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-   -   Olympus EVOLT E-510 Pros/Cons? (

drgrafix Oct 17, 2007 9:43 AM

I've been reading reviews of this camera and they are quite interesting. I don't know how many forum members are using this particular camera, but if you are... or have used a friend's, I'd be curious to hear your impression.

Of special interest are two key issues:

1. The 4/3 system mount. I realize that this might be an attempt to "standardize" lens mounts but its also somehow related to the CCD. Can someone "splain" in layman's terms what the pros/cons are?

2. The Manual Focus Mode. Apparently it is not pure mechanical helical action but some kind of motorized assist? Does this mean that as you twist the focusing ring you are actually actuating a motor that drives the focus system? Is it noisy or does it vibrate much?

While I have a sort of relationship with my Nikon film SLRs and my Nikon CP990, I'm exploring as many options as I can and with a limited budget, cameras like the E-510 are very compelling alternatives in the 10 MP range. One thing that is of special interest on the Nikon side is that marvelous 18-200mm zoom. I've committed to liquidate all my Nikon 35mm equipment to help finance the new digital slr and I was thinking D80 & the 18-200 for starters. But the D80 almost seems feature-less when compared to the Olympus, Pentax, Sony, or Canon 10 MP DSLRs. And my feeling about megapixels is that within reason, you can never have enough, so I wouldn't even consider a 6 MP DSLR. That would seem like a giant step backwards when technology is going in the other direction. I've heard that 20 MP DSLRs will be commonplace in just a couple of years.

JimC Oct 17, 2007 10:31 AM

Chances are, some of our Olympus users can give you more info.

But, the 4/3s system uses an aspect ratio (ratio of width to height) of 4:3 (just like your Nikon 990 and most other non-DSLR camera models).

Most other dSLR models use a sensor with an aspect ratio of 3:2 like you'd get with 35mm film.

The 4/3s sensor is smaller than most competitors. That means that you'll have a narrower angle of view for any given focal length compared to the same focal length lens on a 35mm camera. For example, a 50mm lens on an Olympus dSLR will give you the same angle of view as a 100mm lens on a 35mm camera. You have to multiply the focal length by 2x to see how the angle of view compares.

The entry level Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony dSLR models use a little larger sensor. They're still smaller than 35mm film though. For example, with Nikon, Pentax or Sony entry level dSLR models you have to multiply the focal length by 1.5x to see what focal length would give you the same angle of view on a 35mm camera. Use 1.6x for the entry level Canon dSLR models.

Note that some dSLR models use larger than APS-C size sensors (but, not the ones in the price range you're looking at). Right this minute, the lowest price dSLR model using a 35mm size sensor is the Canon EOS-5D.

Larger sensors usually mean lower noise as ISO speeds are increased and improved Dynamic Range, all else being equal. Or, more specifically, larger photosites for each pixel are usually better. So, if you stuff too many pixels into a smaller sensor, not as much light hits them because of their smaller surface area, requiring more amplifcation for equivalent sensitivity to light. That's one reason some of the 6MP dSLR models may have lower noise levels compared to 10MP dSLR models as ISO speeds are increased (larger photosites for each pixel).

But, all is not equal between camera models, and sensor design is improving all the time (better sensor and supporting chipset electronics, improved microlens design to amplify the light hitting each photosite, and more). So, you really need to take each camera on a case by case basis.

One advantage of the 4/3 system is that it was designed from the "ground up" to be a digital system, and it's lenses are very high quality because of the design. One disadvantage is that you don't have the number of Autofocus lenses available (especially in the used market) that you do for other systems (although you can use MF lenses with an adapter). But, the number of lenses designed for the 4/3s system is growing all the time.

As for the focus part, you're probably thinking of the zoom mechanism. Most 4/3s system lenses use a "fly by wire" motorized zoom (although it's my understanding that third party lenses in this mount from Sigma still use a mechanical zoom). The fly by wire zoom is very responsive by most accounts. You twist the zoom ring, a motor built into the lens moves the optics to zoom in or out. So, it's used in the same way you'd use a manual zoom ring.

As for the need for 10MP, I personally wouldn't worry much about that part. Do you not get good 8x10" prints from your 3 Megapixel Coolpix 990? I've made a number of them from both the 2 Megapixel 950 and 3 Megapixel Coolpix 990 in the past (although the 990's 3MP is better for 8x10" prints). ;-)

If you're going to be printing larger than 8x10" prints on a regular basis, you may want to consider 10MP. But, for most viewing/print sizes, 6MP is plenty unless you plan on cropping a lot.

TCav Oct 17, 2007 10:37 AM

drgrafix wrote:

The 4/3 system mount. I realize that this might be an attempt to "standardize" lens mounts but its also somehow related to the CCD. Can someone "splain" in layman's terms what the pros/cons are?
In addition to a common physical and electrical mount, 4/3 mount cameras also use a 4:3 aspect ratio image sensor (That's where the "4/3" comes from.) as opposed to the 3:2 aspect ratio used by other dSLRs and 35mm film cameras before them. There is an advantage inherent in a 4:3 aspect ratio image sensor. Vignetting occurs in the distant corners of an exposure, and since 4:3 is squarer than 3:2, the corners aren't as distant. So all things being equal, vignetting will be less pronounced.

drgrafix wrote:

... I'm exploring as many options as I can and with a limited budget, cameras like the E-510 are very compelling alternatives in the 10 MP range. ...I've committed to liquidate all my Nikon 35mm equipment to help finance the new digital slr ...
IF I had a collection of Nikon equipment, and was committed to limiting the impact buying a dSLR would have on my finances, I'd look REAL HARD at dSLRs that let me use the equipment I already owned.

drgrafix wrote:

...I've heard that 20 MP DSLRs will be commonplace in just a couple of years.
Commonplace? How commonplace are $3000-$4000 cameras in your neighborhood?

Didn't we have this conversation already?

drgrafix Oct 17, 2007 3:56 PM

Actually, when I referred to the 20MP cameras, I was paraphrasing a friend of mine who travels to the orient quite a bit and he loves to cruise that section in Tokyo where there are blocks of cameras and electronic goodies. He said that the folks over there are convinced that just like Jim noted that while the 3+ MP is more than adequate for most snapshots, the marketing guys in these companies will continue to push the envelope. My Sony T30 has 7.+ MP and its a half inch thick and not much bigger than a credit card. That camera has already been superceded with a T70 that has 8.+ MP and isn't there a 12+ MP P&S from Casio? Its simply a matter of economics to the manufacturer. If the goal is to sell more (new) cameras to a particular market, they have to add steak to the sizzle. My first "digital" camera was actually one of those crazy Canon ZapShots and that was what... 10+ years ago. I bought it for kicks even though I knew the pictures were lousy. So when Nikon or Canon decides its more economical to make/buy a gazillion 16 MP chips, you'll see them in the latest DSLR. Just look at the original GameBoy from Nintendo, and and look at what the kids are playing with today.

I would certainly agree with you (and Jim) and others that 6MP is more than adequate for snapshots and even some 8 X 10s. But I also understand the marketing scheme that brings you to buy a 10MP camera today, and a 20MP camera just a couple of years from now. I admit I'm a gadget guy, and while I can't afford the bleeding edge best of the best... if I buy something now, I don't necessarily want to buy the VW when I can afford a BMW. That being said... I do like the feel of the D80 in my hands over a D40(x). I'm spoiled from using metal cameras!

While I'd like to hold on to my Nikon lenses and maybe buy a Nikon DSLR, as noted I have to cover the purchase so my mint 24mm, 45mm, 55mm, 105mm, and 80-200mm will have to go along with the three bodies, the motor drive, the bellows, and too much more. I think that one 18-200mm Nikon would be a perfect all-around lens, but I do like fooling with macro so I'm going to figure out where that'll take me.

This forum is a great sounding board, and I really do appreciate all the input and ideas as they will help me make a decision on which direction I go in. The 4/3 concept is a very interesting one... especially in the light of much of our electronic media going in the 16:9 format. That confuses things even more, hey?

TCav Oct 17, 2007 8:59 PM

I understand that Nikon's 18-200 is a very good lens. My experience is withthe Minolta 18-200 (a rebranded Tamron) and after having it for about one and onehalf years, I know better than to use it. I just view superzooms with suspicion and distain.

What I can say about even the Nikon 18-200 is that it's pretty dim. I don't know how you feel about that, but I would need to supliment it with some faster lenses. And once you do that, then the reason to have a single lens is gone, and you might as well have gotten some good lenses of lesser zoom ranges to start with.

drgrafix Oct 18, 2007 10:46 AM

I hadn't yet read a review of the 18-200 Nikkor that noted any sort of unusual "dimness", but I guess that's subjective anyway. Were you using it in low light, inside, or in brilliant daylight? This seems to be a rather difficult lens to find/buy because its so highly touted and of course... nobody is giving them away.

Getting back to cameras, I started this thread thinking about the E510 but after just reading about the Olympus E3 and the Nikon D300 I'm daydreaming again :?!

JimC Oct 18, 2007 12:42 PM

drgrafix wrote:

I hadn't yet read a review of the 18-200 Nikkor that noted any sort of unusual "dimness", but I guess that's subjective anyway.
Actually, that's not a subjective thing. The lens specs give you that info. ;-)

It's an f/3.5-5.6 lens (which is a relatively dim lens, best used outdoors in good light or with a flash indoors if you have a non-stationary subject). The Vibration Reduction can help if your subject is stationary in lower light though (but, f/5.6 is pretty dim on the long end).

What that means is that the largest available aperture (represented by smaller f/stop numbers) is f/3.5 at it's wide angle zoom position, dropping down to a largest available aperture of f/5.6 at it's maximum telephoto zoom position (most apparent magnification).

It wouldn't be very practical to make a bright ultra zoom lens like that (18-200mm) since it would be very large.

Aperture when expressed as f/stop is a ratio between the focal length of the lens and the area of the iris opening diameter.

With a prime (non zoom) lens, you will see one aperture listed.

With a zoom lens, you usually see two apertures listed (the largest available aperture at wide angle zoom setting, and the largest available aperture at the full telephoto zoom position). When in between the widest and longest focal length of the lens, the largest available aperture will fall somewhere in between the apertures shown. Most Ultra Zoom type lenses lose light pretty fast as you start zooming in though.

Some higher quality zoom lenses can maintain a constant aperture throughout their zoom range (with f/2.8 being the most common). A lens that can maintain f/2.8 throughout it's focal range is a must have for some types of shots (i.e., night sports in a stadium under the lights). Otherwise, you're going to get nothing but motion blur, even at higher ISO speeds if you subject is moving. To put things into perspective, a lens with f/2.8 available is exactly 4 times as bright as a lens that only has f/5.6 available.

For many indoor conditions trying to shoot moving subjects without a flash, even f/2.8 may not be bright enough. Then, you may need to use a brighter prime (fixed focal length versus zoom, since you can find brighter primes versus zooms).

Lenses are rated by their largest available apertures (smallest f/stop numbers). But, most lenses can be set to use apertures of f/22 or smaller.

When you vary the aperture, you're controlling the iris in the lens (which like a pupil in your eye, can be opened up to let in more light or closed down to let less light in). So, this impacts the shutter speeds you'll need for proper exposure (since more or less light is getting through to the sensor).

The aperture scale in one stop increments (with larger than f/1 apertures theoritically available) goes f/1.0, f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8.0, f/11, f/16, f/22... With each one stop move to a smaller aperture (represented by higher f/stop numbers), you will need shutter speeds twice as long for proper exposure for the same lighting and ISO speed (only half the light gets through compared to a one stop larger aperture).

Here is a handy online expoure calculator that you can use to get anidea of the shutter speeds required for any EV and Aperture. But, make sure to use your camera's metering, as lighting can vary. This is only to give you an idea of how the relationship between light levels, aperture, ISO speed (shown as film speed in the calculator) and shutter speed works.

Aperture also impacts Depth of Field. Thelarger the aperture (represented by smallerf/stop numbers), and the closer you are to your subject (focus distance), and the longer your focal length (amount of zoom used), the less depth of field you will have (less of the scene in focus, as you get further away from your focus point). Lenses with wider available apertures (smaller f/stop numbers) can be desirable to help subjects stand out from distracting backgrounds, too.

Here is an online depth of field calculator. Plug ina camera model, then change focal length, aperture and focus distance to see what impact aperture has.

drgrafix Oct 18, 2007 2:36 PM

Jim... That DOF page is awesome. Thanks for the thorough explanation, but what seems to be driving the demmand for this particular lens if it has these kinds of limitations?

JimC Oct 18, 2007 2:47 PM

Size and weight for the focal range you get for one thing. It's convenient. ;-)

But, you tend to see some compromises with a lens with that much focal range from wide to long (brightness, optical quality).

It's not practical from a size, weight and cost perspective to build lenses with that focal range (starting out wide at 18mm, going all the way to 200mm) that are significantly brighter with higher optical quality.

drgrafix Oct 19, 2007 1:49 PM

Ironically, I happened to stop in at a local camera shop and got to handle a lot of the cameras (Oly 510e, Pentax K10d, D80, and Canon 40D) I'm kind of interested in this morning. Conceptually, the Oly seems to be compelling, but then you have to deal with whether this format will go the way of Beta vs VHS with Oly, Leica, Kodak, and few others trying to start a new religion. The Oly did feel very light, similar to the D40's. The Pentax K10D felt much more comfortable.

I have to admit that the Canon is really nice. I felt like I was holding a camera I had used before. And after using both my Nikon F2s and my CoolPix 990 (both fairly heavy with metal chassis) the Canon and the D80 felt better in my hand. I was on the fence with the Rebel EOS 400D as it didn't feel quite as nice as the EOS 40D.

The guys there have three of those "rare" Nikon zooms, but we got to talking about them and they also concurred that while its pretty good, I'd probably be happier with something like the Canon EOS 40D anniversary bundle and then add a longer/macro lens if needed. They also said that they've pre-sold several D300 Nikons, and Nikon is extremely slow to ship new items if I was interested in waiting for one.

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