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Olympus E-3 versus Olympus E-1

The Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-1 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in October 2007 and June 2003. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-3 has a resolution of 10 megapixel, whereas the E-1 provides 4.9 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-1

The physical size and weight of the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-1 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the E-3 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-1
Compare E-3 versus E-1 top
Compare E-3 and E-1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-1 is notably smaller (11 percent) than the Olympus E-3. Moreover, the E-1 is markedly lighter (16 percent) than the E-3. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Olympus E-3» 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699- i
Olympus E-1« 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- i
Leica Digilux 3« » 5.7 in 3.4 in 3.0 in 21.4 oz 750 n Sep 2006 1,499- i
Nikon D300« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799- i
Olympus E-5« » 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699- i
Olympus E-620« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.4 oz 500 n Feb 2009 699- i
Olympus E-600« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.9 oz 500 n Aug 2009 449- i
Olympus E-420« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2008 599- i
Olympus E-520« » 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 n May 2008 699- i
Olympus E-30« » 5.6 in 4.3 in 3.0 in 24.7 oz 750 n Nov 2008 1,299- i
Olympus E-410« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 n Mar 2007 699- i
Olympus E-510« » 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 19.0 oz 750 n Mar 2007 799- i
Olympus E-330« » 5.5 in 3.4 in 2.8 in 22.5 oz 750 n Jan 2006 999- i
Olympus E-300« » 5.8 in 3.3 in 2.5 in 22.0 oz 750 n Sep 2004 799- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. 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: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-1

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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Olympus E-3 and Olympus E-1 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-3 offers a higher resolution of 10 megapixel, compared with 4.9 MP of the E-1. This megapixel advantage translates into a 43 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-3 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.74μm versus 6.78μm for the E-1). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the E-3 is much more recent (by 4 years and 3 months) than the E-1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.

E-3 versus E-1 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Olympus E-3» Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.610.557156
Olympus E-1« Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920-----
Leica Digilux 3« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----
Nikon D300« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.112.067967
Olympus E-5« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956
Olympus E-620« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.353655
Olympus E-600« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.510.354155
Olympus E-420« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.452756
Olympus E-520« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.410.454855
Olympus E-30« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.453055
Olympus E-410« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.110.049451
Olympus E-510« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.210.044252
Olympus E-330« » Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352-----
Olympus E-300« » Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448-----
The E-3 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The E-1 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
 

Feature comparison: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-1

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The E-3 and the E-1 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-3, the Olympus E-1, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Olympus E-3»optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y
Olympus E-1«optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n
Leica Digilux 3« »optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D300« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n
Olympus E-5« »optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y
Olympus E-620« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y
Olympus E-600« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y
Olympus E-420« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n
Olympus E-520« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y Y
Olympus E-30« »optical Y 2.7 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y
Olympus E-410« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Olympus E-510« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y Y
Olympus E-330« »optical n 2.5 215 tilting n 4000 3.0 Y n
Olympus E-300« »optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n

Both the E-3 and the E-1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-1 was replaced by the Olympus E-3, while the E-3 was followed by the Olympus E-5.

Review summary: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-1

So what is the bottom line? Is the Olympus E-3 better than the Olympus E-1 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-3:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (10 vs 4.9MP) with a 43% higher linear resolution.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 134k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years and 3 months of technical progress since the E-1 launch.


Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-1:

  • More compact: Is smaller (141x104mm vs 142x116mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 138g or 16 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in June 2003).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-3 is the clear winner of the match-up (9 : 3 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.

E-3 09:03 E-1

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-3 or the E-1 handle or perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Olympus E-3»88/100HiRecrevrev4/5 Oct 2007 1,699- i
Olympus E-1«-Recrevrev- Jun 2003 1,699- i
Leica Digilux 3« »----- Sep 2006 1,499- i
Nikon D300« »HiRecHiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799- i
Olympus E-5« »-75/1004/5-4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699- i
Olympus E-620« »88/10072/1004.5/5rev5/5 Feb 2009 699- i
Olympus E-600« »----4.5/5 Aug 2009 449- i
Olympus E-420« »85/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2008 599- i
Olympus E-520« »87/100HiRec4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699- i
Olympus E-30« »-71/1004.5/5-4/5 Nov 2008 1,299- i
Olympus E-410« »86/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2007 699- i
Olympus E-510« »89/100HiRec3.5/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2007 799- i
Olympus E-330« »-Recrev3.5/5- Jan 2006 999- i
Olympus E-300« »-Recrevrev4.5/5 Sep 2004 799- i

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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