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Wednesday, 05 March 2008

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I can't work out why they left sensor-shift image stabilization out of the E-420 (whereas almost all of the other Olympus models have it). If it had stabilization, I would probably buy it.

A digital Pentax MX with small "normal" lens. They must have photographers on their design at Oly instead of facilitators and team motivators.

patience is a virtue...............or a sign of laziness.

I could not be more pleased.

I really like the lens announcement. I hope this might be the start for more primes. This makes a nice companion for the 50f2 macro, now where's that 10-12mm prime?

iwert

This looks like a great little camera and with the pancake lens, a street shooters dream. The price is not a killer and it takes CF cards. The other big plus is it's all black.

Neat! I wonder how this combination compares in size to a Pentax ME Super or MX with the 40/2.8 pancake. Granted, the optical qualities of the 40/2.8 might have been a wee bit exaggerated by some but they're still to my mind the benchmark for a compact full-function SLR/lens system.

Yes, I know there are smaller systems like the Pentax 110s and the Olympus Pen-Fs but they have too many drawbacks to be really practical these days.

Matthew

Fantastic. Ideal holiday camera! Let's hope the tonal range of the sensor has been improved somehow over the older models... Hell, I am going to buy it anyway. It's sweet :)

Re: Pricing

The body only is priced at $450, and the body plus the pancake lens is priced at $650 ($200 difference, though stand-alone price will likely be slightly higher).

Best regards,
Adam

Just as I was prepared to dismiss Olympus for ignoring their grand history of small photographic tools, they have made a digital SLR I actually want to buy. Yeah, I'd love to see an image stabilizer, but they have me with that 25. May can't get here soon enough for me.

Hugo: I can't work out why they left sensor-shift image stabilization out of the E-420

It seems that compact size is the paramount design concern of the 4xx series cams. E510 and likely soon to be E520 are more "feature rich" and really not much bigger.

Olympus is looking hard to beat right now if you really look at all the innovation that has come from them of late. Add to that the aggressive pricing structure and oh boy!

And my wife has been thinking about getting a Nikon D40. Having admired Olympus cameras from their 35mm rangefinders to my now 31-year old OM-1 I am very tempted to get her this. And I won't have to deal with Nikon's syrupy slow, buggy software nor their regionalized denial of service.

According to the article in Pop Photo, "The E-420 will also be sold with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED Zuiko Digital kit zoom for a projected $600, street. The 25mm lens will be available separately for $250, estimated street." The article also states that Olympus will soon follow-up with an E-520 which, like the E-510, will be slightly larger than the E-420 and will have image stabilization.

I know I'm probably going to be flamed for being the wet blanket, but why couldn't they make the lens at least f/2?

Given their sensor's weaknesses (low-light, large DOF) it seems that f/2.8 is kind of weak.

And Pentax just got slapped in the face! How long have we been asking for a compact body to go with the Pancake Limiteds. Sigh...

Peter, I think that a 25mm f2 (with good optical quality) wouldn't have been a pancake lens (faster Pentax "pancake" is f2.4).

A couple of questions for those who know more about Olympus digital SLRs than me (i.e practically anyone.) Will old OM lenses work with an adapter, and does livescreen make this combination more workable than trying to use them using the viewfinder? As I understand it, hassles discouraging people from going this route were the difficulties in trying to focus through a tiny VF and the stop-down issues. Are these problems mitigated by the latest live screen developments?

As for the 2.8 with the 25mm; while a faster lens would have been nice, I find myself using ISO 800 with digital in a lot of circumstances where I would have used ISO 400 with film, so speed is not an issue. Depth of field is, to some extent, but if the camera is seen is an alternative to the new Sigma, then a 50mm with F2.8 is a better option (for me) than Sigma's wider angle lens with F4.

And finally, given the Olympus-Panasonic-Leica triangle, can we expect to see scrapping the SLR-mirror stuff in a quasi-rangefinder camera, using live view and a provision for shoe-mounted VFs (like the GRD) in the fall?

> I know I'm probably going to be flamed for being the wet blanket, but why couldn't they make the lens at least f/2?

Because that would totally miss the point of a compact lens. Check out the size and weight of the Leica 25/1.4 and compare that with the 25/2.8.

@David: Everybody's 1st party software sucks, except Phase One (whose big business is selling their RAW converter as a 3rd party converter). DOn't expect Oly's software to be any better than ViewNX or CaptureNX. The D40's a killer little body though, especially paired with a Voightlander 40mm f2 SLII. No AF in that combo, but it's as small as the E-420/25mm, a stop faster and offers ISO3200. No live view though. It's also within a couple mm of the E-420 in actual functional size (the different depth is due to the grip, which does not extend past even a pancake lens).

As to the E-420 & 25mm f2.8, this is the combo that Oly should have introduced years ago. Bravo to Oly, but is it too late? And too slow? Not exactly a low-light capable setup.

Prices are definitely interesting, if UK prices are anything to go by, the official UK prices are:

Sigma DP1 £549
Olympus E-420 body only: £339
Olympus E-420 with 25mm lens: £449
Olympus 25mm lens: £189

The Sigma DP1 is still a much more pocketable camera (similar in size to the Ricoh GR Digital, and Panasonic LX1) - it should still fit in baggy trouser pockets, whereas the E420, is still a DSLR and probably won't fit in trouser pockets...

http://www.digicamreview.com/2008/02/sigma-dp1-hands-on-preview-at-focus.html

I managed to leave a reply about E-420 camera in the sensor size thread before this post was up.

I'd like to get a small camera for street photography. The DP1 looked like a good prospect but this one seems to be a better bet if the build quality is good.

Also the form factor of the body and lens do show that the 4/3 system can facilitate smaller and lighter equipment.

Kudos to Olympus. That lens looks fun as hell, especially coupled with an E-510. I wish Nikon made something like this for the D40.

I wonder if all my Olympus Pen F lenses (including the pancake) could be retrofitted to this camera? Or will they have to stay in my display case?;)

I think net photographers tend to take great joy in engineering feats, but this camera reminds me a bit of the Mac Air -- small, but somewhat crippled. No IS, somewhat smaller sensor than its rivals, somewhat slower lenses. If the 510 does have IS, and is somewhat bigger, than it'll be the same size as its rivals, but still have the smaller chip, slower lenses, etc.

The Pentax K10 and the up-coming K20 are just about 1/2 inch bigger than this camera in each dimension -- in other words, they're both small. In handling, I don't think many people couild really tell the difference. The Pentax has a whole range of compatible lenses, including some of the neatest little pancake primes, in-body IS, and weather sealing.

If you like Olympus, that's fine; but this isn't exactly a revolutionary camera, or even, IMHO, a particularly interesting one.

JC

Looks like a neat street shooter. I'll probably get the pancake lens to use with my E-510.

Only two things missing from the E-420: Vibration reduction and AE Bracketing with 3 frames in up to 2 EV steps.

I sold my E-410 because such a lens wasn't available, and I couldn't be more pleased about this announcement. Somewhere, Maitani is smiling. Thank you Olympus!

Fred Morrison said it. "May can't get here soon enough for me."

Quote: 'the system's first "prime" or single-focal-length compact lens'

First pancake yes, first "compact" prime it is not. I would argue that the 35mm f/3.5 and 50mm f/2 macro lenses are compact too. But they are no pancakes, that is true.

On close inspection, the "MTF Chart" Olympus provided is not particularly useful without knowing what aperture it applies to. If it's at f/2.8 it's pretty good. Even so, keep in mind that even an MTF chart provides no information about light fall-off, distortion, color, bokeh, and so on. We'll have to wait for a real-world test to see how good this lens really is.

Even the best lenses don't come close to being sharp wide open. Wide open you're not only getting shallow depth of field but images you could have gotten with a $50 camera and lens. Remember this is a $300 or less lens. an F/2 or better would probably cost over a grand to be the same size.
It does go to ISO 1600, 800 is probable great and will look like Tri X film. The original Leica had an f/3.5 lens and film was under ASA 200 back then. How did those photographers make such great photo's back then with such poor lenses, lousy film and none of the other fancy things we have today?
The P&S cameras just take to long to focus and you lose the moment.

Leave it to Mike to put the announcements and specs in perspective. Fred said it, too. Olympus made a surprise move to reclaim a legendary mantle and take itself forward. I notice also that the e-420 gains live mode autofocus, sans mirror flip.

I'm tempted to try this little Oly, even though I don't own (or plan to own) anything else from Olympus. This looks like a cute camera with that little lens. I'd like to see a image of it in someone's hands for reference.

Comparing it to, say, the Canon G9's dimensions and weight presents a rather startling picture.

Canon G9:
Dimensions: 4.2" x 2.8" x 1.7"
Weight: 11.3 oz

Olympus E420:
Dimensions (w/o lens): 5.1" x 3.6" x 2.1"
Weight: 13.4 oz

I need another camera like I need a boil on my butt. This has been a bumper year for camera gear additions for me ... and it's only early March! Common sense tells me that this is going to be a middling performer, at best, with noisy images above ISO 400. But I still feel an itch in my hindquarters. Hopefully it will quiet by May.

Canon 450D - 475g
Nikon D40, D40x, D60 - 522g
Olympus E420 - 440g

Nikons don't auto focus etc, except with AF-S lens and Nikon don't make a small AF-S prime.

The Canon is untried but it is probably wonderful and there are oodles of small, fast Canon primes it will work with.

So why get excited about the Olympus? This is a part-rhetorical and part information question.

Maybe this is the moment to sell that 5d I'm lugging around everyday and switch to Olympus (520?)... Like many readers I was thinking about the DP1 as an extra camera with the 5d but with that pancake lens and a good zoom from Olympus I have all I need. With the money left over from the 5D + lenses I can pay for a trip to New York to buy the Oly camera for cheap US dollars and spend a week there taking pictures.

I must admit part of this 'rationale' is based on getting all sorts of positive vibes from the Olympus brand I just don't seem to get from corporate Canon...

Well, I did checked this camera's OLDER sister (E-410) as well as its BIGGER sister (E-510) and have to say that being the APPROPRIATE size they certainly lack one CRUCIAL thing.
The FINDER.
Mike! You WROTE about this few years ago and said that those days consumer film AF cameras have really BAD finders. And todays consumer DSLRs have finders which are mediocre even in comparison with that ones.
As I said. The camera has finally GOOD size. The size crafted for the SMALL lenses. But its finder is just tiny! OK, I compare it to my main cam, which has really good one (OM4) so my thinking is distorted (I find the finder of the Sony a700 just usable, for example). Ok, I know that the Oly has more difficult task than the players with bigger sensors (THIS is the REAL drawback of the small sensor).
But still, I have to say that. The OLY's finder is SO BAD, so PATHETIC, that is simply UNUSABLE. Sorry.

And the second sin. According to the official Oly-Poland's press release this camera has... Face Recognition system!
Well, I would never ever buy a camera with this crap!
These two makes this camera nothing more than the toy cam. Just a toy with real-cam-look.
Oly, Please! Make REAL cam in this size! With REAL finder and exchangable screens (REALY exchangable, not by service)! And WITHOUT the toy features!
I'm waiting or sch thing as much, as Mike's waiting for his DMD.

I'm glad to see Olympus start to make good on the promise of small yet capable 4/3 cameras. But I'm not sure this is really groundbreaking.

By way of comparison:

-SIGMA DP1-
Body/Lens = 113.3mm x 59.5mm x 50.3mm at 250g

-OLYMPUS E420-
Body = 129.5mm x 91mm x 53mm at 380g
Olympus 25mm f2.8 = 23.5mm x 64mm at 95g

-PENTAX K100D SUPER-
Body = 129mm x 93mm x 70mm at 565g
Pentax 21mm f3.2 = 25mm x 63mm at 140g
Pentax 35mm f2.8 = 46.5mm x 63mm at 215g
Pentax 40mm f2.8 = 15mm x 63mm at 90g
Voigtlander 40mm f2.0 = 24.5mm x 63mm at 200g
Pentax 70mm f2.4 = 26mm x 63mm at 130g

-NIKON D40(X)-
Body = 126mm x 94mm x 64mm at 475g
Voigtlander 40mm f2.0 = 24.5mm x 63mm at 200g

I continue to await a pocketable large sensor digicam to replace my much loved Leica minilux. *fingers crossed for a Sigma DP2 with 40mm-e lens*

-Andre

"...and have to say that being the APPROPRIATE size they certainly lack one CRUCIAL thing. The FINDER. Mike! You WROTE about this few years ago and said that those days consumer film AF cameras have really BAD finders."

Bernard,
This is very true. N.b. that when I said the E-510 was the perfect size, shape, and weight, I didn't say it was perfect in all respects--just that it was the perfect size, shape, and weight. The finder is indeed woeful. I wonder if the various permutations of Live View on the E-420 change the game, however. Not saying I know. But I suspect that if I owned that camera I would at least try to get into the habit of using the Live View, like I would with a digicam. Such a thing has the potential to change the meaning of the finder.

I'd have to try it to actually know.

Mike J.

"The OLY's finder is SO BAD, so PATHETIC, that is simply UNUSABLE."

Unusable? That's a rather harsh assessment of a camera you don't own and have never used, isn't it? I agree that Olympus E-series cameras don't have the greatest viewfinders, but if their 0.92X magnification is "unusable," then what about their competitors:

Nikon D40 -- 0.8X
Canon Rebel XTi -- 0.8X
Pentax K100D -- 0.85X
Sony Alpha 700 -- 0.9X

I know that Olympus has a slightly smaller sensor than its competitors, and that the effective magnification is slightly less than it would appear based on these numbers. That doesn't change my basic point: All APS DSLRs have smallish viewfinders. If you want a DSLR with a viewfinder comparable to your Olympus OM-4, you're going to shell out at least $2000 for a full-frame model.

The finder & small size contradict each other. The promise of 4/3 (compact interchangeable cameras) is realized through live view, as implemented currently and possibly one day through EVF. The E-3 has a nice VF; comparable in size to the A700/D300/40Ds of the world (with better coverage) but in a camera of comparable size. I actually poked around recently to see what's available for the E-410 and the Nikon D40 and found the Oly OM 24/2.8 (and from Nikon, 28/2.8 would do nicely) but this beats them both by a tad. I'll have to see it in person to get a sense of just how compact it will be - specs say it's a "bit" bigger than my old HiMatic 7sII but I'm curious enough to take a look. Though I really do wish it (the E-420) had image stabilization.

Also re: finder, the viewfinders in compact rangefinders of the 70's were small and could be challenging to focus, while the DP-1 offers no optical VF AFAIK. I'm content to sacrifice here to get a compact setup; I'm still watching for Oly to go EVF and lose the mirror on some future model.

"And the second sin. According to the official Oly-Poland's press release this camera has... Face Recognition system!
Well, I would never ever buy a camera with this crap!"

I don't understand this "logic". Why would you refuse to buy something because of an extra feature that can be completely ignored? Does it bother you that much that other people might know you have a - oh my God! - point and shoot feature in your SLR? I'm certain the cost increase in the 420 due to this feature is negligible.

I personally wish there was an SLR that had all of my point and shoot's features, especially the same type of full time live view and screen and built-in stabilization.

Can someone please explain to me what 0.92 magnification means on an APS or 4/3 camera? Does this mean that I am seeing everything in the VF at 0.92 times life size or that the finder is showing 92% of what will wind up on the chip or that the finder is 0.92 times the size of the chip? I have only looked through two finders of DLSRs that made me say "wow." One was the Canon 5D and the other was the Nikon D3. I looked through the Pentax K10D finder and thought I could focus a manual lens on it; but I did not think the same thing about the Digital Rebel (proof, sadly, in the pudding) or the E-510.

Ben Marks

I'm interested to see what happens to the DP1's price, now that this new Oly is out.

Plus, can't wait for Photokina.

I'm committed to the 4/3 system.

Wow, lovely lens (and camera). I would love to see a Nikon one for my D40.

The best viewfinder that I ever used was on a second-hand Oly OM-1 that I bought on eBay. That thing was incredible! You put your eye to the camera and you "fell" into the scene - it was that good!

While, like many here, I also got all excited about this camera when I first heard about it, after taking some time to think about it, I would have to say that it will be hard to justify purchasing one (for me). Why? I'm primarily a Canon shooter, and the 5D is my main camera. The 5D without grip is not that large, the viewfinder is about as good as it gets these days, and I have a plethora of fast (or not so fast) primes to choose from. Not only that, but if I want to go more compact, I can purchase a relatively cheap 350D, 400D, or 450D, and mount the same lenses on that body. Yes the viewfinder will be somewhat dimmer, but that would be the case with the Oly as well!

So... I'm wondering whether Olympus have left their run too late! With my Canon setup I know what I'm getting - great high ISO performance, larger sensor, fast AF, great selection of lenses (true, no pancakes), etc, etc. Then again, the mere fact that I am posting my opinion here shows that Oly did get my attention with this camera, just as Sigma did with their DP1. Oh dear! To quote Ken Tanaka: "I need another camera like I need a boil on my butt." Sigh...

Two points:

1. As a (25th year senior) college student, I love the name "E-420."

2. I'm sick and tired of hearing "BUT CANIKON has a 50/1.4 for < $300!?"

Canikon do not make normal primes for their aps sized sensors. FULL STOP. Sigma makes a 30/1.4 that's a hair wider than the official "normal." Those 50/1.4's are only normal on 135 sized sensors.

Olympus has just become the first to put out a reasonably fast normal prime for a dSLR. Take that, Canikon!

Dear Carl,

My experience with testing film cameras and lenses is that most lenses are quite sharp wide open. Very good ones (not only the best ones) are extremely sharp wide open.

What turns out not to be sharp are the camera bodies! It was rare for me to find a camera where the distance from the lens to the focusing screen (or the auto focus mechanism) was identical to the distance to the film plane. Many cameras, even after proper focal plane adjustment, drifted with time. The random vibrations from normal use caused mechanical shifts and you'd have to periodically adjust the body again.

With proper adjustment, most cameras/lens combinations would produce very sharp results even wide open.

Let me give you a numerical example. Let's suppose some 35 mm body manufacturer held tolerances well enough so that the focus fell within the depth of field for an f/1.2 lens. (I rarely saw camera bodies come from the manufacturer this well adjusted.) At f/2.8, focus error would limit the resolution of that camera to about 75 lp/mm. So let's suppose you loaded up that camera with Kodachrome II and put on a lens that wide open (f/2.8) resolved 125 lp/mm. What you'd wind up with on film would only be about 55 lp/mm! Stopping the lens down would improve sharpness markedly, mostly because the focus error would become less important. Even if the lens didn't improve one bit, you would get over 80 lp/mm on film at f/11. So if you were unaware of the camera body problems, you'd conclude that the lens wasn't very sharp wide open but picked up considerably as it was stopped down.

This is at least potentially one big advantage of digital camera bodies. If the focus algorithms are properly designed, you're never going to get mismatch between the the computed focus and the focus in your photograph, since the same sensor handles both.


pax / Ctein
[[ Please excuse any word-salad. ViaVoice in training! ]]
=========================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com
=========================================

The 420 clocks in at almost exactly the same size as the Pentax *ist-Ds (the Pentax is lighter). The Pentax 40mm and 21mm Limited lenses are about the same size as the Olympus 25mm.

So the Oly is nothing new. The big difference? 10 Mpix for the Oly vs 6 for the Ds.

"Canikon do not make normal primes for their aps sized sensors. FULL STOP."

Nikon makes an autofocus 35mm f2, which would be ~52 on a crop-sensor camera; and also a very good manual focus 35mm f1.4. Don't know about Canon. Also, I think I read somewhere long ago in a magazine -- maybe Mike would remember something like this -- that 52 is more "normal" than 50. I wouldn't know why.

JC

Hmmm ... Archer.

Oly is to be commended for finally coming out with a lens that suits the small DSLR bodies.

But Canon offers 28/1.8, 28/2.8, 35/1.4 and 35/2 ... plenty of 'normal' options. Nikon has a 35/2 (I thought there must be more options, but that's all that showed on the Nikon USA site). I'm not sure why you're hung up on 30mm, but Oly's 25/2.8 is a tad sluggish, arguably more so given that the DOF is slightly greater on 4/3, and this lens is great (due to compact design) on a camera that doesn't have stabilization, so it's not the low light champ that other faster primes are (particularly if you dredge up a 35/1.4 or 28/2 for a Sony with IS).

This pancake lens is all about a compact kit - first to put out a reasonably fast normal prime ? I don't think so.

Mark - I'd looked at Pentax for a small kit, but neither 21 nor 40mm did anything for me on APS-C. And IIRC they're not cheap lenses. I'm sure there have been some Pentax shooters out there enjoying these lenses for some time - they're probably wondering what all the fuss is. The FOV makes this somewhat interesting to me.

John,
I think what Archer meant was just that Canon or Nikon don't make normal primes designed specifically for digital sensors--lenses like the AF-Nikkor 35/2 are legacy film lenses.

"Normal" is just a convention, for an average middling angle of view that seems neither excessively narrow like a tele nor excessively wide. The convention for a long time has been for the "normal" lens for any given format to have a focal length in millimeters equivalent to the diagonal of the format (also in millimeters). For 35mm, this "true normal" would be about 42mm (not 52mm). But, again, this is really just a convention, not something that is intrinsic to the gestalt or science of vision.

Mike J.

Ben: the magnification is relative to the sensor. That's why the E-3 with 100% view and >100% magnification ends up with a VF image that's roughly the same size as the Sony A700, Nikon D300 and Canon 40D. Still, .92X on 4/3 could be decent - I've looked through the VF on the Sony A100 and while it's not up to the better midrange pentaprism VFs, it's probably usable for framing, at least, if not critical focus or DOF preview. The new Sony A300/350 with their full time live view mode that utilitizes a 2nd sensor up in the VF path causes the VF to be shrunk down even smaller - to something like .7X instead of .8x. Big VF = big camera ... this is a compromise you have to make (and it's the reason I think EVF is what will get us to truly small interchangeable lens cameras ... if people don't mind losing a bit of LCD real estate !)

"Can someone please explain to me what 0.92 magnification means on an APS or 4/3 camera?"

Ben,
Viewfinder magnification is really just a comparative standard, so people can compare the size of the viewfinder image between one camera and another. For years the convention was to give the magnification of 35mm camera viewfinders with a 50mm focused at infinity. Unfortunately this number doesn't translate directly to smaller formats such as reduced-size digital sensors, because the angle of view with a 50mm is not the same. To get a useful comparative number, you have to divide by the magnification factor of the sensor. Thus, a Canon camera that has a ".80X" viewfinder would have to be divided by 1.6, giving a magnification of .5X. .92X on a 4/3rds camera needs to be divided by 2, so the "real" comparative number is .41X. [Oops, sorry, .46. --MJ] This is a number that can be compared to 35mm viewfinders or other DSLR viewfinders.

The magnification for the E-3 is 1.15X. Divided by the format magnification factor of 2, you come up with an effective magnification of .575--better than almost all other 4/3rds viewfinders, but not as high as good 35mm viewfinders. ("High-eyepoint" finders on pro 35mm cameras are typically about .7X.)

Mike J.

P.S. If you want to SEE the difference between different viewfinder magnifications, put the same focal length lens on two SLRs and hold one camera up to each eye and look at the same thing. You'll be able to superimpose the two viewfinder images in your vision, at which point it becomes plainly visible which one is larger and by how much.

Mike J.

"I think what Archer meant was just that Canon or Nikon don't make normal primes designed specifically for digital sensors--lenses like the AF-Nikkor 35/2 are legacy film lenses."

True, but with lenses the size of the Canon 35mm f/2, why bother??? Might as well get the extra stop over the Oly 25mm f/2.8, and who cares whether the edges of the image get cropped, right?

> Nikon makes an autofocus 35mm f2, which would be ~52 on a crop-sensor camera

Which only does AF on the D50 and above. I'm using it on the D80. The D80 + 35/2 is far from a pocketable camera, but it is rather smallish compared to a 5D + 50/1.4 for instance and weights a bit under a kilo I guess. Compare that with the Oly E420+24/2.8 = 475g. 2x as much weight. I guess most of you should really lay hands on the E420+25/2.8 in order to have a good picture about it's size. It really is small for a DSLR.

JC, it's 43 mm, not 52 mm. 43 mm is more 'normal' on a 35mm camera because it's equal to the diagonal of the frame for that format. For Oly 4/3 the diagonal is 21.6 mm. and yes, you've probably seen that figure in Mike's "Why 40" Sunday Morning Photographer column (may 2005).

Archer wrote "Olympus has just become the first to put out a reasonably fast normal prime for a dSLR. Take that, Canikon!"

Uhmm.... Leica has the 25mm f1.4 for the 4/3 standard long ago, and Sigma does have the 30 f1.4 for the 4/3 mount as well. if 30 x 1.6 (crop factor for Canon) or 30 x 1.5 (crop factor for Nikon), all of which works out to be about 45-48mm isn't considered "normal", I don't know what is.

43mm is in fact, as an earlier poster pointed out, more "normal" for 35mm.

Oly is the slowest in this regard. There is really nothing to shout about other than the fact this lens is smaller than all others.

To sevres-babylone,

Old Olympus OM lenses - as well as Nikon F, Contax RTS, Pentax K, M42, Exakta, Leica R and perhaps a couple of other mount lenses - can indeed be used on FourThirds bodies. Adapters are needed. Focusing is of course manual, but metering works, so long as the lenses can be stopped down manually - Nikon lenses with the G designation, which do not have aperture rings, can only be used wide open -, focus confirmation is available only if you buy an adapter with a Dandelion chip. LiveView with 7x or 10x magnification helps with manual focusing, so long as the ambient light is not too bright to use the rear screen.

Mike, you say, '.92X on a 4/3rds camera needs to be divided by 2, so the "real" comparative number is .41X.'

You seem to have gotten the math wrong here; 0.92:2=0.46
With the ME-1 magnifying eyecup, you can increase this by a factor of 1.2, reaching 0.55 - still quite pathetic compared to a manual-focus film SLR, an improvement nonetheless.

Zoltan,
(SIGH) I'm good at math, it's arithmetic I can't do. Thanks for catching that....

Mike J.

The 25mm f/2.8 is part of the Olympus "standard" lens line-up. I can only suppose that they will bring out primes to match in their pro and super-pro lens series with wider apertures, better (somewhat larger) build and matching prices. Good on Olympus. Another nice surprise.

Olympus, please make a 12-15mm pancake... Now that would make a great traveling kit...

Olympus also sells a nice compact flash unit, the FL-36. It's not very powerful and is kind of slow with only two AA batteries, but it's solidly constructed and has a tilt-swivel head. And it integrates well with the camera's auto modes, such that if you want to use it that way you don't have to think about it as a separate device, even when bouncing off the ceiling.

the camera industry is a funny beast these days. just two short years ago the Canon 350D (XT) came in for some serious criticism because it was seen to be too small. now it appears that DSLRs cannot be too small. spare a thought for camera designers as they attempt to mind-read a fickle clientelle.

Couple notes:

Canon does not make any compact primes. None. Their 50mm f1.8 is larger than the Nikon 50mm f1.4 and that's the smallest lens in EOS mount. Light? yes. Compact? No.

There's a bevy of 'normals' for digital, some specific (Sigma 30mm f1.4, Leica D 25mm f1.4, Pentax DA 35mm f2.8 Limited Macro) and some not (Sony 35mm f1.4G, Sony 28mm f2.8, Nikon 35mm f2 AF-D, 35mm f1.4 AI-S, 28mm f2.8 AF-D, Zeiss 35mm f2 and 28mm f2 in ZK and ZF forms, Canon 28mm f1.8, 28mm f2.8, 35mm f2, 35mm f2.4L, Pentax FA 31mm f1.8 Limited, FA 35mm f2, FA 28mm f2.8, AL Sigma 28mm f1.8 and that's just currently available lenses). Normal on APS-C is in the 28mm-35mm range (Diagonal of DX is ~29mm, of 1.6x Canon is ~28mm). Why redesign a lens that already works very well, and at least in the case of the Nikon, Pentax and Sony's is actually rather compact as well just so it can be 'digital'? There's a limit on how small a lens can be and still handle well anyways (Shoot with the Pentax DA 40 sometime, it's simply too small to handle well)

So no, Oly is not doing anything that someone else isn't already doing. Heck, the lens is essentially the same size as the Pentax DA 21mm f3.2 Limited, so there's no real size advantage (it's actually noticeably larger than the Nikon 45mm f2.8P Pancake and Pentax DA 40mm f2.8 Limited pancake)

I applaud Oly for finally cluing in that they needed a normal prime as well as a compact prime. Sadly, these should have been two different lenses (25mm f2 and a 20mm f2.8 Pancake) but something is better than nothing.

My point (made after a couple of pints [hey, I'm a student!]) was made towards the refrain of "But Nikon/Canon have a 50/1.4, Olympus doesn't!" As if a 50/1.4 is a normal lens on an APS body, which it clearly isn't.

A consistent criticism from the blogosphere of 4/3's is the lack of a fast, cheap, small normal prime available from the camera manufacturer, a criticism that can also be laid at the feet of the other manufacturers as well, but somehow isn't.

Looking at B&H under DSLR interchangeable lenses, there is no 33/1.4 (50/1.4 equivalent on Canon). Closest is the Sigma 30/1.4, which is not made by Canon. On the Nikon side its the same story.
Designed for digital primes have been in short supply from all of the manufacturers, with the possible exception of Pentax.

> The 420 clocks in at almost exactly the same size as the Pentax *ist-Ds
> (the Pentax is lighter).

This is most definitely not the case. The DS is about 20% bigger and almost 40% heavier (605g vs. 440g are the official numbers).

The best way to know whether the size difference matters to you is probably to handle both in the shop, assuming you are the lucky owner of a DS. I own a DS and was shocked at how small the 410 is in comparison. I don't think numbers convey that very well.

However, the point of comparing DS and 420 is moot really as you'd be hard pressed finding the discontinued DS for sale whereas Oly's newer cameras are available pretty much everywhere.

Some competition in the compact DSLR niche (the E-420, D40 etc) could come in the form of a Pentax K1000D.

The K1000D wouldn't be the body that complements the DA Limited lens series, though.

A K1000D would be a low-priced and compact body, with scene modes, live-view, view knobs, and face-detection (for AF and AE). It could dispense shake-reduction (if needed to keep it compact and low-priced), as long as it had high image quality (specially low noise) at 3200 ISO (with a lower pixel count, if needed) -- aka. digital shake-reduction.

Body only: US$ 450.00
(Shipped with lithium AAs)

The lens to make it company would be a DA 30mm or 35mm f/2, priced at US$ 250.00. A lens of the quality and price range of the FA 35mm and the FA 50mm.

K1000D + DA35mm f/2: US$ 649.00
K1000D + DA18-55 II: US$ 599.00
DA 35mm f/2: US$ 250.00

The logic behind this one would be: _also_ appeal to the point-and-shoot crowd, with software (firmware) features, low-priced DSLR, but keeping it basic and serving as an entry point to manual controlled photography (ala K1000, ZX-M) and to the Pentax system.

This body would compete with the E-420.

A L100D (a reference to the Pentax LX and the Limited lens series), would be an excellently built and compact body, which would cater to the "discerning enthusiast" (as does the Sigma DP-1).

This would be the body to complement the Limiteds, not only in size, but in build an image quality (and price).

In place of face-detection, there would be AF lens adjustments. Less firmware options but more customizable ones. Low fps rate (1, 2?). Low shutter lags. Fast buffer. Lower pixel count but same CMOS technology as the K20D, for excellent IQ at 6400 ISO (maybe this could dispense shake reduction, to keep the body small).

L100D (body only): US$ 799.00

And to go with it a new DA Limited: the SMC-DA 28mm f/2.4 AL pancake.

L100D + DA 28mm Limited: US$ 1099.00
DA 28mm Limited: US$ 439.00

How's that? :-) for some day-dreaming.

Cheers,

Mark said:

"The 420 clocks in at almost exactly the same size as the Pentax *ist-Ds (the Pentax is lighter). The Pentax 40mm and 21mm Limited lenses are about the same size as the Olympus 25mm.

So the Oly is nothing new."

I bought an *ist Ds with a 21mm Limited pancake specifically because it makes the smallest quality walk-around camera I could find. I like it and think Pentax deserves a lot of kudos for its small cameras and wonderful pancake lenses.

But you're wrong on the weight issue -- with batteries, the *ist Ds weighs 605g vs. 440g for the Olympus (21.3 vs. 15.5 oz.) In bulk, the *ist Ds with a 40mm pancake is very similar to the E-420 with its 25mm lens but the weight difference remains virtually the same. My combo -- the *ist DS with 21mm pancake -- is about half an inch thicker than the Oly combo and the weight difference increases by 45g (but, of course, I get a wider angle of view.)

In short, I think Olympus has indeed make a meaningful (though not dramatic) step forward in DSLR size/weight reduction with this new lens/body combo. It's a big enough difference that if Olympus makes a wider angle pancake, I'll definitely trade my Pentax for an Olympus setup.

Hmmm ... checked out an E-410 today. It's small as DSLRs go, but pancake or no pancake, this isn't close to the camera I'm looking for to carry everywhere (a digital version of the 70's compact rangefinders). The DP1 is much closer; just the lens is wrong for me.

OK...I know this will seem nutty, but I'm gonna press on anyway. I noticed this with the 410/510 and it continues with the 420. The itty-bitty featherweight has professional type (as found on every generation of Nikon F) strap lugs, while the more expensive and heavier cameras have the cheap, stamped-out-of-flat-metal type, like the Canon T50.

These lugs are brass, with a thin film of copper to aid adhesion of the chrome finish, and some even had steel inserts to minimize wear. The others, well as I described above--just punched out of flat metal, then slathered with black paint. So what's up with that?

And as long as I'm dithering about here--best finder: Contax RTS III--no contest (contrastier than OM finders).

OK, that's all for me--gonna hibernate and dream about pancakes.

To all comments above:

Do you guys actually take photos? You all seem so worried about so many things.

Ctein: "This is at least potentially one big advantage of digital camera bodies. If the focus algorithms are properly designed, you're never going to get mismatch between the the computed focus and the focus in your photograph, since the same sensor handles both."

You mean that contrast detection autofocus, which is used on non-SLR digital cameras (and is now available on the E-420) never has any "mismatch" problems.

I just wrote about this on my blog:

http://www.bigmikephotoblog.com/2008/03/autofocus.html

Contrast detection autofocus is slower, but not inferior.

Dear Big Mike,

You're 100% right, and my writing was sloppy to the point of being erroneous. I should have written somthing more like "... so long as the digital camera uses the same sensor for image making and focus detection..."

Be that as it may, your article is great and on the mark.

pax / Ctein

"Looking at B&H under DSLR interchangeable lenses, there is no 33/1.4 (50/1.4 equivalent on Canon). Closest is the Sigma 30/1.4, which is not made by Canon. On the Nikon side its the same story. "

No offense, but you're kidding, right? There is the 35mm f/1.4 L on the Canon (which I have and it is amazing!), or the 35mm f/2, and Nikon have the 35mm f/2 also. Canon also have the 28mm f/1.8 and the 28mm f/2.8 (not sure about Nikon). Why would the manufacturers bother making a 33mm lens especially for crop sensors, when they already have fast 35mm AND 28mm lenses available? The focal lengths are already out there, and the lenses have the advantage of being useful on both crop and full frame bodies, making them more versatile in the long run (a better long-term investment, if you will).

A minor comment. For my purposes, auto-focus has never been important. That is, I own AF equipment now because that's what out there, but if it didn't exist it would not bother me. Except that I had a lot of trouble with the Pentax MX and pancake lens, when I owned them, because my fingers are too chubby for the thin focusing ring, especially in winter with gloves on. An auto-focus pancake lens make a lot of sense.

Peter, "do we take pictures"?. Geez, man, some of us are refugees from The Rangefinder Forum, having been banned by Jorge the Terrible or Steve Gandy, so of course we don't...much. Uh, sure we do, but it's occasionally fun just to dream and vent.

For the record I have to agree that a 20/2.8 plus a 25/2.0 would have been much better.

I promise I'll get back to my hibernating now. You guys carry on without me. And will somebody please give me a kick in the pants about my strap lug comments?

"And will somebody please give me a kick in the pants about my strap lug comments?"

I don't know why--I agree with you. I like the old-fashioned lugs that the E-420 has. I like to pick my own strap connectors, and I dislike the way the slot ones hold the strap stiffly so it gets in your way. Not sure I'd pick a camera on that basis, but the E-420's strap lugs are a plus.

Mike J.

This is so exciting. Just having come back from a successful trip with my e-410 and 24/2.8, the few shots that were unfortunately out of focus would have been saved.

Thank you Olympus

@mdc
How did the pancake lens perform? Can you compare it to the 14-42 kit zoom?

For those - like me - that want a standard lens (50mm film equivalent) there seems to be the choice between the 24mm pancake and the 30mm f1.4 Sigma lens. The pancake being
- extremely light & small, goes everywhere with you,
- budget-friendly,
- optics seem on the edge of being good enough to be called prime;
the sigma being
- much heavier,
- f1.4 is unbeateable so you want to carry it around night & day,
- seems to produce sharper images and less CA but has a distinctive crystal-like view I have my doubts about.

What to do?

JC Wrote: "The Pentax K10 and the up-coming K20 are just about 1/2 inch bigger than this camera in each dimension -- in other words, they're both small. In handling, I don't think many people couild really tell the difference."

I could certainly tell the difference...I just sold my K10D and bought the E420. The real difference is the weight. Yes, the K10D was sealed etc. but for me the E420 is the digital replacement for the OM series which was my last film slr. I would expect to see Olympus further develope this line.

Also, don't overlook the OM lenes with the OM E Series adapter. I also purchsed a NEW (as in the box with warranty cards) 50mm F1.4 OM lens for $150 for use as a portrait lens. With live view for focusing at 10X its a winner and gives me back some control of depth of field.

Now let's see....a new f1.4 100mm full frame lens would cost a bit more I imagine.

" Also, don't overlook the OM lenes with the OM E Series adapter. I also purchsed a NEW (as in the box with warranty cards) 50mm F1.4 OM lens for $150 for use as a portrait lens. With live view for focusing at 10X its a winner and gives me back some control of depth of field." Where do you find these lenses? Are they Olympus made?

Brian,
Go to Ebay and search "OM Zuiko." These are the old lenses made for the film OM 35mm camera line. They aren't made any more, although you might occasionally find a new one in the stock of a camera store. Sometimes Olympus itself even offers NOS (new old stock) online. Remember they're all manual focus and uncoupled on the DSLRs.

Mike J.

good thanks a lot. perfect!

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