• Price: 706

  • Company: Olympus

  • Pros: Olympus’ live-view feature opens up some interesting, mostly specialized, shooting applications, such as high-magnification telephoto or macro photography.

  • Cons: Overall, the E-330 is expensive considering the alternatives, especially as few users are likely to benefit from the live-view options.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 6 out of 10 We rate this 6 out of 10

The release of Olympus’ E-330 digital SLR is something of a surprise. The company recently introduced the E-500 to replace the E-300 as the company’s entry-level digital SLR. The new E-330 is prettier, but you can’t miss the similarities between it and the E-300.

The new model adopts the same unorthodox sideways-swinging reflex mirror and viewfinder system of the original E-300. Minus the traditional pentaprism, the net result is a low-slung body more closely resembling a high-end all-in-one than a digital SLR.

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The decision to adopt a sensor, based on the open FourThirds standard, with a lower pixel count than either the E-500 or the E-300, is another surprise. In practical terms, the drop from 8mp to 7.5mp will have little or no impact on resolution overall, but the market is very fickle when it comes to image size. The reason behind the change is the introduction of a Panasonic-made live NMOS sensor that’s claimed to provide the low-power consumption of CMOS with the high-image quality of a CCD sensor. What’s more, the new chip provides a continuous live-view option, just like a compact. 
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Both Olympus and Panasonic are talking up the live-view feature – Panasonic has even announced its own digital SLR, the Lumix-L1, using the same sensor. However, while there are some advantages, including a number of super-imposed framing features, the implementation is not slick enough. 
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To view directly from the imaging sensor, the reflex mirror has to be locked in the up-position. This prevents auto-focus, and denies any attempt to sneak a look through the optical viewfinder. 
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<b>Heavy going</b>
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Olympus has attempted to circumvent this by placing an alternative and dedicated sensor alongside the viewfinder optics. The result is a grainer, less precise image, and it’s especially poor under low light. The inclusion of a pullout and tilting monitor, similar to that found on the earlier Olympus E-20P, is another useful live option. At 2.5-inches, this adds to the user experience, easily transforming the E-330 into the ideal, tripod-bound, studio camera. 
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However, the balance and layout of controls are strewn around the polycarbonate body, and aren’t as cohesive as rivals at this price. At just over 900g complete with 14-45mm (28-90mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, it’s also a good deal heavier. Like the less pricey E-500, there’s the same narrow-ranging three-point AF detection system and the incredibly small optical viewfinder. 
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