Well, okay, maybe I got a bit carried away yesterday in trashing Art's filters in the new E-620. (I had fun, though. As Craig Ferguson says, amused myself, and that's half the battle.) But while I'm not against having fun with cameras, there are lots of good arguments against in-camera "Art" filters (I'll never be able to write that without quotation marks). Most of them have to do with the same arguments I have against in-camera JPEG processing in general, which is that if you start off with the best, deepest, most flexible file the camera can give you, then you can do anything you want with it after the fact without limiting yourself: you can make a highly saturated version and a high-contrast black-and-white version and a fuzzy vignetted version and a high-res version for printing and a severely compressed version for the web and so forth. It's one of the advantages of digital—no penalty for generational copies. Why toss that away by letting the camera do the processing?
Second, arbitrary "filters" like that have no integrity. They're mimicking the look of something they're not. For me, the entire charm of particular processes lies in the fact that the process makes the picture look the way it does. Mimickry has no integrity. Of course, if you don't mind pine boards painted to look like marble, vinyl printed to look like wood grain, plastic chrome-plated so it looks like metal, and on and on, then probably you will blithely accept digital files massaged to look like pinhole photographs and so forth. Not for me.
Finally, it has to do with the way I practice (and understand) photography. Photography is like fishing—you're only going to catch but so many keepers, and it's never going to be anything but a minuscule percentage of all the keepers out there. Was it Boubat who said something like "If I knew how to take a good picture, I'd do it every time"? You never know when you're going to take a good picture. If you've developed a way of looking at the world, if you have visual concerns, a visual taste of your own, a body of work that you're adding to one picture at a time—a body of work that needs to have its own internal consistency—then you just don't want to have the wrong camera with you or the wrong film in the camera when you're out working...or the wrong "film" in the camera, i.e., the wrong "Art" filter switched on. If you were out shooting and something magical happened to you and you took the best picture of your life, would you rather be shooting on raw or with some dumb goofy filter automatically applied to the file that makes a hokey fake-looking little JPEG out of it?
Maybe I'm misreading the way the camera works...maybe you can shoot on a "Raw + Stupid JPEG" mode, and then these arguments would be moot. I don't know. I haven't dug that far into the specifications. I know I don't want to shoot with visions of "Art" filters blinkering the way I see, I can say that much. But suit yourself.
Obviously, though, this has relatively little to do with the Olympus E-620, because you don't have to use the "Art" filters at all. The E-30 is a tasty-looking camera, and if the E-620 lives up to its considerable promise (I liked the E-510 quite a lot), then it'll be a winner. (I'd be super-tempted to use the Olympus system myself if it only offered the lens I need. I love the look of the files. The lack of lens options is the only thing that keeps that door shut to me. But it's shut tight. That's really just me.)
Brian Mosley passed along a great set of initial reactions written by the U.K. Photo Safari group after they got to pass the new camera around amongst themselves. (Brian himself seems to be of the opinion that Olympus has poured everything that's good about a number of its recent cameras into one model in the E-620.) Worth reading if you're interested in the camera.
ADDENDUM: It was Doisneau, not Boubat, and it does appear to be the case that "Art" filters can be shot as RAW+JPEG and not applied to the raw file. (Thanks to Miserere and marlof.) —MJ