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Testing / Performance
*We test color accuracy by shooting a Gretag-Macbeth color chart, under controlled lighting, and analyzing images of the chart with Imatest software. The Gretag-Macbeth chart is an industry-standard target, which includes swatches of colors that are challenging to reproduce and important for pleasing color performance. In the chart below, the large squares show the color as the E-330 captured them. The smaller, inner squares show the colors as they should have been reproduced, and the rectangles show the ideal corrected for luminance, but not hue or chroma.
The second chart illustrates the same test, but plots the colors on a gamut map. Each small square shows where the ideal colors land, and the circles show where the E-330's colors are. The length of the lines between the squares and circles indicates the degree of error in the E-330's color. The closer a spot is to the center of the chart, the less saturated it is. If the line between the circle and the square runs tangent to the center – clockwise or counter-clockwise, rather than in or out – the hue is shifted.
The E-330 gets saturation just about perfect – 100.2 percent saturation is unusually good. Unfortunately, it shifts the colors significantly, earning a high 6.85 color error score. We shot our best image at ISO 100, with noise reduction on.
**Still Life Scene **
We photographed our colorful still life scene with the EVOLT E-330 and the 14-45mm kit lens under tungsten light. Click on the image below for a link to the full-resolution shot.
Resolution / Sharpness*(3.47)
*We test resolution by shooting an industry-standard test chart under controlled lighting, with the camera on a sturdy tripod, using the camera's self-timer to limit vibration as much as possible. We shoot the chart at a range of focal lengths and apertures, then analyze the images with Imatest software. Imatest delivers results in "line widths per picture height," a measure that we can use to compare cameras with varying sensor sizes. We report the best results we can achieve.
Click on the chart above to view the full resolution file](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=E330-ResCH-LG.jpg)
The E-330 delivered 1432 lw/ph horizontal, with 6.08% under-sharpening and 1413 lw/ph vertical with 6.43% under-sharpening. These results are not very impressive, however, users can eke out a bit more apparent sharpness digitally in post-processing, even with out-of-camera JPEGs.
**Noise – Auto ISO ***(9.46)
*The EVOLT E-330's auto ISO noise performance is among the best we have ever recorded, primarily because the E-330 set the ISO to 100, its minimum value.
"Noise" looks a bit like grain in a film photograph or static on a television image. It is basically the variations in tone that the camera's electronics add to the image.
Noise – Manual ISO* (11.07)
*Noise was a real problem for the EVOLT E-300, the E-330's predecessor. Fortunately, Olympus has made great strides in cleaning up the noise issue with this new camera. The E-330's score is certainly competitive in its category, and, more important, good enough that noise won't be a distraction in prints.
Image noise in some cameras looks very much like film grain, and, in those cases, can actually be appealing to users who want a gritty feel to their pictures. It might be too much to call this an advantage, but it's a quirk. The EVOLT E-330 doesn't have it. Though its noise is reduced, compared to the E300, it remains blotchy, and looks more electronic than some other cameras' noise.
Low Light Performance*(6.0)*
We tested the EVOLT E-330 in low light settings ranging from 60 lux, which is enough light to read by comfortably, to 30, 15 and 5 lux. 5 lux is about the light level in a room lit by one of two candles, and is challenging for any digital camera. We set the E-330 to ISO 400 and shot at a range of shutter speeds. We test many DSLRs at ISO 1600, but chose not to do that with the E-330 because Olympus warns that its settings above 400 are an extended range and the manual has reservations about image quality at the highest ISOs.
As the below chart shows, the E-330's noise rises as exposure time increases from 1 to 30 seconds, but it doesn't rise steadily – it jumps between 1 and 5 seconds, remains near steady from 5 to 10 seconds, jumps at 15, and then again at 30. E330 users who plan to work in low light should buy wide-aperture lenses, and try to keep exposures under 1 second.
Dynamic Range* (6.0)
*The Olympus EVOLT E-330 uses a novel imaging chip: the N-MOS, or negatively-charged CMOS chip, is new to us, so we have been curious about its performance. Judging by the E-330, the technology does not offer a particular advantage as far as dynamic range goes.
When a photographer takes manual light readings, they usually optimize exposure for tones in the middle of the range – not the darkest or lightest. Most subjects fall mainly in the middle range, but scenes very often include bright highlights and dark shadows as well. Dynamic range is the measure of how well a camera can capture detail in highlights and shadows while still handling the middle range well. We test dynamic range by photographing a Stouffer chart: a strip of film showing a row of rectangles ranging from essentially clear to nearly opaque. When the chart is lit from behind, the clear rectangle is 13.3 EV brighter than the darkest one. We analyze the images of the chart with Imatest software, which yields ratings for high and low quality dynamic range. High quality indicates the range the camera can distinguish with only 1/10 of EV of image noise, and low quality indicates the range with up to 1 full EV of noise.
The E-330's score at ISO 100, 7.79 at high quality and 10.6 at low quality, puts it below the middle of the pack for entry-level DSLRs. Its dynamic range drops significantly from ISO 100 to 400, where its performance is significantly below other DSLRs. Interestingly, it doesn't drop much further from ISO 400 to 1600, so, at its highest ISO, it's about average.
**Speed / Timing
***Start-up to First Shot (7.31)*
It took the EVOLT E-330 at least 2.63 seconds to start up and take a shot in our trials. We assume that a fair portion of this delay is due to the dust removal system, which runs every time the camera is switched on. We think there ought to be a way to skip the dust routine, because the long start-up time is unacceptable in a DSLR – speed is one of the DSLR design's most important advantages, and start-up time is a significant part of that. The EVOLT E-330 has a delay more suited to a compact camera than a DSLR.
*Shot to Shot Time (9.51) *
The EVOLT E-330's specs quote a 3-frames per-second burst rate. We got that rate, but only with the live preview shut off. At to Super High Quality, RAW or TIFF, the camera only manages a burst of 4 frames at a time. With the live preview turned on, the burst mode slowed to about 1 frame per second, but continued indefinitely. A 4-frame buffer really isn't good enough, particularly at 3 fps. Having the burst rate slow to 1 fps with live preview is also very limiting.
*Shutter to Shot Time (8.2) *
Shutter to shot measures the lag between the instant the shutter is pressed and the instant the picture is actually taken. Our best trial with the EVOLT E-330 was 0.3 seconds without prefocusing or live preview. In live preview "A" mode, the lag increased to 0.4 seconds, and in "B" mode it rose to 0.5 seconds. The increased delay in "B" mode makes sense – the shutter is open, and the main sensor runs the display, so, when the user hits the shutter release, the shutter has to close and then open again for the actual exposure. It's not clear why the delays are so long for "A" mode or normal shooting.
Even 0.3 seconds is far too long for a DSLR – that's too much of a delay for action shooting, and much longer than that of competing cameras.
Front*(7.0)*The EVOLT E-330 is wide, compared to other DSLRs, and its lens mount is set well off to the right of the camera. That geometry makes room for a thick hand grip as well as a wide gap between the grip and the lens mount. An infrared receiver window sits flush on the front of the grip, which is otherwise covered with leather-textured rubber. The lens release button is at about 4 o'clock on the mount. Like other modern mounts, the Four Thirds flange is large compared to the optics’ diameter. The small mirror, which swings horizontally, looks even smaller in the wide mount. The Olympus logo is on the face of the pop-up flash, which is just about centered on the top of the camera to the left of the lens axis. "EVOLT E-330" is screened on the upper right corner of the camera, and the Four Thirds logo is below that. **Back***(8.25)*A 2.5-inch, 215,250-pixel LCD dominates the back of the EVOLT E-330. It's big and bright, but more notably, it sticks out: the LCD sits on a swinging armature that allows it to tilt up and down. The viewfinder is on the far left of the back, surrounded by a large, soft, rubber eyecup, with a small diopter dial on the left side. Its control is large and prominent on the right side of the eyepiece. Using the live view LCD requires shutting the viewfinder. The live view control button, which cycles through the LCD’s various information display formats, is to the right of the viewfinder control, as is the button for text display and the pop-up flash control button. Further to the right is a button that activates the built-in flash. Like many DSLRs, the E-330 has a column of buttons along the left side of the LCD. These control Playback, Image deletion, Menu display, and shooting information display. To the right of the display there are buttons for autofocus and exposure lock and the burst mode button, which can be switched to control custom white balance. The four-way controller is below that: clockwise from the top, its buttons control white balance, autofocus mode, ISO, and meter pattern. The right side of the E-330’s back forms a thumb rest. A media card door makes up the lower part of the right edge, and a notch in forms the finger hold for opening the door. **Left Side***(8.0)*The improved styling of the E-330 shows up on the left side, which is more curved than that of its predecessor. Its USB and video jacks are under a rubber flap on the side, which provides a good seal against dust and moisture, and should be pretty durable. The shoulder strap lug is a heavy metal stamping, one of many examples of Olympus's robust construction standards.
Right Side (7.5)
The right side of the EVOLT E-330 falls under the user's palm in the typical grip, so it’s appropriate that Olympus left the surface relatively smooth. While the media card door makes up a large part of the side, it's flush with the surface. The right strap lug is near the top, and won't get in the way of holding the camera securely.
Top*(7.0)*The EVOLT E-330's viewfinder optical path is folded about the same way the E-300's is, so there is no need for a viewfinder hump. Olympus relieved the top’s flat expanse with a curve on the left side. The hot shot is at far left, over the viewfinder, but, unfortunately, off-center from the lens. The pop-up flash is to the right of the lens axis. Controls that fall under the user's index finger and thumb on the right side of the camera include a large mode dial, a power switch, a thick control dial that extends over the back edge, and a blue status light that indicates the function of the SSWF – the dust removal device that runs when the camera is powered up. A large chrome shutter release is on top of the hand grip. The exposure compensation button is close to it, toward the mode dial.
Bottom*(7.5)*The EVOLT E-330's tripod socket is directly under the lens axis, which facilitates lining up the camera on a tripod. The battery compartment door is under the grip. It has a solid latch, which should make it more durable than the battery doors on many competing cameras. We find that doors that simply snap closed are prone to loosen up with age.
Viewfinder*(6.5)*When we looked at the EVOLT E-330's viewfinder for our first impressions review at the Photo Marketing Association show, it didn't look too bad. With a chance to look at it side by side with viewfinders from other DSLRs, we have to revise that opinion a little – it is not as bright as its competition, and its magnification is not as high. The difference is incremental, but definitely exists. Optics, however, are fine – the diopter control has a wide range and achieves very sharp views of the finder screen and the numeric displays. We also found it easy to see the whole display while wearing glasses. The viewfinder display shows: AF frame, Shutter speed, Aperture value, AF confirmation, Flash, White balance, AE lock, Number of exposures remaining, Exposure compensation value, Metering mode, Battery check, Exposure mode, and Record mode.** ****LCD Screen***(8.5)*The EVOLT E-330's 2.5-inch, 215,250-pixel LCD had better be a great display, because the camera's key feature, live preview, depends on it. In short, the LCD holds up its end of the bargain: it is bright and saturated and looks very sharp. We happen to have had two super-zoom compact cameras (the well-regarded Panasonic Lumix FZ30 and the Fujifilm FinePix S9000) in the office while we had the EVOLT E-330, and we looked at the displays side by side. The EVOLT E-330 was brighter and had better color. It was easier to see outdoors, and it handled moving subjects better.
Like the super-zooms, the EVOLT E-330 has a pivoting mount for its display. The double pivot bends at two joints: the first joint allows the top of the display to tip away from the camera, tilting the LCD down, for overhead shots. The second joint allows the bottom to tip away, swinging the display up and away from the camera so it can be seen from above. The tilting mechanism is built of thick metal stampings and seems typically robust, similar to the Fujifilm S9000’s but sturdier. Unlike the Panasonic FZ30's tilt-and-swivel arrangement, the mechanism doesn't help with shooting verticals. **Flash***(6.0)*On-camera flashes should line up exactly with the lens axis – it limits the distracting and ugly shadows that plague direct-flash photography. Unfortunately, the EVOLT E-330 doesn't offer that choice. With a hot shoe to one side and a pop-up flash to the other, flash options are likely to cause shadows. The EVOLT E-330 has a good choice of flash mode options: auto, on, off, on with red-eye reduction, slow sync, and slow with rear-curtain sync. Like the pop-up flashes on many DSLRs, the EVOLT E-330's flash is relatively weak. At ISO 100, it under-exposed at f/4.0 at 8 feet. Given that the E-330 performs best at low ISOs, this is not sufficient for most flash photography. Users who depend on flash should look into Olympus's dedicated flashes. We shot a plain beige wall with the flash and noted an X-shaped pattern in the flash illumination, which would show up in flash pictures of plain flat surfaces, though not in typical shots of people and other irregular objects. **Zoom Lens ***(7.0)*Our test EVOLT E-330 arrived with a Zukio Digital 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, which is the kit lens for the $1099 package. Olympus also bundles the E-330 with an 18-180mm f/ 3.5-5.6 for $1499. The 14-45 is comparable to a 28-90mm on a 35mm camera or the 18-55mm lenses sold with entry-level DSLRs. This lens feels pretty cheap. The maximum aperture at the telephoto end is f/5.6, which isn't bright enough for indoor shots. Like with many of these lenses, we notice color fringing and significant barrel distortion at the wide angle setting. Distortion is not a problem at the telephoto setting.
Design / Layout
Model Design / Appearance*(7.75)*The EVOLT E-330 is a refinement on the E-300. It's still wide, thick and clunky, but the straight lines that make the E-300 so brick-like have been softened with some gentle curves. It's still more of a heifer than a gazelle, but not in a bad way. Even when folded, the E-330's fat LCD assembly juts way out. At first blush, it looks as though it isn't folded all the way. That's an example of Olympus styling – the designers aren't shy about making important features big. The mode and control dials are thick-edged and sturdy-looking, following a similar aesthetic impulse. The EVOLT E-330's flat top is distinctive. When it first appeared on the E-300, some shoppers were put off; the assumption was that Olympus went back to the viewfinder hump on the EVOLT E-500 as a concession to the norms of camera styling. Apparently not –it seems as though the flat top appeared on the E-300 as Olympus was gearing up for the optics involved in the live preview. **Size / Portability ***(7.0)* The EVOLT E-330 is wide and thick. Exploded views of the camera suggest that the dust removal system takes up a lot of internal space – more than the live view sensor, for instance. Without a viewfinder hump, the E-330 isn't as tall as other entry-level DSLRs, such as the Pentax ist DL, the Canon Rebel XT and the Nikon D50, but it's about a half-inch wider. Good seals against dust and moisture make the E-330 relatively well prepared for carrying in less-than-pristine bags or unprotected in dusty environments.
**Handling Ability **(7.25)*Increased curves in the gripping areas and the loss of the hard front rectangle make the EVOLT E-330 much more comfortable to use than the E-300. The live preview works well, and is a major benefit to handling. Olympus labels and places controls prominently and logically, for the most part, though we find their menus needlessly complex. The LCD pivot is a big advantage only for horizontal shots – it doesn't turn to the sides, as it would have to for shooting verticals from overhead, or from low angles.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size*(6.5)*Olympus buttons and dials are typically large and tough, and the ones on the EVOLT E-330 don't disappoint. The mode and control dial are both large and easy to use with the user's right hand in shooting position. It would be better, however, if the EVOLT E-330 had two control dials: on high-end DSLRs, the front dial handles aperture and the back handles shutter speed, but the E-330 requires the user to press a button to switch its single dial between functions. The EVOLT E-330's shutter release is a large chrome button with a very good feel.**
****Menu***(5.5)*The EVOLT E-330's menus seem to be laid out for camera engineers or marketers – unusual and intriguing features are too prominent and basics are inconveniently buried. For example, there is no reason "Custom Reset Setting" should appear before quality/size, burst mode, etc. This case is particularly important, because the Burst mode button has to be disabled to enable the EVOLT E-330 to take white balance measurements. That said, the E-330 display uses a clear, readable font and uncrowded screens. Even with its enormous number of top-level entries – which are listed below – the E-330's menus often lead to extensive submenus. Picture mode's monochrome submenus include settings for contrast, sharpening, black-and-white filter emulation, and image tone. A separate menu comes up in Playback mode.
Ease of Use*(5.5)*The Olympus E-330 offers a depth of control that rivals more advanced DSLRs – focus bracketing is a new one on us – but we find that interface to reach many controls is clunky and slow. For instance, the only way to set a custom white balance – the kind that the user sets by shooting a white object – is by switching the burst mode button to control "one touch" white balance. That the burst mode, self-timer, and remote control to menu control only. All should be available without digging through the very complex and deep menu system. (Olympus uses "custom" white balance to refer to directly setting degrees Kelvin. To us, and the rest of the digital photography world, that's "Kelvin" and shooting a white target is "custom.") The menu system is not hierarchical enough – there are too many choices in the top level of the menu, and they aren't arranged in order of importance or how frequently they'll be accessed. "Custom Reset Setting" has no business being the second entry on the top menu – it should be used rarely.
Auto Mode*(7.5)*The EVOLT E-330 offers a Program mode with shift for full exposure, auto ISO, and auto white balance. The camera also offers a range of scene modes for casual users. As noted in the testing section of the review, the E-330 delivered an excellent performance when set to auto ISO.
Movie Mode***(0.0)*Any camera with a live preview seems to have the technology for a movie mode, but Olympus representatives told digitalcamerainfo.com that a movie mode would have added $50 to $100 to the EVOLT E330's cost. They did not rule out the possibility of adding it to subsequent DSLRs, but the E-330 does not capture video.
Drive / Burst Mode***(5.25)
*The burst modes for the Olympus EVOLT E-330 turned in results that improved upon preceding models manufactured by Olympus while falling slightly short of the competition. Our testing returned results of 3 frames-per-second when the live preview turned off, but slowed a bit when the feature was engaged. Also disappointing is the four image limit placed on the burst mode.
According to Olympus, the E-330 should offer a 3 fps rate with a 4 frame maximum for RAW, TIFF; SHQ JPEG while JPEG HQ and SQ have a 15 frame minimum, with its maximum amount dependent upon card size and compression ratio.
For more speed and timing info, refer to the Testing/Performance section of the review
****Playback Mode*(7.75)*The E-330's excellent LCD is a serious benefit in playback as well as shooting. Playback enlarges images up to 14x, enough to judge focus, and can show up to 25 thumbnail images at a time. Even the smallest thumbnails are clear enough to be useful. The display can also show a range of shooting data, as well as histograms for red, green, blue and luminance channels. The EVOLT E-330 also displays images in a calendar mode, allowing users to track down images by date rather than simply by the order in which they were shot. For those who shoot relatively few images and leave them on memory cards for a long time, the calendar function should be very useful. **Custom Image Presets***(8.0)*The EVOLT E-330 offers a range of image presets appropriate to an ambitious hobbyist's camera. They are: Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, Underwater Macro, Underwater Wide, Landscape with Portrait, Night Scene, Night Scene with Portrait, Children, High-Key, Low-Key, Reducing Blur, Macro, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Fireworks, Documents, Beach & Snow, and Panorama. These settings handle exposure pretty typically, limiting depth-of-field for portraits, expanding it for landscapes, speeding up shutter speed for sports and so on. Presets also control picture mode, and many of them boost the color setting to vivid. Because this setting can over-saturate color, the results will be familiar to users who have experience with compact cameras, but they aren't likely to produce accurate images or ones that can be easily color-adjusted after shooting.
Manual Control OptionsThe EVOLT E-330 includes a full suite of manual controls. Exposure, ISO, white balance, and image parameters all can be adjusted directly. Like those on the E-300 before it, the EVOLT E-330's controls are labeled with a bit more technical detail than those on other cameras. **Focus*******Auto Focus (4.5)*Unfortunately, the E-330 does not improve on the E-300's limited autofocus system. Both cameras have only 3 autofocus sensors, placed close together in a row at the center of the frame. ******The sensor sites aren't far enough apart to make much of a difference. In our experience, it's *********frequently necessary to focus first, then recompose the image when the autofocus function is ***limited to the middle of the frame. We also found the focus mechanism to be fairly slow, though, with the help of the assist light, it did well in dark and low-contrast shooting. *Manual** Focus (7.75)*Manually focusing the EVOLT E-330 through the viewfinder is very dependent on lighting – the relatively dark viewfinder made it tough to use in low light. In good light, the contrasty screen snapped nicely into focus. Focusing on the E-330's live-preview LCD is a mixed bag. The 2.5-inch, 215,250-pixel display is bright and contrasty, but with the unmagnified view, we couldn't focus as well on it as through the viewfinder. It just doesn't snap the way an optical viewfinder does. The EVOLT E-330 has two live preview modes. "A" mode uses a separate imaging chip in the viewfinder optical path, and "B" mode uses the same "N-MOS" (Negative CMOS) imaging chip that the E-330 uses to take images. In "A" mode, the camera's reflex mirror is in the normal viewing position and the autofocus system can operate, providing focus confirmation in manual focus mode. In "B" mode, the reflex mirror swings away, preventing the image from getting to the autofocus system, so there is no confirmation system. "B" mode offers something better, though: a 10x magnification setting, which gives a more accurate focusing option than either the optical viewfinder or the autofocus system. There are a couple of drawbacks: the LCD shows a very small section of the image and lags, slowing down focusing significantly. For stationary subjects, however, it's a powerful system. Both the optical viewfinder and the "A" mode live view show about 92 to 94 percent of the final image, according to Olympus. Looking at our test shots, we'd guess closer to 92 – there's a lot of slop. "B" mode is 100 percent accurate, according to Olympus. Our tests indicate that it's very accurate. **Exposure***(9.0)*The Olympus E-330 offers full manual exposure, plus aperture-priority, shutter priority and program modes. Program mode offers an easy "program shift" control to vary the aperture-shutter speed combination without changing the exposure value. All the modes except manual can be adjusted with an exposure compensation control that runs a remarkable 5 stops above and below the metered reading in 1/3,1/2 or full EV steps. The E-330 can also bracket exposures over the same range, taking brackets of 3 or 5 shots. **Metering***(8.0)*The EVOLT E-330's 49-zone "Multi-pattern sensing system" operates in the typical evaluative, center weighted, and spot metering patterns and adds highlight spot and shadow spot patterns, which aim to preserve detail in highlights or shadows. The metering patterns work about as expected. Digital ESP, Olympus's name for evaluative metering, takes 49 readings across the frame and compares them to set the exposure. It is set up to detect backlighting and other tricky situations and to get a usable picture regardless. Center-weighted takes a single reading of the entire frame, weighing the center of the frame more heavily than the edges. The spot patterns read 2 percent of the frame: either the center 2 percent or the area of the active autofocus sensor. We found that the Digital ESP system compromised in backlit situations, letting the subject go a little dark, apparently to maintain some detail in the background. This is typical of evaluative systems.
White Balance*(7.0)*The EVOLT E-330 has 7 white balance presets for sunlight, overcast, shade, tungsten light, and three fluorescent types. Our testing suggested that the presets are not very accurate. The Auto setting selects a setting without user input, and the Custom setting allows the user to input a Kelvin value. The One-touch setting allows the user to take a reading from a white object. As we noted elsewhere, the one-touch setting is the most useful white balance setting, and we're disappointed that the user must disable the burst mode button and dedicate it to white balance to activate this option. The E-330 has two means of biasing white balance: white balance compensation, which adjusts color for auto or individual presets, and the Compensate All menu function, which applies the same compensation to all modes. Both controls allow the user to bias color on a red/blue axis and a green/magenta axis.
ISO*(5.5)*The EVOLT E-330's normal ISO range runs from 100 to 400, in half or third EV increments. The extended range reaches ISO 1600 in the same steps. Olympus indicates the EVOLT E-330's poor noise and color performance at higher ISOs by referring to these settings as "extended."
Shutter Speed*(8.0)*In manual and shutter-priority modes, the E-330’s shutter runs from 60 seconds to 1/4000 second in 1/2- or 1/3-EV increments. In other modes, its long exposure limit is 2 seconds. A bulb setting is available for time exposures in manual mode.
Aperture*(6.0)*****The 14-45mm lens has a maximum aperture of f/3.5 to 5.6, depending on the focal length. Its minimum aperture is f/22 throughout the range. The E-330 can set the aperture in 1/3-stop increments. A maximum aperture of f/5.6 is very limiting in all but the brightest conditions. Considering how short the zoom range is – 45mm is a very moderate telephoto – it's clear that the lens was designed to be very inexpensive. There aren't any technical hurdles to overcome in making a brighter lens, particularly for the relatively small 4/3-format sensor.
Picture Quality / Size Options*(8.5)***The Olympus EVOLT E-330's native file resolution is 3136 x 2352 pixels. It records RAW, TIFF and better-quality JPEGs only in this resolution. It records standard-quality JPEGs in resolutions of 2560x1920, 1600x1200, 1280x960, 1024x768 and 640 x 480 pixels. The E-330 offers Olympus' unusual method of handling JPEG compression. SHQ (Super High Quality) JPEGS compress at a 1/ 2.7 ratio. HQ (High Quality) and SQ (Standard Quality) formats can be set to compress at ratios of 1/4, 1/8, or 1/12. SQ can also be set to 1/ 2.7 for lower-resolution files. This is a very extensive range of options, one that would take most users quite a while to sort out. Fortunately, not all of these options present themselves at once, and the user who would be overwhelmed by all those combinations can avoid them.
**Picture Effects Mode*(7.75)*Image appearance controls show up in more than one area. The Picture Mode menu entry covers the typical settings, offering Vivid, Natural, and Muted colors, as well as Monotone and Sepia. Each of the settings has a sub-menu. For the color settings, the submenus offer further adjustment of contrast, sharpness and saturation. For monotone or sepia images, the submenus add "B&W Filter," which simulates the effect of color filters on black and white film, selectively lightening and darkening subject matter depending on its natural color. Finally, the E-330's Gradation control is extends the tonal range in either the highlights or shadows of the image.
Connectivity / Extras
Connectivity*Software (6.0)*The EVOLT E-330 ships with Olympus Master software, an editing, organizing and printing package that includes a RAW file converter. Master was stable on our computers and is easy to navigate. Its RAW file converter doesn't offer anything particularly exotic, adjusting color balance, exposure, contrast, sharpness, and saturation. **Jacks, Ports, Plugs***(7.75)*The EVOLT E-330 has a USB port for data transfer and printing, an AV port for showing slideshows on television sets, a hot shoe for connecting flash equipment, and an IR port for cordless remote controls.
Direct Print Options*(7.5)*The Olympus E-330 supports DPOF and PictBridge printing. It allows the user to choose which images to print, to set the number of copies to print, and to decide whether to overprint the date and time. For PictBridge printers, the EVOLT E-330 can set borderless printing, select the print size, create index prints, and print multiple copies of an image on a single sheet of paper. **Battery ***(5.75)*The EVOLT E-330 uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. In general, lithium-ion cells last longer, weigh less, and are more convenient than other battery types. We recharged the EVOLT E-330's battery a couple of times during our testing. It seemed to discharge faster than some competing cameras' batteries, but it also charged very quickly.
**Memory ***(3.5)*Olympus helped develop the xD media card, so it's not a shock that the Evolt E330 accepts this form of memory. It also accepts compact flash cards, which are physically larger and cheaper. Compact flash is the most popular memory format for DSLRs.
Other Features*(6.0)**Shading compensation - *Lightens the corners of images taken with vignetting lenses, evening out the tones. *Sensor Cleaning Mode - *Even though the EVOLT E-330 has a SSWF, or super-sonic wave filter that is supposed to vibrate dust away from its imaging sensor, Olympus includes a sensor cleaning mode for the stubborn bits that just won't shake off.
Underwater Specific mode dial options - *The EVOLT E-330 can be set to allow direct access to underwater scene modes via the mode dial. It also flashes a memo to warn users that it needs a waterproof housing. Focus Bracketing - *Finally, the EVOLT E-330 can be set to shoot frames at 3 different focus points.
****Comparisons***Pentax *ist DL - *The Pentax **ist DL sells for less than half of the EVOLT E-330's price, but it lacks the E330’s unusual technology. It's a solid, 6.1-megapixel DSLR, so it doesn't match the 7.94-megapixel resolution of the E-330. Like the EVOLT E-330, the **ist DL has only 3 autofocus sites. This is a drawback for both cameras, but both have high-quality, large LCDs. The *ist DL uses AA batteries, which are available everywhere but which wear out quickly in digital cameras. While smaller and lighter than the EVOLT E-330, it feels equally durable.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1* - *The Sony Cyber-shot R1 is a live-preview all-in-one camera that lists for $1000, just $100 less than the E-330. The R1 crosses some of the boundaries between DSLR and compact camera, just as the E-330 does. It does so, however, from the opposite direction. The R1 has an APS-format sensor, which is larger than the 4/3 sensor in the EVOLT E-330. Both cameras have live preview images on their high-resolution LCDs. We think most users will be more impressed by the E-330's display, but the two are comparable. The R1's major calling card is its excellent Zeiss lens, which has longer range, brighter aperture, and better quality than the E-330's meager kit lens, but cant match the versatility of Olympus' entire digital-specific lens line.
Canon EOS 30D - The Canon 30D is a mid-range DSLR, introduced body-only at $1400, $400 more than the EVOLT E-330 without a lens. Though the 30D lacks live preview and the EVOLT E-330's dust-shaking SSWF, it beats the Olympus in most conventional measures – better resolution, better color accuracy, better high-ISO performance, a higher maximum ISO (3200 versus 1600), better handling, much faster and longer burst mode (at 5 fps versus 3 fps), better dynamic range, and faster autofocus with better AF sensor placement. Although, the EVOLT E-330's LCD display is brighter and has marginally better color.
*Nikon D70s -*The Nikon D70s, available online with a kit lens for about $950, is a 6-megapixel DSLR that's growing a little old. At nearly 8 megapixels, the EVOLT E-330 has the advantage in resolution specs, but once the cameras' electronics get through with the images, the Nikon's image quality is certainly comparable, and in some ways better. The D70s is faster to use, with two control dials, and much more sensible menu and button design. Its autofocus is also faster and performs better in low light. The D70s does not have the E-330's unique technologies, but it handles the basics better. ******
Value***(5.25)*The EVOLT E-330 is, for the time being, unique. The Panasonic L1 is coming, with very similar technology, so there will be another live-view DSLR to look at soon, and it will arrive with optical image stabilization in its kit lens. Beyond the live display, the E-330 deserves credit for a deep set of controls and obvious durability. The camera’s feel is distinctive and there is plenty to like about it. Like other Olympus cameras, the E-330 will earn a cadre of loyal users. Still, its image quality is not equal to competing cameras. Some cheaper cameras do better. All the more expensive cameras do much better. ****** **In short, only the live viewfinder could make the EVOLT E-330 a great value. Someone who must have that display is the right buyer for the E-330. Frankly, we don't know who that is. **Who It’s For***Point-and-Shooters - The EVOLT E-330 isn't missing anything that point-and-shooters need, but it's big and heavy. Users who don't need to change lenses could do better with a smaller, cheaper camera.
*Budget Consumers - *The E-330 costs $1100 in its cheaper kit, which is significantly more than comparable DSLRs, and much more than many compact cameras with similar resolution and image quality. Penny pinchers will be able to get the basic functionality they need for much less money, though without the E-330's unique capabilities.*
***Gadget Freaks - The E-330 calls to the gadget freak the way Juliet called to Romeo. Its live preview will be unique for a little while longer – until the Panasonic is introduced. The rest of the EVOLT E-330's feature set is nearly as seductive: sonic dust cleaning is one example, but gadget lovers should also embrace Olympus' notion that users ought to know the Kelvin equivalent of every white balance and choose the compression ratio for their JPEG quality levels. *Manual Control Freaks - *The E-330 offers a very good range of manual controls, though some of them ought to be easier to access. It offers white balance fine adjustments in a couple of ways, separate exposure compensation for flash, and the option of linking flash and ambient compensation. Still, most manual shooters tweak to obtain the best possible image quality, and the E-330 doesn't complete with similarly-priced DSLRs. Pros/Serious amateurs - There are some pros using Olympus DSLRs. Acknowledging that Olympus has delivered some unusual and impressive lenses, and that the E-330 is built very tough, the camera still doesn't generally call to the high-end user, especially considering the speed hit that the preview and dust reduction imposes. Macro specialists? Maybe – Live mode B offers very high magnification for manual focus. It might be that the underwater housing will take great advantage of the live preview, too. *
ConclusionLive preview on a DSLR is very impressive, and the EVOLT E-330 has the best live preview we've ever seen, period. It has less display lag, it's brighter and clearer, and it allows more accurate manual focus than any of the best premium compacts, like the Sony R1 or the Panasonic Lumix FZ30. It's very good at its unique trick.
That said, the preview still seems like a technology in search of a use. Olympus seems ambivalent about it, suggesting exotic uses like underwater photography but leaning more heavily on the notion that that users stepping up from compact cameras to DSLRs might feel more comfortable with an LCD display like the one they're used to. However, how much validity this claim holds still remains to be seen.
In terms of imaging performance, the E-330 loses its competitive edge against similarly-priced DSLRs. For $1100, the resolution is there, but the high ISO performance and low light capture still hovers in an area that's more competitive with compacts. The camera's true Achilles heal, however, still seems to be its outdated autofocus system. With just three sensor sites, the technology was substandard on the camera's predecessor, the E-300, when it was announced in September, 2004. For $1100, there are many DSLRs out there that out-perform the E-330, however, there’s currently only one that offers interchangeable lenses and live preview.
Specs / Ratings
Specs / Ratings