Olympus have announced earlier than expected that it will be releasing a mid-range Four Thirds DSLR early next year.

The E30 will sit between the entry-level E520 and the professional E3, with features that will appeal to both beginners and higher level photographers.

The basic specs that have been released put it down as a 12.3-megapixel camera, with the faster, more accurate 11-point autofocus performance that you find in the E3, as well as an electronic level to ensure straight shots and image stabilisation built into the sensor rather than the lens.

Features more targetted at the beginners include face detection and live visual effects.

As mentioned, the camera is based on the Four Thirds standard and shoots at ISO 100 to 3200, at speeds of up to 5fps. It features a swivelling LCD which means you can set shots up without needing to be at the viewfinder - which is great for timed group shots that you want to get in to.

Olympus discussed an upcoming prototype at Photokina, but it seems it has thrown caution to the wind and accelerated its plans to release the camera.

It is set to be released in January, when a body-only version of the camera will sell for $1,299 (about £810), while an upgraded 14-54mm f2.8-3.5 Zuiko lens is expected to follow for $599 (around £375). The lens will add a better contrast autofocus mode response as well as improved performance with both short-range images and shallow depth of field.

We'll get you more details on the release when we get them.