Review: Olympus E-100 Rapid Shot
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, March 19, 2001
Last Updated: Monday, March 19, 2001
a while, all the cameras that come and go here at the DCRP start
to seem the same after a while. That's why it's so nice to try something
different for a change. When I first read about the Olympus
E-100RS ($1499) and it's claim to be the fastest digital camera
out there, it didn't hit me very hard. But when I actually got a
hold of this camera and shot my first sequence of photos at 15 frames
per second, I couldn't believe my eyes. Once you get the hang of
things, you can take some amazing action shots.
does Olympus pull this off? Well, for one, there's less information
to work with -- the camera uses a 1.5 Megapixel CCD, as opposed
to the 2-4 Mpixel cameras we're used to. In addition to this, there's
a lot of buffer memory (I'm not sure how much) which stores all
those photos. The E-100RS takes the shots in the time it takes most
cameras to lock focus. Read on for more on this speedy camera...
in the Box?
E-100 Rapid Shot has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll
1.5 Mpixel Olympus E-100RS camera
AA-size rechargeable NiMH batteries
featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
a bit puzzled by Olympus' bundles sometimes. The high end Olympus
E-10 ($2000) lacks rechargeable batteries of any kind. The E-100RS
($1500) includes batteries and a charger. All the cameras below
that don't include the battery kit (though they used to).
On the E-100RS, Olympus gets everything right. Well, almost.
8MB SmartMedia card is fairly skimpy for a camera with this price
range - you'll fill it up quickly. In addition to the SmartMedia
slot, the camera also has a CompactFlash Type II slot. Microdrive
support seems a bit unclear. At the back of the manual, it says
"micro driver not compliant", but when I tried a 340MB
Microdrive in it, it worked okay. I'd say use the Microdrive at
your own risk.
ubiquitous Olympus RM-1 remote control is here too, and it's always
welcome. It comes in quite handy as both a remote shutter release,
and for playing back photos on the television.
includes a lens cap, but not a strap to keep it attached to the
camera. Buy one or you'll risk losing the cap - this thing had a
tendency to pop off with the slightest bump. Olympus includes lens
cap straps on their new C-2040Z/3040Z models, so hopefully it will
be on all future cameras.
covered Olympus' Camedia Master software in a previous
review. Overall, I found it to be better than the average software
that comes bundled with the camera.
manual, while covering everything, seems confusing and poorly laid
out to me. They should get whomever wrote the E-10 manual to do
the rest of them, as it was a cut above all of Olympus' other manuals.
E-100RS is not a camera you shove into your pocket -- after all,
it has a 10X optical zoom "snout". (It will be interesting
to see how the new Olympus C-700 Ultra Zoom compares). That doesn't
mean that it's hard to hold -- in fact, quite the opposite. There's
a nice grip for the right hand, and the rubberized lens barrel gives
plenty of room for your left hand.
Most of the body is metal, and it feels of quality and good craftsmanship.
dimensions of the E-100RS are 4.7 x 3.4 x 6 inches, and it weighs
in at 575 grams / 1.3 lbs empty. That makes it a bit heavier than
its cousin, the C-2100 Ultra Zoom.
E-100RS has the now familiar 10X optical zoom lens, which is also
seen on the C-2100 Ultra Zoom, and most likely, the Canon PowerShot
Pro90 as well. The zoom range of this F2.8 lens is 7-70mm, which
is equivalent to 38-380mm on a 35mm camera.
camera supports Olympus' wide and telephoto lens, but you'll need
to get the step-up ring first. The FL-40 external flash is also
supported (the camera lacks a hot shoe, so you'll need a bracket).
back of the E-100RS should be familiar to anyone who has used an
Olympus camera recently. The 1.8" LCD is bright and fluid,
like most of Olympus' LCDs (I still wonder why the E-10's is so
bad). You can adjust the brightness via the setup menu.
that is the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), which measures 0.55"
diagonally. I've already stated my preference for a real optical
viewfinder in past reviews, and it's still true here-- though I
like the extra information that you get with an EVF, it's no substitute
for the real thing. One difference between the C-2100 and the E-100
is the rubber eyepiece over the EVF, which the C-2100 lacks. One
thing in common is that both models have diopter correction for
those of us with glasses.
the right of the EVF are buttons for flash [rec] / delete photo
[playback] and info. To the right of that is the four-way switch
for menu operations.
three buttons to right of the main LCD are: Manual Focus [rec] /
OK [menu] / Protect [play], LCD/EVF toggle, and Menu.
the top right of the photo you can see a button for AE Lock [rec]
/ DPOF print marking [play].
onto the top of the camera. The LCD info display shows the usual
items; here, it's stabilizer (on), metering mode (ESP), flash (off),
quality (HQ), memory card slot (SmartMedia), and photos remaining
the left of that you'll see buttons for macro, metering, and drive.
Over on the other side there's the mode wheel, with the power switch
underneath it. On the mode wheel, you have the following options:
Mode (more below)
Manual Mode (you set aperture + shutter)
Priority Mode (you set shutter speed, camera sets aperture)
Priority Mode (you set aperture, camera sets shutter speed)
choices in the manual modes are as follows:
priority: 2 sec to 1/10000 sec
priority: F2.8 - F8.0 (dependent on zoom position)
manual: Same aperture values; shutter values of 16 sec to 1/10000
on some other recent Olympus cameras, you can only get the longer
exposure speeds in full manual mode. Why, I do not know.
mode is a fairly new feature on Olympus cameras, which borrows a
concept seen for a long time on Casio's cameras. You can choose
from different situations, and the camera picks the best settings
for them. These include:
final button of note on the top is the zoom control (which also
zooms in while in playback mode). The zoom control is smooth and
accurate and is well placed.
one side of the camera, with all the I/O ports. Behind the plastic
door you'll find ports for remote shutter release, USB, DC in, Microphone,
and A/V out.
to the right of all that is a five pin flash sync port.
in the middle of the photo you'll see the release for the pop-up
flash. Olympus claims that the flash range is 1.0 - 13.1 ft in Wide,
and 3.3 - 10.5 ft in Telephoto.
a look at the two memory card slots -- the CF II slot is to the
left of the SmartMedia slot (shown with the included card).
here's the full side shot, with the door closed. Not much to talk
about here, so enjoy the view.
brings us to the final stop on the tour, the bottom of the camera.
Down here you'll find a speaker, battery compartment, and metal
the Olympus E-100RS
E-100RS, as you might expect, is an exceedingly fast camera. Startup
time is about 4 seconds, and that's probably the longest you'll
wait. When you depress the shutter release button halfway, it takes
less than one second to lock focus (using Full Time AF can speed
this up as well). When you fully depress the button, the photo is
taken in about half a second. Thanks to the hefty amount of buffer
memory, shot-to-shot speed is amazing-- you can shoot as fast as
you can compose. The only exception is when shooting TIFFs-- you'll
have to wait about 10 seconds while it saves the image to the card.
shooting is where the E-100RS really stands out (and earns its namesake).
You can choose between 3, 5, 7.5, or 15 frames per second! And you
can shoot for more than one second too, as this chart explains:
shots in continuous mode
(640 x 480, Normal)
folks, no 15 frames/sec while recording Tiffs!
option (which can be used with the mode described above) is Pre-capture
shooting. Here, the camera starts recording when you press the shutter
release halfway. I suppose this is useful in situations where you're
a little slow with hitting the shutter release button.
you'll see on the LCD and EVF in record mode
we're on the subject of how many photos you can store, here's a
look at the many recording options on the E-100, and how many fit
on the included 8MB card, as well as a 64MB card (for reference
you can see, there are tons of options available in the resolution
and quality department. Let's go over some of the menu choices you
have on the E-100:
- Choose between the SmartMedia and CompactFlash slots
Mode settings (3, 5, 7.5, 15 fps)
(on/off, # of photos)
balance (auto, daylight, overcast, tungsten, fluorescent, manual)
intensity (-2.0EV to +2.0EV, in 1/3EV increments)
Mode (iESP, spot)
AF (on/off) - when on, camera focuses without pressing shutter
Tele (on/off) - aka 2.7X digital zoom
(black & white) - what happened to sepia and the white board
setup - format the memory cards
record (on/off) - record 4 second audio clips after photo is taken
Setup - set basic camera prefs and defaults
(Auto, 100, 200, 400)
- choose which mode you want
mode (TIFF, SHQ, HQ, SQ)
very welcome addition over the C-2100 Ultra Zoom is the manual white
balance, which lets you decide what "white" should be.
E-100 performed admirably in our macro test, as you can see above.
camera did pretty well on this muggy night on Twin Peaks. There
are some hot pixels in both of these pictures-- just look for the
blue/purple "stars" in the sky. For those of you who care,
the SF skyline isn't as bright as it used to be-- they're turning
off some of the lighting on the buildings to save power.
the other cameras that use the same lens, the E-100RS displays chromatic
abberations (also known as purple fringing) in some situations.
I noticed it the most on cloudy days, or at full telephoto. Take
a gander at the beach/Cliff House photo in the gallery
to see what I mean. Aside from that, photo quality was very good
-- and the ability to grab action shots is amazing. Again, see the
gallery for a few samples and judge for
E-100RS is the first camera I've tested that has a 640 x 480 movie
mode, with sound! In fact, you have a number of choices:
on 8MB card
if you have a larger memory card, your recording times will not
be longer in most cases.
you can use the optical zoom during filming. I don't know why some
cameras won't let you.
sample below will give you an idea of the movie making abilities
of the E-100RS.
to play movie
(5.6MB, 640 x 480, 15 fps, Quicktime format)
E-100RS's playback mode covers all the bases. There's slideshows,
image protection, DPOF print marking, zoom & scroll, and more.
camera takes merely one second to go between SHQ photos. You can
zoom out to 9 thumbnails at once, or zoom in to take a closer look
at your photo. The zoom & scroll mode, as I call it, is pretty
good - you can zoom in as far as 3X, and then move around inside
the picture. The only wish I have here is that the scrolling around
was a bit snappier -- you've got to hold the four-way switch down
for a bit before it really starts moving.
you want to get more info about a photo, you just press the Info
button. While not as detailed as some cameras, I think most users
will be happy with the information given.
other nice feature is the ability to rotate photos, by using the
macro and metering buttons. You can only go 90 degrees in either
direction (you can't flip a photo over).
looking at a group of photos taken sequentially, only the first
photo of the group will be shown. You have to hit a button to "extend"
the photos so all are shown. This was nice, since you don't have
to wade through as many photos when just looking over your photos.
only thing really missing here is the ability to delete a group
of photos at a time, but that's a minor gripe.
Does it Compare?
hard to compare the Olympus E-100 Rapid Shot to other cameras, since
there isn't another camera like it on the market. It's ability to
shoot 15 frames per second is unmatched by any prosumer digital
camera out there. While it's resolution is only 1.5 Megapixel, most
folks will find that to be enough. On top of its incredible speed,
the E-100RS also has a very nice 10X lens (though it has some fringing
problems at times), full manual controls, and a nice bundle. If
you're looking for ultra-fast shooting, look no further than the
15 frames per second captures action like no other consumer digital
for external flash
x 480 movies with sound!
SmartMedia and CF II slots
I didn't care for:
the Microdrive work or not?
can't suggest any other super-fast cameras, but if you're looking
for a "big zoom" camera, check out the Canon
PowerShot Pro90 and the Olympus
C-2100 Ultra Zoom.
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion? How about a third?
sure to read Steve's
Digicams review of the E-100RS! If that's not enough, Imaging
Resource has one too!
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.