Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Olympus E420 Initial Review - My first 1000 pictures

I've taken nearly 1000 shots now with my new Olympus e420. Thus far, I've been really happy with my purchase. Now...Before I go any further, if you ended up on the Gnat Blog because you are a professional or aspiring photographer looking for a painfully detailed and opinionated e420 review, look elsewhere. I'm just learning photography. I chose the e420 because the size really works well with my active outdoor lifestyle, it's price doesn't break the bank and most importantly, I think it has very good image quality.



One of the things I really love about this camera is that the start up time and the focusing are really fast. I've been able to get shots I missed with my old DSLR and my old point and shoot. The layout of the buttons is really nice. I haven't had to stop and look at the controls too many times.

My initial set up is with the Zuiko 25mm pancake lens. I chose this lens for its size and functionality. I don't have to fuss with it. I just stop and shoot, stop and shoot, occasionally ride and shoot, and so on. One detail regarding this camera is that for any given focal length, it has a 2x magnification factor. Thus, the 25mm pancake lens is really a 50mm fixed focal length.

So far, the Zuiko 25mm lens has proven to meet my needs. With the 2x magnification factor it is a bit narrow at times, especially when I was in the Utah mountains and wanted to capture a wider view of the environment. Getting used to a fixed length also requires you to look at shots differently as your position will greatly dictate your image. Beyond that, the image quality is pretty good and it is great for candid, quick shots.

One of the reasons the camera is smaller is that the Olympus e420 is a 4/3rd camera. This relates to the aspect ratio (dimensions) of the image. It also does a way with a conventional mirror system, thus making it smaller than a traditional DSLR. True image quality folks quickly point out that these 4/3rd cameras have image sensors that are much smaller than most, if not all, true DSLR's. It is true, but I will also point out that they may be missing the point because these cameras have a much larger image sensor than a point and shoot AND they have lens interchangability along with a slew of other benefits. I see and use this camera as an advanced adventure tool and due to its size, I compare it more to a smaller point and shoot. Yet, it's image quality doesn't look like a point and shoot.

Overall, I've been happy with the color. It's got different settings for vivid, natural, monotone, etc. I usually shoot in natural.





I really like the quick menu. Touch the button and navigate directly to one of about 25 different functions that appear on the screen. Once you learn the symbols it's very easy to understand and easy to navigate.

I've got a couple of niggles with the camera though. In all honesty, the functionality might be built into the camera, but I can't figure it out. I don't like that when I turn off the camera, I lose the settings I'm in. When hiking in Utah, I had gotten everything set up for the conditions. I accidentally turned it off a few times and when I restarted, the settings went back to default start up settings and I was forced to navigate through and change settings. I'd really like to be able to at a minimum save my preferred and adjusted metering mode so every time I start it, I don't need to change it.

I also don't like the view finder...well maybe I don't. What I mean by that is that the sides of the image are blurred. Maybe it's the lens and camera combo as I've only used it with the pancake lens, but I don't like that when I use the Optical View Finder the very outer portions (the sides) seem out of focus. This isn't what I learned with on my old film camera. I don't like it here and it give me the feeling my pictures aren't going to turn out. I'll report back after I check it with a different lens. One last little niggle is that the LCD monitor is a bit dull as well. Makes it difficult to a good preview when in bright conditions. It's OK if you are in the shade, but overall it feels a bit dull compared to my old Canon LCD.

Beyond that, I think I'm still in the getting used my new camera phase. It works pretty well in most conditions. I'm still struggling with getting good exposure in high contrast situations. Many of my first shots in contrasty situations did not have blue sky.




I adjusted the camera white balance and exposure compensation and had better results. This shot was 4 shots later. Granted, I'm out of the shade, but still it helped.



A few last notes.
- All shots were with no filters and no modification in any software. These are straight up JPEG downloads.
- I haven't started shooting in RAW and manipulating with the software. I want to learn the camera first and then start playing with that.
- I haven't played around with it in low light situations. Many reviews have commented that the e420 doesn't have image stabilization and that it doesn't work in low light conditions. I'll report on this later.

Overall, I love this little camera and am very happy with the purchase. Can't wait to keep learning and making my images better. With that, I'll just take a quick rest here and get back to shooting and learning.



Stay tuned for Photo Friday. I'll be posting up my best image thus far with my new e420! Might even be my best shot this year.

3 comments:

Jason said...

1000 pics?? Holy crap! I don't know if I've taken 1000 pics in 2 years.

I think it's neat to watch your approach. As someone in the graphics biz, I tend to take pics and work with them to get them to look how I want. You work to get them the way you want when you take the pic. In other words YOU know what you're doing. Enjoy the camera.

j

Dan K said...

Very interesting review- it really puts the camera into an 'enthusiast' category more than the 'pro-sumer' category the photography review sites put it into and then give critical reviews of. All together, though if someone is more interested in action photography it looks like the 520 would be a better choice?

GNAT said...

Dan, thanks for the comment.

While I'm not sure where the product should be, I do know that my skill level is certainly in the "Enthusiast" category so I would be surprised if my reivew came off that way as well.

In my opinion, who should buy this camera depends solely on their needs. If size, lightness and surprisingly good image quality are important, then I think this is a great camera.

If all out speed, function, image quality AND image stability, one of the other Olympus camera's could be a better choice.

That said, there are reasons I didn't want the E3 (weight & size) even though it has reported better image quality, higher speed, IS, and weather sealing.

Time will tell if this camera is right for me. So far, I think it is an amazing little camera. The only camera that I think may rival it is the upcoming Lumix G1. The only reason I say this is that the G1 has IS. For some that is a plus and for others it doesn't matter much.

Again, thanks for posting.