posted on Jun 14, 2009 at 6:28AM
Head-2-Head Review: Olympus E-30 vs. Canon EOS 50D
Live ViewBy Patrick Singleton
The debilitating image lag in earlier systems, and the minor phenomenon in the E-30, indicate just how demanding live view is: it takes an awful lot of real-time data processing. Both cameras are taxed to their limits by focusing in live view. Focus is much slower in live mode than in normal mode. In very low light, you can count to ten in the time it takes either camera to focus. In moderate light, we shot a scene where the E-30 was clearly faster at focusing. Because we were using a faster lens on the Olympus, we're not sure if the advantage was in the lens or the camera itself.
Both cameras can enlarge the live view image. The 50D offers two steps of magnification. The E-30 offers a single, very high magnification. Both cameras offer focusing options, focusing from the image sensor data, or flipping the mirror down and using the conventional focus sensor in the optical viewfinder. The conventional focus sensor is faster on both cameras, and works in low light. Unfortunately, the systems are still slow because the cameras' reflex mirrors have to fall into place before the AF sensors can work.
Both the E-30 and the 50D offer face detection autofocus in live view mode. The systems work, but slowly. Face detection is impressive, but given that it's not fast enough for moving subjects, it adds only limited functionality to the cameras.
We shoot weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, so our special interest in live view is for shots on crowded dance floors, the Hora, and when people are lifted up on chairs. You have to hold the camera over your head to get those shots, and live view aids in framing. For this use, speed is important. Though the view doesn't lag much on either of these cameras, focusing does, and that's a limitation. Even in manual focus mode, live view increases shutter lag. If we shot an event with either of these cameras, we'd use live view for dance shots, but we'd have to fight with the shutter delay, and we'd probably pre-focus manually. Photographers who shoot static subjects from a tripod would probably be satisfied with either live view system.
Both cameras offer manual focus in live view, and can display a magnified portion of the scene. The Canon can display 5x or 10x magnification as well as the full frame, and the Olympus can show 5x, 7x and 10x as well as the whole scene. Both cameras allow the user to scroll around the frame to check focus in various spots without moving the camera.
Olympus adds a quirky feature to its live view implementation: a multi-view option to see four versions of the scene with either exposure bracketing or various white balance settings. It's quirky, rather than fantastic, because it leaves the user to judge color and exposure on the camera LCD, and on very small patches of the LCD at that. In-camera histograms can be hard to read, but we'd like to see manufacturers make them, and other numerical image data, more accessible on cameras. Judging images on the LCD under varying ambient lighting is problematic. Olympus, which has always seemed to wear its engineering on its sleeve, might want to lead the way in displaying numeric values for color on-camera – we'd love to see something like Photoshop's eyedropper tool on a camera's LCD.