Sharpness was a tad low due to aggressive NR that produces a loss of detail
due to blurring. The problem can be solved with a higher in camera Sharpening
level but that does not provide the most natural-looking results. Switching
to the Low NR option is a better bet for greater sharpness (e.g., less blurring)
and higher resolution of intricate detail. There's an NR Off setting as
well; that's ideal for ISO 100 but by ISO 400 the images are too "grainy."
My technically best images made for gorgeous 13x17" inkjet prints at 240dpi
after slight optimization and re-sizing in Photoshop CS3.
At ISO 800, the Low NR setting remains suitable for those who do not want excessively
smooth results caused by blurring that's intended to minimize digital
noise. A mottled color pattern is visible at ISO 800 but the images still made
for very nice letter-size prints. By ISO 1600, I found that the Standard NR
was preferable. There was some slight "smearing" of fine detail
but adequate resolution for making good 8x10" glossies. Extra sharpening
was required in camera--or preferably in Photoshop with greater control--in
order to compensate for the softening produced by the Standard NR level.
The camera's evaluative metering system is very effective
even with scenes that are brighter than a mid tone. In harsh lighting
however, highlight areas tend to be excessively bright--as
in the umbrellas and the steeple in this photo--a problem
that can be minimized using the hints provided in the text. (Image
made at ISO 100 with JPEG capture, using a Zuiko 14-42mm ED zoom
and a Hoya S-HMC polarizer.)
This 10-megapixel D-SLR provides very high resolution with excellent definition
of fine detail in JPEGs when the right level of NR is selected. Slightly better
image quality is possible in raw capture but the difference is not noticeable
in print sizes smaller than 10x13". Raw capture is definitely useful however,
particularly in contrasty light where images often include excessively bright
areas lacking texture or detail. Use raw capture instead and the (highlight
clipping) problem is not difficult to solve with contrast and exposure adjustment
in the Olympus Master 2 software.
If shooting JPEGs in harsh light, it's best to underexpose a bit and set
in camera contrast to -2 to minimize blown-out highlights. Later, use Levels
or Curves in imaging software to achieve a brighter, snappier effect. In JPEG
capture, some users will also want to set higher saturation--or select
the Vivid mode--for richer, more vibrant photos. It may also be tempting
to boost in camera sharpening. In my opinion, that's unnecessary at ISO
100-800 if the NR level is set to Low.
When purchased in a kit with the E-510, the new Zuiko Digital
14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED zoom costs only about $100, a bargain for
an impressive lens. At every focal length, it produced images
with high contrast and fine resolution across the entire frame
without apparent vignetting. While the pro Zuiko lenses are more
effectively corrected for linear distortion, the affordable zoom
is highly desirable in all other respects. (Image made in Dubrovnik,
Croatia, at ISO 100 with JPEG capture at f/8 and adjusted with
Smart Sharpen in Photoshop CS3.)
The Bottom Line
The EVOLT E-510 is a leading contender in the 10-megapixel category with a vast
range of functions, built-in stabilizer, an incredibly effective anti-dust system,
plus Live View (unique to Olympus in the "affordable" category).
It is a remarkably feature-rich camera for the price and the ultrasonic sensor
dust removal system is unusually effective. Surprisingly though, Olympus is
still using a three-point AF sensor while some competing cameras boast nine-
or 11-point systems. The three-point arrangement is fine for most subjects but
it cannot maintain focus on a very small subject that drifts off-center in action
photography. The built-in Image Stabilizer is a real bonus however, and it's
compatible with every Four Thirds format lens. The system allowed me to make
many sharp photos at an 84mm equivalent focal length at 1/15 sec instead of
the 1/90 sec required when IS was off.
Granted, some competitors are faster or feature a more versatile autofocus system
and a larger viewfinder. But the E-510 is remarkably desirable and successful
in all other aspects. While the E-410 is less expensive, the E-510 offers extra
value with its Anti-Shake system, larger handgrip, extra analog controls, and
larger battery. Regardless of the EVOLT model that you choose, plan to pay about
$100 more for the kit with the 14-42mm ED zoom because it's a better than
The EVOLT E-510 measures 5.35x3.6x2.7" and weighs 16.6 oz (body only).
The street price is $799 (body only).
For additional information and specs, visit the Olympus website at: www.olympus-esystem.com.
You can also contact Olympus Imaging America Inc. at 3500 Corporate Parkway,
PO Box 610, Center Valley, PA 18034; (888) 553-4448; www.olympusamerica.com.
A long-time "Shutterbug" contributor, stock photographer Peter K.
is the author of "Mastering Digital Photography and Imaging" and
the co-author of several "Magic Lantern Guide" books about 35mm
and D-SLRs. He also teaches two online digital photography courses at BetterPhoto.com.