Photos: Hands on at the Olympus E-3 launch

We got our hands on the forthcoming Olympus E-3 dSLR at a James Bond-themed event, giving us a closer look at one of the most feature-packed cameras we've ever seen

The Olympus E-3, which was announced back in October, promises to be one of the most feature-packed SLR cameras ever, and we were pretty excited to get our hands on one. Our introduction to the E-3 came in a secret hollowed-out volcano hideout yesterday. Well, a West London art studio, but hey, we're just trying to set the scene.

Olympus chose a James Bond theme for the event, as photographers got to grips with the E-3, an Aston Martin DB5, and a bevy of Bond beauties. Sixties iconmaker David Bailey also made an appearance.

The E-3's technology is bang-up-to-date, however. An optical image stabiliser detects horizontal and vertical motion and will stabilise all lenses compatible with the camera. Olympus claims up to five stops of leeway.

The E-3 packs a 10-megapixel Live MOS image sensor and a top speed of ISO 3,200, with the thinking handled by a new TruePic III processor.

Click through for more photos of the E-3. -Rich Trenholm

Update: Read our full Olympus E-3 review

The E-3 is the latest dSLR to use the Four Thirds lens system. The advantage of this system is that it's a cross-manufacturer standard, so the E-3 is compatible with a wide variety of lenses and accessories. One criticism of the system is that the size of the mirror limits the size of the viewfinder. The E-3 counters this by including 1.15x magnification.

Now that's one fast machine -- nice car, too. Olympus claims the E-3 has the world's fastest autofocus, utilising 11 focus points. Shutter control has also been upgraded to 1/8000 second. The E-3 manages a half-decent 5fps sequential shooting, but more interesting is a buffed-up buffer allowing you to capture 19 raw images in the blink of an eye.

Like Mr Bond, the E-3 is pretty rugged. The metal frame takes a beating, while the seals and body are splashproof. As always, we can't wait to to test those claims... Olympus also boasts a professional quality shutter life of 150,000 photos.

Inside, things are kept clean courtesy of a supersonic wave filter dust-reduction system. This looks like a transparent trampoline in front of the sensor, which flexes to vibrate dust off the filter. That should keep Q happy.

The E-3 is the latest SLR to incorporate live view. The twist is that the 64mm (2.5-inch) HyperCrystal LCD screen folds out and allows you to compose the shot while holding the camera at different angles. The display then folds back in, with the screen facing in or out, so you can use it for viewing or tuck it away from scratches and, er, facial smears.

For anyone questioning the point of live view in SLRs, our first impression of the E-3 is that the concept is definitely coming into its own. Real-time effect monitoring allows you to preview depth-of-field, white balance, exposure and other adjustments. Precise focusing is made possible by 5x, 7x or 10x magnified view.

Here we see a selection of lenses and accessories that fit the Four Thirds standard. Four Thirds lenses are designed specifically for digital cameras, and there are currently more than 32 lenses available.

The E-3 also includes built-in flash and wireless flash control, which we were impressed to see in action. Once you've purchased a wireless flash unit, it can be controlled remotely from within the camera's own menu system.

The E-3 shoots raw and JPEG files, and records to CompactFlash or, unusually for a dSLR, xD cards.

It will be available in body-only form, or as part of a kit with the new Zuiko 12-60mm lens. Prices will be around the £1,000 mark and a full review will be with you soon.

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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