Friday, September 18, 2009

Olympus E-410 + 14-42mm challenge :)

:-) I guess summer trends are not so sitting-in-front-of-computer with blogging-tweeting-crawling through the internet in Northern Countries :-) The Fall sounds much better :-) Lazy afternoons, short days, endless nights with favorite music - why not to write an article or two time by time when there's even not light enough to do something outside? :-)

(Click to the images for bigger size, they're mainly 800-900 pixels wide/high, so you can see some more details).

Short after the D700 test I found myself thinking about the "new toy" for summer - I never had tried any Oly(mpus) for a longer period, so this time the roads crossed with a tiny (okay, todays small "micro" 4/3-s are smaller) olympus E-410. How did it feel, in a word? Good! For its price :P I picked up one used paying approximately $200 for it (14-42 was included).

First emotion having the small oly in my (small) hands - it's not big at all! Compared with the (relatively) big D700, both in therms of size, weight and price :P (I think the price difference is about 10 times, whether it is new or used unit.. the weight difference is perhaps not so giant, perhaps Nikon D700 weighting approximately tow E410-s).

Besides tons of other differences between these units, one of the most obvious difference is the sensor size - this is also probably the main reason I wanted to try the 4/3 system - I wanted to know HOW good/bad the sensor actually is, in different (light) conditions. Just for reference, E-410 was released somewhere at spring 2007 - this is more than 2 years ago: today the latest 4/3 cameras (E-30, Panasonic GF/GH-s) have far better sensors than the one used at 410). Olympus is widely known for its high quality optics as well, so whenever someone has been loyal to Olympus brand in the previous decades, the bunch of lens collected at the photo shelf might be well worth considering continuing the adventure with having a nice olympus body in addition to the old traditional film one.

The build quality is relatively good. No plastic nigs-nags, the small body feels solid and thick. The lack of solid handgrip can at a glance be considered as disadvantage, however this is something one can get used to, relatively quickly. The whole E-410 concept can definitely be considered as something very compact - add the new "pancake" (some newer 420-s ship with 25mm pancake lens) lens here, and there it may fit some pockets! :-) Not a shirt-pocket, though.

One thing that you might instantly notice, after downloading the files to your computer and reviewing them after that, is that the images are pretty much "cube" like - this is due to the 4:3 aspect ration, which is a step closer to a "cube" than traditional 3:2 aspect ratio image. I guess coming from 4:3 the traditional 3:2 may look like a panorama? ..

I'd say the capability of the sensor was exactly near to what I was expecting. Almost as good in terms of sensitivity, as the bigger old CCD sensors at Nikon D70/D80, but not having as much dynamic range, which is also very logical because of the small size of the 4/3 sensor. So the quality is better than the best compact in the market, but far from the quality of latest entry-level DSLRs (Nikon D5000, Canon 500D, etc). To get the most out of the camera, of course it is a good idea to shoot RAW - you just get more color data this way, so less blown highlights and burned blacks.

Any downsides as well? Yes. The LCD screen is not the best out there. Even the old 2.5" 230,000 dots (Canon 5D, Nikon D80) screens are better. I'm not sure about the resolution with 410, but the viewing angles are bad, and the screen contrast is very, very bad. In it's class (2,5 low resolution LCD-s), one of the best LCD screens I've seen is at Pentax K10D (I guess samsung has developed it - it really outperforms the competitors screens - good viewing angles, good colors and contrast, also very sharp, though has the same 230k dots). If you have seen the new 3,0+ 920k screens, this 410-s screen is definitely not something you'd like to dream about.. The speed of the camera was not great as well. Relatively slow autofocus, file recording time and speed of use in general. But again, when you look at the price, the whole unit is very very good.

Using the camera more than 2 months I learned what I always learn with almost any camera - it really does not matter if you have the latest pro body or the cheapest entry level body - when you need to do a picture, you get it with your current camera, IF you know what to do - so understand the capabilities of the camera, conditions of light, shooting object, desired result, etc :-) Maybe still ONE thing I never got used to - it is the same lack of handgrip, which made the camera somewhat uncomfortable to use..

All the photos seen here were shot with the "kit" lens, Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 :-) Obviously, the DOF and other image parameters is not near where it should be with some of the (portrait) photos, but overall - the kit lens performed pretty well :)

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