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.
(28mm, 35mm equivalent)
(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.
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.
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).
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.
42mm (84mm), Manual, ESP,
60 sec., F11, ISO 100
Manual WB, Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod
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.
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
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