posted on Jun 14, 2009 at 6:28AM
Head-2-Head Review: Olympus E-30 vs. Canon EOS 50D
ConclusionBy Patrick Singleton
In short, this is a close comparison. That's the news in this review: Olympus has gotten competitive. Now we can say that someone who prefers the Olympus for subjective reasons -- handling, styling and so on -- can reasonably act on that preference.
There are users whose objective criteria would be better met by the E-30. Generally, they're the ones who are building a system and are most sensitive to weight and cost. Though the 50D and E-30 camera bodies weigh and cost about the same, that's not true of their lenses. Among the better-quality lenses, Olympus's offerings are somewhat less-expensive and significantly lighter.
The 50D is in the middle of a large range of Canon DSLRs. The 5D Mark II, the 1D Mark III and the 1Ds Mark III are all very appealing cameras with significant capabilities beyond the 50D's, while the 40D and the Rebel T1i and Rebel XSi are lower-cost alternatives. Our experience has been that the Rebel series cameras are not nearly as well-built as Canon's mid- and upper-range cameras. On the opposite side, the Olympus E-30 is clearly the company's best camera. The Olympus E-3 is supposed to be the company's top-end camera, but it offers lower resolution and older electronics. It has better dust seals, and should be a more durable camera, but it doesn't offer better shooting capabilities.
A fair number of photographers buy a first camera on a tight budget, with plans to get a more-capable one when they can afford it. These sorts of buyers should choose the 50D over the E-30, because Canon makes a selection of higher-end cameras that are faster, have higher-resolution, lower-noise, and are better-built. Their next camera is already on the market. In contrast, the E-30 is the best Olympus makes. Though the company has churned out a number of consumer DSLRs, the E-30 itself was long in coming, and there was a multi-year wait between the Olympus E-1 and E-3 (such a long wait that they didn't make an E-2). It's likely that Olympus's improvements will continue to be incremental. Olympus is married to the 4/3 format, a sensor size that is apparently responsible for some of the E-30's shortcomings – its noise and high-ISO performance in particular. Canon offers both APS-C and full-frame DSLRs, and many of the advantages of its more expensive cameras arise from their larger sensor sizes.