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Olympus have this
to say about the camera:
"The latest addition
to the Olympus E-System, the E-420, represents a winning formula for both
seasoned photographers and entrants to the D-SLR domain alike. Users benefit
from the remarkable quality only D-SLR photography can deliver, yet also
enjoy the ease of use usually only associated with a compact camera. This
includes Live View depictions on the LCD, which can significantly simplify
image composition. In addition, as one of the worlds smallest and
lightest D-SLRs, mobility is hardly an issue. The E-420 will fit just
about anywhere from a small daypack to a ladys handbag. This
makes it a perfect companion for journalists, travellers or other adventurers
who appreciate the one-of-a-kind portability, performance and value for
money it delivers. The easy-to-use 10.0 Megapixel E-420 features 28 shooting
modes to suit a multitude of photographic situations and is ready to use
straight out of the box."
You can find more information on their website.
The Camera: a
visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Canon
Powershot SX100 IS)
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Slightly better than average box contents - a large memory card would be nice. It's good to see a 2 year warranty, and the training DVD is very good, however a decent case, and a large memory card is highly recommended.
Menu system: The menu system can seem a litttle overwhelming at times, especially when you get to setup section 1 - this has so many options that the sub menus range from A through to H with each letter representing another menu! However, saying this, the camera does provide quick access to the most commonly used options on the screen without having to delve into the full menu system. For beginners the camera provides a number of scene modes that are very easy to access. The playback menu has some useful editing options, such as Shadow adjustment, redeye fix, cropping, resizing etc.
Picture Size / Quality: The camera lets you choose the image size (10mp to VGA), image compression (RAW, JPEG Super Fine, Fine, Normal, Basic), but unfortunately not the aspect ratio. Higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended, unless you're prepared to sacrifice image size or use higher compression options to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes and compression options.
Battery usage: The battery rating is 7.2v 1150mAh. I'm not sure what the official figures are for battery life, but I was able to take around 335 shots before the batteries went flat, using live view roughly 25% of the time, which is about average for a Digital SLR. Better battery life should be possible by avoiding the live view mode.
Memory cards: A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended. If you intend to take Fine JPEG images I would recommend, at a bare minimum, a 1gb memory card and preferably a 2gb memory card, or larger especially if you intend to take RAW images. The larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. You can use Compact Flash, Micro drive and xD picture cards (you can keep 1 Compact Flash card, and 1 XD memory card in the camera at the same time and switch between them whenever you feel like it, for example, if one is full). As the Olympus supports FAT32, it is compatible with the Hitachi 4gb Micro Drive. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Olympus E-420:
the latest prices for XD memory cards at Amazon UK: 1gb
2gb (2048mb): £13.
Speed: The camera is quick to switch on and take photos, from off, to taking a photo in 1.8 seconds. Focusing seemed quick, except in very low light - this takes a little longer to focus especially when using the telephoto end of the lens. The playback mode is very quick. The camera shutter response seemed instant when pre-focused responding in 0.1 seconds or less - and shot to shot time was very quick, with a delay of around 0.6 seconds between shots without flash. The flash recharge time was very quick allowing a shot to be taken every 0.7 seconds. Using continuous shooting mode with flash the performance was similar with a delay of 0.6 - 0.8 seconds between shots. The cameras menus seemed quick. Continuous shooting is excellent offering 3.5 fps for 8 frames at the highest resolution (RAW) until the buffer is full, or unlimited shooting at 3.5fps when set to Large JPEG Normal.
Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, especially in the AUTO mode and has a number of scene modes that helps get good shots. There is a simple built in guide that explains some of the options and settings, however, it would be good for beginners if this was expanded. The controls on the back of the camera are quite straightforward, and it's easy to switch modes using the clear mode dial. The menus are clear and responsive and are fairly easy to use although reference to the manual is recommended. The modes are fairly easy to access, mainly thanks to the large screen, and a lot of the options can be accessed using the buttons on the back. It's also easy to see when photos are in focus. In live view mode the screen can be used in bright sunlight, and the camera provides a preview of exposure compensation and white balance changes. The live view mode has a useful 7 or 10x magnification mode for manual focus, which is especially useful for still life or macro photography. The live view mode is much improved compared to previous versions, and shows you the subject at all times, with the screen only going blank while the photo is taken. The camera is provided with a DVD training video - this provides an excellent introduction and also provides useful information on how to get the best from the camera.
Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seem to be a lot of buttons but this allows easy access to the essential functions and features while you're composing your shot. The buttons feel okay, although some may find them small. The shutter release is good. The scroll wheel has been improved / redesigned, and has multiple functions for example: in play mode it's used to zoom in on your picture so you compare magnified sections of one image with the previous or next, making it simple to decide which shot is in focus. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically, and is now easier to hold with one hand thanks to the improved handgrip at the front (the hand grip extends further than the previous E-400, and E-410). The camera feels like a solid, robust and well built camera.
Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Olympus EVOLT E-420 Sample Photo Gallery!
Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is no red-eye in the photo. It has a good flash, and copes well with group photos, and there is no red-eye in group photos. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was kept low. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time in low-light, although struggled in very dark situations when using the telephoto end. There is an auto-focus flash - illuminator that can be used to help focus, however, this can be overly bright, and thankfully can be switched off. Using the vivid mode images are brighter with stronger saturation and colour.
ISO Noise Test: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels (ranging from ISO100 - ISO1600), and manual ISO settings (ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600).
Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops, viewable at 100%, from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 10 megapixel Nikon D40x, and 10 megapixel Canon EOS 400D. The Olympus E-420 was left on default settings (Noise Filter: Normal).
ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Nikon D40x on the left, Olympus E-420 in the middle, Canon EOS 400D on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.
Noise results: The Olympus EVOLT E-420 appears to have better results compared to the E-400, and E-510, with slightly less noise, whilst still maintaining very good detail. The camera has very useable images upto ISO800 - however when viewing ISO1600 images - noise is noticable and higher than expected for a Digital SLR. When compared to the Canon 400D and Nikon D40x, at ISO1600, the Olympus has more noise, and this is possibly one of the main drawbacks of choosing an Olympus DSLR. With the Canon and Nikon DSLR camera's you can happily use the full range of ISO settings (upto ISO1600) without fear of getting an un-useable image, with the Olympus it's a bit more risky. When testing the Olympus in very dark lighting, ISO1600 images had some colour banding, and I had to switch to ISO800 to get acceptable results - examples of this can be seen in the gallery. However, saying this, the Olympus gives extensive control over noise reduction, sharpening, and noise filter settings, so it is possible to choose optimum settings for different shooting settings, for example, outdoors in bright sunlight the noise filter can be set to low to ensure maximum detail.
Image Stabilisation: The Olympus lacks built in image stabilisation, so to avoid image blur you will need to increase the ISO setting, or use the digital image stabilisation (scene) mode, which automatically increases the ISO setting for you.
Shadow Adjustment Technology: "Shadow Adjustment Technology all but eradicates the problem of shadowy images." This feature brightens darker / shadow areas on an image to give an improved dynamic range, so that images are exposed correctly even when there is a wide range of brightness levels. Examples showing this switched off and on can be seen below.
As you can see - with this switched on, the second image is brighter, with darker areas being noticably brighter and has made the left building much brighter bringing out some additional detail and colour. This can be used in playback mode to brighten dark images. There is some additional noise noticable in the image. (You may need to adjust your screen brightness if both images appear dark).
Outside: The camera has quite rich, saturated colours (more so when set to Vivid mode), and exposure and auto white balance was very good. There was good detail, and the camera took a number of very pleasing images outside, with good contrast and very little or no chromatic aberations or purple fringing. In general jpeg artefacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrasts benefit from use of the highest quality setting. My only complaint is that images are slightly soft, and could do with sharpening, or alternatively setting the Noise filter to low produced sharper images.
Zoom: The standard kit lens provides a wide angle 3x optical zoom starting at 28mm equivalent which is great for 'normal' everyday photography, zooming to 84mm allowing photos of distant objects. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. Digital zoom is not available on this camera.
Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas as well as the lighter areas - exposure in other photos was generally very good. Vignetting was not noticed in these photos. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation (however it wasn't necessary in this instance). Images weren't as soft as some DSLR's, however, sharpness can be increased by setting the noise filter to low, or alternatively sharpening the image in Photoshop or similar photo editing program (an example of this is shown above - simply rollover the image with your mouse).
Lens noise and zoom: The lens makes very little noise, only making some noise while focusing. The lens gives you a potentially unlimited amount of steps between wide and telephoto due to the manual zoom ring - this gives very good control over how you frame your subject.
Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing / Chromatic aberration was very rarely seen, and when it was seen, levels were very low.
Macro Lens Performance:
Using the lens set to telephoto zoom, you are able to get a better macro photo - colour and detail is good, and there appears to be fairly low noise at ISO200. The lens / autofocus allows you to get roughly ~10cm away from the subject to the front of the lens using the 14-42mm kit lens. Setting the white balance manually helps achieve better results, and even better results will be possible with a dedicated macro lens.
Video mode: This camera, along with every other DSLR currently available, does not feature a video mode.
Summary: If you want to move into the world of Digital SLRs and don't know where to start then the Olympus EVOLT E-420 is probably one of the best cameras to choose - despite being Olympus' "budget" digital SLR - it is not overly limited in any way like some of the other budget Digital SLRs. The camera is available with many excellent Zuiko Digital kit lenses, one's that don't need replacing at the first possible opportunity. The camera has a large 2.7" sceen that works well in bright sunlight, anti-dust sensor, new live view auto focus mode with face detection and an extremely useful manual focus mode, one touch white balance, shadow adjustment technology, and an impressive 3.5fps continuous shooting mode until the card is full (when on the right setting). On top of all of this the camera delivers great images with great colour, saturation, detail, and better than average auto white balance (for a Digital SLR) - the only problem occurs when you need to use ISO1600 - where noise is more obvious than other SLRs. The camera is quick to use, and easy to use providing numerous scene modes. Given the excellent value for money this camera provides, and the extensive features, I'd highly recommend this camera!
What I like:
What I don't like:
Additional Test Images are viewable in the Olympus EVOLT E-420 Sample Photo Gallery.