This is our final review of the Olympus EVOLT
E-410. The camera described is a full production model, and product photos
have been re-shot if necessary. All sample photos are from the production-level
cameras. Thank you very much for your patience.
When Olympus announced that their compact E-400 digital SLR
would not be sold in the US, the collective groan could've been heard in space.
After all, we Americans want small D-SLRs too! Thankfully someone at Olympus
was listening, and they brought the E-400's replacement -- the E-410 -- to
the rest of us. This compact SLR, priced from $699, has quite a few
tricks up its sleeve. They include:
- A 10 Megapixel LiveMOS sensor
- "Live view" on a high resolution 2.5" LCD
- A brighter optical viewfinder than the E-330, Olympus' last live view D-SLR
- Dust reduction system as found on all Olympus E-series cameras
- New TruePic III image processor promises better photo quality and faster
- Dual xD and CompactFlash memory card slots
The E-410 has a big brother as well (the E-510), which sells
for $100 more. The two cameras share the same basic components, with the E-510
adding CCD-shift image stabilization, a larger right hand grip, and a more
powerful battery. I'll have some side-by-side shots of the two cameras later
in this article.
The entry-level D-SLR space is pretty crowded these days.
How does the E-410 fare against the competition? Find out now in our review!
in the Box?
The E-410 will come in three kits: body only ($699), with
a 14 - 42 mm lens ($799), or with that lens plus an additional 40 - 150
mm lens ($899). Here's what you'll find in the box for each:
- The 10.0 effective Megapixel Olympus E-410 camera body
- F3.5 - 5.6, 14 - 42 mm Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens [lens kit only]
- F4.0 - 5.6, 40 - 150 mm Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens [dual lens kit only]
- BLS-1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Body cap
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- Video cable
- CD-ROM featuring
- Quick start guide + 131 page full camera manual (printed)
If you get either of the lens kits then you'll be one of the first to use the new 14-42 and 50-140 mm lenses. These aren't quite as fancy as some of Olympus' other lenses (they're not weather sealed) but they're more than adequate for most people. You can, of course, use any of the other FourThirds lenses on the market, most of which are made by Olympus. The camera has a 2X crop factor, so whatever lens you attach will have the field-of-view twice that of the focal range of the lens.
Digital SLRs never come with memory cards, so if you don't
have an xD or CompactFlash card laying around, you'll have to buy one. Yes,
that's right, the camera supports two totally different memory card formats.
I'd recommend a 1GB or 2GB card as a good starter size, and it's definitely
worth paying more for a "high
speed" card (called "Type H" on xD media).
The E-410 uses the new BLS-1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery.
This compact packs a pretty powerful punch, with 8.3 Wh of energy. Here's how
that translates into battery life:
||Battery life, 50% flash use
|Canon Digital Rebel XTi
||600 shots *
|Olympus EVOLT E-330
||400 shots **
|Olympus EVOLT E-410
||500 shots **
|Olympus EVOLT E-510
||650 shots **
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1
||450 shots **
|Pentax K100D Super
||4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
|Sony Alpha DSLR-A100
* Not officially calculated using
the CIPA standard, but same methodology used
** With live view disabled
Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer
When shooting with the viewfinder the E-410 gets "average" battery life in the entry-level D-SLR group. Olympus doesn't
publish battery life numbers if you're using live view, but it's probably close
to half of the viewfinder only number. Stepping up to the E-510 gets you considerably
better battery life, as it uses the more powerful BLM-1 battery.
I should remind you that proprietary batteries like the BLS-1
cost more than AA rechargeable batteries -- they're about $50 a pop. Also,
if your rechargeable battery dies there's no off-the-shelf option available.
The only camera that lets you use AA batteries out of the box is the Pentax
K100D. A few other cameras can use them with an optional battery grip.
Speaking of which, the E-410 does not support a battery grip,
which is too bad, as it would make the camera easier
to hold for those of us with big hands.
When it's battery charging time, just drop the BLS-1 into
the included charger. You can expect to wait about 210 minutes for the battery
to be fully charged. This isn't one of those handy chargers that plugs directly
into the wall -- you must use a power cable.
Being a digital SLR, you shouldn't be surprised to hear that
the E-410 supports a ton of accessories. Here's a quick summary of what's available:
||The E-410 supports all FourThirds lenses, with
a 2X crop factor
|You'll get more flash power and less chance
of redeye with an external flash. These two models fully integrate
with the camera.
||Take the camera up to 40 meters underwater;
seems to support five lenses right out of the box
|Right Angle Finder
||Lets you look into the viewfinder from above
||Use classic OM lenses with the E-410 (with
lots of restrictions, though)
|Wired remote control
||Take a picture without touching the camera
|Wireless remote control
||A wireless remote is also available
||Includes an extra battery, compact gadget bag, 58mm MC protector filter, and lens cleaning cloth
|E-System Travel Bag
||Holds the camera and two lenses
|* Prices were accurate at time of publication
Now that's one expensive underwater case -- and that only protects the body! You'll need to buy extra accessories for your lenses and flash, so it can really add up if you're into taking your E-410 under the sea.
One big accessory missing from this list:
an AC adapter. This allows you to power the camera without draining your
battery. I believe that the E-410 and E-510 are the only D-SLRs that don't
Olympus Master 2 in Mac OS X
Olympus includes version 2 of their Olympus
Master software with the EVOLT. The software is, for the most part, a nice
upgrade over the previous version. It's pretty snappy (except when loading an RAW image), the interface is simple,
and it can do just about everything you could ever want.
After you've transferred photos over from the camera (either
into albums or folders on your hard drive) you'll arrive at the usual thumbnail screen that is
standard in all photo viewing software these days. The thumbnail sizes
are adjustable, and you can see shooting data and a histogram on the right
side of the thumbnails. There's even a built-in RSS reader for subscribing
to Olympus-related newsfeeds, though it wasn't yet working when I tried it.
Here you can organize photos, e-mail or print
them, or display them in a slideshow. If you have a bunch of photos that you
want to stitch into a panorama, you can do that with a few clicks of your mouse.
Olympus Master also lets you update the firmware on your camera and lenses from within the software.
Like a lot of photo viewers, Olympus Master lets you view
you images in a calendar format. There's even a "diary" for each
day for you to record notes in.
Above you can see the edit window, which you access by either
double-clicking on a thumbnail or by clicking the Edit button in the toolbar.
Functions here include resizing, cropping, brightness/contrast/sharpness adjustments,
redeye reduction, distortion correction, and much more. When you're performing
one of these edits, the software does a side-by-side before and after comparison,
so you can see exactly what changes you've made.
Olympus Master also features a basic RAW editor. It lets you adjust exposure, white
balance, picture mode (color, b&w, sepia), contrast, sharpness, saturation,
noise filter, and color space. When you adjust any of the settings, Olympus
Master shows you the results after a few seconds of grinding away. Do note that you don't get the before
and after view like you do when you're editing JPEGs.
The RAW conversion engine used by both Olympus Master and Olympus Studio (which I'll describe below) is pretty lousy. It turns RAW images into JPEGs that are quite soft, and not really representative of what the camera is capable of. It all has to do with the "Noise Filter" setting, which is found both in the software and on the camera itself. Later on I'm going to tell you why to turn the noise filter off in the camera, but first here's why you don't want to use it in the software either.
Camera noise filter on, software noise filter on
Camera noise filter on, software noise filter off
Camera noise filter off, software noise filter "as shot"
Camera and software noise filters off
This is kind of confusing, so bear with me. If you're shooting with the camera's noise filter turned on, images will be pretty soft. If you've already taken the shot, you can go into Olympus Master, flip over to the "Basic 2" tab, and turn the noise filter off. As you can see by comparing the first two crops, there is a slight improvement in sharpness.
Now, let's suppose, you took a picture with the camera's noise filter turned off (which is a good idea) and bring it into Olympus Master. The image is just as soft as it was with the camera's noise filter on, as you can see in photo 3. To truly turn off the noise filter, you'll need to flip the noise filter switch in OM to off as well. Then you finally get a photo with the most detail, although it's pretty noisy (see photo 4).
This isn't the place to talk about noise -- I'll save that for later. Rather, I wanted to point out this apparent bug in the software so you are aware of it.
Olympus Studio for Mac OS X
If you want more advanced RAW editing tools then you might want to consider Olympus Studio 2 ($100). This adds tone curve adjustment, false color suppression, aberration and shading compensation, distortion correction, and batch processing. Unfortunately, it seems to use the same conversion engine as Olympus Master, so you'll have the same problem that I just described.
Olympus Studio - Camera Control Feature
Olympus Studio also lets you control the camera over a USB connection. You can adjust all the settings on the camera, and the images are saved right to your Mac or PC. You don't get a live preview on the computer, though -- you'll still have to compose with the viewfinder, or use the preview function in the software.
If you don't want to use Olympus' software for RAW conversion, then you'll be pleased to hear that the latest Camera Raw plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS3 supports the E-410.
Oh, and if you have no idea what the heck RAW is, I'll tell
you. Basically, it's a file containing unprocessed image data direct from the
camera's sensor. You'll need to process it on your computer (or on the camera
-- more on this later), but this allows you to adjust things like white balance,
exposure, and noise reduction (well, in theory at least) without reducing the quality of the original
image. It's almost like taking the photo again. Be warned that RAW images are considerably larger than JPEGs, which means that they take up more space on your memory card, and decrease camera performance.
Olympus includes a fold-out quick start guide
as well as full, printed manual in the box with the E-410. The manual isn't
very user-friendly, with lots of fine print and "notes" on each page, but you'll
more than likely find what you're looking for inside its pages.
The E-410 is currently the smallest digital SLR on the market.
Yes, even smaller than the D40x and Rebel XTi. Like the Rebel, the E-410 doesn't
have much of a grip for your right hand, so be sure to try this camera before
you buy it. I personally prefer the more substantial feel of the E-510.
The camera is made of high grade plastic, but it doesn't have
the "cheap" feeling of some other entry-level cameras. The camera has more
than its share of buttons, some of which aren't placed in the best location.
Here's how the E-410 and its big brother (the E-510) look
As you can see, the E-510 is slightly larger than the E-410,
with the main difference being its much beefier grip. You can also see that
neither camera has an LCD info display -- they use the main LCD for that (more
on this later). Inside the cameras, the main difference is the CCD-shift image
stabilization found on the E-510, which will certainly be the big selling point
for that model.
Now let's see how the E-410 compares to other D-SLRs in terms
of size and weight:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
|Canon Digital Rebel XTi
||5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6 in.
||48.1 cu in.
||510 g |
||5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in.
||46.3 cu in.
||482 g |
||5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in.
||64 cu in.
||585 g |
|Olympus EVOLT E-330
||5.5 x 3.4 x 2.8 in.
||52.4 cu in.
||550 g |
|Olympus EVOLT E-410
||5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in.
||38.6 cu in.
||375 g |
|Olympus EVOLT E-500
||5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6 in.
||48.1 cu in.
||435 g |
|Olympus EVOLT E-510
||5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in.
||52.5 cu in.
||470 g |
|Pentax K100D Super
||5.1 x 3.6 x 2.8 in.
||51.4 cu in.
||570 g |
||5.6 x 4.0 x 2.8 in.
||62.7 cu in.
||710 g |
|Sony Alpha DSLR-A100
||5.3 x 3.8 x 2.9 in.
||58.4 cu in.
||545 g |
See, I told you that the E-410 was the smallest and lightest
D-SLR out there! Now, it's not going to fit in your jeans pocket, but it is
small enough to fit in a purse, or be carried comfortably on your shoulder.
Okay, enough about all that, let's start our tour of the camera
now, beginning with the front.
Here's the front of the E-410 with the lens removed. The camera
has the same FourThirds lens mount as the other E-System cameras, and there
of lenses to choose from. As I mentioned earlier, there is a 2X focal length
conversion ratio on the E-410, so a 35 mm lens has the field-of-view of a 70
mm lens. If you remember the E-330 (the first Olympus live view camera) you
may recall that it had a side-swinging mirror and a porro viewfinder. As you
can probably tell from the photo above, the E-410 has a more traditional upward-swinging
mirror and viewfinder.
Behind the mirror is the E-410's unique LiveMOS image sensor.
Its unique design allows for full-time live view on the camera's LCD display,
so those of you used to previewing your shots on your compact camera's LCD
will feel right at home. The old E-330 actually had two sensors: the main LiveMOS
sensor and a second, smaller sensor in the viewfinder chamber. The camera offered
two live view modes (A and B), with one allowing for autofocus and the other
for manual focus. The problem with that concept was that the small sensor really
darkened the optical viewfinder, and it's been done away with on the E-410.
So, you get a brighter viewfinder and get to keep your live view, since the
LiveMOS now does all the work. There are some performance issues that come
with having live view, and I'll discuss those a bit later.
But wait, there's more. Like all of Olympus' E-Series cameras,
the E-410 has the SuperSonic Wave Filter dust removal system. This system literally
"shakes off" dust with ultrasonic waves when you turn the camera on, greatly
reducing the amount of dust that can litter your photos. As someone who deals with a lot of dust on my own digital SLR, this is a very nice feature to have.
To the right of the lens mount is the lens release button.
The silver thing above that (which has a duplicate on the other side of the
photo) is for attaching the shoulder strap. Over on the left side of the photo,
you'll find the self-timer lamp and receiver for an optional remote control.
At the top of the photo is the E-410's pop-up flash, which
is released electronically. The guide number of the flash is 12 meters at ISO
100. The E-410's two main competitors, the Canon Rebel XTi and Nikon D40x,
have guide numbers of 13 and 12, respectively. If you want more flash power
than you might want to consider adding an external flash to the hot shoe that
you'll see in a bit.
If the flash is popped up, the camera may use it as an AF-assist lamp. These flash-based systems work a lot better than the more traditional AF-assist lamps, with much faster focus speeds. You aren't forced to take a flash photo -- just disable the flash in the menu.
The first thing to see on the back of the camera is the E-410's
large 2.5" HyperCrystal LCD display. This screen has very common resolution
of 230,000 pixels, so everything on it is nice and sharp. The screen isn't very easy to see in bright outdoor light, though.
As I mentioned, the
E-410 lets you compose photos in real time on the LCD -- just like on a fixed-lens
camera. You see 100% of the frame, unlike on the optical viewfinder, which shows
95%. Two things to note, though. For one, autofocus doesn't work in the traditional way: you can't halfway press the shutter release to lock focus. Instead, you can press the AE/AF lock button, or just fully press the shutter release and the camera will focus and then take the picture. Second, taking a picture with live view adds about a second of shutter lag, as the mirror has to flip down (for metering and focus) and then back out of the way.
So how do things look? Well, pretty good, though not as good
as on a fixed-lens camera (see above). The frame rate isn't as smooth, nor is the image
as sharp. Still, it's quite usable, and much better than on the E-330. Low light visibility isn't so hot. You can turn on a live view boost option, which brightens things up, but everything is in black & white (and much less grainy than on the first generation live view SLRs).
When you're using manual focus in live view mode you can
enlarge a part of the frame to verify proper focus. Just press the Info button,
move the green square to the area you want enlarged, and press the OK button.
The image can be enlarged by seven or ten times. Try that on a regular D-SLR!
|Info display on LCD when using viewfinder
||Changing settings on the LCD
All of the
data normally located on an LCD info display (which the E-410 lacks) can be
found on the main LCD instead (when you're not using it for live view, of course). There are two versions of the info display -- the one you see above, plus another with even more info (not pictured).
When you're on this screen you can press the OK button and then use the four-way
controller to navigate to and adjust any of the settings shown.
Above the LCD is the optical viewfinder. One of the big complaints
on the E-330 was its dark viewfinder, which was a result of having that extra
live view sensor in the viewfinder chamber. That's gone here, so the viewfinder
is considerably brighter. As I mentioned, the viewfinder shows 95% of the frame,
and it has a magnification of 0.92X. On the right side of the field-of-view
the camera displays shooting information like aperture, shutter speed, shots
remaining, and focus lock. You can use the diopter correction knob on the right
side of the viewfinder to focus what you're looking at. Do note that the viewfinder
closes automatically when you activate the live view feature.
To the right of the viewfinder is the AE/AF lock button, which
doubles as the image protection toggle in playback mode. When you're in live
view mode you can press this button to activate the autofocus system (otherwise
it's manual focus only). The next button that we find is the Display button,
which turns the live view feature on and off.
Moving south we find the four-way controller, used for menu
navigation and quickly selecting settings from the info display I showed above.
Under that is the USB + A/V port, which has a rubber cover on top of it. The
E-410 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, and it's about time too --
previous Olympus D-SLRs did not.
Jumping now to the left side of the LCD, we find these four
- Playback mode
- Delete photo
- Info - toggles what's on the LCD
Amazingly enough, that's it for the back of the E-410!
There's a lot more to see on top of the E-410,
including a bunch of buttons that aren't exactly where I'd ideally like them.
I'll work my way from left to right.
- Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on,
flash off, slow sync w/redeye reduction, slow sync, 2nd-curtain slow sync,
manual flash [full, 1/4, 1/16, 1/64 power])
- Drive (Single-shot, sequential shooting, 12 or 2 sec self-timer,
0 or 2 sec remote control) + Copy (between memory cards) + DPOF print marking
There's just one sequential shooting mode on the E-410 -- no low or high speed stuff here. In this mode the camera took over twenty-five JPEG shots in a row at 3.2 frames/second before it slowed down to let the buffer memory clear out. When shooting in the RAW format, the buffer fills up after ten shots and the burst rate drops. The live view is not available during continuous shooting, so you'll need to use the optical viewfinder in order to track a moving subject. A high speed card is recommended for best performance in this shooting mode.
The item in the center of the frame is none other than the
E-410's hot shoe. Here you can attach an Olympus (FL-36 or FL-50 models only)
or third party external flash to get better exposures and a smaller chance
of redeye. If you use the Olympus flashes then you can take advantage of automatic
TTL operation -- for everyone else you'll have to set the exposure settings
on both the camera and flash manually. The camera can sync as fast as 1/180
sec with an external flash.
Moving to the right, we find the E-410's mode
dial, which has quite a few options. They include:
||You choose the situation and the camera picks
the proper settings; select from 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, beach & snow, underwater wide, and
||More scene modes
||Point and shoot with some menu options locked
||Still automatic, but with access to all
menu options. A Program Shift lets you scroll through
several shutter speed / aperture combinations by using the command
|Aperture priority mode
||You choose aperture, camera picks appropriate
shutter speed. Range depends on lens used. For the 14 - 42 mm kit
lens, it's F3.5 - F22.
|Shutter priority mode
||You choose shutter speed, camera picks aperture.
Shutter speed range is 60 - 1/4000 sec.
|Full manual mode
||Choose both the shutter speed and aperture
yourself (same ranges as above). A bulb mode is also available for
super-long exposures: the shutter will remain open for as long as
the shutter release is pressed.
As you'd expect on a D-SLR, there's a full set of manual controls
on the E-410. Being an entry-level D-SLR, it also has plenty of scene modes
as well. The most interesting of the scene modes is the digital image stabilization
mode, which boosts the ISO as high as needed (up to 1600) in order to ensure
a sharp photo. I'll show you later how the camera performs at those higher
ISO settings. If you want optical image stabilization then you'll want to
spring for the E-510 that I described back at the start of the review.
Other scene modes of note include high key and low key, which
are for enhancing bright and dark areas of a photo, respectively. The panorama
mode helps you line up photos side-by-side for later stitching, though this
required an Olympus-branded xD card (they really need to drop this requirement).
Lastly, there are two underwater modes, which you can use with that optional
Sitting underneath the mode dial is the power switch, which
feels "backwards" to me (the on and off positions seem reversed).
To the right of that is the command dial, used for adjusting manual settings.
Between the mode and command dials is a light for the SuperSonic
Wave Filter that I told you about earlier, with the shutter release and exposure
compensation buttons above that. The exposure compensation range on the E-410
is -5EV to +5EV in 1/3EV increments.
Nothin' to see here.
On the other side of the camera you'll find its dual memory
card slots, which are protected by a plastic door of decent quality. The slot
on the left (with the card in it) is for xD Picture Cards, while the empty
slot on the right is for CompactFlash cards. The CF slot supports the thicker
Type II cards, which includes things like the Microdrive.
On the bottom of the E-410 you'll find a metal tripod mount
(in line with the lens, of course) and the battery compartment. The door covering
the battery compartment is a bit flimsy in my opinion (and it snaps off easily,
but that's easy to fix).
The BLS-1 lithium-ion battery can be scene at right.
the Olympus EVOLT E-410
Despite having the dust cleaning system run at startup, the E-410 is still able to fire off its first shot in just over one second. Yes, some of the competition is faster, but most of them don't have dust removal.
A histogram is available in live view mode
Autofocus speeds will vary depending on what lens you have attached to the camera. With the 14 - 42 mm kit lens, the camera typically focused in 0.1 - 0.3 seconds, which is quite snappy. Switching to the 40 - 150 mm kit lens resulted in longer focus times, but they weren't too bad. On some occasions, when the camera was having difficulty focusing, I noticed that it would become unresponsive for several seconds, until it started trying to focus again. Low light focusing is on the slow side without the flash raised, but you'll see better results when the flash is used for AF-assist.
Shutter lag isn't an issue if you're shooting with the viewfinder. However, if you're using live view mode you can expect to wait about a second between the time you fully press the shutter release and when the photo is actually taken.
Shot-to-shot delays were minimal, even in RAW mode. That is, at least until the buffer memory fills up (which takes some work). Flash recharge times were minimal.
There's no way to delete a photo immediately after taking it. You must enter playback mode first.
Now, let's take
a look at the numerous image size and quality choices on the E-410:
images on 1GB memory card (optional)
||3648 × 2736
||3200 x 2400
|2560 x 1920
|1600 x 1200
|1280 x 960
|1024 x 768
|640 x 480
Olympus seems to believe that you can never have too many
choices when it comes to image quality. As you can see, the camera supports
the RAW image format (and I explained why that's a good thing earlier), and
you can take a RAW image alone, or along with a JPEG of any size.
Olympus uses a rather unusual file naming convention on their
cameras. Files are named PMDD####.JPG where M = month, D = day, and #### =
0001 - 9999. As you'd expect, the numbering is maintained until you choose
to reset it.
The E-410 has a pretty standard menu system. There are five "tabs", covering record, playback, and custom options. Here is the full list:
|Shooting Menu 1
- Card setup (All erase, format)
- Custom reset setting (Reset, reset 1, reset 2) - reset to defaults or to settings of your choice
- Picture mode (Vivid, natural, muted, monotone) - more below
- Gradation (High key, normal, low key) - high key is for when your subject is brightly lit; low key is for the opposite
- Image quality (RAW, SHQ, HQ, SQ, RAW+SHQ, RAW+HQ, RAW+SQ)
- White balance (Auto, sunlight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, white fluorescent, neutral white fluorescent, daylight fluorescent, one-touch, color temperature) - see below
- ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
- Noise filter (Off, low, standard, high) - amount of noise reduction applied to images
- Noise reduction (on/off) - for long exposures only; increases shot-to-shot speeds
|Shooting menu 2
- Metering (ESP+AF, ESP, center-weighted, spot, highlight control spot, shadow control spot) - see below
- Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
- AF mode (Single AF, continuous AF, manual focus, single AF + MF, continuous AF + MF) - see below
- Focus point selection (Auto, left, center, right) - yes, only three
- AE bracketing (Off, 3 frames/0.3EV, 3 frames/0.7EV, 3 frames/1.0EV) - camera takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure
- Anti-shock (Off, 1 - 30 secs) - flip the mirror out of the way for a set interval before the shot is taken
- Slideshow (1, 4, 9, 16, 25 frames)
- Auto rotate (on/off) - rotates images taken in the portrait orientation
- I'll discuss these later
- RAW Data Edit
- JPEG edit (Black and white, sepia, shadow adjustment, redeye fix, saturation, resize)
- DPOF print marking (One, all)
- Copy all - from one memory card to another
- Reset protect (on/off)
- All white balance fine-tuning (All set, all reset) - fine-tune all the WB settings at the same time
- SQ setting
- Pixel count (3200 x 2400, 2560 x 1920, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480)
- Compression (1/2.7, 1/4, 1/8, 1/12)
- Auto flash pop-up (on/off)
- AE/AF lock - in a nutshell, defines when focus and exposure is locked, and what the AEL button does
- S-AF (Mode 1, mode 2)
- C-AF (Mode 1, mode 2)
- MF (Mode 1, mode 2)
- AE/AF lock memory (on/off) - whether you need to hold the button down or just press it once to lock AE/AF
- AE/AF lock metering (Auto, ESP, spot, highlight control spot, shadow control spot) - what metering system is used when you press this button
- Left button function (Off, one-touch white balance, test picture, depth-of-field preview on viewfinder, depth-of-field preview on LCD) - if you want to use custom white balance then you must define the left button for one-touch WB here
- AF illuminator (on/off) - whether the flash will be used for AF-assist
- Live view boost (on/off) - brightens the live view in low light
- Beep (on/off)
- Frame assist (Off, golden section, grid, scale)
- Underwater scene modes (Action + night portrait, underwater wide, underwater macro) - swap these two items on the mode dial if you want
- Date/time (set)
- CF/xD - choose which card slot to use
- File naming (Auto, reset)
- LCD brightness (-7 to +7, 1-step increments)
- Video out (NTSC, PAL)
- Rec View (Off, 1 - 20 secs) - post-shot review
- Sleep (Off, 1, 3, 5, 10 mins)
- Backlit LCD (8 sec, 30 sec, 1 min, hold) - how long the LCD backlight stays on when the camera is idle
- USB Mode (Auto, storage, MTP, control, easy PictBridge, custom PictBridge)
- Color Space (sRGB, Adobe RGB)
- Pixel mapping - maps out bad pixels on the sensor
- Cleaning mode - get rid of dust manually
- Firmware - displays the firmware version of the body and attached lens
Plenty to talk about before we can move on. First I want to mention those Picture Modes. The first three (vivid, natural, and muted) are fairly self-explanatory. For each of those you can manually adjust the contrast, sharpness, and saturation. For the monotone (black & white) option you can adjust those items plus use virtual filters (neutral, yellow, orange, red, and green) and tones (neutral, sepia, blue, purple, green).
There are numerous white balance options available on the E-410. You've got your usual presets, a one-touch option for using a white or gray card as a reference, plus the ability to set the color temperature (2000K - 14000K). In order to use the one-touch WB feature you must assign the left button on the four-way controller to one-touch, a silly oversight on Olympus' part. The camera also lets you fine-tune all of those settings in the red or green direction, each with a range of ±7. By pressing the AE/AF lock button, you can get a preview of the current white balance.
I normally don't talk about metering modes, but they deserve a mention since they're somewhat unique. For multi-pattern ESP metering, you can have the camera meter on the center of the frame, or it can use the focus point as the center (I hope that makes sense). There are three spot metering options, with highlight control allowing for overexposure and shadow control doing just the opposite.
Finally, we have the focus modes. Single AF locks focus when you halfway press the shutter release button. Continuous AF continues to focus while the button is pressed, which is needed when your subject is moving. There's also manual focus, where you'll use the electronic zoom ring around the lens to set the focus distance. If you want to override autofocus, you can do so using the Single AF + MF and Continuous AF + MF modes -- they autofocus but then let you tweak the setting manually.
Alright, it's time to move onto photo tests now. In order to show you how the noise filter affects photo quality, the following tests are displayed differently than in other reviews on this site. You can click on the links above and below the images to switch what noise filter or ISO setting is being shown (depending on the test). It'll make more sense once you see what I'm talking about. And with that...
I took our macro test shot with the 14 - 42 mm kit lens. The figurine turned on nicely, with accurate, saturated colors (thanks to the camera's custom white balance feature). With the noise filter at its default ("standard") setting, the image is a bit on the soft side. Setting it to "low" produces a much sharper and more pleasing photo, in my opinion. Shutting the filter off entirely leaves an awful lot of noise considering the ISO setting (100), so it may not be the best option in situations like this.
The minimum focus distance will depend on what lens you have attached to your camera. The 14 - 42 mm kit lens has a minimum distance of 25 cm. If you want to get closer, you may want to consider a dedicated macro lens, and Olympus offers two to choose from. Their 35 mm macro lens lets you be as close as 15 cm.
Now onto the night shot, which was taken with the "other" kit lens (40 - 150 mm). Unfortunately, the US Bank building in this scene has a new, way-too-bright sign, which is blown out on every camera I've tried thus far. So it's not the E-410's fault. With that, I can say that the E-410 took in plenty of light here, thanks to its full manual exposure controls. Like the macro shot, this shot is soft with the noise filter set to standard, but you'll see what you can do about that below. Noise is -- as you'd expect -- minimal, and so is purple fringing.
Okay, now it's time for our low light ISO test. You can see the crop for each noise filter setting, and you can click on the crop to see the full size image. To change ISOs, just click on the sensitivity you want using the links above or below the images. And with that, here we go:
I'm going to go through each of the noise filter settings separately. At the default "standard" setting, there's really no noise to speak of until ISO 800. There's a bit more at ISO 1600, but what's really more important here is the amount of noise reduction artifacting. Images start off soft, and pretty much stay that way. Details start to get smudged at ISO 800 and more so at ISO 1600.
As you'd expect, the scene gets sharper with the noise filter turned to "low". There's no real noise at ISO 100, but it becomes apparent as soon as you hit ISO 200. Noise levels are about the same at ISO 400, and at ISO 800 we start to see noise reduction artifacting pop up. At ISO 1600 we have both noise and detail loss from noise reduction.
When the noise filter is set to "off", the camera is performing no noise reduction at all. Thus, images start noisy and only get worse. However, they retain a lot more detail than at the other two NF settings. The highest ISO settings are fairly normal, but really aren't that bad considering that there's no noise reduction active. Still, these settings are only for small prints or post-processing.
More on this subject later.
There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the 14 - 42 mm kit lens. I did not find vignetting (dark corners) to be a problem, and the lens was sharp throughout the entire frame.
There's very slight redeye here, but it's barely noticeable. If you get more severe redeye (which is unlikely), you can use the redeye removal tool in playback mode to get rid of it.
Now it's time for our "normal light" ISO test, which is taken here in our studio. This means that you can compare it to other cameras I've reviewed in the last few years. Like the night ISO test, the studio test is presented differently than you normally see around here. You can see the crops for each noise filter setting, and to change the ISO, just click on the appropriate link above or below the photos.
You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that images are pretty soft throughout the ISO range with the noise filter at standard. You don't really see any noise until ISO 800, though some NR artifacts start appearing at ISO 400.
At the low setting, everything is very clean until ISO 400, where we start to pick up some visible noise. ISO 800 is just a bit worse, with ISO 1600 being the only setting that makes me say "hey, that's noisy!".
If you don't want any noise reduction applied to your images, you can shut the whole thing off, though you'll have visible grain in your photos starting at the base ISO 100. Some folks have suggested turning the sharpness down a notch or two, but if it were me, I'd just leave the noise filter set to "low" and forget about it.
In conclusion, the E-410 is capable of taking excellent photos, given the proper settings. At the default noise filter setting, photos are very soft, and if you're moving up from a point-and-shoot you'll be sure to notice. So turn the noise filter down a notch, maybe shoot in RAW mode if you're really hardcore, and you'll like what you see. Colors are a little flat in my opinion, and if you agree you may want to visit the record menu to increase the saturation. Purple fringing was not a problem (at least with the lenses I used), and noise really isn't much of a problem until the very highest ISO settings (again, depending on your noise filter setting).
The camera's weak spot is definitely exposure. The camera tends to underexpose by 1/3 - 2/3 EV, and sometimes more. My studio shots required a full stop of additional exposure compensation compared with other cameras I've tested. If you know to watch out for this, it's not a big deal -- try exposure bracketing, or just setting the exposure compensation at +1/3EV -- but you will certainly encounter underexposure with this camera.
Now, I invite you to have a look at our photo gallery. Be sure to view the full size images, and maybe print a few of them if you can. Then decide if the E-410's photo quality meets your expectations. If you want to see some photos taken with the noise filter set to "low", check out the E-510 gallery.
Digital SLR cameras do not have movie modes.
The E-410 has a fairly nice playback mode by D-SLR standards. Basic features such as slideshows, DPOF print marking, image rotation, image protection, and zoom & scroll are all here. This last feature lets you enlarge your photo by as much as 14X, and then scroll around to make sure that everyone's smiling.
The camera offers two edit modes -- one for JPEGs, another for RAW images. The JPEG editing feature lets you change an image to black and white or sepia, remove redeye, adjust saturation, or reduce its resolution. The RAW data edit feature is handy, but not as easy to use as it could be. Instead of just adjusting the RAW properties right there in playback mode, you first need to set the desired settings in the record menu, and then return to playback mode to use the RAW edit function. The resulting image is saved as a JPEG.
Since the E-410 has two memory card slots, it's not surprising that it lets you copy photos back and forth between an xD and CompactFlash card.
By default, the camera doesn't show you much information about your photos, but press the info button a few times and you'll get a lot more.
The E-410 moves from photo to photo instantly in playback mode.
How Does it Compare?
The Olympus EVOLT E-410 is the smallest digital SLR on the market. Designed as a "step up" for point-and-shoot camera users, the E-410 features a live view LCD, plenty of scene modes, and a relatively easy-to-use interface. The camera has some hits and some misses, and it's at its best when you tweak the settings a bit. Once you've done that you'll find a camera that holds up well against the entry-level competition. If you get along with the compact size (I don't), then the E-410 is well worth a look.
The EVOLT E-410 is a very compact digital SLR, smaller even that some fixed-lens ultra zoom cameras. Whether this is a good thing sort of depends on you. The camera lacks a right hand grip, so it never really felt secure in my large hands. The body has a metal sub-frame with a plastic shell, and it feels very solid. The only weak spot is the somewhat flimsy battery compartment cover. The E-410 can use all FourThirds lenses with a 2X focal length conversion ratio, and you can get two good quality lenses as part of the kit. The camera's optical viewfinder is a bit small, but a nice improvement over the one on the E-330. The E-410 is somewhat unusual in that it has two memory card slots: one for CompactFlash, and the other for xD. Like all D-SLRs, the E-410 is expandable, with support for external flashes, remote controls, and more. Two accessories that aren't available include a battery grip (not surprising) and an AC adapter (very surprising).
Probably the biggest selling point for the E-410 is its live view feature. While an improvement over the E-330, the technology still has a long way to go. Those of you moving up from a point-and-shoot camera should not expect the same live view quality as you have on your old camera. It's not as crisp, bright, or fluid, and it can be difficult to see what's on the screen both outdoors and in low light. Live view isn't really for action shots either, as the autofocus is disabled when the feature is active. You can manually focus the lens (the AF can be activated for a little help), or you can just fully press the shutter release button and wait an additional second for the autofocusing process to take place. Therefore, I rarely found myself using live view when out and about. However, I did find live view useful when I was taking photos on a tripod. I could compose my photos the way I wanted, preview the white balance, and even digitally zoom in to make sure everything's in focus (when in manual focus mode).
As I mentioned, OIympus is positioning the E-410 as a "next step" for owners of point-and-shoot cameras. That means that the automatic and scene modes that you're familiar with are still present on the E-410. One feature you won't find is a movie mode -- in fact, no D-SLR has one. The camera has a fairly easy-to-navigate menu system, though a lot of items are duplicated, either through buttons on the camera, or via the "quick menu" that you can access on the LCD. When you're ready for more serious picture-taking, you'll find full manual controls waiting for you. They include the usuals: exposure, focus, and white balance. The camera lets you adjust white balance by color temperature or with a white/gray card, and you can fine-tune WB to your heart's content. One annoyance about white balance is that Olympus makes it extra hard to set the custom white balance -- you can't do this via the menu system, and I didn't find out how until I read the manual. Naturally, the camera supports the RAW image format, though the included RAW editing software adds an extra layer of softness, unless you disable the noise filter during processing.
Camera performance was generally very good. The E-410 doesn't start up as fast as, say, the D40x, but that's because it's removing dust from the sensor -- and I'm more than happy to wait for that. Focus times were good in adequate lighting, though a bit slow when light levels dropped. Using the flash-based AF-assist lamp helps speed things up in those situations. The E-410's three point autofocus system is getting a bit long in the tooth, especially compared to the nine and eleven point systems offered by Canon and Pentax, respectively. Shutter lag isn't a problem if you're using the viewfinder, but if you're using live view, there's roughly a one second delay before the photo is actually taken. Shot-to-shot delays are minimal, regardless of what image quality setting you've chosen. The E-410's continuous shooting mode is nice, taking 10 RAW or 25+ JPEGs at 3.2 frames/second before slowing down. Battery life was average when using the viewfinder, and well below average if you're using live view all the time.
Photo quality is somewhat disappointing at default settings, though it can be improved upon easily. Straight out of the box, the camera produces images that are pretty soft, and often underexposed. Fixing the first one is easy: go to the menu and turn the noise filter option to either low (my choice) or off. Yes, your images will be noisier (especially if you turn the thing off), but they'll be sharper and more detailed. If you skipped the body of the review to read the conclusion, scroll up for lots of examples. The exposure issue can be resolved by either using auto bracketing, or just turning up the exposure compensation 1/3 stop or so (though sometimes it will take a lot more than that). Colors seemed a little flat to me -- though that's purely subjective -- and if you agree you can adjust the saturation setting. Noise wasn't really a problem unless you turned the noise filter off, and even then it wasn't too bad until ISO 1600. Purple fringing was not a problem on any of the lenses I tested. Our flash test had slight amounts of redeye, but not enough to concern me. If you do encounter any redeye, you can remove it via a tool in playback mode.
In some ways, the Olympus EVOLT E-410 reminds me of the Pentax K10D. Both cameras are capable of taking great photos, but you'll need to adjust some settings first. It would've been nice had Olympus not applied so much noise reduction at the default settings, but at least there's a way around that. Once you've done that -- and maybe adjusted the color saturation -- you'll find the E-410 to a be a good entry-level digital SLR with a handy (but imperfect) live view feature, dust reduction, and snappy performance. I personally would spend the extra $100 for the EVOLT E-510, which is larger and easier to hold, and it has built-in image stabilization as well. Whichever one you choose, both of these new EVOLTs are worth a look.
What I liked:
- Excellent photo quality if you tweak the settings
- Minimal noise until ISO 1600 (unless you turn off the noise filter)
- Very compact body (by D-SLR standards); well built for the price
- Live view on LCD allows you to see 100% of the frame, preview white balance and exposure, and check focus (but see issues below)
- Dust reduction system
- Full manual controls
- Tons of scene modes (great for people migrating from point-and-shoots)
- RAW image format supported
- Snappy performance in most areas
- Nice continuous shooting mode
- Dual memory card slots
- Optional (and expensive) underwater housing available
- USB 2.0 High Speed protocol supported
What I didn't care for:
- Soft photos at default settings (adjust the noise filter to fix that); colors a bit muted as well
- Camera tends to underexpose, sometimes by a lot
- Lack of right hand makes camera difficult to hold (in my opinion)
- Live view feature not as robust as on a fixed-lens camera: view is grainy and sluggish, difficult to see outdoors and in low light; adds 1 second of shutter lag if autofocus is on
- Low light focusing a little slow; camera seems to "give up" some times
- Setting custom white balance is more difficult than it should be
- RAW conversion software softens images, even when noise filter is turned off on the camera
- Flimsy plastic door over battery compartment comes off easily
- No AC adapter or battery grip available
Some other entry-level D-SLRs to consider include the Canon Digital Rebel XTi, Nikon D40x, Olympus E-510, Pentax K100D Super, and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100. If you can drop a little more cash, the Nikon D80 and Pentax K10D are also worth a look.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the EVOLT E-410 (especially due to its small size!) and its competitors before you buy!
Have a look at our photo gallery and judge the E-410's image quality with your own eyes!
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Want another opinion?
You'll find more reviews of the E-410 at Digital Photography Review, CNET, and Megapixel.net.