Written by Gordon Laing
The Olympus E-410 is an unusually small and light 10 Megapixel digital SLR aimed at compact or super-zoom owners who are looking to upgrade, along with enthusiasts who want a camera they can use in situations where a traditional DSLR would be too cumbersome. It’s the latest model to employ the maturing Four Thirds DSLR standard and while priced as an entry-level product, there’s currently no Four Thirds body with a higher resolution.
The E-410 employs a retro look and feel, abandoning a modern grip for a flat-fronted body which resembles 35mm film SLRs of the 80s. It’s certainly anything but old-fashioned in terms of features though, sporting a new N-MOS sensor with unique Live View facilities which allow you to compose using the main colour monitor as an alternative to the traditional optical viewfinder. It also features the renowned Olympus SSWF system for eliminating dust.
While the E-410 is the latest entry-level DSLR from Olympus, it follows just over six months after the E-400. The E-400 was announced in September 2006 as the World’s Smallest and Lightest Digital SLR, and by sporting a 10 Megapixel sensor, also became the highest resolution Four Thirds body yet.
The E-400 upset many international buyers because it was only available in Europe. Olympus UK explained to Cameralabs the launch was restricted to Europe because it couldn’t secure sufficient time for production to satisfy global needs. This was apparently due to a delay in developing the ultra compact design. So rather than confuse the market with shortage in supply, Olympus decided the E-400 would only be introduced in Europe.
But then in March 2007, Olympus announced the E-410 which would be absolutely identical to the earlier E-400, with the exception of its sensor. By fitting a newly developed sensor from Matsushita, the E-410 would additionally boast Live View facilities like the earlier Olympus E-330 and Panasonic Lumix L1, but with a higher 10 Megapixel resolution.
There was one other crucial difference between the E-410 and its predecessor though: worldwide availability. While delighting those frustrated not to find the E-400 in their local stores, this launch equally upset anyone who’d bought the earlier model only to find it effectively upgraded half a year later. Was Europe being used as a test bed for the new shell? We may never know, but the good news is the E-410 is available worldwide and Olympus looks very serious about gaining a bigger share of the DSLR market.
We reviewed the E-400 back in November 2006 and found it to be a compelling overall package which won our Highly Recommended award. So with the addition of Live View facilities, has the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR just got even better? Or has the new sensor compromised quality, giving owners of the original E-400 the last laugh? Find out in our Olympus E-410 review where we’ll compare it against its predecessor, along with key 10 Megapixel rivals from Canon, Nikon and Sony.
As always you can see a demonstration of the camera’s highlights in our Olympus E-410 Video tour, which of course includes how the new Live View facility works in practice.
We tested a production-level E-410 running firmware version 1.0 for both the body and lens. Following our convention of using default factory and best quality JPEG settings to test camera bodies unless otherwise stated, the E-410 was set SHQ image quality, Auto White Balance, Digital ESP Metering, Normal Graduation and its default Vivid Picture Mode (using the default settings of zero for contrast, sharpness and saturation). The E-410’s Noise Reduction and Noise Filter options were set to their default ON and Standard settings respectively.
We are aware of reports concerning underexposure issues affecting certain Olympus E-410 evaluation samples. Our sample came from a different source and did not exhibit these issues. We tested our E-410 with its Digital ESP metering and the majority of our shots were taken in Program or Aperture Priority modes. Our Coverage, Outdoor resolution and Outdoor noise results were all taken with zero exposure compensation, as were four out of five of our Gallery samples. On a related note, the Canon EOS 400D / XTi we compared against the E-410 still underexposes (despite the latest 1.0.5 firmware), requiring +2/3 EV compensation to match the Olympus outdoor results.