Top, left: The Olympus E-3’s fold-out, fully articulating live-view LCD monitor gives you flexibility when composing any kind of shot. Top, right: Thumb controls are logically placed for access while shooting. Bottom, right: Pop-up flash bracketing and shooting modes are accessed via the buttons on top of the body. Bottom, left: White balance, ISO and exposure compensation are controlled through the buttons above the large LCD panel.
Sensor: 10.1-megapixel Live MOS, 2x Weight: 28.5 ounces Built-In Flash: ISO 100/GN 42, in feet Stabilization: Sensor-shift in body Maximum ISO: 3200 Auto-Bracketing: Yes Estimated Street Price: $1,699
Olympus E-3 The Olympus E-3’s tilting/swiveling live-view LCD monitor makes it easy to compose high- and low-angle shots quickly. The professional model in Olympus’ lineup, it has a number of advanced features in a rugged pro-oriented chassis. Its built-in sensor-shift stabilization provides steady handheld shooting with all lenses, while a Supersonic Wave Filter vibrates dust off the image sensor assembly each time you switch on the camera. You can shoot up to 5 fps and set ISOs up to 3200. The 2x focal-length factor of the Four Thirds System image sensor means any lens frames like a lens twice its focal length on a 35mm SLR, so you get a smaller, lighter, easier-traveling package that covers all your focal lengths: Olympus’ 300mm ƒ/2.8 frames like a 600mm ƒ/4 on a 35mm camera, but is much smaller and a stop faster. Autofocusing is super-quick with the new SWD lenses. Wide-angle lenses down to 7-14mm (equivalent to 14-28mm on a 35mm camera) are compact and fast, too.
A wide range of shooting accessories are available.
Lineage: The E-3 offers many improvements over the E-1 pro D-SLR (there was no E-2). Among its features are 10.1 megapixels (vs. 5), tilting/rotating 2.5-inch live-view LCD monitor (vs. a fixed 1.8-inch with no live view), maximum shooting rate of 5 fps (vs. 3 fps), built-in sensor-shift image stabilization that works with all lenses, improved image quality (especially at higher ISOs) and super-quick autofocusing with the new SWD lenses. Cool Factor: The Four Thirds sensor doubles focal lengths. As such, Olympus’ line of high-end Zuiko Digital telephotos are small, lightweight and extremely fast. You can get an effective 600mm ƒ/2.8 lens that weighs just 7.25 pounds.
Alternative Travel Camera
Estimated Street Price
ISO 100/GN 39, in feet
Other Notable Cameras For Travel Here are a few cameras that didn’t fit in more than one of our criteria, but are terrific travel cameras nonetheless:
Canon PowerShot G9. The G9 isn’t an SLR, but we like it for travel. This 12.1-megapixel compact features a 3-inch LCD monitor (live-view, of course), plus an optical zoom finder. You can shoot in RAW format and even RAW + JPEG. Built-in optical stabilization reduces the effects of camera shake, and the built-in 6x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 35-210mm on a 35mm camera) is ideal for most travel needs. It focuses down to 0.39 inches in macro mode. There’s even an ISO dial for a fast “analog” selection process—no menus to wade through.
Olympus E-420. The smallest D-SLR as of this writing, the 13.4-ounce E-420 is loaded with features, including a 10-megapixel sensor, 2.7-inch LCD monitor with live-view capability, sensor-dust remover and slots for both CompactFlash and xD-Picture cards. The Four Thirds System lenses it uses are compact for any given focal length, and the sensor’s 2x focal-length factor effectively doubles the focal length of any lens.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1. More ruggedly built than the L10, the 7.5-megapixel DMC-L1 is sold in a kit with a faster 14-50mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 Leica zoom. The 2.5-inch LCD monitor provides live-view capability, but doesn’t tilt or rotate like the L10’s. Seven film modes emulate the effects of switching film types for different looks. A sensor-dust remover and easy analog operation are additional assets.
Sigma SD14. The SD14 is the only current D-SLR to feature the unique Foveon X3 “full-color” image sensor, which records all three primary colors of light at every pixel site. This results in image quality well beyond what one would expect for a given horizontal-by-vertical pixel count. Sigma offers more than 40 lenses for the SD14, from a 4.5mm circular fisheye to an 800mm supertelephoto; with the sensor’s 1.7x focal-length factor, that means 35mm-camera-equivalent focal lengths from 7.65mm to 1360mm are available.
Sigma DP1. Our other non-SLR entry, Sigma’s new DP1 is a compact digital camera featuring the same Foveon X3 image sensor used in the SD14 D-SLR. This sensor is 7x to 12x the size of sensors typically found in compact digital cameras, which means the pixels are much larger. Bigger pixels capture light more efficiently, producing better image quality. The DP1 features an SLR-quality lens designed especially for the DP1 and Foveon sensor. It’s equivalent to 28mm on a 35mm camera.