Magazine Article


A Digital Safari at Fashion Week

Olympus Powers Up Its EVOLT E-300 DSLR at Live Model Shoot

To make the case that its lower-priced new digital SLR, the EVOLT E-300, is suited to a wide range of users, Olympus let journalists test out the camera with a professional model at the recent Olympus Fashion Week in New York City.

Retailing for $899, body only, and just under $1,000 as a kit with a 14-45mm, F3.5-5.6 lens, the EVOLT offers 8MP of resolution through a Kodak "Four Thirds" CCD sensor.

What's most unique about the EVOLT though might be its appearance, which is sure to turn your customers' heads—either in a negative or positive way. Instead of the typical steeple-like pentaprism design, the EVOLT has an unusual "flat-top" look, as if the top of the camera had been lopped off. We couldn't decide whether this made the camera look like a sleek, black machine or just kind of boxy.

Either way, the change in design results from Olympus' exclusive TTL Optical Porro Finder that works with a unique side swing mirror box to make the top of the camera more compact. Also, according to Olympus, subjects framed with the EVOLT optical viewfinder are 94% centered for more accurate composition.

More importantly than how it looks though is how it performs. And while the EVOLT may not offer all the bells and whistles of top of the line digital SLRs from the likes of Canon and Nikon, it performed solidly when shooting our model, Kimberly, in natural and studio light, providing good, colorful images with impressive resolution. And while the low pricepoint on the camera opens it up to prosumer and even intermediate amateur photographers, it has enough power and manual features to appeal to your pro customers as well.

After getting a quick rundown on the camera from Olympus' tech rep, Andrew Bausk and a few shooting tips from Olympus pro photographer Kristen Ashburn, we started by shooting Kimberly on the ground floor of the Bryant Park Hotel, capturing her beneath the glow of one indoor light near the elevators. While images shot without flash, handheld, at 800 ISO were a little noisy in the dark red background, they were still decent and certainly keepers. Moving outdoors to shoot Kimberly as she walked through Bryant Park was even better, with the camera producing punchy shots at 400 ISO even though the day was overcast. In particular, the green in Kimberly's skirt was rendered beautifully as she danced, strutted and posed throughout the park (page 12). Skin tones also appeared natural and needed only a minimum of touching up in Photoshop (below). Only in the mottled shades of Kimberly's brown boots was there noticeable noise at 400 ISO. At 800 though, digital artifacts were more evident.

Not the fastest camera in the world at 2.5 frames per second, the EVOLT is probably not suited for anyone wanting to capture fast action sports. For model shooting in the park or on the runway though, the camera performed well, capturing images in bursts of four frames in both the RAW and TIFF modes. The camera starts up quickly thanks to Olympus' TruePic TURBO Image Processor which eliminates shutter lag.

Under studio lights, the EVOLT also performed well. In one shot where we thought we spotted an aberration in an image of Kimberly's face, on closer inspection we realized it was just a slight smudge in her make-up. Now that's what we call good resolution!