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Olympus E-3 vs 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 megapixels.

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

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-3   Olympus E-510
Olympus E-3 Olympus E-510
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
10 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 10 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 100-3200 ISO 100-1600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5" LCD, 230k dots 2.5" LCD, 215k dots
Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
5 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
Weathersealed bodyNot weather sealed
750 shots per battery charge750 shots per battery charge
142 x 116 x 75 mm, 876 g 136 x 92 x 68 mm, 538 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-510? 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-510 is provided 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 Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-510
Compare E-3 versus E-510 top
Comparison E-3 or 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 compare the optics available in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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)
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-3» 142 mm 116 mm 75 mm 876 g 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
 
Olympus E-510« 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 538 g 750 n Mar 2007 799- i Olympus E-510
 
Nikon D300« » 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
 
Olympus E-5« » 142 mm 117 mm 75 mm 873 g 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
 
Olympus E-600« » 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 535 g 500 n Aug 2009 449- i Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620« » 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699- i Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-30« » 142 mm 108 mm 75 mm 701 g 750 n Nov 2008 1,299- i Olympus E-30
 
Olympus E-420« » 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2008 599- i Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-520« » 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
 
Olympus E-410« » 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699- i Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-1« » 141 mm 104 mm 81 mm 738 g 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. 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-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

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and 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-510 sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 10 megapixels. 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.

The Olympus E-3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-510 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

E-3 versus E-510 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). 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
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-3» Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.610.557156Olympus E-3
 
Olympus E-510« Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.210.044252Olympus E-510
 
Nikon D300« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.112.067967Nikon D300
 
Olympus E-5« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956Olympus E-5
 
Olympus E-600« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.510.354155Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.353655Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-30« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.453055Olympus E-30
 
Olympus E-420« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.452756Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-520« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.410.454855Olympus E-520
 
Olympus E-410« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.110.049451Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-1« » Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920-----Olympus E-1
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

Beyond 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 viewfinder in the E-3 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the E-510 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the E-3 has a higher magnification (0.575x vs 0.46x), 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 Olympus E-3, the Olympus E-510, and comparable cameras.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('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
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-3»optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-3
 
Olympus E-510«optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-510
 
Nikon D300« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
 
Olympus E-5« »optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-5
 
Olympus E-600« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-30« »optical Y 2.7 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-30
 
Olympus E-420« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-520« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y Y Olympus E-520
 
Olympus E-410« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-1« »optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n Olympus E-1

One feature that is present on the E-3, but is missing on the E-510 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 E-3 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the E-510 does not have a selfie-screen.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-3 and the E-510 write their files to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

 

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 Olympus E-3 and Olympus E-510 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-3»Y-----2.0---Olympus E-3
 
Olympus E-510«Y-----2.0---Olympus E-510
 
Nikon D300« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D300
 
Olympus E-5« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-5
 
Olympus E-600« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-30« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-30
 
Olympus E-420« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-520« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-520
 
Olympus E-410« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-1« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-1

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Olympus E-3 (unlike the E-510) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

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. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus website.


Review summary

So how do things add up? Is the Olympus E-3 better than the Olympus E-510 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Reasons to prefer 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).
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.575x vs 0.46x).
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) 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.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • 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 relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-3 is the clear winner of the match-up (12 : 4 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.

E-3 12:04 E-510

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-510 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be 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 perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Olympus E-3»88/100+ +oo4/5 Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
 
Olympus E-510«89/100+ +3.5/5o4.5/5 Mar 2007 799- i Olympus E-510
 
Nikon D300« »+ ++ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
 
Olympus E-5« »-75/1004/5-4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
 
Olympus E-600« »----4.5/5 Aug 2009 449- i Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620« »88/10072/1004.5/5o5/5 Feb 2009 699- i Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-30« »-71/1004.5/5-4/5 Nov 2008 1,299- i Olympus E-30
 
Olympus E-420« »85/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Mar 2008 599- i Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-520« »87/100+ +4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
 
Olympus E-410« »86/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Mar 2007 699- i Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-1« »-+oo- Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Olympus E-3:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-510:
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: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-510

    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 Olympus E-3 Olympus E-510
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date October 2007 March 2007
    Launch Price USD 1699 USD 799
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-3 Olympus E-510
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 10 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3648 x 2736 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.74 μm 4.74 μm
    Pixel Density 4.44 MP/cm2 4.44 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100-3200 ISO 100-1600 ISO
    Image Processor TruePic III TruePic III
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 56 52
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.6 21.2
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.5 10.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 571 442
    Screen Specs Olympus E-3 Olympus E-510
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.575x 0.46x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5 inch 2.5 inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Swivel screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-3 Olympus E-510
    Autofocus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 5 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or XD cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-3 Olympus E-510
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Olympus E-3 Olympus E-510
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyNot weather sealed
    Battery Type BLM-1 BLM-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)750 shots per charge750 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 142 x 116 x 75 mm
    (5.6 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
    136 x 92 x 68 mm
    (5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in)
    Camera Weight 876 g (30.9 oz) 538 g (19.0 oz)

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