What I would like in a upgraded Olympus E-3 dSLR

Written by Gary on October 10th, 2009

After reading the previous 2 posts, you should be fairly well aware that it’s not really the camera features I place value upon but the lens.

And, for a cropped sensor Four Thirds dSLR from Olympus, my old E510 does a great job for 90% of the time with my favorite lens of all time – the Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD – a lens which you just can’t get from Nikon or Canon or anyone else with similar features, size and cost.

But there are 3 main limitations of the E510 which frustrate me for the 10% of the shots I would like to take with this lens:

  • weather-sealing – unlike the lens, the E510 is not weather-sealed so I have to protect it in the rain
  • AF points – with only 3 AF points, continuous AF for a moving subject is not really possible unless the subject always occupies the centre AF (that’s the only one I use on the E510), – but unfortunately, I tend to compose images with the subject at intersections of thirds – not dead centre of the frame!
  • burst rate: with such a great potential for a sports lens, the E510 let’s it down by only having 3.5fps burst rate

There are a couple of other features I would of course like in my upgrade from an E510 – the latest sensor, a bigger viewfinder, and flip out LCD.

The Olympus E-3 of course satisfies nearly all of my requirements but at a cost of added weight and price, but what I am really looking forward to is how Olympus will compete with the new Canon 7D, Nikon 300S and Pentax K7 with its successor to the E3 (an E-5?) which should be due very soon.

Here is my wish list of features in addition to those of the E3 based on my needs plus perceived market competitiveness:

  • burst rate increased to 8fps to match the Canon 7D (up from 5fps on the E3 and K7)
  • HD video mode as for the Canon 7D – 720p/1080i with at least 25Mbps rate and selectable 24p, 25p, 30p, 50p, 60p frame rates and full manual exposure capability plus stereo mic input and preferably ability to adjust volume manually, and give us a 2x digital zoom option with selectable aspect ratios of 16:9, 3:2, 4:3 as with the Panasonic GH-1. Of course, I am not expecting continuous AF during movie mode as per the GH-1 as this requires extra lens mount pins and special lenses – but you are not going to get AF on other dSLRs either
  • over-sized sensor – similar to that used on the GH-1 so you can do uncropped 16:9 images
  • higher flash sync – if possible 1/250th sec would be nice
  • continue to improve image qualityI don’t really want more than 12mp, but please put the weaker AA filter of the GH-1 in so we can get even more image detail from the superb lenses, and further reduce image noise at high ISO
  • 920K LCD screen use a swivel LCD but, in a high end model, perhaps it’s time to give similar quality LCD screen, and stop using small jpegs in playback mode
  • SD card plus CF card – Olympus, it’s time to adopt the industry standard SD card in place of the xD card, and please can we have it so we can write a RAW to one and a jpeg to the other
  • keep the weight down – I would like it as close to 800g if possible
  • competitive pricing
  • DNG RAW files – consider giving the option of DNG RAW format if you still insist on keeping Olympus RAW format – I am getting tired of waiting for RAW converters to become compatible every time I buy a new camera
  • image level function – it would be nice to incorporate the K7’s automatic image level function option which physically changes the angle of the sensor to ensure your image is level with the ground
  • lens mount – maybe it’s time to start adding the extra communication pins of the Micro Four Thirds mount in anticipation that one day, the Four Thirds will adopt the same to allow fast contrast detect AF – of course, it will be backwardly compatible – and then one could potentially buy a future ZD 14-54mm f/2.8 mark III which would give fast contrast detect AF when used on Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds – now wouldn’t that be logical?
  • same battery – if possible, keep the same battery that I use on my Olympus C8080, E330, and E510 and which is also in the E3 – great for minimising travel gear and switching batteries if needed
  • live view silent mode – PLEASE, I have been asking this for years – in live view when using manual focus, manual exposure and a manual WB setting, there is NO need to drop the mirror down to take the shot – please keep it silent!
  • auto-HDR – it would be nice for it to simultaneously take 3 images with different exposures and merge them in-camera for auto HDR, although not essential

If such a camera is produced, I would buy it in preference to a 7D, 300S or K7 because of the differentiating features:

  • the superb Olympus lenses, in particular, the ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD which will not break your bank or back like a 70-200mm f/2.8 IS would on a Canon or Nikon, and gives you more telephoto reach (400mm in 35mm terms) to boot
  • the in-built image stabiliser which works on any lens you mount
  • flip out LCD – indispensible for movie mode, and great for tripod use and low or high angle shots – this is not available on the others
  • ability to use almost any lens ever made (except Canon EOS/FD/Leica M – although these can be used on MFT camera)
  • compatibility with Micro Four Thirds which is now becoming the de facto standard for a compact high image quality interchangeable lens camera system
  • arguably the best jpegs out of camera without RAW post-processing
  • fast AF – and potentially the fastest contrast detect AF if it adds the new pins and creates lenses to match
  • 4:3 aspect ratio and not 3:2 as with Canon and Nikon – 3:2 ratio whilst OK for landscapes, is no where near as nice as 4:3 for portraits – this means if I take a portrait with my Canon 1DMIII, I end up losing lots of pixels by cropping it. It will be even better if native 16:9 can be used as with the GH-1, because then you would have the best of both worlds: 4:3 for portraiture and 16:9 for landscapes and story telling, and 3:2 only if your subject suited it, or the output demanded it. If I am doing stitched panoramas, I prefer using 4:3 in portrait orientation rather than 3:2.

There are rumours that it may use a Fuji Super CCD sensor – I’m not sure if that’s the way I would like to go given that movie mode is on the table for marketing reasons – just give me a GH-1 sensor with its oversized sensor, fast video capability, and weak AA filter. However, a Fuji sensor may make good sense given that many people have been buying the Fuji cameras primarily for their sensor technology.


8 Comments so far ↓

  1. Margo says:

    Would love to see “true live view” like the 330 avaliable again. It is the one feature that often sees the E3 left in the camera bag at sports events such as dog agility & horse jumping. Working from ground level gives some great shots that are not possible with the E3 unless I lay on the ground

  2. admin says:

    there is zero chance Olympus will bring that technology – the future of live view is contrast detect AF – it is really fast on the GH-1!

  3. Ram says:

    Gary, I guess that makes the wish list of everyone. You have carefully included all the key features in the latest cameras to be incorporated in the new Oly.
    I would also like to have the high dynamic range, like the one in K-7. I think that will complete the list.


  4. Gianca says:

    Nice feature list.
    I’m glad you mention built-in HDR, but I would personally be satisfied with the option to shoot 5 or even 7 brackets at 2-3 EV settings. Currently just the 1Ds can do that, and I can see why Canon is doing that (to protect their flag ship camera feature) but I still wonder why such a simple feature is absent in the current E-3.

  5. Peter says:

    One additional feature I would like to see is a readout of the distance the lens is focused at and the depth of field

  6. admin says:

    there is no reason the focus distance and DOF could not be added to the LCD via a firmware upgrade – if they wanted to!

    I am surprised at how popular the in-camera HDR feature is!

  7. Martin says:

    What about a m4/3 mount on a E-30 size body? This would distinguish Oly from Canon and Nikon while giving the benefit of lens interchangeability using different manufacturer’s lenses. It would also allow quiet operations. m4/3s suffers from bad AF lenses at the moment.

  8. admin says:

    If you mean the extra m43 pins, then yes, they should be on all future 43 cameras and lenses which would allow faster contrast detect AF on 43 and the lenses could be used on m43 bodies with faster AF.

    But you can’t put a m43 lens on a 43 camera because the lens will be too far from the sensor and only macro usage would be possible.