OLYMPUS E-330 dslr


BACKGROUND:

Based on the E-300 body the new E-330 boasts two imagers; an 8MP (from the Mju 800 digicam) and a LiveMOS 7.5MP CMOS type imager. The 8MP chip resides in the extended Porro mirror system light path and is for live preview. (Of note is when the E-300 was first introduced one of the reasons given for the unusual flat-top design was that it gave engineers some space for further development and the delivery of the LiveView system has been on-going for two years). The reason Olympus chose the CCD from the later Mju series that it is 'low-light' enabled, badged BrightCapture. This attribute, designed to allow the tiny digicam to which it is normally fitted to capture an image in very low light circumstances, is ideal for this job as the available light from the semi-transparent mirror that is sits behind in the E-330 is pretty dim. As I understand it the engineers have been able to combine 9 pixels worth of light gathering into one effective pixel (or combine 9 pixels into 1) in low light mode thus increasing sensitivity. The tiny 1/1/8" has 8.3 million photosites in its normal mode. If we divide 8.3 MP by 9 this might be a better way to express the LiveView CCD's count; i.e. 923Kb? (That's if my math is correct - but please don't rely on this). I've not been able to discover any real info about the new LiveMOS imager but if pre-release rumour is true it was probably designed by Cypress. This is a major departure for the company who previously relied on Kodak for the imagers in the E-1, E300 and E-500. If the new LiveMOS chip can deliver less noisy images at moderate ISO gain this will resolve some major issues for Olympus and provide new technology for the next generation of professional E-series machines.

The nearest description I can muster for the E-330 is a cross between the previous high grade C-series unit (C8080), the E-10/20 and an E-300. This hybrid must surely open up two additional markets from those toying with the idea of going DSLR; first that of the advanced compact user wishing to step up to a camera that offers the live preview they have come to know so well with lens exchangeability, and second a woman's DSLR. The latter has been a target audience since Mr Maitani identified women as potential/probable camera users back in 1961 when he designed the fully automatic Pen EE with female users in mind. (It is well documented that females can be put off photography by its complex nature). It might also explain why Olympus pulled the C8080 & C7070 in 2005 with no good reason and why the present Olympus high level compacts are pretty boring.

IMAGES with brief comments - for now

I'm afraid this article will have to delelop 'ad hoc'. It will be updated as I find out more information and I'll include links to the lesser known sites that sometimes contain a different level of information than the bigger sites like dpreview etc. In the mean time please browse these images and comments. The documentation is also quite revealing.

The standard Olympus press release high quality photo. Notice the more rounded corners - not quite as 'brick' looking. The rear is very much like the E-500, as you'd probably expect, most control buttons being identical in position and function. The MODE A & B selection button is of course new.

The new E-330 is less wide, the same height but thicker than the E-300. The designers have tidied up the rather cluttered E-300 frontal aspect and this looks neat, clean, smooth and inviting. The new control button in front of the shutter release is for compensation. It appears the same excellent quality of the original body is maintained which is slightly better than the E-500. The rather unattractive two-tone body panelling of the E-300 is gone, replaced with improved, lightly textured engineering plastic, panels.

Detailed view of the rear controls. Note the sculptured area for the thumb on the right has been maintained. On the E-500 this is almost flat and the area is incumbered by two buttons immediately below the control wheel. In use the thumb continually touches and activates the buttons which is annoying. On the E-330 there are no buttons here - good design. The rubberised sections look E-1 like in texture - excellent. The 4-way switch surround ring is chromed but the outstanding feature of course is the 2.5" Hyper Crystal screen. The bumps either side are the hinge mechanisms allowing tilt - a great feature from the C5050 that I miss on the E-1; not incorporated as it would negate weatherproofing.

From above this looks identical to the E-300 though in fact the flash gate has been shifted slightly. As with the E-300 flash users can use pop-up and ancilliary flash in unison - a feature NOT available on E-500 due to the prism hump design. The SSWF blue light is prominently on top - exactly where it should be to remind users that this feature isn't on any other DSLR. The control wheel and command wheel oversail each other - a nice design touch. The additional body thickness is due to the tiltable screen and additional mirror for the LiveView imager. Users will be pleased to know that Olympus has provided a proper eye-piece shutter (E-1 style) rather than the silly little plastic slide provided with the E-300/500.

More detail of the tiltable screen. It is extremely useful for replicating TLR type work, low and above the head shots. And of course great for macro. Anything that assists imaging must be encouraged though this and the flash means the body is not dust and drip proof.

In A mode: Comments to follow

In B mode: Comments to follow

Comments to follow


REVIEW?

The Internet is flooded with reviews and opinion. I've not seen or handled this camera in the flesh so I cannot present any informed opinion. Instead I've collected what public documentation there currently is, and put together a series of links to other sites who've had their hands on the E-330.

PUBLIC DOCUMENTATION:

There's a PDF of the E-330 'SYSTEM' here.

There's a PDF of the E-330 Basic Instruction sheet here.

There's a copy of the Olympus specification page here.

PRICE:

US: Body only $999, with standard ZD14-45mm $1099

UK: Body only 799, with standard ZD14-45mm 899

AVAILABILITY:

US: Shortly

UK: 4-6 weeks (March 2006 onwards)

BACKGROUND MATERIAL WORTHY OF A READ:

A fascinating interview with OlympusAmerica sales and technical staff here.

The Official Olympus E-system page is here: E-System page.

Sales orientated page from OlympusAmerica is here: Olympus America.

An interview with Olympus high flyer Yoshiyuki-Nada is here.

PUBLISHED REVIEW OPINION & INFORMATION - no particular order:




If you have any observations or interesting material you want to share please contact me here.


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Posted 26/January/2006 23:34 Copyright © 2006 - Images, Olympus Imaging, Japan

Copyright © 2006 - John Foster