is boosted in contrast and made more vivid in color saturation. It’s almost like looking at a painting of what was captured. Grainy Film is akin to applying a high contrast, grainy black-and-white film effect to your captured image. Pin Hole adds an old-school antiquated look to your captured image by adding vignetted edges. This is characteristic of what typical pin-hole cameras of bygone days produced when photography was in its infancy.
When using these Art Filters, it’s a good idea to also shoot a normal JPEG image, before embarking on capturing with an Art Filter effect. This is because when you capture an Art Filter processed image, the original unmodified image is not preserved. However, you can also record in RAW + JPEG mode simultaneously, in which case you are capturing not only a JPEG in the selected Art Filter, but also an unmodified RAW image that can later be processed in the provided Olympus software. Every Art Filter Effect takes a bit of time to create, with the Pin Hole effect taking the longest— about 10 seconds.
Art Filters aren’t the only tools available in the E-30’s arsenal of creativity. Scene Modes (SCN), available from the same Art Filters mode setting, gives you a range of special shutter speed/aperture combinations to capture the best pictures under a variety of challenging shooting conditions: Children, Hi Key, Low Key, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Documents, Fireworks, and Beach and Snow. There is also a Panorama mode whereby you can shoot a sequence of overlapping images (up to 10) and let the bundled Olympus software stitch your image together into one seamless panoramic image. But this panoramic capture mode is only possible only if you use an Olympus xD card to capture your images.
One of the most sought after features in D-SLRs these days is Image Stabilization (IS). This is a process whereby images are stabilized using a variety of technologies, depending on the manufacturer. Some D-SLR manufacturers chose to use “in-the-lens” stabilization, like Nikon and Canon. For this process to work, you have to use specific lenses with the IS feature built-in. This generally makes the lenses more expensive than non-IS versions. Another IS method, adopted by Olympus, Sony, and others, is “in-camera” IS. Olympus uses a “moving-sensor” technology whereby the actual imaging sensor is compensated with movement that corrects for normal hand-held camera movement. The end result is a cleaner captured image, without image blur. This is especially noticeable at the longer telephoto end of the zoom range, where all camera motion is exaggerated. Olympus’ “in-camera” IS allows the photographer to enjoy a wider variety of less expensive lenses.
Borrowing from Olympus’ popular point-and-shoot digicams, the E-30 also has a Face Detection feature. When the Face Detection feature is activated, a box will be overlaid over the faces that are detected. Exposure and focus will be adjusted automatically. This is especially useful for shooting people against backgrounds that might otherwise fool the focus.
Shooting On Location
Olympus sent me a 14mm–54mm Zuiko Zoom lens to try out with the E-30. What I liked about that particular one is that it’s a relatively “fast” (f2.8-f3.5) lens, which means that when I was shooting it could be used in relatively low light to capture images without the need to use extremely long exposure times. There is a 2X focal length magnification factor with the Olympus Four-Thirds system lenses, so the effective zoom range is 28mm-108mm. 28mm is a good average wide angle lens to work with, and at the other end, the 108mm effective telephoto is considered a medium range. This 108mm effective range is good for portrait work because of the flattening of the depth of field—so helpful for separating the subject from its background.
I went to a wide variety of picturesque venues—from my local park, to a scenic beach and harbor. At every location I found ample photo opportunities to let me have fun with the camera and test out its various features.
At a local beach I activated the Hi-Speed continuous shooting mode to catch kite surfers in action. These extreme kite surfing enthusiasts are constantly moving in and out of the water, so I set the E-30 to capture a rapid sequence of pictures—At about five frames per second. The E-30 didn’t lag behind, capturing a rapid sequence of great aerial acrobatic images. Then later at the harbor and Mission I found other opportunities to use the Art Filter effects— especially the Pop Art, Grainy Film, and Pin Hole variety. Each of these Art Filters transformed otherwise “normally exposed” images such as boats, sculptures, fountains, and floral displays, into robust colorful or “antique-looking” images from a past era.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography
I also tried out the E-30’s capability to shoot a sequence of images destined for a High Dynamic Range composite (see my DP Winter 09 story on that process). The E-30 camera can easily shoot a rapid sequence of three or five images, each with a different EV setting— .3, .7, or 1EV. Rapid shooting is important because when you are hand-holding, you don’t want the images to blur or change between successive captures. The HDR processing software needs to work with relatively stable images. In summary, the E-30 does a good job of capturing this rapid sequence of exposure bracketed images. So you HDR enthusiasts will have a lot of fun with this feature.
Overall, the image quality of the 12-megapixel sensor in the E-30 was superb. I shot simultaneous images in both JPEG and RAW (Olympus ORF designation), and the internal processing is relatively fast. So even if you are capturing a maximum burst of ten or so images—great for high speed sports activity— it only takes about ten seconds (my worst case scenario) before the image buffer is released and you can continue capturing more images. Individual image capture is very fast, without significant processing time between captures. The provided Olympus Master software can be used to further process the RAW images, or other updated raw image processing programs (like Adobe Camera RAW in Photoshop) should work too.
As a compact D-SLR, the Olympus E-30 does a great job. It’s got all the professional features of its bigger brother, the E-3, such as: Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, and Auto Exposure Bracketing, to name a few. The moveable Live View LCD allows for some very creative image captures. The focusing system is fast and accurate, even when Live View is activated.
Olympus D-SLRs do not have the movie mode feature, but I anticipate in a future generation model we’ll get it. However, the Live View LCD monitor in the E-30, pioneered by Olympus several years ago, does present a very helpful and realistic real-time view of your shooting world. And because the LCD swivels around 180 degrees, even tilting up and down, you can get some very creative point-of-view images. You can even shoot yourself with friends! I actually wish other D-SLR manufacturers would make their LCDs more versatile in their viewing capability.
MSRP: $1,099.99 (body only)
- 5.6”W x 4.2”H x 3.0”D, 1lb 6oz, body only
- Image Sensor:
- 12.3-megapixels (12.3MP effective MOS)
- Maximum Resolution:
- 4,032 x 3,024 pixels
- Still Recording Format:
- JPEG or RAW (ORF)
- xD and Compact Flash
- Focusing Modes:
- Single Auto Focus, Continuous Auto Focus, Manual
- 2.7-inch 230K pixel Live View LCD
- Exposure Modes:
- Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual
- Exposure Metering:
- Digital ESP, Center-weighted, and Spot
- Shutter Speed:
- 1/8000th sec-60 sec, bulb
- White Balance:
- Auto, 8 Presets, Manual
- Shooting Speed:
- 5 frames/sec
- 100 – 3200
- Other Features:
- Art Filter modes (6 types), Image Stabilization (built-in), Auto Exposure Bracketing (up to 5 shots with EV changes from .3, .7, and 1 EV.)
- Lens Compatibility:
- Zuiko Four-Thirds System lenses
- Effective Focal Length Magnification Factor:
- 2X (4/3rd system standard)
- Contact Information: