Officially announced in October 2007, the Olympus E-3 is the successor to the first Four-Thirds digital SLR, the Olympus E-1. The E-3 follows the highly specified feature-set of the E-1 by incorporating fully weather-sealed build, a large pentaprism viewfinder with 100% coverage and an external white balance sensor.

As a Four-Thirds system camera, the E-3 features an image sensor with a 4:3 ratio (unlike film which has a ratio of 3:2; a format also used by most other DSLR manufacturers) and the sensor used in Four-Thirds cameras is among the smallest used by any DSLR. This iteration of Panasonic Four-Thirds CMOS (called 'L-MOS' by Olympus and Panasonic, due to the 'Live-View' capability) reportedly has much larger photosites than previous models, due to reduced peripheral circuitry space. Olympus state that the Panasonic-produced sensor in the E-3 has vastly decreased power consumption, better signal-to-noise ratio, and increased dynamic range.

The E-3 features in-body image stabilisation, with the ability to apply stabilisation with any lens that is attached to the camera by inputting the focal length of the lens. The Live-view function on the E-3 allows the user to see the effects of the stabilisation on the LCD screen prior to capturing a shot. While the E-3 doesn't have contrast autofocus, it does feature a variable angle 'swing-and-tilt' LCD, similar to that used on Canon Powershot cameras, making it one of only two DSLRs to feature such flexible viewing options (the other camera being its Four-Thirds stable-mate, the Panasonic DMC-L10)

The viewfinder on the E-3 is very large in comparison to other Four-Thirds cameras - larger than almost all other DLSRs, with the exception of 'full-frame' models, the Pentax K10D/20D and the Nikon D300 - both the Pentax and Nikon D300s viewfinders have a larger area, though because of the different aspect ratios of the two sensors the E-3s is actually larger on the vertical axis.

The autofocus system on the E-3 is the most advanced yet developed by Olympus. Featuring 11 cross-type sensors, with each of the selectable 11 points actually gathering data from two sensors which overlap in each axis, to provide very precise focus. Olympus has made very bold claims about its new autofocus system, stating that when the E-3 is coupled with the Digital Zuiko 12-60mm 1:2.8-4 SWD lens, the E-3 has the fastest autofocus system in the world.

At the time of the E-3s official announcement, Olympus also announced five new Four-Thirds lenses to accompany it:

  • Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm 1:2.8-4.0 SWD
  • Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm 1:2.8-3.5 SWD
  • Zuiko Digital ED 14-35mm 1:2.0 SWD
  • Zuiko Digital ED 70-300mm 1:4.0-5.6
  • Zuiko Digital 2.0x Teleconverter EC-20

The two Pro lenses and the 'Top Pro' 14-35 F2 lens all feature the new SWD lens motor system, which provide speed benefits on all Four-Thirds bodies, but provide the greatest speed advantage on the E-3. SWD is Olypmus' monicker for the new ring-type in-lens motors, standing for 'Supersonic Wave Drive' - similar to Canon's USM or Sigma's HSM motor technology.

Along with the body and lens announcements, Olympus also released a battery grip for the E-3 (named the HLD-4) which allows the use of 6x AAs or 2x of the proprietary Olympus BLM-1 batteries to power the camera - though the grip can also be used with only 1 battery. As with the camera body the HLD-4 is also fully weather-sealed. The E-3 also features interchangeable focus screens - which can only be installed by Olympus Service Departments.

Some brief specifications:[]

  • 11.8 Megapixel CMOS sensor which produces 10.1 effective MP.
  • Maximum image dimensions of 3648 x 2736 pixels
  • Cast magnesium-alloy body
  • 2.5” rear LCD panel (230,000 pixels; 100% frame coverage)
  • Olympus' patented 'Supersonic Wave Filter' anti-dust system
  • In-body 'Supersonic Wave Drive' image stabilisation, with claims of up to 5 stop effectiveness
  • Metering: 49 area ESP, Centre-weighted average, Spot (2%), Highlight and Shadow-based spot
  • External white-balance sensor
  • Single AF, continuous AF and manual focusing with all Four-Thirds lenses
  • 11 cross-type autofocus sensors, with sensitivity range from -2EV to 19EV at ISO 100
  • Sequential shooting at 5fps up to 19 RAW frames, up to card capacity in JPEG
  • Top shutter speed 1/8000 sec
  • Flash sync speed 1/250 sec
  • ISO range 100–3200.
  • Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual shooting modes
  • Takes CompactFlash (Type I/II or MD) and XD cards
  • Pop-up, in-built guide number 13 flash
  • Weight: 800g (body only)
  • Size: 142 × 116 × 75mm