My Photography learning Tips

5-star camera amongst 5-star competition,

Posted in Digital Camera by makelargps on January 17, 2010

I’ve owned an Olympus Evolt E510 for over a year. Here are a few comments that might help you.

The Olympus Evolt E520 adds face detection, a vertical panning IS (image stabilization) mode, and an improved sensor with better noise and dynamic range. Conventional wisdom is that it is not worth upgrading an E510, and further that it is worth looking at E510s on markdown if you can find a good deal. The E520, though, is certainly improved.

There are no bad DSLRs any more. They are all really good, although within a given budget and dimension, designers have to prune certain features. Olympus’ main feature is the four-thirds sensor – this is one of the smaller sensor footprints available, meaning that lens designs are slightly more compact, but small sensors generate more noise in low-light conditions.

In good light, sensor noise is not a problem. For most consumer-level users, ISOs up to about 400 or even 800 are very good – but most consumers would notice the more grainy, washed out look at 1600. I would rate an ISO1600 shot as unacceptable at 8″x10″ on the E510.

The small light circle also makes the Olympus view finder smaller and darker. If you peer through, say, a budget Nikon, the view is noticeably larger and brighter.

However, the Olympus Evolt E520 has image stabilization in the body, rather than the lenses. Lens stabilization is slightly better – it also works while you are framing up the shot – but obviously you pay for it in every lens. Many Canon/Nikon lenses do not have IS.

Neither the Olympus Evolt E520 nor the kit lenses are weather sealed. Be careful in the rain or at the beach. Fortunately, the Olympus self-cleaning sensor is probably the best one out there. I have not had to clean my sensor yet.

You will need an extra battery. The focusing in low light gets slow or fails completely as the battery runs down. I have a Duracell spare – it has been fine.

If you are into HDR (and you WILL be), the E-520 offers only +-1 EV brackets. You will have to use a tripod and fiddle with exposure between each shot for other brackets.

I recommend making a “lens plan” to decide whether to get the body only, or a 1 or 2 lens kit.

Olympus is respected for the quality of the kit lenses. These lens (the 14-42 and 40-150) are extremely compact, with good image quality. They primarily give up speed, but they are well within the speed range of other brand’s kit lenses. If you buy the kit lenses, you will look jealously at the 14-54, and the 12-60 “walking around” lenses – these are highly regarded but much more expensive. Except for the extra speed, most consumers will not notice the difference on a 5×4 print with these lenses over the kit lenses. With larger prints, or with low light, the more expensive glass is worth having.

Overall, Olympus lenses are highly regarded, even by people who are not fans of the format. Expect to pay $200 to $600 for “Standard” grade, $600 to $1200 for “High Grade”, and $1200 to $2000 for “Super High Grade” lenses. Olympus also offers a few obligatory $5000 monsters – these are well into purely-theoretical for an average user like myself.

I added the 9-18 and 70-300 lenses to my 2 kit lenses, for roughly an extra $1000. This gives me coverage from 9 through 300. These are all Olympus “Standard” quality lenses, good image quality, but not weather sealed, and a bit slow.

It is fair to say that the four-thirds system is a bit of a pariah in the camera world. There are a few pro’s shooting with it, but you should be aware that Canon has over 60% of the market, and Nikon something like 15%. If you search B&H, you will find pages and pages of Canon lenses, but only 2 pages of Olympus. Many photographers will pointedly sniff at your 4:3 ratio pictures, instead of their “classic” 3:2 ratio. However, 4:3 is a better crop if you often print out 8×10 pictures instead of the small 5×3 or 6×4, and Walmart and many other developers offer a 5×4 size.

I wish there were more lenses to choose from – yet I would still buy the ones I already bought. I wish the noise performance were better – but I have never really lost a shot because of it, and may add an E-30 body to my bag soon. I’m satisfied with the 4/3 format, and very happy with my camera.

You should google up Wrotniak, four-thirds (on Wikipedia), or four-thirds forum for more information. Olympus Evolt E520

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