Review: Olympus Evolt E-410 Unboxed and Well Fondled (Verdict: Quite Nice, but Nikon D40 is Nicer)


If you don't know about the E-410, it's a 10-megapixel digital SLR packed into a remarkably slim body, selling for an impressively low price ($700 for body only, $800 for one lens, $900 including two lenses). The value proposition increases when you consider it includes Live View—the ability to get a video preview of your shot on the main LCD, á la point-and-shoot cameras. We talked about all of this and more when we introduced it to you at PMA. Now that it's here, is it the end-all be-all? Did it take pretty pictures? Keep reading to learn about my hands-on E-410 experience, and see some shots.

One of the biggest promos is that it's compact for an SLR. On one hand, "compact SLR" has a similar ring to "tall midget." You know, too much of a qualification. The E-410 may be relatively small but it's still a big freakin' camera. Nevertheless, you'll see in the first shot below that the 13.6-ounce E-410 body is significantly smaller than Nikon's baby DSLR, the D40, which is the same size as the 10-megapixel upgrade D40x and weighs just over 16 ounces. In fact, the E-410 is almost as small as Olympus' 18X zoom point-and-shoot, the SP-550 UZ, compared in the second shot. The lithium-ion battery designed for this smaller body gets a reported 400 shots per charge, which should put it roughly in the middle of the pack.



When it comes to taking pictures, I shoot plenty, and I know a few things about shutter speeds and f-stops. Still, I'm no pro jock. Fortunately, neither is anyone who would seriously consider this camera. The E-410 is aimed squarely at people who plan to step up from a point-and-shoot, for more versatility and overall nicer-looking pictures.

If that's your aim, you could do far worse than buy an E-410. Live View certainly helps people who have gotten used to framing shots on the large LCD, rather than squinting into a viewfinder. In Live View, there's even a little targeting computer for the auto focus. When you activate it, you digitally zoom in 10X without affecting the frame of your shot, to hyper-focus on a particular item.

The 10-megapixel resolution is, itself, a helpful item for beginners, since it allows you to crop a shot closer without suffering from any digital pixelation. And the settings, Olympus' standard grid pattern of options such as flash, image quality and ISO setting, are easy to access once you get the button sequence down. It's intuitive, possibly more-so than the D40, whose interface relies more heavily on the large LCD than than Nikon's previous D models.

Outdoors, with plenty of light, proved to be the best environment for shooting in the E-410's automatic modes. Colors came out rich, with decent contrast most of the time. Though I typically prefer the viewfinder for shooting, the high-contrast display did well in the blazing sunlight for both Live View and post-shot review.

Shooting with a flash indoors was a mixed bag. If there was enough ambient light, the flash filled in only what was necessary, and shots came out bright without that artificial sheen. In instances with lower natural light, however, the camera took a while to make the focus, exposure and light adjustments before committing to the shot. By that point, my subjects (a pair of gray cats named Wade and Wynona) might have wandered off or stopped doing the cute thing I was hoping to immortalize. This is not a problem I've encountered with the Nikon D40. The good news is that when the camera finally did make the shot, whatever was in frame appeared properly lighted and not at all washed out—even at close range.

My biggest complaint about the E-410 is that, using the Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens that comes in the two-lens deluxe kit, I didn't have a very good time shooting in low light without a flash. Automatic shutter-speed adjustment meant a slow, blurry exposure, even in ambient light that many point-and-shoots can negotiate. The Nikon D40, by comparison, performs admirably well in low light with its 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 Nikkor lens.

You can see examples from the camera in the gallery below.

The camera body comes by itself or in two kits. Body only is $700, a kit with a single lens is $800, and a kit with two lenses, the 14-42mm plus a 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 will cost you $900.

Olympus' follow-up to the E-410 will be the E-510, out in a few weeks. They both have the above-mentioned features, plus the "supersonic wave filter" dust demolisher that Olympus prides itself on. (Can someone please tell me why it's not an "ultrasonic" wave filter?) In addition, the E-510 has a bigger hand grip and optical image stabilization, and will cost $100 more than E-410 in each of the three configurations.

I know, you want me to tell you whether you should spend your hard-earned $800 on this for your mom's Mother's Day gift. If relative size and the Live View feature are important to Mommy dearest, then yes. Otherwise, spend a tad more on the slightly larger, better performing Nikon D40x.


Trending Stories Right Now