- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

There’s the Olympus Evolt E-300 digital camera — and then there’s everything else. That may be a bit over the top, but having shot the better part of 100 pictures in the course of three days — indoors, outdoors, daytime, dusk and at night —I’m more than a tad smitten by this lightweight wonder.

The Evolt E-300 (list price $999 with lens; expect to find it in stores for around $899) is a fairly lightweight camera, about 9 ounces lighter than the Fuji S-1 I normally carry. The Evolt is an 8 megapixel camera, versus the 3.5 megapixels of the S-1. And while the Fuji uses Nikon-mount-compatible lenses, the Olympus relies on Zuiko Digital lenses, made by the camera maker.

But those differences only begin to tell the story. The Evolt’s lighter weight makes it easier to handle and shoot; I found myself less inhibited when taking pictures. Its autofocus is fast, its recycling even faster, allowing me to shoot a series of images more quickly than I could imagine with the Fuji, or with a Nikon D100 I also used recently.

The lens system on the Olympus is designed to all but eliminate the possibility of liquid damage. The seal is so tight and precise that almost no dust could enter the camera; if any does, the camera sensor — the electronic part that records the photographic image — is self-cleaning.

Professional or semipro photographers will find a lot to like about this camera. F-stops and speeds can be adjusted with a flywheel control; image modes from standard quality up to RAW (uncompressed, unprocessed data files) can be set from an easy-to-learn menu system. There’s also a whole “white balance system” you can use to set the white light balance for your shooting, and it works very nicely.

I also like Olympus’ use of the CompactFlash memory card standard, which ranges up to 1 gigabyte of storage in something roughly 1.4-by- 1.6 inches. The cards are widely available, and depending on the image quality selected, you can range from 38 images (for ultrahigh resolution RAW files) to up to more than 2,500 very low-res images on a 512 megabyte card, which retails for around $60. (Translation: That’s a lot more image storage and flexibility than any roll of film in history.)

The viewfinder is optical, meaning you see “through” the camera lens, and provides quick information on shutter speed and other settings as well as battery strength. And, frankly, the rechargeable battery found in the Evolt is another strength of this camera: It’s much easier to deal with than the multitude of batteries my Fuji S-1 requires (four AAs, two lithium cells and a memory backup battery), and it charges quickly.

Once you’ve shot a bunch of pictures, the built-in picture viewer is a gem. Press the green “play” button on the rear of the camera and you’ll see your last shot. Rotate the flywheel and you’ll see thumbnails of the pictures you’ve taken, up to 12 at a time. Select a given shot, turn the flywheel and you can zoom in to up to 10-times magnification as well as “pan” around the image, to make sure its sharp and clear.

If there’s something to dislike about this camera, I haven’t found it yet. Olympus may not have the high profile of some digital camera makers, but it has a winning product in the Evolt, and it’s one you might want to check out before the blossoms of springtime are just a memory. Details are online at www.olympusamerica.com.

E-mail MarkKel@aol.com, or visit www.kellner.us.

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