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Digital Deal
Olympus E-30: Trickle Down or Up?

But also, this one feature helps settle which kind of customer is more likely to be attracted to either model, and under what conditions. It's a subtle point, perhaps, but some customers might prefer the exposure-mode knob over the splashproof construction. We might sometimes share the dichotomy--splashproof when taking pictures on the harbor, but maybe mode knob when photographing a wedding.

From that point onward, the differences between the two become less subtle.


Another big difference in the first-impression derby between the two models is the imager. Both have FourThirds system specifications, but the E-3's includes 10.1MP, the E-30's, 12.3MP. This ups the new camera's picture size from a maximum of 3648x2736 for the E-3, to 4032x3024 for the E-30. The 384-pixel difference between them may not seem like a huge amount, until think back a dozen years, when most full-size digital pictures stood only 480 pixels high.

Both cameras can shoot bursts at 5 fps, and a maximum of 15 frames in raw mode (ORF). This is sort of a "hidden improvement" in the E-30, insofar as the same framing rates and capacities apply despite the larger file sizes of the newer model.

The pivoting live-view monitor screen of the E-30 has been increased slightly, from 2.5- to 2.7-inches. However, the image appearing on those screens arrives by a somewhat different mechanism, the advantage of the newer one being its ability to show focus changes immediately, even before the first exposure is made.

In addition, images can be played back on the E-30's screen in such a way that live action can be combined with prerecorded images. If you photographed a national forest 10 years ago and want to take new pictures from exactly the same location, angle, and perspective to show what's changed, you could copy your old pix to a memory card in ORF, and play it back when you return to the scene. Then you're able to match the two views and get your then-and-now result.

Another brand-new feature involves double-, triple-, and quadruple-exposure pictures made in-camera as well. You use camera controls to set the optimum exposure values for the composited pictures, and to arrange them on the screen to make the final composition that pleases you.

An assortment of "art filters" are also stored in firmware, allowing you to produce embellished pictures in-camera. Olympus points out that the camera systems automatically adjust the effect of the filter to the exposure characteristics of the scene, a result you could probably replicate after the fact in Photoshop, but not without a lot more time and complexity. However, if you want to try it both ways, you can set the camera to its RAW + JPEG mode, wherein it writes each exposure to memory twice. The ORF version would be "clean" for later embellishment, while the JPEG version would present the composite effect with the filter.

By a traditional line of thought, creating "artistic" pictures in-camera would seem like something the Sunday artiste would tend to do more than the working pro. But tradition isn't what it used to be. Nowadays we have a lot of pros shooting events and weddings, from which they upload to websites directly and sell prints on the spot. Special filter effects, or the use of pre-photographed "mattes" (a heart for the lovers? a dragon for the kids?) might find a market in the then-and-now.

We've had trickle-up, trickle-down, and now we have trickle-out to the mainstream. If Olympus develops a successor to the E-3, would it be a weatherproofed design with all the inner artistry? Hard to predict. But in response to technical evolution, the definitions of users are changing--many "professional photographers" are closer to graphic artists than their predecessors were. It will be interesting to see what features take the next leapfrog leap, one of many things to keep an eye upon in a better tomorrow.