[Editor: The Olympus E-330 is
basically the same as the E-300 so readers might
want to re-read the Olympus
E-300 review for all the details. In this
review, I will concentrate on the features that
are the most important on the E-330, the improvements
over the E-300 and also draw some comparisons
with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1. You mau also
want to read our review of the Panasonic
L1 together with this review.]
The Olympus EVOLT E-330 follows right
on the path of the EVOLT E-300 and uses a series
of mirrors (including a sideways swinging mirror)
to reflect the light coming thru the lens to the
side, then up and finally back thru the eyepiece.
It's a clever arrangement and the result is a
flat top unlike any DSLR out there.
Was it worth switching the pentaprism for the
porro mirrors just so a flat top design could
Those of you coming from the DSLR side will find
the viewfinder of the E-330 smaller and darker
compared to the large and bright viewfinder of
a typical DSLR that uses a traditional pentaprism.
But if you come from the consumer digital camera
side and are upgrading to a DSLR, you will welcome
the optical viewfinder on the E-330: it is much
better than the tunnel vision viewfinders or EVFs
on the non-DSLR cameras.
Note that the flat-top design did not result
in a smaller and lighter DSLR. It just allowed
a "Leica rangefinder" look on the Digilux
Part of the reason why this camera is so comfortable
to hold is because it is also quite large. It's
not that Olympus cannot make a small Four Thirds
DSLR: quite the contrary since it recently introduced
the dimunitive E-400 -- currently the world's
smallest and lightest DSLR. That's quite a feat
and portends good things to come from the Four
Thirds Standard if only more camera manufacturers
would adopt the standard.
I really liked the exceptional handling of the
Olympus E-330: your hand wraps around the handgrip
comfortably, the right index finger rests naturally
on the angled shutter button, and the right thumb
is positioned precisely on the Control Dial.
There are a couple of differences here
between the Olympus E-330 and the Panasonic
L1/Leica Digilux 3: The L1 has a Shutter
Speed Dial where the Mode Dial is on the
E-330, and in the middle of the Shutter
Speed Dial is the shutter button. I loved
the L1's Shutter Speed Dial and did not
mind one bit that the shutter button was
not angled. If you like the more natural
angled shutter button position, then consider
the Olympus E-330.
Another difference is the Aperture Ring
on the Leica lens that comes standard with
the Panasonic L1. The combination of the
Shutter Speed Dial and Aperture Ring makes
for an incredibly tactile, intuitive and
enjoyable experience on the L1. The Olympus
E-330 relies on the Control Dial and Exposure
Compensation Button to electronically set
both shutter speed and aperture, as almost
all DSLRs do today, and therefore allows
for fractions of shutter speed and aperture
that is just not possible with the L1's
manual dial and ring.
Here's how the top DSLRs measure up against one
another, without lens attached and without battery
At 140W x 87H x 72D mm (5.5W x 3.4H x 2.8D in.),
the Olympus E-330 is wider than most of the other
The Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
adds in a further 285g (10.1 oz).
Colours: black body with white letterings
Looks: "Flat top look"
Comfortable to hold and operate
Controls & menu are intuitive
Requires two hands (thumbs) to select
About the same dimensions [minus
the height of the pentaprism] as other
Dimensions: 140W x 87H x 72D mm /
5.5W x 3.4H x 2.8D in.
Weight: 550 g / 19.4 oz (add 285g
/ 10.1 oz for lens)
Startup and LCD turning on in about
1.5 sec. (screen animation disabled)
- Dust Reduction explains the relatively
Shot to shot time about < 2 sec.
Burst: 5 frames in about 2 sec. (viewfinder,
Live View Mode B); 5 frames in approx.
3 sec. with Live View Mode A.
No practical shutter lag when using
viewfinder; 1-2 sec. with Live View
Overall, performance could be better
compared with other DSLRs.
Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion
battery that can take a remarkable 400 shots
using the viewfinder, 250 shots in Live View Mode
A and 200 shots in Live View Mode B (CIPA standard)
on a fresh charge and a Battery Charger BCM-2
(with power cord) that will recharge a new battery
in a long 5 hrs.
Responding to complaints that it was too easy
for the battery to fall off in the E-300, the
E-330 now has a latch to prevent the battery from
falling when the door of the battery compartment
The USB is still using slow 2.0 Full Speed
(i.e. USB 1.1) instead of the fast 2.0 High
Speed. The USB/Video Out connector is protected
by a rubber flap that can be opened up wide, but
it does not stay in place so you have to kind
of fight it as you try to plug the USB cable in.
It would have been nice if that flap swivelled
out of the way.
The built-in flash needs to be manually raised
to work [the way we prefer it] and there's a button
just behind the flash to do that. Press the button
and the flash loudly "thunks" open.
Whatever happened to the need to be discreete?
The Panasonic L1 has a a "pantograph-type"
flash that allows bounce lighting. The way
this is accomplished is pretty neat. Press
the flash button once and the flash pops up
and points at an angle upward toward the ceiling
-- and is therefore at the perfect bounce
A second press will raise the flash out
completely to point directly at your subject.
No movies recording on a dSLR, you knew that
The Olympus E-330 has 2 memory card compartments:
one for an xD-Picture Card and a second one for
a CompactFlash (CF) card or Microdrive. A 1GB
CF card can hold about 173 SHQ images, 62 RAW
images or 45 RAW+SHQ images. The following table
gives an approximation of the number of 7.5MP
images you can save on a 1GB CF card in the different
image quality/compression setting:
As the above chart shows, at SHQ image quality,
only 173 images can be saved in a 1GB CF card.
We recomend that you purchase either a 2GB or
4GB CF card, depending on the number of images
you normally shoot in one session.
was the first to introduce a Dust Reduction System,
now being copied by similar technology in the
A100 and Canon
Digital Rebel XTi. This goes to show how innovative
Olympus is in coming out with great practical
On powering on the Olympus E-330, the Supersonic
Wave Filter (SSWF) is activated to keep the CCD
image sensor dust-free. Olympus recommends that
you hold the camera upright when you turn it on:
you want the dust to fall onto the special adhesive
material, not be shaken loose all over the inside
of the camera.
An improvement you will immediately notice over
the E-300 is the larger 2.5-in. LCD monitor with
a high 215,250 pixels resolution.
The LCD monitor can be pulled out and tilted
for easy above-the-head shooting, waist-level
shooting, and other close-to-the-ground shooting
positions that might prove arkward without a tilting
LCD. The image above shows the three most popular
positions: angled facing down (for overhead shooting),
angled facing up (for shooting at a low angle),
and pointing straight up for waist-level shooting.
This tilting LCD comes in very handy especially
when you have to crouch down low for macro photography
or to get a low angle shot.
And did we mention that the Olympus E-330 is
also the first DSLR to feature Live View on its
LCD monitor (thanks to the Panasonic designed
Live MOS sensor)? On other DSLRs (except, of course,
for the Panasonic L1 and Leica Digilux 3), the
LCD serves only as a Control Panel and for Playback
of images. There would be no point for a tilting
LCD monitor if the view on it was not live. The
Olympus E-330 (and Panasonic L1/Leica Digilux
3) is the only DSLR that allows for live image
composition on its LCD before taking the picture.
There are two (2) Live View modes and it is important
to understand when, and how, to use each. Live
View Mode A allows you to peek through the viewfinder
as well as see the live image on the LCD monitor.
It uses a second smaller image sensor placed in
the viewfinder housing where the AF system also
resides. This means that we are able to use AF
in Live View Mode A. Frame coverage is approx.
92%. To obtain accurate exposure metering, you
have to ensure that stray light coming into the
viewfinder eyepiece does not skew the meter reading,
so you close the eyepiece shutter to block light
from entering this way.
Inexplicably, the Panasonic L1 does not
have an integrated Eyepiece Shutter but you
have to attach a removable Eyepiece Cap.
Live View Mode B swings the mirror out of the
way, opens the shutter and let light fall directly
on the main image sensor that will also be used
for image capture. This means the LCD image is
brighter with 100% frame coverage and depth-of-field
preview is possible.
When the E-330 was first introduced, only Manual
Focus was possible in Live View Mode B (since
the AF sensor was in the viewfinder housing and
the mirror was "up" blocking light from
going that route). This was not much of a problem
since you could enlarged the image on the LCD
screen 10x and use the manual [fly-by-wire] ring
to focus. However, a later firmware [1.2] allowed
AF (by pressing the AEL/AFL button) but only by
bringing the mirror "down" for that
purpose then swinging it "up" again.
Alas, all this mirror flipping introduces a lag
of about 1-2 sec.
The Panasonic L1 only provides Live View
Mode B with AF.
Which Live View Mode should you use? Live View
Mode A is the general photography option. It allows
AF and there is no practical shutter lag.
Live View Mode B provides 100% frame coverage
and accurate depth-of-field preview. Focusing
can be manual or Auto, and there is approx. 1-2
So, I guess it boils down to the type of photography
you do. For landscape and scenes where the subject
remains still, Live View Mode B allows precise
But if your subject is on motion, you would want
to use Live View Mode A instead. Just do not forget
to block the eyepiece to obtain accurate exposure
The LCD monitor image will gain up in low light
but only if "Live View Boost" is set
to ON in the Custom Menu. Why is this not defaulted?
Because, in Live View Mode A, the image is grainy
and flickers irritatingly; in Live View Mode B,
the image is still grainy but does not flicker.
So, the "gain up" does not come free,
especially in Live View Mode A.
You can still use the LCD monitor as a Control
Panel in Shooting mode. The operation is somewhat
changed from the E-300: now you press OK and use
the Arrow Pad to highlight an item. Then, rotate
the Control Dial to make a selection within that
Of course, you can also press a control button
and access the selections directly, though I personally
find the zig-zag "staircase" layouts
The viewfinder is, of course, optical with the
expected diopter adjustment dial on the left (i.e.,
"correct") side of the viewfinder. The
viewfinder is not as large as in a 35mm SLR but
definitely better that the tunnel-like optical
viewfinder of consumer digital cameras. It covers
approx. 94% of the frame. Because it is a TTL
(Thru-The-Lens) viewfinder, you are looking at
the image coming thru the lens and reflected back
to the viewfinder via mirrors. Remember that the
camera will not focus when you peer thru the viewfinder
unless you first turn on the camera and depress
the shutter release slightly to engage the autofocus.
To set the diopter, obtain focus first (the camera
indicates focus lock is successfully achieved
when there is a solid green dot), then rotate
the diopter adjustment dial with your left index
finger until the image is crystal clear in the
The autofocus uses TTL Phase Difference Detection
System, is extremely precise and very fast. A
solid green dot in your viewfinder indicates focus
lock, so pay attention to that green dot; a bleep
indicates focus lock is achieved and a red dot
flashes at one of three AF points to indicate
where the AF locked.
The only time where the EVOLT E-330 may have
some difficulty focusing is in extreme low-light.
In that case you need to manually raise the pop-up
flash (make sure it is disabled in the menu if
you do not want it to fire) and a brief strobe
of white light functions as an AF Illuminator.
One of the very first thing I usually do with
a new camera is to disable all sounds. Unless
the shutter release is a subtle and pleasant click
that can only be heard by me, I prefer to disable
all sounds. Ah, not so with a DSLR. There is a
myriad of sounds: there is a mirror that goes
kaplunk, a shutter that goes kachunk, and an annoying
bleep to indicate successful focus lock. The lens
also makes a whirring noise as it auto focuses.
There's no way to turn off those sounds, except
for the bleep. It's not a complaint -- just to
let you know what you are getting into as you
move into the world of the DSLR. In fact, I pretty
much like the satisfying whizz, kaplunk and kachunk
of each picture recorded. It's just that it gets
you stares everytime.
As you would expect, there are tons of customizable
settings to choose from, more than we can reproduce
here (unless we reproduce the whole manual). Please
consult the Olympus
EVOLT E-330 Advanced Manual for full details.
There are a total of 20 Scene Modes available
on the E330, even more than on some of their P&S
SCENE MODE 1 of 20
SCENE MODE 2 of 20
SCENE MODE 3 of 20
- Landscape + Portrait
SCENE MODE 4 of 20
- Night Scene
SCENE MODE 5 of 20
- Night + Portrait
SCENE MODE 6 of 20
SCENE MODE 7 of 20
SCENE MODE 8 of 20
- High Key
SCENE MODE 9 of 20
- Low Key
SCENE MODE 10 of 20
- Digital Image Stabilization
SCENE MODE 11 of 20
SCENE MODE 12 of 20
- Nature Macro
SCENE MODE 13 of 20
SCENE MODE 14 of 20
SCENE MODE 15 of 20
SCENE MODE 16 of 20
SCENE MODE 17 of 20
SCENE MODE 18 of 20
- Beach & Snow
SCENE MODE 19 of 20
- Underwater Wide
SCENE MODE 20 of 20
- Underwater Macro
The Olympus EVOLT E-330 is built solidly
and handles superbly. It feels natural in my hands
and there is no fumbling for the shutter release
button or other controls. The overall feeling
is one of high quality and smooth operation.