One of the advantages of the FourThirds concept is the fact that a digital SLR camera can be designed in a very compact way. At the time of the introduction of the FourThirds system, DSLR cameras were huge and heavy, to avoid saying plump. You'd have to be strong to take this kind of camera out for the day. Gradually this changed, and when we see the Olympus E-420 lying in front of us, the contrast between then and now is astounding. Still, the competition is also capable of delivering compact digital SLR cameras with their own system. At this moment, Olympus is one step ahead of the competition, and the E-420 may be considered the lightest and most compact DSLR camera worldwide.
Clear handgrip on the Olympus E-420
The compact size of the Olympus E420 is perfect and ensures you can always carry the camera with you. One of the complaints about the E-410 was, among other things, the lack of a clear handgrip. Olympus have listened well to their consumers, and equipped the E-420 with a new handgrip. Unfortunately I don't have the previous model with me, however, while photographing in practice I never really missed the handgrip whereas with its predecessor I did. The camera fits comfortably and stable in my hand, and I consider it a luxury to be able to shoot single-handedly. It could prove to be a real relief to switch from a heavy professional camera to a camera like the Olympus E-420 and experience the ease of its size and weight. After a day of shooting, my fingers don't bother me in the way they do after a day’s shooting with my own (heavy) D-SLR.
Olympus bayonet mount for FourThrids lenses
Looking at the Olympus E-420 from the front, we see a bayonet mount made of metal at which the FourThirds lenses can be mounted. The FourThirds system has a large assortment of lenses ranging from a 25mm f/2.8 pancake lens to a super bright telephoto lens. These lenses are similar as far as compact size and light weight are concerned. In addition to Olympus lenses, the Olympus E-420 also supports Sigma, Panasonic and Leica lenses. The handgrip contains a vertical LED that serves as an indicator for the self-timer and is used for the optional infrared operation of the camera at the same time.
Olympus E-420 supports dual card slot
The side of the camera that contains the handgrip also contains a dual card slot. The Olympus E420 supports CompactFlash and also the smaller xD-Picture memory cards. If you switch from Fujifilm or Olympus compact to the E420, you can keep on using your xD cards. I would vote for Olympus to bid farewell to the xD cards and switch over to the SD(HC) format. It would undoubtedly hurt, yet in my opinion the xD card's market share is too limited to say they've succeeded.
Flash settings & Command dial
The top side of the Olympus E-420 remained untouched compared to its predecessor. To the left of the built-in flash, there are some two buttons with flash settings and sequential shooting; to the right of the flash we find the familiar controller button with the main programs, the shutter release and the command dial. The controller button gives a clear click at every setting and has a perceptible resistance when turning it, so once you set a program it won't easily be replaced by another accidentally. The compact size makes the top look quite crowded, although in practice you will get used to this in no-time.
Olympus E420 with Supersonic Wave Filter
Like its predecessor and the other FourThirds DSLR cameras of Olympus, the Olympus E420 has an ingenious system that attacks annoying dust. The so-called SSWF (Supersonic Wave Filter) consists of a special filter that vibrates and is placed before the image sensor so that dust particles don't get a chance to cling to the sensor. Upon activating the camera, the SSWF is activated. The minimal time lag that comes with it is something you will have to take for granted in order to be able to make dust-free pictures.
Navigation operation of the Olympus E420
The back of the camera is dominated by the 2.7 inch sized monitor with to its left a number of vertically placed buttons. To the right of the monitor we find the remaining buttons. The back looks quiet compared to the top side of the camera. Being a compact DSLR, the Olympus E-420 features much functionality as you may expect from a digital SLR. One thing is lacking, just like it is on its predecessor and that is an image stabilization system. Something we do find on its big brother, the E520.