Kodak used two sensors in its EasyShare V570 to enable its ultrawide second lens. Olympus puts a second sensor to better use with its Evolt E-330 -- providing its digital SLR with a live preview, just like those in standard point-and-shoot cameras. Though the LCD certainly can't replace the viewfinder for most shooting, it turns out to be quite useful to have around. Aside from that innovation, the 7.5-megapixel E-330 is a decent, feature-packed, solidly built model, albeit with a few flaws.
Opting for Olympus's f/2.8-to-f/3.5 14mm-to-54mm (28mm-to-108mm equivalent) lens rather than the f/3.5-to-f/5.6 14mm-to-45mm (28mm-to-90mm equivalent) that ships with the kit version makes this a more expensive -- but ultimately more rewarding -- proposition.
The Olympus Evolt E-330's body duplicates that of its predecessor, the E-300, with a slightly more compact version of the same solid, tanklike design and construction. It's not the most stylish dSLR I've seen -- and at 624g, hardly the lightest -- but I'm not recommending it as a fashion accessory. From a strictly functional viewpoint, everything is where it should be -- all the controls, buttons and dials fall beneath the thumbs and the right forefinger, without requiring contortions. A rubberised grip covers the right flank of its plastic-and-aluminium body, providing a comfortable hold that afforded relatively stable one-handed shooting at times.
A variety of direct controls populate the back of the camera, including an autofocus/autoexposure lock button, and also controls for metering mode selection, white balance, ISO sensitivity, continuous-shooting modes and the self-timer. The OK button brings up an onscreen control panel for adjusting multiple settings in a single view, including the aforementioned functions as well as flash compensation, colour-space selection and compression/resolution combination choices.
A minor quibble -- Olympus outfits the viewfinder with a big, comfy eyecup, though I frequently found my right cheek left prints on the LCD. More significant, Olympus wastes the opportunity to provide explanations within the menu interface. Though the scene modes have a bit of text to explain their functions, it would have been even more useful for the hard-core menu settings, such as the baffling Gradation, with its High Key and Low Key options (this shifts the tonal range to compensate for extremely bright or dim subjects).
Olympus manages to pack both sophisticated and novice-level capabilities into the Evolt E-330 -- from a feature perspective, it really strikes me as a great tool for learning photography.
For beginners, it offers a boatload of scene modes, including less common ones such as Underwater Wide and Macro, Sunset and High/Low Key. In fact, because of the LCD preview, you can use the Olympus Evolt E-330 just like an overgrown -- and overpriced -- point-and-shoot model with interchangeable lenses. Mid-range shooters have all the manual controls expected on a dSLR -- shutter speeds between 8 minutes and 1/4,000 second; ISO speeds ranging from 100 to 1,600; exposure compensation to plus or minus five stops; three types of 2 per cent spot, centre-weighted and evaluative (Olympus's Digital ESP) metering schemes; three-point autofocus; and automatic and manual settings for white balance, as well as seven presets.