Thursday, February 25, 2010

The New E-3!

The new, and fully functioning, E-3 arrived today! I haven't used it enough to be able to to a super extensive write-up on it, but I can share some findings based on the few hundred shutter clicks I've used up so far.

First off: the viewfinder. Between the E-500 and the E-3, it's no contest. It's easily twice as big in either direction, making for very easy manual focus and a much more pleasant experience composing and framing the photo.

Second: The AF system. Uhm yeah. The E-500 says "no" to autofocus in broad daylight sometimes, the E-3 will focus in all but impossible AF situations. I mean, I did try to focus on my black cat with practically no ambient light at one point, and the only way it would lock then was manually, or by using my flash' red AF-assist lamp. It's also miles faster than the E-500. If you needed a reason to upgrade your E-500 to an E-3, this and the viewfinder are it.

Some of you will recall me saying it was unnecessary to have more than 3 AF points. I take it back. All of it. The 11 points it has are not exactly top-of-the-range, however I don't see a good reason to have too many more as I can see it getting very difficult to quickly and reliably toggle between AF points manually if you have more than this. Most of the AF points of the E-3 fall really nicely on the lines of the Rule of Thirds, making it easy to compose properly without having to focus first and then recompose.

Third: Image quality. Miles ahead of the E-500. Those of you who own the Zuiko Digital 50mm f/2.0 Macro lens (or any of the High Grand and Super High Grade lenses) will appreciate the improvement in resolution. If you don't own the 50mm, make it a priority, you're missing out on what's considered to be the sharpest optics for any DSLR out there. I feel that the E-3 does need the better lenses to benefit from the better sensor, so please promise to never stick your 14-45mm f/3.5 - 5.6 on there. You don't swap out a Ferrari's 12 cylinder for a 1 cylinder lawnmower engine, do you?

(FYI, I did stick my old kit lens on there, and surprisingly under similar conditions, the kit lens does perform better. Don't ask, I don't know the reasons behind this)

Some could say the downsides are size and weight. Yes, it's heavy. Very heavy. Much heavier than the E-500. For me, that's a good thing. It gives a sense of solidity and if you have a heavier lens, it will balance much better than with a light camera. It takes some getting used to, but after handling the E-3 for a couple of hours, I felt that the E-500 was too light. I have heard that those who feel that the E-3 is too heavy, the E-30 is a great alternative. It's cheaper, and said to have the same (subjective) image quality as the E-3, and much lighter. I guess if weight is an issue, find a store that has one on display (for folks close to NYC, take a day trip to the City and visit the B&H store) and give it a try! Better yet, see if they have both cameras, so you can compare.

Very important: before you chuck over $1,000 at your new E-3, realize that only certain things about your photography will improve. You won't see a difference between the E-3 and a "lesser model" unless you posses firm knowledge of basic photography (exposure and composition), and because the E-3 is a bit harder to control, and has very few "auto" options, the results may actually be worse. That said, as mentioned before, the much bigger viewfinder will put your composing powers into overdrive. This camera is definitely a capable contender, as far as I can tell so far.

I was bathing the little one this afternoon, so I slapped my flash on the camera (don't have to worry about water now, it's weather sealed, and so is the 50mm!) and took 'er for a spin. Here's a nice example of what proper exposure will do on this camera, and why bouncing your flash at the ceiling is not always the best way to go :P

Lens and camera settings:
50mm f/2.0 @ f/2.2 (oops?), 1/250sec and ISO 100. Flash bounced off the ceiling @ +0.3EV compensation.

Lexi B-time E-3

Ultimately, it's up to the end user to judge whether this is the right camera for their needs, I know I personally am in love.The combination of superb glass and this camera have me sold. No offense to the Canon and Nikon folks, it's not that these 'camps' don't have great glass, but the equivalent quality of the glass doesn't come at an equivalent price. Since I won't find myself shooting at "ISO 6400 requirements" light or doing high speed photography any time soon, I see no reason to jump ship.


  1. It didn't take you long to figure out that camera. You must have done lots of research before purchasing. That's what I did with my D300s. I'm glad you are enjoying it.

  2. I did stuff that shouldn't really have been possible with the E-500 according to "many", I say I was just very in tune with the camera. The controls on the more "pro" models of all the different brands are very geared towards shooting manually, so I think if you have mastered that, it shouldn't matter too much what high end camera you pick (barring the differences in menu options). The controls on the E-3 seem to be in a very intuitive and logical place (although, if you wanted to, you could just reassign all the functions). In short: yeah, I'm definitely enjoying it :)