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You are hereHome > Best Digital Cameras > Olympus E-420 DSLR


Olympus E-420 Review

Review Date: May 15, 2008

Category: Family DSLR, Beginner to Serious

Olympus E-420

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2008 - Compact DSLR
Photoxels Editor's Choice 2008 - Compact DSLR


The Olympus E-420 has 10.0 megapixel resolution on a Four-Thirds System Live MOS image sensor. Light sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to ISO 1600.

The E-420 produces excellent image quality (including excellent low-light performance) up to ISO 400 with plenty of detail preserved.

3x Optical Zoom
14-42mm f/3.5-5.6
Wide-angle 28mm Tele 84mm
Wide-angle 14mm
(28mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 42mm
(84mm, 35mm equivalent)

One of the advantage of a DSLR is the ability to use interchangeable lenses suited for specific jobs. The lens mount system used in the Olympus E-420 is based on the Four Thirds Systems open standard which means that, besides the Olympus Zuiko digital lenses created for the EVOLT digital SLRs, you can also use other Four Thirds System lenses (with some caveat, which we will address later).

We used the ED 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens (28-84mm, 35mm equivalent) for this review.

42mm (84mm), Program, ESP+AF, 1/160 sec., F7.1, ISO 100
Sharpened in Photoshop Elements

The actual macro capability is a function of the lens you use, and the kit lens allows you to focus only as close as 25 cm. I find that I obtain my best macro results using the lens set at maximum telephoto.

White Balance Indoors
AWB Manual WB

As the above two pictures show, the auto white balance (AWB) indoors under tungsten artificial light tends toward the yellow. Fortunately, there is One-touch Manual WB that is (relatively) easy to set and provides excellent results. As expected, AWB works well in natural light.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 100
ISO 100
ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 800 ISO 1600

The Olympus E-420 has 5 ISO settings going from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate the noise at the available ISO Speeds. At ISO 100 to 400, noise is under control. Noise is also low at ISO 800 to 1600 but you can notice that it is at the expense of fine detail.

You can limit the max. ISO used when sensitivity is set to AUTO (Menu - Custom Menu 1 - Exp/Metering/ISO - ISO-Auto Set).

Chromatic Aberrations

CA is not really a problem in everyday shots. In the above high contrast shot, the central area delimited by the red square, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right, shows negligible purple fringing.

Long Shutter Speed
42mm (84mm), Manual, ESP, 60 sec., F11, ISO 100
Manual WB, Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod Used
Noise Reduction ON
using the 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 lens

The Olympus E-420 allows the use of a long shutter speed of up to 60 sec. in PASM modes (yep, in all four modes!), plus up to 30 minutes Bulb in Manual mode, therefore allowing very nice night photography. Generally, with image sensors, noise usually becomes more prominent at slow shutter speeds. When you set Noise Reduction to ON in the menu (Menu - Shooting Menu 1 - Noise Reduction - Auto / ON), the E-420 has special noise reduction algorithm that automatically kicks in at shutter speeds of 4 sec. and longer, and you'll notice a longer processing time (approx. twice as long) before the next picture can be taken.

To test this noise reduction algorithm, I decide to take a low-light indoors shot. To obtain a long exposure, I turn off all the lights in the room and turn on a light in a facing room. With the subject lighted only by a sliver of this incident light, the camera needs an exposure of 60 sec. at F11. Even at this long shutter speed, the E-420's noise reduction works great.

You can limit the Bulb Timer from 1 min. to 30 min. (Menu - Custom Menu 1 - Exp/Metering/ISO - Bulb Timer).

We find that the AF is very responsive and images snap quickly into focus. The pop-up flash is used as an AF Illuminator to aid in focusing, so pop it up when it's dark and hard to obtain focus. The strobed light from the flash is pretty strong, so be careful not to blind your live subject(s). Of course, if you do not intend to use flash, set it to No Flash in the menu, and then you can pop it up to simply function as an AF Illuminator.

Live Histogram

Playback Histograms

The Olympus E-420 can display a Live Histogram in Live View mode. In Playback mode, you can view a histogram, RGB Histograms, blinking highlights and shadows.

We find the overall image quality of the Olympus E-420 up to ISO 400 to be excellent with good details in the shadows and highlights.

The pictures in the Olympus E-420 Photo Gallery page provide a good sample of what the camera is capable of. I have provided unprocessed samples at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop Elements) as well as the 3648x2736 pixels original size (click on the image for the original version). Any of the 800x600 image that is adjusted for levels and/or sharpened in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended to the file name. Original images are never adjusted.

You can safely assume that most macro shots and slow shutter speed shots required the use of a tripod.

I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels. For those who have their monitor resolution set to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit and you should not have to scroll to see the whole image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels resolution, start the slide show and then scroll to the right to position the image within your screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode, and the image should fill your screen nicely. Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor display back to normal mode.

To return to this page from the Photo Gallery, click on the animated graphics of the camera.

Please open and download the original size version only if you need to and only once to your hard drive -- and save me some precious bandwidth. Thanks!


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