A compact, lightweight DSLR camera with built-in image stabilisation and a wide range of adjustable functions.Positioned between the E-520 and the E-30, the new Olympus E-620 is another 'in-betweener' model offering features from both cameras. Claimed as the smallest and lightest DSLR with built-in image stabilisation it is smaller by roughly 12 mm in all dimensions and almost 250 grams lighter than the E-30. Despite having the same 12.3-megapixel High-Speed Live MOS Sensor and TruePic III+ image processing engine as the E-30 the E-620 lacks much of the finesse of the higher-priced model. . . [more]
Positioned between the E-520 and the E-30, the new Olympus E-620 is another 'in-betweener' model offering features from both cameras. Claimed as the smallest and lightest DSLR with built-in image stabilisation it is smaller by roughly 12 mm in all dimensions and almost 250 grams lighter than the E-30. Despite having the same 12.3-megapixel High-Speed Live MOS Sensor and TruePic III+ image processing engine as the E-30 the E-620 lacks much of the finesse of the higher-priced model.
On the positive side, it has a similar build quality to the E-30, with a glass-fibre reinforced body shell over a metal and plastic chassis. It also boasts the acclaimed Olympus SSWF Dust Reduction System. The body has a solid feel but the grip is rather shallow and won't suit users with large hands. The covers to the memory card and battery compartments aren't quite as firmly attached as we'd like.
Front view of the Olympus E-620. (Source: Olympus.)
The viewfinder on the E-620 is similar to the one on the E-520 and provides a 95% field of view with slightly greater magnification (0.96x vs 0.92x on the E-520). Its coverage is neither as good nor as bright as the E-30's finder and it can't accept interchangeable focusing screens. However, the soft rubber eyecup is user replaceable.
The E-620 sports the same free-angle, 2.7-inch HyperCrystal LCD monitor as the E-30, although the screen technology has been updated from version II to version III in the new model. Without being to compare both cameras side-by-side, we can't comment on these differences but, with a resolution of only 230,000 pixels, the monitor on the E-620 is no match for the VGA monitors on competing Canon and Nikon DSLRs.
Rear view showing the degree of adjustment with the free-angle LCD screen. (Source: Olympus.)
Like the E-30, the new model is bristling with button controls. Photo Review counted 17 of them - without including the shutter button. For the first time in a DSLR camera, the buttons on the E-620's rear panel have illuminated labels to assist with low-light photography. The new camera is also Colour Universal Design certified, which means the colours used for the printed icons on the camera body and the on-screen graphics are readily distinguishable by users with non-standard colour perception.
Rear view of the E-620 with the free-angle LCD monitor reversed. The coloured button icons can also be seen. (Source: Olympus.)
Missing from the E-620 is the top panel LCD data display found on the E-30 and Olympus has also removed the built-in Digital Level Sensor and one of the E-30's two control dials on the new model. With only one dial on the E-620 you become more dependent on the Olympus menu system, which is complex and multi-faceted.
Only three buttons are found on the top panel of the E-620. Left of the flash housing lie the flash button, which pops up the flash and accesses flash mode settings. Behind it is the drive button, which also controls the self-timer. The remaining top panel button lies to the right of the shutter button and is used for exposure compensation settings.
Above the viewfinder is the pop-up flash, which carries a hot-shoe for accessory flash units. The E-620 is equipped with a similar GN17 (ISO 200) built-in flash to the E-30, which includes TTL flash exposure control. It is fully compatible with Olympus's wireless multi-flash control and doesn't require an external commander unit when used with FL-50R and/or FL-36R flashes.
The remaining buttons are dispersed over the rear panel and along the sloping interface between it and the top panel. Here you can find buttons for the Menu, Info, AEL/AFL, Fn and AF target settings. The other nine buttons are located on the rear panel itself and include the arrow pad cluster, quick review and Live View buttons and buttons for accessing the Delete and image stabiliser controls.
To add to overall complexity, there are two ways to access key camera settings: by pressing the Menu button above the left side of the monitor or via the OK button on the arrow pad. The former displays the entire camera menu, covering two pages of shooting modes, one page of playback settings, a page of Custom Functions and a set-up page.
Pressing the OK button displays the 'Super Control Panel' on the LCD monitor, while the arrow pad buttons let you navigate from one function to another. The control dial allows you to change settings for the selected parameter. Alternatively, you can press the OK button a second time and adjust settings with the arrow pad. (If you find this confusing the supplied instruction manual provides little in the way of help as it's printed in a small font and not particularly well structured or indexed.)
The main camera menu, accessed via the Menu button.
The Super Control Panel.
White balance settings as accessed via the Super Control Panel.
The arrow pad buttons perform similar roles to those in many digicams, with the top button accessing white balance settings, the bottom one ISO, the left metering and the right autofocusing. Below the arrow pad are the Delete button and the IS button. The latter lets you choose from four stabilisation modes: off, Mode 1 (all directions), Mode 2 (horizontal panning) and Mode 3 (for panning with the camera held vertically).
Olympus has designed a new image stabilisation mechanism for the E-620 that is 20% lighter than the mechanisms in the E-520 and E-30 due to a substantial reduction in the component packaging size for the internal circuit boards and image sensor. It is also more energy-efficient. Olympus claims the system provides up to 4 EV of 'effective compensation'.
Below the Delete and IS buttons is a single USB/video port with a lift-up rubber cover. This port is used for all supported connections (computer and TV) and provides USB 2.0 High Speed connectivity.
The memory card slot is located on the right side panel behind a non-locking slide-and-lift cover that is less solidly mounted than we'd like. Dual slots are provided for xD-Picture Cards and CompactFlash, the latter being compatible with Type I and II cards and also Microdrives (FAT 16/32). The door to the battery compartment in the base panel has a sliding lock that opens easily. Its build quality is similar to the memory card slot.
Battery life for the new model is rated at approximately 500 shots per charge, compared with 750 shots/charge on the E-30, which uses the higher-capacity BLM-1 battery. Optional accessories include the new HLD-5 power battery holder, which can accommodate two BLS-1 lithium ion rechargeable batteries.
The E-620 with the HLD-5 power battery holder fitted. (Source: Olympus.)
Five Easy Shooting AE modes and a full auto setting can be set via the Mode Dial, which also carries settings for P, A, S and M shooting modes. Also selectable via the Mode Dial - and sharing the same click-stop - are the Scene and Art Filters sub-menus. Thirteen Scene mode pre-sets are provided, including Children, High Key, Low Key, Digital Image Stabilisation, Nature Macro, Candle, Sunset, Documents, Panorama, Fireworks, Beach & Snow, Underwater Wide and Underwater Macro.
The full range of adjustable functions is only available in the P, A, S and M shooting modes; in other modes (particularly the scene pre-sets in the Scene sub-menu) various settings become blocked. More adjustments are available for the scene modes accessed via the mode dial than those in the Scene sub-menu.
As in Olympus's digicams, illustrations are provided for each scene mode, along with a brief text explanation. And, like the digicams, the E-620's panorama shooting mode can only be used when images are being recorded to Olympus-branded xD-Picture Cards, which substantially reduces its usefulness for more serious photographers who prefer CF cards. (Panorama shots must be 'stitched' together in the supplied Olympus Master software.)
Two examples of the E-620's illustrated scene modes: Close-up and Panorama.
The six Art Filters, which were pioneered in the E-30, are also included in the E-620. Unfortunately, as in the E-30, no fine-tuning is provided for these filters, which puts the E-620 at a disadvantage against the Pentax K-m, which lets users tweak these settings in many different ways.
The illustrations above show the effects produced by the six Art Filters. Top row from left: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale Light & Colour. Bottom row from left: Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole.
The top shutter speed on the E-620 is the same as that on the E-520: 1/4000 second (compared to 1/8000 second on the E-30). Continuous shooting speeds on the new model lie between its companion models, with four frames/second for up to five ORF.RAW shots, compared to five fps for 12 frames on the E-30 and 3.5 fps for eight frames on the E-520. An 'unlimited' buffer memory is available for JPEG files. Bracketing options cover ISO, white balance, exposure and flash brightness.
Another E-30 feature carried over is Image Overlay but, while the E-30 let users combine up to four shots during image capture, the E-620 only lets you merge two images. In playback mode, up to three raw images can be combined.
The E-620 also offers the now-standard Olympus Picture Mode settings, comprising Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait, Monotone and a Custom setting that can be based on parameters of a selected image shot with the camera. Contrast, sharpness and saturation are adjustable for the colour settings and filter and picture tone adjustments are provided for the Monotone mode. An adjustment range of +/- two steps is available for each parameter.
White balance controls are similar to other Olympus DSLRs with auto plus the usual presets and fine-tuning in amber/blue and green/magenta directions. Interestingly, accessing the one-touch white balance requires the Custom function to be pre-assigned to the Fn button. Kelvin temperature settings are also available across a range of 2000 to 14,000 K.
Focusing and Metering
The autofocusing system on the E-620 is also an 'in-betweener', based on a new sensor with seven focus points. Using phase detection technology, it features five central AF points with a twin-cross configuration (twin lines arranged in a cross formation) and two twin-line focus points at the periphery. When you switch to Live View mode, which is accessed via a button just above the arrow pad, the focusing system changes to a contrast based detection system, which is noticeably slower than using the viewfinder (details can be found in the Performance section, below).
The E-620 has similar Live View functions to the E-520 and E-30, with the same Perfect Shot Preview, auto gradation adjustment, Face Detection & Shadow Adjust Technology and Multi-Exposure capabilities as the E-30. Three focusing modes are available in Live View: Imager, AF sensor and Hybrid.
Imager AF uses the main Live MOS sensor to provide the focusing signals and is fully compatible with the following Zuiko Digital lenses: ED 9-18mm f4.0-5.6, ED 14-42mm f3.5-5.6, 14-54mm f2.8-3.5II, ED 40-150mm f4.0-5.6 and 25mm f2.8 but also works with other lenses, albeit with marginally reduced functionality. Focusing is engaged when the shutter button is half-pressed and confirmation indicators are displayed on the LCD monitor.
In AF sensor mode, focusing is not engaged until the shutter button is pressed right down and actual focusing takes place just before the shot is taken, in the same way as it is when the viewfinder is used. The reflex mirror drops down briefly to allow autofocusing to take place as the shutter button is pressed. This causes a delay in triggering the shutter.
The Hybrid mode combines the other two, initiating autofocusing when the shutter button is half pressed - as in the Imager AF mode - but then focusing with the sensor immediately the shutter button is pressed right down. When the focus is set to S-AF+MF mode you can half-press the shutter button and fine-tune focusing using the LCD in this mode.
You can also focus manually in Live View mode. Pressing the Info button lets you enlarge a section of the frame for focus checking. Each time you press this button the image is magnified more, to a maximum of 10x. Magnification can also be achieved by turning the command dial.
Metering options are identical to those in the E-30, with five selectable patterns: Digital ESP (multi-pattern), centre-weighted average and three types of spot metering. The latter comprise simple spot metering using the centre of the frame and spot metering with highlight and shadow controls. The former is designed for subjects with bright backgrounds, while the latter is for subjects against dark backgrounds. Exposure compensation of +/-5 EV in 1/3, 1/2 and 1 EV steps is also supported.
Sensor and Image Processing
Having the same 12.3-megapixel LiveMOS sensor as the E-30, the E-620 also offers a similar range of image sizes. However, Olympus has cut back on the number of aspect ratios provided. You can choose from 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 6:6. The camera's default menu setting only offers three image sizes (Large, Middle and Small) and two compression levels: Fine (1/4 compression) and Normal (1/8 compression) for each aspect ratio.
By digging deep into the Custom Menu you can find two additional compression ratio settings (Super Fine and Basic). However, you can only program in four JPEG resolution/compression settings for access via either of the menu controls at one time. It is also possible to register any four combinations of image size and compression ratio in the camera's memory - but only for JPEG images.
Both ORF.RAW and JPEG file formats are provided, along with simultaneous RAW+JPEG recording. Raw files are only recorded in the 4:3 aspect ratio and losslessly compressed by 65% to yield files that are typically around 13.9MB in size. Typical image sizes for the options available through the main menu are shown in the table below.
4032 x 3024
4032 x 3024
4032 x 2688
4032 x 2272
3024 x 3024
2560 x 1920
2544 x 1696
2560 x 1440
1920 x 1920
1280 x 960
1296 x 864
1280 x 720
960 x 960
Olympus provides very little information about the Truepic III+ image processor, which has also been carried over from the E-30. This chip is responsible for colour reproduction (range of hues, saturation and brightness), sharpness control and image noise management and it also supports the camera's Live View, face detection and continuous shooting functions. It also underpins the Art Filters capabilities.
Playback and Software
Playback modes are similar to those on the E-30 and include single and index views, slideshows and shooting data overlays. Calendar and Slideshow playback are also supported, along with a variety of post-capture editing adjustments that includes shadow adjustment, red eye fix, cropping, resizing, B&W and sepia conversion and saturation adjustment for JPEG images and in-camera raw file conversion to JPEG format. Details can be found in Photo Review's review of the E-30.
The software disk supplied with the E-620 contains multi-lingual versions of Olympus Master 2 for Windows and Macintosh plus a user registration interface and a 30-day trial version of the more sophisticated Olympus Studio 2 image editor/raw file converter, which sells for $119.95. We've covered both applications in the review of the E-410.
Photo Review was given the E-620 to evaluate as a twin-lens kit with the Olympus Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and 40-150mm f/4-5.6 ED lenses. Although the test camera proved fast and efficient with both lenses when the viewfinder was used for composing shots, autofocusing in Live View was extremely slow. Typical delay times ranged between 1.2 and 3.4 seconds before the camera could lock onto a subject. Delays were longest in Imager AF mode and slightly less in the Hybrid AF mode, while the AF Sensor mode provide quickest (although still fairly ponderous) with most subjects.
Pictures taken with the test camera were sharp and colourful without appearing over-saturated. However, outdoor shots taken in bright sunlight showed a narrower dynamic range than similar shots taken with the E-30. Colours looked realistic and with the default Natural Picture Mode setting there was slightly less of the warmish cast we saw in test shots from the E-30 - although most images were a little orange biased.
Imatest showed resolution to be slightly below expectations for a 12-megapixel camera, with ORF.RAW files producing slightly higher figures in our tests than JPEGs. Imatest also confirmed our subjective colour assessments, showing overall saturation levels to be modest but revealing a slight elevation of saturation in reds, decreased saturation in yellows and some minor hue shifts in reds and blues. Skin hues were also slightly shifted towards red.
Lateral chromatic aberration ranged between low and moderate - more information is available in the review of the Olympus Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.
White balance performance was similar to the E-30. The auto setting failed to correct the inherent cast in incandescent lighting, while the pre-set over-corrected slightly. With fluorescent lighting, the auto setting produced close-to-neutral colours and one of the pre-sets matched the light source we used. It was possible to achieve neutral colour rendition under both types of lighting with the one touch white balance control and the in-camera adjustments provided.
Low light performance was generally good for ISO settings up to 800, where image noise started to become apparent, particularly in available-light shots. However, Imatest showed only a slight deterioration in actual resolution with the 14-42mm lens set at 25mm focal length and an aperture of f/8 - particularly with raw files. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
For long exposures, we found image noise could become intrusive at high ISO settings. Although 30-second exposures taken with ISO settings up to 800 were relatively noise-free in our tests, noise was obvious at ISO 1600 and shots taken at ISO 3200 were grainy-looking and dotted with stuck pixels. Applying long-exposure noise reduction processing eliminated most of the granularity and stuck pixels - but at the expense of image sharpness.
Flash performance was very good and exposures were evenly balanced throughout the ISO range. The test camera's flash was capable of illuminating an average-sized room at ISO 100 and little noise was visible in shots up to ISO 1600. Even at ISO 3200, noise was relatively subdued.
The review camera powered up and shut down in less than a second and we measured an average capture lag of 0.25 seconds when the viewfinder was used. This extended to an average of 2.3 seconds across the three Live View modes. With pre-focusing lag times were effectively eliminated. Both JPEG and raw files averaged 1.8 second processing times, while RAW+JPEG pairs took an estimated 3.1 seconds.
In the high-speed continuous shooting mode, the review camera recorded 10 high-resolution JPEG frames in 2.6 seconds and took 4.2 seconds to process them. A burst of six ORF.RAW files was captured in 1.5 seconds and processed in 5.6 seconds, while a burst of five RAW+JPEG pairs took 1.2 seconds to capture and 9.5 seconds to process.
Swapping to low-speed continuous mode, we captured 10 frames in 2.8 seconds and this rate remained constant for JPEG, raw and RAW+JPEG settings. Processing appears to be on-the-fly in this mode as it took 3.6 seconds to process 10 JPEGs, 5.4 seconds for six raw files and 9.2 seconds for five RAW+JPEG frames.
Buy this camera if:
- You're looking for a small DSLR camera that can accept a wide range of relatively compact lenses.
- You require sophisticated in-camera image stabilisation and effective dust reduction technology.
- You'd enjoy a DSLR with lots of in-camera adjustments and special effects for JPEG files.
- You want a Live View system that offers extensive preview functions plus support for autofocusing.
Don't buy this camera if:
- You want to shoot video (the E-620 can't).
- You're a low-light photography enthusiast or a sports photographer who requires faster continuous shooting speeds than 4 frames/second.
- You're not prepared to grapple with the complexity of the controls and menu system.
JPEG image files
Raw image files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Olympus Studio 2.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Long exposure at ISO 100: 35mm focal length, 30 seconds at f/4.4.
Long exposure at ISO 800: 35mm focal length, 15 seconds at f/10.
Long exposure at ISO 3200: 35mm focal length, 10 seconds at f/14.
Flash exposure at ISO 100: 42mm focal length, 1/80 second at f/5.6.
Flash exposure at ISO3200: 42mm focal length, 1/80 second at f/5.6.
Olympus Digital 40-150mm f/4-5.6 ED lens, 40mm focal length, 1/320 second at f/8. ISO 100.
Olympus Digital 40-150mm f/4-5.6 ED lens, 150mm focal length, 1/400 second at f/8, ISO 100.
Olympus Digital 40-150mm f/4-5.6 ED lens, 40mm focal length, 1/160 second at f/11, ISO 100.
Olympus Digital 40-150mm f/4-5.6 ED lens, 150mm focal length, 1/125 second at f/11, ISO 100.
Olympus Digital 40-150mm f/4-5.6 ED lens, 150mm focal length, 1/40 second at f/5.6, ISO 100.
Additional sample images can be found at the end of the review of the Zuiko Digital 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 II lens. A review of the Olympus Digital 40-150mm f/4-5.6 ED lens can be found here.
Image sensor: 17.3 x 13.0 mm High Speed Live MOS sensor with approx. 13.3 million photosites (12.3 megapixels effective)
A/D processing: 12-bit
Lens mount: Four Thirds System
Focal length crop factor: 2x
Image formats: ORF.RAW (12-bit lossless), JPEG, RAW+JPEG
Image Sizes: 4032 x 3024, 3200 x 2400, 2560 x 1920, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480
Image Stabilisation: 3 modes (2 dimensional activation, 1 dimensional activation in landscape frame for horizontal pan shooting, 1 dimensional activation in portrait frame for horizontal pan shooting).
Dust removal: SuperSonic Wave Filter
Shutter speed range: 60 - 1/4000 seconds; Bulb (up to 309 minutes); X-synch at 1/180 sec.
Exposure Compensation: +/-5 EV in 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps
Exposure bracketing: 3 or 5 frames in 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 1EV steps
Self-timer: 2 or 12 seconds delay
Focus system: High speed imager AF, Phase-difference detection AF; 7 points AF sensor with the phase-difference detection system (5 points cross AF sensor / 7 points twin AF sensor ) 7-area multiple AF with the contrast detection system (Auto, selectable in option)
Focus modes: Single AF (S-AF), Continuous AF (C-AF), Manual Focus (MF), S-AF + MF / C-AF + MF; AF tracking with C-AF mode (C-AF mode is not available with the contrast detection system); focus area selection - Single target, All targets with the phase-difference detection system Single, all 7 area, or face detection with the contrast detection system
Exposure metering: TTL open aperture light metering with 49-zones multi-pattern sensing system; Digital ESP, centre-weighted and spot metering (with highlight/shadow bias)
Shooting modes: Auto, Program AE (with program shift), Aperture priority AE, Shutter priority AE, Manual, Scene program AE, Scene select AE
Picture Style/Control settings: Vivid, Natural, Muted, Monotone (default setting: Natural) plus 4 monochrome filters, 4 monochrome colour effects, 4 gradation levels
Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
Custom functions: 66
ISO range: Auto, ISO 100 - 3200, 1/3 or 1 EV steps
White balance: Auto, 8 settings (3000K - 7500K); one-touch custom measurement; WB compensation of +/- 7 steps in each A-B/G-M axis (in Auto WB, Preset WB mode, One touch WB); bracketing of 3 frames in 2, 4, 6 steps selectable in each A-G/G-M axis.
Flash: Retractable auto pop up flash; GN 17 (ISO 200, M); Auto, Red-eye reduction, Red-eye reduction slow sync., Slow sync at 1st curtain, Slow sync at 2nd curtain, Fill-in, Manual (1/4, 1/16, 1/64) and Off modes.
Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 3 EV in 1/3 EV steps
Sequence shooting: Approx. 4 frames/sec. in sequential shooting H, 1 to 3 fps selectable in sequential shooting L. (max. 5 raw frames)
Storage Media: CompactFlash (Type I and II), Microdrive, xD Picture Card. (Dual slot). UDMA support
Viewfinder: Eye-level TTL Optical with 95% FOV coverage, 0.96x magnification, 18mm eyepoint; dioptre adjustment -3.0 to +1.0; fixed Neo Lumi-Micro Mat focusing screen
LCD monitor: 2.7-inch Dual Axis Variable Angle, HyperCrystal ? LCD with approx. 230,000 pixels
Live View modes: High speed Live MOS Sensor for still picture shooting, 100% field of view, previews for exposure adjustment, white balance adjustment, gradation, face detection, Perfect Shot, Grid line displayable, 5x/7x/10x magnification possible, MF/S-AF, AF frame display, AF point display, Shooting information, Histogram, IS activating mode.
Video Capture: n.a.
Data LCD: n.a.
Playback functions: Single-frame, Index (4/9/16/25/49/100 frames), Calendar, Close-up ( 2 - 14X), Slideshow, Picture rotation (auto mode available), Light box; Histogram (independent luminance/RGB available), Highlight/Shadow point warning, AF frame, Shooting information
Interface terminals: USB 2.0 High Speed; Dedicated multi-connector (Video: NTSC/PAL selectable, Optional Remote cable RM-UC1 is available)
Power supply: BLS-1 rechargeable Li-ion battery
Dimensions (wxhxd): 130 x 94 x 60 mm
Weight: 475 grams (body only)
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RRP: $1,299 (body only); $1,399 (with 14-42mm lens); $1,599 (with 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses)
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