Anyone who knows me knows that I love the little digital cameras with the flip-out or tilting LCDs. Because these LCDs are "live" meaning they see what's coming through the lens, they can be used as handy viewfinders for new shooting angles.
As much as I've liked these cameras, though, they have a distinct challenge. Their small sensors don't capture color and tonality as well as those on digital SLRs, and they show unpleasant amounts of noise when the cameras are set to ISO equivalents over 100. In addition, these cameras don't allow interchangeable lenses (though you can add accessory lenses that work very well).
So I was excited to hear about the Olympus EVOLT E-330. This camera offers a live, flip-out LCD, yet it's a true digital SLR with an internal mirror and optical viewfinder—this is the first time any manufacturer has been able to achieve this. Olympus uses a unique camera design that puts a separate sensor in the viewfinder that's dedicated to the LCD monitor. This allows a true, optical TTL (through-the-lens) sensor to drive the back LCD monitor.
1. Tilting, live LCD allows you to see what your lens is seeing as you shoot
2. 7.5-megapixel NMOS sensor (NMOS is a variant of CMOS)
3. Four-thirds format, which means the sensor is bigger than that on a non-digital SLR, resulting in lower noise, better color and a magnification factor of 2.0x (compared to 35mm size)
4. Dual media support; camera
After using the camera for a few weeks, I've found a new love. In the E-330, the large 2.5-inch LCD flips up and down so that you can use it to see through the lens at many angles to the camera without putting your eye to the viewfinder (just like most digital cameras). You can look through the TTL viewfinder when needed for a purely optical view (a true digital SLR), and there's essentially no shutter lag.
The camera gives you the flexibility of a small, compact digital camera, with the capabilities of an SLR system with interchangeable lenses. I expect that we'll see more cameras with this design in the future, but I have to applaud Olympus for its innovation and for doing it first.
From my perspective, this is a great tool for macro photography and unusual angles in the landscape. I was photographing on a small, frozen stream in Colorado this February with an early model of the camera, and I appreciated that live LCD.
I put the camera on a tripod, close to some open water on the stream for a dramatic composition, but there was no way I could actually get close enough to the camera to view through the viewfinder. If I did, I'd have gotten very wet (not a good thing when you're in the mountains and the temps are dropping to the single digits). With this camera, I could see and use the LCD for framing, while still keeping my body weight on solid ice. (You can see the use of a live LCD on a different type of camera in a recent book by a friend, Joe Meehan, The Magic of Digital Close-Up Photography, Lark Books, 2006.)
|[Specs of Note]
• Street Price: $999 (body only)
The optical viewfinder is a little darker than other SLRs because some light is diverted to the special sensor for the live LCD, though I didn't find this a problem. The camera also has a mode that lets you see the exact view from the sensor on the LCD, which should be ideal for macro work. The high-quality LCD makes it easy to focus using the live view.
Overall, images were clean, with practically no noise at lower ISO settings and very little at higher settings. Colors looked excellent, with great brilliance and sharpness. The camera is compact and lightweight, measuring 5.5x3.4x2.8 inches and weighing about 19.4 ounces. Plus, it has Olympus' patented sensor dust-removal system that uses high-frequency vibrations to literally shake the dust off the sensor.
Contact: Olympus, (888) 553-4448, www.olympusamerica.com.