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The problem with digital cameras is that by the time you get used to them they have been superseded by the next generation of digital wonders. This is the case with the E-300 from Olympus, which is now being phased out for the E-500. The benefit, the street price has dropped considerably, so there are real bargains to be had for what is a relatively advanced piece of equipment.
The E-300 is Olympus's second digital SLR (single-lens reflex). So, how does it compare with its competitors in terms of specification? At eight million pixels it stacks up well against its rivals from Nikon and Canon in this price category. When it comes to functions the E-300 follows the similar menu format found on Olympus's compact range, so anyone who is familiar with these will get to grips with the SLR fairly quickly. You get the usual array of automatic features, but like many other photographers, I choose to shoot in manual mode, which this camera allows you to do with ease. There is a built-in light meter that is displayed on the screen at the back, making it easy to judge your exposure, although I would have also preferred it to be displayed in the viewfinder as well. However, the greatest advantage this camera has over compact cameras is that the shutter delay is almost negligible. When you press the shutter it takes the picture about one tenth of a second later, compared to anything up to two seconds with a 'point and shoot'. Olympus manufactures a good range of lenses and I chose the 14-45mm zoom, which is a good all-rounder. It's a bit slow at f3.5-f5.6, but the cost is on a par with similar offerings in the market place. There is also a wider 11-22mm zoom, 8mm fisheye and 50mm macro lens available. Olympus has also chosen to use its own flash-connection system rather than the industry standard five-pin Nikonos style, so my strobes wouldn't fit, although I choose to shot natural light.
Back at home, I found that the camera requires you to load the supplied software onto your computer in order to download the images. Not wishing to have yet another camera's software cluttering up my hard drive, I chose to use a card reader and imported them without any problems. The image quality is good - not outstanding, but on a par with my previously owned Nikon D100. Considering the price tag, you get an excellent image for your money. Who is this system aimed at? I would say it fills an important gap in between the consumer market and the semi professional market such as the Nikon D70.