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Contax N Digital vs Olympus E-300

The Contax N Digital and the Olympus Evolt E-300 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2002 and September 2004. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (N Digital) and a Four Thirds (E-300) sensor. The Contax has a resolution of 6.1 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 8 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Contax N Digital
versus
Olympus E-300
Contax N Digital   Olympus E-300
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Contax N mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
6.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 8 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 50-1,600 ISO 100-400 (100 - 1,600)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0 LCD, 200k dots 1.8 LCD, 134k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
4 shutter flaps per second 2.5 shutter flaps per second
100 shots per battery charge750 shots per battery charge
152 x 138 x 80 mm, 990 g 147 x 85 x 64 mm, 624 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Contax N Digital and the Olympus Evolt E-300? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Contax N Digital and the Olympus E-300 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Contax N Digital vs Olympus E-300
Compare N Digital versus E-300 top
Comparison N Digital or E-300 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-300 is considerably smaller (40 percent) than the Contax N Digital. Moreover, the E-300 is substantially lighter (37 percent) than the N Digital. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the N Digital nor the E-300 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

As can be seen in the images above, the N Digital has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the E-300, Olympus provides the HLD-3 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Contax N Digital 152 mm 138 mm 80 mm 990 g 100 n Feb 2002 7,399i
2.
 
Olympus E-300 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 n Sep 2004 799i
3.
 
Canon 10D 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 850 g 500 n Feb 2003 1,999i
4.
 
Canon Rebel 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 n Aug 2003 899i
5.
 
Canon 1Ds 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1265 g 600 Y Sep 2002 8,999i
6.
 
Canon D60 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 855 g 620 n Feb 2002 2,999i
7.
 
Leica M10-P 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica SL 147 mm 104 mm 39 mm 847 g 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450i
10.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999i
11.
 
Leica Digilux 3 146 mm 87 mm 77 mm 606 g 750 n Sep 2006 1,499i
12.
 
Nikon D100 144 mm 116 mm 81 mm 780 g 370 n Feb 2002 1,999i
13.
 
Nikon D1X 157 mm 153 mm 85 mm 1100 g 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999i
14.
 
Olympus E-330 140 mm 87 mm 72 mm 637 g 750 n Jan 2006 999i
15.
 
Olympus E-400 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Sep 2006 699i
16.
 
Olympus E-500 130 mm 95 mm 66 mm 479 g 750 n Sep 2005 599i
17.
 
Olympus E-1 141 mm 104 mm 81 mm 738 g 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The E-300 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 89 percent) than the N Digital, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Contax N Digital features a full frame sensor and the Olympus E-300 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-300 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the N Digital has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-300 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Contax N Digital and Olympus E-300 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the E-300 offers a higher resolution of 8 megapixels, compared with 6.1 MP of the N Digital. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.30μm versus 11.90μm for the N Digital). However, it should be noted that the E-300 is much more recent (by 2 years and 6 months) than the N Digital, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-300 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-300 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 16.3 x 12.2 inches or 41.5 x 31.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 13.1 x 9.8 inches or 33.2 x 24.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 10.9 x 8.2 inches or 27.6 x 20.7 cm. The corresponding values for the Contax N Digital are 15.2 x 10 inches or 38.6 x 25.5 cm for good quality, 12.2 x 8 inches or 30.9 x 20.4 cm for very good quality, and 10.1 x 6.7 inches or 25.7 x 17 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Contax N Digital has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus Evolt E-300 are ISO 100 to ISO 400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-1600.

N Digital versus E-300 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Contax N Digital Full Frame 6.1 3040 2008none........
2.
 
Olympus E-300 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none........
3.
 
Canon 10D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.110.957157
4.
 
Canon Rebel APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455
5.
 
Canon 1Ds Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704none21.811.095463
6.
 
Canon D60 APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none........
7.
 
Leica M10-P Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none........
8.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
9.
 
Leica SL Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188
10.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
11.
 
Leica Digilux 3 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none........
12.
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none........
13.
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........
14.
 
Olympus E-330 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none........
15.
 
Olympus E-400 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none........
16.
 
Olympus E-500 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none........
17.
 
Olympus E-1 Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920none........
Neither the N Digital nor the E-300 offer Live View, so that they cannot project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen. Moreover, both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The N Digital and the E-300 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (95%), but the viewfinder of the N Digital has a higher magnification than the one of the E-300 (0.73x vs 0.5x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Contax N Digital, the Olympus E-300, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Contax N Digitaloptical Y2.0 / 200 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 n n
2.
 
Olympus E-300optical n1.8 / 134 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
3.
 
Canon 10Doptical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon Rebeloptical n1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
5.
 
Canon 1Dsoptical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n n
6.
 
Canon D60optical Y1.8 / 114 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
7.
 
Leica M10-Poptical n3.0 / 1037 fixed Y 1/4000s 5.0 n n
8.
 
Leica M10optical n3.0 / 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
9.
 
Leica SL4400 Y3.0 / 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 11.0 n n
10.
 
Leica M9optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n
11.
 
Leica Digilux 3optical n2.5 / 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
12.
 
Nikon D100optical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
13.
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y2.0 / 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0 n n
14.
 
Olympus E-330optical n2.5 / 215 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
15.
 
Olympus E-400optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
16.
 
Olympus E-500optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
17.
 
Olympus E-1optical Y1.8 / 134 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n

One feature that is present on the N Digital, but is missing on the E-300 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The N Digital writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the E-300 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-300 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the N Digital only has one slot.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Contax N Digital and Olympus Evolt E-300 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Contax N DigitalY- / ----FW---
2.
 
Olympus E-300Y- / ----2.0---
3.
 
Canon 10DY- / ----1.1---
4.
 
Canon RebelY- / ----1.1---
5.
 
Canon 1DsY- / ----FW---
6.
 
Canon D60Y- / ----1.1---
7.
 
Leica M10-PY- / -----Y--
8.
 
Leica M10Y- / -----Y--
9.
 
Leica SLYstereo / monoYYfull3.0Y--
10.
 
Leica M9Y- / ----2.0---
11.
 
Leica Digilux 3Ystereo / mono---2.0---
12.
 
Nikon D100Y- / ----1.1---
13.
 
Nikon D1XY- / ----FW---
14.
 
Olympus E-330Y- / ----2.0---
15.
 
Olympus E-400Y- / ----2.0---
16.
 
Olympus E-500Y- / ----2.0---
17.
 
Olympus E-1Y- / ----2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Contax N Digital (unlike the E-300) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the N Digital and the E-300 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-300 was replaced by the Olympus E-330, while the N Digital does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Contax and Olympus websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Contax N Digital or the Olympus E-300 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Arguments in favor of the Contax N Digital:

  • Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
  • Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.5x).
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.0" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (200k vs 134k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 2.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2002).

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus Evolt E-300:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (8 vs 6.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 12%.
  • More compact: Is smaller (147x85mm vs 152x138mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 366g or 37 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (750 versus 100) out of a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (89 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 6 months of technical progress since the N Digital launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the N Digital is the clear winner of the match-up (13 : 8 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

N Digital 13:08 E-300

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Contax N Digital and the Olympus E-300 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the N Digital and the E-300 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Contax N Digital............ Feb 2002 7,399i
2.
 
Olympus E-300......+o4.5/5 Sep 2004 799i
3.
 
Canon 10D......+ +.... Feb 2003 1,999i
4.
 
Canon Rebel......+ +.... Aug 2003 899i
5.
 
Canon 1Ds......+ +.... Sep 2002 8,999i
6.
 
Canon D60......+ +o.. Feb 2002 2,999i
7.
 
Leica M10-P....3/5....4/5 Aug 2018 7,995 i
8.
 
Leica M104.5/5......4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
9.
 
Leica SL4/5..4/584/1004.5/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450i
10.
 
Leica M9........4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999i
11.
 
Leica Digilux 3............ Sep 2006 1,499i
12.
 
Nikon D100......+ +o.. Feb 2002 1,999i
13.
 
Nikon D1X......+ +.... Feb 2001 5,999i
14.
 
Olympus E-330......+o.. Jan 2006 999i
15.
 
Olympus E-400..85/100....4/54/5 Sep 2006 699i
16.
 
Olympus E-500..76/100..+ +.... Sep 2005 599i
17.
 
Olympus E-1......+o.. Jun 2003 1,699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Contax N Digital:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-300:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Contax N Digital vs Olympus E-300

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Contax N Digital Olympus E-300
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Contax N mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date February 2002 September 2004
    Launch Price USD 7,399 USD 799
    Sensor Specs Contax N Digital Olympus E-300
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 6.1 Megapixels 8 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3040 x 2008 pixels 3264 x 2448 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 11.90 μm 5.30 μm
    Pixel Density 0.71 MP/cm2 3.55 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 50 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 400 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100 - 1,600 ISO
    Screen Specs Contax N Digital Olympus E-300
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.73x 0.5x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    Rear LCD Size 2.0inch 1.8inch
    LCD Resolution 200k dots 134k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Contax N Digital Olympus E-300
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 4 shutter flaps/s 2.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Contax N Digital Olympus E-300
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector Firewire USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Contax N Digital Olympus E-300
    Battery Type 4xAA BLM-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)100 shots per charge750 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 152 x 138 x 80 mm
    (6.0 x 5.4 x 3.1 in)
    147 x 85 x 64 mm
    (5.8 x 3.3 x 2.5 in)
    Camera Weight 990 g (34.9 oz) 624 g (22.0 oz)

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