Olympus’ EVOLT E-510; A 10-Megapixel D-SLR With Live View & Built-In Image Stabilizer

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The first Four Thirds format D-SLR with a built-in Image Stabilizer, the EVOLT E-510 is an incredibly versatile camera in many respects. This 10-megapixel model offers several benefits over the previous EVOLT models, including higher resolution, the faster TruePic III processor with superior noise reduction, plus additional features in Capture and Playback modes. But the new camera retains the best capabilities of the earlier E-330, including the "Supersonic Wave Filter" that eliminates sensor dust and Live View, for composing images on the LCD monitor.

It's worth noting that there's another new E-System model, the more affordable EVOLT E-410 ($649, street price), that's identical to the E-510 in most respects but does not include the Anti-Shake stabilizer. It's also substantially smaller, designed for maximum portability, and features fewer external controls. Although this review covers the E-510, I also worked extensively with an E-410. Everything in this report--except size, handling, and discussions about the stabilizer--applies equally to both Olympus EVOLT cameras.

The E-510 is convenient to operate thanks to many analog controls and a submenu (shown here) that allows for quickly selecting frequently used functions. Naturally, many other advanced features are also available in the full electronic menu, including a wide range of overrides plus options for modifications in Playback mode.

Design And Capabilities
A mid-size D-SLR with a large, well-sculpted handgrip, the E-510 is much heavier than the E-410 because of a much larger battery and the new Anti-Shake mechanism. The viewfinder is bright and contrasty but is a bit small, as with every camera that employs the Four Thirds size (17.3x13mm) sensor. But the high-resolution, wide-view LCD monitor (fixed, without any articulating mechanism) is quite large. It's great for image preview or playback and for viewing the various menu items in a fairly large font. The camera sports analog controls for most of the frequently used features, all conveniently placed and well marked.

First time D-SLR buyers will find the E-510 easy to use thanks to the 18 fully automatic, subject-specific Program modes selected with the SCENE setting on the mode dial. Information as to the intent of each mode is displayed on the LCD monitor when you scroll to the right with the four-way controller. When appropriate, the built-in flash pops up automatically in Scene modes. All of this is quite simple and great for a novice.

Even at default settings--without using any of the numerous in camera overrides--the E-510 often produced photos of excellent quality. As we'll see however, there are a couple of methods for getting even greater detail and sharpness from the new 10-megapixel Live-MOS sensor. (Image made at ISO 200 using a Zuiko 50-200mm ED zoom and a Hoya S-HMC polarizer.)
All Photos © 2007, Peter K. Burian, All Rights Reserved

Olympus provides a multitude of advanced options as well, making the E-510 among the most versatile cameras in its price range. Some of the most frequently used items are available in a submenu, accessed with the [OK] button on the camera back. Additional functions can be found in the five-part electronic menu. In spite of the logical layout, menu navigation is tedious because of the sheer number of items for customizing the camera. And some of the features definitely call for a review of the instruction manual for full specifics as to their purpose and value. After an initial setup to meet personal preferences however, there's rarely a need to access the full menu.

Like the Sony Alpha and current Pentax D-SLRs, the E-510 incorporates an Anti-Shake mechanism that shifts the entire sensor module. When the Live View feature is on, the effects of the Image Stabilizer (IS) can be previewed on the LCD monitor. Olympus employs a proprietary stabilizer with "blurring frequency analysis/ detection" to determine the type of camera shake and a Supersonic Wave Drive motor to adjust the sensor module's position. Three options are available for selection with the [IS] button. Off is recommended when using a tripod or to save battery power. The IS 1 mode is for multipurpose use; it compensates for vertical and horizontal shake. Designed for panning, IS 2 mode provides stabilization only for up/down camera shake; it does not try to compensate for your intentional horizontal camera movement.

Unique to Olympus in the "affordable" D-SLR category, Live View allows for composing on the LCD monitor with an accurate depiction of exposure and white balance. Depth of field preview is also available in Live View, great for assessing the range of acceptable sharpness from foreground to background. (Image made at ISO 100 in JPEG capture, with Vivid mode, using a Zuiko 50-200mm ED zoom and a Hoya S-HMC polarizer.)

Live View Technology
Unlike the earlier EVOLT E-330, the E-510 offers only one Live View mode for composing images on the LCD monitor. Press the pertinent button and the camera automatically flips the reflex mirror out of the sensor's light path. Once that obstruction is removed, light can strike the Live-MOS sensor. The image data is directed to the 2.5" LCD monitor for a preview with an overlay providing full shooting data. The LCD monitor no longer flips out as it did on the E-330, but it does provide a very wide 176Þ viewing angle.

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Your camera should be coupled

Your camera should be coupled with a good printer. And in this case the inkjet printers will give justice to your camera. - Thaddeus Heffner