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Hands-on with the Olympus E-3: A pro dSLR that isn't scary

With its flip-out screen, clever live view and straightforward two-wheel controls, the 10-megapixel Olympus E-3 is an unintimidating professional SLR

It was a while coming, but the Olympus E-3 was launched late last year and arrived at Crave earlier this week. We decided to take Olympus' 10-megapixel flagship dSLR camera out for a field test in the most glamorous location we could think of. Sadly Milton Keynes -- City of Dreams -- was too expensive, and Croydon -- the new Barcelona -- was too dangerous, so we settled for Birmingham.

Luckily, Birmingham has this week been playing host to the camerati for Focus On Imaging 2008. The E-3 was responsible for the shots we took of the Nikon, Kodak and Fujifilm cameras we Craved earlier, and proved a dream to handle. Despite feeling weighty for its actually quite compact size -- that'll be the magnesium-alloy body -- the E-3 was portable enough even for traipsing around the NEC all day.

The E-3 has a particularly friendly learning curve, with most shooting options relying on the front and rear dials to control. They control aperture and shutter speed, unless a modifier button is pressed, in which case they control other shooting options. We got the hang of the arcade game-style multi-button combos without opening the manual -- something we couldn't say about, for example, the Nikon D300.

As the pioneer of live view on dSLRs, Olympus has continued to show the worth of the system for those photographers who may not have been convinced by the compact-like ability to compose images on an LCD screen. The E-3's 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD is the smallest manufacturers can get away with these days, but it has the ace in the hole of being able to flip out and twist around camcorder-style, like the Panasonic DMC-L10. The screen also previews depth-of-field, exposure and image stabilisation settings so you know what you see is what you're going to get. If you're still not convinced, just flip the screen over and hide it away.

The Olympus E-3 is available now for just under £1,000 (body only). Our model comes with a 14-54mm lens and will set you back around £1,500. As a Four Thirds system camera, lenses from some other manufacturers are also compatible. -Rich Trenholm

Update: Read our full Olympus E-3 review