Pressing the OK button centred in the four-way navigation switches brings up the 'super control panel' on the LCD. You can access almost every setting through the display. Some not previously mentioned include sharpness, saturation, contrast and gradation (normal, low key and high key), plus the picture mode presets (and custom settings) that encompass those; white balance, which includes manual tweaking along amber/blue and green/magenta sliders; and flash compensation and intensity.
Toggling the display using the info button brings up a pair of digital levels which show pitch (forward/backward) and roll (z-axis rotation) information. The roll display can appear in the viewfinder as well.
At the bottom, beneath the power switch, sits the IS button, which controls the sensor-shift stabiliser mode. In addition to a mode for horizontal panning, the E-30 also has a mode for vertical panning. This model also introduces an interesting multiple-exposure mode.
Right in the middle of the camera's back is the flip-and-twist 230,000-dot, 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD. Although it's smaller than the 76mm (3-inch) versions on most competitors, we'd gladly exchange that screen real estate for the flexibility of the articulated LCD.
Otherwise, the display is pretty typical -- bright enough for viewing under a variety of lighting conditions, but not accurate enough to make serious decisions about colour or exposure tweaks.
The viewfinder is pretty good as well. It's large and bright, and, while it doesn't offer 100 per cent coverage, it comes pretty close, at 98 per cent -- better than the 50D's 95 per cent and the D90's 96 per cent.
One last notable feature is the dual-card slots: one CompactFlash and one xD-Picture card.
The E-30 certainly includes all the essential features -- and then some -- that you'd expect in a camera of its class. In addition, Olympus has thrown its new art filters presets into the mix, with a set of six effects -- pop art, soft focus, pale and light, grainy film, light tone and pin hole -- that the E-30 applies during shooting.
In theory, we can understand how applying the effects at shot time, where they can simultaneously compensate exposure, white balance and so on, can help produce a better result than applying effects afterwards in software. And in practice, they're fun to use. Since you can shoot JPEG plus an untouched raw image simultaneously, you can feel free to experiment -- sort of.
Unfortunately, there are just a few too many drawbacks to keep this from being more than a now-and-again novelty. It's a fully automatic mode, so you can't set shutter speed, aperture or even ISO, which limits the desire to experiment. (Yes, you've got the raw file, but, if it's shot at ISO 800, it may not do you much good.) Nor can you modify any of the parameters for the effects, such as amount of grain in grainy film or colour saturation in pop art. We hope Olympus adds some flexibility to this feature in future implementations.
Given their internal similarities, it's no wonder that the E-30's performance in our tests matches -- and in some ways surpasses -- the E-3's. While its time of 0.7 seconds from power on to first shot beats the E-3's, the E-3 is oddly slow to start up, and the E-30 is still slower than the rest of the competition.
As with the E-3, however, it seems as if a fast AF system helps deliver best-in-class single-shot performance in both bright and dim light: 0.3 seconds and 0.7 seconds, respectively. That low-light performance is an average, though. The E-30 displays significant variability in its low-light focus speed, and, in the field, we frequently found ourselves waiting as the lens loudly ratcheted through its iterative focus search.
Its 0.6 seconds raw shot-to-shot time (JPEG is slightly faster) is about the same as the typical Nikon mid-range dSLR, but slightly slower than Canon's. Its 4.9 frames per second continuous-shooting rate is more than adequate for non-sports shooters, and, as you'd expect, it falls right in the middle between its more- and less-expensive competitors.