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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Olympus EVOLT E-330

The tilting live-view LCD monitor meets the D-SLR

Olympus EVOLT E-330

I love digital SLRs and do just about all my shooting with them. D-SLRs have a couple of drawbacks, however. Dust can settle on the image sensor each time you change lenses, and you can't see the image live on the LCD monitor or tilt the monitor for odd-angle shots as you can with compact digital cameras.

The new Olympus EVOLT E-330 is a D-SLR that eliminates both problems. Its Supersonic Wave Filter (a feature shared with all Olympus E-series D-SLRs) automatically vibrates dust off the image sensor every time you switch on the camera. It's very effective: I've never noticed a dust spot in any of the more than 5,000 images I've shot with Olympus D-SLRs. The camera's big, 2.5-inch Live View LCD monitor (a feature unique to the E-330 among D-SLRs) not only shows the image live as you compose, but it also pulls away from the body and tilts up and down for easy high- and low-angle shooting.

I still generally prefer to focus and compose in the time-honored SLR way, using the SLR viewfinder rather than an external LCD monitor. But there are times when the consumer-style live-viewing and tilting monitor is very useful. For example, I like to shoot straight up with wide-angle lenses to record geometric patterns created by power lines and such. But my back doesn't like it, especially when I crouch down to get more of a power pylon in the shot. With the E-330, I tilt the LCD monitor up and compose comfortably standing or crouching. I also found the tilting monitor handy for low-level shots and for aerial photos. The plane I usually shoot from has a little side window that can be opened in flight, and with a conventional eye-level SLR finder, shooting through it is a bit awkward. With the E-330, I can compose using the monitor without slouching forward at the controls.

Live View operation is simple. When you want to use it, just press the Live View button next to the viewfinder eyepiece. There are two Live View modes, A and B, easily activated by pressing the A/B button next to the Live View button, then rotating the main dial to choose A or B.

In A mode, you get Full-Time Live View: The LCD monitor works like the one on a compact digital camera, showing the image live and in real time. The AF system functions in the normal manner or you can focus manually. But be sure to close the eyepiece shutter when your eye isn't at the eyepiece to keep stray light from entering and causing erroneous exposures.


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