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Olympus E-3 versus Olympus E-510

The Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-510 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2007 and March 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 10 megapixel. 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-510

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-510. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All size dimensions 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-510
Compare E-3 versus E-510 top
Compare E-3 and E-510 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-510 is notably smaller (24 percent) than the Olympus E-3. Moreover, the E-510 is substantially lighter (39 percent) than the E-3. It is worth mentioning in this context that the E-3 is splash and dust resistant, while the E-510 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

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-510« 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 19.0 oz 750 n Mar 2007 799- 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-400« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 n Sep 2006 699- i
Olympus E-500« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.6 in 16.9 oz 750 n Sep 2005 599- i
Olympus E-1« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- 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 E-510 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 53 percent) than the E-3, which puts it into a different 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-510

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixel-units 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-510 sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 10 megapixel. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the E-3 and the E-510 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the E-3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 7 months) than the E-510, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

E-3 versus E-510 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. 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. Of the two cameras under review, the E-3 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the E-510 (overall score 4 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.4 bits higher color depth, 0.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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-510« Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.210.044252
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-400« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-----
Olympus E-500« » Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448-----
Olympus E-1« » Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920-----
Both the E-3 and the E-510 offer Live View, so that they make it possible to use the rear screen for framing. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
 

Feature comparison: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-510

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-3 and the E-510 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-3 and Olympus E-510 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. 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-510«optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y Y
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-400« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Olympus E-500« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n
Olympus E-1« »optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n

Both the E-3 and the E-510 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-510 was replaced by the Olympus E-520, while the E-3 was followed by the Olympus E-5.

Review summary: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-510

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-510? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Advantages of the Olympus E-3:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • 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.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 7 months after the E-510).


Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-510:

  • More compact: Is smaller (136x92mm vs 142x116mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 338g or 39 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (53 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in March 2007).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-3 is the clear winner of the match-up (8 : 4 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

E-3 08:04 E-510

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-510 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 where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed 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-510«89/100HiRec3.5/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2007 799- 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-400« »85/100-4/5-4/5 Sep 2006 699- i
Olympus E-500« »76/100HiRec--- Sep 2005 599- i
Olympus E-1« »-Recrevrev- Jun 2003 1,699- i

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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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