Product Type: Olympus digital cameras
Newest Review: ... for the low price, although the photos tend to suffer from noise when you use higher ISO. Olympus E-420 is small and lightweight camera... more
Exceptional Entry level DSLR from Olympus
Member Name: magenta23
Date: 29/06/11, updated on 29/06/11 (55 review reads)
Advantages: Reliable, Good quality pictures, lots of features
Disadvantages: Short cable on charger, expensive hobby!
The Olympus E-420 is really an entry level DSLR. I chose it, to put it simply, as it was the most I could afford, but also because I had a few compact Olympus cameras in the past and they have all been very reliable. The camera cost me £250 15 months ago and it doesn't seemed to have dropped much in price. It comes with editing software, the Olympus Master 2 suite, which will give you more editing possibilities than the standard Windows Photo Gallery but if you're use to photoshop this probably won't be of any interest to you. Also included in the box along with the main body of the camera is a 14-42mm lens, two lens hoods, spare lens cap, carry strap, instructions, USB cable, battery and charger. In addition to this these is a 'how to' DVD. It's worth a watch and I watched mine a few times. A little cheesy yes, but it gives you a good understanding of not only where to start with your somewhat daunting looking camera, but also the basic rules of photography.
Memory Cards -The camera as with most digital cameras does not come with a memory card. It will fit either and XD or a CompactFlash card. I originally bought a 2GB XD for my camera, which costs around £10 but I soon began to fill that quite quickly as I changed to taking super fine (very high quality) photos and invested in an 8 GB CompactFlash which I picked up on play.com for £18. The good thing is you can have both types of card in the camera at one time and choose which you want to save to on the menu. I haven't noticed any difference in quality between these two types of card. Whichever I save them to I seem to get good quality pictures and the speed difference is marginal. Of course it will depend also on the quality of card you buy.
Lenses- This is where SLR photography gets expensive. If you think getting your new SLR with one standard lens will satisfy you for a while before you need to fork out any more think again. Once the photography bug has got hold it will suck you in and drain your wallet! As I started to but experiment more, and became interested in taking wildlife shots, I found my 14 - 42mm lens just wasn't enough and soon forked out on a lens with a much larger zoom. I shopped about and did some serious ebay bidding and managed to get one for £229. Lenses can cost anything from a few hundred to thousands of pounds.
Other extras - The only other extra I've bought so far is a set of filters. You can pick these up relatively cheaply though do some research as I've heard some cheap makes can be poor quality and actually distort the pictures and reduce clarity. The benefit of filters is to reduce glare, protect the lens and add various different effects to your pictures, depending on a number of factors such as the light and mode in which you are shooting.
Other items on my wish list are a tripod to help with stability and enable me to experiment with the timer a little more. These you can again get quite cheaply, for about £20 but after forking out a few hundred on a camera and then more on a lens, I'm saving to get a good quality one that I know will look after my baby! I also want a flash with remote that I can be a little more creative with. I try not to use the built in flash wherever possible as it gives quite a harsh light. Having one I can rotate and use more subtly would be an advantage.
A spare battery is also a good investment, especially for holidays or days out where you intend to take lots of pictures. These can be picked up cheaply but beware of poor imitations that can only provide around a third of the power it should.
Finally and probably most importantly, invest in a good bag or case. I think I should upgrade mine already as acquiring more gadgets means more to carry around. They can be expensive but shop around. It's worthwhile protecting such a valuable piece of equipment.
First thing first and charging the battery is the first thing to do before you get stuck in. I'd give it overnight to fully charge before you first use it. The battery charger is a cradle type, you don't charge the battery in the actual camera. A full charge usually provides me with at least a full day of snapping and viewing, so not bad. One niggle is that the charger cable is very short, only a few inches and I struggle often to find something to lean it on as it won't stretch to a table top from some of my plug sockets.
The battery and memory cards are very easily put in and removed from the camera and the lens is also very easy to change.
The full specification of the camera can be found here - http://www.olympus.co.uk/consumer/dslr_digital_slr _specifications_18953.htm
Here are a few basics -
Megapixels - 10
Viewfinder/ Live View
Scene Modes -18 (Portrait, Landscape, Landscape with portrait, Night scene, Night scene with portrait, Children, Sports, High key, Low Key, Image stabilisation mode, Macro, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Fireworks, Documents, Beach and snow, Panorama)
Exposure modes - Auto, Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Scene modes.
Sensitivity - ISO 100 -1600
Self timer - 12s/2s
Shutter Speed range - 1/4000-60s
Colour space - sRGB
Picture modes - Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait, Black and White
LCD Screen 2.7"
Recording formats - RAW, JPEG, RAW + JPEG
Dimensions - 129.5 x 91 x 53 mm
Weight - 380g (body only)
I tend to use the camera's viewfinder more that the live view, simply because you can't see it very well in strong sunlight. I also think it helps a little with stability. It's good that you have the option of both however. In live view (using the LCD screen) you have your setting displayed around the edge. This isn't a problem with using the viewfinder either though, as your setting are displayed around the edge of the viewfinder as you look through which I think is excellent.
When getting started, it's tempting to use auto the whole time, but I urge you to play about with other settings, it's the only way of learning your camera. I think it's perhaps best to work through the scene modes before the manual modes. While you may find you use certain scene modes a lot, others you may never use at all. I think everyone loves a nice sunset picture and I've had a lot of success with this mode, living near the sea and getting lots of chances to use it. I've found this is a useful scene to use even when not taking sunsets however, simply when taking lots of red and orange tones. I had quite a lot of success using it to take some pictures of flames. This is probably my favourite scene mode, and as I've used the camera more, I've found I don't use any of the other modes as much, and am more in favour of manual settings for moving objects or portraits, for example. I've also used the macro mode with varying success with a standard lens and am saving for a macro! The great thing about adding a CompactFlash card and giving your self a lot of shots is that you can snap away and experiment with the different modes without worrying about running out of room.
Even if you do go crazy, it's simple to go through and view your photos and delete the ones you want. It always asks on the screen if your sure to prevent you deleting any by accident too.
You can get cameras with much higher megapixel count than 10 these days but really this camera gives such excellent quality photos I'm not sure I'd notice the difference. 10 megapixels is more than adequate for near enough everything you could wish to shoot.
Ease of Use
I won't lie and say this is easy to get to grips with, because it's not but no more than any other DSLR I would have thought. Sure, it's easy to set up and take pictures on auto, but if that's all you intend to do you should have saved yourself a few hundred quid and bought a compact camera. It does take time to get used to the various functions and as I said I'm still learning but with everything the more you practice the easier it gets. I'm finding now that I change settings without thinking to much about it, the actual changing of the settings themselves, it's easy and most is done via the dial on the top of camera. It's only the more complex settings that are found by using the menus, which is more time consuming but still quite easy to navigate and you soon get used to where everything is hiding.
A more experienced DSLR user of course will probably find no problem with finding their way round this camera, and whilst I haven't found anything I want it to do that it doesn't so far, I'm sure there are things missing that a more experienced photographer would want. I think it is aimed at DSLR beginners really.
A picture of course, is only as good as the person taking it and this camera won't tell you how to compose you picture, or indeed what to take. What it will do is give excellent clarity of image. As I mentioned I have been using super fine images which take the optimum quality image the camera can manage. This means a lot more room taken up on your memory card and when you transfer them to computer / upload to the net. The payback is a really good quality image. Of course you can shoot in a number of different sizes and even the lowest will give you a fine picture, it all depends what you want to do with the image later on. I have had some of mine printed to display at up to 12 x 18", if you want to do this it's best to use a high quality. If not it may be beneficial to lower the quality and fit more on your card. It's really down to you, but remember you can always resize down afterwards, but not up.
I took some photos which I thought were excellent when I first started using it, but as I've taken more I realise they aren't as good as I thought! The problem is the better you get, the more critical you get too!
There's probably a million more things I could say about such complex product, there really is no end to what you can do which is why DSLR photography is so rewarding and so addictive.
The Olympus E-420 is a great start for anyone entering this world. A good entry level price and a reliable, well thought out design for beginners. This should last a long time, I've certainly had not problems with it's performance so far and I'm very pleased with my investment.
Summary: A very good camera for ameteur photographers
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