Review: Olympus E-10
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, January 22, 2001
Sunday, November 25, 2001
Camedia E-10 ($2000) is the first "professional" camera
to come from Olympus, and many folks (myself included) couldn't
wait. In fact, I bought an E-10, instead of getting a review unit
per the usual. After using the Canon EOS-D30, I hesitate to call
the E-10 a "professional" camera -- perhaps "near
professional" is more appropriate. While the E-10 is very similar
to the D30 (which costs $1500 more),
the big difference is the lens. Unlike most "professional"
SLR cameras, you cannot remove the lens on the E-10. While this
helps to keep dust off the CCD, it does limit your options a bit.
Olympus does, however, provide several lens accessories (detailed
below) for those who want more flexibility.
the biggest issues that arose with the E-10 after it began shipping
were "pixel problems", as I'll call them. This review
was written using two different E-10s (though both had firmware
v. 42-0120), which both had their own unique pixel problems.
first E-10 had what is known as "stuck pixels" -- see
my lens cap test to see them. You'll
see white pixels at the top center, as well as lower left. The problem
with stuck pixels it that they show up in all photos, regardless
of settings. I was torn about whether to return the E-10 for another
one. What if I got another one with the same problem, or worse?
I was concerned about that possibility, since many DCRP readers
wrote in complaining of pixel problems themselves. Is 2 bad pixels
out of 3,763,200 in the image unacceptable? A failure rate of 0.00005
would be considered exceptional in almost any product or system
-- are digital cameras an exception?
make a long story short, I was told by many DCRP readers that I
shouldn't accept anything but a perfect CCD, so I sent back the
E-10. A few days later, another E-10 arrived. The first thing I
did was the lens cap test again --
no stuck pixels to be found. However, upon further inspection, I
found out that I now had "hot pixels". These pixels, usually
red or blue, only show up on longer exposures (1/2 sec or slower).
I decided that I was going to keep the camera, and deal with the
hot pixels -- I'd seen this before in other cameras I've tested,
and I've given up trying to get the perfect CCD -- maybe it doesn't
that I'm done with that part of the story, read on to find out how
I liked the E-10 otherwise!
in the Box?
Olympus E-10 has an average bundle, with almost everything you need
right in the box. It includes:
4.0 Mpixel Olympus E-10 camera
CR-V3 lithium batteries (non-rechargeable)
featuring Olympus Camedia Master software
E-10's bundle is good, with three notable exceptions:
In what is becoming a disturbing trend, Olympus is no longer including
rechargeable batteries with their cameras. I remember when they
used to throw in a NiMH charger and 4 batteries -- but those days
have passed. Now, you get two CR-V3 "Long Life" lithium
batteries. While they do last quite a well, they end up in the trash
after a few days. I suppose Olympus wants you to buy their optional
battery grip, but it costs over $600. My advice: get yourself a
few sets of NiMH batteries and a fast charger.
The 32MB SmartMedia card would be very nice on a 2 or 3 Megapixel
camera. But on a 4.0 Megapixel camera, it's pretty small (see the
chart later in the review for more details).
While I'm pleased to see that the C-3040Z finally includes one,
the E-10 lacks a strap to keep the lens cap safely tethered to the
camera. Go pick one up at your local camera store, because you're
bound to lose it otherwise.
shown with remote control, battery cage, and lens hood.
nice bonuses include a lens hood, and the now famous RM-1 remote
control. Do note that the remote cannot control the zoom on the
covered Olympus' Camedia Master software before, so see the C-3030Z
review for more on that. I'd imagine, however, that most E-10
users will be relying on more sophisticated image editing software,
such as Photoshop.
TCON 300 Tele Extension lens gives you serious zoom power (photo
courtesy of David
sells a ton of accessories for the E-10, ranging from battery grips
to lenses to flashes. If the 4X optical zoom isn't good enough for
you, then try the TCON-300 3X extension lens. David Weikel has an
with lots of info on the TCON 300S (among other things).
E-10 manual is the best one I've seen from Olympus. Everything is
clearly labeled and instructions are easy to follow. There's even
a section on shooting techniques that is sorely missed in most consumer
Olympus E-10's body is definitely "professional". It feels
as nice as the Canon D30 that I reviewed recently, and looks just
like an SLR film camera. It has a solid aluminum body that feels
strong, without being too heavy. All the components on the E-10
feel "well made", from the notchy feel of the switches,
to the "action" of the shutter release button.
E-10 is a big camera, but I wouldn't call it bulky. Though probably
not the best idea, you can use the E-10 with one hand. The dimensions
of the E-10 are 5.1 x 4.1 x 6.8 (W x H x L), and it weighs 2.3 pounds.
That's about as much as the Sony MVC-CD1000 weighs, but that camera
is made of plastic. Let's being our full tour of the E-10 now.
where better to start than the "star" of the E-10, the
lens. This F2.0-2.4 lens has a 4X zoom of 9-36mm, which is equivalent
to 35-140mm on a 35mm camera. According to Olympus, this is the
first lens 100% designed for a digital camera. Again, this lens
is not removable -- but for most uses, the 4X zoom is more than
adequate. The lens is threaded for 62mm attachments -- in fact,
I have a Tiffen UV Haze filter for my E-10.
items of note on the front of the camera include an infrared AF
transmitter, remote control receiver, and a button for manual white
balance (hidden behind the lens here).
on now to the back of the camera, where Olympus has done a good
job of simplifying the controls. The optical viewfinder is large,
and it bulges out enough so your nose won't be up against the LCD.
Underneath the image in the viewfinder, you'll see a line of information
about flash and exposure settings, like you'd see on a "real"
SLR camera. This is most helpful, and every digital camera should
have it. For those of us with glasses, there's a diopter correction
ring behind the rubberized portion of the viewfinder. It's a little
hard to reach while you're looking through the viewfinder, but it
does the job. Just to the left of the optical viewfinder, you'll
see a little switch (with the red dot). This closes the optical
viewfinder, so no light gets in when your eye isn't there. I found
this useful during night shots, when I'd do long exposures using
a tripod and the LCD.
of the LCD, you can see in the above photo that it can pop out and
swivel. It's not as fancy as the Canon PowerShot G1 or Pro90, where
it swings out to the side too, but it's definitely a really nice
thing to have.
bizarre thing about the LCD is the poor quality. One of the nice
things about the E-10 is that you can use the LCD to preview photos
(just like on all other cameras) -- this is a first for an SLR digital
camera. But the problem is that the image is choppy and over-sharpened.
I've seen Olympus' nice LCDs on their other cameras, and was puzzled
why the E-10's was so bad.
back to our tour now: below the LCD you'll find three buttons: Info,
Protect, and Delete. While I'll describe their main functions (in
playback mode) later in the review, I will show you what the Info
button does in record mode:
info button moves between showing nothing to showing exposure
settings to showing current focus status. The dumb thing here
is that it covers up part of the image! Why they didn't make
this overlay style is beyond me.
to the tour again: to the right of the LCD, there are buttons for
invoking and navigating the menus. The button with the monitor on
it toggles the LCD on and off. Above that is one of the main dials
for changing various settings on the camera. Also, in playback mode,
this dial can be used to zoom into photos, or zoom out to thumbnail
mode. To the right of that dial (top right of the picture), you
can find the AE Lock button. This is useful in situations where
you to lock the exposure settings - like in a multi-shot panorama.
here's a look at the top of the camera. You can see the hot shoe
for an external flash towards the right of the picture (it has a
cover on it). Olympus sells the FL-40 flash, or you can use another
brand via the flash sync port.
buttons on the top include: SM/CF (chooses between the SmartMedia
and CompactFlash slot), flash, quality, and white balance settings,
and a very nice "light" feature.
is one feature that I wish every camera had -- the backlit LCD info
display. Now if they could only light up all the controls like this!
quality settings on the E-10 should seem familiar to Olympus camera
on 32MB card
on top of the camera is the second function dial. At this point,
I should bring up an interesting note about changing settings on
the E-10. Unlike most cameras where you just hit, say, the flash
button repeatedly to change the setting, on the E-10, you must hold
down the button, and use one of the dials to move between settings.
This prevents accidental setting changes, and it's nice after you
get used to it. One thing I didn't like about this function dial
was that it's too close and too similar to the mode wheel. In the
dark, I found myself changing modes, instead of settings.
of the mode wheel, here are the various modes you can choose from:
the manual modes, you have the following choices:
Priority: 1/640 sec - 2 sec, in 1/3 sec increments
Aperture Priority: f2.0 - f11, depending on zoom setting
Full Manual: Same aperture choices; Shutter choices of 1/640
sec - 8 sec; Bulb mode also available (up to 30 sec)
not sure why Olympus won't let you do longer exposures in shutter
priority mode. If you can do 8 seconds in full manual, why not in
shutter priority mode?
you like buttons, there's even more on the left side of the camera.
Here we've got buttons for exposure compensation, macro, "drive"
(turns remote control or self timer on), and metering. There's also
a button to pop up the flash, and a switch to toggle between auto
and manual focus. If you switch to manual focus, you use the ring
at the end of the lens to focus. Do note that this is an electronic
focus ring -- it's not mechanical.
the focus switch are ports for a flash sync cable and a remote shutter
release cable. Towards the lower right of the photo, there are various
I/O ports. Here's a close-up:
a power port to the lower left, and USB and video out in the center.
a quick look at the other side -- not much to see here. What you
will find though is the memory card slots.
a plastic door that doesn't always want to open (on E-10 #2 at least)
you'll find one of the E-10's nicest features: dual memory card
slots. You've got your SmartMedia slot, which is normal for Olympus
cameras, and you've also got a CompactFlash Type II slot. Now the
bad news: the CF II slot doesn't support the IBM Microdrive (presumably
due to its higher power consumption). Since I don't actually have
a Microdrive, I can't say for that they don't work, but I'll take
Olympus' word for it.
last but not least, the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find
the battery "cage", a metal tripod mount, and a speaker
to produce a phony "shutter click" sound if you'd like.
I was very impressed with the layout, design, and feel of the E-10.
Now how well does it perform?
the Olympus E-10
E-10 takes between four and five seconds to "warm up",
before you can start taking pictures. Once you start shooting, there's
no more waiting. The autofocus lag is practically nil, and the delay
before the shutter is opened is negligible. Thanks to a large SDRAM
buffer, you can keep shooting as fast as you can compose the shots
-- this thing is amazingly fast (I'd love to try the E-100RS, which
is even faster). One caveat: if you have the "Preview"
function on (which shows the photos on the LCD after they are taken),
it will slow down your shooting a bit. Also, saving a TIFF file
takes a lot longer than a JPEG, and therefore you won't be able
to take as many consecutive shots.
you control the zoom with your hand, it's as smooth as you want
it to be. The amount of control you get with a true manual zoom
is wonderful, compared to the button mashing you must do on most
cameras. Then again, that's why this one's aimed towards professionals.
of the important settings on the E-10 are changed via buttons, rather
than menus. Here's what you'll find in the menu system (which was
a bit sluggish):
Setup: Erase All / Format
Auto, 80, 160, 320
Bracket: On/off, with +- 1/3, 2/3, and 1EV increments
exposure compensation: -2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV steps
Hard, Normal, Soft
High, Normal, Low
edit (you determine what TIFF, HQ, SHQ's resolution and compression
(time lapse) - take a shot every 1 minute to daily
settings (menu beeping, phony shutter sound)
View (show photo just taken on LCD)
(power saving mode)
you put the mode wheel into PC connect mode you can invoke another
setting (normal, with conversion lenses)
naming (auto, reset)
(in playback mode)
note about RAW mode. This is similar to the feature found on some
of Canon's cameras, where the E-10 saves the raw data from the CCD,
and then you use Camedia Master to export it into another format.
I'm not entirely sure of the benefits of this (the manual wasn't
too clear), but it's there if you want it. An uncompressed TIFF
mode is also available.
a look at some other settings that the various buttons on the camera
compensation: -3.0EV to +3.0EV in 1/3EV increments
balance: Auto, 3000K, 3700K, 4000K, 4500K, 5500K, 6500K, 7500K,
manual. All of these color temperatures correspond to various light
settings. For example, incandescent light is 3000K, whereas sunlight
is 5500K. If none of those work out, hit the manual white balance
(called Quick Reference WB here) button and you're all set.
settings: Auto flash, auto flash w/redeye reduction, slow synchro
w/redeye reduction, slow synchro, slow synchro 2nd curtain, and
to see reduced-sized image (800 x 600, 176KB)
to see full-sized image (2240 x 1680, 732KB)
was exceedingly pleased with the quality of nightshots taken with
the E-10. You've got your choice of long shutter speeds (including
bulb mode, which can go as long as 30 seconds), and lots of manual
controls to tinker with. Of course, a tripod is a must with all
nightshots -- and the remote cable release that Olympus sells wouldn't
hurt either, as even the movement of the shutter release button
can blur these pictures. Noise was minimal in my nightshots -- you
can't even find the "hot pixels" that showed up in my
lens cap test.
to see full-sized JPEG (2240 x 1680, 372KB)
to see full-sized TIFF (2240 x 1680, 6.6MB)
macro test was equally impressive - one of the best yet. Do note
that I used manual white balance in this shot - the lighting in
my "lab" fools the auto white balance of almost every
camera, including the E-10. Straight out of the box, the E-10 is
not the best choice for macro shots, though. You can only get as
close as 20cm / 8 inches. By comparison, the Nikon Coolpix 990 can
get as close as 0.8 inches! All is not lost, however. Olympus sells
the MCON-35 Macro Extension Lens ($140), which lets you get as close
as 12 cm / 4.8 inches.
E-10 doesn't record any sound or video. Which is not surprising,
considering the target audience here -- professional photographers
don't want gimmicks.
the photo quality on the E-10 was excellent. There's been a lot
of chatter on the Internet about noise problems with the camera
(especially in photos with lots of sky), but I don't see a problem.
If you want to see noisy sky, take a look at some of the shots from
PowerShot G1, especially with the ISO at 100 or higher. I didn't
see any "purple fringing" (aka chromatic aberration) with
the E-10 either, thanks in part to the ED glass lens. The E-10 definitely
met my expectations for photo quality!
E-10's playback mode, though on the slow side, is very complete.
The basics are here: slideshows, protection, DPOF print marking,
and thumbnail mode. There are a few other features worth mentioning
You can find out increasing amounts of details about your photos
in playback mode
able to get quite a bit of information about your photos in playback
mode. From exposure data to a histogram, it's all here (see above).
E-10 has the ability to copy photos between the two memory card
slots. I can't think of a situation where you'd do this, but it's
nice to know it's there.
using the dial on the back of the camera, you can either zoom into
your photos, or zoom back out to thumbnail modes of various sizes.
The "zoom and scroll" function was painfully slow, and
I found myself rarely using it. I realize these images are large,
and perhaps I've been spoiled by the ultra-fast Canon PowerShot
cameras, but this feature is just too slow to use regularly.
that's the main issue with playback mode - it's just sluggish. Since
I haven't used any other 4 Megapixel cameras, I really compare it
-- but compared to 3.3 Mpixel models I've tried, it's slower than
Does it Compare?
Olympus Camedia E-10 sits in a pretty uncrowded area, between the
high end 3.3 Megapixel cameras (Nikon Coolpix 990, Olympus C-3030Z,
etc.) and the even more expensive professional cameras (Canon D30,
Fuji FinePix S1 Pro). At nearly $2000, most consumers will just
see the E-10 in their dreams. For the serious amateur or pro who
doesn't want to spend $3000 or more for a camera (usually just the
body), the E-10 is a great choice. If you've already got an investment
in Nikon or Canon lenses, you might want to look at the Fuji FinePix
S1 Pro and Canon D30 respectively. If you have a 3 Megapixel camera,
I'm not sure I'd upgrade -- the resolution is higher, but not that
much. Most of the manual controls are available on cheaper cameras,
minus the fancy body and SLR feel.
my own usage, I bought the E-10, upgrading from a Nikon Coolpix
950. The resolution increase and added functionality made it the
right choice. If I want a camera with lots of bells and whistles,
I usually have a review camera I can use. But for "serious"
photography, the E-10 will be my first choice.
sturdy, well designed body
the manual controls you'll ever need
rate photo quality
night and macro ability
and CompactFlash Type II slots
backlit LCD info display and swiveling LCD
to preview shots on LCD as well as viewfinder (a first for an
I didn't care for:
sluggish in menus and playback mode
Microdrive not supported
quality control issues with CCD (see beginning of review)
E-10 sits by itself at this price level, as I mentioned. There are
two ways to go: up, and down. If you're willing to spend more, consider
the Fuji FinePix S1 Pro and Canon EOS-D30 (see our review).
If you want to spend less, check out the Olympus C-3030Z
(coming in March), the Nikon
Coolpix 990, and the Canon
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out
the E-10 and it's competitors before you buy!