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gary_hendricks
03-28-2005, 07:42 AM
Hi everyone,

I've just got my hands on an Olympus Evolt 300 from a camera store owner (a close friend). I've managed to write up a a little review (http://www.basic-digital-photography.com/olympus-evolt-300-review.html) of the camera. Enjoy! :)

Norm in Fujino
03-28-2005, 09:41 AM
Hi everyone,

I've just got my hands on an Olympus Evolt 300 from a camera store owner (a close friend). I've managed to write up a a little review (http://www.basic-digital-photography.com/olympus-evolt-300-review.html) of the camera. Enjoy! :)

Gary, thanks for the review. Since I tend to be a contrarian type :mad: , my only complaint is your (unsupported) statement to the effect that
While the image quality is not completely up to par with its competitors,. . .

This is so subjective as to be meaningless. What is the objective basis for your conclusion?. "Image quality" is not the mere result of camera bodies, but individual technique and visual "sensibility," not to mention things like the lenses used, none of which are accounted for by a brief review like yours. I honestly don't know what differences I would see were I to buy one and compare it against its "competitors" (viz., the Canon 350D, I guess), but at least I would hope that you might add some objective basis, or else add some modifiers like "in my judgment," "in my opinion" or "if you frequently shoot at ISO 1600," or so on, to such claims.
--I hope you understand that this doesn't detract from my appreciation for your work in doing such reviews, only that its usefulness is somewhat lessened for me without an objective basis.

And yes, I guess I'm somewhat biased, because I'm seriously considering the E-300, and I've not seen any reason in reviews or onsite forums (like www.myfourthirds.com or Laruri Sippu's (http://homepage.mac.com/lsippu/PhotoAlbum43.html)
site to believe that, in practice, its actual "image quality" suffers by comparison to its competitors.

Okay, I admit it: paint me bitchy :p

D70FAN
03-28-2005, 03:21 PM
Gary, thanks for the review. Since I tend to be a contrarian type :mad: , my only complaint is your (unsupported) statement to the effect that

This is so subjective as to be meaningless. What is the objective basis for your conclusion?. "Image quality" is not the mere result of camera bodies, but individual technique and visual "sensibility," not to mention things like the lenses used, none of which are accounted for by a brief review like yours. I honestly don't know what differences I would see were I to buy one and compare it against its "competitors" (viz., the Canon 350D, I guess), but at least I would hope that you might add some objective basis, or else add some modifiers like "in my judgment," "in my opinion" or "if you frequently shoot at ISO 1600," or so on, to such claims.
--I hope you understand that this doesn't detract from my appreciation for your work in doing such reviews, only that its usefulness is somewhat lessened for me without an objective basis.

And yes, I guess I'm somewhat biased, because I'm seriously considering the E-300, and I've not seen any reason in reviews or onsite forums (like www.myfourthirds.com or Laruri Sippu's (http://homepage.mac.com/lsippu/PhotoAlbum43.html)
site to believe that, in practice, its actual "image quality" suffers by comparison to its competitors.

Okay, I admit it: paint me bitchy :p

In the future you might want to use the word gruff or something other than bitchy. It may imply a meaning not intended.

Anyway, even without qualifiers I find myself agreeing with Gary on most points. I used the E-300 for about 2 hours and found myself comparing it to the 8080 with a removable lens.

The build quality is great. But the camera falls a little short in usable range compared to the likes of the D70. Don't get me wrong, the E-300 would be ok if there were no other sub $1000 dSLR's on the market, but that's not the case.

I found image quality to be acceptable at ISO 200 (as it is in the 8080) but having an ISO range of 100-400 in auto and a "boosted" range to 1600 does not bode well for this tiny 225 square millimeter sensor (compared to an APS-C sensor which is 524 square millimeters). Curiously enough the E-300 is about the same size sensor as the 8080's .66" (16.74mm) sensor. Just as a reminder 4/3rds or 4:3 is the same aspect ratio as most consumer all-in-ones, and standard TV/computer monitors. So it's not like Olympus invented this genre.

I'm not sure of what the real benefit of 4/3rds is, but on the E-300 it insures that you will buy Olympus lenses, as it also has a 2X crop factor. This can be good news to nature shooters and bad news to building interior shooters. Althought the 14-45 f3.5-5.6 will match the others 18-50 in this regards. Just don't expect to find third party lenses that will work below that point like a Sigma or Tamron 12-24.

So in conclusion the E-300 may be a good camera, but I'm not convinced that it is a good value when compared to other consumer dSLR's like the D70, XT, or *ist DS.

Norm in Fujino
03-28-2005, 07:15 PM
In the future you might want to use the word gruff or something other than bitchy. It may imply a meaning not intended.

Sorry for the Americanism, George. It has (or used to have--when I lived there) a pretty well established meaning in that language.


Anyway, even without qualifiers I find myself agreeing with Gary on most points. I used the E-300 for about 2 hours and found myself comparing it to the 8080 with a removable lens.
The build quality is great. But the camera falls a little short in usable range compared to the likes of the D70.

I appreciate the additional comments. I'm really playing an abstract sort of Devil's advocate here, since I haven't actually taken pictures with any of the competing cameras in this range (I've played with them all at the stores and read the reviews, but haven't gotten around to taking in a CF card and actually experimenting with picture quality yet).

By "usable range" you seem to be referring to ISO (based on your next sentence), a factor which everyone acknowledges regarding the e-300 (and e-1 for that matter). And certainly, I've seen side-by-side comparisons of shots at ISO 800 and 1600 that point out its obvious weaknesses there. But that's not all there is to image quality, which again is (at least in substantial measure) a subjective quantity once you get away from things like MTF and Macbeth charts (for a good technical statement of the issue, see the introductory part of <http://www.diglib.org/standards/imqualrep.htm>). A lot of people (me included) by habit and preference shoot primarily at ISO 100-200, anyway, and in a stretch, I've tried downloading e-300 ISO1600 shots from the web and cleaned them up with Neatimage, and they looked fine--to my eyes, at least. :eek: That I feel I can live with.


I'm not sure of what the real benefit of 4/3rds is, but on the E-300 it insures that you will buy Olympus lenses, as it also has a 2X crop factor.

This is a small quibble (to me, altho I've heard some people get rather touchy about it) , but the 4/3 technically does not have a "crop factor." That term was coined to refer to other DSLR cameras that were desgned around the earlier 35mm film lens standard. "Crop factor" is actually a denigrating term, since it points out one of the compromises represented by "conventional" DSLR system lenses, namely, the fact that only a part of the light column produced by the entire lens can be used to cover the sensor. By contrast, the E-system was designed from the ground up with completely new lenses specifically designed for the 4/3 sensor, so it uses the entire light column to best advantage (in theory, obviously). That is supposed to be one of the advantages of the 4/3 system, namely, that it is relative easier to make high quality lenses for the system since they don't require the precise fashioning of larger diameter glass required by the conventional systems. When making comparisons to equivalent 35mm lenses, the term "focal length multiplier" is appropriate for 4/3 system, while (as one person on another forum noted) using "crop factor" ignores the work of the engineers who designed the system from the ground up.


Just don't expect to find third party lenses that will work below that point like a Sigma or Tamron 12-24.

This is an interesting point, and we will indeed have to see how things pan out. Olympus has a high-quality 11-22mm lens, and Sigma has issued three 4/3 lenses to date, but there's not much chance it will reverse engineer its standard APS-C/35mm digital lenses for the system, since it would be counterproductive. Whether and how far they (and companies like Tamron, etc.) continue to support the format is an open question. Panasonic has joined the consortium, but the real question is whether they (and Fuji) will get on the ball and produce digital SLRs--and more lenses. But the format issue is relevant to one degree or another to all manufacturers, since there are presently several competing formats (full-frame 35mm, APS-C), and there's nothing preventing manufacturers from coming up with other formats in the future. There's probably nothing they'd like better than to have customers continually having to buy new lenses for changing systems. :(


So in conclusion the E-300 may be a good camera, but I'm not convinced that it is a good value when compared to other consumer dSLR's like the D70, XT, or *ist DS.
That's a fine opinion, and everyone has a right to one, as long as it's voiced that way. I emphasize that my initial reaction to Gary's review was prompted solely by his use of the unsupported or unqualified claim of inferior "image quality," not an opinion of overall value. Personally, I'm not yet convinced one way or the other, but my current lack of conviction (regarding all the cameras you mention, by the way) takes into account things like ergonomics, weight, personal shooting styles, and yes, bias (I used all Nikon equipment back in my film SLR days, and I still have a couple of cameras and 4-5 lenses--not to mention a Mamiya Universal Press 6x9!--I've got to liquidate before I can convince myself to buy a dSLR), so I do have a soft spot for Nikon and I've liked the looks of the D70 in the stores, but for a number of reasons I'm not convinced yet it is the camera for me. And at this point, the Canon Kiss N (aka EOS 350) is even smaller than I personally like (ergonomics coming into play), and the wide range of lenses available for the Canon doesn't particularly impress me (my needs are rather more modest). Regarding ergonomics, ditto the *ist, which I've tried in the stores--I'll add that I feel (subjectively!) that it also has a "slushy" shutter sensation compared to the others which has turned me off somewhat, but I admit that is personal taste.

I've read every review on the net (that I can find), and I hope I'm aware of the various sensor/pixel size arguments, although no one knows where the future of technology lies. It is often claimed that whatever improvements Kodak makes with its 4/3 sensor can also be made to the larger sensors, which is certainly true, but there is also the aspect of the difficulty/expense in making top-quality lenses to cover the larger sensors, and the point of diminishing returns when making improvements in the larger formats, both of which may make the 4/3 system more appealing. Who knows?

If someone is anticipating making prints a meter high or larger, a 22mp or more MF sensor may be the way to go, but I (and a lot of other amateur users) don't anticipate doing that, so all the improvements in APS-C or full-frame sensors will probably make little real-world difference to us.

One other thing that was left unsaid, the Oly has two features that Gary omitted entirely from his review, and which have to be taken into account when judging its overall value. Namely, the dust removal SSWF and its built-in pixel mapping. Both are Olympus excusives, and have to be factored in to a person's subjective decision as to the ultimate value of the purchase. They're not insubstantial considerations--for some of us, at least.

I want to thank both you and Gary for the chance for this discussion. I'm still struggling with a decision, and need chances like this to put my own confusion into words! :confused:

D70FAN
03-28-2005, 08:01 PM
Sorry for the Americanism, George. It has (or used to have--when I lived there) a pretty well established meaning in that language.



I appreciate the additional comments. I'm really playing an abstract sort of Devil's advocate here, since I haven't actually taken pictures with any of the competing cameras in this range (I've played with them all at the stores and read the reviews, but haven't gotten around to taking in a CF card and actually experimenting with picture quality yet).

By "usable range" you seem to be referring to ISO (based on your next sentence), a factor which everyone acknowledges regarding the e-300 (and e-1 for that matter). And certainly, I've seen side-by-side comparisons of shots at ISO 800 and 1600 that point out its obvious weaknesses there. But that's not all there is to image quality, which again is (at least in substantial measure) a subjective quantity once you get away from things like MTF and Macbeth charts (for a good technical statement of the issue, see the introductory part of <http://www.diglib.org/standards/imqualrep.htm>). A lot of people (me included) by habit and preference shoot primarily at ISO 100-200, anyway, and in a stretch, I've tried downloading e-300 ISO1600 shots from the web and cleaned them up with Neatimage, and they looked fine--to my eyes, at least. :eek: That I feel I can live with.



This is a small quibble (to me, altho I've heard some people get rather touchy about it) , but the 4/3 technically does not have a "crop factor." That term was coined to refer to other DSLR cameras that were desgned around the earlier 35mm film lens standard. "Crop factor" is actually a denigrating term, since it points out one of the compromises represented by "conventional" DSLR system lenses, namely, the fact that only a part of the light column produced by the entire lens can be used to cover the sensor. By contrast, the E-system was designed from the ground up with completely new lenses specifically designed for the 4/3 sensor, so it uses the entire light column to best advantage (in theory, obviously). That is supposed to be one of the advantages of the 4/3 system, namely, that it is relative easier to make high quality lenses for the system since they don't require the precise fashioning of larger diameter glass required by the conventional systems. When making comparisons to equivalent 35mm lenses, the term "focal length multiplier" is appropriate for 4/3 system, while (as one person on another forum noted) using "crop factor" ignores the work of the engineers who designed the system from the ground up.



This is an interesting point, and we will indeed have to see how things pan out. Olympus has a high-quality 11-22mm lens, and Sigma has issued three 4/3 lenses to date, but there's not much chance it will reverse engineer its standard APS-C/35mm digital lenses for the system, since it would be counterproductive. Whether and how far they (and companies like Tamron, etc.) continue to support the format is an open question. Panasonic has joined the consortium, but the real question is whether they (and Fuji) will get on the ball and produce digital SLRs--and more lenses. But the format issue is relevant to one degree or another to all manufacturers, since there are presently several competing formats (full-frame 35mm, APS-C), and there's nothing preventing manufacturers from coming up with other formats in the future. There's probably nothing they'd like better than to have customers continually having to buy new lenses for changing systems. :(


That's a fine opinion, and everyone has a right to one, as long as it's voiced that way. I emphasize that my initial reaction to Gary's review was prompted solely by his use of the unsupported or unqualified claim of inferior "image quality," not an opinion of overall value. Personally, I'm not yet convinced one way or the other, but my current lack of conviction (regarding all the cameras you mention, by the way) takes into account things like ergonomics, weight, personal shooting styles, and yes, bias (I used all Nikon equipment back in my film SLR days, and I still have a couple of cameras and 4-5 lenses--not to mention a Mamiya Universal Press 6x9!--I've got to liquidate before I can convince myself to buy a dSLR), so I do have a soft spot for Nikon and I've liked the looks of the D70 in the stores, but for a number of reasons I'm not convinced yet it is the camera for me. And at this point, the Canon Kiss N (aka EOS 350) is even smaller than I personally like (ergonomics coming into play), and the wide range of lenses available for the Canon doesn't particularly impress me (my needs are rather more modest). Regarding ergonomics, ditto the *ist, which I've tried in the stores--I'll add that I feel (subjectively!) that it also has a "slushy" shutter sensation compared to the others which has turned me off somewhat, but I admit that is personal taste.

I've read every review on the net (that I can find), and I hope I'm aware of the various sensor/pixel size arguments, although no one knows where the future of technology lies. It is often claimed that whatever improvements Kodak makes with its 4/3 sensor can also be made to the larger sensors, which is certainly true, but there is also the aspect of the difficulty/expense in making top-quality lenses to cover the larger sensors, and the point of diminishing returns when making improvements in the larger formats, both of which may make the 4/3 system more appealing. Who knows?

If someone is anticipating making prints a meter high or larger, a 22mp or more MF sensor may be the way to go, but I (and a lot of other amateur users) don't anticipate doing that, so all the improvements in APS-C or full-frame sensors will probably make little real-world difference to us.

One other thing that was left unsaid, the Oly has two features that Gary omitted entirely from his review, and which have to be taken into account when judging its overall value. Namely, the dust removal SSWF and its built-in pixel mapping. Both are Olympus excusives, and have to be factored in to a person's subjective decision as to the ultimate value of the purchase. They're not insubstantial considerations--for some of us, at least.

I want to thank both you and Gary for the chance for this discussion. I'm still struggling with a decision, and need chances like this to put my own confusion into words! :confused:

Part of the reason I continue to promote Nikon is that when they designed the D70 they actually put some thought into what a photographer would really want. None of that is apparent in either the E-300 or the DReb XT, and there are several features omitted for the sake of 8MP imagers. That may be progress, and maybe not.

Olympus has always marched to the beat of a different drummer, and we from the 60's thought that was pretty cool, er...right on! But many years of experience have taught me that there is a reason professionals choose the cameras they do, and they have stayed away from Olympus in droves. Sometimes what masquerades as innovation masks other shortfalls in creativity and technology, while playing the MegaPixel card.

When someones living depends on getting the shot, that's a good enough endorsement for me. The fact that I can shoot with the D70 and pick up a D1X or D2H and be instantly familiar with all of it's functions and workings, shows that Nikon was dedicated to offering a consumer dSLR with most of the features of its pro line in a substantially lower cost package.

I have tried every consumer dSLR on the market (except the XT), most for several days, and they all fell short. Not in picture quality, but in utility and ergonomics. I always (and I mean always) have the option of changing cameras whenever I please, including the 20D and the Fuji S3, but so far none have improved on what I already have (although the S3 may be my next camera). I will admit that the D2X and the 1Ds MK II, are beyond my practical financial reach. But for the shooting I do the D70 is the perfect dSLR.

jeisner
03-28-2005, 10:57 PM
This is a small quibble (to me, altho I've heard some people get rather touchy about it) , but the 4/3 technically does not have a "crop factor." That term was coined to refer to other DSLR cameras that were desgned around the earlier 35mm film lens standard. "Crop factor" is actually a denigrating term, since it points out one of the compromises represented by "conventional" DSLR system lenses, namely, the fact that only a part of the light column produced by the entire lens can be used to cover the sensor. By contrast, the E-system was designed from the ground up with completely new lenses specifically designed for the 4/3 sensor, so it uses the entire light column to best advantage (in theory, obviously). That is supposed to be one of the advantages of the 4/3 system, namely, that it is relative easier to make high quality lenses for the system since they don't require the precise fashioning of larger diameter glass required by the conventional systems. When making comparisons to equivalent 35mm lenses, the term "focal length multiplier" is appropriate for 4/3 system, while (as one person on another forum noted) using "crop factor" ignores the work of the engineers who designed the system from the ground up.

You lost me here, their lenses are no different to the DC lenses from Sigma or the DA lenses from pentax. These lenses are designed to produce a smaller image circle for the sensors in non full frame DSLRs.... this is exactly what Olympus is doing... Olympus are still quoting in 35mm aspect too, ie 14-45mm kit lens which with their 2x crop factor is 28-90 equivelant. So why is what Olympus has done any different than Sigma's DC lenses, Pentax's DA lenses or Canon EF-S lenses (I assume Nikon has this too? but I don't know what they call it)...

Personally I don't buy these lenses as I prefer to buy lenses that work on both my DSLR and film camera, so I buy Pentax's D FA range or Sigma's DG range, optimised for use on DSLR but still Full Frame image circle so it can also work on my film cameras.... But that is a different issue I guess....

Norm in Fujino
03-29-2005, 12:23 AM
You lost me here, their lenses are no different to the DC lenses from Sigma or the DA lenses from pentax. These lenses are designed to produce a smaller image circle for the sensors in non full frame DSLRs.... this is exactly what Olympus is doing... Olympus are still quoting in 35mm aspect too, ie 14-45mm kit lens which with their 2x crop factor is 28-90 equivelant. So why is what Olympus has done any different than Sigma's DC lenses, Pentax's DA lenses or Canon EF-S lenses (I assume Nikon has this too? but I don't know what they call it)...

I'm not nearly well enough read on this, so I shouldn't be making pronouncements (I'm basically repeating what I've seen elsewhere), but I believe you're right in the sense that Sigma's DC lenses are reduced in size to fit the reduced image circle. According to some things I've read, however, they've done this merely by modifying existing lens designs rather than by building from the ground up to match a selected sensor configuration. What difference does it make? I dunno. The Nikon DX lenses, on the other hand, are supposed to be engineered from the ground up to optimally match their APS sensor--in much the same way as Oly's 4/3 lenses--although I really don't known anything about them. I should've made clear that my comments were directed to the full frame 35mm lenses that are made to serve double duty on reduced frame sensor cameras.
Aside from the factor of manufacturing ease/difficulty, I've read the argument that the conventional lenses do not focus the light in a perpendicular way over the entire sensor area, leading to the need for microlenses over the sensor itself to refocus angular rays into the sensor wells and prevent vignetting. Yes I know, in practice I don't see what real difference it makes, since all the major camera designs seem to have excellent reproduction. My information is probably outdated anyway, but there you go. I'm still studying. :( . Thanks for the correction.

D70FAN
03-29-2005, 06:13 AM
I'm not nearly well enough read on this, so I shouldn't be making pronouncements (I'm basically repeating what I've seen elsewhere), but I believe you're right in the sense that Sigma's DC lenses are reduced in size to fit the reduced image circle. According to some things I've read, however, they've done this merely by modifying existing lens designs rather than by building from the ground up to match a selected sensor configuration. What difference does it make? I dunno. The Nikon DX lenses, on the other hand, are supposed to be engineered from the ground up to optimally match their APS sensor--in much the same way as Oly's 4/3 lenses--although I really don't known anything about them. I should've made clear that my comments were directed to the full frame 35mm lenses that are made to serve double duty on reduced frame sensor cameras.
Aside from the factor of manufacturing ease/difficulty, I've read the argument that the conventional lenses do not focus the light in a perpendicular way over the entire sensor area, leading to the need for microlenses over the sensor itself to refocus angular rays into the sensor wells and prevent vignetting. Yes I know, in practice I don't see what real difference it makes, since all the major camera designs seem to have excellent reproduction. My information is probably outdated anyway, but there you go. I'm still studying. :( . Thanks for the correction.

Any lens designated specifically for dSLR's in the APS-C or sub-APS-C (Canon) catagory takes advantage of the smaller sensor size, allowing a wider zoom range, and/or aperture, in a smaller package. Nikon DX, Sigma DC, Tamron Di, and etc.

Jeisner mentioned that the focal length designators, on all of these new lenses, are the same as 35mm SLR lenses, and still require the focal length/field of view conversion. You would be surprised at how many store people still don't know that.

Anyway, thanks for the discussion. Hopefully I didn't come off too evangelistic here. In fact the D70 is the only Nikon since the 900 series that I felt they really spent some time and effort making right. When I find a great product (which gets rarer daily) I feel that people should at least know about it, before buying something else and living with the limitations later.

Again, the E-300 my be just what you need, instead of better than you need.

gary_hendricks
03-29-2005, 07:18 AM
Hi Norm in Fujino,

Thanks for the frank feedback. I guess I didn't qualify the part about 'image quality' well enough.

I was actually comparing the Evolt E300 to the Canon EOS 20D. The few areas which made me feel the image quality in the Evolt is slightly worse off:

1) Shooting in daylight, the Evolt showed a definite blue shift that skewed colors toward the cool side.

2) The Evolt employs a sharpening algorithm on the edges, which is noticeable in some areas. There's virtually no noise at ISO 100, but it's quite visible in the shadows at ISO 400.

Be assured I will update my review as soon as possible. I really appreciate your comments. Honest. :)