Olympus EVOLT E-300 Digital Camera Review$999.00
Testing / Performance
*To objectively evaluate the color rendering capabilities of the EVOLT E-300, we recorded a series of images of our 24-tile GretagMacbeth color chart in a controlled studio setup, with over 400 lux of illumination. The images were then uploaded into Imatest Imaging Software to determine how accurate each produced tone is compared to the corresponding ideal. The modified color chart below displays the results. For each color tile, the E-300’s produced tones are displayed in the outer square, the original (ideal) color is in the vertical rectangle, and the color-corrected version is shown in the inner square.
The graph below displays the same information portrayed above in a more quantitative manner. The circles are the ideal colors of the GretagMacbeth color chart, while the corresponding squares depict the colors produced by the EVOLT E-300. The line linking the two shapes represents the degree of error for that particular tone.
Although personal preference may stray from direct representation or realism, we assign color scores based on the camera’s ability to reproduce naturalistic tones, as they appear in the original scene. In this test, the E-300 did not perform favorably, earning just a 5.56 overall color score. This is the lowest color score of any digital SLR we have tested thus far. The dismal score expresses the camera’s inability to render tones accurately across the spectrum. Surprisingly, the colors which many digital cameras typically embellish, red and pink (often referred to as "skin tones,") are more accurately represented than some cooler hues, namely blue and green. With the exception of #13 and #8 ("blue" and "purplish blue,") all hues rendered by the E-300 strayed substantially from the ideal, creating a strong variance between the reproduced image and the original scene.
The 95% saturation score attained by the E-300 is short of most DSLRs, which generally hover in the 100-110% saturation range. This will lead images to appear flat and somewhat dull. The benefit to the E-300’s style of color reproduction is that when editing the images, it is generally easier to notice an increase in saturation rather than a reduction.
**Still Life Scene **
Below is a shot of our beloved still life scene, captured with the Olympus EVOLT E-300.
Click on the above image to view a full resolution version (CAUTION: the linked file is very large!)](http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/viewer.php?picture=E-300-StillLife-LG.jpg)
Resolution / Sharpness*(4.55)
*Olympus highly touts the EVOLT E-300’s 8 megapixel imaging sensor, utilizing the camera’s resolution as a primary point of distinction within its price category. The camera is advertised with 8.15 megapixels on its Full Frame Transfer CCD, 8 of which are effective for imaging. To test the resolution of the E-300, we recorded several images of an ISO 12233 resolution chart under controlled studio lighting at a variety of aperture settings and focal lengths. The tests were conducted using the camera’s 14-45mm kit lens. The recorded exposures were then uploaded into Imatest Imaging Software to determine the exact number of pixels used to form the image. The results are reported both as an exact pixel number and as a percentage of the marketed resolution. When this test is conducted, cameras that score beyond 70 percent of their advertised resolution are considered "good," while those that score beyond 80 percent are viewed as "very good" and anything exceeding 90 percent is "excellent."
Click on the above chart to view the full resolution image](http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/viewer.php?picture=E-300-ResCH-LG.jpg)
After recording numerous exposures of the test chart, we concluded the EVOLT E-300, using its 14-45mm kit lens, only utilized 4.55 of its 8 advertised megapixels for imaging. This is an extremely low score that is inferior to any DSLR we have tested to date and much more in line with substandard point-and-shoot models. The test shots were conducted at various aperture openings throughout the lens's focal range. We reported the highest score we could attain with the camera, which was shot at f/11 at 45mm (35mm equivalency).
Noise – Auto ISO*(6.54)
*For each model we review, we test the camera’s ability to handle noise when set on its Automatic ISO setting, as some users will heavily rely on it. Unfortunately, the E-300 is like many other digital cameras in this regard and contains a truncated sensitivity range in Auto mode. When set to Auto, the E-300 will only function within a 100-400 ISO range.
When using the E-300’s Auto ISO setting, the camera performed beyond expectation, earning a 6.54 overall score. The high Auto ISO score expresses the camera’s ability to accurately read the scene and adjust the sensitivity accordingly. Many digital cameras score low in this test because they do not accurately perceive the available light in the scene (exceeding 400 Lux) and push the rating higher than is necessary. This is not the case with the E-300 and users should feel confident using the automatic setting in a pinch.
Noise – Manual ISO*(6.85)
*Well, the camera's performance using manual settings was as disappointing as its performance using auto settings was encouraging. Offering 100-400 sensitivity ratings with "boosted" 800 and 1600 ISO options, the allusion should be clear - noise on this camera will be an issue!
We tested the E-300’s ability to suppress noise at each available sensitivity rating and put the results into a regression analysis to determine an overall noise score. The noise levels are portrayed on the vertical axis of the graph below, with the correlating ISO settings plotted along the horizontal axis.
The E-300 performed far more like a $300 compact camera than a $900 DSLR in our manual noise test. With the exception of its ISO 100 setting, images captured with E-300 were extremely noisy and significantly compromised. Even using the camera’s ISO 200 setting with "noise reduction" engaged, the captured exposures were fraught with monochromatic distortion. To compare, images attained from the EVOLT E-300 at ISO 400 contained significantly more noise than the Rebel XT produced at ISO 1600 and the EOS 20D at ISO 3200. Even the compact Fuji FinePix F10 (currently available online for under $350) put the E-300 to shame, displaying less noise at ISO 1600 than the E-300 produced at its 400 rating. This is completely unacceptable and should be without a doubt a deal breaker for most, if not all, photographers. For this reason alone, the value in this $900 DSLR is completely negated.
Low Light Performance*(5.0)
*We tested the Olympus E-300 in low light conditions to observe the limitations of the sensor and determine how well the camera will perform at night and in compromised indoor lighting situations. The E-300 was tested at decreasing light levels of 60, 30, 15, and 5 Lux to simulate its performance in common low light settings; 60 Lux appears to the eye similarly to a room after dusk, lit by two small table lamps, while 30 Lux equates to a single 40 watt lightbulb at close range, and 15 and 5 Lux display the camera’s ability to record images in near darkness.
Click on any of the above charts for additional image analysis
With the limited sensitivity options available on the E-300, we were not expecting a stellar low light performance. The application of the camera’s "noise reduction" function did little to improve image quality when the "boosted" ISO ratings were used. Photographers concerned with image quality will have to place the E-300 on a tripod, set it to either ISO 100 or 200, and make some LONG exposures. This makes it difficult to capture night skylines or indoor scenes with the E-300 unless creative use of the flash is part of the aesthetic. Photographers that enjoy experimenting with accessory lighting and reflected flash illumination may not be thrown by the E-300’s limitations; however, those interested in shooting with available light should look elsewhere.
**Speed / Timing
***Start-up to first shot (8.49) *
In terms of performance speed, the EVOLT E-300 is way behind the competition. Similar to the original EOS digital Rebel, the E-300 functions at a rate far more like a compact camera than a DSLR, requiring over 1.51 seconds to boot up and record its first image. While this lag is attributed to the camera’s automatic sensor clean function, the feature cannot be turned off. This makes it impossible for users to quickly capture an image from the off position and will likely watch a time-sensitive shot pass. By comparison, both the Rebel XT and Nikon D70 captured images 0.2 seconds after start up.
*Shot to Shot Time (9.41) *
The Olympus E-300 functions far more like a DSLR in terms of shot to shot recording rate, but still a bit slow when contrasted with Canon and Nikon’s sub-$1,000 offerings. The E-300 will capture subsequent images with just .59 seconds between. This remains slightly behind the XT’s .33 seconds and the D70’s .35 seconds recording rate, but still far beyond most compact models.
*Shutter to Shot Time (8.98) *
Shutter lag has always been a thorn in the side of digital photographers. Most look to DSLRs to minimize or erase the perceivable lag and provide an instantaneous response. In this department, the E-300 did not disappoint. The EVOLT E-300 requires just .01 seconds from shutter release to capture.