Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


 

Olympus E-10 Experience Report

A review by Bettina & Uwe Steinmueller @Digital Outback Photo

 

Last Updated (02/27/2001)

 
Review methodology (or lack of :-)) here.
 
 
 
 
 
The high-end of digital SLRs was currently defined by Nikon D1, Canon D30, Fuji S1 and the Kodak DCS series all with interchangeable lenses with a price staring at $3000 (without lens). The E-10 is a 4 Mega Pixel SLR with a quality fixed zoom (equivalent to 35-140mm f/2.0-2.4) for under $2000 (thus including lens).
 

What is the point to get such a SLR and not being able to change lenses?

  • Price
  • Size (The E-10 is not very small but smaller than the other SLRs)
  • Weight (The E-10 is lighter than the other SLRs)
  • No dust on the image sensor (all the other SLRs have the problem that they get dust on their image sensors). You cannot imagine how much work it is to retouch our D1 photos.
 
We think these are very good arguments in favor of the E-10 compared to the other SLRs if you don't need the very long/wide lenses (Olympus offers also wide-angle and tele adapters). This was the comparison to the high-end but why get the E-10 and not one of the many 3 mega pixel point and shoot cameras?
 

Here is a list of criteria which I found being a problem with the Nikon Coolpix 950 (published and of 1999 when we did not even think of buying a D1)

  • 1600x1200 is not very much for larger prints (but it is reasonable)
  • The lenses are not up to good fixed lenses from Nikon and Canon
  • Missing lens hoods reduce image quality
  • No removable lenses viewfinder is to small and imprecise (most consumer cameras are not SLR). It does not really allow to do good image composition (this is my main critique)
  • Most cameras don't invite to be used on a tripod
 
How does the E-10 hold up to this critique? Very well! It is only missing the removable lenses but the quality E-10 lens with an equivalent focal length from 35-140mm can be sufficient for many needs (except sport and wildlife which need long glass). If the E-10 would have been available one year ago I would own one.
 
12/23/2000 Getting started
 
 
This camera is pure fun and delivers good photos right out of the camera. As said before if we are not photographing birds the focal range of the E-10 is just what we need. Also the construction looks and feels very solid and it is a real SLR. But the E-10 does not have a mirror as the the light gets splitted by a prism one part for the good viewfinder and the other for the CCD. This also removes the vibration introduced by moving the mirror out of the light path.
 
 
The above shot uses the cameras macro setting and it works just fine (you can find larger photos here: Sample Portfolio E-10). A quick printing test with the Olympus P-400 dysub printer showed also excellent results.
 
There is some discussion about the higher noise level of the E-10 compared to the other high-end SLRs. This is true but for most photos we don't see this to be an issue (might be more visible at smooth gradients or just the blue sky). It is actually not a good idea to judge a photo from just what you can see on the screen you have to look at real prints.
 
Normally we only use the raw format for all cameras and the E-10 also provides a 10-bit/color raw file format. But the file size is then 7.6MB and it takes a long time to write the file to the card. So with the E-10 we will mostly use the SHQ JPG format (2240x1680 pixels and 1:2.7 compression ratio). We also leave the sharpening in the camera set to "normal" as the E-10 delivers very sharp photos.
 
We have to get used to the E-10 metering which works fine but is a bit more inconsistent than we are used with the D1. One thing is obvious: It takes a lot more effort to get such good JPGs right out the camera with the D1 compared to the E-10
 
 
 
 
 
Conclusion of this first round: This is a serious very nice camera and really fun to use.
 
12/25/2000 Christmas day
 
Today we had our traditional (since we are in the US) Christmas day trip to Highway 1 and the San Gregorio General Store.
 

Pacific @ Davenport Highway 1

 
The Pacific coast at Davenport is quite spectacular and the E-10 captured it very well. We have photographed this scene very often. It pretty difficult to capture. We switched from ESP metering to "Center weighted averaging metering" as the histogram showed better results for this setting.
 
The viewfinder is a bit more difficult to use than with the D1 and D30 (The eye has to be very centered behind viewfinder).
 

Macro photo

 
Again the macro setting was fun to use.
 
 
Like the D30 the E-10 has a built-in flash which comes in handy some times especially as we rarely uwe flash anyway
 
 
All photos shown here and many more can be found here.
 
12/27/2000 Los Gatos Footbridge Murals
 
 
In Los Gatos we have a footbridge crossing highway 17. The balustrades on both sides are painted with a lot of small murals. The E-10 was set to WB (white balance) 6500 (day light). The one side was in harsh sun light and the other in deep shadow. The E-10 performed well and we could take full advantage of the 2.0-2.4 aperture of the E-10
 
 
It is quite clear that this is an ideal travel camera (light weight, not too big, good quality and very versatile)
 
You can find the photos here (We published all photos we took, just resized and not otherwise edited)
 
12/29/2000 Santa Cruz
 
 
At the Santa Cruz wharf you can get very close to some beautiful Brown Pelicans. The E-10 captured the colors very well (WB = 6500). Some of the more contrasted scenes had blown out highlights. In those cases it is better to use spot metering. Overall the E-10 was again a nice companion. Photos can be found here.
 
 
Summary
 
  • For $2000 this camera is first class.
  • The ideal travel digital SLR
  • Recommended for all photographers who do not want to spend a lot of time converting D1 or D30 RAW files
  • Yes, you can get less noise and some better results from D1 and D30 but you have to pay much more and spend more time optimizing the results (this is especially true for the D1 NEFs)
  • I honestly can recommend this camera.
 

 

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