A well-built, easy-to-use Four Thirds System DSLR with built-in dust minimisation and image stabilisation facilities.The differences between the Olympus E-510 and the E-410 model we reviewed last month are largely physical, but the less obvious, internal differences are highly significant. Targeted at more knowledgeable photographers, the E-510’s body is larger and 85 grams heavier, thanks to the addition of a built-in imager-shift stabilisation system. Its battery has a slightly higher capacity, supporting roughly 100 shots more per charge than the E-410’s. Otherwise the two cameras’ specifications are identical. . . [more]
The differences between the Olympus E-510 and the E-410 model we reviewed last month are largely physical, but the less obvious, internal differences are highly significant. Targeted at more knowledgeable photographers, the E-510’s body is larger and 85 grams heavier, thanks to the addition of a built-in imager-shift stabilisation system. Its battery has a slightly higher capacity, supporting roughly 100 shots more per charge than the E-410’s. Otherwise the two cameras’ specifications are identical.
The E-510 also provides the same Live View functions as the E-410, which is to be expected as its image sensor is the same LiveMOS chip. The menu systems and controls are the same in both cameras and so is the bundled software package. For information on all these features, we suggest readers refer to the review of the E-410 on this site.
For the rest of this review we will look at features that are unique to the E-510 model. Image stabilisation is a new addition to the Olympus DSLR line-up and the system in the E-510 uses the same motor as the Supersonic Wave Drive (SWD) on which the dust-reduction system is based. This motor is coupled with a sensor unit that can detect vibrations over a range from less than 1Hz to 7Hz. Olympus claims this can “achieve a correction effect equivalent to maximum 4 EV steps”.
The E-510’s image stabiliser is compatible with all Four Thirds System-compliant lenses but Olympus claims that when a Zuiko Digital lens is fitted to the camera, the distance the image sensor has to be moved is shorter than other lenses, providing “even more effective blur correction”.
Pictures taken with the test camera looked quite similar to those from the E-410 model we reviewed. Colours were natural looking but contrast was slightly elevated. Exposure positioning was slightly better in the E-510 model we tested, which delivered a better balance between highlights and shadows. Metering was also more consistent and we had fewer problems when moving from bright to subdued lighting and vice versa.
Imatest showed the test camera and supplied 14-42mm lens to be capable of high resolution with very little decline in the MTF50 figures to ISO 400 and only a slight loss as sensitivity was further increased. Although the best performance was recorded at apertures between f/5.6 and f/11, we found little deterioration at either larger or smaller apertures and only minor rectilinear distortion at the widest angle of view. Edge-to-edge sharpness was also very good with the test lens; lateral chromatic aberration was low and we found no evidence of coloured fringing in shots taken in bright outdoor lighting.
Overall colour accuracy was good, although Imatest revealed slight shifts in reds and cyan and reduced green saturation levels. Image noise remained low in long exposures, right up to ISO 1600 although the dark frame subtraction processing roughly doubled the time taken to process and store shots. We found switching the noise processing off made little difference to the noise levels in shots but produced a slight increase in the amount of detail recorded. However, high ISO images tended to suffer from excessive undersharpening, which may account for the reduced resolution we found at high ISO settings.
Flash exposures showed excellent balance and high quality at all ISO settings and colour reproduction was generally neutral and natural-looking. We saw no evidence of the warm bias we observed in flash shots taken with the E-410 camera. Nor did we find colour biases in long exposures.
The performance of the white balance system was similar to that of the E-410 we tested, although the E-510 test camera’s auto setting handled incandescent lighting marginally better. Shots taken under fluorescent lighting with the auto white balance setting had colours that were very close to neutral.
The image stabilisation system performed extremely well and allowed us to obtain sharp pictures at shutter speeds right down to 1/3 second with the camera hand-held and the lens set to full tele zoom. The test camera’s autofocusing system also appeared to be slightly faster than the E-410 camera we tested. Close-ups were also competently handled.
1/3 second exposure at full tele zoom with the image stabiliser switched off.
The same exposure parameters with image stabilisation.
The test camera powered up within a second and we measured an average capture lag of 0.2 seconds, which was eliminated by pre-focusing. It took roughly five seconds to display a captured image on screen and shot-to-shot times for both JPEG and Raw files averaged 0.65 seconds without flash and one second with flash.
In continuous shooting mode we recorded 20 JPEG shots with SHQ resolution at intervals of 0.3 seconds. This burst took only 6.7 seconds to process. Swapping to RAW+SHQ recording limited the number of files per burst to six, which the camera took 12.3 seconds to process.
Of the Four Thirds System cameras we’ve tested, the E-510 represents by far the best value for money when you combine its performance, ease of use and functionality. Offering the same Live View LCD and tried-and-proven SSWF dust minimisation system as the E-410, the E-510 is a more comfortable camera to hold and use and would be an excellent choice for photographers who prefer viewing their shots on TV sets and computer screens and should suit travellers who wish to minimise the bulk and weight in their camera bags.
Users should be able to make prints of A3+ size from high-resolution files recorded in both JPEG and ORF-RAW formats. But we suggest you use the supplied software as an interim tool until your favourite raw file processor has been upgraded to convert files from this camera rather than forking out the additional $199 for Olympus Studio. Latest versions of Adobe Camera Raw and Bibble 4 software currently support the new Olympus DSLR cameras. Other applications should follow shortly.
Olympus is offering the E-510 in three options: the body alone (RRP $1299), the body plus 14-42mm lens ($1499) and the twin lens kit that adds a 40-150mm lens ($1,699). In each case you pay $200 more for the E0510 body than for the kit based on the E-410. Unless your hands are very small and you really don’t need image stabilisation, we feel the E-510 is a much better buy. More versatile than the E-410 and a slightly better performer, the E-510’s image stabilisation system will greatly expand the range of shooting conditions in which you can use your camera.
Note the difference in sharpening processing between the low-ISO and high-ISO graphs.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Image sensor: 17.3 x 13.0 mm Live MOS sensor with 10.9 million photosites (10 megapixels effective)
Lens mount: FourThirds mount
Focal length crop factor: 2x
Image formats: RAW (ORF), JPEG, RAW+JPEG
Image Sizes: 3648 x 2736, 3200 x 2400, 2560 x 1920, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480 (4 JPEG compression levels)
Image Stabilisation: Built in Imager Shift image stabiliser (normal and panning modes)
Dust removal: SuperSonic Wave Filter (SSWF)
Shutter speed range: Auto mode: 2-1/4000 sec., P (Ps), S, A, M mode: 60-1/4000 sec. (Bulb: up to 8 min. with limiter), Scene mode: 4-1/4000 sec. (depends on settings)
Exposure Compensation: +/-5 EV in 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV steps
Self-timer: 12 sec., 2 sec. (cancel available)
Focus system: TTL phase difference detection system; 3-point multiple AF (auto/manual detection)
Focus modes: Single AF (S-AF), Continuous AF (C-AF), Manual Focus (MF), S-AF + MF, C-AF + MF; Focus tracking interlocked with C-AF mode
Exposure metering/control: TTL open aperture metering with Digital ESP metering (49-point multi pattern metering), centre-weighted and spot modes; Auto, P, A, S and M shooting modes plus Scene Priority AE (Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sport, Night + Portrait) and Scene Select AE (18 illustrated modes)
Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
ISO range: ISO 100 – 1600
White balance: Advanced detection system with Live MOS sensor; 7 pre-sets (3000K – 7500K), 1 custom setting can be registered; adjustment of +/-7 steps in each R-B/G-M axis (in Auto WB/Preset WB mode)
Flash: Retractable pop up flash; GN 12 (ISO 100 m); X-synch at 1/180 sec. or longer; Auto, Manual, Red-eye reduction, Slow syncro with red-eye reduction, Slow syncro, 2nd curtain slow syncro, Fill-in modes
Flash exposure adjustment: Up to +/-2 EV in 1/3, 1/2, or 1EV steps
Sequence shooting: Approx. 3 frames/sec for up to 8 RAW frames; JPEG depends on image size/compression
Storage Media: CompactFlash card (Type I and II), Microdrive, xD picture card. (Dual slot)
Viewfinder: Eye-level TTL Optical (approx. 95% field of view; 0.92x magnification)
LCD monitor: 2.5-inch HyperCrystal LCD panel (Approx. 230,000 pixels)
Data LCD: n.a.
PC interface: USB 2.0 High Speed for storage and camera control
Power supply: BLM-1 Li-ion battery; C.I.P.A rated for Approx. 650 shots using optical viewfinder only (with 50% flash shots)
Dimensions (wxhxd): 136 x 91.5 x 68 mm (excluding protrusions)
Weight: 460 g (body only)
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Rating (out of 10):
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- Ease of use: 8
- Image quality: 8.5
- OVERALL: 9