Perhaps Olympus should have called it 'The Morph' because that's what the E-30 is: it's the perfect morph between the Olympus E-520 and the company's top-end E-3 professional model.

The E-30 shares many of the E-3's key features at a price more suited to these straightened times.

Dominating the back of the body is a 2.7-inch LCD that swivels and twists in almost any direction; when used with the Live View mode, it's the perfect way to get low, creative shots.

Bigger LCD

The LCD is a bit larger than the E-3's but the same resolution. The general control layout is similar to the E-3, except for a large mode dial which includes settings for the E-30's new art filters. A large LCD status panel sits on the E-30's top-plate, next to a bright pentaprism viewfinder, and two thumbwheels provide control settings.

Everything is beautifully screwed together but if we have one complaint it's the small power switch that might have been better placed near the shutter release.

The E-30 is a bit of a surprise when you pick it up; it's heavier than you might imagine but this is a camera that's been built to pro standards and although it isn't as splash-proof as the E-3, it's still a serious piece of kit that doesn't feel mass produced or plasticky in any way.

True colours

At the heart of the E-30 is a new 12.3MP Live MOS image sensor from Panasonic. The sensor produces excellent colours, thanks to the True Pic III+ image processor.

Okay, so the noise levels are still not quite as good as those from DSLRs with larger sensors, but Olympus has cleverly managed to make any noise appear almost like film grain and it's the combination of great colour and grain that makes the E-30's images appealing.

If you're the type of photographer who pixel peeps and dreams of producing mural-sized prints, then you may not be happy with the E-30 – or any Four-Thirds design, for that matter. However, if you really enjoy taking creative photos, then the E-30 will delight; it'll certainly please Olympus owners looking to upgrade.

Art filters

Built into the E-30 is a series of art filters that Olympus claims will extend the user's creativity. These effects aren't designed to replace post processing in Photoshop but they're there for people who want to take, say, soft focus, grainy or pin-hole images in-situ.

A few other effects are included, and as much as the purists will sneer at them, they're pretty good and well worth experimenting with.

The E-30 can also produce multiple exposures 'in camera' and even offers the choice of nine different aspect ratios. This all adds up to a feeling that Olympus has really tried hard to provide something extra that's a bit different for those who want to take their photography to the next creative level.

Quality lens

Olympus will also be shipping the E-30 with the new Zuiko 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II zoom for around £1,200. With the E-30's 11-point biaxial autofocus, the lens is a highly competent performer, capable of producing some really punchy shots.

There are heaps of other features on board this innovative DSLR, including CCD image stabilisation, a highly effective dust-removal system and wireless lash control for up to three lash guns. There's even a handy digital spirit level in order to make sure that your landscape shots are straight.

It's fair to say that the E-30 has just about everything you'd ever want from a DSLR, bar the proverbial kitchen sink. Mind you, we wouldn't be surprised if Olympus plans on including one of those in the next version...

Via PhotoRadar