Normally known for their robust designs, digital SLR cameras are usually fairly hefty products. The slew of features combined with the high quality optics and complex components all combine to create a device that most definitely won't fit in your pocket. If this bothers you, perhaps you should check out Olympus' entry-level SLR, the E-410. It is the smallest SLR on the market and while it still won't slip comfortably into your jeans, it does offer a good array of features and takes good quality snaps.
- Small design, live view, dust reduction, fast burst mode
- Shots are a little soft at times, exposure issues, slow autofocus
Olympus's E-410 isn't the best digital SLR on the market in terms of image quality, but its combination of live view, dust reduction and a small build make it a reasonable competitor to the giants Canon and Nikon.
Price$ 1,299.00 (AUD)
Colour balance was excellent, with a slightly less vivid but more natural look that we found very pleasing. Our outdoors shots highlighted this nicely, with a great spread of blues and greens evident in subjects such as foliage.
However, at times we did find the E-410's dynamic range came up a little lacking. It had a habit of dropping detail in areas of high and low exposure. We also found that occasionally our shots came out somewhat underexposed so we had to play with the exposure compensation to achieve an accurate balance.
One interesting setting we tweaked a little was the noise reduction filter. It defaults to the 'standard' preset, but has several other options. We found 'low' was the best combination, which kept noise levels to a minimum and produced usable shots up to ISO 800. Standard did noticeably decrease noise levels, but at the cost of clarity and sharpness. Meanwhile turning it off altogether did result in sharper shots, but the noise was unacceptable even at low sensitivities.
When operating at the low setting our shots came out quite sharp. There was minimal softening towards the corners of the frame and almost no visible haloing. Imatest picked up virtually no chromatic aberration, which is a testament to the great lens (14-42mm) included in the kit. Unfortunately when compared with shots produced by other entry-level SLRs, the E-410's snaps did look a little soft. This won't be evident in small prints, but if you're looking to make sizeable enlargements it will be more obvious.
Continuing the trend of their past units, the E-410 also packs in live view technology and while it is nifty in some situations it isn't without its flaws. The biggest of these is the massive shutter lag created while the mirror flips out of the way so the camera can focus. Taking more than a second, this really interrupts the photography experience. Aside from that the feature is well implemented, and the improved screen (complete with a full 100 per cent view of the target) makes framing your shots easier than ever.
Also making a welcome return is Olympus's well known dust reduction technology, which uses the company's Supersonic Wave Drive to shake the sensor free of dust every time the unit powers on. Many manufacturers have implemented something similar in recent times, but Olympus's version is still the most effective and is a great boon if you regularly change lenses.
Sadly there is no image stabilisation, but aside from that the feature set is fairly standard. There is a speedy five-frame per second burst mode, along with 20 scene modes and a nice array of colour and sharpness tweaking options. White balance can be set using presets, the custom mode or adjusted by kelvins but disappointingly ISO sensitivities only extend to ISO 1600.
Worse is the measly three autofocus points, which really hamper performance. At times the E-410 focuses relatively speedily, but there are plenty of moments where it struggled and took a lot longer than normal. These most often occurred in dim shooting scenarios.
Design is also a potential point of contention. We became quite fond of the trimmed down build, but the lack of a proper right-hand grip will turn off many D-SLR enthusiasts. At the same time, the lightweight body makes it great for a quick shoot where you still want high quality pictures but don't like the idea of all that extra weight.
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