By Kathleen Cullen PC World | on July 08, 2009
Price When Reviewed: 750
Pros: Very good autofocus in daylight.
Cons: Complicated customizable menus; unimpressive performance at high ISOs.
Olympus' E-30 digital SLR bridges the gap between the company's entry-level E-450, E-520 and E-620 models and its high-performance E3. It's available body-only, or in a kit with a 14mm-to-54mm lens.
Compared with its older sibling, the Olympus E3, the E-30 has a smaller body and a lighter weight. On this model Olympus has sacrificed the weatherproof, magnesium-alloy body in favor of a plastic and fiberglass version, which may be a deal-breaker for photographers inclined toward outdoor shooting. The E-30 features a handy swiveling LCD so that you can capture shots from odd angles, or even simply rotate it and snap it inward to protect it while you're out and about.
The E-30 boosts the image sensor to 12.3 megapixels, from 10 megapixels in the E3. It also adds Art Filters, effects such as pinhole, soft focus, pop art, and grainy tone. Though you can preview these effects in Live View, you can't modify them in-camera. As for more-concrete functionality, the E-30 adds improved contrast detection focus, in-body stabilization for vertical panning, and improved electronic AF adjustments for older and third-party lenses.
When paired with its bundled, short, f2.8-to-f3.5, 14mm-to-52mm Zuiko lens, the E-30 is reasonably lightweight. Even so, this camera may feel a bit hefty to anyone upgrading from an entry-level Olympus DSLR, such as the E-520 or E-530. Its controls are also slightly more intimidating, as it has no fewer than 23 buttons and three dials. Some settings (such as the cool multiple-exposure one, which shows layers building in Live View) require quite a bit of digging, but after a session of manual study (and maybe checking some crib notes) they become easier to access.
Luckily, you can save your favourite settings in the Super Control Panel on the camera's 2.7-inch LCD. Like its Olympus brethren, the E-30 is highly customizable, including several RAW+JPEG settings, white balance controls, noise-control levels, multiple spot-metering modes, and wireless flash controls.
Scene selections are available on the dial, sharing a spot with the Art Filters. You'll also see icons for portrait, landscape, macro, sports, and night portrait. Naturally, you can go all-manual whenever you choose.