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.
Look and Feel
As I said at the start of this review, the E-620 is the smallest digital SLR with built-in image stabilization (yes, that's a bit qualified). While it's not going to fit into your jeans pocket, you can carry it around on your shoulder or in a small bag without throwing out your back. The E-620's grip is a refined version of what was offered on the E-4xx series, making it a bit easier to hold than prior models. I personally prefer a full-sized grip on my SLRs, so I'll let you be the one to decide how comfortable the E-620 is to hold.
While its outer shell is made almost entirely of plastic, the E-620 still feels very solid (the inner chassis is a mix of plastic and metal). The only exception is the flimsy door over the battery compartment. Like the E-420, the E-620 suffers from what I call "button clutter". Buttons are scattered all of the place, which makes finding the right one a challenge at time.
One very cool thing about the buttons on the camera: they're backlit. Not all of them, but most. Pretty handy!
The E-620 is essentially a chunkier version of the E-420. The biggest change is undoubtedly the rotating 2.7" LCD that you'll see in a moment. The only other really noticeable change is the addition of a dedicated white balance sensor on the front of the camera.
Now, let's see how the E-620 compares to other cameras in its class, in terms of size and weight:
First things first: obviously, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 is going to be the smallest in the group, but it's technically not a D-SLR. If you stick with "real" D-SLRs, the E-620 is the smallest and lightest camera in its class.
Enough about numbers -- let's begin our tour of the camera now!
Here's the front of the E-620 with the lens removed. The camera has the same Four Thirds lens mount as the other E-System cameras, and there are plenty of lenses to choose from. As I mentioned earlier, there's a 2X focal length conversion ratio on Four Thirds D-SLRs, so a 35 mm lens has the field-of-view of 70 mm. You can release the lens by pressing the button located to the right of the mount.
Like the E-520 and E-30, the E-620 has a built-in sensor-shift image stabilization system. Sensors inside the camera detect the tiny movements of your hands (sometimes known as "camera shake") that can blur your photos. This can especially be a problem in low light, or when using a telephoto lens. The camera shifts its Live MOS sensor to compensate for this motion, which increases the probability of a sharp photo. Olympus says that the E-620 gives you approximately 4 extra stops of usable shutter speeds. Want to see the IS system in action? Have a look at these:
Image stabilization off
Image stabilization on
Both of the above photos were taken at a shutter speed of 1/6 of a second. If you look closely at the buttons on the calculator and the text of the document underneath, you can see that the photo taken with IS is noticeably sharper. Image stabilization won't work miracles -- it can't freeze a moving subject, nor will it allow for handheld multi-second exposures -- but it's way better than nothing at all.
Like all of Olympus' E-Series cameras, the E-620 has the "SuperSonic Wave Filter" dust removal system. This system literally shakes dust off the sensor with ultrasonic pulses, greatly reducing the amount of dust that can litter your photos. The dust reduction cycle is run when when camera is powered on.
Above the lens mount is the E-620's pop-up flash, which is released electronically. The flash has a guide number (GN) of 12 meters at ISO 100 -- the same as on the E-420 -- which is about average for a D-SLR. Should you want more flash power, you can attach an external flash to the hot shoe that you'll see in a moment, or you can go wireless. The E-620 can control up to three sets of wireless flashes, right out of the box.
If the flash is popped up, the camera may use it as an AF-assist lamp. These flash-based systems allow for much faster low light focusing than traditional AF-assist lamps, with the downsides being that A) you must pop up the flash each and B) the strobe can be rather irritating to your subject. I should also mention that the AF-assist cannot be used if you're using Imager (contrast detect) AF in live view mode. You aren't forced to take a flash photo, by the way -- just disable the flash in the menu.
Over on the grip, you'll find the receiver for the optional wireless remote control, plus the self-timer lamp. At the very top-right of the grip is an external white balance sensor, which wasn't on the E-420.
One of the most significant features on the E-620 is its flip-out, rotating 2.7" LCD display, which uses Olympus' HyperCrystal III technology. The screen has 230,000 pixels, so everything's pretty sharp (though I admit that a higher resolution display would've been nice). The LCD can rotate a total of 270 degrees, from facing your subject, all the way around to looking at the group. Rotating LCDs are great for shooting on a tripod, over the heads of people in front of you, or for ground-level photos of kids and pets. The screen can also rotate into the "traditional" position (shown below), or closed entirely.
And here you can see the LCD in the traditional position. I found the screen easy to see in bright outdoor light, and the viewing angle is fairly wide.
Continuing with a tradition started way back on the E-330, you can compose your photos on the LCD, in addition to with the optical viewfinder. Here are the details about the E-620's "live view" feature:
In live view mode, you get to see 100% of the frame, there's 11-point contrast detect autofocus, and exposure and white balance appear as they will in the actual photo. There's also a live histogram available. In general, the live view isn't as sharp or fluid as it is on a good compact camera. As I said, outdoor visibility was pretty good, though I've seen better. Low light visibility is good, especially if you use the "live view boost" feature, which brightens things up, though everything will be black & white.
The contrast detect AF feature, first introduced on the E-420, brings the camera closer to the point-and-shoot experience, though it's on the slow side, and only compatible with certain lenses. The chart below compares the three distinctly different AF modes on the camera, and their restrictions:
"Imager AF" is a fancy term for contrast detect AF. The camera can autofocus without having to flip the mirror down first, and you get eleven focus points and face detection, too. The problem with contrast detect AF is that it's VERY slow. You'll typically wait for 2-3 seconds for the camera to lock focus, and you can't use the AF-assist lamp, which doesn't help matters. Do note that Imager AF is only compatible with the following lenses (when this review was written):
- F4.0-5.6, 9 - 18 mm Zuiko Digital ED
- F2.8, 14 - 42 mm Zuiko Digital ED
- F2.8-3.5, 14 - 54 mm II Zuiko Digital
- F2.8, 25 mm Zuiko Digital
- F4.0-5.6, 40 - 150 mm Zuiko Digital ED
- F4.0-5.6, 70 - 300 mm Zuiko Digital ED
There are a couple of Panasonic/Leica lenses that will work with Imager AF. Some lenses may require a firmware upgrade in order to take advantage of this feature, as well.
The "AF sensor" option is how digital SLRs focused before contrast detect AF came about. Press the AE/AF lock button and the camera flips the mirror down, locks focus using the main AF sensor, flips the mirror back up, and returns to live view. When you fully press the shutter release, the camera will focus again, so you can skip the AE/AF lock button if you'd like. While not as slow as contrast detection, there's still some lag before the photo is taken.
As its name implies, the "Hybrid" option mixes the two previous AF modes. Press the shutter release halfway and the camera uses the contrast AF system for (relatively) quick focusing. Then, when you press the shutter release all the way down, the more reliable AF sensor is used for final focus lock, and then the photo is taken.
Frame enlargement in manual focus mode
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 five, seven or ten times. This feature is especially handy when you've got the camera on a tripod.
|Perfect Shot preview for exposure compensation....||... and white balance|
Another neat trick you can do in live view is called Perfect Shot Preview. This shows you the effect of different exposure compensation or white balance settings on your subject. The images are on the small side, though they're still pretty helpful.
|Info display on LCD when using viewfinder||Changing settings on the "Super Control Panel"|
When you're shooting using the viewfinder, the LCD displays a myriad of information about current camera settings (it's called the Super Control Panel). It's a bit cluttered, but it covers nearly every camera setting you'd ever want to change. If you want to change any of the settings displayed, you can press the OK button (in the four-way controller), navigate to the option you wish to adjust, and change away (see example). After a few seconds, the info display turns off the backlight (it kind of looks like a digital watch at this point), though outdoors you can still see it fairly easily.
Okay, enough about live view for now -- let's get back to the tour. Right above the LCD is the E-620's optical viewfinder, which covers 95% of the frame. The viewfinder is larger than the one on the E-420, with a magnification of 0.96X. Despite this increase, the E-620's viewfinder remains one of the smallest on the market (due to the 2X crop factor). Inside the viewfinder, under the field-of-view, is a row of shooting data, which tells you things such as focus status, shots remaining, aperture, shutter speed, and shooting mode. You can use a diopter correction knob on the right side of the viewfinder to focus what you're looking at.
To the left of the viewfinder are buttons for entering the menu system, and toggling the information shown on the LCD. Over on the right side, we find the AE/AF lock button, the customizable Function button, and the focus point selection button. By default, the Function button turns on face detection, auto shadow adjustment, and a few other settings, which I found to not always be desirable, so I turned that off right away. The focus point selection button is how you'll select from 7 focus points when shooting with the viewfinder, or eleven when using live view.
Moving downward, we find buttons for entering playback mode, and turning live view on and off. To lower-right of those is the four-way controller, which you'll use for menu navigation, reviewing photos you've taken, and also:
- Up - White balance
- Down - ISO
- Left - Metering
- Right - AF mode
- Center - OK + Super Control Panel
I'll describe all of those features in more detail in the menu section of the review.
Below the four-way controller are two final buttons. The one with the red trash can is pretty obvious -- it deletes a photo. The IS button lets you select from the various image stabilization modes on the E-620. The mode include standard, vertical panning, and horizontal panning. You can also turn image stabilization off entirely, which is a good idea if you're using a tripod.
The final item of note on the back of the camera is the single I/O port, located under a rubber cover. This port is for both USB and A/V output and, as you'd expect, the E-620 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed protocol.
The first two items to see on the top of the E-620 are the two silver buttons on the left side of the photo. The top one pops up the flash, and lets you adjust its settings, with a lengthy list of options: auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash off, slow sync w/redeye reduction, slow sync, 2nd-curtain slow sync, full power, 1/4 power, 1/16 power, and 1/64 power.
The second button (drive) lets you select from single-shot or continuous shooting, 2 or 12 second self-timer, and 0 or 2 second remote control. You can redefine the function of this button to handle other tasks, as well (details in the menu section). How did the E-620 perform when it comes to continuous shooting? Have a look:
While the E-620 is capable of a fast 4.1 fps burst rate, it seems to be hampered by its small amount of buffer memory, which is why it slows down so quickly. For short bursts, the E-620 is fine, but if you were hoping to just keep firing away at full speed (for JPEGs, of course), then you may be disappointed. If you're in continuous mode with live view activated, the LCD will go dark after shooting begins.
Moving to the center of the photo, we find the E-620's hot shoe. The hot shoe works best with the Olympus FL-20, FL-36R, and FL-50R flashes, which synchronize with the camera's metering system. Third party flashes will work too, though you may need to manually select the flash settings. The fastest shutter speed you can use is 1/180 sec, unless you're using the FL-36R or FL-50R, in which case you can use the Super FP mode, which lets you use any shutter speed. As I mentioned before, you can also cut the cord entirely and use the two "R" flashes wirelessly -- up to three sets worth.
Continuing to the right, we find the camera's mode dial, which has the power switch underneath it. A blue lamp that indicates when the dust reduction system is running is also close by. Here's what you'll find on the E-620's mode dial:
The first thing I want to talk about are the art filters, which debuted on the E-30. These are very much like scene modes, in that you pretty much "set it and forget it". There are six different art filters, and you can compare them using the tool below (shots are from the E-30):
|Off||Pop art||Soft focus||Pale & light color||Light tone
You'll find some other art filter examples in the E-620 photo gallery. Some of you may be thinking (and I know I did when I found out about these): can't you just do this in Photoshop? Yes, you certainly can. The difference here is that the camera selects the proper exposure settings for each art filter, for best results. After using this feature for a while, I've found my favorites to be the grainy film and pin hole filters. Do note that Art Filters cannot be used with the RAW format, though you can take a RAW+JPEG and the filter will be applied to the JPEG. The shutter speed and aperture can be adjusted by using the Program Shift feature.
|Art Filter menu||Scene menu|
The scene mode list has been trimmed down quite a bit, compared to the E-420 and E-520. The only modes I wanted to mention are low key (for dark subjects), high key (for bright subjects), and panorama mode. The panorama mode, which requires the use of an Olympus-branded xD card (groan), helps you line up photos side-by-side, for later stitching into a single image using Olympus Master.
In addition to the auto, scene, and art filter modes, the E-620 also features a full set of manual exposure modes, including a bulb mode that allows for exposures as long as 30 minutes.
To the right of the mode dial is the command dial, used for adjusting the exposure settings. Above that you'll find the the exposure compensation (-5EV to +5EV) and shutter release buttons.
There's nothing to see on this side of the camera.
On the other side of the camera you'll find its dual memory card slots, which are protected by a plastic door of average quality. The slots here include xD (left) and CompactFlash Type I/II (right).
On the bottom of the E-620 you'll find a metal tripod mount (in line with the lens, of course) and the battery compartment. The door covering the battery compartment comes off easily, but it reattaches in a snap (literally).
The included BLS-1 lithium-ion battery is shown at right.
Using the Olympus E-620
The Olympus E-620 performs its dust reduction "shake off" and is ready to start taking pictures in about one second. Since you can't seem to interrupt the dust reduction cycle, that startup time ends up being a little slow by D-SLR standards.
Autofocus speeds depend on two factors: which lens you're using, and whether you're using the viewfinder or live view. Using the 14 - 42 mm kit lens with the optical viewfinder produced generally snappy focus times, ranging from 0.1 - 0.3 seconds at wide-angle, to 0.5 - 0.8 seconds at telephoto. Low light focusing is good with the flash popped up (where it used as an AF-assist lamp), and just fair with it down.
If you're using live view to compose your shots, expect slower focus times -- sometimes, a lot slower. With imager (contrast detect) AF, focus delays can be one, two, or even three seconds long. In low light, you'll be at the slower end of that range, and sometimes the camera will just give up entirely. You'll get better results using the AF sensor mode, which offers speeds closer to those you'd get by using the viewfinder.
Shutter lag isn't an issue if you're shooting with the viewfinder, and it's barely noticeable with contrast detect live view. However, if you're using either hybrid or AF sensor live view, 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, regardless of the image quality setting or whether the flash was used.
There's no way to delete a photo immediately after taking it -- you must enter playback mode first.
There are a ton of image quality options available on the E-620, and I've compiled them into this handy chart for you:
A few quick notes before we go on. First, you can take a RAW image alone, or with the JPEG at the size of your choosing. I didn't include the RAW+JPEG combinations in the chart, since it would end up being even longer than it already is. The super fine JPEG option is something you have to turn on manually, using the custom settings menu. By default, only fine, normal, and basic are available. You can also select what resolution you want to use for the middle and small settings in the custom menu.
RAW files contain unprocessed information direct from the camera's sensor. This allows you to edit various image parameters without degrading the quality of the image. So, if you botched the white balance, you can select the correct setting later on -- it's like getting a second chance to take the picture. The downsides to RAW include the need to post-process each image on your computer (or on the camera, in a limited fashion), increased file size, and slower camera performance. Still, you'll get both the best image quality and the most flexibility by using this format.
The E-620's menu system has changed just a bit since the E-420 and E-520, mostly in the way you access custom settings. It's not the most attractive or easiest-to-use menu system out there, but it gets the job done. Some commonly used items (such as white balance) are buried deep, but the direct buttons on the camera mean that you won't need to make that trip very often. The menu is divided into five tabs, covering shooting, playback, custom, and setup options. Here's what you'll find in each of those tabs:
|Shooting Menu 1
|Shooting menu 2
|Picture Mode menu||Editing the custom picture mode|
There's plenty to talk about here, and I'll start with the E-620's Picture Modes. The presets are fairly obvious: vivid, natural, or muted colors, plus portrait for smooth skin tones. For each of those, you can tweak the contrast, sharpness, and saturation. For black and white shooting, there's a monotone mode, where you can apply virtual color filters, or add a color tint to the image. Finally, a custom option lets you select a Picture Mode as a starting point, and you can then adjust the settings I just mentioned, plus the gradation, which I'll cover below.
The gradation feature takes advantage of Olympus' Shadow Adjustment Technology. The normal option is your standard automatic contrast feature. Auto gradation breaks the image down into smaller segments, and adjusts the contrast for each of those areas, which should result in better detail in shadow and highlight areas. The high key option emphasizes the highlights (big time, in the example below), while low key does just the opposite. Here you can see all four of the gradation options in action:
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
As you can see, this wasn't the best scene to use to illustrate the high and low key options! While the auto gradation photo seems darker than the "normal" one, if you look closely at the trees you'll see that there's more detail retained in the branches (since there's less highlight clipping).
Fine-tuning white balance
There are numerous white balance options available on the E-620. First, you've got the usual presets, and each of those can be tweaked in the amber/blue or green/magenta directions. The custom WB option lets you use a white or gray card to get accurate color in unusual and mixed lighting. Do note that you must define the Function button to control One-touch white balance first, though. You can also set the color temperature, with an available range of 2000K - 14000K. If that's still not enough, deep inside the custom settings menu is an option to fine-tune all the white balance settings at once.
What are those AF modes all about? Single AF locks the focus when you halfway-press the shutter release button. Continuous AF keeps focusing, even with the shutter release halfway-pressed. Manual focus does just as it sounds. The Single AF+MF and Continuous AF+MF modes let you manually focus after the camera has finished focusing automatically.
There are a whopping four types of bracketing on the E-620. You can bracket for exposure, flash exposure, white balance, and even ISO sensitivity. For each of those, the camera produces three photos, each with a different exposure/WB setting/ISO. White balance can be bracketing in both the amber/blue and green/magenta directions.
One of the new features on the E-620 is its ability to take multiple exposures. This allows you to take two exposures, and combine them into a single photo. You can also overlay new images onto an existing one. You can leave the brightness of each image untouched, or you can turn on the "auto gain" feature to make things blend in better. In playback mode, you can use the image overlay feature to combine up to three RAW photos that you've already taken into one, in much the same way.
While not as elaborate as on the E-30, you still have a decent choice of aspect ratios on the E-620. They include standard 4:3, plus 16:9, 3:2, and 6:6. Do note that there aren't framing guidelines in the viewfinder for anything but 4:3, so you'll need to use live view to properly compose your photos at the other aspect ratios.
The last items I want to mention are found deep within the custom settings menu. The E-620 lets you fine-tune the focus on up to twenty Four Thirds lenses. You can make one sweeping adjustment that covers all lenses, or adjust things on a lens-by-lens basis. Finally, the camera allows you to fine-tune metering -- a feature I can't say that I've ever seen before -- well, except on the E-30.
Alright, enough talk about menus, let's get into the photo tests now. With the exception of the night shot, all of the test photos below were taken with the 14- 42 mm kit lens.
The E-620 did a really nice job with our macro test subject. The colors are nice and vibrant, and the subject has the "smooth" look that one comes to expect from a digital SLR. I don't see any noise or noise reduction artifacting here.
The minimum distance to your subject will depend on what lens you have attached to the camera. For the 14 - 42 mm kit lens, it's 25 cm. If you're a close-up enthusiast, you might want to consider picking up one of the dedicated macro lenses offered by Olympus.
Whenever I have a Four Thirds camera and need to take the night shot, I always reach for my "vintage" 2004 40 - 150 mm lens. This lens always outshines the kit lenses, and shows what a camera can do with a quality piece of glass attached. The lens delivered big time here, producing a tack sharp photo from corner to corner. There is a bit of a reddish cast to the image, though I imagine this would be easy to fix if you fooled around with the white balance enough. The E-620 does clip some highlights here and there, perhaps a little more than one would like to see on a D-SLR. While there is some noise present here (most notably in the sky), it's not enough to concern me. Purple fringing levels were fairly low.
Now, let's use that same night scene to see how the E-620 performs at higher sensitivities:
Noise becomes noticeable as soon as you hit ISO 200, though this shouldn't keep you from making a large print. You start to lose details at ISO 400 (such as the corners of the buildings), which is about a stop quicker than I'd like to see on a D-SLR. Details continue to be smudged away at ISO 800, and I wouldn't go any higher than this in low light -- at least if you're shooting JPEGs. The image gets quite "staticky" at ISO 1600, and there's virtually nothing left at the top sensitivity of ISO 3200. If you flip over to our Nikon D5000 review, you can see that Olympus has some work to do in the low light / high ISO department.
Want a way to get more out of the E-620 at high sensitivities? If you don't mind a little extra work, try shooting using the RAW format. Here are the ISO 800 and 1600 photos, as JPEGs and RAW conversions:
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (ACR)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (ACR)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
One of the first things I noticed was that the RAW conversions (performed with Photoshop) had a bit more highlight detail. While the conversions have more noise than the JPEG, they clean up quite well using noise reduction software and a little Unsharp Mask. You definitely get nicer looking photos, so I'd say that it's worth the effort. If you don't want to bother with RAW, you might try adjusting the noise filter setting in the custom settings menu, which reduces the amount of noise reduction being applied.
We'll see if the E-620 performed better in normal lighting in a bit.
There's just a tiny bit of redeye in our flash photo test. Should you see anything worse, you can use a tool in playback mode to get rid of it.
There's mild to moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the 14 - 42 mm kit lens' zoom range. While the distortion chart shows a bit of corner blurriness (which is hard to see when it's downsized this much), I didn't find it to be a problem in the real world. Something else that wasn't an issue: vignetting, or dark corners. If you do encounter any vignetting, you might want to turn on the "shading compensation" option in the menu, which is supposed to reduce it.
Here's our "normal light" ISO test. Since it's taken in our studio (under consistent lighting), it can be compared with other cameras I've reviewed through the years. While the crops below give you a quick idea as to the noise levels at each sensitivity, I highly recommend viewing the full size images as well. And with that, here we go:
Everything is very clean through ISO 400. There's a bit of visible noise at ISO 800, but not enough to prevent you from making a large print. Noise reduction starts to rear its ugly head at ISO 1600, reducing your output sizes a bit. Despite a fair amount of detail loss, the ISO 3200 setting is still usable for smaller prints, and if you shoot RAW, you can do even better, as shown in these examples:
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (ACR)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (ACR)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
Once again, shooting RAW and doing a little post-processing can lead to much nicer-looking photos. As I said in the night shot discussion, it's also worth playing around with the noise filter setting on the camera, though you'll probably want to run it through noise reduction software anyway.
If you just can't get enough of this test scene, then you may want to have a look at the three-way comparison I did with the E-620, Canon EOS Rebel T1i, and the Nikon D5000. While photo quality is comparable through ISO 800, you can start to see the E-620 fall behind the other two cameras once you hit ISO 1600 and 3200.
Overall, the E-620 is capable of producing some very good quality photos, though you may have to tweak a setting or two to get the best results. My main complaints are with regard to exposure. Like some other Olympus D-SLRs that I've tested, the E-620 tends to underexpose by 1/3-stop. That's easy enough to fix: just bump up the exposure compensation that much, or bracket your shots. The camera also clips highlights more than one would expect from a D-SLR, and I think that's a product of the relatively small Four Thirds sensor. Aside from those issues, the news is good. The E-620 takes photos with accurate colors, though they're not terribly saturated. Objects have the "smooth" look that one expects from a D-SLR, and if you think that things are a little soft, you can use the Picture Mode feature to increase the in-camera sharpening. As my tests above showed, the E-620 products images with low noise until ISO 1600 in good lighting, and you can clean things up considerably by shooting RAW. While purple fringing has a lot to do with what lens is attached to the camera, I did not find it to be an issue with the E-620 and its 14 - 42 mm kit lens.
Now, I invite you to have a look at our photo gallery. Browse through the photos, and maybe print a few if you can. Then you should be able to decide if the E-620's photo quality meets your needs!
While more and more digital SLRs are gaining the ability to record videos, the E-620 is not one of those cameras. If that's a requirement, some other cameras in the E-620's class that can record movies are the Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Nikon D5000, and the much more expensive Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1.
The E-620 has a pretty nice playback for a digital SLR. 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.
|Tons 'o thumbnails||Calendar view|
Photos can be viewing one-at-a-time or as thumbnails of varying sizes (some of which are tiny). You can also navigate to photos that were taken on a certain date by using the calendar view (pictured).
The camera offers two edit modes -- one for JPEGs, another for RAW images. The JPEG editing feature lets you downsize an image, apply shadow adjustment technology (described back in the menu section), remove redeye, crop a photo, or convert it to black and white or sepia. 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.
Side-by-side image viewer
Another nice feature is a side-by-side image viewer. Press the focus point selection button to split the screen, select the image you want for the right half, and then you can compare them easily. When you scroll one image, the other one scrolls with it. It's a little hard to use, but very handy!
Since the E-620 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, including histograms and a display of over and underexposed areas.
The E-620 moves from photo to photo instantly in playback mode.
How Does it Compare?
The Olympus E-620 is a compact digital SLR that takes very good quality photos, offers a rotating LCD display, full manual controls, and creative features like Art Filters and multiple exposures, all without breaking the bank. Other nice things on the E-620 include backlit buttons, a dust reduction system, a useful Perfect Shot Preview feature, and dual memory card slots. It's not a perfect camera, though: it tends to underexposed photos a bit (easy to fix), clip highlights (not so easy to fix), and images are a bit noisier than the competition at high sensitivities. It also has very slow autofocus in live view mode (though other options are available), a small optical viewfinder, and (apparently) a small amount of buffer memory. Despite its flaws, the E-620 is a good camera for those who want a capable D-SLR that won't cost an arm and a leg (you can get the body plus two lenses for under $800), which is why it earns my recommendation.
The E-620 is a compact camera, by digital SLR standards. It's not the smallest interchangeable lens camera anymore (thanks to Micro Four Thirds), but it's still a lot less bulky than many of its competitors. Despite being a mostly plastic camera, the E-620 still feels pretty solid, with the one exception being the door over the battery compartment. The camera has a fairly small grip, so those of you with big hands (like me) may want to try before you buy. The camera supports all Four Thirds lenses with 2X focal length conversion ratio, and you can use old OM lenses via an optional adapter, as well. Since the camera has image stabilization built right into its body, every lens you attach will have shake reduction. On the back of the E-620 is a flip-out, rotating 2.7" LCD with 230,000 pixels. Like nearly all D-SLRs these days, you can use the LCD to compose your photos. This live view feature is fairly well done on the E-620, with three focus modes, good LCD visibility indoors and out, a live histogram, and frame enlargement. The camera supports contrast detect AF and face detection, though it's very slow, and not compatible with all Four Thirds lenses. The E-620 also has an optical viewfinder, though it's quite small compared to other cameras in its class. Two last things to mention about the camera's design: many of the buttons are backlit, which is a feature I wished more cameras had. Also, the E-620 supports wireless flashes straight out of the box, a most uncommon feature.
The E-620 has features for both beginners and enthusiasts. For the point-and-shoot crowd, there's a regular auto mode, plus numerous scene modes. The camera offers face detection in live view, but since it requires the contrast detect AF, it's too slow to really be usable. A more usable live view feature is Perfect Shot Preview, which lets you see the effects of changing the exposure compensation or white balance setting without having to actually take a photo. Manual control fans certainly won't be disappointed with the E-620. Besides the usual exposure controls, you can fine-tune white balance, metering, and even focusing (for up to 20 lenses). Naturally, the E-620 supports the RAW image format (alone or with a JPEG at the size of your choosing), and Olympus includes a decent RAW editor with the camera. If that's not enough, you can also bracket for exposure, flash exposure, white balance, and ISO. Regardless of your skill level, you'll probably have fun with the camera's Art Filter and Multiple Exposure features. While more and more D-SLRs are gaining the ability to record video, the E-620 isn't one of those cameras.
Performance on the E-620 was generally good, though there's some room for improvement. Since the camera runs its dust reduction cycle at startup, you'll wait about a second before you can take your first photo. If you're using the optical viewfinder, focus times were pretty good. In low light you'll really want to pop up the flash (which is used as an AF-assist lamp), otherwise the camera will struggle to lock focus. If you're using live view and Imager (contrast detect) AF, expect lengthy focus times of 1 - 3 seconds. Since the AF-assist lamp in unavailable in this mode, low light focusing tends to be poor. For better focusing performance, I'd recommend using the AF sensor mode in live view mode instead -- there's an LCD blackout and no face detection, but it's much more responsive. Shutter lag isn't an issue in most situations, though you will notice some if you're using hybrid or AF sensor focus in live view mode. Shot-to-shot delays were minimal, regardless of the image quality setting or whether you're using the flash. While the E-620 has a relatively fast burst rate of 4 frames/second, it doesn't have much in the line of buffer memory, so it can only shoot at that speed for 4 - 6 shots before slowing down. Battery life on the E-620 is above average for its class. Should you want to shoot for even longer, you can pick up the optional battery grip, for double the battery life.
Photo quality was very good, though the E-620 has a few issues worth noting. Those issues are the tendency to slightly underexpose (by about 1/3-stop), and it seems to clip highlights a little more than one would expect on a D-SLR. Colors were pleasing, and photos have the smooth look that you come to expect from a D-SLR. In terms of noise, the E-620 performs very well in good light, and not quite as well in low light. You can shoot at ISO 800 in good light and ISO 200 in low light without worrying about noise. Above that, you may want to use the RAW format, which allows you to extract more detail from your photos. The E-620's photos are noisier than the competition at the highest sensitivities, though you can get around some of that by shooting RAW. Purple fringing levels were low, and redeye was minimal.
I've got two last things to mention, and both deal with power. First, the E-620 does not support an AC adapter -- you'll have to pony up for the E-30 if you want to use one of those. I should also point out that the included battery charger is on the slow side.
Overall, the E-620 is a camera that I enjoyed using. I found that I did have to tweak some settings to get the most out of it -- such as switching to AF sensor focusing in live view, and bumping up the exposure compensation by 1/3 stop -- but once that was done, I was pretty happy with how it performed. Some of the design-related concerns I raised cannot be changed, so it's definitely worth trying out the E-620 in person before you buy one, in case any of those things bother you as well. Overall though, it's a nice D-SLR at a great price point, and is worth taking a close look at.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality (though see below)
- Good value for the money
- Compact body (by D-SLR standards)
- Sensor-shift image stabilization
- 2.7" LCD display can flip to the side and rotate
- Live view with face detection, three AF modes, Perfect Shot Preview, and frame enlargement features
- Dust reduction system
- Full manual controls, and then some; RAW format supported -- good editor included
- Four types of bracketing, plus white balance, metering, and focus fine-tuning
- Unique art filter and multiple exposure options
- Backlit buttons
- Built-in wireless flash support
- Lots of photo editing tools in playback mode
- Dual memory card slots
- Above average battery life; battery grip available
What I didn't care for:
- Tendency to slightly underexpose; clips highlights more than I'd like
- Images a bit noisier than competition at highest ISO settings (though shooting RAW helps)
- Contrast detect AF in live view is very slow, doesn't support AF-assist lamp, and only works with select lenses
- Small amount of buffer memory limits number of shots at full speed in burst mode
- Optical viewfinder on the small side
- Flimsy door over battery compartment
- No AC adapter available; slow battery charger included
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local camera or electronics store to try out the Olympus E-620 and its competitors before you buy!
Check out the E-620's photo quality in our photo gallery!