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The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined

The E-410 has just evolved

In what has to be regarded as one of the better kept DSLR launch secrets in a while, Olympus has unveiled the E-420, which is a significantly enhanced version of the year-old E-410, plus an ultra-compact 'pancake' 25mm f/2.8 Digital Zuiko prime standard lens. The two make an interesting combination with lightweight and compactness, plus the promise of super-sharp results, at the top of the list of attributes. The E-420 is also to be sold as body-only, with the 14-42 standard kit lens and as a twin lens kit with the 40-150 f/4-5.6.

E-410 updated

Unmistakably based on the E-410 body, which continues to be the smallest and DSLR body currently available, the E-420 has some subtle and fundamental differences compared to its predecessor. On the outside the minimalist grip has been re-profiled to afford more secure handling. The printed legends on the outside of the body have new colours to help the 7% of the population who are colour blind use the camera more easily.

There is also a new 2.7 inch LCD screen, slightly larger in area than the E-410 screen and said to be more contrasty, with a wider viewing angle and exhibiting a wider display gamut in order to make the use of the screen for exposure, colour and focus/depth of field evaluation a better experience. Resolution remains the same and the screen stays fixed too.

Continuous live view AF

Under the skin the E-420's most significant change is the implementation of AF without needing to interrupt live view. Like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10, the E-420 uses off-the-sensor contrast detection autofocus, though this only works with the new 25mm lens and the 14-42 and 40-150 kit lenses. Customers purchasing a body-only who already have one or both kit lenses can download a firmware update to make them fully compatible with the continuous live view contrast detect AF.

There are two contrast detect live view AF modes: AF-1 - press the shutter release half way and focus is found during live view but once pressing the shutter elease home, final AF measured with the mirror down using the normal phase-detect mode. AF-2 only uses contrast detection, so a mirror action cycle is avoided. We haven't yet tried the E-420, but our guess is that the AF-1 mode may be faster than AF-2 in some circumstances, despite the additional mirror action.

  E-410 E-420 Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10
Sensor 10MP LiveMOS 10MP LiveMOS* 10MP LiveMOS*
Image processor TruePic III TruePic III Venus Engine III
Shadow Adjustment Technology No Yes No
Face detection No Yes Yes
Live view AF modes Phase detect Phase detect plus contrast detect** Phase detect plus contrast detect**
LCD screen size/resolution 2.5in/230K pixels 2.7in/230K pixels 2.5in/230K pixels
Articulating screen No No Yes
Wireless remote flash support No Yes No
Max continuous shooting rate 3fps (8 RAW frames) 3.5fps (? RAW frames) 3fps (3 RAW frames)
Image stabilisation Only with IS lens Only with IS lens Only with IS lens***

*Improved sensor dynamic range

**Enables AF in continuous live view

***IS featured with bundled kit lens

Face detection

Hardware driven face detection capability works hand-in-hand with the contrast detection live view AF mode, ensuring that AF priority is given to faces in the frame, so avoiding incorrect focus on background detail.

Updated sensor and exposure system

It looks like the E-420 has the Mark 2 10MP LiveMOS sensor that has already seen action in the Panasonic DMC-L10 and Olympus E-3. This means a modest improvement in dynamic range and a small increase in continuous shooting rate compared to the E-410, up from 3fps to 3.5fps.

Shadow Adjustment Technology (SAT), already seen on the E-3, is also featured on the E-420. This is an automatic evaluative metering mode linked to the TruePic III image processor that can optimise shadow detail while avoiding blown highlights.

E-3 style menus and nomenclature

Like the E-3, the E-420 continues Olympus' revised image size and JPEG compression nomenclature, like Large Fine (low compression, maximum resolution) instead of SHQ (Super High Quality). E-420 menu structure appears to owe a lot to the E-3, too.

Wireless flash

As expected, the E-420 supports the new R-series wireless remote FL flash system, so multiple flash units and groups can be wirelessly controlled using the camera's pop-up flash, in much the same way as the E-3.

The pancake lens

Olympus has afforded the new low profile Digital Zuiko 25mm f/2.8 prime lens its Tatsuno quality mark, indicating it is the result of the design work of the designers at Olympus' prestigious Tatsuno lens facility. The lens is less than one inch thick and is comprised of 5 elements in 4 groups, including a dual-aspheric element. Closest focus is 20cm and the aperture diaphragm incorporates 7 blades to deliver a circular aperture.

Minimum aperture is f/22. Unusually, the 25mm f/2.8 comes with a 43mm screw-on aluminium lens cap. Olympus say the lens has very good edge to edge sharpness and can be used for high quality defocused bokeh effects. It promises to be an attractive all-round lens in the tradition of the old 50mm standard lens from film days.

Pricing

UK list prices are as follows:

  • Olympus E-420 body only - 339.99
  • Olympus E-420 Lens Kit - 379.99
    (E-420 body with ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 lens)
  • Olympus E-420 Double Zoom Kit - 479.99
    (E-420 body with ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 and ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm 1:4.0-5.6 lenses)
  • Olympus E-420 25mm Lens Kit - 449.99
    (E-420 body with ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:2.8 lens)
  • ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:2.8 lens - 189.99

So what is your reaction? Tell us what you think via the FTU forum.

 

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The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined

Four Thirds User editorial team The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
We look beyond the press releases and examine what the newly announced Olympus E-420 DSLR and Digita... (more)

thestickman Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
I'm stunned, and delighted at the price of that pancake! The camera is cool, but just an evolutionar... (more)

Barr1e Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
I must say I agree the news is very exciting and the new lens seems most affordable. Turning to the... (more)

veggiesosage Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
...and the new sensor and contrast detection autofocus. And the 'R' flash system.... Teasmaid? :D... (more)

veggiesosage Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
And can I be the first to wonder what 'Amateur Photographer' will make of it? :D... (more)

Beardedwombat Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
Add the E-420's contrast autofocus, R flash, upgraded sensor, face detection, AND 5fps to the E-510 ... (more)

joachim Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
A data sheet with sample image (pdf) can be found: [url]http://fourthirdsphoto.com/Preview/images... (more)

dlinney Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
I may have missed it but was there an availability date for the 25mm lens?... (more)

thestickman Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
April 08, I think its only listed in the lens Press Release page, not the main article. Lets hope fo... (more)

biggles3 Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
April 08? Fantastic - what a day: a new Zuiko prime lens (Park Cameras here I come) and the sta... (more)

Ian Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
I have a 100MB PowerPoint but every page is marked Olympus Top Secret! Ian... (more)

joachim Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
Ian, sorry I am lost. Does your PowerPoint contain more samples?... (more)

Ian Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
Hahaha! It's TOP SECRET. I'm trying to get permission from Olympus to publish parts of it asap... (more)

joachim Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
While I agre that contrast detect is an important step forward, it seems they still can't operate... (more)

Ian Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
Yes, I'm trying to figure this out. One theory is that as there is only one motor to cock the shu... (more)

thestickman Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
Like the good old days? Phil... (more)

joachim Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
A sensor is typically far superior for light metering purposes. E.g. the Lumix L10 has a more so... (more)

Ian Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
The problem with the sensor for metering could be speed. The dedicated metering sensor is probabl... (more)

Ian Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
Hmmmmm! Yes... hmmmmm :D Ian... (more)

thestickman Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
I have just watched this video from the German launch event. During the display by the Oly rep to th... (more)

mike_j Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
I've got one of those. It's called a Leica M6 - full frame too!... (more)

Barr1e Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
Thanks Phil. Regards. Barr1e... (more)

ditch_azeroth Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
that pancake lens looks awesome. anybody have sample shots? how's the image quality. 2.8 is usually ... (more)

achanth Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
The smallish size of E420 is what attracted me...however, the ISO range and dynamic range must be go... (more)

thestickman Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
For anyone wondering what the 25mm will look like on an E3... [url]http://dc.watch.impress.co.jp/cda... (more)

fluffy Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
Love the E-3 and E-420 comparison photos. And the sort of translations.:D I have no idea wn I'll... (more)

N/A Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
That's easy - they will compare it with its obvious nearest competitor the Hasselblad H3DII medium ... (more)

Barr1e Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
Thanks - very interesting. Regards. Barr1e... (more)

Barr1e Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
*LOL [QUOTE=Mad Prof;13643]Or maybe they will finally let Geoffrey Crawley take over al... (more)

Tumpik Re: The new Olympus E-420 DSLR and 25mm pancake lens examined
what about filter size? is 43mm size available for UV & CPL filter. i'm so excited about this new p... (more)

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