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9th April 2007
In-depth review: Olympus E-410 compact DSLR with live view (Part 1)
by Ian Burley
3782: In-depth review: Olympus E-410 compact DSLR with live view (Part 1)

A minor name change but a major under the skin upgrade for the Olympus E-410 DSLR, including live view

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Welcome to part 1 of our multi-part in-depth review of the Olympus E-410 compact DSLR, featuring live view. In part 1, we take a basic look at the design of the camera and provide some example images for you to download.

In part 2, we will look at the camera's noise and resolution characteristics and examine its colour rendition, with some more sample files to download. In part 4, we examine the 14-42mm (28-84mm equivalent) kit lens that comes with the E-410 and put it through its paces on the technical benchtest.

Finally, in part 5, after we've had some time to get really acquainted with the E-410, we'll cover aspects of living with the E-410 and its general effectiveness as a modern DSLR camera.

Audience participation!

During the review period, we encourage you to join in the process by posting to a dedicated review thread in our discussion forum. I'll do my best to respond to any questions in order to widen the breadth of the review.

The camera we have been supplied with for review is labelled 'pre-production' by Olympus . However, it was supplied in a store-ready box, in twin-lens kit form (bundled with the 14-42 standard kit lens and the 40-150 kit telephoto zoom) and have been assured by Olympus that the camera is representative of final production models, and image quality can be safely judged with this camera. However, we note that the camera's firmware version number is '0.0' and we expect final shipping versions to have version 1.0 installed.

The E-410 is an important camera for Olympus as it represents their first 'new generation' Four Thirds DSLR and its image quality should be representative of the forthcoming E-510 DSLR, which shares the same sensor, but adds in-body image stabilisation via a sonic-wave controlled sensor platform.

Below is a gallery of product images to give you a feel for the design of the E-410. It's essentially the same physical design as the E-400 that was launched in the autumn of last year. There is only one external difference, where the E-400's Fn button has been replaced by a display mode selector button to accommodate the new live view feature. For a more extended look at the E-400/410 design, please look at our larger product views gallery for the E-400.

On page 2 of this article, we cover the new operational features introduced in the E-410 and on page 3 we have original image samples from our review camera for you to download.

E-410 product photo gallery

For more E-400 product images, including comparisons with a classic Olympus OM-4 film DSLR, have a look at our E-400 article from last year.

Click on a thumbnail image below to see a larger version plus its caption:


Reader feedback:

Camera Features

When Olympus launched the E-400 late last year, it was hailed as a super-compact and light DSLR camera and it featured a ten megapixel resolution sensor, bringing Olympus in line with its competitors. But apart from that, it was fairly conventional and could be regarded as a version of the two year old Olympus E-500, reduced in size, with new matching compact kit lenses and a simplified external control set.

On the E-400, the Fn button was used for multiple functions, like setting custom white balance. Here, on the E-410, the Fn button has metamorphosed into the live view mode selector, so programmable functions are now assigned to the left (east) nav pad key.

On the E-400, the Fn button was used for multiple functions, like setting custom white balance. Here, on the E-410, the Fn button has metamorphosed into the live view mode selector, so programmable functions are now assigned to the left (east) nav pad key.

The E-410 is visually identical - even upon fairly close examination - to the E-400, but under the skin some major changes have been made and, in many ways, the E-410 is a very different beast.

New LiveMOS sensor

First of all, there is a new ten megapixel sensor. Although Olympus did not officially reveal the make of the E-400's CCD-type sensor, we understand from a very reliable source that the E-400 used a Kodak-sourced part. You could say it was an E-500 sensor, but scaled from 8 megapixels to 10 megapixels. Olympus also improved the image processing at the same time, managing to reduce noise despite the increase in pixel density.

With the E-410, the sensor is from Panasonic and it's a LiveMOS type (apparently an Olympus trademark, not Panasonic) that can stream video, so providing the E-410's headline feature; a live 100% frame view via the 2.5 inch LCD screen. At the beginning of last year, we saw the first LiveMOS sensor in the Olympus E-330 and, later, the Panasonic DMC-L1 and the Leica Digilux 3, all variations of the E-330 Four Thirds platform chassis. That sensor was a 7.5 megapixel part.

Although we will examine image noise and resolution in more detail later in part 2 of this review, early indications show that Olympus is really getting on top of the thorny issue of noise. The with the E-330, the LiveMOS sensor has already shown that it's superior to the equivalent resolution Kodak sensor Olympus has used when it comes to noise and the E-410's high ISO image quality we've seen backs this up.

Three levels of noise filtering are now available on the E-410, a series of modes distinct from the usual long exposure Noise Reduction mode.

Three levels of noise filtering are now available on the E-410, a series of modes distinct from the usual long exposure Noise Reduction mode.

The noise filter function, first seen on the original E-1, makes a return on the E-410 and it offers three levels of filter intensity: low, standard and high.

Live view modes

Unlike the E-330, the screen on the E-410 is fixed, so the E-330's tilting screen benefits are not so apparent. However, you can still use the E-410, with its live view mode switched on, for low angle shots and by raising the camera up to get a view over, for example, people in front - just like you can with a compact camera.

e-410-screens01.jpg

In this view it's not easy to see if the focus is accurately fixed. The green square indicates the coverage of a magnified (7x) live view manual focus check mode.

At 7x live view zoom, the focus is clearly out.

At 7x live view zoom, the focus is clearly out.

Now, with live view-assisted fine adjustment, focus can be accurately found.

Now, with live view-assisted manual fine adjustment, focus can be accurately found.

But the news is one of gains as well as losses. First of all, the E-410's live view mode is brightness and colour calibrated, so you can use the display to help you evaluate exposure and colour balance.

The E-410's live view mode can now be used to check colour balance and exposure, aided by a live exposure histogram display.

The E-410's live view mode can now be used to check colour balance and exposure, aided by a live exposure histogram display.

There is also a genuinely live histogram. The E-330 had none of these features.

Gone is the E-330's secondary live view mode that used a CCD in the viewfinder system. The E-410 only shows the actual imager's view of the world. This means autofocus can only be performed by re-deploying the reflex mirror temporarily, but it's relatively seamless and although it's not much use for action photography, you get used to it very quickly. When not using live view mode, the AF and optical TTL viewing system is quite conventional.

Another feature previously unavailable on Olympus' first live view DSLR, the E-330, was any form of enhanced framing aid. The E-410 offers several options, including this grid line display.

I originally thought another feature of the E-410 that was previously unavailable on Olympus' first live view DSLR, the E-330, was any form of enhanced framing aid. However, the E-330 does in fact share the E-410's options, including this grid line display.

Bright, if small viewfinder

The E-330 (and Panasonic DMC-L1 and Leica Digilux 3) incorporates a semi-silvered mirror (to accommodate the E-330's secondary live view sensor) in an unconventional 'Porro' viewfinder system that reduced viewfinder brightness. With its conventional pentaprism reflex finder system, the E-410 does not suffer from compromised viewfinder brightness, though the small Four Thirds sensor does mean the eye-level viewfinder view is not as 'spacious' as in full frame and other DSLRs with larger sensors. In practice, it doesn't present a major problem, though.

One aspect I'm surprised about is that Olympus chose not to use the shutter release, by default, for autofocus during live view mode. Instead, you need to use the AE-Lock button on the back of the camera.

No AF upgrade

Anyone hoping for an upgrade to the simple three-point AF system that is featured in all Four Thirds cameras to date, will be disappointed. The viewfinder layout, with the LED information panel, unusually, to the right, plus the three AF points in the centre of the screen, is basically the same as the E-330, E-500 and the E-400. If there is a benefit to this simplicity, the screen itself is less cluttered than most. AF responsiveness in low light is not radically different to the E-400 or E-500 and, it has to be said, is not as good as some rivals, but in normal conditions it works well and the kit lenses have quiet AF motors.

Neat menu-less controls

One feature that works better than most is Olympus' dual mode control display. Like most other more affordable DSLRs, there is no secondary LCD status display, just a large 2.5 inch colour display that serves to display pictures taken (not forgetting live view, of course) as well as view mode and settings status. Most cameras simply present a system of menus, but since the E-500 was introduced, by pressing the OK button, you can use the navigation buttons to highlight settings displays that, once highlighted, become adjustable, without delving into a menu, by turning the click-stopped settings adjustment dial.

Olympus has incorporated menu-less access to key camera settings for several model generations and the E-410 follows the same example. This is the 'simple' view with the ISO speed highlighted. It can be adjusted directly by turning the top-plate mode adjust dial.

Olympus has incorporated menu-less access to key camera settings for several model generations and the E-410 follows the same example. This is the 'simple' view with the ISO speed highlighted. It can be adjusted directly by turning the top-plate mode adjust dial.

This is the advanced mode display, with more modes packed into the available display space. White balance settings are highlighted for direct adjustment.

This is the advanced mode display, with more modes packed into the available display space. White balance settings are highlighted for direct adjustment.

The system is brilliantly effective and you can choose between two display sizes, one with larger legends, though less options displayed. Conventional menus are also available via the 'Menu' button, or by clicking a highlighted option again using the OK button.

We'll cover more of the E-410's functionality features later in the review.

The next page has an initial eight original image samples, taken with the two kit lenses, available for download.

Sample Images

The following sample images are made available for your personal evaluation only and may not be republished, in any form, or linked directly from another website, without our prior permission. Please note, by clicking on the the thumbnails below, the full original six megabyte megabyte, 10 megapixel, JPEG image will show in your browser. You may prefer to download the image to your computer for convenient browsing offline. Windows users can do this by right-clicking and using the 'Save Target as...' option.

Olympus-E410_01 Olympus-E410_02
14-42 kit zoom, 34mm (68mm equiv) 1/160th @f/6.3 ISO 100 14-42 kit zoom, 42mm (84mm equiv) 1/400th @f/7.1 ISO 100

Olympus-E410_03

Olympus-E410_04
14-42 kit zoom, 19mm (38mm equiv) 1/1000th @f/4 (full aperture) ISO 100 14-42 kit zoom, 42mm (84mm equiv) 1/160th @f/7.1 ISO 400

Olympus-E410_05

Olympus-E410_06
40-150 kit zoom, 150mm (300mm equiv) 1/125th @f/5.6 (full aperture) ISO 100 Spot metering 40-150 kit zoom, 150mm (300mm equiv) 1/1000th @f/8 ISO 400 Highlight spot meter.

Olympus-E410_07

Olympus-E410_08
40-150 kit zoom, 150mm (300mm equiv) 1/400th @f/9 ISO 400 40-150 kit zoom, 150mm (300mm equiv) 1/500th @f/9 ISO 400


Specifications

Exposure Modes
Type
Lens mount Four Thirds
Body material Glass reinforced plastics
Image Sensor
Effective pixels 10 Megapixels
Filter array Primary colour filter (RGB)
Full resolution 10.9 Megapixels
Type 4/3'' Live MOS sensor
Aspect ratio & area 4:3 / 17.3 x 13.0mm
Engine
Type TruePic III
Filter
LPF filter Fixed type
IR cut filter Hybrid type
Dust protection filter Supersonic Wave Filter
LCD
Pixel number 230,000 pixels
LCD type HyperCrystal LCD
Monitor size 6.4cm / 2.5''
Brightness adjustment +/- 7steps
Control Panel Information
Displayed information Metering mode, Exposure mode, Aperture value, Shutter speed, Exposure level view, Flash compensation value, Exposure compensation indication, AE bracketing, ISO, Colour space, Picture mode, Gradation, Colour saturation compensation value, Sharpness compensation value, Contrast compensation value, White balance, White balance compensation value, Noise reduction, Flash mode, Focus mode, AF frame, Drive mode, Record mode, Number of storable frames, Memory card, Battery indicator
Viewfinder
Viewfinder type Eye-level single-lens view finder
Field of view Approx. 95%
Magnification Approx. 0.92x
Depth of field preview Yes
Eye point 14mm
Diopter adjustment -3.0 - +1.0 diopter /built-in type
Focusing screen Fixed type (Neo Lumi-Micron Mat Screen)
Mirror Quick return mirror
Viewfinder Information AF frame (super impose), AE lock, AF confirmation mark, metering mode, exposure mode, shutter speed, aperture value, white balance, exposure compensation value indicator, flash, battery check
Eye piece shutter Eye-piece cap EP-4 supplied E-410
Live Preview
Information 100% field of view, exposure adjustment preview, white balance adjustment preview, gridline displayable, 7x/10x magnification possible, MF/S-AF, AF frame display, AF point display, shooting information, histogramme, heat warning
Focusing System
Method TTL phase difference detection system
Focus areas 3 points / Automatic and manual selection
AF illuminator Built-in flash (external flash available)
AF lock > Locked by first position of shutter release button, AE/AF lock button (customised)
Focus tracking Available in continuous AF mode
Manual focus Available by rotating focus ring, available for setting manual focus operation in AF mode (customised)
Single AF Yes
Single AF + MF Yes
Continuous AF Yes
Continuous AF + MF Yes
Detection range 0 - 19 EV (ISO 100)
Light Metering
Method zones TTL open aperture light metering 49 zones. Multi-pattern Sensing System
Detection range 1 - 20 (50mm, 1:2, ISO 100)
ESP light metering Yes
Spot metering Yes
Centre weighted metering Yes
Highlight Yes
Shadow Yes
Auto Yes
Programme automatic Yes
Aperture priority Yes
Shutter priority Yes
Manual Yes
Scene Modes Yes
Scene Modes
Number of scene modes 20 Portrait, Landscape, Landscape with Portrait, Night Scene, Night Scene with portrait, Children, Sports, High key, Low key, Image Stabilisation Mode, Macro, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Fireworks, Documents, Beach and Snow, Underwater Wide, Underwater Macro, Panorama
Exposure System
Exposure compensation +/- 5 EV / 1/3 steps
Exposure bracketing 3 frames / +/- 1/3, 2/3, 1 EV steps
Sensitivity
Auto ISO 100 - 1600
Manual ISO 100 - 1600 (in each 1/3 EV steps possible).
Shutter
Shutter type Electronically controlled focal plane shutter
Shutter release Soft Touch Electromagnetic
Self timer 2s or 12s
Shutter Speeds
Shutter speed range 1/4000-60s
Shutter speed P, Ps 1/4000-60s
Shutter speed A priority 1/4000-2s
Shutter speed S priority 1/4000-60s
Shutter speed Manual 1/4000-60s
Shutter speed scene mode 1/4000-4s
White Balance
AUTO WB system Advanced detection system with Live MOS sensor
Manual White balance (One-Touch) Yes
Selectable steps in Kelvin 7 steps (3000 - 7500 K)
Overcast Yes
Shade Yes
Tungsten Yes
Sunlight Yes
Flourescent 1 Yes
Flourescent 2 Yes
Flourescent 3 Yes
White balance adjustment Yes +/- 7 in each R-B / G-M axis (in Auto WB and preset WB mode)
Internal Flash
Guide number 10
AUTO Yes
Red-eye reduction Yes
Slow synchronization Yes
Slow synchronization 2nd curtain Yes
Fill-in Yes
Slow synchronization with red-eye reduction Yes
Off Yes
Flash compensation +/- 2 EV / 1/3EV steps
External Flash Control
X-sync speed 1/180s in Super FP up to 1/4000s
Type TTL Auto for Olympus dedicated flash, Auto or Manual
Synchronisation modes Auto, Manual, Red-eye reduction, Slow syncro with red-eye reduction, Slow syncro, 2nd curtain and slow syncro, Fill-in for exclusive flash
Intensity +/-2 EV in each 1/3 steps
Sequence Shooting
Sequential shooting mode 3fps / Up to card capacity in HQ 3fps / 7 frames RAW
Image Processing
Colour space sRGB/AdobeRGB
TruePic TURBO Yes
Sharpness + Contrast 5 levels
Saturation 5 levels
Contrast 5 levels
Black & White filter Yellow, Orange, Red, Green
Black & White toning Sepia, Blue, Purple or Green in Black & White mode
Picture mode Vivid, Natural, Muted, Black & White, Sepia.
Gradation 4 (auto, high key, normal, low key)
Image Editing
RAW data edit Yes
Red-eye reduction Yes
Sepia Yes
Black & White Yes
Resize Yes
Correction of saturation Yes
View Images
Histogram in playback mode Yes
Zoom 2-14x
Index 4, 9, 16, 25 frames
Slide show Yes
Calendar Yes
Shooting information Exposure mode, metering mode, shutter speed, aperture value, exposure compensation level, ISO, colour space, white balance mode, white balance compensation level, focal length, focus area, file type, picture mode, file name, image size, recorded card type.
Exposure level view Histogram (R,G,B available), High light point warning, Shadow point warning.
Erase / Protect / Copy Function
Erase modes Single, All, Selected
Image protect mode Single, Selected
Copy mode Single, All, Selected
Recording Formats
RAW 12 bit
RAW & JPEG Parallel recording
JPEG Yes
JPEG compression 1/2.7 SHQ, 1/8 HQ, 1/2.7, 1/4, 1/8, 1/12 SQ
Still Image Recording
EXIF 2.2
PIM III
DPOF Yes
DCF Yes
Image Size
RAW 3648 x 2736 12MB / frame
SHQ 3648 x 2736
HQ 3648 x 2736
SQ 3200 x 2400
2560 x 1920
1600 x 1200
1280 x 960
1024 x 768
640 x 480
Menu
Menu languages in camera English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Czech, Dutch, Danish, Polish
Menu languages by download Additional one language from 15 further languages by download via the internet.
Customisation Options
Left arrow button Off, one-touch WB, test picture, preview, Live Preview
Custom preset options 2
Power Supply
Battery BLS-1 Li-Ion battery (included)
Battery life Approx. 500 shots with BLS-1 under CIPA testing standard.
Sleep mode 1, 3, 5, 10 min. and off selectable.
Interface
Media Dual slot for CompactFlash card (Type I and II), Microdrive and xD-Picture Card
USB 2.0 HI-speed Yes
Combined V & USB output NTSC or PAL selectable
Environment
Temperature 0 - 40C operating temperature -20 - 60C storage temperature
30 - 90% operation humidity 10 - 90% storage humidity
Size
Dimensions (WxHxD) 129.5 x 91 x 53mm (without protrusions)
Weight 375g (body only)

Specifications and design are subject to change without notice.
 
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