Digital Camera Home > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus Digital Cameras > Olympus EVOLT E-300

Olympus EVOLT E-300

By: Shawn Barnett and Dave Etchells

8.0 megapixels, ZUIKO DIGITAL lens mount, digital SLR design, and loads of features!

<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): E-300 Imatest Results>>

E-300 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 11/08/2004, Updated: 03/12/2005

Digital Cameras - Olympus EVOLT E300 Test Images

 

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumbnail index page for the test shots. The data on this page includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with all that detail, we're posting the thumbnail index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

 

"Sunlit" Portrait:
(This is my new "Outdoor" Portrait test - read more about it here.)

High resolution and strong detail, with nearly accurate color. Contrast is slightly high, but pretty good detail in the highlights and shadows.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digital cameras, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the EVOLT E300 performed well here.

The shot at right was taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is just about average. This exposure left the midtones just slightly darker than I'd normally prefer, but the highlight detail was excellent. I settled on the E300's Auto white balance setting for the main series, though the camera's Daylight and Manual settings produced similar, nearly accurate color balances. I also shot with the camera's 4,800 Kelvin white balance setting, which in some ways looked a little better to me, but produced rather bluish-looking white values.

Marti's skin tones look very good here, although the blue flowers in the bouquet are dark and purplish. (Many digital cameras have trouble with this blue, which is in reality a fairly pure light navy.) Color looks good in the rest of the flower bouquet, with pretty good saturation as well. Resolution is very high, and detail is excellent in Marti's features, the flower bouquet, and even in the fabric background. Shadow detail is good, and image noise is low.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.7 EV, see files E3OUTAP0.HTM through E3OUTAP5.HTM on the thumbnail index page.


Contrast Series:
The E-300's contrast adjustment was very effective, doing a good job of taming the very harsh lighting of this shot.
Contrast Series
Very Low
Low
Normal
High
Very High


Saturation Series:
The saturation adjustment likewise covered a photographically useful range, with a reasonable step size.

Saturation Series
Very Low
Low
Normal
High
Very High



 

Closer Portrait:

Exceptional detail (slight back-focus though), good tonality given the harsh lighting.

Although the contrast is still a little high from the deliberately harsh lighting, the E-300's contrast setting did a good job of controlling the situation, set to its lowest value. The E-300 required more positive exposure compensation here (+1.0 EV) than this shot normally requires, but the resulting image looks pretty good. The camera captures exceptional detail here, but it appears that the lens back-focused slightly, as some parts of Marti's face are a little soft, and the plane of sharpest focus apepars to be somewhere around the middle of her head, judging from hair detail.

To view the exposure series from zero to +1.7 EV (note that the +0.3 and +0.7 EV examples were left out, to save server space), see files E30OUTFACAP0.HTM through E30OUTFACAP5.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Normal Flash
+0.7 EV
Slow-Sync Flash
+0.7 EV

Slight underexposure with the flash in the normal setting, though good exposure and color with the Slow-Sync mode (despite a slight orange cast).

The E300's built-in flash illuminated the subject fairly well with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, but the default exposure proved slightly dark. The color balance is slightly cool, and Marti's skin tone is a little cool and magenta. Though dark, colors in the flower bouquet looks pretty good, even if the blue flowers are a little dark and purplish. The camera's Slow-Sync flash setting produced better results, with more even lighting from the longer shutter speed and a more natural color balance. Though the background incandescent lighting resulted in an orange cast, the results were still more appealing. I again found the best results with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV in the normal flash mode, see files E300INFP0.HTM through E300INFP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

To view the same exposure series in the Slow-Sync flash mode, see files E300INFSP0.HTM through E300INFSP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance
2,700 Kelvin White Balance

Slight color casts with each white balance setting tested, higher than average exposure compensation required.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting, and the E300 did produce slight color casts with each setting I tried. The E300's Manual white balance setting produced the best results here, though overall color is slightly greenish. The Auto setting resulted in a warm cast, while the Incandescent setting resulted in a slight pink tint. I also shot with the 2,700 Kelvin setting, which resulted in a cool, magenta cast. (2800 or 2900K would have been better, but it's very good news that the eVolt's Kelvin white balance extends this far down the scale. - Most cameras, even d-SLRs don't go down far enough to handle household incandescent lighting.) With the Manual white balance, Marti's skin tone looks pretty good, though the blue flowers are very purplish (almost to be expected with this shot). The main shot was taken with a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is higher than average.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files E300INMP0.HTM through E300INMP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

ISO Series:
Noise in the E300's images is generally slightly higher than in competing digital SLRs (I compared these images with ones from the Canon Digital Rebel and Nikon D70), but not as much higher as I would have expected, given the significantly smaller sensor size and increased pixel count. Even at ISO 400, noise is very low and subject detail very strong. At ISO 800, noise increases quite a bit, and takes another significant step upward at ISO 1600. The good news though, is that the grain pattern of the noise is fairly small and tight, and Olympus also thankfully doesn't smudge-out the subject detail in an attempt to knock down the noise.

ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600



 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Warm color and a slightly dark exposure, but very high resolution and strong detail.

Despite a slight warm, reddish cast, I chose the E300's Auto setting as the most accurate overall, based on the white value of the house trim. The Daylight setting resulted in a stronger warm cast, while the Manual setting produced cooler results. Consistent with other shots where a prominent highlight (the white paint on the bay window) occupies a fairly small portion of the total frame, the exposure is slightly dark with the default setting. Resolution is very high, and detail is strong in the tree limbs, front shrubbery, and house front. (Note that cameras like the EVOLT E300 are capable of picking up more detail than the poster has in it, even though it was created from a 4x5-inch negative shot with a tack sharp lens.)



 

Far-Field Test

High resolution and strong detail, but a dark exposure. Fairly good dynamic range, however.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the E300 performed well in this regard. The leaf patterns and tree bark in the front shrubbery and in the tree limbs above the roof show a lot of fine detail, as do the brick pattern on the house front and the dangling "icicle" Christmas lights. Details are well-defined, though they appear slightly soft overall. The camera captures a moderate amount of detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, which is a trouble spot for many digital cameras. Detail is also moderate in the shadow area above the front door, and the overall exposure is dark.

This shot shows an exposure problem we consistently experienced with the eVolt, namely that it tended to over-react to strong highlights in images, even when those highlights occupied relatively small portions of the total frame area. It seemed to try to always preserve detail in the highlights, even if doing so resulted in a significant underexposure of the image as a whole. Many pros would prefer this sort of exposure bias, as it insures that important highlight detail won't be lost accidentally, and pros are accustomed to adjusting tonal balance on every shot anyway. Most amateurs will find this tendency annoying, as it means that a lot of shots will end up underexposed and require either post processing or a fair bit of fiddling with the exposure compensation controls to correct for it at the time of capture. In shooting with the eVolt under a wide variety of conditions, we also found this effect to be somewhat unpredictable, as we often weren't able to reliably guess how the camera would respond to scenes with varying amounts of strong highlight in them.

The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, contrast, saturation, gradation, and color effects series.

Resolution Series:

Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
"Economy"
JPEG
3,264 x 2,448
E300FAR3264F
E300FAR3264N
E300FAR3264E
3,200 x 2,400
E300FAR3200
-
2,560 x 1,920
E300FAR2560
-
1,600 x 1,200
E300FAR1600
-
1,280 x 960
E300FAR1280
-
1,024 x 768
E300FAR1024
-
640 x 480
E300FAR0640
-


ISO Series:
Here again, slightly higher noise than average for digital SLRs of its class, but actually not as high as I'd expected.

ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600


Sharpness Series:
The E-300's in-camera sharpening works quite well. The lowest setting produces images that take strong/tight unsharp masking in Adobe Photoshop very well (try 0.4 pixel radius, 300%), the highest setting would match the needs of inkjet printing quite well, and the default is a good compromise between the two.

Sharpness Series
Very Soft
Soft
Normal
Hard Very Hard


Contrast Series:
Once again, a good range of contrast adjustment, in good-sized steps.

Contrast Series
Lowest
Low
Normal
High
Highest


Saturation Series:
Ditto for saturation, a good range and good step size.

Saturation Series
Lowest
Low
Normal
High
Highest


Gradation Series:
This is quite interesting. "High Key" does a lot to mitigate the effect of the exposure system's overly sensitive reaction to strong highlights, but it would be helpful to have two more steps in this scale, giving a smaller step size across the same total range.

Gradation Series
Low Key
Normal
High Key


Color Effects Series:

Color Effects Series
Normal Color
Black & White
Sepia



 

Lens Zoom Range

A 3.2x zoom range with the "kit" lens.

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto, and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. However, the E300 features an interchangeable lens mount, which accommodates the range of ZUIKO lenses from Olympus, so "zoom ratio" doesn't really apply to it. Most users will initially purchase the camera with the 14-45mm "kit" lens though, so I shot the following with that lens as an example of its coverage. Allowing for the eVolt's 2x focal length multiplier ratio, this lens corresponds to a 28-90mm lens on a 35mm camera, a pretty good wide angle to a modest telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
Telephoto



 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Warm color, but high resolution and strong detail.

This shot is often a tough test for digital cameras, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. Both the E300's Auto and Daylight settings produced warm, slightly red color balances, while the Manual setting produced a cooler, more magenta cast. I preferred the warmer skin tones of the Auto and Daylight settings, so I stuck with Auto for the main shot. The warm cast creates strong purplish tints in the blue background and robe. Resolution is very high, and detail is strong in the models' accessories and instruments. The embroidered bird wings on the blue robe also show a lot of fine detail. (The original data file for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras like the E300 are capable of showing more detail than the poster has in it.)



 

Macro Shot
Standard Macro Shot
Macro with Flash

About average macro performance with the "kit" lens, but high resolution. The flash throttled down a bit too much, likely fooled by a reflection from the brooch.

The 14-45mm "kit" lens that's bundled with the E-300 turned in about an average performance in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 4.39 x 3.30 inches (112 x 84 millimeters). Color is pink from the Auto white balance setting, but resolution is very high, showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. Details are softer on the coins and brooch due to the close shooting range, however. Details soften toward the corners of the frame, but are fairly sharp on the dollar bill. (Most digital cameras produce images with soft corners when shooting in their Macro modes.) The E300's flash throttled down a little too well for the macro area, as the exposure is slightly dark, despite a bright reflection on the brooch.



 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Slight magenta color cast and slightly underexposed, but still pretty good results overall.

Though the large white color block and mini-resolution target are slightly magenta, the E300's Manual white balance setting produced the best results here, as the Auto and Daylight settings were both warm. Exposure looks good, just a slight bit underexposed, and the E300 distinguishes the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target well. Aside from the magenta color cast, the large color blocks look good, although the cyan is shifted toward blue, the blues toward purple a bit, and the yellow block is a bit undersaturated. The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows good detail, with moderately low noise.



Now, for the REAL technoids, Imatest!

I've recently begun using Norman Koren's excellent "Imatest" analysis program for quantitative, thoroughly objective analysis of digicam test images. For those interested, I've prepared a page summarizing what Imatest showed me about the eVolt E-300's images.

The results in the tests below mirror those seen above in other test shots. The test series are repeated here without further comment, for the benefit of our more quantitatively-oriented readers.


ISO Series:

ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600


Saturation Series:

Saturation Series
Lowest
Low
Normal
High
Highest


Contrast Series:

Contrast Series
Lowest
Low
Normal
High
Highest


Color Series:

Color Series
Normal Color
Black & White
Sepia



 

Low-Light Tests

Good low-light performance. Pinkish color casts, but generally pretty low noise. Fairly good low-light autofocus capability.

The E300 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test at all of the ISO settings (though you might argue that images were just slightly dim at the lower ISOs). Color balance was pinkish with the Auto white balance setting, and warmed slightly depending on the exposure. Noise was generally low, and even fairly low at the higher ISO settings. Though image noise was high at ISOs 800 and 1,600, the grain pattern is fine and tight. The camera's Noise Reduction setting did a good job of suppressing bright pixel noise, though the pattern of the noise looked about the same with and without Noise Reduction enabled.

Low-light autofocus performance was modest, with the camera able to focus on a high-contrast target down to just over 1/4 foot-candle (about 3 lux) with the AF-assist light turned off, and in complete darkness (on nearby objects) with the AF light on.

Since city street-lighting at night generally corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, the E300 should do pretty well for after-dark photography in typical outdoor settings. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16fc
No NR
ISO
100
Click to see E300LL0103.JPG
2.5 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0104.JPG
5 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0105.JPG
13 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0106.JPG
25 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0107.JPG
30 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0107XNR.JPG
30 sec
f3.5
ISO
200
Click to see E300LL0203.JPG
1.3 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0204.JPG
2.5 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0205.JPG
6 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0206.JPG
13 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0207.JPG
20 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0207XNR.JPG
20 sec
f3.5
ISO
400
Click to see E300LL0403.JPG
1/1 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0404.JPG
1.3 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0405.JPG
3.2 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0406.JPG
6 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0407.JPG
10 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0407XNR.JPG
10 sec
f3.5
ISO
800
Click to see E300LL0803.JPG
1/3 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0804.JPG
1/1 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0805.JPG
1.6 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0806.JPG
3.2 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0807.JPG
5 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL0807XNR.JPG
5 sec
f3.5
ISO
1600
Click to see E300LL1603.JPG
1/6 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL1604.JPG
1/3 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL1605.JPG
1/1 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL1606.JPG
1.6 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL1607.JPG
2.5 sec
f3.5
Click to see E300LL1607XNR.JPG
2.5 sec
f3.5



 

Flash Range Test

A slightly weak flash, bright results to about nine feet, with falloff from there.

In my testing, the E300's flash weakly illuminated the test target at 14 feet, and showed decreasing intensity from the 10-foot distance on. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see E300FL08.JPG
1/80 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E300FL09.JPG
1/80 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E300FL10.JPG
1/80 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E300FL11.JPG
1/80 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E300FL12.JPG
1/80 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E300FL13.JPG
1/80 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E300FL14.JPG
1/80 sec
f5.6
ISO 100



 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

High resolution, 1,600 lines of "strong detail." Slightly high barrel distortion at wide angle with the "kit" lens. Low chromatic aberration and good sharpness in the corners.

The E300 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It didn't start showing artifacts in the test patterns until resolutions as low as 1,200 lines per picture height, in both directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,600 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 2,000 lines (but even there, some detail is still visible).

Using its "MTF 50" numbers, which correlate best with visual sharpness, Imatest showed an average uncorrected resolution of 1740 LW/PH, and a resolution of 1385 LW/PH when normalized to a standard 1-pixel sharpening. The first number is quite high, but appears to be the result of some oversharpening in the camera. The corrected number is decent, but a little on the low side for a camera with an 8-megapixel CCD.

Geometric distortion on the E300 will depend on the lens in use. However, shooting with the 14-45mm "kit" lens, I measured approximately 0.9 percent barrel distortion at wide angle, a little on the high side. The telephoto end fared quite a bit better, as I measured only 0.1 percent barrel distortion at that focal length. Chromatic aberration was quite low, as I found only slight coloration around objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.

Resolution Series, medium focal length
Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
3,264 x 2,448
E300RES3264F
E300RES3264N
3,200 x 2,400
E300RES3200
-
2,560 x 1,920
E300RES2560
-
1,600 x 1,200
E300RES1600
-
1,280 x 960
E300RES1280
-
1,024 x 768
E300RES1024
-
640 x 480
E300RES0640
-


 

Resolution Test, Zoom Series
3,264 x 2,448
(Fine,
Wide Angle)
E300RESW
3,264 x 2,448
(Fine,
Telephoto)
E300REST


Sharpness Series:

Sharpness Series
Very Soft
Soft
Normal
Hard Very Hard

 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

A pretty accurate viewfinder, just a little tight.

The E300's digital SLR viewfinder is fairly accurate, though a little tight, showing about 93 percent of the final image area at wide angle, and about 95 percent at telephoto. Given that I like digital SLRs to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the E300's viewfinder has just a little room for improvement here. (In fairness, most SLR viewfinders are actually about 95% accurate. Only very high-end models seem to provide true 100% viewfinder accuracy.) Flash distribution is a little uneven at wide angle, with some falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform, with only slight falloff in the corners.




Reader Comments! --> Visit our discussion forum for the Olympus EVOLT E-300!



<<Reference: Datasheet | E-300 Imatest Results>>

Follow Imaging Resource:

Purchase memory card for Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 digital camera
Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate