Olympus Digital E-300 Kit review

Price when reviewed

The E-300 is one of the oldest models on test and uses the Four-Thirds lens mount, which is a relatively new system developed by Olympus, Fujifilm and Kodak. It means there isn’t a wide choice of lenses available yet – Nikon and Canon have a massive range on offer.

A bigger problem for some will be the E-300’s looks. While aesthetics aren’t everything, this is clearly the ugliest digital SLR we’ve seen. It’s longer and shorter than others because of the odd mirror system, which directs the image to the side before upwards, resulting in an off-centre optical viewfinder. It’s also the heaviest here, tipping the scales at 935g.

The 14-45mm kit lens may sound wider than others, but this is due to the 2x focal length multiplier – it’s 28-90mm in 35mm terms. Oddly, focus isn’t truly manual – the ring is electronic and you have to use the menu to switch focus modes. It works, but takes longer to focus than others. The final gripe is the lack of a full printed manual – you’ll have to view the manual on CD for advanced functions.

What we do like is the exposure and other information shown on the 1.8in TFT. Every oft-used setting can be changed without trawling through menus – you simply hold down the relevant button and rotate the jog dial. It’s only a shame the dial is on the back rather than the front: your thumb can’t hold down a button on the right as well as rotate the wheel.

We also like the self-cleaning sensor, which literally shakes any dust off. This is good news, as it means there’s less chance of you damaging the sensor. Like the Dynax 5D, you can choose a colour temperature from a range, but we found the auto white balance did a good job.

However, image quality was average. Resolution was disappointing considering the 8-megapixel sensor; the Canon’s images were much sharper. Colours and saturation were fine, but in low light, the E-300 always wanted to underexpose images. You have to enable the ISO boost option in the menu to access anything over ISO 400, and we can see why. Noise at ISO 800 was more pronounced than others – we’d only use images taken at up to ISO 400.

Ultimately, there’s no contest between the Olympus and Nikon. The D50 has better image quality, is lighter and offers a wider choice of lenses.

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