Olympus E-400 with Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 ED

Outdoor scene - Olympus E-400 vs Canon EOS 400D / XTi vs Panasonic L1

Olympus E-400 with 14-42mm lens crop 1


Olympus E-400
Using ZD 14-42mm
Canon 400D / XTi
Using EF-S 18-55mm
Panasonic L1
Using Leica 14-50mm
  Canon EOS 400D with 18-55mm lens crop 1   Panasonic L1 with 14-50mm lens crop 1
1/250, f8, 100 ISO
1/250, f8, 100 ISO
1/250, f8, 100 ISO
Olympus E-400 with 14-42mm lens crop 2   Canon EOS 400D with 18-55mm lens crop 2   Panasonic L1 with 14-50mm lens crop 2
1/250, f8, 100 ISO
1/250, f8, 100 ISO
1/250, f8, 100 ISO
Olympus E-400 with 14-42mm lens crop 3   Canon EOS 400D with 18-55mm lens crop 3   Panasonic L1 with 14-50mm lens crop 3
1/250, f8, 100 ISO
1/250, f8, 100 ISO
1/250, f8, 100 ISO

Judging from the samples above, the Olympus E-400 is capable of recording roughly the same degree of detail as the Canon EOS 400D / XTi when both are using their respective kit lenses. The Olympus and Panasonic samples of the mountain also exhibit less colour fringing than the Canon kit lens, which is especially impressive when you consider the Canon captured a wider 3:2 image, so its particular crop was taken further from the extreme corners.

As seen in our other Canon 400D / XTi tests, its kit lens suffers with detail in the corners which is most visible on the trees in the final row of crops. Again the Olympus and Panasonic resolve greater foliage detail – and again despite being taken from an area closer to the edges of their frames. Overall, a good result for the Olympus E-400 and its kit lens. Under real-life conditions, it’s clearly comparable with arguably it’s biggest 10 Megapixel DSLR rival and in some optical respects beats it.

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Olympus E-400 JPEG versus RAW comparison

To eliminate the effect of the E-400’s in-camera processing and compression, we set it to record a RAW file at the same time as an SHQ JPEG, again using the default Vivid Colour Mode. The JPEG and RAW files measured 7.06MB and 21MB respectively.

The RAW file was processed with Adobe Camera RAW using the default settings (and ‘As Shot’ White Balance), then transferred to Photoshop with 16-bit tonal depth, before converting to 8-bit then cropping and saving using the same JPEG settings as above.

Olympus E-400 JPEG versus RAW, using Zuiko Digital 14-42mm
Olympus E-400 - JPEG
Olympus E-400 - RAW
JPEG, 1/250, f8, 100 ISO
RAW conversion, 1/250, f8, 100 ISO

Using the Adobe Camera RAW defaults and ‘As Shot’ White Balance, the processed RAW file is considerably more saturated than the in-camera JPEG, something which is particularly apparent on the lake colour. Although we should say, the lake on the day more resembled the colour on the right. Even with the levels applied by ACR, there’s arguably greater tonal detail in the RAW sample, especially in the trees, but still some annoying artefacts around the roofs on the far left side. Of course as always, different source material, not to mention different RAW converters may deliver different results.

One thing we should mention though is Olympus’ continued (and much appreciated) strategy of offering a very low compression SHQ JPEG mode in addition to more typical compression ratios. This SHQ mode may deliver relatively hefty files, but virtually eliminates the effect of JPEG compression on images. It’s a great option to have and we’d like to see similar low compression modes available on all digital cameras.

Olympus E-400 results continued…

Outdoor / Resolution / Noise / Noise 2 / Corner sharpness / Fringe & macro / Geometry / Vignetting

To compare real-life performance we shot the same scene with the Olympus E-400, Canon 400D / XTi and Panasonic L1 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings and 100 ISO sensitivity.

Each camera was fitted with their respective kit lenses: the Olympus ZD 14-42mm, Canon EF-S 18-55mm and Leica 14-50mm. The 400D / XTi captured a wider 3:2 frame, but the focal length of each lens was adjusted to deliver the same vertical field of view.

The image above was taken with the Olympus E-400 at 21mm f8, with a sensitivity of 100 ISO; the original SHQ JPEG measured 7.06MB; the Canon 400D / XTi and Panasonic L1 images were taken with the same exposures and measured 4.57 and 4.80MB respectively.

The crops are taken from the upper left, center and lower right portions of the originals and presented here at 100%.

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