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e_dawg
11-30-2007, 11:31 PM
This thread details my thought process on buying an E-510.

http://www.dcresource.com/forums/showthread.php?t=35142

Below is a review after getting the camera:

The "fruit" came in the mail Friday and I've been playing with it this weekend. It's like I bought myself an early xmas present ;)

So far so good. Here's a preliminary user review for those of you (cv) considering Olympus:

Noise and Dynamic Range

The drawback of having a smaller sensor (noise) is as expected :( I was hoping those reports of more noise and less dynamic range were wrong (because there were so many glowing reports that refuted these negatives), but they were right to a certain extent. It's not as bad as some people reported (imaging-resource.com is unusually negative with the E-510, given that they rarely give a negative review of anything they review), but it's there.

Depending on how you manage contrast, exposure bias, tone, WB, NR, and sharpness, there is between 0.5-1.0 less stop of sensitivity available for the same amount of noise and detail retention and about half a stop less range with the highlights. Ultimately, at low ISOs, there's about half a stop less DR (limited mainly by highlight range), and at high ISOs, there's about 0.5-1.0 stop less DR than the Nikons (limited mainly by sensor noise).

I found the best setting for detail retention vs noise is to turn the noise filter off, sharpness to -2, shoot in RAW + JPEG, and do NR in Noise Ninja if necessary and USM at the end.

Exposure and tone

I find the exposure to be a little less reliable and consistent than the Nikons overall. Like the D40/80, it can blow the highlights, but I don't think it is as consistent at doing so.

The default contrast and tone curve is too steep. Specifically, it keeps the shadows and lower midtones low to mask noise like the Fuji F10/11/30/31/40 P&S models do. The result is that the images look surprisingly noise free, sharp, and contrasty out of the box. But if you really want to get it right and prop up the upper shadows and lower midtones to extract detail and smooth out the tone curve, this will bring out the noise as well.

I have taken to setting the contrast at -2 in-camera and shoot in RAW to compensate for this (settings default to automatically read from the camera in the RAW converter, so it's easier this way... JPEGs look better too).

AF

The 3-point AF has been panned by some reviewers as being slow and struggles in low light, and limited by its 3-point system.

Personally, I do find it a bit slow, but only in low light where it does a bit compared to the D40/80. The difference is small. I bet if slightly faster lenses than the kit lenses were used, this would not be a problem.

As for only 3 points, it wasn't a limitation for me with the D40 and it isn't on the E-510.

The AF assist is annoying because a weaker version of the red-eye reduction flash burst is used instead of an AF lamp. I guess it's stronger and more effective than an AF lamp, but it's definitely more annoying.

The kit lenses are acceptably fast and quiet when focusing. You would be forgiven if you were to mistake them for USM/SWM/HSM lenses.

I imagine the SWD lenses would be an improvement on the kit lens AF in terms of speed and silence, but not nearly as much as it would be on the E-3.

Colour, WB

The auto WB seems decent; haven't done enough testing with it yet to see if it's as good as the Nikons. Really cool feature is that you can assign the Fn button to set a custom WB on the fly. Just hold it down and press the shutter while aiming at a white or grey object. You can also select the actual colour temperature by rotating the dial (3700K, etc.). I find these two features quick, convenient, and better implemented than on the Nikons.

Flash

Come on, do I even have to spell it out here? Of course the Nikons are better. And no CLS unless you get the E-3 and the new R-type wireless flashes.

Red-Eye reduction is always annoying, but using the pre-flash is more annoying than the AF assist light.

LCD display, Live view

Not a big fan of Live view, but I can see situations in which it would be useful. When it was introduced, it was unique, especially with full-time unlimited operation. You can preview WB, exposure, and other image settings before you take the shot. I especially like the ability to display a live histogram so you can check shadow and highlight clipping and under/over exposure BEFORE taking the shot. LV is also good for MF, etc. But generally, this is not something I normally use.

The display itself is a little disappointing in its colour and gamma accuracy. The gamut is a little narrow and the colours look a little pale. Things tend to look a little dark compared to the bright, contrasty, and saturated Nikon LCDs.

Image review is pretty good with the dial acting as a quick and convenient way of controlling the zoom and the multi-direction pad moving the image around. Definitely better than the Fuji S5 Pro and a little faster than the Nikons to move around in (I find moving left/right/up/down on the Nikons to be a little slow). Like the ability to blink areas of clipped shadows as well as highlights (Nikons only show highlights), but find that it takes longer to cycle through the display styles before getting back to just the picture.

Image Stabilization

One of the main reasons to buy an E-510 over and E-410, it does a good job overall. I would put its average level of effectiveness at about 2-3 stops.

Handheld, I have been able to take sharp pics at 1/6 a second at f = 30 mm (60 mm @ 35FF equiv), 1/8 sec at f = 60 mm (120 @ 35eq), and have been able to use 1/20 to 1/30 with f = 150 mm (300 @ 35eq) with success (3.5-4 stops max).

Compared to Nikon VR, it is similar, but VR II has a clear one-stop edge. Using the 18-200/VR, I can get sharp pics at 200 mm with a shutter speed of 1/15 sec.

Overall, it is comparable in effectiveness to the older VR lenses.

Optics - 2 lens kit

This kit is a bargain. The 14-42/3.5-5.6 (28-84 @ 35 mm equiv) and 40-150/3.5-5.6 (80-300 @ 35eq) are normally $250 and $280 each, respectively, if you buy them separately. They are both amazingly light and compact, yet feel well constructed. Zoom ring is nicely dampened and you don't have too much of that wobbly rattling plastic feel most kit lenses have.

Except for the barrel distortion of the 14-42 at the wide end, it's a decent lens. Nothing spectacular, just a solid lens, and good for a kit lens.

The 40-150 is a gem. It's surprisingly quite sharp throughout most of its range, getting a bit softer at the long end but still better than lenses like the 50-200/VR and 70-300/VR at their long ends. Very impressive for a kit lens.

This is where you see the advantage of the Four-Thirds system -- small, light lenses with lots of range and excellent optical quality.

Naturally, it would be nice if they were faster, especially the 40-150 at the long end. However, this is true of all mainstream consumer zooms, and the lens would double or triple in size, weight, and cost.

Conclusion

The E-510 + 2 lens kit is an excellent value for a 10 MP image stabilized camera with a ton of features and 2 excellent lenses. Its 4/3 sensor is both a blessing and a curse with excellent compact lenses but a slightly noisier sensor that has a bit less dynamic range.

Overall it is not as good a performer as its Nikon and Canon 10 MP equivalents, but it's not as expensive as them either and it is smaller and lighter due to the 4/3 lenses. Performance and feature-wise, I would compare it to the D40 much more than the D80.

It is my hope that it will replace my Nikon/Fuji setup as a lighter and more compact travel system, and that's what I would recommend it to for to others. I have the 12-60/2.8-3.5 on order (24-120 @ 35eq or 16-80 @ APS-C 1.5x) to be my single-lens walkaround / vacation solution. If I needed more reach, I would take the small and sharp 40-150/3.5-5.6 with me too.

Phill D
12-02-2007, 03:28 AM
Really good info in this post & the thread you linked too thanks for taking the time to post it e_dawg. I've been wondering about the 510 for a while too. Any thoughts about what it would be like with the 18-180 olympus lens rather than the twin kit? I just like the idea of the extra convenience & wondered what the downside would be in addition to the extra cost. I agree with you the twin lens bundle seems to be a bargain & just makes anything else very difficult to justify.

e_dawg
12-02-2007, 07:11 PM
The problem I have with the 18-180 is that it is simply too long and not wide enough as a single lens solution. In 35 mm equivalent terms, 18-180 is 36-360 mm. IMO, a single lens solution needs to be at least 28 mm (35FF) wide, preferably 24 mm, and only needs to hit 300 mm. That extra wideangle coverage is absolutely essential IMO for general travel / vacation utility, indoor and social settings, city pics, scenics / landscapes, etc. Given that, I cannot consider the 18-180 as a viable single lens solution. And if you're after optimal image quality, I think the 18-180 is considered to be optically average.

As part of a 2 lens kit, however, -- probably in conjunction with the 11-22 -- now we're talking.

IMO, the best single lens solution right now exists in the form of the 12-60/2.8-4 SWD. 24-120 mm coverage in 35FF terms, like the old Nikon 24-120. A little heavier than ideal for a travel / walkaround lens at 570 g (20 oz or 1 1/4 lbs), but IMO, there is no other alternative unless you want to either use the 14-42 or 14-54 lenses as a single lens and compromise on range both at the wide and long ends, or give in and go with a 2-3 lens solution.

What can I say? This is a common dilemma for most photographers, especially those who want to travel light. I'm going to Asia around xmas and am thinking of taking just the 2 kit lenses with me (14-42 + 40-150) and only carrying the 14-42 out and about during the day unless I know I'm going to need the reach of a tele lens. The 12-60 gives me that extra WA coverage that I love, but being 380 g (13 oz) heavier than the 14-42 kit lens (triple the weight), it may not be worth it.

Phill D
12-03-2007, 02:13 PM
Interesting alternatives I'll have a look at those. I thought of another how about the Panasonic/Leica 14-150mm IS lens. Then it would be possible to use an E410 body to save weight. Probably add somewhat to the cost though :(

e_dawg
12-03-2007, 05:26 PM
Hmm... Panasonic 14-150/3.5-5.6... about 530 g (1.2 lbs or 19 oz). The E-410 is about 435 g, 100 g less than the E-510.

Problem is that when the lens is heavier than the body, it becomes nose heavy and doesn't have the right balance anymore. Also, IMO, the grip of the E-410 is too small to hold comfortably even with the small kit lens. With a heavier lens, it puts a lot greater load on the grip.

Personally, I would have to get the E-510 and its bigger grip if I wanted to use anything but the kit lens. And the in-body IS allows you to use any 4/3 lens with IS, and you can go as small and light as you want.

As you can see, I strongly prefer a 2 lens setup with the E-510. Even both kit lenses together weigh only 410 g (0.9 lb or 14 oz), less than any single lens option you can find.

Seems like you really want a single lens solution yet want a lot of reach too. Are you strongly against changing lenses? I used to be as well, but discovered that I rarely use such a big range of focal lengths in any given time period. I'll give you an example:

When I'm traveling, I usually use a superwide zoom on my dSLR for 65-75% of my shots (something like the 7-14 or the 11-22, to use 4/3 lenses as an example). As you can see, I have no ability to quickly zoom in to capture something far away that catches my eye unless I change lenses, and by that time, it may be too late.

So what I do is carry a compact P&S (Canon A710is with its 35-210 mm, 35FF equiv lens) on a belt holster or in my pocket and use it for when i want to quickly zoom in on something. This saves a ton of space and weight as I only have to carry one lens for my dSLR at any given time.

While the quality of my P&S is not as good as an SLR, I can use the A710 in RAW mode, which allows me to do heavy duty adjustments at home to bump up the quality, and it's only for maybe 10-20% of my shots anyways.

Phill D
12-05-2007, 10:41 PM
Yes you are right I was evaluating a single lens solution but that's because I currently have an FZ20 which is the P&S equivalent. I've found that with much of my shooting I need to be able to grab shots quickly as I usually have the family in tow who to be honest aren't that photo friendly in terms of patience:rolleyes:. The FZ is great for this but I just wanted to upgrade to a dslr one day. I have actually also bought a TZ1 recently as it was discounted a lot & often use this as you described at times when weight & convenience is at a real premium. Yes maybe I will just go for a dslr plus a P&S solution eventually. It will probably take me a while to make up my mind though as I do like to research these decisions a bit. Thanks for your advice its been very helpful. I do have a strong leaning to the E510 & the twin lens kit - you do get a lot for your money. I just need to be convinced of the low light noise performance. I'd hate to upgrade from an FZ20 that is not known for it's low light noise capability to a dslr & still be a little dissapointed. I look forward to seeing images you get with the E510. This Oly forum could do with some more traffic.