Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Olympus E-420 Digital SLR

Click to take a QuickTime VR tour of the Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR
Click on the E-420 to take a QuickTime VR tour

The Olympus E-420 is the successor to the very popular E-410 from last year. Olympus designed this portable model for those who are ready to step up to the power and performance of a digital SLR, yet still expect the ease of use and ability to compose images on the LCD common to point-and-shoot cameras. Weighing a mere 380 grams (13.4 ounces), the E-420 is 20 to 40 percent lighter than competing dSLRs.

While considered an entry-level "lightweight", this 10-megapixel camera offers heavyweight technologies, including a larger 2.7-inch LCD with On-Screen Autofocus, Face Detection, Shadow Adjustment Technology and Perfect Shot Preview to get the most out of the Live View experience. At 2.7-inches, the LCD is large enough for users to compose and review images without squinting. This unit is not only small, but part several innovative technologies that further expand Live View's uses. These include:

  • On-Screen Autofocus: works as seamlessly as a point-and-shoot to display subjects in focus on the LCD the instant the shutter is pressed half way;
  • Face Detection Technology: targets and locks on up to eight faces to ensure they are in focus and crystal clear for amazing portraits;
  • New and Improved HyperCrystal II Technology: helps deliver twice the contrast and better viewing in extreme lighting conditions, a broader range of color detail, and a wider angle of view on the LCD so you and your friends can see it up to 176 degrees off-center;
  • Shadow Adjustment Technology: captures detail in the bright areas of a frame and opens up detail in the shadows that other cameras would render too dark or underexposed; and
  • Perfect Shot Preview enables you to view and select your favorite effect right on the LCD, and see how the image will look before you even capture it.

Olympus offers two different lens combinations. The ultra-compact Zuiko 25mm f2.8 digital specific lens complements the E-420's small stature, for the ultimate combination of ease of use and portability. This 0.9-inch thick lens offers a fixed 50mm equivalent angle of view. you can also purchase the E-420 in a kit with a compact, Zuiko Digital 28-84mm equivalent (ED 14-42mm Four Thirds) f3.5-f5.6 lens that perfectly matches the imager so light strikes the sensor directly to ensure rich, accurate colors and edge-to-edge sharpness. Both lenses are part Olympus' expanding line of 100 percent digital lenses - designed specifically for digital photography.

The E-420 features the TruePic III Image Processor, which helps the camera produce crystal clear photos. It does this by using all the pixel information for each image to provide the best digital images possible with accurate color, true-to-life flesh tones, brilliant blue skies and precise tonal representation in between. TruePic III also lowers image noise by one step to reduce graininess in images shot at higher ISO settings, enabling great results in low-light situations. This image processor also enables the E-420 to shoot at up to 3.5 frames per second in sequenced shooting mode - perfect for capturing fast moving subjects.

As with past models, this new dSLR offers Olympus' proven Dust Reduction System that produces spot-free photos with the exclusive Supersonic Wave Filter. The patented ultrasonic technology vibrates to remove dust and other particles from the front of the image sensor and captures it on a special adhesive membrane every time the camera is turned on. These spot-free photos liberate users from hours spent retouching photographs at the computer or sending their cameras back to the manufacturer to remove dust trapped inside.

If you decide to venture into the arena of advanced lighting, the E-420 is ready to meet the challenge. The E-420 is compatible with the Olympus FL-50R and FL-36R wireless electronic flashes that are designed exclusively for digital photography. When these flashes are used in combination with the E-420, wireless multi-flash photography is possible. The E-420 can control up to three wireless flash groups independently, with several flash units per group.

E-420 Features

  • High performance 10-megapixel Live MOS Image Sensor
  • Supersonic Wave Filter (dust reduction system for image sensor)
  • Four-Thirds System lens mount for Zuiko Digital Specific lenses
  • Full Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual and 18 Scene modes
  • sRGB and Adobe RGB color space options
  • Four Picture modes (Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait, Monotone) with adjustments for Sharpness, Saturation, and Contrast
  • JPEG and RAW file formats
  • Simultaneous capture of RAW + JPEG files
  • Metering modes: 49 point ESP, Center weighted, Spot (1%), Spot with High Light control and Spot with Shadow control
  • Exposure compensation ±3EV with 1, 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps
  • 3-point (selectable) TTL Contrast/Phase-difference detection Auto Focus system
  • 2.7" HyperCrystal II LCD monitor with Color and Brightness control (15 steps)
  • Built-in pop-up multi-mode intelligent flash (Auto pop-up in Scene and Full Auto exposure modes)
  • Hot shoe for E System TTL flash units
  • Capture image at 3.5fps (Max. 6 frames in RAW)
  • Auto Exposure bracketing (3 frames in 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1EV steps)
  • ISO range from 100 - 1600
  • RGB histogram display in playback for accurate color information per channel including overall luminance
  • Next Generation TruePic III processor with advanced noise reduction (including a noise filter)
  • 5-level Sharpening, Contrast and Saturation controls
  • USB 2.0 High-speed connectivity and PictBridge direct-print compatible
  • xD-Picture Card and CompactFlash I/II/Microdrive storage
  • High capacity Li-ion rechargeable battery and charger
  • Certified as an Olympus Eco-product
  • Compatible with all Olympus E-System lenses and accessories

The Olympus E-420 Digital SLR is available now in three configurations:

  • E-420 body only - $499.99
  • E-420 with ED 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens - $599.99
  • E-420 with ED 25mm f2.8 Zuiko Digital Lens - $699.99

Each kit ships with: E-420 Body, USB Cable, Video Cable, Li-Ion Battery Pack (BLS-1), Li-Ion Battery Charger (BCS-1), Shoulder Strap, OLYMPUS Master Software CD-ROM, Manuals and Warranty Card.

Body, Lenses & Imager

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

The E-420 is a very compact digital SLR made of a solid black polycarbonate with rubber inserts on the front and back of the grip that impart it with a secure feel when handled. Still, the E-420 remains light and easy to carry, especially when paired with the ultra compact Zuiko 25mm f2.8 lens. It also offers a professional finish. Measuring a mere 5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 inches (129.5 x 91 x 53mm) and weighing just 13.4 ounces (380 grams) body only, the E-420 can be carried around comfortably all day.

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

The all-metal lens mount for the Four Thirds System is twice the diagonal measurement of the imager. With this lens mount the body size, lens size and overall weight are reduced.

Digital Specific "Smart" Lenses

Olympus Zuiko Digital Lenses are designed so light strikes the camera's image sensor directly, ensuring rich, accurate colors, sharp contrasts and bright images even at the edges.

Lenses that are smart, that talk with the camera about their specific optical designs and imaging information. Lenses, particularly zoom lenses have some distortion. This is true of all manufacturers. Zuiko Digital Lenses store data in the header portion of the digital file allowing for software-assisted correction of anomalies including pin cushion and barrel distortion.

Shoot wide open or stopped all the way down and achieve superior results over 35mm film based lenses. Zuiko Digital Specific Lenses are about three times the resolution of ordinary film based lenses.

Internet-Upgradeable Firmware

The Smart Lens Design allows users to shoot with the most current firmware versions of each particular E SLR System component. Update the camera system using:

  • Internet-Enabled Computer
  • Camera Connected via USB
  • Olympus Software; one Button Update
The firmware information is collected for the lens, flash, and body and updated accordingly - no tricky file downloading or installation procedure necessary.

Zuiko Digital 25mm, 14-42mm, and 40-150mm

Olympus E-420 Digital SLR

The Zuiko Digital 25mm f2.8 is a thin, lightweight single-focus standard pancake-type lens. The lens has an overall length of 23.5 mm. When combined with E-410 or E-420, the total length including the camera body and lens is only 76.5 mm. The result is an easy-to-store, easy-to-carry camera system with go-anywhere portability. With a focal distance equivalent to 50 mm on a 35 mm film camera lens, this lens provides an image angle very close to that of the naked eye. The result is a near-natural visual field that makes this an ideal standard lens for daily use, whether for simple snapshots or for more sophisticated portrait and landscape shooting.

Olympus E-420 Digital SLR

The Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 (equivalent to 28-90mm in 35mm photography) is another lens kit option for the E-420 and E-520 models. This 3x standard zoom lens is the smallest and lightest in its class and features a closest focusing distance of only 25cm. The ED (Extra-low Dispersion) and two aspherical lens elements correct aberrations without increasing lens dimensions. The circular aperture diaphragm enables beautiful defocusing - one of the big advantages of this lens.

Olympus E-420 Digital SLR

The Zuiko Digital 40-150mm F4.0-5.6 (80-300mm 35mm equivalent) lens has a short 7.2cm body with ED lens elements, ensuring both picture quality and portability. Boasting the smallest size and lightest weight in its class, this cost-efficient 3.8x telephoto lens uses an ED (Extra-low Dispersion) lens element for optimum correction of chromatic aberrations. Incorporating a circular aperture diaphragm for beautiful defocusing, this lens assures high picture quality throughout the zoom range, as well as providing an astonishingly short closest focusing distance of 90cm throughout the zoom range.

Four-Thirds CCD Image Sensor

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

With 10 million pixels of resolution, you'll see more details and get stunning color in all your photos. Create really big prints (13 x 19 inches and larger), even after cropping. Compare the typical 1/1.8" CCD used in most 5- to 8-megapixel cameras (on the left), the 2/3" CCD used in the Olympus E-20n SLR (in the center) and the E-420's 4/3 System CCD imager (on the right) which has four times the spatial area of the 2/3" imager, its diagonal measurement is 22.3mm.

Exclusive SuperSonic Wave Filter

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

A common problem with interchangeable lens digital SLR cameras is dust settling on the image sensor. The E-420 features an Olympus exclusive patented ultrasonic technology, the SuperSonic Wave Filter, to reduce the effects of micro dust settling on the image sensor and impacting the image quality. Located between the shutter and the CCD, the Supersonic Wave Filter uses high-speed ultrasonic vibration to cause most types of dust to fall away from the image sensor so it will not appear in photographs.

The filter vibrates at 35,000 times per second and is activated every time the camera powers on, or manually via a menu selection, to instantly remove the dust from in front of the image sensor. The CCD assembly is isolated from the Supersonic Wave Filter by an airtight seal to protect it even more. This unique Olympus feature gives you the confidence to shoot photos and change lenses in the field, just as you've always done, without the worry of images being damaged or ruined by dust on the imager.

Features & Controls

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

The eye-level viewfinder is equipped with an EP-4 eyecup and shows 95% of the field of view and includes dioptric compensation (-3 / +1). This 14mm high-eyepoint viewfinder allows for easy composition, even when wearing eyeglasses.

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

Inside the viewfinder is a fixed, Neo Lumi-Micro Mat Screen with AF/Metering marks. Viewfinder information includes: AF frame, AF confirmation mark, Exposure mode, Exposure compensation value, AE lock, Metering mode, Shutter speed, Aperture value, White balance, Flash and Battery status.

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

The optional ME-1 eyecup (shown here mounted on the E-500) with magnifying lenses can be attached to the E-420 in place of the bundled standard eyecup. The ME-1 magnifies the original view field in the finder by 1.2x (approximately 20%), making it easier to check focus and framing. The ME-1 is about $49.99 US.

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

Controls on the top right include the Mode Dial with positions for Full Auto, Program AE, Aperture priority, Shutter speed priority, Manual, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, Night + Portrait and Scene Modes. Like a point-n-shoot digicams, the Scene position offers various preset exposure modes that are tailored for specific shooting situations one might face. There are 18 Scene Modes available: Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Children, Sport, High Key, Low Key, Digital Image Stabilization, Macro, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Fireworks, Documents, Panorama, and Beach & Snow.

The Power on/off switch is located around the Mode Dial. The unmarked dial below is the Control Dial which has various functions depending on the exposure mode you are using (in playback mode it controls the Magnify and Index options). Next to the Mode Dial is a blue LED labeled "SSWF" that blinks each time the camera is powered up - this indicates the SuperSonic Wave Filter is operating. In between the Mode Dial and shutter release is a +/- Exposure Compensation button, which also controls the rotate function in playback.

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

On the top left you'll find the Flash button that pops up the flash and selects flash modes. Next to the Flash button is a multi-function control that is used to set Sequential shooting, the Self Timer and Remote control options (in playback it operates the Copy/DPOF functions). You can also change the use of this button in the "Custom 1" menu.

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

The Super Control Panel display is a very useful info display/shortcut menu that keeps you informed of current camera settings as well as allows you to quickly change them. To display this screen, you press the Info button located on the back of the camera (see below). To change a setting, you can use the 4-way arrow buttons or Control Dial. You can also press the OK button and then use the arrow keys to select just about any item shown on the LCD and change it with the dial.

  • Info displayed: Battery check, Flash charging, Shooting mode, Shutter speed, Exposure compensation/Exposure level indicator/Flash intensity control indicator, Aperture value, Exposure compensation value, Date, Super FP flash, Noise reduction, Auto Bracket, RC mode, AF Illuminator, Internal temperature warning, and Number of still pictures remaining.
  • Functions that can be set using the Super Control Panel: ISO, White balance, Picture mode, Color space, Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation, Gradation, B&W filter, Picture tone, Face Detection, Flash mode, Drive mode, AF mode, AF target, Metering mode, Flash intensity control, Memory card used, and Image size/quality.

    Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

    The E-420 has a bright, high-resolution, 2.7" " HyperCrystal II" LCD screen (230,000 pixels). As you change setting on the Mode Dial the Super Control Panel display will change to show the options available within that mode. Like almost all dSLR models these days, the E-420 features a Live View or "Live Preview" function that allows you to use this great LCD to frame your pictures, much like you would with a typical point-n-shoot digicam.

    The largest control on the back is a set of multifunction buttons arranged in a circle called the Arrow Pad. In the center of this array is an OK button. Around the OK button are 4-way arrow buttons, called the Arrow Pad, used to navigate menus and previews. The "Left" arrow (Fn) can changes various functions found under the "Custom 1" menu.

    Other controls on the back include the Exposure Lock button next to the optical viewfinder. Next is the Live Preview button that switches the camera to Live View mode for using the LCD to frame you pictures.

    Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR
    Topmost to the right of the LCD is the Playback button. Pressing it brings up the last image captured.

    Below the Playback button is the Delete button.

    Next we find the Menu button which calls up the camera's basic setup menus.

    And finally we have the info button which calls up the Super Control Panel display.

Flash, I/O, Storage & Power

Olympus E-420

The E-420's auto/manual pop-up TTL-controlled flash has modes for Auto, Red-eye reduction, Red-eye reduction slow sync., Fill-in, Slow synchronization (1st and 2nd curtain), Manual, Off. It offers a Guide Number of 12 (ISO 100.m) and the X-synch speed is 1/180 sec. or less with Super FP up to 1/4000 sec. The flash intensity (output) is controllable ±2 EV in 1/3 EV steps. Flash bracketing is not available.

Olympus E-420

The Olympus FL-20, FL-36, FL-50, FL-36R or FL-50R external flash units can be attached to the 's hot shoe and offer full TTL flash control. The E-420 also offers full wireless flash control with the FL-36R/FL-50R models, triggered and controlled by the built-in flash light. Wireless control offers 4 channels and 3 groups. For our testing, we used the FL-36 shown below.

Olympus E-420

Designed specifically for use with digital cameras, the FL-36 flash offers the robust and full-featured functionality of the larger FL-50 combined with cost effectiveness.

The FL-36 Electronic Flash is specifically designed for digital with an accurate 1/8 step illumination control to provide the precision required by digital cameras, while minimizing illumination reduction. The built-in wide-angle diffuser panel will allow the flash to provide even illumination with wide angle lenses like the new Zuiko Digital 14mm-45mm zoom. The inclusion of a lockable bounce and swivel mechanism offers a variety of bounce photography options including left-right, as well as top-bottom in addition to a compact zoom head to accommodate lenses from wide angle to telephoto.

Olympus E-420

The FL-36 also features an energy circuit that improves recharge rates and enables the flash to operate on just two AA batteries or one CR-3 Volt lithium. In addition, the FL-36 incorporates an ultra-precision mounting technology communicating with the E-1, E-300 and E-500 for control. The FL-36 is compact, lightweight and extremely portable, and is approximately 25% shorter and 35% lighter than the larger FL-50 flash, a significant space and weight savings.

The FL-36 Flash Compact achieves higher guide numbers than comparable SLR film cameras even while maintaining wide-angle light distribution. The Guide Number is 117 feet (36 meters) at ISO 100. You'll notice the difference when using it in combination with a wide-angle lens on the . Accurate, 1/8-step illumination control provides the precision required by digital cameras, while minimizing illumination reduction near the screen.

The FL 36 features the FP mode for syncro at shutter speeds up to 1/4000 sec. In both FP- TTL Auto and FP-Manual modes. Standard TTL-Auto, Auto and Manual flash modes are also available.

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR
The E-420 features camera to PC communication with a USB (2.0 High-speed) I/O port.

Images can be viewed on an external monitor via the Video Out port, the signal is selectable for NTSC or PAL format.

There is no external power or flash PC sync port.

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

The E-420 can be remotely operated with the optional RM-1 wireless infrared controller. The maximum effective range is approx. 16.4 feet indoors and 9.8 feet outdoors (in front, within 15° of center of the camera).

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

Images are stored on Compact Flash cards, Type I or II and Microdrives or xD-Picture Card media. See the graph below for file sizes and approx. storage capacities.

Approximate File Sizes

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

The E410 is powered by a BLS-1 Lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack that fits up inside of the hand grip. This is high capacity (7.4v, 1500 mAh) battery that is unique to the E-410 and E-420 models. The pack is charged in the included BCS-1 AC charger. Olympus claims this pack can power the E-420 for up to 500 shots using the optical viewfinder to frame.

Recording / Setup Options

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

Here you can see a screen taken while using Live View mode. It looks much like a consumer digicam with icons that indicate we are using Program AE mode, shutter speed (3) and aperture (F2.8), Imager AF mode (I-AF), Digital ESP metering, ISO 100, Large Fine quality, images are being saved to the CF card, and there's enough room on that card for 177 frames at the current configuration.

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

When AF locks, it will briefly show the intended area of focus (not shown), and a Green AF ready dot will appear in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

When you turn the Mode Dial to the SCENE position you will be shown a menu of the available scene presets. First you see a large sample image which then shrinks down to make room for the text explanation of the mode. There are 18 Scene modes available: Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Children, Sport, High Key, Low Key, Digital Image Stabilization, Macro, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Fireworks, Documents, Panorama (only available when using an Olympus xD-Picture Card), Beach & Snow.

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

Camera 1 menu options:

  • Card Setup - All Erase or Format
  • Custom Reset - When powered up the camera will be reset to one of two custom settings
  • Picture Mode - Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait, Monotone
  • Gradation - Auto, High Key, Normal, Low Key
  • Resolution - RAW, L Fine, L Normal, M Normal, S Normal, RAW+LF/LN/MN/MS
  • White Balance - Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent 1/2/3, WB Flash, One-Touch or Custom (2000-14000°K)
  • ISO - Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800 or 1600
  • Noise Reduction - Auto, On or Off
  • Noise Filter -Off, Low, Standard or High

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

Camera 2 menu options:

  • Metering - Digital ESP, Center-weighted average, Spot, Hi Spot (highlight control), SH Spot (shadow control)
  • Flash RC Mode - On or Off
  • Exposure Intensity Control ±3EV with 1/3 EV steps
  • Auto Focus Mode - Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual Focus, Single AF + MF, Continuous AF + MF
  • Auto Focus Area - Auto Multi (all 3), Left, Center or Right
  • Anti-Shock - Off, 1 sec to 30 sec
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing - Off, 3 frames 0.3EV, 0.7EV, 1.0EV

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

Custom 1 menu options:

  • (A) AF/MF - Choose settings for AF Illuminator, Focus ring, Live View AF mode, etc.
  • (B) Button/Dial - Choose button and dial functions
  • (C) DISP/Sounds/PC - Choose Display, Sound, and Input/output settings
  • (D) EXP/Metering/ISO - Choose settings for ISO-Auto Set, AEL metering, Bulb timer, etc.
  • (E) Flash Custom - Adjust Flash output and Auto pop-up function
  • (F) Resolution/Color/WB - Choose settings for Color space, perform a Pixel count, etc.
  • (G) Record/Erase - Toggle RAW+JPEG Erase, File name, dpi settings
  • (H) Camera Utility - Manually initiate ultrasonic sensor cleaner

Olympus  E-420 Digital SLR

Custom 2 menu options:

  • Time and Date - Set the camera's clock
  • CF/xD - Select memory card
  • Monitor Brightness - Adjust LCD brightness and color temperature
  • Language - Choose the Menu language
  • Video Out - NTSC or PAL format
  • Rec View - View on LCD after capture: Auto, Off, 1 - 20 seconds
  • Pixel Mapping - Map out bad CCD imager pixels
  • Firmware - Display firmware revision number

    Playback Features

    Olympus E-420 Digital SLR

    Pressing the Play button displays the last recorded frame. You can navigate through stored images by using the Arrow Pad or rotating the Control Dial on top of the camera allows you to zoom into images on the LCD.

    Pressing the Info button allows you to control the amount of detailed information that is displayed for an image. Above you can see an animation of the available options. Press this button repeatedly until the desired information is displayed superimposed on top of the photo. Stepping through the available information first brings up the first screen, Info 1, which displays the memory card being accessed (CF), image quality mode (Large Normal), file number, and image number.

    The Info 2 screen shows all of Info 1 plus the resolution (number of pixels), compression rate, date/time and file number

    Info 3 moves the image to a thumbnail in the upper right and displays all the shooting information on the right of the screen and 4 tiny histograms on the lower left.

    Info 4 is the enlarged histogram display showing the distribution of the brightness of the image. The histogram graphically shows the contrast and dynamic range of the image on a scale of 0 - 255 (left to right) with 0 being black and 255 is white.

    Info 5 is the Shadow/Highlight display superimposed over the image highlighting the overexposed/Underexposed parts. Highlight will blink Red, while Shadows will blink Blue.

    Info 6 clears all information off the screen, displaying only the image itself; perfect for when sharing pictures with friends and family.

    Olympus E-420 Digital SLR

    The Index/Calendar Display mode lets you show several images on the LCD monitor at the same time. During single-frame playback, turn the Control Dial counter clockwise and the number of images shown changes from 4 to 9 to 16 to 25 to 49 to 100 and finally to the Calendar display mode. With the Calendar display on the screen, you can choose images by the date they were shot.

    Olympus E-420 Digital SLR

    Close-up playback, also know as the magnify function, allows you to closely inspect images by zooming in up to 14x in several steps. Once an image is enlarged, you can move around inside of it by using the Arrow Pad.

    Olympus E-420 Digital SLR

    Playback menu options:

    Olympus E-420 Digital SLR

    Edit menu options:

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