Olympus E-400 Review
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Thursday 14th September 2006
Written by Dennis Hissink
Introduction
At the end of August, we were invited to come to Hamburg to attend the press meeting of Olympus. During this European meeting, Olympus introduced their latest compact digital cameras, together with a preview of the new Olympus digital SLR camera: the Olympus E-400. Although it wasn't yet time for the moment many enthusiastic FourThirds system fans had been hoping for; the introduction of the successor of the E1, Olympus have already acknowledged they have something in store. Unfortunately, we are not yet able to release any details, but we can tell you not to expect the introduction during the upcoming Photokina. This show will focus on the new, very compact Olympus E-400 DSLR. During the press conference, there was a thick queue of four rows of journalists all trying to catch a glimpse of a trio of E400s; making it impossible to get a proper impression of this FourThirds DSLR. Therefore, we are grateful to Olympus for providing us with a pre-production model, so that we can share an extensive first impression with you. To get down to business: the Olympus E-400 is small, super small even, and combined with its weight of merely 380 grams for the housing, this ensures the new Olympus E-400 is the smallest and most light-weight digital SLR camera in the world.
Olympus Europe Press Event Planetarium Hamburg Germany
Flash memory cards
Olympus E-400 SLR camera
Olympus E-400 Digital SLR Camera Olympus E-400 Flash memory cards
Olympus E-400 Digital SLR Camera Olympus E-400 Flash memory cards
The new Olympus E-400 is equipped with a newly designed CCD with 10.0 million effective pixels. This instantly puts Olympus in the same group of digital SLR cameras as the Nikon D80 and the Canon EOS 400, which each have the same amount of Megapixels. It is the FourThirds system in particular that enables Olympus to keep the Olympus E400 this compact. Several years ago, Olympus already predicted that this size would indeed be realistic, but to actually see and experience the compact and light-weight end result remains remarkable. At this time, Olympus have several digital SLR cameras in their assortment, each recognizable by the E-system indication and starting with a number. After inquiring with Olympus, we learned that the E-3 ... series stands for Live View, E-5 ... for standard format FourThirds DSLR, and E-4 ... for super compact and light-weight. Still open is the indication for a successor of the E-1, perhaps we will be able to tell you more about this soon. Just like the E-330 and E-500 cameras, the Olympus E-400 is equipped with a 2.5-inch format LCD screen and an improved Supersonic Wave filter, which ensures dust-free photography.
To provide increased flexibility, the Olympus E-400 features 2 card slots; one for the xD Picture flash memory card and one for CompactFlash type I & II and Microdrive. One could wonder if support of Secure Digital would not have been more logical, especially when considering the potential target group of possible compact camera users that want to make the change to a DSLR, but Olympus and Secure Digital don't really seem to mix. The fact that Olympus prefers the xD Picture card should be clear; after all, Olympus and Fujifilm are the initiators of this small memory card. The xD Picture card is available with a maximum storage capacity of 2GB and a variety of speeds, just like we see with other types of memory cards. If you combine the E400 DSLR with the xD card (Olympus labelled), you will also be able to work with the xD panorama function that is built into the camera. The second slot can be filled with a CompactFlash memory card; yet another card that is available in various versions, and which at this time features a maximum storage capacity of 8GB. The Olympus E-400 digital SLR camera supports FAT32, so that memory cards with a capacity of 2GB and higher are also supported.
Super Sonic Wave filter Battery Viewfinder dioptre
Olympus E-400 Super Sonic Wave filter Olympus E-400 Battery Olympus E-400 Viewfinder dioptre
One of the indisputable assets of an Olympus E-system DSLR is of course the anti-dust filter. The so-called Supersonic Wave filter is a very welcome function of the Olympus E-400, and ensures trouble-free changing of lenses and dust-free images. The Supersonic Wave-filter, developed by Olympus themselves, generates ultrasonic vibrations, which ensure any dust particles are shaken off and caught on a special adherent layer. Due to the compactness of the Olympus E400, the Super Sonic Wave filter had to be reduced in size, but at the same time the vibration frequency has been increased for an improved result. Standard, the Olympus E-400 comes with a BLS-1 charger and a PS-BLS-1 Lithium Ion battery. The battery has a capacity of 7.2V 1150mAh. Due to the pre-production status of the camera, we are unable at this time to provide an estimate of the average amount of images that can be shot. It takes approximately 210 minutes to charge the battery, which is an average time. The battery has to be placed on the battery charger before charging, whereupon the small charge lamp will start showing a red light. As soon as the charging is completed, this light will switch to green, which means the battery can be removed and inserted into the camera's compartment. On the right side of the viewfinder, we find the dioptre through which the viewfinder of the Olympus E-400 can be adjusted to the eye of the photographer. To adjust the viewfinder accurately, you will have to look through it whilst turning the miniscule button. The settings are signalled by clearly audible clicks, and once you have a sharp view of the AF frame, the viewfinder is optimally adjusted to your eye. The viewfinder offers a view of approximately 95%, and enlarges with a factor 0.92 approximately. Although there does not seem to be a separate depth of field control button, the menu allows you to program the Fn button (located beside the LCD monitor) in a way that lets you check and control the depth of field.
Dennis Hissink
Scenes Exposure compensation
Editor's comment:
"With the introduction of the Olympus E-400, Olympus prove to have a quick and fitting answer to the 10 Megapixel power of their rivals. Lately we have seen the rapid rise of a new Megapixel segment, which promises fierce competition over a large group of potential users. Nikon have their D80, Sony the DSLR A100, Canon have the EOS 400D, and soon we will also see others, such as Pentax and Samsung, follow suit, and -together with the Olympus E400- claim the much desired market share. The digital SLR market truly is developing, which is very positive progress indeed for the digital photography market. From a strategic point of view, Olympus did not yet reveal the recommended retail price at their press meeting, but it will surely be a very competitive price. The lively DSLR market is bound to revive the heart of any photographer. After all, isn't it true that capturing your photos with a digital SLR camera simply beats working with a compact?"
Olympus E-400 Scenes Olympus E-400 Exposure compensation
On top of the Olympus E-400, on its right side, you will find the mode dial, which holds the main programmes (P/S/A/M), Auto and a variety of pre-programmed scenes. The mode dial itself can be turned both to the left and right, although not the full 360°. When turning the dial, each setting is announced by an audible click. Those who wish to make things as easy as possible may opt to set the dial to Auto, although it goes without saying that there is so much more to a digital SLR camera than just the automatic mode. The scenes enable you to capture specific subjects, whilst the aperture and shutter speed priority offer the photographer plenty of freedom to unleash endless creativity. Even though the Olympus E-400 features an advanced exposure system, and is able to respond accurately to many different exposures, it may happen that you wish to manually correct the exposure value that is set automatically by the camera. Those who shoot their photos in JPEG format will quickly come to acknowledge the necessity of compensating in advance. It is in particular when capturing images of things such as snow that miscalculations tend to occur. By compensating the exposure in the + direction, however, this small hiccup is easily cured. Those who prefer to capture their moments in RAW will be able to apply an exposure compensation afterwards without any trouble whatsoever. The compensation has a range of -5 up to +5EV in 1/3 steps.
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