The label of entry-level digital SLR camera is not broad enough to cover the possibilities of a camera like the Olympus E-400. It refers rather to its convenience and user friendliness. Of course, Pros will have other requirements of the body and will need more accuracy and manual options where necessitated by their digital workflow, but it is surprising how much the Olympus E-400 has to offer as an entry-level model. With 10 Megapixels resolution, the E-400 has more than enough picture information to be able to print in any format from postcards to posters. Furthermore, the Olympus E-400 is an excellent second camera for more experienced photographers. There won't be too many Pros using the E-system, as we are still waiting for a really professional FourThirds SLR camera. During the last Photokina, Olympus demonstrated a prototype of a camera that has answers for all sorts of questions from the professional angle. We're waiting with baited breath!
Olympus E400 10 megapixels - JPEG & RAW
As well as the fact that you have 10 Megapixels in resolution, the choice of whether to use JPEG or RAW format is decisive for the digital workflow. It is not only the sort of format that differs, but it dictates the sort of memory card and amount of storage capacity that you want to combine with the E-400. A difference of 8 and 22MB per picture is quite a lot and means almost a tripling of storage capacity with the same quantity of pictures. If you take approx 250 pictures in JPEG format in the highest quality then you will need at least 2GB. The same number in RAW will require 5500MB or 3 cards of 2GB, 2 of 4GB or one of 8GB. Is it then really necessary to only take pictures in RAW? Instead of the RAW format, Olympus offers users a JPEG format with an extremely low compression factor of 1/2.7 that produces outstanding results. If you have adjusted your workflow to heavy files, you will be able to work with RAW without any problems, but anyone in search of convenience will book excellent results with the JPEG SHQ setting.
Olympus E400 d-SLR - ISO settings
The Olympus E-400's image sensor provides 10 million pixels, and hereby is keeping up with the competition. The camera comes with a kit lens and the test pictures show that this is a great combination. The resolution stays high, which dismisses the idea a kit lens can't really produce this resolution. If we look at the results when taking pictures in different ISO settings (100 - 1600) we see that the E400 give fine results at 100 and 200 ISO pictures. At 400 ISO, there are signs of noise, but the results are still good. At 800 ISO pictures, noise is a fact and the 1600 ISO setting is totally trashed by noise. What did stand out was that despite the increase in noise at 800 and 1600 ISO there was still a lot of detail. Obviously, Olympus doesn't use strong noise reduction. On the one hand, the fact that noise reduction software used afterwards when reworking the pictures gives a good basis for tackling noise while retaining the details is cause for celebration. On the other hand, what you really, really want is low noise or preferably noise free pictures. The competition like the Nikon D80 and the Canon EOS 400D have gone for the latter option and reduced noise more during processing in the camera.
Olympus 14-42 Zuiko Digital kit lens
If we look at performances from the Olympus 14-42 Zuiko Digital kit lens that comes with the camera, we see that it gives good results for a kit lens. The new lens has been more compactly designed than its predecessor, the 14-45mm lens that used to come with, e.g., the E-500 SLR camera. When fully opened, it takes rather soft pictures as is usually the case when zooming in to tele.
There is some vignetting in the corners, but no more than we normally see in this type of lens. The deviations in wide-angle pictures are noticeably few and also negligible when zooming in to tele. In general, the results are fine and the Olympus 14-42 mm Zuiko Digital lens is a good match for the Olympus E-400 camera.
Olympus E-400 - Kodak CCD image sensor
The ten Megapixels is delivered by a new CCD image sensor developed by Kodak. Measured in pixel proportions, the sensor gives a resolution of 3648x2736 pixels. It is also possible to shoot in RAW and JPEG. JPEG is broadly supported by Olympus in the form of seven resolution settings and no less than four compression factors. As mentioned earlier, the compression factor of 1/2.7 gives excellent results, with practically no visible artefacts caused by compression. The broad range of options pulls out all the stops in regard to the options that make the sensor possible. Great!
Olympus E-400 SLR camera - Scenes
Of course, a digital SLR camera like the E-400 and the segment in which it is positioned must have pre-programmed scenes. On the main dial on top of the camera, nineteen scenes can be called up via SCENE. You have convenience at your finger tips but if you want to experiment more, you can also choose shutter speed priority (S). The Olympus E400 has shutter times running from 1/4000 to 60 seconds, whereby the Bulb (B) setting gives space to expand to 8 minutes. In the latter mode, it's only possible to expose for this length of time at ISO values of 100 - 400. At ISO 500 - 800 an exposure time of up to 4 minutes is possible but at ISO values from 1000 - 1600, you will have to make do with 2 minutes. It is also possible to compensate the exposure to 5EV -/+ in steps of 1/3 EV.
Olympus E-400 digital SLR - White balance
The extensive white balance settings provide a solution to practically every possible light circumstances. In practice, the automatic white balance gives good results, but the camera had more difficulties with more dominant artificial light. Adjusting the white balance gave balanced results immediately. The colour reproduction of the pictures can be influenced by choosing one of the five different Picture settings that include three colours, one black/white and a sepia setting. The colour settings can be adjusted so that you can always influence the results according to your own tastes.