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Olympus E420 | Digital Camera Review | Adjustments
When I came back from a test in practice with the E-420 and started comparing pictures with those of the E-3, I was pleasantly surprised. Also after the second session it turned out, confirmed by rigorous technical tests in the DIWA labs, that the pictures are very close to the pictures taken with the Olympus E-3. Right that moment I started questioning myself about what I was holding in my hands…
Olympus E420 | Digital Camera Olympus E420 | Digital Camera
Image quality of the E-420 vs E-3
How logical is it having to find out and confirm that the smallest and lightest digital SLR camera of the Olympus assortment keeps up with the E-3, which is in fact the top model of the Olympus assortment. If we compare the functionality of the E-420 with that of the E-3, there are still some differences, however. And of course, the housing is different but still… Give the Olympus E-420 a waterproof coat and it becomes a very appealing digital SLR camera also for the professional photographer.

Olympus E420 supports wireless flash control
A remarkable possibility is offered by the flash functions. The built-in flash is available of course, and on top of that the camera supports a wireless flash control for a maximum of three groups. Such an unexpected feature! It comes down to the fact that you will be carrying a ready-to-roll mobile studio around with a handful of FL-36 / FL-50 flash units and the E-420. This is an unparalleled luxury, especially for an entry-level DSLR camera!

Olympus E-420 with improved image sensor
Firstly, the image sensor has visibly improved compared to that of its predecessor(s). Although the resolution remained the same, there was a win in the dynamic range of the sensor. Particularly in the dark areas, the Olympus shows more details. Most certainly if we compare the results with those of the E-410. The RAW pictures taken with the E-420 hardly differ from the E-3 shots. That is to say; the pictures are of superb quality with identical features. If we take a look at the JPEG pictures we notice the differences a bit better, but it seems that this is due to the Olympus E-3 working in a more refined way with algorithms. What is most surprising is the fact that the Olympus E420 approaches the quality of the more expensive Olympus E-3 in many aspects.

Constant and accurate white balance
The Olympus E-420 is incredibly consistent on its white balance metering. The entire sensitivity range meters the white balance consistently and delivers a very precise result. The pre-settings allow for filtering incandescent light, however, if incandescent light dominates, you'd better set a manual white balance to get the best effect. The consistent results offer the photographer a precise prediction of what is to expect without having to care for any ISO setting.

Signal / noise ration of the Olympus E420
The signal / noise ratio drops in a steady line at higher ISO settings. The results from the DIWA Labs show a good to acceptable result up to and including 400+ ISO, in fact, it stops between 400 and 800 ISO where noise values are annoyingly visible. It is striking that the blue channel of the Olympus E420 shows more noise up to and including 400 ISO in comparison with the E3 that keeps the RGB channels quite steady.

Olympus E420 lens
In general we can compare the noise of the Olympus E-420 with that of the E3 which is quite a remarkable achievement. Compared to the competition, for example, the EOS 450D, the signal / noise ratio is almost identical for 400 and 800 ISO, with the exception of the blue channel.

Dynamic range of the Olympus E420
The dynamic range of the Olympus E-420 is fine up to and including ISO 800 and worsens visibly from around 1250 to 1600 ISO. When we compare the test results to those of the Olympus E-3, the differences are minimal and slightly in favour of the E-3. At this moment, Olympus seem to get the most out of the image sensor of the E-3 and the E-420 as a good second, as far as dynamic range is concerned. It is a real improvement if we compare it to the E-510 however; when we look at the competition, Olympus have to acknowledge the superiority of their rivals such as the Nikon D60 or the Canon EOS 450D. Nikon have achieved a larger dynamic range and Canon top it off with their EOS 450D. This camera has an unsurpassed large and steady dynamic range, even at high ISO settings.

Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm

Olympus ZUIKO Digital 14-42mm kit lens
The kit lens that comes with the Olympus E-420 is a ZUIKO Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6. We put this lens through an intensive DIWA test that showed the distortion is visible the most at 14mm and an aperture of f/22, as expected. The difference in distortion at a maximum and minimum aperture is marginal with only 0.05%. Such a distortion is acceptable and it is the maximum we find on this lens. The remaining distortions are hardly visible with the naked eye.

Chromatic aberration
The wide angle of 14mm suffers from chromatic aberration which can be solved by using an aperture value from f/5.6, below that chromatic aberration is clearly visible. The telephoto mode of 42mm and maximum aperture of f/5.6 also suffers from visible chromatic aberration; however, you can quickly get it under control by one more aperture stop. You will get the most out of this lens in relation to chromatic aberration by using an aperture of f/8 - f16.

Lens vignetting
Besides that vignetting is also present, and in particular in 14mm mode and aperture of f/3.5-f/4. The other apertures and focal lengths do not suffer from any vignetting at all, and are excellent to superb. When we look at the detail sharpness this lens is capable of, we can see visible blur in the 14mm wide angle with aperture f/3.5 and f4 and from f/5.6 it changes this blur to sharp pictures. The ZUIKO Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 performs best at f/8 and f/11, independent of the focal length. The test results for a kit lens are fine, as expected.
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