Olympus E-620 Review
Originally Posted: February 23, 2009
Last Updated: September 7, 2009
The Olympus E-620 is a Four Thirds digital SLR that combines the feature set of the new E-30 with the compact design of the E-420. This camera is positioned between Olympus' E-520 and E-30, and prices start at $599 for the body-only configuration.
Here are some of the highlights on this camera:
- 12.3 Megapixel Live MOS sensor
- World's smallest D-SLR with built-in image stabilization
- Flip-out, rotating 2.7" LCD
- 7-point autofocus system
- 4 fps continuous shooting
- Dust reduction system
- Same art filters, multiple exposure, and aspect ratio features as the E-30
- Live view with contrast detect AF and face detection
- Illuminated buttons
Some of those features were on the E-420/520, others are from the E-30, while a few (illuminated buttons, autofocus system) are new.
How do the four most recent Olympus D-SLRs compare? I put together this chart to help you figure out the differences:
By the way, the E-450 is a recently introduced model that is essentially the E-420 with art filters and a nicer LCD.
Is the E-620 a good choice for those seeking an entry-level digital SLR? Well keep reading -- our review starts right now!
What's in the Box?
The E-620 is available in three kits: 1) body only ($599), 2) body plus a F3.5-5.6 14 - 42 mm lens ($699), and 3) body plus the 14 - 42 mm and F4.0-5.6, 40 - 150 mm lenses ($799). Here's what you'll find in the box for each of those:
- The 12.3 effective Megapixel Olympus E-620 camera body
- F3.5-5.6, 14 - 42 mm Olympus Zuiko ED lens [single lens kit only]
- F4.0-5.6, 40 - 150 mm Olympus Zuiko ED lens [dual lens kit only]
- BLS-1 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Body cap
- Eyepiece cover
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- Video cable
- CD-ROM featuring Olympus Master
- 153 page camera manual (printed)
If you purchase either of the kits that include lenses, then you're ready to start taking pictures as soon as you get everything out of the box. Olympus' kit lenses are better than average, though they're a bit plasticky. If you want to use other lenses, Olympus has a wide selection of Four Thirds lenses available, and Panasonic and Sigma make some as well. Whichever lens you use, there's a 2X focal length conversion ratio, so that 14 - 42 mm kit lens has a field-of-view of 28 - 84 mm. None of these lenses have image stabilization, but that's okay, since the camera has it built right into the body!
Digital SLRs never come with memory cards, so if you don't have an xD or CompactFlash card already, you'll have to buy one. The E-620 has two slots: one for xD and the other for CompactFlash. The CF slot supports Type I and II cards, including the high speed UDMA-enabled models. I'd recommend picking up a 2GB or larger card for the E-620 -- the faster, the better.
The E-620 uses the same BLS-1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery as the E-420. This battery packs 8.3 Wh of energy, which is pretty high. Here's how the camera performs against the competition in terms of battery life (I compared the various Olympus SLRs at the top of the review):
The E-620's battery life is just a bit above average for the group. The DMC-G1 doesn't really count, since it's live view only, but I'm throwing it in there anyway since many people may be considering it. Speaking of live view, expect a substantial drop in battery life if you're using that feature -- probably anywhere from 40-50 percent.
Two quick things to note about the proprietary battery used by the E-620, and nearly all cameras on the above list. They're expensive (a spare will set you back at least $42), and you can't use off-the-shelf batteries in emergencies. The only camera that uses AA batteries straight out-of-the-box is the Pentax K2000 above. Some cameras can use them with their optional battery grips, but the E-620 isn't one of them.
Optional HLD-5 battery grip; Photo courtesy of Olympus
Want more battery power? Then you can pick up the new HLD-5 battery grip (priced from $149). This holds two BLS-1 batteries, giving you double the battery life of the camera alone. It also gives you extra controls which will come in handy if you're shooting in the portrait orientation.
When it's time to charge the BCS-1 battery, just pop it into the included charger. Then grab a cup of coffee and the newspaper, as it takes 3.5 hours to charge the battery. This charger doesn't plug directly into the wall, either -- you must use a power cable.
Being a digital SLR, you shouldn't be surprised to hear that the E-620 supports a ton of accessories (with one notable exception). Here's a summary of what's available:
There several other accessories available too, mostly related to the viewfinder. One accessory not available: an AC adapter. If you want to use one of those, you'll have to step up to the E-30.
Olympus Master 2 in Mac OS X
Olympus includes version 2 of their Olympus Master software with the E-620. Olympus Master is pretty snappy, the interface is simple, and it can do just about everything you can imagine.
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 news feeds (or the DCRP feed, if you're so inclined).
From this screen you can organize photos, e-mail or print them, or display them in a slideshow. If you have a sequence of photos that you want to stitch into a panorama, you can do that with a few clicks of your mouse.
You can also use Olympus Master to update the firmware on the camera and any attached lens or flash, which is one of the nice benefits of the Four Thirds format.
Editing JPEGs in Olympus Master 2
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.
Editing RAW images in Olympus Master 2
Olympus Master also features a pretty complete RAW editor. It lets you adjust exposure, white balance, picture mode (color, b&w, sepia), contrast, sharpness, saturation, gradation, the noise filter, and more. 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.
Edit screen in Olympus Studio 2
If you want more advanced RAW editing tools then you might want to consider buying Olympus Studio 2 ($100). This adds tone curve adjustment, false color suppression, aberration compensation, distortion correction, batch processing, and much more. It also gives you the ability to...
Olympus Studio 2 - Camera Control Feature
... remotely control your E-620 using your Mac or PC! You can adjust all the settings on the camera, and the images are saved right to your computer's hard drive. The software allows for time-lapse photography, and control over three sets of wireless flashes. Unlike with some other D-SLRs, you can't use live view in Olympus Studio. You can take a preview photo, but that's as close as you'll get.
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 first (or on the camera -- more on this later), but this allows you to adjust things like white balance, exposure, and noise reduction 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.
Adobe Photoshop enthusiasts can also edit the E-620's RAW images using the Camera Raw plug-in.
Olympus includes a thick, detailed manual with the E-620. While it's certainly not the most user-friendly book out there, you should be able to find the answer to any questions you may have inside its page. Documentation for the included software is installed onto your computer.