The range-topping Olympus E-3 sports a 10Mp Live MOS chip and is the most professional digital SLR camera to date to carry the Olympus branding.

Olympus launched its Four Thirds camera digital SLR system four years ago with the E-1. So it has taken a while for as revolutionary a replacement to come along, but finally we have it in the range-topping Olympus E-3, sporting a 10Mp Live MOS chip and the most professional dSLR to date to carry the Olympus branding.

While its semi-pro status means it's hardly surprising that the Olympus E-3 weighs a lot – ironically so, given that Olympus has always boasted that its system allows for smaller bodies and lenses than its 35mm-based competitors – the cockpit-like multitude of buttons and controls makes for an initially unfriendly user experience, even for those who have previously handled an E-410 or E-510.

More positively, the Olympus E-3's substantial magnesium alloy build means that it'll withstand a good few knocks in the heat of the action and allows for the inclusion of a tilt and swivel 2.5in LCD screen with continuous Live View, as also found on Panasonic's L10.

The Live View functionality means that the Olympus E-3's rear monitor can, like a digital compact, be used as a means of composing shots and checking focus when putting your eye flush to the optical viewfinder would be awkward. The only disappointment is that it doesn't rotate the full 360 degrees.

Still, the Olympus E-3's 11-point auto focus system – which Olympus claims is the world's fastest – ensures your subject is sharp and crisp wherever it is in the frame, although this also means it is occasionally confused by busy scenes.

Built-in image stabilisation – as found on the E-510 but not the E-410 – commendably delivers a higher number of usable images when shooting at extreme telephoto (maximum zoom) than could be captured otherwise, and a five frames-per-second maximum capture speed, while not the best-in-class is respectable nonetheless.

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Olympus E-3: Specs

  • 11.8Mp digital SLR
  • max resolution: 3,648x2,736
  • shooting speed: 60-1/8,000
  • continuous shooting speed: 5fps
  • max aperture depends on lens
  • 2.5in LCD size
  • 17x13mm CMOS
  • CF/xD/Microdrive
  • lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • ISO range: 100 to 3,200
  • 134x95x77mm
  • 480g
  • 11.8Mp digital SLR
  • max resolution: 3,648x2,736
  • shooting speed: 60-1/8,000
  • continuous shooting speed: 5fps
  • max aperture depends on lens
  • 2.5in LCD size
  • 17x13mm CMOS
  • CF/xD/Microdrive
  • lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • ISO range: 100 to 3,200
  • 134x95x77mm
  • 480g

OUR VERDICT

To be picky, the Olympus E-3's auto white-balance performance is variable, something the manual itself acknowledges. Still, there are sufficient manual settings to correct it, and since this isn't a camera for the point-and-shoot brigade, those who enjoy customising settings to the nth degree will get the most out of the E-3.

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