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Product Review: Page (1) of 2 - 09/20/08 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook
Olympus DSLR E-420
New Olympus camera is tiny, light and takes great photos
By Robert Jensen

Founded in 1919, Olympus has been one of the 'Big 5' camera manufacturers in the US since the late 50's introduction of its very popular half frame film camera the Olympus Pen. Some of its other well known film cameras were the Olympus RC (one of my favorite rangefinder cameras), the legendary OM-1, (introduced in 1973) at the time the smallest, lightest full frame SLR camera on the market. It instantly created a fan market for small, easier to carry SLR's. It also featured a rugged shutter rated at 100,000 cycles, which has been the high water mark for shutter durability until very recently. The OM-1 also featured an interchangeable focusing screen and a number of other breakthrough features for its size and price point.

Following the OM-1 was, of course, the OM-2 in 1975. The OM-2 featured aperture preferred automatic exposure and the worlds first Through The Lens (TTL) direct metering of light bouncing back off the actual surface of the film, metering during the exposure itself! This was a huge breakthrough since it meant that any sudden light changes during your exposure, say while panning with a race car that went from sunlight to shadow during the exposure, the camera would compensate and you'd get a properly exposed image.

Other highly thought of cameras were the OM-4 (1983), which was capable of recording up to 8 spot meter readings of a scene and displaying the information on a LCD display. These were small and light but still meant for heavy, everyday use by professional photographers. The OM-10 (1979), meant for mass marketing to the beginner photographers. Then Olympus hit us with the XA, one of the first small, pocket-sized 35mm cameras. The XA series of cameras sold like hotcakes, I must have sold a few thousand of them myself, and it seemed like everyone wanted one for years after they hit the market. Olympus even entered the high fashion/design arena with their O-Product and to a lesser extent their synth-leather wrapped LT camera in the late 80's early 90's. The last piece of Olympus history I'll mention is the Stylus (1991) which sold over 5 million cameras, marking it as another desirable product by the general public.



Olympus has made the small, light and easy to carry camera one of their hallmarks.

Lets jump ahead now to 2008 and Olympus's idea to introduce in March a new camera that would be the smallest, lightest DSLR on the market - the E-420.

The E-420 is a modern digital camera with a couple of styling touches that bring back memories of the company's film cameras. It features a 10 megapixel Four Thirds sensor (which is a standard sensor size used by many digital camera manufacturers measuring 17.3mm x 13mm compared to the larger APS-C sensor which is 15.8mmx23.6mm or full frame sensor at 36.0mm x 23.9mm ).

A feature found on many other cameras but very well implemented on the 420 is Live View. Live View is extremely easy to turn on or off with a simple press of a well placed button on the rear of the camera. Olympus has also thrown in a magnifying feature to help you focus in Live View.

The 420 has a dust reduction system, records onto Compact Flash cards (a surprising find on such a small camera) or xD Picture Cards in its second slot. It records in 12-bit RAW, JPEG or RAW+JPEG (with various sizes and combinations of image formats), and shows about 95% of the actual image (higher viewfinder magnification numbers are only found on expensive pro cameras, besides I like having a bit of leeway and composing my images right up to the edge of the frame and still knowing I have a bit of extra space for safety sake).

TIP: Live View shows you 100% of the image.

Another surprise in this camera is Face Detection Technology that can detect up to 8 faces in the scene and adjust itself for best focus. Yet another plus is built-in Shadow Adjustment Technology that helps the photographer capture highlight detail without letting details in the shadows disappear like they would tend to do otherwise.

A 'Must Have' in any camera is some sort of Image Stabilization and the 420 has it built into the camera body so that you don't have to buy specialized lenses with image stabilization built in. Good features abound on this camera and another one worth mentioning is the Perfect Shot Preview - which shows you a preview of your shot, effects and all, BEFORE you take the picture.


One of my favorite features of the 420 is the rear LCD panel. First, it displays just about every piece of information a photographer could want all in one place. Then, with a touch of a couple of buttons I can change over a dozen settings very quickly and intuitively. A big thumbs up to Olympus designers! 

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